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Before They Fall by Jchrissy

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Format: Novel
Chapters: 39
Word Count: 268,870
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, Humor, Romance
Characters: Dumbledore, Lupin, A. Longbottom, F. Longbottom, James, Lily, Sirius, Pettigrew, OC
Pairings: James/Lily, Sirius/OC, Other Pairing

First Published: 04/19/2012
Last Chapter: 07/27/2013
Last Updated: 08/06/2013

Summary:


Join me on a heart warming and soul splitting journey. Fall in love with Lily and James as they learn to find each other in a world of chaos. Watch as our infamous Marauders prepare to leave their legacy at Hogwarts and step from the gates of safety into the middle of the first wizarding war.
~Book one of two~

2013 Dobby Award Winner for Most Addicting Story|Breathtaking banner by heartfelt. @ TDA



Chapter 26: The Marauder's Map
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Perfect CI by heartfelt.@TDA
Chapter 26 - The Marauder's Map

Belle pulled a comb through her hair and ignored the tugging as she coaxed knots from her golden strands. She knew Alice and Lily were waiting in the girls’ dormitory, but didn’t let that rush her. This time was hers. She craved these few moments of solitude that went along with her morning routine, the sound of rain pattering against her window making her want to move slower than ever.

Actually, she’d be perfectly content with slipping back into bed for the entirety of Saturday and finishing her book, but she knew they had too much to do. The start of February brought a new wave of anxiety as the N.E.W.Ts loomed closer and they needed to dedicate as much free time as they could handle to preparing. That didn’t bother her much; revising may not have been her favorite thing, but doing it with the whole group was always more fun. Except for recently, thanks to the tension between her and Sirius. Despite Belle’s best efforts, she hadn’t been able to get past the way he’d spoken to her on the Hogwarts Express. She knew it wasn’t fair to still feel angry at him... she had plenty of experience with saying something then regretting it. And it wasn’t that she wanted to be upset, it was that she simply couldn’t be anything else.

She’d taken him into one of the most private places of her life, shared with him more of herself than anyone − with the exception of her two friends sitting just a door away. And then when it came to her wanting to help, wanting to stop him from doing something that he’d probably end up getting expelled for, he’d treated her like she was nothing more than an annoyance.

Isabelle understood why Sirius had wanted to attack his brother. When James told them what was on his mind, she herself had started thinking only of who it could be and what she’d do to them when she found them. But there were better ways. Ways that wouldn’t involve a handful of witnesses saying Sirius was the one who started the fight. She knew he had a temper... she’d witnessed just as much in her parents’ study. But the kind of thing he was about to do could have ruined his future. Did he even take a second to think about what would’ve happened if he’d gotten expelled?

She knew that his mother was able to twist the terms of his inheritance so that he couldn’t receive it until graduation. So not only would he have walked away from Hogwarts without sitting for his N.E.W.Ts, but Mrs. Black would have gotten to keep the ridiculous amount of money meant for her eldest son. And just because Sirius had decided to stop pursuing a future as an Auror didn’t mean he wouldn’t go back to it after the war was over. Right now he wouldn’t be able to work in the Ministry, the corruption so severe that Professor McGonagall had warned them against believing anything they read in the Prophet, but that didn’t mean he never would. The war wouldn’t last forever.

Sirius hadn’t thought about a single one of these things, though. He’d lost his head and acted rashly in a situation that could have cost him dearly. Oddly enough, that wasn’t even what was upsetting her the most. It was the fact that every time she thought about the incident, she could still hear him telling her to leave, that he didn’t need her there. That was what really twisted her stomach up. He told her he didn’t need her. After she’d needed him so desperately to get through the evening with her family... it felt like a slap in the face.

They’d barely spoken since then, Belle knowing she didn’t trust herself not to make it even worse and choosing instead to leave the room whenever he brought it up. She knew he was sorry for how he’d spoken to her, but his apologies did nothing to calm the feeling of betrayal.

“Belle!” came Alice’s voice, as close to annoyed as it ever got. “Come on! We’re going to miss breakfast.”

