Sirius watched his godson walk to his room and close the door. Sighing, he lowered himself to his chair and put his head in his hands.
‘He doesn’t need me. He’s doing great on his own. I’m not sure what more I can do for him.’
He could almost hear what Lily would say, ‘Come on, Sirius. He needs you as much as you need him. His life has been just as rough as yours for the past twelve years.’
James’ voice took over. ‘Even if he doesn’t need a full time parent figure, he needs someone close to him, someone who he can talk to when he can’t talk to his friends. We picked you to be his godfather for a reason. It was because we don’t know who else is capable of guiding him the way we would want him to be. You haven’t had much of a choice up until now. You’ve been given a chance here. Don’t screw it up. Make us proud, Padfoot.’
“I will, Prongs. I will,” Sirius quietly vowed. “I will.”
-- (One week later) --
When Harry arrived at Platform 9 ¾, the Weasleys and the Grangers were already there. As Harry and Padfoot approached, they were amused to find Molly fussing over her children as usual.
“Oh! Harry, dear,” exclaimed Molly. “Thank goodness you made it here alright.”
“Why wouldn’t I have?” asked Harry with raised eyebrows.
“Well, with Sirius Black on the loose and all… can’t be too careful,” explained Arthur as Harry just rolled his eyes and glanced at said Animagus who had an indignant look.
“If you lot have forgotten anything, be sure too… Percy! Where’s your badge?” Molly asked suddenly.
Harry glanced at Percy’s chest and could barely hide his surprise at not finding the polished Head Boy badge gleaming back at him.
“Huh? Oh… yeah. Thanks mum,” Percy replied, distractedly pinning the badge to his robe.
Apparently, Harry wasn’t the only one shocked by the older boy’s behavior, if the looks his parents and siblings were giving him was anything to go by.
“Well, you lot have a nice term and no pranks!” she added with a glare at the twins.
The younger Weasleys and the Potters could barely conceal their smirks following her words.
“Right mum,” said Fred.
“No pranks,” concurred George.
“I’m serious! I don’t want to hear that either of you two has… blown up a toilet or something!” said Molly.
“Actually… that was me,” admitted Ginny, sheepishly. “It was the day of the Quidditch Cup. Flint wasn’t hurt that badly. He still played and they still won, after all,” she grumbled as everyone stared at her, incredulously.
“First you corrupt Harry Potter! Now your sister! I bet you have your sights on poor Hermione next. Hermione, I know it is too late for Harry and Ron, but please don’t let them pressure you into pranking, as well,” pleaded Molly.
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Weasley,” said Hermione, trying to hide her smile. “They’ve never pressured me into pranking. Yes… I can honestly say that I have never felt ‘pressured’ into doing anything with them.”
“Well that’s good. At least they have some decency,” said Molly, mistaking what Hermione had meant.
As the group got on board the train, Harry noticed Percy walk towards Penelope and slip his hand into hers.
“Since when has Percy been comfortable enough for open affection?” Harry asked the Weasleys.
“Don’t know, mate,” said George with a frown.
“He’s been acting weird all summer,” said Fred.
“Well… no not weird, but rather… normal,” continued George.
“Which is weird for him since he never acts normal,” said Fred, thoughtfully.
“Its true,” said Ginny, nodding. “He never complained when Fred and George pranked him this summer. He actually laughed at a few of them.”
“He even retaliated after them. Percy has always felt it was above him to strike back,” explained Ron. “What I can’t believe, though, is that he never mentioned he was Head Boy to us. He couldn’t stop talking when he became Prefect. It’s odd.”
“Maybe he’s mellowing out,” suggested Hermione.
“Only took him seventeen years,” snorted Fred.
“Well if he is mellowing, you guys should back off of him. Try not to push his buttons,” said Harry, looking directly at the twins.
‘Maybe he will stand by his family this time around instead of siding with the Ministry,’ Harry hoped.
