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Chapter 1 : The Graduation Feast
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Author's Note: I know this is a really long story. It covers three years in a time of war (1978-1981), so it can only be expected. But before you run away screaming, please at least just read the first couple of chapters and give it a chance.
There are a few things to note:
1)-This is a CANON fiction. You won't find any focus on OC's here, nor much romance.
2)-This story involves many different POV's, but mostly those of Sirius Black. James and Sirius are the main characters, but obviously Remus, Peter and Lily will be a big part of this as well.
3)-Much of the events that happen in this story are fabricated by myself, for we know very little of the first war and anything that went on beyond the deaths of certain people. Every battle fought, every mission for the Order, is a wild guess at best. Timing of some events (i.e. marriage, deaths) are estimations.
4)-Above all else, this story is a WIP and will remain that way for a long time, even after the last chapter is up. Just because a chapter is posted doesn't mean it won't be returned to and improved upon later. For instance, I feel I haven't done a good enough job of showing the dark and frightening world - but I can't dwell on that, or I'll never get this thing written. There's too many other things going on in this story to focus on trying to perfect it right now. So please keep that in mind, also, and feel free to give your suggestions for improvement.
At the end of the day, I simply want this story to be a reliable account of what could have happened according to canon, and not some off-the-wall story about how Sirius fell in love with Lily's best friend who was killed, along with their child (who is the same age as Harry) and then she/the child was never mentioned again for the rest of Sirius's life, or anything similar.
This is a story that explores the boundaries of friendship, and how people react to certain situations. You can expect a lot of drama and suspicion and accusations, but also a lot of love and laughter and epiphanies! This is my first fanfiction in over a year of not writing, so parts are a little raw, though perhaps better for it. My writing might leave a lot to be desired, and I know this story will never garner as many reviews as a romance would; regardless, this is the story I feel like I have to tell. It is the story that I would want to read.
That said, I hope this story sounds like it's for YOU! Enjoy!
Please feel free to point out any errors you see. Your reviews are also very much appreciated.
WARNINGS: This story is rated Mature with appropriate warnings. To be more specific on those warnings, this story contains a lot of mature language, some drinking and some minor drug use. There are a few sexual scenes but nothing heavy or too descriptive because, to be frank, I don't enjoy writing that. There is some violence and death - this is the war, after all. If any of these things bother you, then perhaps you shouldn't stress yourself out with this story :)
Disclaimer: The story title is a song originally recorded (under that title) by Bob Dylan. The world, characters and canon events belong to J. K. Rowling. Everything else belongs to me. It is illegal to publish and distribute fanfiction without J.K. Rowling's permission. You may not copy, post elsewhere, change or edit any part of this story. You may not claim it as your own.
The Graduation Feast
Nobody really ever notices when a life is gone, snuffed out like a candle.
If you are lucky, perhaps - or rather, unlucky - if you died before you were supposed to, then they might write about you in the paper, particularly if you went heroically, tragically or with violence or mystery.
Then you may have the attention of a few hundred thousand people, but they are quick to move on, to forget. You were nothing to them, after all, and your story is only written about for entertainment value, to help sell a paper.
Only those who were once close to you truly remember and miss you. But even for them, life goes on - it must. The world keeps turning without blinking an eye, and loved ones keep turning with it. For everyone else, you are but one in billions, and, for the most part, for most people, it is as if you never really existed in the first place. How easily the world forgets you... And that is quite possibly the most bothersome thing of it all.
I am James Potter. For twenty-one years, I was here...
And then, forever, I was gone.
It was a pleasurable day.
Despite the fact that one terrible wizard had steadily grown more and more powerful over the last decade, days like this one made it easy to forget the troubles going on outside of the old castle’s walls, the walls being those of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. One would think that in an era such as this, the days would always be dark and stormy, but they weren’t.
During the time that this one man, person, thing known as Voldemort had been gaining followers and power, the weather had never been remarkable. All was normal in Great Britain - usually it was overcast and wet, it snowed in the winter and it shined in the summer.
Looking at this clear bright day in late June of 1978, nobody would ever suspect how it would suddenly darken so horribly. Very few (except for mostly those on the wrong side) would guess the hell that they were all about to be thrown into.
Hopefully, the population had enjoyed the pleasant weather. Very shortly, it would all change, and it wouldn’t be the same again for several years.
