An hour before moonrise on the full moon night, James was preparing to leave his home and Apparate to Remus’. He’d been looking forward to this all week; he needed something to get his mind off everything else that was going on in his life, and a full moon with his two best friends was the perfect time. Over the years it began to take much less force to keep Remus in check when he had transformed into a werewolf. And since their graduation from Hogwarts, the Marauders spent their full moon nights in the woods behind Remus’ home in Kent. It was the perfect place for a werewolf and two large Animagi to spend their time; there were no neighbors any closer than at least fifty miles away, and there was still plenty of the area they had yet to explore.
James had his hand on the front doorknob when he heard a loud, double beep from his fireplace – it was the signal that told him someone was Flooing him. Curious, wondering if it was Sirius checking to see where he was, James entered the living room. He resisted the urge to raise an eyebrow when he saw Molly Weasley’s head in the green flames.
“Oh, James, good, you’re still home,” she said, smiling. The Weasleys knew that once a month, James went away to somewhere Harry couldn’t join him, but they had no idea why.
James kneeled in front of the redhead’s head. “Hey, there, Molly, what’s Harry done now?” he asked, smiling.
“Well, I wouldn’t know as you haven’t sent him over yet…” Molly replied. “I’d wondered if he was going to be here soon, we’re about to sit down to dinner.”
This time, James did raise an eyebrow. “Molly, I sent Harry over about an hour ago,” he said slowly, trying to keep his heart from beating so quickly that it burst from its chest. “He should have been there.”
Molly paled, and James tried to ignore the slightly panicked look that crossed her face.
“Are you sure he hasn’t gone to play Quidditch with your boys?” James asked.
“I’m certain, all the children are in the sitting room right now,” Molly told him.
Hundreds of horrible thoughts passed through his mind in a span of about ten seconds, each one worst than the last. James gulped. “Well, I’ll head out and see if I can find him, then,” he said, trying to keep his voice steady.
“He can’t have gone anywhere else, could he?”
James shook his head. “No, he only knows your children around here. Well, and Luna Lovegood, but I really don’t see Harry spending a lot of time with her without Ron and Ginny.”
The look on Molly’s face was a cross between pity and fear. “Well, you’ll contact me when you find him, won’t you?”
“Yeah, of course,” James replied. “Go enjoy your dinner, Molly. I’ll make sure Harry gets there tonight.”
With another look of worried pity, Molly’s head disappeared from his fireplace. Finally, James was free to allow his body to fall to the carpet. Harry never strayed further than the Burrow. He knew the path like the back of his hand and he could walk it in his sleep. Unless he just decided to go for a fly without telling anybody, in which case, he would be in major trouble when James found him. Harry knew better than to wander off.
Grabbing the Floo powder in the jar on the mantle, James threw a pinch into the still green flames, called Remus’ address, and stuck his head inside. Once the spinning stopped, he called for Sirius and Remus. Sirius was the first to respond.
“Prongs! Why aren’t you here yet?” Sirius asked, looking slightly irritated. “We’ve been waiting–”
“I think Harry may be missing,” James said quickly, not caring that his friends were waiting for him. “Molly Weasley just Flooed – Harry hasn’t arrived at the Burrow yet.”
Remus entered the living room. The moon would rise soon; Remus’ entire body was chalk-white, and he seemed to have trouble keeping himself in an upright position. “Harry’s missing?” he asked very hoarsely. “How could Harry be missing?”
James shook his head. “I don’t know, but I need to go look for him. I’m not going to make it over there until I have.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Sirius said, his own complexion slowly fading to match Remus’. “You want a bit of help?”
Again, James shook his head. “No, you stay with Remus. I’ll contact you when–”
“No,” Remus said quickly and forcefully as he could manage. “Sirius, you go help James, you’ll be able to cover more ground that way. You might even consider calling Dorcas and Emmeline – they’re both at Sirius’ and Dorcas’ for the night. I’ll be fine.”
James and Sirius both looked at him skeptically. “You’re sure?” Sirius asked.
“Yeah, Moony, I can do this on my own, and if I call the girls, I’ll have help–” James began.
