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Chapter 5 : Two Meetings
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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.
Sirius, who was quite drunk, couldn’t resist a dare. And so when Peter had stated Bet you can’t handle three shots at once! Sirius had immediately popped the cork on his bottle of Firewhisky.
“Don’t you think you’ve had quite enough?” asked Remus from the living room of Sirius's flat. He was playing Exploding Snap over the coffee table with James.
“Shut up, Moony,” announced Sirius drunkenly, and he contemplated his shot glass. He filled it three times and dumped each into a much larger glass before loudly setting the bottle on the counter. He hiccupped as he gripped the glass of ‘whisky and held it up to Peter. “Cheers,” he said, and tipped his head back.
The fiery drink slipped down his throat in one gulp, and, eyes watering, Sirius slammed the glass triumphantly on the tiled counter, promptly causing it to crack.
“That was,” slurred Sirius, and he pointed a finger in Peter’s vague direction and swayed slightly. “That was... it was... hic...” He managed to focus his gaze on Peter. “The point is, that it was... that was th- er... three, Wormtail... that’s ...hic... what that was. Right?”
A tear streamed down his face and Sirius allowed his tongue to hang out as he panted for a moment, feeling sloppy and dizzy and befuddled. He doubled over, propped his hands on his knees, and tried to catch his breath.
Peter giggled in delight.
Sirius groaned in pain. “It was ...hic... bloody hot,” he added as he stumbled towards the sink. Turning on the faucet, he shoved his face underneath the cool water and allowed it to flood his mouth.
“Aguamenti,” announced Peter, determined to show Sirius up by using magic when the drunken bastard was too stupid to. He pointed his stubby wand at Sirius’s glass, and it shattered.
“Nice, Wormtail,” said James sarcastically. Sirius chuckled and began rummaging in the cabinets for a Sobering Solution. Peter became defensive.
“Shut up, James, you great pillock!”
James sighed, raised an eyebrow and picked up his wand, vaguely waving it in the direction of Sirius’s small kitchen. The glass repaired itself and James replaced his wand on the table, satisfied.
“Watch it,” warned Remus suddenly, but it was too late. James’s cards suddenly burst into flame in his hand, and he dropped them, cursing and whipping his burned fingers through the air.
The smoking cards added one more scorch mark to Sirius’s already flame-scarred table. Most of the damage had been done the previous summer, right after Sirius had purchased the flat. (Sirius and James had spent the majority of their holiday there, eager for freedom and independence, only to find themselves bored and reduced to card games.)
Peter laughed again and sat on the couch beside James. Sirius (potion in hand) hiccupped once more and followed him, collapsing into an armchair.
This was the first night that all four of them had gathered since school had let out. James had called the meeting to discuss his plans to join the Order and to try and recruit his friends. They’d spent hours already, chatting and eating and drinking, smoking and having a good time. But now, decided James, it was time to discuss. It was starting to get late. And anyway, he wasn’t sure how much longer Sirius would last.
He began to gather up the cards and put them away.
“Right,” said Remus, taking a hint. He helped, scooping cards into a neat pile and handing them to James. “So what’s this big job you had in mind, Prongs? At this point, I’ll likely take anything I can get.”
“Er...” said James, avoiding looking at Remus. He shoved the cards into a small box. “Well, it's not really... I mean, it's probably not what you had in mind, Moony...” He dared a glance at his friend but then quickly looked away again, fumbling to close the lid on the card box.
Remus eyed him earnestly. “Right,” he said again, practically ignoring the warning and having full confidence in James. But then he hesitated and added, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well...” said James again, setting the box on the table. “For one, Moony, it’s not paid work, and for two,” he carried on quickly before Remus could object to the first point. “Er... for two,” he repeated firmly, racking his brain. He couldn’t think of anything else.
“For two, it’s not paid work,” supplied Sirius helpfully.
“Drink your damn potion, Padfoot,” James snapped, half amused, half annoyed. Sirius raised an eyebrow and smirked, but obeyed. He pinched the bridge of his nose and groaned, head aching as he felt the alcohol leave his system. The others ignored him (they were rather used to Sobering Solutions).
Remus made an apologetic face. “James...” he began regretfully, but James cut him off, holding his hands up for silence. Remus’s mouth obediently snapped shut.