Harry looked into the last compartment and wasn’t surprised to see the sleeping form of Remus Lupin, he was however, surprised to see that someone else was in there with him.
Harry couldn’t see who she was because her face was obscured by a book, which Harry recognized to be one of his own.
Hermione, always the initiator of conversations, took charge.
“Hello,” she began. “I’m-”
“I know who you are, Hermione Granger,” said a familiar voice.
The book lowered to reveal a blonde haired, blue eyed girl.
“Luna!” the group shouted as one.
It was Luna, but she looked a lot different than she had when they last saw her at the train station in June. Her hair was straight for the first time since Harry had known her. All her odd jewelry was missing, too. She looked… well… normal.
“Congratulations on making a pro team, Nightwing,” grinned Luna as she stood up to give him a hug.
“Thanks, Striker,” replied Harry, returning the hug.
“It’s good to see all of you,” said Luna, moving on to give everyone else a hug.
When the greetings were over, Luna turned serious.
“Have you two seen this?” she asked Harry and Ginny, handing them the book she had been reading.
“Unfortunately, yeah,” said Harry as everyone crowded around the two to read the title.
Tom Marvolo Riddle: Rise of a Dark Lord.
Ginny instantly tensed up besides Harry.
“Turn to chapter seven,” instructed Luna.
Harry knew what she wanted the others to see in that particular chapter.
“What are Horcruxes?” asked Hermione, looking at the chapter title.
“Fragments of a soul placed inside of an object to use as a safeguard against death,” said Luna with a frown. “That’s about all he really says about them other than they are the darkest of magical objects. Read about the first Horcrux.”
Again, the group did what they were told to do.
‘In September of 1944, Tom met with Professor Horace Slughorn; who was his Head of House and Potions professor. Tom questioned Professor Slughorn about a dark magical object known as a Horcrux. A Horcrux is the receptacle in which a Dark wizard/witch has hidden a fragment of his/her soul for the purposes of attaining immortality. Later that month, armed with the knowledge he obtained from Professor Slughorn, Tom attempts and succeeds in creating a Horcrux. He imprints a part of his soul in a dairy so that one day, the dairy may posses and force another person to re-open the Chamber of Secrets and ‘finish Salazar Slytherin’s noble work.’ This happened during the school year of 1992-1993. The dairy was slipped into Ginevra Weasley’s cauldron while she was shopping at Diagon Alley.
While it can’t be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt; it is this author’s belief that prior to the fall of 1992, the dairy was in the possession of Lucius Malfoy.
During the school year of 1992-1993, the diary forced Ms. Weasley to attack and petrify more than fifty students including four of her brothers. The diary and the Basilisk were both destroyed by Harry Potter, who had been detained and incarcerated for eight months by the Ministry, in June of 1993.’
“How did he get a hold of this information?” asked Hermione, “I thought this was kept a strict secret.”
“Gran thinks one of the Governors sold the information to Evans,” said a voice by the compartment door.
Standing there was a well, smiling, nicely tanned Neville Longbottom.
“Neville!” shouted Luna, a little too quickly as she jumped up to give a him hug which he eagerly returned.
After it became apparent that they weren’t about to break up anytime soon, Harry gave a loud cough causing them to jump apart blushing.
Harry raised an eyebrow at Neville. Neville, for his part, just grinned back as he subtly slid his hand into Luna’s and sat down.
“So… any of you lot know who this is?” asked Fred, pointing at the sleeping figure next to him.
“Professor Remus J. Lupin. He’s the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher this year,” answered Harry as the occupants stared at him in mild surprise.
“Why am I not surprised that you know that?” asked Ron, shaking his head. “You seem to know everything.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Remus is an old family friend. He went to school with my parents and was one of the four original Marauders. He is actually the reason dad, Sirius and Peter became Animagi,” explained Harry.
“Why did they become Animagi because of him?” asked Ginny.
“That’s not my story to tell,” said Harry shaking his head “although, if you pay enough attention to him this year and follow the clues, it should be pretty easy to figure out.”
