A week later:
James and Sirius arrived right on each other's heels, so to speak, because they came through the Floo from the Ministry almost right after each other. James had been working late on some leads gathered while searching for the missing children, and Sirius had just returned from a patrol, tagging a few minor Death Eaters, when they got the coded message from Dumbledore about the meeting. They arrived almost immediately after each other.
"Fancy meeting you here," Sirius teased as he stepped from the fireplace.
James turned around. "Siri, what's happening?"
"Besides the meeting, you mean? Nothing much. Haven't found hair nor hide of those kids yet. I'm talking about Stephens and the others that were taken from Hogwarts. Questioned the Defense professor and all . . . nothing."
James sighed. "Perhaps Severus or your brother will have something for us. I was going over some profiles, found a few more Death Eaters involved, but I can't make arrests without some solid evidence."
"I know, dammit! It's so frustrating!" Sirius ran his hands through his hair. "How are Tuney and Harry doing?"
"Great! I swear, Harry knows my voice already. He's so smart. Tuney and I just . . . well, it's our firstborn, so you know how that goes. Everything's new and amazing."
Sirius grinned. "I'll have to make time to see the little imp. After all, I am his godfather. He'll need to get to know me."
"Why, so you can spoil him?"
"Hey, that's what godfather's are for. When mum and dad say no, I say yes."
"And then Tuney skins you," James chuckled. "How's Annie doing?"
"Oh, she's got her ups and downs with the pregnancy. Sometimes she laughing and other times she's throwing things."
"No, at the wall. But it's not sitting too well with her that I'm away so much. It makes her nervous and she worries about me. I wish I could tell her nothing's going to happen, but you know there are no guarantees in this business."
James grimaced. "I know. Now that I have a family, I have to be extra careful, but this war makes it damn hard . . . Come on, we'd better get on inside the room there."
They found that in the secret room Dumbledore had commandeered for the Order, Walburga had laid out tea and cakes, as well as small sandwiches, for the meeting. Though she was not an official Order member, she was well respected, and had the right to listen to the meetings if she chose. Sirius waved hi to her and hugged her before taking his seat at the round table.
At the table already was Dumbledore, Severus, Lily, Regulus, and Frank and Alice Longbottom. James and Sirius joined them, and soon after so did Minerva McGonagall.
"Nicholas said he'll be a bit late, had to finish up a detention," Minerva told Albus. "I said that would be fine, we'll fill him in."
"Nicholas? You mean Nicholas Morhaven?" inquired Severus abruptly.
"Yes. I invited him to join after that attack. I figured we could use another Defense Master, Severus." Albus replied calmly.
"That's good," agreed Lily. "He seems like a good fellow to have in a tight corner."
"How's Grace doing?" Regulus asked softly. He sat on one side of her, with Severus on her left and Sirius and James to Regulus's right.
"She's good. I left her with Eileen and Dickon tonight. They were very glad to babysit, and I think Jess was too. She was very excited about watching her "little" niece!"
Both of them giggled over that.
"I'll bet. I can hardly wait till my baby gets born. The only thing I might not like is staying up all night. That and changing nappies." Regulus said, winking. Then he sobered as Dumbledore called the meeting to order.
Of course, the first thing on everyone's mind was the missing children and what was happening to them. Thankfully, Regulus gave them the good news that they were found and that they could be rescued. "Actually, we knew that a few days ago, but we had to wait until the time was right. Oh, and one more thing. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named hired some Seer out of Transylvania to give him some advice. He recited the following prophecy to me and Lucius Malfoy the other day," Regulus coughed, paused, then recited quietly the following words:
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies ... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives ... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies ..."
Everyone was quiet for a moment, pondering what this could mean. Finally, Alice spoke. " . . . born as the seventh month dies, to parents who have thrice defied him . . . my Neville was born on July 30th, and both Frank and I work as a team with Aurors, could that be referring to us?"
"Hells, I hope not!" muttered Frank. "That's crazy!"
"My Harry was born on July 31st and I'm an Auror too," James said. "Surely he can't go around killing babies?"
"Surely he can," Severus growled. "He's not some two-bit street thug, James, he's organized and has money to back him. As well as followers. You've all see his handiwork before, need I say more?"
"But we're not even sure if this prophecy is real," Lily interrupted. "A Seer can be as guilty as anyone at misrepresenting a prophecy. Visions of the future are rare and even so, they show only what might be. This may never happen. Unless he causes it to."
"What are you saying, Lily? That the prophecy may be fake?" asked Minerva.
"Possibly. Or the future it shows may be changed. Prophecy is never absolute, Minerva. Take it from one who knows."