“Now, Remus, now... Just hear me out. Please. This is important to me, at least let me explain what it is. I've been thinking about this ever since fifth year. The summer after, I mean, that's when it started,” he continued quickly, before Remus could argue.
“Sirius had just run away from home. Dumbledore showed up at my doorstep about a week after. We thought Sirius was going to be in trouble, you know, for running away or something; we thought Dumbledore was going to say he couldn’t stay. When Dumbledore and my father went into the sitting room to have a discussion, we, naturally, sat around the corner and listened in.”
Peter beamed with Marauder pride. (Naturally, he agreed, but he didn’t say it out loud.) Sirius cast him an odd look. James continued, so intent in his explanation that he hadn't paid any attention to anyone but Remus.
“It turns out that he wasn’t there about Sirius. He was gathering people to fight back, and he wanted my dad’s help with it. He didn’t think the Ministry was making progress. While Voldemort and the Death Eaters focused on putting pressure on the Ministry, Dumbledore wanted to come up and attack them from behind.
“It’s worked... The Death Eaters have fallen back slightly in the last couple of years, although they’re putting pressure on the Ministry once more. Anyway, Dumbledore called this organization of his the ‘Order of the Phoenix’.”
Remus was listening intently, but the expression of regret and doubt was still upon his face. All of it was interesting and noble, but it didn't solve his problem.
“I really want us to fight this,” James blurted quickly, horribly aware of Remus's expression. “All of us. I’m not going to do it with the Ministry. I’ve decided to ask Dumbledore if I can be in the Order, and Sirius said he’d join as well. But we’ve always been stronger when we’re all together, Moony. We’ve always been strongest as the Marauders.”
“I know, but...”
James cut him off again. “Just forget about the fact that it doesn’t pay for a moment, Remus. Is it something that you’d be interested in, if it wasn’t for that? I mean, do you want to fight?”
“Of course I'd be interested, Prongs,” stated Remus forcefully. He pulled the collar of his robes away to reveal the scar from when he was first bit as a child. “I haven’t forgotten what the Dark side can do to people. It ruins lives, James. But it's just not...”
“Peter?” James interrupted, turning expectantly to the chubbier boy. (Remus sighed in frustration.) “Would you be? Interested, I mean?”
Peter looked mildly frightened, but resolute. “If we’re all together,” he said - he always felt untouchable when they were together.
James looked thrilled. “This is why we were Gryffindors,” he said proudly, looking fiercely around at his friends.
Remus nodded; his expression lightened slightly as he was touched by his friend’s pride, but then his face fell again. He really needed a job that paid - he had to be an adult and move out of his parents’ home. They’d done so much for him over the years, and he’d been given a wonderful opportunity - education - that he couldn’t let go to waste. “But James... I’ve got to find a job that pays so I can move out... I’m sure my parents are well shot of me now...”
“You can move in here,” Sirius interrupted conversationally, tone cheerful yet smug. He looked curious, as if the whole conversation was a source of entertainment for him and he was eager to move it along so they could resume their fun. He twisted his empty potion vial idly in his hands. “I’ve got an extra bedroom, Moony. I’d welcome you, to be honest, it gets rather boring here by myself...”
Remus blushed, touched yet again by his friends’ actions. “Well, thank you, Padfoot, but still... I’ve got to have a paying job, there’s things to buy. Food and such...”
James suddenly sighed loudly, causing Remus to stop talking and look questioningly at him.
When they made eye contact, James snapped, “Honestly, Remus, I thought you knew we were your friends by now! You don't have to worry about money; we'd never leave you struggling.”
He scowled for a moment. “Come on, Moony, remember what Dumbledore said? I know you do... Never just settle for a job. There are more important things...” He smiled warmly at his friend. “We need you more than Hogsmeade does, mate.”
Remus blushed horribly at this; his friends have done unthinkable things for him in the past, pushing limits and boundaries without a care. It humbled him constantly; it had humbled them all. If there was anything all four of them had learned during their time at Hogwarts, anything good at all that came from running around with a werewolf, it was to never be too proud to ask for help, nor to accept it. He turned to Sirius and swallowed loudly.
“Thank you, Padfoot,” he said quietly, defeated. “I would love to stay here with you.”
Sirius gave him a lopsided smile and a single brief nod from where he lounged casually in his chair.
“Excellent,” announced James, clearly in his element at this point. He turned to Peter. “Wormtail, you’re all right, aren’t you? With your mum, I mean? You’ve only got a couple more weeks until you can get your own place.”
