The Heir and a Spare – 4/6 – SASundance

Title: The Heir and a Spare
Author: SASundance
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Family, Hurt/Comfort, Tragedy
Relationship(s): Gen
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Hate Crimes/Hate Speech, Incest, Torture, Violence – Graphic, Violence – Domestic and/or Against Children, Cousin Incest, Discussion of canon related under-aged sex and pregnancies, Suicidality of a character, Insanity, Infertility issues, Linebreeding, Very dark themes, Rape and torture of victims, Child abuse, Bigotry and ignorance, War and cults, misogyny, dubcon, misunderstanding of genetics
Author Notes: If you are likely to be triggered, please take warnings seriously. There is a lot of dark content in this one. It is a story of war, hate and vengeance. Please see main story page or post 1 for additional information. Author uses British spelling.
Word Count: 177,000
Summary: It was clear to Lord Arcturus Black, Head of the Ancient and Noble House of Black that the most powerful pureblood family in Britain faced the prospect of line extinction within the next few generation. Unless the decline in birth rates, fertility, magic, and longevity wasn’t arrested soon, it would be too late. He came up with a unique solution to his problem, never realising that it would make it possible for the House of Black to defeat an existential threat to the magical and muggle world. But that victory would come at considerable cost to the family, in particular to his heir and the spare.
Artist: librarycat9



Part Four: The Animagi

Chapter 25

September 1974 (The Marauders’ 4th Year at Hogwarts)

Sirius was glad to be returning to Hogwarts after a particularly depressing holiday. In lots of ways, Hogwarts felt more like his home than Grimmauld Place ever would. Yet even at school, he had people like Malfoy and his ilk out to get him because of his life choices, so what did it say about how crappy his home life was. Thankfully, Malfoy and Lestrange graduated at the end of last year but he was sure that some tosser would step up and take his place.

However, even though the atmosphere hadn’t been good at home, particularly between him and Regulus after his brother’s betrayal and all the fallout from it, he’d managed to play the mother of all pranks on his um… mother dearest. It was glorious and it had driven the nutter to distraction and as an unanticipated bonus, Kreacher had been massively pissed off as well too. So, a win-win situation for him!

He’d gotten a whole heap of posters (big photographs) from Adrian Whitehead, a muggle-born 6th year Gryffindor that showed muggle females in bikinis who were draping themselves over the bonnets of expensive muggle sports cars or sitting on motorbikes in leather swimming costumes. He had to admit that muggles really knew a thing or two about swimming costumes, including that they used a lot less fabric than wizarding ones but leather? That really wouldn’t work if you went swimming…still they looked good!

Anyway, he’d charmed the pictures to move like magical photographs and he’d stuck them up all over his bedroom at Grimmauld Place with a modified sticking charm which he’d come up with when he was bored. Walburga spent weeks trying to remove them, decreeing that they were filthy and depraved but nothing that she and Kreacher threw at them would unstick them. Sirius thought it was hilarious – he had always been rather good at Charm work and this modification in particular was a doozy.

He’d stubbornly refused to take them down, not even when it reached the shrieking and pulling hair out stage of utter frustration. Well technically that had been his mother, not her house-elf; Kreacher was quite bald, except for some rather long hairs growing out of his ears that he steadfastly refused to remove or trim.

Sirius remained obdurate, even when his ‘loving’ mother cast a Cruciatus Curse on him, flatly refusing to remove them from his bedroom walls. His Uncle Alphard found out about her cursing him somehow (a little elf called Bitty might have told him) and his uncle told his grandfather Pollux who also happened to be Alphard and his mother’s father. Pollux threatened to disown his mother if she ever cast an Unforgivable on her own son again. While it did scare her into not using it on him, it probably made her hate him even more so, in this case, it turned out to be a win-lose situation for Sirius.

Not that he lost much sleep over it; he knew she’d never genuinely loved him, not like Regulus. She’d probably started to really loathe him when he went to Hogwarts and was sorted into Gryffindor, so he figured, how much worse could it get.

