‘Good luck,’ Sirius muttered as he, James, Lily, Remus and Peter stopped outside Professor McGonagall’s office.
‘Thanks,’ James said, nodding. He and Lily both looked exceptionally nervous. ‘Remember to stay calm. She can’t expel you-’
‘Is that so, Mr Potter?’ Professor McGonagall asked crisply, opening her office door. Everyone stared at her. ‘I believe you have somewhere to be?’ James and Lily nodded and fled, headed for Dumbledore’s office. Sirius watched them go, hoping they’d be all right. Something was up, but who was to say expulsion wasn’t it? James had already promised to gouge out his eyes and recruit a big, shaggy, black dog to help him see in the event of Sirius’ expulsion, but they both hoped it wouldn’t come to that. James because it meant limited time with his best friend, and Sirius because he knew James would actually gauge his eyes out. ‘Mr Pettigrew, I’ll start with you.’
Looking terrified, Peter shuffled into the office. As soon as the door closed, Sirius looked at Remus and both dropped to the ground, trying to listen under the door. ‘W-was there something wrong with my homework, Professor?’ Peter asked.
‘I- hold on one moment, please.’ The door opened and both Marauders tumbled through it and onto McGonagall’s feet. She did not look impressed. ‘If you’re hoping to convince me of your maturity, you’re doing a very poor job!’ she said, nostrils flaring.
‘Sorry,’ Remus muttered. Sirius nodded.
‘And so you should be! If Mr Pettigrew feels inclined to share the outcome of our meeting with you, then that is his business,’ she said, conjuring a bench in the hallway. ‘Until then, you are both to sit here, and not move until I call you!’
‘Yes, Professor,’ Sirius said, perching on the seat. The office door slammed and the only noise they heard was that of McGonagall putting up Eavesdropping Wards before all noises inside the office quietened. ‘Do you think we’re really expelled?’ Sirius asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Remus said miserably. ‘I agree with Lily, that something’s up but beyond that...’
‘Right,’ Sirius said, scuffing his shoes along the ground. In that moment he was strongly reminded of the last time he had sat in the corridor; it had been in fifth year, before his careers meeting, though he had been with James and not Remus. He’d been far less nervous then; he and James had been creating lucrative occupations that would scare McGonagall before they actually confessed their desire to be Aurors. He distracted himself with memories, and for that reason he wasn’t entirely sure how long passed before the door opened again.
‘Where’s Peter?’ Sirius asked, glancing into the empty office.
‘Mr Pettigrew is currently writing lines in the Transfiguration classroom,’ she said, ushering Remus inside. She closed the door with a click and then opened it a second later, an exasperated expression on her face. Sirius, who was half-way off the seat sat down very quickly. ‘You are not to distract or disturb him in any way, do I make myself clear?’ Sirius nodded. McGonagall turned away and then sighed, turning around again. ‘In fact, I think it’s best if you don’t move at all.’ She waved her wand. ‘I will know if you do.’ She closed the door.
Sirius tried to get up and found he couldn’t; his jeans had been stuck to the seat. ‘Finite Incantatum,’ he muttered, waving his wand. He could still feel himself stuck. He tried several other charms to no avail, considered and rejected the idea of taking his jeans off, and so, eventually, sat there. The door opened. Remus wasn’t there. ‘Where’s he gone?’ Sirius demanded.
McGonagall waved her wand. ‘Home,’ she said, indicating the fireplace. Sirius' stomach sank. ‘I believe I told you to stay still.’ Sirius could have been imagining it, but he swore her lips twitched.
‘I haven’t moved,’ Sirius said proudly, pushing his misery away; there would be time for that later.
‘Only because you were unable to remove the charm,’ she said curtly.
‘Do get up, Mr Black, I haven’t got all night.’ Sirius stood, relieved to feel he was no longer stuck to the chair and walked into the office. ‘Firstly, I would like to say that you should know better than to go around jinxing muggles.’
‘That fat git deserved it,’ Sirius said vehemently. ‘He was asking questions about June and about James’ imprisonment.’