“No,” Remus repeated. “Take Sirius. Harry is more important than Sirius and me wandering the forests. I don’t mind spending the night in the basement. And once you find Harry, you’ll be back here.”
Hesitating to agree – both Sirius and James knew what would happen if they left Remus alone; they’d seen the results many times during their time at Hogwarts – Sirius finally nodded. “All right, I’ll go. But we’ll be back as soon as we get Harry to the Weasleys.”
Remus nodded. “All I ask is that you lock the basement door until morning.”
“I’ll be over in a minute, Prongs,” Sirius said, following Remus to the basement.
James pulled his head from the fireplace. He’d let Sirius call Dorcas – he didn’t feel like explaining what was going on to anyone else at the moment. Just to make certain Harry wasn’t at home, James searched the house, every room, until he was realized it was indeed empty.
Just as he finished checking a high shelf in the upstairs linen cabinet (one of Harry’s favorite hiding spots when he and his father played hide-and-seek), James heard a familiar female voice call his name from downstairs.
Guess Sirius already contacted Dorcas and Emmeline… James thought vaguely, heading downstairs, taking the steps two at a time.
When he reached the living room, both women were searching for him. “Sirius contacted you, I take it?” James said hoarsely, making both witches jump as they looked into the kitchen. Usually he would have grinned at their jumpiness, but he couldn’t manage it tonight.
Emmeline nodded. “All he said was that we needed to get over here. What’s going on?”
James ran a shaky hand through his hair. “Harry’s missing. He was supposed to go to the Burrow for the night while I went to Remus’, but Molly Weasley–”
He was interrupted when his fireplace erupted in flames again and Sirius stepped neatly out. “Good, you’re both here,” he said to Dorcas and Emmeline. “How do we want to do this, Prongs? You know these woods better than we do…”
James sighed. “Well, we can split up and take different areas, I suppose. Like I told Molly, I really don’t see Harry wandering off; he knows better.”
The four friends decided to split into groups of two – James and Emmeline, and Sirius and Dorcas, so that there was an Auror with each witch in case something bad happened. James tried not to think that his son was abducted, but it was the one theory that stayed firmly in his mind.
“Well, let’s get going,” Sirius said, watching James very closely. “The sun will be going down soon, and we’ll need as much light as we can get.”
James nodded, the idea that his son was missing finally beginning to sink in. How could he have let Harry go to the Burrow alone? If only he, James, had decided to walk him over, or made him Floo…
A hand touched his arm, making James jump a little. He turned to Emmeline. “It’ll be fine,” she said quietly, leading him out of the kitchen door to the backyard.
God, I hope she’s right…
“HARRY!” Sirius bellowed into the woods looking all around the paths of the forest for his godson.
“Sirius?” Dorcas said as they walked. The Auror looked over to his girlfriend. “You don’t think Harry’s been kidnapped, do you?”
He sighed. “I don’t know,” he said heavily. “It’s possible, I suppose. I told you about the Wormtail thing… This could be connected to that in some way…”
Dorcas nodded and didn’t say anything else. She knew what it would do to James if someone had taken his son. He’d be just as devastated as when Lily died. Harry was James’ life. Everything James did revolved around his son, and if something happened to Harry while he was missing, James would undoubtedly blame himself, just as he had when Lily was murdered.
“I never realized how really big these woods are,” Sirius said, shining the light of his wand through the trees and scanning the area slowly. “It’ll take us hours to search all this…”
“Do you think we might be able to call in a team of Aurors to help out?” she asked. “We’d be able to cover a hell of a lot more ground than we are now.”
“Not a bad idea, actually…” Sirius said thoughtfully. He raised his wand and performed the Patronus message charm. Both Sirius and Dorcas watched his eagle-Patronus soar off into the woods, searching for James. “I definitely don’t think he’ll object to getting more help.”
The witch waited with her love, thinking of some of the worst case scenarios that could be happening to Harry right now. She banished the images that depicted Harry being tortured or even killed and tried to block her mind from thinking anything. She loved Harry as much as Sirius, Remus, and Emmeline did, and she would do whatever it took to bring him home safely.
