Sirius, Lily read – the hastily scribbled note had been shoved into her hand by way of an explanation.
You’re my big brother and even though I don’t like you and we believe in different things, I’d hate to see you get killed because of me. So this is why I’m telling you – there is to be a death-eater attack on the school tonight. We’re getting in via Hogsmeade, through the shrieking shack. Your friend Lupin (did you know he was a werewolf????) is going to have to be dealt with first, but don’t worry, I doubt they’ll kill him, we’ll probably just lure him out into the grounds somehow – but the point is, the castle is not safe, the grounds are not safe. Be on your guard – it’s probably best to get your arse up to Gryffindor tower, and hide there – that wouldn’t be cowardly, like I bet your thinking, just common sense. Don’t try to be a hero, because you won’t succeed. The dark lord will conquer!
“Oh my God.” Lily said.
“He’s a heartless little bastard isn’t he?” Sirius growled. “And if he thinks for a second that I’d take his pathetic advice, and go and hide in my dormitory like some cowardly little weasel...”
“Sirius, there’s no use getting worked up about it now.” James cut in. “We’ve got to think of a plan – we can’t go and find Moony now, like we planned – because what about Lily?”
“I can’t believe Remus is a werewolf!”
“Well she can stay here can’t she?” Sirius continued, ignoring Lily. “If she hides herself – they’ll remember she’s out here sooner or later and just open the doors.”
“We can’t just leave her here though - you could stay with her?
It was pretty evident that Sirius wasn’t about to stay and babysit, and James knew this before he had even opened his mouth.
“No chance Prongs -” Sirius replied. “You can’t manage Moony by yourself – I could maybe hold him off for a bit, but a stag’s no match for a wolf, however big.”
Lily had lost the thread of the conversation completely now. A stag?
“Okay then,” James said. “But I wouldn’t feel right just waiting here while you risked...”
“We should both go.”
“No.” James’s face was set with determination. “You stay with Lily, I’m the bigger animal, I can hold Moony off until the doors open. But we can’t leave Lily on her own.” He looked pleadingly towards Sirius, who, after a roll of his eyes answered with a grim nod. James turned to Lily. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t think you can look after yourself – but you see, me and Padfoot have done this before.” And before she could blink an eyelid, James had transformed into a gigantic stag, pure white, yet a pair of bright hazel eyes still shone from the now unfamiliar face. The stag nodded at her, then ran off into the darkness. Lily was thunderstruck.
“Am I going mad?”
Sirius gave a bark-like laugh.
“You’d think so wouldn’t you?” he asked, bitterly. “He’s mad, he won’t be able to control a werewolf on his own!”
“Will he be okay? Should we go and help?”
“What kind of help do you think you’d be?”
Lily was indignant.
“I am a witch you know Sirius, I think I could be of some assistance.”
“Sirius,” she grabbed him by the arm, and turned him to face her. “You’ve been acting like a complete idiot all night, but we’re in a dangerous situation now. I know you hate me at the moment, but you’ve got to put that aside if either of us are going to be any use here.”
“Get off me.” He snapped, pulling his arm from her grasp. Her eyes were full of fire as she up-braided him, and he didn’t want to look at them too closely. She was becoming less and less enamoured with him, he could tell, and it made him want to punch something.
“Sirius, what do you suggest we do?”
He took a deep breath.
“Well, the option Prongs has left us with seems to be to hide here, in the bushes or something and wait till the doors open. But that doesn’t sound too great to me.”
Lily almost made a joke, but thought better of it. Her brow furrowed thoughtfully.
“How about we do do that – wait for it...” she added, as Sirius sighed irritably. “But if the doors aren’t open in the next fifteen minutes, we go and find James.”
“You mean I go and find James?”
“Well why should you be any more use than me?”
“Because Lily... you should have figured this out by now – Merlin, I used to think you were smart!” and to prove his point, he transformed, suddenly, into a large black dog. Lily screamed. The dog rolled it’s eyes, and ran at her suddenly, knocking her feet out from under her so that she fell across his back. She clung to him as he scampered into a clump of bushes nearby, and dropped her unceremoniously onto the floor.
“I must be dreaming,” she muttered, as Sirius transformed back into himself. “You couldn’t just have explained to me that you were an animagus?”
“Takes too long.” He replied, with a shadow of his old grin. “Though I suppose it might have stopped you screaming the whole place down. Sensible, that, by the way.”
Lily looked embarrassed.
“Sorry,” she said. “I know that was stupid, but you’ve got to take some of the blame.”
“I don’t think so.” Sirius answered. “You should have more control over your vocal chords.”
“Says you – your laugh’s probably alerted every death eater in the place!”
Sirius smiled, but he wasn’t really focusing on Lily. He craned his head over the plant that they sat behind, gave up, and began to fidget. He was agitated, and presumably worried about James – luckily however, he also seemed to be sobering up. Lily watched him with concern.
“Sirius,” she said. “James will be fine. He’ll be...”
“Shush.” was his answer. “I’m trying to listen.”
Lily fell quiet. There was a moment or two of silence, before Sirius couldn’t take it any more. He got to his feet suddenly.
“Right, we’re not sitting here all night. I’m going to find Moony.”
“I’ll come with you.”
Lily felt desperate now. She didn’t want to sit in the dark, waiting for death- eaters, or Lupin the werewolf to come and find her. She wanted to help – and she didn’t want to be left behind.
He scowled back, but her eyes were wide and desperate.
“Fine.” He growled. “But don’t run off, and don’t try to be a hero.”
“And do exactly what I say.”
Sirius rolled his eyes.
“And you’ll have to hold on tight.”