Belle replaced her comb then ran her fingers over her face, as if trying to wipe away all the thoughts she couldn’t rid herself of. Why couldn’t she just shove things out of her mind the way Lily could? Her best friend had been the one who was only seconds away from death and even she’d been able to bounce back. Why couldn’t Belle let go of what happened with Sirius, even for just a day? At least James had taken longer than Lily to accept everything... that made Belle feel like less of a drama queen. A sad smile flitted over her face as she thought of how often she caught James starting at Lily when the latter wasn’t looking... like he couldn’t believe how close he’d come to losing her.

Still though, they’d all been able to understand and get over what had happened. And here she was stewing over a few words Sirius had said to her in a moment of anger.

“I swear, Belle, I’m giving you two seconds before I unlock this door and pull you out by your hair!” Lily said, her tone ten times more threatening than Alice’s.

“Alright, alright.” Belle stepped from the washroom with a cloud of steam trailing after her.

“Finally,” Alice sighed, closing her Target or be Targeted book, one of the dozen Mr. Alastor Moody had assigned her and Frank to read.

Belle glanced over at the empty bed across from Alice’s, pressing her lips together. “Did Margaret already leave for breakfast? I zought she was going to go down with us.”

“She was,” Lily said, raising her eyebrow. “An hour ago when you said you’d be ready in twenty minutes.”

Belle only smirked. “And she ‘asn’t learned by now not to believe me when I say it will only be twenty minutes? Zat’s unfortunate.”

“Belle has a point, Lily. But that was still way longer than usual,” Alice added as the girls began their walk down to the Great Hall. “Poor Lily could’ve slept an extra hour before meeting us in the dormitory.”

“No, I would have been awake anyway. I started having this dream about the time Alice and I transfigured Sirius’s quill into a garter snake during class. I woke up laughing so hard that I had to stand to breathe properly.”

“Oh!” Alice began, practically bouncing in place. “That was one of the memories James used of mine for the blanket!”

Belle watched as Lily’s face fell a fraction before her smile was forced back up. She was sure it was hard for their friend to know that the nightmares were still present. The blanket had been an incredible idea of James’s, and the best thing for Lily, but it didn’t hide the fact that somewhere in her mind all those dark things were still haunting her. Maybe Belle wasn’t the only one left dwelling on what happened.

“So,” Lily said, changing the subject. “We’re going to have breakfast, then Alice, you and Frank need to talk to Professor McGonagall, right?”

“Yes. Well, we just need to give her some things. It won’t take long. She just needs our completed forms so she can write up our transcripts to give to Mr. Moody.”

“Okay. So after breakfast we’ll go to McGonagall’s study and you can give her those. Then I need to talk to the Heads of House to remind them of the upcoming Hogsmeade day. Then we’ll head to the library to revise until lunch?”

“Except Belle,” Alice added as they finished the descent down the last few stairs. “She’ll come revise with us until Sirius shows up. Then she’ll spend the entire time trying so hard to ignore him that she’ll have no idea what we’re talking about.”

Belle glared at her friend, though she couldn’t deny what Alice said.

“Belle,” Lily began gently. “Don’t you think it’s time you agree to hear him out? You know he never meant to upset you.”

“‘E didn’t upset me,” Belle said, her features firm.

Alice halted in place, positioning her hands on her hips. “Sorry, Isabelle. You might be able to lie to yourself, but lying to us isn’t nearly as easy.”

“Look, we aren’t telling you what he did was okay.” Lily took a step closer to Belle, her eyes cautious as they searched the blue. “He acted like a stupid prat and he had no right to shout at you like that.”

“Exactly,” Belle concluded. “So you understand why I don’t zink it’s necessary to speak to ‘im. Now, let’s get to breakfast, shall we?”

“Belle.” Lily’s voice was firm, causing Belle to roll her eyes. She knew it wouldn’t be that easy. “How Sirius acted wasn’t okay, but I still think you should let him explain. Or at least try to apologize. He hurt you. That blows, it really does, but it wasn’t intentional and these kinds of things happen.”

“Don’t you think Frank has upset me plenty of times?” Alice asked, leaning against the stone balustrade. “He can be such a bullheaded prat sometimes. Like with the Christening after he and Augusta were involved in the attack. He didn’t talk to me about that for weeks, Belle. Weeks. Do you know how hard it was to wait while he came around and finally decided it was better to speak with me about it instead of shoving it under the rug?”