The headmaster of the school had an inkling. Albus Dumbledore always had thoughts and inklings and ideas on all sorts of things. But it was he who had first recruited the boy (who grew to be Voldemort) to the school many, many years earlier. And it was he and only he who’d seen through the boy’s cunning, charming behaviour. Suspicious, he’d kept an eye on the dark Slytherin, and continued to do so, long after the child had left Hogwarts. When the villain calling himself Lord Voldemort emerged ten years ago, Dumbledore was one of the few to recognize him for who he really was.
Dumbledore knew that something terrible loomed in the future. He did not, however, know that it would all begin today. Nevertheless, he felt it getting near, and as he stood in front of his students in the castle’s Great Hall, he felt the urge to warn them.
The gathering was small, consisting of just one of the seven different classes the school held. This was the Seventh Year class. This class had steadily dwindled over the years as parents pulled their children from the school and relocated to different countries to escape Voldemort’s threat. As a result of their losses, this class had pulled together, had become a tight-knit group (aside from the Slytherins, who sat stubbornly in their corner). Dumbledore was sad to see this class go; he sighed reluctantly.
The students were banging their fists and slapping their palms on the table, creating a thunderous sound as they cheered at his appearance. It was late in the afternoon - the seventh year class had been requested to skip lunch so as to attend a feast in their honour after the rest of the school had cleared the Great Hall. Dumbledore, who could appreciate a celebration (especially in darkening times such as these) allowed them to carry on for a few minutes.
When at last he raised his arms for silence, the students readily obliged.
His tone was soft when he first began to speak, but it captivated his small audience nonetheless.
“Tonight will be the last night you spend in your beds,” said he. “Come morning, you will be on the train home for the last time. You have left your marks on Hogwarts School, certainly. And now you will begin to leave your marks upon the community.
“I daresay you are all aware of the dangerous world outside of these walls. But allow me to grant my wisdom upon you one last time. There is danger lying not only with Voldemort and his followers,” Dumbledore said, and at the mention of the name several students visibly shuddered.
“The danger,” continued the old man softly, “Lies within ourselves as well.
“It would be a terrible thing to lose ourselves in this dark world we face. We have lost so many, so much, already.”
A feeling of sadness stole across the Hall at his words. The students, so excited and proud moments before, were now serious as the weight of their futures pressed down upon them. Dumbledore smiled down at them; his eyes twinkled.
“You are part of the greatest generation. You will be our history, and more importantly, you are our future. You will be the ones who make a difference, the ones to pull us out of the danger we face.
“The advice I wish to bestow upon you is this - never forget the dreams you had as children, when the stars were the limit. Never simply settle. Dark days lie ahead, and in times like these, there is nothing to lose except for yourselves. The only way to end these times is to give everything our all.”
That was all he really wanted to say, and it was quite unremarkable. It was also the best advice he had ever given anybody. By now, he was so hungry his insides felt as if they were going to eat themselves, and he was reasonably positive that the students were feeling the same way (having skipped lunch). He quickly moved on and ended his speech.
“All of the staff here at Hogwarts wish you well, good luck and fortune down the roads you roam. We hope we served you well.”
At that, the headmaster stepped forward and gave a humble bow to the people who, he hoped, would change the world. When he stood straight again, he had only one thing left to say.
“I now give you your graduation feast.”
With a wave and flourish of his hand, the tables suddenly erupted in an incredible assortment of different foods. Nobody wanted for anything, and it seemed the house elves yearned for everyone to realize how much they'd miss such fantastic meals every day.
Peter Pettigrew hungrily spooned a large serving of potatoes onto his plate. He looked at his friends, each of them proud and regal like kings, and tried for a moment to appear the same way. He replaced the spoon in the bowl much more calmly than his manner of picking it up.
“I never thought we’d actually make it to graduation,” he said brightly. This was the truth. The four boys had been a part of many severely dangerous situations during the last seven years at the castle. He had once wondered aloud how they weren’t dead yet. Best not to speculate, really, had been James’s response.
James Potter was the leader of their group and he was the one that Peter adored. James, the Quidditch star. James, who held the attention of every girl in the school, James, who’s hair was ridiculous but who’s demeanour was always smooth. Peter thought that he could be like James; he always watched his friend carefully in the hopes of picking something up, always complimented his friend to remain on his good side. At the moment, James wasn’t eating and his plate remained empty; he was instead staring alertly over the heads of Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, glaring at the Slytherins. He wondered what they thought of Dumbledore’s speech, as many of them were already rumoured to be enlisted in Voldemort's service.
