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In My Time of Dying by Stag Night
Chapter 7 : The Order of the Phoenix
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 12


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In My Time of Dying
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.


C H A P T E R . S E V E N
The Order of the Phoenix




As the next two weeks slowly passed, the Marauders had taken to spending the majority of their time in Sirius's flat - to his dismay, it had become an unofficial meeting place. Remus lived there now, after all, and James might as well have for the amount of time he spent in the flat. It was only a short trip through the Floo for Peter to join them. Many conversations were had, both serious and playful. The newspaper was checked every night, and they were always wary of finding out about the death of a former classmate or loved one.


It was on such a lazy night that a ghostly figure flitted unexpectedly out of Sirius's fireplace, taking them all by surprise.


Remus had been reading a book, Sirius the Daily Prophet. The latter was on his feet in a flash at the visitor, wand out and ready. The newspaper fell to the ground, forgotten.


"Hang on," said Remus quickly before Sirius could get a hex off. He, too, was on his feet, though he rose much slower than Sirius had. "It's just a Patronus, Padfoot. I wouldn't..."


"Oh, right," interrupted Sirius impatiently, for he felt slightly foolish. He flopped back into his chair, looking pale. Then he silently chastised himself for being too paranoid, if that was even possible during times like these.


James had been lying on the floor, lazily transfiguring Sirius's walls to change colours. He had turned and looked towards the fireplace behind him at the Patronus's arrival, leaving the walls a gaudy shade of Chudley Canon orange. His face lit up at the sight of the bird, but whether that was from excitement or from the Patronus's glow, Sirius wasn't sure.


"Your first meeting," the phoenix said pointedly in Dumbledore's voice, "Tomorrow night, eight o'clock." And then it vanished in a wisp without offering any other information, or even any sort of farewell.


When it was gone, James gave a triumphant fist pump and grinned around at his friends. "Yes, finally! I was beginning to think Dumbledore was purposely not inviting us to meetings, the old bastard!"


"Really, James," said Remus, abashed at James's referral to their old headmaster.


"Maybe he is one, though," mused Peter thoughtfully.


Sirius shook his head and picked up his newspaper again, hiding his grim face behind it. This, he recognized, was the end of his carefree life as he knew it, at least for the foreseeable future. From this point on, it was meetings and battles and wars and deaths, and though he was closer to James than to anyone, he couldn't comprehend his best friend's excitement.


But then, James always did hate the Dark Arts, always talked about fighting them.


All was silent for a few moments, as wild ideas of heroic battles ran through James's head, and Sirius brooded in the corner. Peter was still pondering Dumbledore and any possibility of the old man having a father.


Suddenly, James checked his watch. "Right. Since you lot are boring, I think I'm going to visit Lily and tell her the good news."


Peter looked scandalized as James stood up. "We're not boring," he insisted defensively, but his argument died quickly as he glanced at Remus and Sirius, both of whom were staring stonily at James. He sighed. "Oh, blast it, then..." he said, quickly giving up his fight.


James rolled his eyes and gathered his cloak. "See you," he said, ruffling Sirius's hair as he passed.


"'careful," sighed Sirius, fighting to hold his head up against James's playful hand.


He hadn't had any luck in convincing James to stay indoors at night. In fact, James had expressed disappointment in Sirius's lack of enthusiasm for his adventures. But James hadn't seen what Sirius had seen, hadn't grown up in a house such as the Blacks'. Sirius wasn't sure if James fully grasped the cruelty, the heartlessness, the lack of mercy or a conscience in Voldemort's followers. James still acted as invincible and careless as he always had.


He grumbled incoherently as James shut the door behind him, and with a vague wave of his wand, the walls became Gryffindor red.


Peter remained sitting quietly for a moment, but it wasn't long before he stood as well and heaved a sigh of his own.