Hermione’s brow furrowed and Harry could practically hear the gears in her head speed up to try and process what Harry had said.
Harry got up and performed a quick succession of spells to secure the compartment. When he was done, the room was deathly quite. The sounds of howling rain or chatter of other students could no longer be heard penetrating the compartments walls. The windows had also been stained black to prevent anyone from peering in.
“Now, am I to understand that we have all mastered our main form?”
They all nodded there heads.
“I’ve also mastered my wolf form,” said Luna.
“And I, my fox form,” smiled Hermione.
“Good. Very good,” replied Harry. “Alright, Marauders, main forms in three… two… one… transform.”
Instantly, all of the occupants quickly began to shift forms.
Where Ginny and Ron had been, now were Huntress, the tiger, and Leo, the Lion.
Neville and Luna were next to take shape. They were replaced by Koda, the grizzly bear, and Striker, the eagle.
Mimir, the Barn Owl, was hovering where Hermione had been sitting.
Fred and George had been replaced by Veritas, the hyena, and Hopian, the lynx.
Finally, where Harry had once stood Nightwing, the black phoenix was perched.
Nightwing made a loud trill to signal them all to revert back to their normal forms.
“Congratulations everyone,” said Harry, grinning. “You all just earned enough credits to pass N.E.W.T. Transfiguration. Now let’s discuss our first prank.”
“When is it?” asked George, rubbing his hands together in anticipation.
“Tonight,” Harry said simply.
“Tonight?” inquired the Marauders.
“What are we doing,” asked Luna.
“Just a blast from the past to signal the New Era of Marauders,” smiled Harry. “A recreation of the last prank the Marauders ever pulled.”
“Wicked,” Hermione whispered in realization. The grins on the twin’s faces seemed to threaten to split them in half.
“What was their last prank?” asked Ginny. Unlike Harry, Hermione, and the twins; everyone else wasn’t privileged in having in-depth knowledge on the History of the Marauders.
“I don’t want to spoil the surprise,” smirked Harry “but it was brilliant know-” Harry was cut off as the train came to a screeching halt.
The smile was instantly ripped off his face as he felt that all too familiar coldness begin to set in.
Hermione went over to the door and unlocked it to look out into the corridor, but before she could, the lights went out.
“Hermione, get back in here,” Harry ordered. He heard the door shut and a muffled “umph”.
“Sorry Ron,” Hermione whispered apologetically.
Harry was unaware of any of this, though. The coldness was getting more and more intense. He could fell Ginny shivering badly besides him. He wanted nothing more to reach out to her and put his arms around her, to hold her close to him. He couldn’t, though. He was a prisoner inside his own mind. Horrible memories flooded through his shields.
Himself in Azkaban.
The door creaked open and a Dementor entered.
Ginny lying cold and lifeless in the Chamber.
The Dementor moved instantly towards Harry, recognizing the scent of the Azkaban escapee. It began to lower its hood
Lucius Malfoy stabbing Remus with a silver dagger
His friends dieing with him standing there, helplessly.
The Dementor leaned forward to give him the “Kiss”. Harry vaguely heard Remus stirring. He fought the memories and pointed his wand at the Dementor.
“Expecto Patronum!” Harry cried out. A large stag leapt from his wand and plowed into the surprised creature, shoving it into the hall.
The Patronus quickly dissolved as Harry lost his focus, relieved that he had acted when he had. Without the Patronus to hold it back, however, the Dementor swept back into the compartment… heading straight towards Ginny.
Fire lit up Harry’s eyes.
‘It dared to attack Ginny,’ he thought. ‘HIS Ginny!’
“Expecto Patronum Ignigena!” Harry bellowed.
A terrifying shriek filled the compartment as the Dementor was incinerated. Everyone watched Harry in mixed states of awe and horror. The look in his eyes was one Neville had only seen once. That had been when Harry had faced off against Quirrel in First Year.