“It wasn’t easy,” Remus pointed out, pushing a sausage around on his plate. It wasn’t for him, anyway, being a werewolf, although the company of his friends had made it much more bearable. But it had been tough all the same, trying to fit in studying and homework when he was lying ill and broken in the hospital wing.
“But it was bloody incredible,” Peter said. He never, in a million years, thought he'd be a part of some of the things he'd done. He smiled wistfully.
“I had a fantastic time,” piped up Lily Evans in agreement. She was blissfully ignorant of Remus’s ‘furry little problem’ (as James liked to say), and his sentiment had gone right over her head. She hadn’t spent much time with the four boys as a group - it was only in the last few months that she’d begun to join them, only when she’d begun dating James.
“You would,” said Peter grudgingly. He wasn't fond of Lily always being around lately, speaking as if she knew anything of their bond over the last seven years, as if she was part of it. She wasn't.
James tore his eyes away from the Slytherins at the tone of Peter’s voice, which had caught his interest. This caused him to take notice of his and his best friend’s empty plates. They clashed terribly alongside the full plates of the rest of their party. He reached for a fancy platter of ham.
“Aren’t you going to eat, Padfoot?” he asked the young man beside him.
Sirius Black had been lost in thought, staring blankly down at his plate. He had been pondering Dumbledore’s speech, particularly the bit about childhood dreams and the stars being the limit. He was disturbed to find that he hadn’t had any ambitions as a child, save for being everything his parents wanted him to be. James’s sudden, capable elbow digging into his ribs tore him from this state, and he glanced sideways at his friend.
“Yes,” he said quickly, not entirely sure what he was agreeing to. James passed the ham.
Sirius was beautiful. (Peter thought he was a demon.) Girls went giddy just at the sight of him. Sirius had black hair that hung carelessly in his eyes and tickled his high cheekbones. His jaw was strong, his nose was quaint, and his brow cast dark shadows over brilliant bright grey eyes. He had a dark side that he kept hidden, but everyone could see it when he was brooding. He was reckless and unpredictable, but also elegant and easy to laugh. Sometimes he scared people, but they were curiously attracted to him nonetheless.
James was quite handsome himself, although it was in more of a scraggly way than Sirius. James had an aura of alertness and aliveness about him that made him hard to resist. Remus was hopeless and charming; he was kind and thoughtful, and his looks were average but his dark brown eyes showed his soul. Peter was lumpy, and he hated it. Sometimes he wanted to leave this group and find friends that were more like him, where he wouldn’t feel inferior. But then, he knew it’d be stupid to leave a circle of friendship such as this one. He enjoyed knowing that many students in the school would love to be him, just to hang around with James all the time.
Peter worried, sometimes, that when they left Hogwarts for good, they would fall apart. He was certain that James and Sirius would always be the best of friends; James’s family had taken Sirius in when he ran away from home. Now they were not only best friends, but family. And both considered Remus’s condition to be the greatest of thrills, and so much of their lives had been invested into this already. But he, Peter, had nothing at all to give to the friendship. He felt he was kept around simply because James liked the attention. The thought sickened him.
“Still going to be an Auror after school, Prongs?” asked Peter after a moment, slurping gravy from his spoon. He was prodding, searching for any hints that he would be a part of their future. “And you, Padfoot?”
James’s tone was impatient. “Definitely, Wormtail, you know it’s all I talk about.” He didn’t offer any reassurance of Peter’s inclusion in the future; he didn’t know Peter was looking for it.
Sirius’s response was more careless; he pushed his black hair to the side, off his forehead and shrugged. “Apparently.” He intended to work where James did, even if the job was the worst one in the world. James was his entire life, having lost his own family, and he had little motivation to part with his friend. He was, in fact, dreading leaving the school where he had a solid reason to see James every single day.
Peter smirked at him, suddenly annoyed. “Apparently, if they’ll take you, you mean,” he blurted in a bratty tone, and he was almost surprised to hear the words spew from his mouth. He couldn’t help it - he was jealous of the relationship between Sirius and James. A small part of him hoped that the Ministry would turn Sirius down just to separate the two for a while. Peter thought it might do them both some good.