"I suppose I'll head home as well," he lamented glumly. "My mum'll have a fit if I'm out too late. And anyway, you guys are rather boring..." He walked towards the fireplace regretfully, not really wanting to go home. He had less than a week until he got his inheritance and could move out on his own.


"See you, Wormtail," said Sirius distractedly.


"Yeah, bye, Wormtail," added Remus. Neither looked up as Peter flooed home.






II.

It wasn't easy to see Hogsmeade in its current state: dark, dreary and barren. The only thing that any of the Marauders could think about as they walked through the village was all the wonderful memories they had had in the past years. Even in the most recent years, when Voldemort's presence had become more of a threat than it ever had, the town had never been this bad.


Tonight, as they walked wide-eyed through the streets under James's invisibility cloak, they were more than aware of the effects that Voldemort was having on people. Nobody wanted to be out and about; even the Three Broomsticks was empty. The temperature was as if it were winter, and when the breeze swept through the cobbled streets, it seemed to drop even further. Likewise, haunting whispers were all around them, seeming to tease them as if knowing the four boys were there. Sirius felt as if he should expect Voldemort's leering, pale face to emerge from the darkness at any moment.


James shook his head and pursed his lips, determination etched upon his face. Remus's face was full of sympathy and worry for the small village that they had so desperately loved as students. Sirius shook his hair out of his eyes and bit his lip, for once unsure of what to say or do as he looked in every direction - he was unable to hide the disappointment in his eyes at what the village had come to. Peter (who rode on James's shoulder in rat form, as there wasn't enough room for four young men under the cloak anymore) shivered visibly.


Once they were standing in front of the Hog's Head Inn, James pulled the cloak off and Peter crawled down his back to the ground, where he turned into himself again. James ruffled his black hair confidently and looked around at his friends. "Ready?"


"As we'll ever be," responded Sirius, his tone dark as he glanced over his shoulder. He didn't like being vulnerable in the dark and wished the invisibility cloak was still on. "Let's hurry inside, Prongs," he barked, repressing a shudder.


It was a relief when James pushed the heavy door open with a loud creak. The Marauders were surprised to find that here alone there were people outside of their homes. But then it occurred to them that it only made sense; it was typically the dodgy people that frequented this bar, and they probably weren't as bothered by the going-ons around Hogsmeade like other people were. Sirius gave a polite nod of greeting at the small cluster of patrons now staring. James immediately approached the bartender and whispered, out of the corner of his mouth, Fawkes.


The bartender, who had remarkable blue eyes considering how grungy he looked, nodded once and motioned for them to follow, and they very happily obliged, eager to get out of the customers' glares.


They were led into a very narrow hallway underneath a creaky staircase and then into a hidden room. The bartender glanced back to make sure nobody was following, and then bent down and lifted a trap door in the floor. The Marauders thanked him and descended the stairs.


They rounded the corner, barely had a chance to glimpse the group of people gathered there, barely registered the fact that a few of the faces were familiar to them, when they heard an incantation. "Petrificus Totalis!" and Remus suddenly went stiff as a board. He teetered for a moment, a mixed look of surprise and horror upon his face, and then he started to fall. Sirius caught his arm and dragged him upright again, his first thought being that this was a trap of some sort and they were all about to die.


James whipped his wand out in a flash and pointed it at the group of people, fury upon his face. "What are you playing at," he demanded angrily, moving his wand from Alastor Moody to Benjy Fenwick.


Sirius pushed Remus into Peter's arms and then quickly drew his own wand as well, ready to back his friend up if necessary, when it was suddenly ripped from his hand - it landed in the outstretched hand of Caradoc Dearborn and Sirius felt a wave of panic wash over him. All of the people in the room had their wands pointed at James now. Sirius reached behind, trying inconspicuously to tug Remus's wand out of his pocket and failing dismally.


"How did you get in here," barked Moody harshly, not wasting any time in interrogating the four. His wand was pointed at James; it was he who had cast the body-bind curse on Remus.