As it turned out, he was wrong. It could and did get a whole lot worse, although he didn’t know that yet.

Of course, a part of the reason he was so determined to drive his mother to distraction was that with all her insane ravings over the muggle models (or in his mother’s parlance, hussies, harridans, and whores) his brother, Regulus missed out on all the cossetting and mutual lovefest that he’d come to expect as his due these past three years following Sirius’ defection into Gryffindor. While Sirius hadn’t narked on him to the family for setting him up and nearly getting him killed, that didn’t mean he wanted him to get off scot-free either.

Truthfully, he wanted his brother to suffer some sort of consequence. Of course, that wasn’t all that likely to happen, unfortunately, and Reg would continue to think he could get away with it. From what he said, backed up by their mad mother’s ranting diatribes, Regulus saw himself as the heir apparent to the Heir (their father, Orion) of the Ancient and Noble House of Black. Frankly, Sirius didn’t care if Reg was the heir apparent; he was welcome to it. What bothered Sirius was that it made him feel like he was untouchable; that he could get away with murder.

Another reason that the holidays were a washout was that the Ankle Biters aka all the cousins rarely came together anymore and when they did, it was just plain awkward. That was mostly because Regulus was truculent and superior; Phineas could be a bit of a berk, although, to be fair they were used to him. But with Sirius, Pip and the twins being in Gryffindor and Regulus always acting like a snotty brat, it took the fun out of their gatherings. Of course, the fact that everyone knew that Reg betrayed his brother and could have gotten him killed didn’t sit well with any of them, even Phineas was appalled. Especially when Regulus wasn’t even a little bit remorseful about it – just cranky he’d been caught out and more than a little pissed off that his fellow Slytherins partial blamed him for losing the House Cup when they’d been 175 points ahead. So, sadly the once fun get-togethers fizzled out.

In their stead, Sirius found them organising Gryffindor trips to one of his favourite places – his Aunt Cassiopeia’s farm with the twins, Aaron and Ares Prewitt, Pip, Gemini, and young Archer plus Pandora. Even though Panda was a Ravenclaw, she was a good friend to them all, particularly Sirius and Pip and they wouldn’t dream of excluding her. He felt somewhat guilty about leaving out Phineas and Reg, so he invited the older Prewitt twins, Gideon and Fabian and the Marauders, James, Peter, and Remus to make it more Gryffindorish and less Ankle Biter like. The Marauders and Fabian and Gideon, who hadn’t been to Aunt Cassie’s farm before had a fantastic time and declared that Cassie was a real cool aunty. She’d let them ride the horses, stuff themselves with food, fly down on their brooms to the private beach and go swimming.

Less fun but very much needed was the resumption of his private tutoring studies which were being paid for by his Grandfather, Arcturus Black and his duelling lessons with Uncle Alphard. Sirius knew that his extra tutoring was why he’d gone to Frank and Alice and asked for help, even though his protective instincts for his brother were telling him to handle it on his own. The last thing he wanted was a reoccurrence of what had happened when James was attacked because of him. But if his private tutors had taught him nothing else, it was that in battle, you always needed backup and a plan B.

As it turned out, the family rendezvous had been a trap and he did need Frank and Alice. He had to admit that when they advised him that they needed to let a member of the staff know what was going on, he hadn’t been happy about it, but he also trusted them both. Thankfully when he’d vetoed going to Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall, they hadn’t tried to overrule him, respecting his opinion that neither member of the staff them trusted him because of his family and his sorting. Panda had always spoken highly of Professor Flitwick and the professor had always treated him well in his Charms classes. Plus, after his uncle’s duelling sessions he figured that as a duelling champion, the diminutive professor would be highly strategic.