But right now, we need to calm down. James is probably going mental, even though he’s acting like none of this is bothering him. I suppose that’s his Auror training kicking in.
Her thoughts were abruptly cut off when James’ tiger-Patronus returned with a message.
“He’s contacting Mad-Eye to get Aurors out here. He wants us to meet him back at the house to wait for them,” Sirius told her.
Dorcas raised an eyebrow. “James wants to wait while his son is missing?” she asked disbelievingly.
Sirius shrugged. “I think he knows it’s better to have a huge team looking rather than just the four of us.”
“If it was our kid, I’d be going mental, and I know you would, too…”
He raised an eyebrow. “Are you trying to tell me something?”
She rolled her eyes. “No, Sirius, I am not pregnant. And even if I was, I wouldn’t tell you right now; we’ve got Harry to worry about.”
The couple began to make their way back to James and Harry’s home, completely unaware that they were being watched.
Mad-Eye Moody was in his element, it seemed. James stood beside Sirius, watching his boss split the Aurors and members of the DMLE he’d brought along into groups of four and give out instructions. The Head Auror had thought it a good idea to alert Dumbledore as well, but James hadn’t really seen the advantage to this – how was Dumbledore going to speed up the process of finding Harry even more than dozens of witches and wizards were? Regardless of James’ skepticism, Emmeline contacted the headmaster, and he was now standing beside Mad-Eye, adding a few last minute instructions. James wasn’t listening; he hadn’t listened to a word Mad-Eye had said throughout his entire speech. The thoughts that had flooded his mind when he first found out his son wasn’t where he was supposed to be (he didn’t want to admit Harry was actually missing just yet) were still keeping him from paying attention to anything and everything around him.
Sirius clapped him on the back and James started back to reality, noticing the groups were starting their search. James made to follow them when Mad-Eye called him back.
“Potter, hang on!” Mad-Eye and Dumbledore made their way to James and his friends. “I’m not sure it’s the best thing for you right now, being out there.” James narrowed his eyes dangerously; Sirius took a large step to the side. “I know you want to help look for your boy, but we’ve got this under control, and last thing we need is a worried father getting all worked up.”
“Worked up?” James asked in a low voice, sounding much calmer than he felt. “Mad-Eye, my six-year-old son is missing, he’s possibly been kidnapped, and you’re worried about me getting worked up?”
“James, maybe Mad-Eye’s right–” Sirius began. He stopped speaking immediately at the look on James’ face.
“I’m not debating this with you, Potter,” Mad-Eye said, starting to walk away. “Get in your house, and we’ll let you know what we find out. That’s an order.”
James glared until Mad-Eye and Dumbledore were out of sight. He started back into his house, muttering angrily under his breath.
“You want a drink, Prongs?” Sirius asked cautiously.
“No, I don’t want a goddamned drink, Sirius, I want to find my son,” James snapped.
Sirius sighed and sat at the table with Emmeline and Dorcas. “Look, I understand you’re upset,” he said quietly. “But snapping at us isn’t going to do anything to find Harry any faster.”
Again, James glared at his friends for a moment before leaving the kitchen and making his way to his bedroom.
“You know, I half expected James to ignore Mad-Eye,” Dorcas said around sunrise. “He’s never had a problem with disobeying authority before.”
Sirius looked at her, his head resting on his folding arms. “I think he’s in a bit of shock right now,” he said sleepily. “Any other time, James would have been out there and would deal with whatever punishment Mad-Eye gave him later.”
“Well, I hope the Aurors get back soon,” Emmeline said, trying to suppress a yawn. “And I hope they have good news.”
But Sirius turned his head to her, his face looking grim. “I’m not all that certain Harry’s anywhere near here. He would never stay out all night unless he was forced to. Harry’s a hell of a lot like James; though he won’t listen to a lot of authority figures, he’ll always listen to his father. And James has told him a hundred times to never stay out past sundown.”