There were more murmurs, then the door opened to admit Nicholas Morhaven. "Apologies everyone, I know I'm late," he hurried over to take a seat, still dressed in his teaching robes. "Oh, before I forget, Severus, I have a message from one of your snakes. Said it was urgent and insisted I tell you right off, I told him we were meeting for dinner." Then he leaned down and whispered something into Severus' ear.
The Potion Master's eyes widened and it was a moment before he said, "Nicholas has just informed me that Rhys Morgan, my resident Slytherin Seer, nephew of Sybill Trelawney, has Dreamed the following advice:
"Beware the rat who creeps by day,
Hidden in dark corners above the fray,
Watching, waiting, listening,
Catch him quick, else the chance is gone,
To save thy soul and those you love."
"That's it?" Sirius frowned. "Is he for real, Snape?"
"Yes. He Saw the fire at Hogsmeade before it happened," Severus answered.
"I've been teaching him a bit on the side," Lily spoke up. "If Rhys says he Dreamed it, well . . . we can trust the source is good. Whether or not it comes to pass is another story."
"What rat is he talking about?" asked James, puzzled. "Is that another way of describing Voldemort?"
"Or one of his followers," Regulus said.
Before he could say anything else, there came a pounding on the door of the house.
"Excuse me, let me see who that is," said Walburga from her place beside the door. She left quickly.
A few minutes later, she returned. "I believe you'll want to speak with this gentleman, Albus. He has someone he thinks you'll want to question."
"Indeed, Walla? Let me see who it is." Albus said, getting up and leaving.
Around ten minutes later, Albus returned, holding his wand on a bedraggled and frightened Peter Pettigrew. Right behind was Remus and Walburga.
"Peter!" exclaimed James at the sight of his old friend. "What's happened to you? You look like something the cat dragged in."
"Literally!" added Sirius sarcastically.
"Let me answer that, Sirius," Remus interrupted. "I'm the one that caught him skulking around the Ministry, trying to get out of the Archive Room where the DML stores all its files."
"You what!" snarled Sirius. "Moony, that's classified information!"
"We aren't even allowed to look at it unless Moody's present," objected James.
"So what was he doing there?" asked Frank.
"Trying to either steal some documents or plant some false ones," Remus spat. "I caught him redhanded. I'd come to talk to you and Siri, James, ask you to have dinner with me. I heard something coming from that room and smelled him before I saw him. When I looked inside, I saw a rat scurrying across the floor . . . a rat that changed, as we all know, into a man when he reached the files. I didn't know what he was doing, but I knew he was up to no good. So I cornered him and brought him here. I figured whatever he's up to, you'd want to know."
"What is he up to?" wondered James.
"Nothing, Prongs! Nothing, I swear!" Peter babbled frantically.
"He's lying, of course," Dumbledore said with a shake of his head. "I brought him here to confess . . . and to get another's opinion." He looked across the table. "Severus, if you'd be so kind as to enter his mind to verify . . .?"
Severus raised an eyebrow. "Now?"
"Yes. Just to corroborate what I found, please."
Wormtail began to struggle as Severus approached. "No! Keep that black bat away from me! Keep him away!"
"Be still, traitor!" growled Remus, shaking the smaller man. "You've brought this on yourself!"
"What do you mean, Lupin?"
"You'll see," Remus said shortly. He held Pettigrew firmly.
Pettigrew thrashed and bucked like a hooked fish . . . until Severus laid his wand on his temple and hissed, "Be still. Good. Now . . . look at me. Look into my eyes." Once Peter did so, Severus uttered the final word of the spell. "Legilimens."
Upon finding out all of Wormtail's secrets, and his true allegiance, Severus' features went into a hard mask, cold as death. He removed his wand and said sternly, "I have seen inside his mind, Headmaster. His true allegiance is to the Dark Lord."
Some of the Order gasped.
"You bastard!" Sirius spat, nearly lunging over the table.
James held him back. "Easy, Siri." He fastened a look of disgust at Pettigrew. "Why'd you do it, Pete? What'd he offer you?"
"More than you ever did, James!" Wormtail hissed. "Did you think I was content to ride about on your coattails forever? Poor Wormtail, the forgotten Marauder! Ha! I told Sirius after he married that ugly harlot—"
"—You keep your mouth off my wife, you little pee-on!" Sirius shouted.
Wormtail acted as if he hadn't even heard. "—that I would be somebody someday! And now I am!"
"The Dark One's lackey is what you are," Severus said angrily.
"His right hand!" Wormtail cried. "And more!"
"You lie," said Dumbledore. "Peter, Peter. What have you done?"
"You've become a traitor," Remus growled. "You yellow-bellied coward? How much was he paying you?"
"More than you'll ever see in your lifetime, Lupin!" Wormtail laughed hysterically. "You're all going to die. All of you! He has foreseen it!"
"Prophecies don't always come true," Lily said coldly, glaring at Wormtail. "Enjoy your victory . . . such as it is."