Remus looked on at Harry in both fear and sadness. Remus, too, had seen that look before, but not on the face of a child. He had seen that look in the eyes of Albus after the Siege of Hogwarts. His eyes had looked the same as Harry’s did now. Harry’s eyes were cold, void of all emotion. They were the eyes of someone who had seen too much death. Experienced too much pain.
Padfoot looked up at Harry, becoming more and more worried by the minute. He was afraid that Harry would push people away again, like he had tried to do over the summer. Sirius had been working to get him to open up all holiday, only managing to do so around the last few weeks. He was afraid that all that work had just been undone.
“I hate Dementors,” hissed Harry in a low, cold voice that sent a chill up everyone’s spine. The lights flickered back on and the train started to move again. Harry idly scratched Padfoot behind the ears, but he stared blankly ahead.
Ginny carefully slipped her hand into his. Harry’s stoic appearance cracked a little bit. He gave her a small smile and gently squeezed her hand.
“Dementors,” said Remus. “They guard Azkaban Prison.”
“What were they doing here?” growled Neville.
“No doubt looking for Sirius Black,” said Harry. “They won’t find him here, though. The last message I got from him led me to believe he was either around the Mediterranean area or in the Caribbean.”
“You’re in contact with him?” asked Hermione in surprise.
“Of course I am. I’ve been trying to get him freed for almost a year,” explained Harry.
“What!” exclaimed Neville “Sirius Black is one of the most notorious Death Eaters of all time. He spied on the Ministry and Dumbledore for years! He murdered thirteen people with a single curse! Why are you trying to get him freed?”
“Because he is innocent,” explained Harry. “He was set up by Peter Pettigrew. Pettigrew was the spy. He framed Sirius by cutting off his finger, blowing up the street, then transforming into a rat and escaping into the sewers.”
“Why would he frame Mr. Black?” asked Hermione. “Besides a temporary escape from justice, as soon as Mr. Black had his trial, the truth would have come out. That being said, why was he imprisoned in the first place?”
“Sirius never went to trial. You have to remember that at that point in time; Voldemort had just been defeated, the current Minister had just been assassinated by a rogue group of Death Eaters, Death Eater trials revealed that Barty Crouch Jr. was among their ranks therefore taking Barty Crouch Sr. out of the running and allowing Fudge to take control. Fudge came to office following a decade of war. Fudge, being a Pacifist, wanted to nothing more than to have the last references to the war swept under the rug. Sirius was never given a trial therefore none of this ever came to light.”
“A perfect example at how corrupt the Minister is,” snarled Remus. “He even ordered for Sirius to be ‘Kissed’ in an attempt to have anyone doubt his innocence if it were to come to trial.”
“That’s who you sent the Patronus to,” said Ginny. “You sent it to Sirius to warn him of the order.”
Harry nodded, “I couldn’t just let that happen to him. I mean, he is my godfather.”
This revelation startled his friends.
“So as soon as he was out, I sent Dobby to tell Sirius to head to Privet Drive. After I met up with him, I gave him some gold and a fake I.D., he already had a wand. There wasn’t much more I could do for him except keep fighting the fight here so he can come back as a free man someday,” Harry finished with a shrug.
-- (Hogsmeade Station) --
“I need to be up at the castle. See you at the feast, Harry,” said Remus.
“Later Remus… or is it Professor Lupin now?” grinned Harry.
“During school hours, its Professor Lupin but during the weekends and holidays, it’s Remus,” smiled Remus. “See you all at the feast.”
He turned to leave when Harry called him back.
“Hey Remus, would you mind taking Padfoot with you. Drop him off in the Gryffindor Tower?” asked Harry.
For the first time since he woke up, Remus looked at the dog. Memories of a shaggy hair dog, a large stag, a rat, and a werewolf running around on a full moon. That coupled with the name prompted instant recognition.
Remus had to suppress his grin as he said, “No problem Harry. Come along Padfoot.”
After Remus and Padfoot had left, Harry and the others headed for the carriages.