Dorcas started to say something when the alarm for the fireplace went off. Emmeline raised an eyebrow as Sirius stood to investigate. “Who could that be?” she asked, glancing at her watch. “It’s six-thirty in the morning…”
Her question was answered moments later when Sirius returned to the kitchen followed closely by Remus. He must have just transformed: he was still pale and slightly weak as he fell into his chair; his bandages over his many wounds had been placed haphazardly; and he didn’t seem all that certain where he was.
“Where’s Harry?” he asked, his voice very hoarse.
Sirius shrugged as he got Remus a glass of cold water. “No clue,” he replied. “Mad-Eye and Dumbledore have a team of Aurors out in the forest searching for him. They should be back any minute; they’ve been out there for twelve hours already.”
“Cheers,” Remus muttered, sipping the water and looking around the kitchen. He lowered his glass, a brow forming a slight frown. “Where’s James?”
“Pouting upstairs,” Sirius answered. At Remus’ raised eyebrow, he went on, “Mad-Eye ordered him to stay in the house while they went out to search.”
Remus winced; Emmeline wasn’t sure whether it was from what Sirius said or from his injuries. “Well, I think Mad-Eye may have been right…” He trailed off, looking out the window. “Looks like they’ve come back.”
Sirius snapped his head to the window. Indeed, Mad-Eye and Dumbledore were leading a large group of tired looking witches and wizards out of the forest and into the backyard. The wizards in the lead continued on to the house. Sirius opened the door for them. “Well?” he demanded.
“Nothing,” Mad-Eye said heavily. “Dumbledore reckons the boy disappeared ‘bout an hour before you contacted us, Black.”
“Disappeared?” Remus asked sharply. “Disappeared, as in…”
“Vanished,” Dumbledore said quietly. “Harry’s trace leads us just to the border of James’ property and that of the Weasley family. Beyond that, there is no sign of him.”
“Bloody hell…” Sirius breathed, feeling as weak as Remus looked. “So how do we find him?”
“Once we have sent the Aurors and Magical Law Enforcement officials back to the Ministry, Alastor and I will perform charms we believe may give us a clue as to where Harry may have been taken.”
“But you don’t know if they’ll work?” Sirius asked, knowing the answer already.
“Unfortunately–” Dumbledore began. He was cut off by James’ entrance into the kitchen.
“What’s going on?” James asked slowly, looking disheveled, his eyes very bloodshot. He looked at each person in the kitchen in turn. “Well? Did you find my son?”
Everyone looked at each other, clueless as to how to reply. Sirius finally sighed deeply and stood. “Er, James, perhaps you and I should talk in the other room…”
“I’ll join you,” Remus said hastily, standing unsteadily and slowly making his way over to his friends.
Once James was seated in the living room, Remus and Sirius looked at each other, still completely clueless.
“Well?” James demanded. “Why couldn’t you tell me in the kitchen with everyone else?”
“Because once we tell you,” Remus began blandly, “we only wish for the two of us to be hexed into oblivion rather than everyone else.”
Hesitantly, Sirius began telling his best friend what Mad-Eye and Dumbledore told everyone else. James’ expression was blank the entire time, and Sirius wasn’t sure what to make of it. By the end of the news breaking, Sirius was becoming quite fearful of the moment James would finally explode and start yelling. But that moment never came; James only nodded and said very quietly, “I didn’t expect anything different.”
Remus sighed. “James, we’re going to do whatever it takes to find Harry. He’ll be just fine, you’ll see.”
“How could you possibly know that?” James asked, sounding like every word and breath he took was costing him something painful. “He could be in horrible pain right now, and there’s nothing I can do to help him. It’s just like when Lily died and I was at Hogwarts: I wasn’t there to help her, and I lost her…”
“James,” Sirius said very quietly. “This isn’t the same as that. We can still find and save Harry.”
But James shook his head and let it rest on the back of the sofa, obviously deep in thought. Remus and Sirius exchanged a look that mutually said they were in deep this time, and barely had time to look away from the other before Emmeline poked her head in.
“Dumbledore and Mad-Eye have gone back into the forest,” she said, glancing sadly at James. “They say if we still want, we can come out and help search we can.” She hesitated for long moments. “But they don’t think we’ll find anymore…” She looked hastily at James for his reaction. He didn’t seem to be listening.