“But zat’s different,” Belle argued. “Something terrible ‘appened to ‘im and ‘e wasn’t ready to face it. ‘E didn’t say any’zing mean to you.”

“No,” Alice argued patiently. “He just chose to practically ignore me for weeks while I tried to deal with the fact that my boyfriend was in a Death Eater attack. Look at this from Sirius’s point of view. He thought he’d discovered the person that was responsible for putting Lily and James in danger. He was angry. How he treated you wasn’t kind, but neither is the fact that you’re basically using it as a reason to back away from him before you get too close.”

Belle leaned her back against the wall, refusing to meet their eyes. She wasn’t using it as a reason to pull away from him. Was she? Was she really that terrified of caring about someone again that she’d use anything she could to stop herself from getting attached?

“Whatever you want to do is up to you, Isabelle,” Lily added, her voice a bit softer. “We’re going to love you no matter what.”

Belle was trying to think of what to say, but whatever words started forming behind her lips were cut off as the group of boys came barreling out of the Great Hall.

“There you all are,” Remus said, struggling to balance a book under his arm as he finished his last bite of toast.

“We tried to wait to eat...” Peter began, shrugging apologetically.

Belle tensed up as Sirius took a step closer to her. She struggled to focus on what James was saying about Quidditch but could feel the grey eyes staring at her. She kept her gaze straight ahead, trying to drown out Alice’s and Lily’s words that fogged up her mind. Was she really dragging this on because she thought it would be easier to distance herself from Sirius now instead of letting them get closer? She really was hurt by how he’d treated her, though. She’d had enough people act like she was a glass doll − something you could look at and comment on the beauty of it, but was basically worthless for anything else.

“Belle, can we talk?” She was so focused on attempting to ignore him that the sound of his voice only inches from her ear startled her.

The group went silent before Lily rushed to usher them all away, mumbling something about needing to eat breakfast and James needing to get changed for Quidditch. Somehow, in what felt like less than a second, it was just Belle and Sirius left standing there.

“You haven’t eaten,” Sirius pointed out. “Do you want to grab something?” She shook her head. She didn’t think she could stomach anything just then. She’d done so well at refusing to speak with him about this... but had that been because she really was angry or she was struggling to make herself that way?

Could she honestly handle facing Lily and Alice and telling them that she’d refused to talk to Sirius again? Especially with how patient they’d been so far...She would hear him out. But it wouldn’t change anything. At least then she could say that she did give him a chance to explain.

“Let’s walk,” she heard herself suggest before turning her body away from him. Her feet moved of their own accord, her mind too focused on trying to keep her blue eyes free of the emotions swelling up inside her. She didn’t want this − any of it.

Was that the truth, though? Did she really not want it or was she just too scared of what losing it would feel like? Everything had felt so right after France. The way they’d sort of fallen together, then spending the entire day just laughing with each other as they roamed around Swansea. Christmas at James’s house... why had it all been so easy then, yet here she was doing almost everything she could to break apart what they started building?

Belle didn’t know why she was heading into the storm, but before she could think twice she was pushing the doors open, heaving wood creaking against their hinges. A gust of chilly wind came darting in. Despite the temperature, she continued down the aged steps with Sirius a few paces behind her. The fat, icy drops fell onto the hair she’d spent so long brushing, catching in her lashes and blurring her vision.

“Belle,” Sirius said, taking her arm as she began to follow the path toward the lake. “Belle, you’re going to get ill out here. You don’t even have a cloak on.”

She whipped around, her wet hair snapping behind her. She didn’t need someone to baby her. She didn’t need someone to treat her like she was a fragile ornament meant for show. “I can take care of myself,” she said, the words as cold as the water leaking through her thin robes.

Sirius must’ve realized he’d hit a nerve, because he simply raised a brow and nodded. She turned around to continue walking when a group of yellow clad students came running by her. James would be happy that Hufflepuff finished their practice, she thought as she stepped aside to let the bodies and brooms go by. One girl whose name she wasn’t certain of but recognized the nearly black hair, eyed Sirius as she walked by.

Mine, Belle thought, narrowing her eyes into a glare. But that wasn’t even true, was it? Because if Sirius was hers, she wouldn’t be doing everything she could to push him away.