Peter grimaced and then nodded. “I can manage until then,” he said unhappily, though he was pleased that they now had a plan. At least they would see each other all the time. “Shameless old hussy,” he added under his breath about his mother, and he settled back into the couch cushions.
Sirius laughed, a bark of delight. James and Remus grinned at each other and shook their heads dismissively.
“Great. I’m going to owl Dumbledore and request an appointment, then,” James told them, bringing seriousness around again. “Considering the full moon is coming up next Thursday, I think we ought to make the meeting for that evening,” he nodded to Remus. “We can just head through the tunnel to the Shack when we’re done. Just like old times.”
“It works for me,” said Peter eagerly.
Remus suddenly picked up the deck of cards and shuffled them quickly, an effort to cover how humbled he was that his friends were so supportive. As if finances were not enough, he'd been mildly worried about his transformations now that they'd all left the school. Yet here they were, clearly planning to continue to accompany him during his most difficult nights; it was plain to see that they'd never considered otherwise.
“Poker?” he asked hoarsely, glancing around.
They played well into the night; predictably, Sirius was the first to pass out in his chair, and Peter soon followed, lying on the floor. James retreated to Sirius's bedroom after a while and Remus, the only one still awake, stretched out on the couch where he was left pondering his friends and what he'd just gotten himself into.
The week passed quickly in the wizarding world. More deaths were reported in The Daily Prophet. Giants had been spotted coming down from the mountains in France, much to the dismay of the Ministry of Magic. This little fact, however, was kept quiet, something that bothered Lily Evans (who was working for the newspaper) very much. Despite the fact that July was steadily nearing its end, the cool, misty fog did not let up. The skies were always overcast and grey; Britain was always dark and dreary.
Peter spent the week at home, enduring his mother’s unending pressure that he find a job and become an adult and move out. He assured her that he would be out soon enough, and spent most of his time in his bedroom.
Remus gave up his attempts at finding work now that they were planning on getting into the Order. Instead, he focused on packing all of his belongings (which weren’t many) in anticipation of moving in with his best friend.
Likewise, Lily had begun to pack for her move as well, and James spent a fair amount of time helping her with this. Sirius accompanied them one day; it was no time at all before she had everything ready to go thanks to the help of magic.
Sirius spent most of his time being lazy around his flat with James, riding his flying motorbike, or visiting James’s parents. He spent nearly as many nights at James’s house as he did in his own flat, but nobody minded this at all.
At the moment, all four Marauders stood at the gates of Hogwarts and waited for one of the teachers to come and undo all of the magical, protective charms locking intruders off the property. They were there for their meeting with Dumbledore; this would be the day they convinced him to allow them to join the Order.
It was Professor McGonagall who greeted them warmly at the gates; she had always had a soft spot for the four boys in her house. They excelled at her own subject, Transfiguration; they paid her compliments, though she was more than aware that this was just brown-nosing. But they were charming and memorable, and the school felt like something was missing once they left it for good.
She escorted the four through the deserted hallways, gave the gargoyle guarding the Headmaster’s office the password, and then bid them goodbye at Dumbledore’s door. When she was gone, James raised his fist to knock, but before his knuckles struck the wood, Dumbledore called from within.
“Come in!” His voice was pleasant and cheerful, and when they opened the door and filed inside (feeling guilty, no less, for aside from Remus - and occasionally James for Head Boy duties - they had never been here before unless they did something wrong) it was to find him smiling in greeting, a twinkle in his crystal blue eyes.
“Good evening, Professor,” Sirius said immediately, bowing slightly before he stopped himself and his eyes darkened. Sometimes, the ways of the Blacks never left him. He was always the first of his friends to give a polite greeting, always the one to bring up some new conversational topic when discourse became dull. He grimaced at his formal habits and straightened stiffly.
“Good evening, gentlemen! I hope you’ve had an enjoyable holiday?” Dumbledore pulled out his wand and, with a casual flick, conjured two additional chairs.
The Marauders sat down awkwardly. “It has been very nice, thank you, sir,” responded Remus politely.
“Ah, Remus. You are looking especially pale this afternoon. Perhaps we should make this fast?” Dumbledore looked momentarily concerned for his former pupil’s health. He pulled out a pocket watch to check the time, knowing that once the full moon came up, Remus would need to be in the Shrieking Shack.