James swallowed loudly, still appearing mutinous. He looked quickly to Dumbledore - everything had occurred so fast, the elderly man hadn't a chance to stop it from happening.


"Ah, my new recruits!" Dumbledore quickly announced, clapping his hands for attention and then opening them grandly towards the Marauders. "Caradoc, please return Mr Black's wand to him. Alastor, it would be very much appreciated if you released Mr Lupin. The rest of you may lower your wands any time you see fit."


Slowly, the group began lowering their wands one by one. Caradoc Dearborn approached slowly and, looking rather self-conscious, offered Sirius his wand back without making eye contact. Remus became mobile again and brushed himself off, looking mildly terrified. Peter continued to cling to his arm, despite the fact that he no longer needed the support, but it occurred to Remus that perhaps Peter needed support now, and he didn't pull his arm away. Only when the rest of the wands dropped did James lower his own, breathing heavily as adrenaline coursed through his veins. Of course, a trained Auror such as Alastor Moody would be able to recognize Remus for what he was instantly; he should have figured this would happen.


"Very good," said Dumbledore at last. "Clearly, there are some things that will need to be explained. Please have a seat, boys," Dumbledore gestured towards the other Order members.


Reluctantly, the Marauders moved forward. Sirius was terribly aware of a low growling noise as they took their seats, and he turned to see Moody glaring at him, hunched over as if preparing to spring. Sirius blinked and turned away, determinedly staring at Dumbledore. Remus, however, wasn't at all prepared for having his secret in the open, the way people would react and fear and hate him. Remus's face flushed crimson and he stared at the floor, trying to sink low in his chair.


"I should have anticipated this," Dumbledore announced after a moment, standing at the front of the room and observing what was happening. "That was my mistake; I should have warned the Order members. Please accept my apologies, Remus, and you as well, Sirius."


Moody spoke up impatiently at this point. "Why are you bringing this type of filth in, Dumbledore," he growled angrily.


James pulled his wand again, but Dumbledore cleared his throat loudly. James hesitated before shoving it back into his pocket, looking flustered. He sulkily crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the wall behind Dumbledore, because he felt if he looked anywhere else he might do something rash.


"Please refrain from throwing insults until you can fully understand the situation," Dumbledore responded pleasantly.


"But a werewolf and a Black!" spat Moody, annoyed. The few Order members that hadn't appeared to understand what had gone on earlier, mainly Hagrid, Frank Longbottom, and Alice Hopper, let out audible gasps at the word werewolf. Hagrid peered at Remus now, a look of sheer delight upon his face.


"Ah, but this is your weakness, Alastor," Dumbledore said, holding up a finger. "You are too quick to judge. Yes, a werewolf, but only dangerous one night a month, and during that particular night, Remus carefully locks himself away in an abandoned building. He attended Hogwarts and in seven years, never harmed a student. Are we to deny him the same sort of treatment anyone else gets, over twelve nights a year? He is not like many werewolves, after all, hunting humans and turning them."


Alastor didn't seem convinced.


"I daresay you can see the benefits of having a werewolf working for the Order," said Dumbledore after a moment, and at this, Alastor's face lightened slightly as he considered possibilities.


"But a Black," he reminded Dumbledore now. "One Black is currently suspected of being a Death Eater! And one is married to a suspected Death Eater! And it is well known that Orion and Walburga support Voldemort's ideas!" He thumped his wooden leg into the floor angrily as he became worked up over Sirius's family.


Sirius frowned and played with the hem of his robes, for it gave him a reason to look down and not face the room. He felt James's arm come to rest behind him, on the back of his chair, as if in defiance to Moody's protests, as if to prove he stood behind Sirius. James knew how the words could cut like glass, right down to the bone. How horrible was it that a werewolf's presence could be justified and made to be okay, and his own could not? That they would accept a monster before him?