“Belle,” he said again as the last Quidditch player passed, reaching forward and grabbing her hand. She’d forgotten what her palm felt like against his... silk on sandpaper. “I never meant to hurt you.” The words were simple, his voice getting tangled with the wind that snarled around them. She hated the way his eyes drilled into hers, like they were trying to force her to believe the sincerity behind the statement.

“You saw what I went zrough with my parents. You watched me ‘andle zat all. Did I ever give any sort of indication zat I was too weak to deal with it? Zat I’d be too weak to deal with you?” Her voice was getting louder, the control she had around her tone slipping away. “Is zat why you wanted me to leave? Or did you just zink zat I wasn’t worth helping you? Zat fragile Isabelle would never understand?”

“That’s what you think?” He kept her hand in his and pulled her under one of the large trees so they were half sheltered from the weather. But Belle didn’t need that. Right then, what she needed was to be submerged in the storm, circled in something nearly as destructive as she was.

“I’ve never thought you were weak, Belle. I watched you disarm the most deranged witch around.” Sirius rubbed his hands over his face, nervous tension vibrating off of him. “But I didn’t want you to be there for what I was planning on doing to Regulus. I didn’t want you trying to stop me.”

“Because you’re worried that I couldn’t handle it!” Belle shouted. She turned around ready to leave. This was getting them nowhere.

“No!” Sirius’s hands snaked forward and grabbed her wrists, tugging her back to him. He moved his fingers up her arms and gripped tightly onto her shoulders. Belle wanted to throw his hands off, to tell him never to touch her again, but the look in his eyes convinced her not to.

“Because...” he continued, staring down at her with frustration gleaming in his darkening eyes. “I don’t know, Belle. I didn’t want to worry about how you’d look at me if you watched me attack him. I didn’t want to worry about trying to justify what I did, or about what would happen if it made you think less of me. I didn’t want you to look at me like I was no better than them.”

“No better than who?” she asked, unable to stop herself.

“All of them. All the fucking Blacks! Bellatrix, Narcissa, Cygnus, Druella... my mother and father and all of them that just curse the fuck out of people to get what they want! I didn’t want you to see what I was going to do to Regulus and realize that I’m just like the rest of them.”

Belle felt a chill wash through her that had little to do with the storm.

“I know I’m not the same as them, Belle. I don’t think like they do, but that doesn’t stop other people from believing that I’m no better than my Muggle hating mother and father. And if you saw me do what I’d wanted to me brother, you’d look at me that way too.”

“What was so different about ze time in France and ze train? You didn’t care zat I watched zen,” Belle retorted. She wanted to accept what Sirius was saying, but she didn’t need to be protected. Not even from him.

“Christophe is a cocky bastard who needed to be hit. I wanted to teach him a lesson for what he did to you.” He turned his head from her, the sharp angles of his face looking more shadowed than ever. “But with Regulus... I wanted to make him regret ever taking that fucking mark.”

“And you would ‘ave gotten expelled! Zats why I wanted to stop you, Sirius. But you acted like I was nothing. After every’zing zat happened in France, I would ‘ave zought you’d want me to ‘elp you when you needed it.” She felt herself quivering on the border of anger and understanding, not ready to choose one just yet.

“But I didn’t want you to help me. I wanted to do it, and I didn’t want you or anyone stopping me. I know I shouldn’t have gotten angry at you-” Sirius cut himself off then turned from her, reaching up and rubbing his hands over his face. “God, maybe I am just like them,” he whispered, barely loud enough for Belle to hear against the crashing rain.

“No,” she started. His anger she could handle; she could stay just as angry for probably longer. But this... his pain, she couldn’t. “No Sirius, you’re not like zem. Just like I’m not ze same as my parents. Maybe we ‘ave zings that are similar, we’ll always look in ze mirror and see pieces of zem, but we’re not ze same. We chose different lives. We got away.”

“I wanted to hurt someone, Belle. Badly. I didn’t even think about it. If James and Remus hadn’t pulled me back... if Peter hadn’t grabbed my wand-”

“Zat’s ze difference, Sirius. You ‘ave zose people zat care about you. Because you’re someone zat deserves to be cared about. You may ‘ave zeir temper, and maybe what you wanted to do to Regulus is far from anything I’d ever want to see, but none of zat happened because you ‘ave people zat love you to stop you. Don’t you see zat’s what matters?”