Luna stared at the creatures pulling the carriages in shock.
“Beautiful, aren’t they?” asked Harry coming up besides her.
“What are they?” asked Neville from Luna’s other side.
“What are what?” asked Hermione with a frown.
“Thestral’s,” replied Harry. “They are a carnivorous, black winged horse. They are the prefect mixture of skeletal and reptilian body types. An old witch’s tale claims them to be unlucky, but that’s only because only people who have seen death can see Thestral’s.”
“Then why can you three…” started Hermione before she trailed off.
Harry, Luna, and Neville traded glances.
“I would say it was my mum, but more likely it was Quirrel. Unfortunately I think it’s also why Neville can see them,” said Harry looking at Neville.
“Nah, it was my grandpa that allows me to see them. He died when I was nine,” replied Neville who then looked at Luna.
“I saw my mum die when a spell she was working on went wrong,” said Luna hesitantly. “She used to work for the Department of Mysterious. My dad and I were never quite the same.”
“I’m sorry about your mother, Luna,” said Hermione, beginning to understand why the girl had acted the way she did. Witnessing a parent’s death can’t be good for anyone’s mental health.
“It’s ok. Its in the past. Besides, its things with dad that I’m worried about,” said Luna.
“What’s wrong with your dad?” asked Ginny.
“Our relationship has been strained since I got back from school,” explained Luna. “He was disappointed when I canceled my prescription to The Quibbler. He was, quite frankly, pissed off when I didn’t want to take the first month of school off to go on a Crumple-Horned Snorkack expedition in Sweden.”
“Crumple… what?” asked Hermione.
“Some imaginary creature I think he actually made up himself,” waved off Luna. “He was angry that I don’t believe in those things anymore.”
“Why?” pressed Ginny.
“I’ve grown up. After mum died, I used The Quibbler as a means of escape, to hide behind and guard myself against the real world. I don’t need to do that anymore. I’ve got great friends to protect me if I need it,” she smiled caringly at them. “Besides, I now see that he’s borderline mental,” asked Luna. She rolled her eyes at the guarded expressions everyone exchanged. “It’s ok. I never realized it until this summer, but his ideas are hard to believe; at best.”
“I can’t believe he wanted you to skip the first month of school,” thought Hermione, shaking her head.
“I know; things are going to hard enough now that Ginny and I were moved up a year. That he wanted to-” Luna stopped herself. “Oh bloody hell.”
“LUNA! That was supposed to be a surprise!” shouted Ginny.
“I’m sorry, Ginny, it just slipped out,” said Luna, sheepishly.
“Moved up a year?” asked Ron, staring at Ginny in shock.
“That’s what McGonagall called us in for at the end of the year. We had tied for sixth best all time exams for first years. She didn’t tell us who the five ahead of us were, but she did tell us the Professor Dumbledore had first and your mum, Harry, had fifth,” explained Ginny.
“I can tell you who had third,” smiled Harry giving Hermione a knowing look.
“Wait a second,” said George.
“Hermione Granger,” continued Fred.
“Had a chance,”
“To advance a year,”
“And didn’t take it?”
Hermione blushed and said, “So what? There are some things more important than grades. Like friendship, for example.”
“Wonder who number two and number four are?” commented Neville.
“I can tell you who number two is,” said Luna, gazing at Harry.
“What, you’re number two!” squawked Ron.
“Yeah, so?” shrugged Harry. “Its no big deal.”
Ron was about to respond when the carriages came to a halt.
“Its show time,” smirked Harry.
-- (Great Hall) --
The feast had been as good as always, and as Dumbledore began his closing speech; the New Marauders were on pins and needles; waiting for the prank to start.
“Before you turn in for the night, I have one final announcement. I am pleased to announce that last year we had two first years pass their exams with startling scores. As such they were offered and have accepted the chance to move up a year in their studies. Please give Miss Lovegood and Miss Weasley a round of applause.” Most of the students politely clapped causing the two girls to blush. As soon as the clapping died down, Dumbledore continued, “And so, I bid you good night with these parting words: Nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak.”