With that, he transformed. Lily gaped in disbelief - barely less shocked at witnessing the strange sight for a second time – and made a mental note to get the story out of Sirius at a later date. Once in his animal form, Sirius motioned with his head for Lily to climb up onto his back, and she did so carefully, putting her arms around his neck. She patted the wand in her pocket, to make sure it wasn’t lost, and then, in a moment of mischief, she dug her heels into Sirius’s sides. He growled almost viciously, and his head snapped around and nipped at her fingers.
“Ow!” she complained. “Okay, okay, I’m sorry.”
Sirius let out a short bark (which Lily felt sure was a laugh) before cantering off into the darkness, his large paws padding against the grass. Lily laughed, realising at last the reason for his obscure nickname.
As they moved deeper into the forest, the moonlight became gradually obscured by the thick growth of trees, until the orange glow from Lily’s wand was their only source of light. Lily could see no further than a couple of feet in front of them yet Sirius didn’t alter his speed – she hoped that his night vision was sharpened as a dog, as if not, there was no way they would be able to detect any sign of death-eaters, or Lupin.
“Sirius...” she began.
“Sirius!” mimicked a voice. The dog stopped short, as a second wand light revealed the hooded figure of Lucius Malfoy, leaning against the tree opposite. He grinned sleazily.
“You!” Lily exclaimed, as Sirius growled. “You were a prefect!”
Lucius laughed and lifted his arm lazily, directing it at Lily.
“Oh they’ll make anyone a prefect.” He drawled. “Even the mudblood scum. Avada ke-“
Sirius lunged, knocking Malfoy backwards and sending his wand skidding across the forest floor. His hood fell back and he scrabbled away from his attacker, his blonde hair tumbling around him as he reached for his wand. Sirius dived on him but he grabbed it just in time, blasting the dog backwards. There was a thud as Sirius hit the ground, yet Lily resisted the urge to scream, instead turning her wand on the death-eater in time to block his curse.
“Going to fight me are you?” He panted, pushing his hair out of his eyes as he shot a stunner at her. She deflected it.
“Did you think I’d just put my hands up and let you finish me? Stupefy.”
“ You’ll have to do better than that, girl. Incendio.”
Lily screamed as the spell skimmed past her, setting her skirt alight. Malfoy’s eyes gleamed with triumph. He raised his arm once more before Sirius dived at him, giving Lily time to put out the fire. Sirius sunk his teeth into Malfoy’s shoulder, but was flung backwards with a flick of Malfoy’s wand hand.
“You know Sirius, you’d be more helpful human!” Lily yelled.
“That’s Sirius Black?” momentarily frozen with shock, the death-eater’s defences were down, and Lily saw her opportunity. Crying out the words of the curse, a length of rope flew from her wand tip and towards her opponent, wrapping itself around him before he could protect himself. He dropped his wand as he fell to the floor, now bound and gagged. Lily ran back to Sirius and knelt down beside him.
“Are you okay?”
He looked up at her with gigantic puppy dog eyes, and instinctively, she scratched him behind the ear. He shook his head, looking indignant, and transformed.
“I’m not really a dog you know!”
“Well done Lily. Let’s have a look at him then.”
They walked over to the squirming figure on the floor. Malfoy’s eyes were rolling back and forth, burning angrily as he writhed. Sirius pointed his wand at him.
“How many of you are there?” he reached down and ripped the cord from Lucius’s mouth, who immediately spewed out a torrent of abuse. “Yeah yeah.” Said Sirius. “enough of that. How many of you are there?”
Malfoy fell quiet, his eyes fixated on the wand in Sirius’s hand. He was obviously wondering whether Sirius would actually do anything to him. As if to answer his question the wand slashed through the air, and a cut appeared on Malfoy’s cheek.
He ignored Lily, and continued to scowl down at Malfoy.
“Twelve.” Malfoy growled. “Three of us on guard – the rest of us already in the castle.”
“What’s your plan?”
“Just to spread some fear – remind people no-where’s safe from us.”
“And how do you expect to get out?”
“The same way we came in. We’re all the young ones – some still students here. We know the teachers won’t fight too hard to stop us.”
Sirius glared down at him.
“Stupefy.” He muttered. Lily sighed.
“Well they’ll be dealt with easily enough. Not much of a plan is it?”
Sirius shook his head, raising his wand again.
“What are you doing?”
“Modifying his memory.” He looked at Lily. “Why, did you think I’d kill him?”
Lily looked away awkwardly.
“Course not.” She said.
“Though he would deserve it.” Sirius laughed, grimly. “But I don’t like him knowing I’m an animagus. Say goodbye to your memories you creep. Obliviate.”
Once Malfoy’s mind was wiped, Lily wanted to take him somewhere safe, so Lupin didn’t get him.
“I don’t want to be responsible for his death.” She said. “However evil he is.”
Sirius sighed. That was the kind of thing James would say, he thought. For himself he would have left Malfoy to his fate, but Lily wouldn’t back down. After a moment or two of thought, he came up with what he saw as the best solution, and Lily held in her laughter, as Malfoy was magically hoisted up into the nearest tree, and turned green for camaflauge.
“Why thank you very much.” Sirius grinned as Lily patted his shoulder. He turned to face her.
“And I should thank you – for saving both our lives back there.”
“You saved mine first.”
“Very true Evans. So what’ll you give me as a reward?”
Without waiting for her reply, he placed his arms either side of her, against Malfoy’s tree, and kissed her until she felt dizzy. When they broke apart she said
“We should be looking for James.”
Sirius took a step back, and a deep breath.
“You’re right.” He said. “Lets go.”