‘I suppose you thought he could do without an eyebrow,’ she said, her voice a little warmer now that she’d heard the circumstances.
‘Well, yes,’ Sirius said. ‘He really was horrible, Minnie.’
‘You are to address me as Professor,’ she said tartly. She sighed. ‘While I do not in any way condone your poor behaviour, I can see why you did it and I’m thankful that given the degree of provocation, the outcome was not worse.’
‘So I’m not expelled?’ Sirius asked, wanting to make sure he’d heard right.
‘I daresay it’s only a matter of time,’ she said, favouring him with a rare smile. ‘But no. Even if I’d wanted to expel you, I doubt the Headmaster would let me,’ McGonagall said, pursing her lips. ‘He’s rather fond of your antics.’
‘If I was never going to be expelled, why am I here?’
‘You haven’t guessed?’ she said, looking surprised. ‘Messrs Lupin and Pettigrew had it figured out in seconds.’ That stung a bit; Peter had figured something out before he had?
‘No, I haven’t,’ Sirius said grumpily. ‘Be a dear and explain, would you?’
* * *
‘Come in.’ James and Lily exchanged nervous looks outside Dumbledore’s office door. Lily summoned her Gryffindor courage and pushed the door open. ‘Good Evening,’ Dumbledore said, smiling. ‘Have a seat.’
‘Who first?’ James asked.
Dumbledore chuckled. ‘I’m going to be very cryptic and say both. Close the door, please, Miss Evans.’ Lily did and sat down next to James. ‘Firstly, I would like to thank you for coming.’ Lily nodded stiffly. ‘You may relax. Neither of you are in any trouble nor do I have any intention of recalling your badges.’ Lily slumped with relief. ‘I merely needed a method of getting you here without arousing suspicion.’ Dumbledore glanced at James. ‘I take it the rest of your group are with Professor McGonagall?’
‘Yes,’ James said cautiously.
Dumbledore nodded, smiling. ‘Good. I’d like to apologise for giving you what must have been a scare.’ James nodded. Lily was too busy thinking; Dumbledore had written the five of them letters, with false content as an incentive for them all to be at school at the same time... She smiled. Dumbledore’s blue eyes twinkled. ‘Ah, Miss Evans! You’ve worked it out?’
‘I think so, sir.’ Next to her, James frowned and then grinned. ‘Is this something to do with the Order of the Phoenix?’
* * *
‘About time you got here,’ Sirius muttered as James and Lily stumbled out of the kitchen fireplace. ‘Did you figure it out?’
‘Eventually,’ Lily said, ‘You?’
‘No.’ James sniggered. Sirius scowled at him. ‘Minnie had to explain it to me.’
‘At least she told you,’ Remus said, coming up behind him with Peter. ‘Imagine if she’d just told you to Floo to the kitchens. You’d have thought she was mad!’
‘True,’ Sirius conceded. ‘Does anyone know when the rest of them are getting here?’ Aside from the five of them, only Dumbledore, McGonagall, Flitwick, the Hog’s Head’s barman and last year’s Defence teacher, Professor Dearborn were there. Without the House Elves bustling around, Sirius thought the enormous kitchens looked rather lifeless.
Various Order members arrived over half an hour. There were some that Sirius recognised, like Moody, Emmeline Vance – a pretty Slytherin one year older than the Marauders who Sirius had dated – and Mundungus Fletcher, some he’d never met, but knew about, like Elphias Doge and others had to be introduced.
‘Elizabeth Abbot,’ said a woman in her late fifties. ‘You must be the recruits Albus was talking about.’
‘Yes, ma’am,’ Remus said. ‘I’m Remus Lupin, this is James Potter, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew and Lily Evans.’
‘Lovely to meet you all,’ she said, smiling. ‘I’m sure we’ll have a chance to get to know each other, but if you’d excuse me for now... Arabella’s just arrived.’ She made her way over to a short, kind faced woman in her forties.