Remus nodded and stood. “Sirius, I think we should do our own search. I know there’s no way we’ll find Harry right now, but… I don’t know… I just think you should sniff around a bit, if you catch my meaning.”
It took Sirius a moment to cotton on, but finally, realization hit him. “Right,” he said. “Er, James, we’ll be back in a bit…”
James still wasn’t listening.
Sighing, Sirius led Remus, Emmeline, and Dorcas out into the forest where he transformed into dog form and began sniffing the trail Harry took to the Weasleys.
Harry woke abruptly. At first, he was confused; he didn’t know where he was – he knew it wasn’t his house or the Burrow. Finally, he started to remember. This had been the second time he’d woken in this strange place. The first had been hours ago, he felt, and the first thing he’d seen was a tall man with blond hair talking with another man standing in the shadows. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but something told him these men weren’t here to help him. When the blond-haired man glanced over at him, Harry had closed his eyes very quickly; he didn’t want them to know he was awake.
Now, it seemed, he was alone in the room. He sat up on the fairly comfortable bed and looked around as best he could; the room was very dark. When his eyes finally adjusted, Harry saw that it looked like a child’s room. It wasn’t quite like his room at home, but it seemed close. Instead of the red walls he had, the color on the walls was a deep green and there were silver snakes all over the place. There was a toy box at the end of the bed; Harry had the desire to explore it, but knew better; his father wouldn’t think much of him opening something in a strange place – something bad could come out of it.
Just as Harry had the thought to look out the window to see where he was, the door began to open. Very quickly, Harry threw himself back on the bed and pretended to sleep, his eyes open just enough to see who’d come in. It was the same blond man he’d seen earlier. The man stood at the end of the bed and stared at Harry for a few minutes. Harry’s heart pounded; was the man going to hurt him? But the man finally left the room and closed the door with a small click. Harry sighed in relief.
But how do I get home? The man will probably be watching me and the door. If I leave, he’ll catch me… Harry bit his lip, feeling tears filling his eyes. I want my dad…
Remus, Emmeline, and Dorcas followed Sirius down the path at a distance of about twenty feet. None of them had any real hope of finding anything more than the Aurors had, but they were all determined to do what they could for James and Harry.
“How’re you feeling?” Emmeline asked Remus quietly as they walked.
He shrugged, his hands in his pockets. “I’ve felt worse.” He gave her a wan smile. “But so long as I focus on something else, I’ll be all right.”
She nodded and continued to watch Sirius sniff bushes and dirt.
Remus was about to call for Sirius to come back, to tell him they should get back to James, when Sirius stopped very suddenly and began growling very threateningly. Remus knew if he’d been in human form, those growls would be curses.
But Sirius had shot off through the trees. They could hear him still growling. They went down the path at a run; Sirius was ahead of them in the trees. Finally, the Animagus shot out of some bushes, still growling, and transformed. Sure enough, he was now muttering curses, some Remus had never heard. He shot a look at Emmeline and Dorcas; both witches looked quite confused.
“What did you find?” Dorcas asked carefully.
Sirius didn’t answer. He stood from the ground and continued to run to the end of the path where he stopped, panting.
“If you don’t tell us what’s going on…” Remus began. Sirius looked at him with an expression of pure hatred. “What is it?”
“Wormtail,” Sirius growled, pointing ahead of him.
Remus’ brows shot up as he followed Sirius’ finger. His jaw dropped. They were about a hundred feet from the Burrow.
Molly Weasley was busy baking, her mind quite preoccupied. Last night, after she’d finished speaking with James, she’d had to come up with an excuse as to why Harry wouldn’t be coming over to stay – she couldn’t tell her children that their friend was missing; she didn’t want them to worry. But the boys seemed to accept that Harry wasn’t feeling well, and his father had decided to keep him home. Through the night, however, Molly had worried about where the child could possibly be. She felt horrible for James; how much more horrible news could one man take? First his wife, now his son…
There was a bang in the living room, followed by silence, then loud laughter. Sighing and closing her eyes, praying for patience, Molly went into the living room to find Fred and George had somehow made Ron’s hair disappear – her youngest son was currently completely bald.