Sirius was quick to react. “What’s that supposed to mean, then?” he demanded, glaring at his friend through smouldering grey eyes. He set his silverware back on the table and leaned forward challengingly, never even blinking as his gaze tore straight through Peter's soul.
James, Lily and Remus had all stopped eating and were watching Peter carefully as well.
Peter stared defiantly at his plate as he spoke, unable to meet the challenging glare. “They’ll probably turn you away because you’re a Black,” he replied logically, as if he hadn’t just insulted his friend. He steadily ignored Sirius’s ready-to-pounce demeanour, though he seemed to shrink a little in his seat. “Everyone knows your cousin and your brother follow him. Not to mention your in-laws...”
Sirius immediately bristled at his words. “My father happens to be very influential in the Ministry,” he spat at Peter, deciding to leave out the fact that this was largely due to his family’s name and donations. “It doesn’t seem to matter what Regulus and Bellatrix have done, does it?” Despite his words, however, Sirius had a feeling his father might make it very difficult for him to get a Ministry job when the time came. He had shamed the family name, after all - his father certainly wouldn’t be doing him any favours.
“All right,” announced James strongly, putting an end to the argument before Peter had a chance to respond. And then, to settle the matter, “Padfoot can do anything he wants to do.” And he rested his arm across the back of Sirius's chair and gave his friend a wry smile. “Besides,” he added. “Sirius is a Potter now.”
Sirius shook the hair out of his eyes and took another drink from his glass, glaring at Peter over the rim. Peter blushed and kept his eyes down, blinking at the table. If only James would stick up for him that way. He heaved a heavy sigh.
“Moony?” pressed James expectantly. Clearly, he was trying to steer the conversation around again and away from the dangerous territory.
Remus looked up in surprise. He had gone back to eating during the bickering, and trying to ignore it - Sirius and Peter were always going at each other. “Er... I haven’t decided,” he said quickly. His eyes flickered meaningfully towards Lily and back at James again.
“Shame, Remus. It's not like you to be so irresponsible,” said James with a grin at his friend. He enjoyed teasing Remus when Remus was unable to properly respond because of their company.
“Wanker,” muttered Remus, returning his attention to his plate. His cheeks were slightly flushed.
James laughed. He turned his cheerful smile upon Lily, who took this as a prompt - her turn to answer the question that was going around the table.
“I’m going to be apprenticing for the Daily Prophet!” she blurted, entirely proud of herself. It gave the impression that this was news she’d been holding in for a long while.
“Are you?” asked Remus, raising his eyebrows. It was quite an accomplishment, but he was extremely eager to move the conversation along and away from himself. “Congratulations!”
Lily beamed at him and adjusted her long red hair behind her ear. “Thanks, Remus! I’m really excited!”
The flash of a camera caught their attention from a neighbouring table before Peter could discuss what he planned to do with his own life (not that he had anything really planned at the moment, aside from moving away from his mother). Still, he couldn’t hide the disappointed look that flashed across his face; nobody seemed to care enough about his future plans to ask or to steer the subject back around.
“Oh!” Lily jumped slightly as if just remembering something and then dug around in her handbag. After a moment, she pulled out a camera of her own. “I almost forgot,” she said with a smile, turning the machine on and taking off the lens cap. One of her fellow prefects sat across from her, behind Peter at the Ravenclaw table, and Lily called out to her. “Lucy, do you mind?” and she held the camera out when the girl turned around.
“Okay,” Lucy agreed cheerfully, standing up and reaching across the table for the camera. She held it up to her face. “Everyone smile!”
James flung one arm each across Sirius’s and Lily’s shoulders and plastered a grin across his face. Peter and Remus both turned around to smile reluctantly at the camera.
‘Cheese’ was an entirely childish thing to say, meant only to make people smile naturally for a photo because of it’s randomness. Most people abandon the small ritual by the time they are teenagers. Sirius, however, was a person of habit.
“Cheese,” he blurted unthinkingly just before the flash went off. He didn’t even realize he’d done it until everyone’s smiles widened despite themselves, and their faces distorted as they tried to fight the uncontrollable giggles that threatened to break their smooth, posed demeanours.
Lucy was trying not to laugh herself as she lowered the camera and returned it to Lily. She winked at Sirius, who gave half a smirk in response, and sat back down at her own table to resume her meal and conversations.
“Thanks, Sirius,” Lily teased sarcastically, trying to keep the smile off her face as she returned the camera to her bag. “That’s going to be the worst picture in history.”