Sirius leaned over to James but never actually managed to say anything; at that moment, two people toppled out of the fireplace, landing on them. ‘Good Godric!’ a familiar voice exclaimed. ‘Sorry about that, chaps-’ Sirius was pulled to his feet. Next to him, James was too. ‘No! Gid, would you look at this!’
‘It’s not,’ Gideon Prewett said examining James’ grinning face.
‘It is,’ Fabian Prewett said, tugging on Sirius’ hair.
‘We should’ve known.’
‘I’ll say. Figures the recruits’d be this lot... yes, look, Lupin’s over there with Hagrid and Pettigrew must be somewhere...’
‘He’s with Dung,’ Gideon said.
‘So he is. And the lovely Lily’s over there with Emmeline and Dorcas... any luck on that front yet, young Potter?’
‘They’ve been dating for – what, Prongs? Three months?’ James nodded, red-faced. ‘Three months,’ Sirius informed the twins with a grin.
Both clapped James on the back. ‘Very nice. So how many doses of Amortentia did it take?’
‘Actually, it was a Sticking Charm gone wrong.’
‘Pettigrew’s work?’ Fabian asked.
‘Because there’s no way you, Black or Lupin’d get it wrong, and Lily certainly wouldn’t...’ Gideon finished.
‘Why does Lily get first name privileges? Sirius asked.
‘Because she’s friends with our baby cousin.’
‘We’re friends with you,’ James pointed out.
‘He’s got a point, Gid.’
‘So he does, Fab.’
‘If I could have everyone’s attention,’ Professor Dumbledore called from near the front of where everyone was gathered. The babble ceased immediately. ‘Thank you. I’m sure you’ve all noticed our five newest members.’ There was a general noise of assent. ‘Very good. To business: it is my understanding that Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters are planning an attack on Belstone, Devon.’ Murmurs rippled through the assembled crowd. Sirius heard James grinding his teeth; Potter Manor was located in just outside Belstone. ‘I do not believe that there are any specific targets, like there were... last time...’ Dumbledore’s eyes flicked to James for a moment. ‘My sources tell me it is merely an attempt to send the world a message-
‘What message, Albus?’ Arabella Figg asked from the corner.
‘I would guess that he wants to show his reach, his power. I believe he is out to intimidate. I have taken measures to protect the inhabitants, though they are not permanent and it would be better for everyone if we can be prompt arriving at the first signs of danger.’ He gave Mundungus an amused but pointed look. ‘The usual fighters will be contacted as soon as the attack begins. Any questions?’
‘Can we fight?’ James and Sirius asked simultaneously.
Dumbledore gave them an appraising look over the top of his half-moon spectacles. ‘You may, so long as the attack is on a weekend or at night. I’ll not allow you to miss lessons. Am I understood?’
‘Yes, sir,’ James said.
‘Excellent. Benjy, if you’d give your report on the Giants’ movements...’
* * *
'And you're telling me this now?' Malfoy growled, kicking a toilet stall door in frustration.
'You haven't been here,' Peter said tremulously.
'That's what we have owls for, you moron!'
'I'm s-sorry,' Peter whimpered.
'How does Dumbledore know when we'll be attacking?' Malfoy hissed.
'I-I don't know- he-he didn't s-say.'
Malfoy was quiet for a long time, which Peter knew didn't bode well. 'The attack will go ahead. We've spent too long planning to back out now. You will fight with Dumbledore, but you're not to hurt any of us. Everyone will be told you're off limits. Do you understand?'
'Y-yes,' Peter squeaked.
'Good. Get out of my sight.'
With a terrified squeak, Peter darted out of the bathroom and joined the Marauders and Lily who were waiting for him. 'Are you feeling all right?' Lily asked, putting a hand on his shoulder. 'You're awfully pale.'
'Upset stomach,' Peter mumbled.
'I'll take you to the Hospital Wing,' Sirius offered.
'No, umm, it's better now.'
'Are you sure?' James said. 'We don't mind.' Remus nodded looking concerned.
'I'm fine,' Peter said. 'Completely fine. Come on, we'll be late.'