"Shut up, you Mudblood whore!" Wormtail yelled, spitting at Lily.
The next instant, he screamed as Severus' fist crashed into his face, breaking his nose. Blood spurted everywhere.
"Severus!" yelled Dumbledore futilely.
"Next time you speak to Lily. . . you say "yes, my lady" with respect in your voice, Pettigrew," Severus snarled. "Or else I'll break several other parts of your anatomy."
"Please! Please! Don't let him hurt me!" Wormtail cowered away, trying to hide behind Dumbledore.
"Next time behave, you pathetic excuse for a wizard," James ordered. He found he didn't feel the least bit sorry for his old friend.
"Perhaps it's best if I take him away," Dumbledore said. "There will be a trial, of course. Once this is all over."
"But for now it's Azkaban for you, Wormtail!" Remus snapped. "Shall I call some Aurors, Albus?"
"That won't be necessary," Sirius said. "Me, James, Frank, and Alice are here. We can take him ourselves." He produced a pair of magical handcuffs and slapped them on the trembling Pettigrew. "On your feet, traitor! The sooner you're in a cell, the sooner I can scrub my hands and wash the taint away. Let's go!"
They led Peter away, presumably to the fireplace to Floo to the Ministry.
"This meeting is ended," Dumbledore concluded.
Lily and Severus stopped by Spinner's End to pick up Grace at the meeting's end. They found the baby asleep and Jess rocking the cradle and singing "Rock-a-bye-baby" softly.
"She's singing lullabies to the baby?" Severus asked Eileen as they stood in the hallway.
"How sweet!" Lily exclaimed. "I thought she might be jealous, like she was when Art came."
"No, she loves Grace. I think she sees the baby like a doll, something for her to care for," Eileen smiled. "I'm glad, because I'm not up to tantrums and screaming right now." She entered the bedroom, the two new parents following.
"Hey, imp. Miss me?" Severus queried.
Jess turned and launched herself into her brother's arms. "Sevvy! You're here! I almost fell 'sleep waiting! Why were you gone so long?"
Severus caught her and hugged her tight. "Because I had to take care of some important business. I love you, Jess." He kissed her on the cheek.
"Me too. How was Grace for you?" asked Lily, also hugging her.
"She was good. But sometimes she cries and she stinks," Jess said honestly.
Severus chuckled. "Yes, well, all babies do sometimes. You did too."
"Did too," he returned. "I ought to know, I changed enough of your nappies."
Jess stuck her tongue out at him. "Well, I'm big now, Sevvy! Now I can watch Grace!"
"Merlin help us all!" Eileen said wryly.
"You're growing up fast," Lily snickered. "Soon you'll be going to Hogwarts."
"Like Art? When am I gonna see him?"
Lily and Severus froze. They hadn't told Jess that Arthur was missing, not wanting to scare her. "Uh . . . when he comes home from school." Severus managed to say, with a slight catch in his throat.
"Give Sevvy and Lily a kiss and say goodnight, Jess," Eileen ordered. "Then go and say goodnight to your dad, I think he's in the den."
Jess obeyed, then Severus set her down and she ran off to find Dickon.
"I'm sorry, Sev." Eileen laid a hand on his arm. "I know how hard it is . . ."
"She doesn't know, Mum. And that's the way we want it," Severus whispered, moving to the cradle to pick up his baby girl.
"We found out something tonight," Lily whispered, then told Eileen what had happened at the meeting.
"I always had my doubts about that one," Eileen snorted. "And this prophecy? Should we be worried?"
"No. Not yet. Lily says it may not come true. I'm not worried about it," Severus said quietly. "Was Grace good for you then?"
"She was an angel," Eileen said with a smirk. "Unlike her father."
"Oh, thanks, Mum," Severus said.
Lily just smirked. "Thanks for watching her, Eileen."
"Anytime, Lily," Eileen said.
The couple went out and said hello to Dickon and thanked him also for watching the baby.
"I could never resist my grandchild," laughed the Astronomy professor. "You two be careful, all right?"
"Always, Dad," said Severus.
Then they departed.
The Order met again two nights later and this time Dumbledore said they had a clear time table to rescue the children, and Regulus agreed to be the decoy and also open the castle so Severus could get them out, and James, Sirius, and Alastor Moody would be there as back up, along with a squad of Hit Wizards sent by Head Auror Crouch.
Severus could hardly wait until that time, he just prayed they weren't too late and the children were still relatively unharmed. Children were the future, and since having his own, he found that they were now doubly precious to him, especially Arthur and his friends. They had to destroy Voldemort's machine, he thought before going to bed that night. Or else what good was being a spy, if not to topple an evil warlock once and for all?
A/N: Hope you all liked the showdown with Peter! Next comes the showdown with Voldy! Who can't wait for that?