“And if they weren’t there?” Sirius countered, his grey eyes filled with more shadows than Belle had ever seen.

“I don’t know,” she finally answered. “Maybe you would ‘ave done something zat you regretted, but you’d regret it. You’re already zinking about what might ‘ave ‘appened, and zat’s so different from zem - your family. Don’t you see, it’s ze fact that you’re worrying about all zis zat makes you different.”

The first sign of a smile ghosted across Sirius’s face as he finally met her gaze. “Is that why you wanted to stop me? Because you knew I’d regret it?”

“Well, Remus and Peter and James aren’t ze only people zat care about you, you know,” she answered, her full lips curving up at him.

“Do you still care about me? Even though I acted like a prat?” He tried to make the question sound casual, but Belle could hear the nerves in his voice.

“I could be convinced to forgive you...” She let her sentence trail off as she turned and leaned her back against the tree. Was she still angry? “Sirius, you know zat I can ‘andle zis kind of zing, right? Zat I don’t need you to protect me, especially not against yourself. I know I probably stayed angry too long... but I can’t be back zere again. Back where nothing I say matters because all I’m meant to do is look pretty and act accordingly.”

“Well, I’ve seen you act a number of different ways... but accordingly isn’t one of them.” He dodged her small hand as it came at him in a playful punch. “I do want to protect you from things, but not because I don’t think you’re strong enough to handle them on your own. Because that’s just part of me.”

“I suppose I can live with zat. But if you ever snap at me like zat again, I’m going to stay angrier for much longer.” She thought for a minute of how cold she’d been to him the last few weeks. Maybe if she’d have understood from the start what was really upsetting him, she wouldn’t have stayed angry for so long. Although she supposed she hadn’t given him a chance to explain the reasoning behind all of it...

“You know,” she began as she lowered her body to the ground, not concerned with the dirt that would gather on her robes. “I’m ra’zer surprised you kept trying to talk to me and explain for so long. I was acting slightly unreasonable, I suppose.”

“You think I give up that easily, princess? After watching James trail around Lily like a lovesick puppy for years, then that finally paying off, I’ve learned a thing or two about persistence.”

Belle felt a giggle bubble up and couldn’t hold it back. The laughter started spilling out of her until Sirius’s deep voice joined in with the airy sound.

“So,” Sirius began as he leaned against her. “Does this mean we’ve survived our first fight?” She grinned as she turned to him, a happiness that she’d been missing the last three weeks filling her chest.

Maybe Lily and Alice were right and she’d been trying to push away from him, maybe she’d thought she was ready to let him go and not risk caring ever again, but that was before she watched the impossibly complicated man beside her turn into nothing more than a child needing some sort of reassurance. She’d just spent one of the best holidays of her life with Sirius, and wasn’t ready to give up that feeling for anything.

“We survived our first fight,” she concurred, leaning over and touching her lips to his. “But,” she added, pulling away from him and narrowing her eyes. “Just who was ze girl zat looked at you like she was undressing you with ‘er eyes when we were walking by ze ‘Ufflepuff Quidditch team?”

Sirius leaned his head back and barked a laugh into the sky, the sound echoing through the leaves of the tree.

Lily held a piece of parchment to the wall while James aimed his wand at it. He flicked his wrist a few times, then nodded at her. When she removed her hands the parchment stayed stuck in place.

“Perfect,” she said, then turned to the rest of the group. All of them, besides James who was still standing, were stretched out around the Heads’ Quarters. Belle was curled into a blanket with Sirius next to her, a sure sign they’d worked out everything that morning. She and Alice hadn’t gotten a chance to talk with their French friend alone when they’d been revising, but she was sure they’d have time that evening.

She glanced at Remus. His eyes looked heavy, like all he wanted to do was fall fast asleep. Lily felt her heart give a sympathetic lurch. Neither of them had brought up what they’d talked about in the hospital wing months ago, but that didn’t stop Lily from noticing every full moon. Thursday evening had been the last, then they had class all day Friday. No wonder Remus looked exhausted. Maybe she’d brew him a batch of Relaxation. She couldn’t tell him why; he was still set on pretending like their conversation never happened, but he’d understand even if he didn’t want to admit it. Then, on evenings after the full moon, he could take a few sips of that and it would relax him enough to slip into a peaceful sleep. Not nearly as strong as an actual sleeping potion, but much less addictive.