“Nah,” responded Sirius carelessly, taking a deep swig from his goblet. He was certain that he, at least, would look good.
Lily insisted, “We’re all going to look like utter barmcakes!” Her voice was riddled with chuckles and laughter as she reached for her own goblet, rolling her eyes. At least the photograph would be memorable, and that was all that mattered.
Sirius barked out a sudden laugh, causing several nearby girls to turn their heads and smile flirtatiously. It was over as suddenly as he let it out, and his voice was calm and composed when he addressed Lily. “But you’ll always remember it,” he told her with a wink, almost as if he had read her thoughts. “And more importantly, me.”
Everyone was silent for a moment as they realized that this, this was their last sure moment of all being together without a worry or care. This was goodbye. Of course they’d meet up all the time in the future, but that would require planning and checking schedules. It wouldn’t be the same as this one last afternoon, all Hogwarts graduates with no other commitments.
Feeling slightly uncomfortable for bringing this realization around, Sirius raised an eyebrow at Lily. “You're all barmcakes, anyway,” he lamented just to lighten the mood.
James snorted. “Right,” he said, and he opened his mouth to say something more, something snarky, when the room was suddenly plunged into darkness.
Immediately, several girls screamed in fear. James was on his feet in an instant, wand drawn, and Sirius was right behind him. Ground-shaking thunder sounded suddenly, both outside the castle and within the Hall, and a flicker of lightning briefly illuminated the room.
“Silence!” commanded an important voice, the voice of Dumbledore. The enchanted candles floating above their heads were suddenly lit with a grand wave of Dumbledore’s hand, as were torches lining the windowed walls.
In the sudden flickering glow, everyone looked fearfully at each other. James and Sirius both slowly sank into their seats again, wary looks upon their faces and wands still clutched tightly in their hands. The seventh years quieted their voices to whispers, all of them waiting for something else to happen.
“Look at the sky!” somebody suddenly shouted in awe.
And when they looked towards the enchanted ceiling in the Great Hall, it was to find it pitch black, murky with the darkest clouds any of them had ever seen. Another loud crack of thunder caused everyone to jump in fear. It began to rain heavily, but the droplets disappeared before reaching the floating candles. Lightning flashed once more.
“Bloody hell,” said James slowly, lowering his eyebrows in concern as he stared upwards. “It’s only one o’clock in the afternoon!”
Yet it looked as if it were midnight. The bright rays of summer sunshine were gone - it was as if the sun had completely vanished.
“Listen,” interrupted Remus suddenly, struggling to make himself heard to his friends over the panicking crowd. “Listen!”
Perhaps his condition gave him heightened senses, for he seemed to hear something even over the frightened murmurs of other students. He stood suddenly and leapt agilely across the table to push open the window behind James and Sirius. Normally the Great Lake could be seen from the window, but at the moment the view was of suffocating blackness. Rain splattered on Remus’s face as he flung the window open and an icy breeze swept into the room, despite the fact that it was late June.
But then the rest of them heard it, too. James hurried to peer out the window as well. “Shut up!” he shouted impatiently over his shoulder to his classmates, and all at once the room quieted as faces turned towards the breezy, dark window. People crossed the room and crowded behind the Gryffindors, all trying to get a view out and a better listen. Only the Slytherins remained in their seats, most of them looking quite smug at their classmates’ antics.
A demonic whispering entered the room, carried by the breeze; it was a supernatural, ominous sort of chanting. The students shuddered in horror and a feeling of despair came over them all. The windows suddenly iced over and the candles near the window were blown out by the wind.
“Dementors,” voiced James. He swallowed, feeling sick with dread. “The Dementors are loose.”
And everyone suddenly knew this to be true, though nobody wanted to admit it. The creatures themselves were nightmare enough, but their sudden freedom meant another victory for the most frightening wizard the world had ever known.
That night, none of the students in the castle slept. Gone was the earlier ecstasy over the end of exams and beginning of summer holidays. Instead, dormitories were filled with hushed whispers and anxious faces as teenagers relayed fears and suspicions to their friends. In the dead of the night, house common rooms were full as students sat around their fireplaces and stared solemnly at each other.
And when morning came and the Hogwarts Express arrived to bring everyone safely home, the skies were still dark, still full of whispers. The wintery chill remained in the air and nobody lingered outdoors.
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