“Yes, Professor,” said James, jumping straight into his proposition at Dumbledore’s gentle prodding. It had already been decided that he would do the talking; he was, after all, the most passionate about this. “We’ve come here tonight because we want to fight the Dark Rebellion with your Order.”
The twinkle immediately left Dumbledore’s eye, but his voice remained pleasant. “Oh?”
“Yes, sir,” James said, looking mildly nervous at Dumbledore’s lack of reaction. When the Headmaster said nothing for several long moments, James cleared his throat and thought that he should, perhaps, say something more. “I overheard you speaking to my father about it two years ago, sir.”
Dumbledore smiled at this. “Purely accidental, I’m sure, James. Even the best intentioned find themselves in the humbling position of being forced to listen to other people’s conversations.”
“Yes, Professor,” James blushed and found himself staring down at his hands.
Sirius looked away, fighting the smile that was creeping across his face. He stared at the portraits of headmasters around the room instead and was immediately reminded of Grimmauld Place, where portraits of ancestors lined the hallways. He knew them each by name, too; he’d been forced to memorize the family tree, and any time he started to show the slightest deviation from the Black ways as a child, he’d been made to recite it just to make sure he knew where he came from. One of the former headmasters was his great, great grandfather; he gave Sirius a shameful glare from his portrait.
“And you think you are prepared to fight such a war, James?” Dumbledore asked. His tone was still pleasant, but he looked slightly older than he had just a few moments before.
“I believe so, sir,” James responded resolutely. He squared his shoulders as if to prove it and, following suit, the other three sat up a little straighter in their seats. “Professor, Sirius and I were accepted into the Ministry’s Auror program. I think that if the Ministry found us capable, surely we should be good enough for your underground group...”
“Ah, were you now!” exclaimed Dumbledore, looking from Sirius to James. “Congratulations! Though, I must wonder why, if you were accepted into the Ministry’s program, you wish to work for me? The members in the Order don’t receive pay, as I’m sure you probably overheard...”
“We didn’t accept the positions,” James told him quickly, choosing to ignore the comment about what he ‘overheard’. “We found out that Bartemius Crouch is letting the Aurors use Unforgivables.”
“Yes,” sighed Dumbledore now, disappointment etched upon his thin face. “I have heard the same from Alastor Moody. A very noble thing you did, turning the positions down. Unfortunately, I don’t believe it has caused the Ministry to change anything.”
James shrugged and bit his lip. “Please, sir... we want to do something.”
Dumbledore looked thoughtful, and it was a moment before he responded. “I do not feel comfortable at all with letting children your age fight in this war,” he said slowly. Sirius and Peter both opened their mouths to protest, but Dumbledore held up a hand before either got a word out. “I am well aware of the fact that you are of age,” he said with a smile. “But you are still children. Inexperienced in this world. However, I have seen children do marvellous things, and I am in no position to turn away those who are eager to climb to the level of greatness. We must never underestimate the power of our youths.”
The four Marauders smiled triumphantly at each other. “Thank you, sir,” James said, unable to control the grin on his face.
Dumbledore looked somber. “I wish to stress upon you the dangers you are about to enter into. Some of what you will find yourselves up against are the things made of nightmares. Inferi - corpses brought back to life. The Unforgivables - you don’t know for sure if somebody is being controlled, sometimes not until it is too late. This is not to be taken lightly, and should you change your mind, please do not hesitate to let me know.”
“Understood, sir,” James said quickly, the grin fading to prove that he took this very seriously. “Thank you.”
“Your first meeting will take place in the Hog’s Head Inn. Please give the bartender the following password: Fawkes. You will then be taken to where we meet regularly. I trust I don’t have to tell you not to tell anybody the password, or the location of the meeting,” Dumbledore instructed with a nod of acknowledgement.
“Of course not, sir.”
“Very good, indeed. You will receive the date and time of our next meeting by my Patronus. Now, I believe Mr Lupin has someplace to be.”
Dumbledore stood to escort the four boys out of his office; they stood as well and Dumbledore shook each of their hands as though they were his equals. Feeling slightly elated at this small victory, the Marauders shuffled towards the door in a daze. “Oh, and James?” Dumbledore asked suddenly from behind them.
James turned in the doorway and peered at the headmaster searchingly.
“Be sure to tell your mother that this was your idea.”
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