All of a sudden, there was a loud clap of thunder overhead and the lights flickered in the hall. As Harry had expected, everyone looked up at the ceiling. Among the swirling clouds, words began to form.
‘For too long these halls have been silent. For too long students and staff alike have gone un-pranked. Not anymore because… THE MARAUDERS ARE BACK!’
A roaring clap of thunder followed by a bright flash of light blinded the hall. When it had dimmed, the staff was left with at quite a sight. Where all the students had once sat, their house animal equivalent was in their place.
The hall was completely silent, and then one of the Gryffindors let out a roar, which immediately caused a large scale chain reaction. The Ravenclaws all took off for the rafters. The Slytherins began hissing like mad. The Hufflepuffs scattered in all directions. The Gryffindors mostly stayed where they were but were roaring back and forth to each other.
Up at the staff table, most of the teachers had no idea what to do.
“Minerva, Filius, Pomona, Severus; be sure to round up all of your charges before leaving,” chuckled Dumbledore as he got up and headed towards the exit.
“Albus, you can’t be serious!” McGonagall cried after him.
Flitwick, to his credit, simply conjured a large bird cage and began banishing the ravens into it. Snape took Flitwick’s lead, after much grumbling about insane headmasters, and created a glass tank to start levitating his snakes into. Sprout likewise summoned a crate for her badgers.
McGonagall was having a much more difficult time with her lions, much to Remus’ and Hagrid’s amusement.
After her fifth failure at catching a small cub which left her flat on her face and the previously said teachers howling with laughter, she turned on them.
“Professor Lupin, Professor Hagrid. Since this is so funny for you two, let’s see if you can do any better,” said McGonagall, smugly.
Hagrid and Remus gave each other worried glances before joining McGonagall along with Professor Vector, the Arithmancy teacher, in an attempt to round up the lions, but had little success.
One of the lions, whose mane had a slightly more red tint to it, was on the table trying to get the others attention. With the roars of the other lions, however, he was having little success. Three other lions; a black mane one, a brown mane one, and another red mane one hopped up on the table. The lion with the black mane nudge the first lion to get his attention. He gave a slight growl then tapped his paw three times on the table. The red haired lion nodded and the four got into position. The black haired lion slowly tapped his paw three times on the table and then all four let out a combined roar the deafened the hall, silencing all other lions. The first red haired lion let out another roar, then proceeded to head towards the doors to the Great Hall.
All the lions fell into place behind the first lion and, flanked on the sides, from behind, and the front by McGonagall, Hagrid, Vector and Remus they were escorted to Gryffindor Common Room. When they reached the portrait of the Fat Lady, she gazed at the pack of lions and chuckled.
“The Marauders have returned I take it?” she asked McGonagall.
McGonagall nodded wearily causing the Fat Lady to chuckle even more before swinging open to allow the Gryffindors entry.
McGonagall approached the lead lion and said, “Mr. Weasley, I want you to make sure that none of the students leave the common room before the transformation has ended.” Percy gave a curt nod and curled up to guard the portrait hole. She turned to the other three lions, “Mr. Potter. Mr. Weasley. Mr. Longbottom; since it is obvious that the other students respect you, I ask that you help him in any way you can.”
The three of them nodded and took up positions around the portrait holes.
McGonagall looked around the common room to see a few of the lions head up to the dormitories. Most, however, crowded around the fireplace and in the corners. As she was about to leave, she saw three of lionesses approach and lay down besides Harry, Ron, and Neville. The professor’s gave a genuine smile knowing it wasn’t too hard to figure out who the lionesses were. McGonagall took once last look around and exited the Common Room.
At about three thirty in the morning, multiple flashes of light lit up the common room as every student slowly became human again.
By the portrait hole, a red haired witch snuggled herself closer to a raven haired wizard. The wizard woke only longer enough to wrap his arms around the witch before succumbing to the darkness once more.