A sideways glance at Remus's downcast face and he immediately wanted to kick himself for thinking such a thing. He knew, they all knew, that there was nothing wrong with being a werewolf.


His heart felt as if it were being cleaved in two; perhaps he had become too spoiled when living under the protection of the Potter roof. He hadn't anticipated being treated this way, and he should have. James's arm was still on the back of his chair, and now Sirius felt James's fingers idly twirling a shaggy lock of his hair. He glanced at James, but James was watching Moody. Sirius looked the other way, at Peter, and it pained him slightly to see that Peter looked just as humiliated as he and Remus did.


"Sirius has never performed Dark magic," Dumbledore said now, a hint of impatience in his tone. "He was sorted into Gryffindor, not the Black's usual house of Slytherin. He ran away from home and lived with John and Evelyn Potter. If Jonathon Potter didn't think he was a dark wizard," said Dumbledore, looking hard at Moody, "I believe you should find it easy to trust this young man in the same way."


Moody didn't look overly pleased, but then, James had known he was like this. Years of service for the Ministry had taught him to act first, defend himself, and ask questions later. He nodded and said gruffly, "Very well."


The other Order members who'd appeared wary of Sirius and Remus now appeared convinced at Dumbledore's insistence, and dirty looks were no longer cast at the four friends.


"Very good," said Dumbledore. "Now that we have welcomed our newcomers most warmly, allow me to introduce them. This is John Potter's son, James. Clearly, you all know Sirius Black. We also have Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew. These boys just completed their education in June and have approached me with the wish to help in the war. Young as they are, I believe you will find them more than capable. James and Sirius were the best in their year with little effort. Mister Lupin and Mister Pettigrew were not far behind."


He turned and addressed the Marauders now. "During the next few meetings, we will work on getting you caught up with what the Order is doing, as well as teach you what we know and how we act. Being able to produce a corporeal Patronus is essential, as it is how we communicate. You will be enlightened as to what has been happening behind enemy lines, things that the Daily Prophet are not telling the general public. You will come to understand Voldemort's intentions, for he is not simply mass murdering Muggleborns. He has an actual plan."


The Marauders nodded in understanding as Dumbledore continued. "You will also come to recognize the signs of Voldemort's work in the Muggle world. You will work on Occlumency, as well as learning to fight the Imperius Curse. These are things that you have not learned at Hogwarts. For today, however, I simply wanted you to sit in on a meeting and get caught up on what the others have been doing." With that, he turned to the rest of the Order. "Gideon and Fabian, I believe you have a report on the giant movement?"


The identical twins stood in unison and began to speak; Sirius barely recognized them. Gideon and Fabian Prewett had been seventh years when he was in his first. He could recall, however, how much James had admired the two back then. They were Quidditch Gods, proclaimed an eleven year old James. Sirius grinned and elbowed his friend fondly, indicating the innocent memories. James smiled back, his enthusiasm for the Prewett boys obviously long gone since he'd begun playing Quidditch himself.


The Prewett brothers sat down again when they were finished speaking, and Dumbledore was at the front of the room once more. "Very well," he stated gravely, before calling on several other people for discussion. Each person gave a report on various things that they had been keeping an eye on, though Sirius had a hard time concentrating on any of it. He was still a little bothered by their reception into the Order. Before he knew it, Dumbledore was smiling and concluding the meeting for that evening. People were standing now, putting on their travelling cloaks.


Suddenly, Frank and Alice were in front of them, Frank shaking James's hand enthusiastically. "Welcome aboard!" he stated wildly. Frank and Alice had graduated two years before the Marauders, but James had played on the Quidditch team with Frank and they had been decent friends. Alice smiled at Peter, whom she had dated before she left him for Frank. Peter, pink faced, glared at Frank and completely ignored Alice. Frank was looking apprehensively at Remus now.


"He won't bite," said James flatly. "You knew him for five years at Hogwarts, remember?"


Frank blushed. "Right. Sorry, Lupin, I know. I'm just a bit shocked is all. You hid it so well."