“What did you two do?” she screamed at the twins, who were now rolling on the floor with laughter. Ron seemed rather confused. “You two are the limit, do you know that?” She kneeled in front of Ron, running her hand across his naked head, and sighed, shaking her head. She had to admit, only to herself, of course, that the twins, whatever they’d done, had done a rather good job of it. Using her wand and a simple charm, she reversed what they’d done. Ron’s red hair was back in place.
“What’d they do?” Ron asked, confused.
Molly smiled. “Nothing, dear. Don’t worry about…” She trailed off when she heard a knock on the door. “You two stay out of trouble for five minutes,” she said sharply to Fred and George, before heading off to the backdoor to see who was visiting.
“Oh, hello,” she said in surprise, looking at the group outside her door. Remus Lupin was at the front with Sirius Black beside him, and Dorcas Meadowes and Emmeline Vance closely behind them. She couldn’t think of what they could be here for. Unless… “Have you found out anything about Harry?” she asked, her heart beating.
“Unfortunately not,” Remus said quietly, with a small smile. Molly thought he looked very sick and exhausted, but didn’t comment. “I wonder, Molly, if we could come in for a moment?”
“Oh, yes, of course,” Molly said, scolding herself. “Where are my manners? Come in, please, take a seat… Would any of you care for a cup of tea?” Before they could reply, she began bustling around the kitchen, preparing tea and a small snack for them to munch on. Once she’d finished, she took her full tray to the table and sat beside Emmeline. “Please, help yourself.” She had the feeling they only took the tea and biscuits to be polite – something else was on their minds. Sirius looked very angry, while Emmeline and Dorcas glanced at him fearfully. Remus didn’t seem affected by Sirius’ mood. “So, what brings you all here?”
Remus hesitated, taking a long sip of his tea before speaking. “Molly, what I have to say may sound very odd, but I assure you, your answers are very important to us, and possibly to you…”
“Okay…” Molly said slowly, feeling bemused.
Remus bit his lip, glancing sideways at Sirius. “Molly, do you have rats?” Remus asked bluntly.
Taken aback, Molly choked on her tea a bit. “Rats?” she choked. “Well, no…” Then she realized that wasn’t exactly truthful. “My son Percy has a pet rat, Scabbers, but I’m not aware of any other rats in my home… I suppose there are a few in the garden…”
“May we see this rat – Scabbers, did you call him? – may we see him?” Remus asked, sitting up straighter in his chair, looking very alert now.
Her brow furrowed, Molly looked at each of them. They were looking nervous and excited at the same time. “Well, I suppose you could… Might I ask what this is about?”
“It’s a bit of a long story,” Emmeline answered carefully. “We’ll explain everything, if we can see the rat first.”
“Certainly,” Molly said, feeling more confused than before. She stood and went to the stairs. “Percy!” she called loudly.
Her third oldest exited his bedroom and stood at the edge of the staircase. “Yes, Mother?” he asked.
“Could you bring Scabbers down here for a moment, please?” Molly asked, wondering the entire time if this meeting with James Potter’s friends could become even stranger.
“Scabbers?” Percy said blankly. “Why?”
“I just need to see him for a moment, Percy,” Molly replied. “Please.”
Percy nodded and reentered his bedroom. After a few minutes, Percy came back out, his brow furrowed. “I can’t find him. He was on my pillow this morning, now he’s gone…”
Sighing, Molly nodded. “Thank you, dear.” And she went back to the kitchen. “Percy says Scabbers isn’t in his room,” she told the group at her table. “He says the rat was there earlier, but now he’s not…”
Remus closed his eyes tightly while Sirius’ jaw clenched tightly. She really couldn’t see why the news about Scabbers would affect them like this. Why would they care about her son’s rat?
“Thank you, Molly,” Remus said quietly, obviously forcing a polite smile. “We must head back to James’. Thank you for the tea.”
As they left, Molly Weasley was left behind felling far more confused than she’d ever been in her life.