Maybe she could tell James to give him the potion? Though she still wasn’t certain on where they all stood with that. From the story Remus had told Lily back in September about the little boy finding people that still cared for him, she thought that he’d probably told James, Sirius and Peter. Though she was far from positive. God, this would be so much easier if she could just tell James that she knew. But then if he didn’t know... she’d never risk doing that to Remus.

“Lily?” James prompted, and she let the thoughts slip from her mind. She’d deal with those later.

“Yes, sorry. Okay, well. Let’s start with Regulus.” James nodded at her then swished his wand. Regulus’s name appeared in black ink on the hanging piece of parchment. “James doesn’t think it’s Regulus because it would make much more sense for a seventh year Slytherin, not sixth, to be the one passing information along. And because Regulus knows James well enough to understand that he’s as far from a future Death Eater as you can get, right?”

Sirius nodded at Lily and began to elaborate. “I didn’t really think about that on the train, but yeah. I used to talk to Regulus quite a lot about James, when I still thought there was a chance the little worm would ignore mother and father and try to do things a different way. I told him about James’s parents and how they used to be Aurors, so they could protect Regulus from Orion and Walburga if needed. I still don’t think Regulus is off the table, because just knowing James wouldn’t join isn’t enough. Volde-fucker probably doesn’t care what Regulus says as long as he does what he wants.”

“Okay, well, we’ll leave him listed,” Lily decided. “Now, what about the Prospects?”

“I think one of them is our most likely candidate,” Remus said, rubbing his hands over his eyes. “Because if we ever did mention our plans for Christmas holiday in front of anyone, it probably would have been in class. And they’re all seventh years, with more chances to overhear us than any other Slytherins.”

“Do we know...” Peter began, glancing around them. “I mean, is there any way to find out if any of them have been marked? Couldn’t we accidentally rip off their sleeve or something?”

“I’m not sure how much it matters if they’re marked followers or not,” Frank cut in, tapping his fingers against a table. “Being marked shows that Voldemort already somewhat trusts them. Mr. Moody said that he doesn’t even mark some people that work with him. There’s an entire pack of werewolves that help him and do his bidding, but Moody told us that they captured one and interrogated it, and learned that Voldemort won’t give any of them the mark.”

“Because they’re unworthy of even that sort of acceptance as an equal,” Remus said, his eyes staring at the ground. Lily wanted to walk over and hug him so tightly that he’d never feel the way he seemed to now, ever again.

“Well, maybe, but also because they’re already doing his bidding,” Frank said, obviously unaware of the dark tone that had filled Remus. “So if the Prospects are already doing his bidding, sort of like he’s testing them, it might be even more likely that it was an unmarked follower. A trial to see if they can really offer him anything.”

“And it would make sense,” Alice said, standing up and beginning to pace. “Because it’s not as if recruiting James and possibly Lily is a huge operation. From what Professor Dumbledore said, You-Know-Who thought that James and Lily’s influence on the school would be helpful. But not necessary. So it would make sense for someone who isn’t as trusted to be tasked with the goal of finding out more information.”

James nodded and aimed again at the parchment. Avery, Mulciber, Rosier, and Snape all wrote themselves clearly in the same thick, black ink.

“No,” Lily said, crossing her arms and trying to ignore the angry rush that filled her. “Take Severus’s name off, now.”

“Lily,” Sirius argued, “he was perfectly happy letting his friends nearly poison Mary in fifth year. Sure, he probably didn’t say the curse, but who do you think brewed the potion?”

Lily’s turned her head, meeting Sirius’s eyes. She’d accepted the way they used to treat her former best friend, and though she’d still never let them forget how childish they’d been, at least she’d moved past it. But this wasn’t something she would allow.

“I’ve known Severus most of my life,” she said, her words sharp. “He may want power, and yes he’s going about it the wrong way, but he would never lead me into something that would get me killed.”

“What if he didn’t know you would be in danger and he thought just James would be?” Alice suggested.