Remus gave him a small, guilty smile. What was one supposed to say to that?


"Well, that was always my intention," he finally admitted, trying to hide his shame. He accidentally dropped his wand with a clatter, and bent to pick it up, and then dropped it again. He blushed, and a moment later Peter placed it firmly in his hand.


He wasn't used to letting others in on his secret, and it was making him a nervous wreck. He wished the floor would open up and swallow him whole; he felt as if Frank were scrutinising him for hints of what he was.


Frank stared at him for a moment, and then turned to James. "Listen, Potter, Alice and I are getting married in a couple days. It's just going to be a small thing for friends and family... And by friends, I mean mainly just the Order members. I know you lot only just joined, but you're welcome to come too, we'd love to see you guys there."


"Oh yeah?" said James. He clapped Frank on the shoulder. "Well, congratulations, Longbottom. Of course we'll be there. Would it be all right if I brought my girlfriend?"


One of Frank's eyebrows shot up and he eyed James warily. "Who is it this time?"


James smirked. "Evans."


Both Frank's and Alice's eyes grew wide at this. "Holy shit!" blurted Frank. "Seriously?"


James looked at the pair as if they were crazy and smugly blew off their surprise. "Come on, everyone knew I'd get her eventually! But she'd love to see you guys."


"We'd love to have her come," interrupted Alice, who'd always gotten on extremely well with Lily in school, despite the two year gap in their ages. "What has she been up to these days?"


"Working for the Prophet," James said proudly.


"Oh?" asked Alice, quickly busying herself in a search for a spare invitation in her purse. She seemed to have nothing more to say on the success of one of her good school friends, and James frowned.


Frank's face, however, darkened; obviously, he was not fond of the paper's way of hiding things. "Good for her," was all he said, in a mumble, as Alice handed the invitation over. Things seemed suddenly awkward, and Frank spoke quickly, as if in a hurry to escape.


"Listen, we have to run. Still have a lot of work to do!" He wrapped his arm around Alice's waist and began to lead her away, calling over his shoulder with a hasty wave, "Have a good one!"


James turned the invitation over in his hands absently for a moment, raising his eyebrows at his friends. Peter was pursing his lips and looking rather annoyed.


"All right, Wormtail?" asked James, elbowing him and grinning. Peter had never quite gotten over Alice Hopper. She was one of the few girls that had given him a chance in the school, having not been blinded by his much cooler friends.


"All right," Peter grumbled. Under his breath, he added, hellish bloody harlot and Sirius laughed, and then Peter decided, "Let's get out of here."


"Agreed," said Remus hoarsely, pulling his ragged cloak on and quickly moving towards the door. He had just spotted Hagrid making his way excitedly towards them.






III.

They attended many more meetings in the dark, dingy basement of the Hog's Head Inn over the next two weeks. Dumbledore formally introduced them to Alastor Moody, rather than the testy group introduction they got in the Order.


Moody, they came to find out, was going to be training them. Dumbledore had explained that they would need to know defensive spells far beyond anything they had learned in school. And Moody was the best Auror the Ministry had since James's father had retired.


"Can't James's dad just teach us?" Sirius had begged of his former headmaster. He still didn't like the way Moody looked at him and Remus.


Moody looked just as displeased at his new task, taking a long, hard drink from his hip flask, and Sirius was quite sure he only did so to stop himself from saying something rotten.


Because James's parents had absolutely no idea what they were up to (for James was still too reluctant to tell them), Sirius's pleas had fallen flat. And as Dumbledore said, James's father had earned his retirement and did not need to spend his days performing complex spells once more.


And so their rigorous training began. Moody shot spells at each of them, unannounced, unexpected. They'd scrambled to defend themselves, and within a couple of days, his lesson of "Constant Vigilance!" was engraved within their minds.


(Sirius hated him. The feeling seemed mutual, for Moody seemed to target Sirius more than any of the others, and the spells he used against Sirius always seemed to be the harshest.


"You might have everyone else fooled, Black, but I'll be watching you," the man had growled gruffly at him during a moment when they were alone.


And Sirius wanted to attack the man, though he didn't ever dare.)


It was hard; Sirius felt alienated and alone. Peter and Remus were treated as any normal person would be by Moody, albeit with impatience. Sirius was used to people keeping their distance when they learned of his last name, and didn't expect anyone to ever want to be with him. But he never expected James to be treated like a king, simply because Moody had respect for his father. He never expected to have to watch that, all while he was being treated like dirt.


But it wasn't James's fault.


"This is brilliant," said James happily, causing shimmering gold string to shoot from his wand and tie around a bunch of chairs. He was keen on any spell to capture or halt suspects without resorting to Unforgivables to stop their escape.


"It is," agreed Sirius disinterestedly, watching Moody smile at James's success.


"Try it," James said, waving his wand again so that the string vanished around the chairs and Sirius could have a turn.


"No. Thank you."


"You all right?"


"Fine. I'm just..."


But he never had the chance to finish his sentence. The incantation "Ventermorsus!" was spat out, and before Sirius could even recognise the spell, a jet of silver light hit him square in the stomach. He doubled over, his insides feeling as if they were twisting in knots. He struggled to breathe, until the tension faded with a wave of Moody's wand. It was a harmless child's spell. It caught him off guard.


"Constant Vigilance, Black!" snapped Moody. "Stop chatting and get to work!"


Sirius straightened, stiffly, angrily, with his hand clutching his aching belly, and he automatically glanced at James.


James looked furious on his best friend's behalf. "It's all right," he muttered, trying to calm both himself and Sirius before either did anything stupid that he might later regret. He patted Sirius reassuringly on the back before his friend tensely moved away.


Peter struggled, was never fast enough, never came up with the correct responses. He complained that his mind just couldn't think that fast, that Moody was trying to make him look foolish. Sirius scoffed, for he rather thought Wormtail had it easy compared to the exercises he was being put through. That was when they got the lecture from an annoyed Alastor Moody on what, exactly, they were fighting for, because he seemed to think that both Sirius and Peter just didn't care enough to try.


"Blood traitor," growled Moody, pressing his finger into Sirius's chest. Sirius set his jaw and stared back, hard, but Moody was unaffected.


"Family of Muggle lovers," he continued, jabbing James in the chest as well.


"Werewolf. Half blood," he finished with Remus and Peter, respectively. Peter winced and rubbed the spot Moody had touched, scowling, while Remus flushed bright red and stared at the dirty wood floor.


Alastor, having reached the end of the line at Peter, walked back and stopped in front of James. "Speaking of Muggle lovers, aren't you dating a Muggleborn, Potter?"


James's eyes flashed dangerously in response, his fists clenching.


Then there came a day when Sirius and James were browsing through an old book for helpful spells. Moody had instructed them to read up on Patronuses, for that was what they would be learning next, though they'd been easily distracted by a page on jinxes. James had just pointed out something particularly interesting when Sirius saw movement from the corner of his eye.


His head lifted instantly and he raised his wand. "Protego!" he cried, and James let out a surprised Fuck! and jumped so high the book toppled from his lap.


But it worked. In a darkened corner stood Alastor Moody, his wand raised and a grim look on his face. The battle worn old man threw back his wand arm once more.


"Expelliarmus!" snarled Sirius, not wasting a moment.


Moody pulled out a spare wand, looking annoyed.


"Accio!" and the wand flew into Sirius's hand.


At that, Moody lifted his gnarled hands in surrender. "All right, Black," he grunted, sounding rather unhappy at losing this time, being under the ferocious glare of Sirius, beneath his pointed wand. "Right you are. Nice work. Remember that."


And it was the most glorifying day of Sirius's life.


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