Did Lily think Severus cared if James got hurt? After all the things that the boys had done to one another, probably not. But he still wouldn’t put James in danger if it meant she might be in the cross-hairs of it. “No, he wouldn’t lead Death Eaters to where I was. No matter what. Take him off the list.”

James shrugged, whether or not it was because he believed Lily or didn’t want to argue, she wasn’t sure. But regardless, he still lifted his wand and caused the final name to disappear. Lily felt herself let out a sigh of relief. Severus did make it clear that the Dark Arts was where he wanted to be, but she knew without a fragment of doubt that he would never let her walk blindly into death.

“Now,” James began, turning from the parchment. “We mentioned to Slughorn in Potions that we couldn’t attend his gathering because none of us were staying over Christmas.”

“Oh, I’d forgotten about zat!” Belle said, sitting up straighter in her cocoon of a blanket. “‘E wanted me to play ze harp, and I told ‘im I’d be in France.”

Lily tried to think back to that afternoon. She knew she remembered mentioning something about seeing family over the holiday, but she wasn’t sure exactly what she’d said.

Remus stood up as well, the attention of the room turning to him. “When he asked James and Sirius if they were finally going to attend one... I can’t remember what you blokes answered. Did you just say that’d you’d be leaving for the holiday?”

They all fell silent and it became increasingly evident that none of them could remember the exact wording.

“Well,” Alice said, shrugging. “Even if they just said no, that they would be gone for holiday, we may have joked later on or a different day or something about Lily and James taking their trip. I remember once Belle and I were teasing Lily about bringing Butterscotch with her. I could have said something about James, too.”

“Any of us probably could have,” Sirius agreed. “So how do we narrow it down to who might have overheard us?”

“I’m not sure we’ll be able to,” Remus answered. “But I do think we need to keep an eye on where the Prospects all are. It might be impossible to figure out exactly who the spy for Voldemort is, or if it’s more than one of them, but this way we can know if they’re somewhere they shouldn’t be and we can also be careful to avoid them and not risk getting anymore information passed along.”

“‘Ow are we going to keep an eye on zem? Unless we each follow one all day. And zat is hardly possible.”

Lily smiled, already realizing the answer to Belle’s question. There were a lot of things that James, Sirius, Remus and Peter did that she was not thrilled about. Like nearly every prank they pulled which resulted in people being unable to go in certain parts of the castle for weeks due to gasses, smells, or other disgusting issues. But one thing that always amazed Lily was how they were able to create nearly anything. She watched a half smile play over James’s face before he dashed up the stairs to the bedrooms.

“Where is ‘e going?” Belle asked, obviously irritated. Lily realized as the confusion filled Alice and Frank’s faces that she was probably the only one, besides the four boys, to know about the map. James and Sirius had showed it to her over the summer, attempting to get her to think about anything other than her parents.

James’s footsteps returned as he ran back down the stairs then sat down at the table in front of him, a piece of parchment in hand.

As soon as James started opening it, Sirius slapped his hand down and glanced around at them all. “Now, what you are all about to see never leaves this room. You lot all close your eyes.”

Lily wanted to argue that she’d seen it before, but figured she’d just get glared at for not telling her friends about it. She followed along and listened as James mumbled something to the map, then told them to open their eyes again.

She hadn’t paid very close attention to the parchment last time she’d seen it, not in the mood to look anything that wasn’t her mother and father alive and healthy. But now, as she leaned in and got a closer look, she felt her breath catch in her chest. The way all the dots were moving around, the detail each and every stroke of ink had in it... it was amazing. Easily one of the most incredible pieces of magic she’d ever seen.

Remus chuckled as Alice reached forward and followed a line with her finger.

“And this, my friends,” James began, his voice full of pride, “is the Marauder’s Map.”

AN:
Hi guys, and thank you for reading! And huge thank you again to my wonderful beta read, CambAngst!

What did you all think of this chapter? You should have known I couldn’t keep Belle and Sirius mad at each other for too terrible long ;)! Thank you so much for stopping by! Also! I know I mentioned before that I was NEVER letting Belle talk as much as she did in her chapter, Revelations. I don't think she talks quite as much in this one, but pretty close. I hope her accent wasn't too much trouble to get through!

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