The fact Professor Flitwick was deeply upset about Malfoy and Lestrange getting off so lightly, had certainly endeared him to Sirius and the others. He only wished that the Charms Professor had been there to see the glorious prank that someone played on the pair of ex-Hogwarts students, vanishing their clothes, and confounding them so they were totally oblivious to the fact they were strolling down the platform at Kings Cross Station.

Plus, Priscilla Pounds mother was picking up her daughter and captured the whole thing on camera and plastered their state of undress all over the Prophet. Some of the letters to the editor weren’t exactly flattering about the size of Malfoy’s equipment, theorising that his small endowment might be why he was such a git. Of course, the Prophet hadn’t shown either wizards’ bits – they’d blurred them out but the fact that Lucius’ blurring was much smaller than Lestrange’s was rather obvious.

Although it wasn’t justice for Malfoy’s crimes, if Sirius could discover who had had pulled off such an elegant prank, he’d shower them in Honeydukes chocolate for a year. Unfortunately, no one was admitting to it. He knew most people thought it was the Marauders and they thought it was Fabian and Gideon but both boys denied being responsible. Barty Crouch had paid the Prewitts and the Marauders a visit and asked to examine their wands after Abraxas had complained to the DMLE, but they had been unable to discover who had pulled it off. Whoever was responsible, it had been a bloody good start to the holidays from hell.

As for Sirius’ father, he mostly ignored his eldest son. Once or twice over the holidays Orion deigned to notice him, mostly to berate him for his life choices. His father declared it was high time he lost his virginity with Madame Solange at the Red Lantern in Knockturn Alley. Desperate to avoid that scenario, Sirius talked about all the girls he’d snogged in broom cupboards at Hogwarts, which apparently, was where people lost their virginity. He made sure that the fictitious encounters that he invented were suitably lurid and that they always took place with muggle born Gryffindors or Hufflepuffs witches, knowing how much that would offend his father’s delicate pureblood sensibilities.

He was right, not that it was surprising since dear old dad was nothing if not predictable. Orion had regarded him as something diseased and stomped off in a rage, telling him he was a deep disappointment. At least it had the desired effect that he stopped talking about setting Sirius up with a prostitute.

The truth was that he was starting to become interested in all things sexual, but he didn’t want to be forced into doing anything because his father thought he should be having sex. He didn’t want to be anything like his grandfather, Pollux who’d sired a baby when he was twelve years old because he couldn’t control his sexual urges. Nor did he want to like his Uncle Cygnus who’d followed his father Pollux, appalling example and had crazy Bellatrix at thirteen. Was it merely a coincidence that both wizards had gotten witches pregnant when they were twelve and had two babies (both witches) who were barmy? Well, it certainly served as an especially useful incentive to avoid getting carried away by his hormones and Uncle Alphard made sure he could cast the contraceptive charm in his sleep!

Maybe that was why Uncle Alphard was still a bachelor, that or he preferred other wizards to witches, which was fine by Sirius if that was the case, just like he had no problem with his Aunt Cassiopeia who was into other witches. It was no one’s business but her own and if his uncle preferred wizards, well he wished for him to be happy. One of his Gryffindor dorm mates, Kronkus Woods was mad about wizards and he was a cool guy. He often helped Sirius and Lily to avoid their stalkers aka Pip and James Potter. Meanwhile, he wished everyone else would do him the courtesy of bloody well staying out of his love life or the lack of it.

Unfortunately, it seemed that no one in the family had gotten that memo. One day he found himself having lunch at the Leaky Cauldron with his uncle after a trip to Twilfitt and Tatting’s to be fitted for some new robes because of a growth spurt. Fortunately, he’d conned Alphard into venturing out into Muggle London so Sirius could buy some t-shirts and jeans which he preferred to wear when he could get away with it. When Alphard suggested they eat lunch, he shrugged. Any excuse not to have to return to Grimmauld Place was okay by him, although Sirius preferred to eat at one of the cheerier cafes in the Alley than the Leaky – it was old, grimy with soot and a bit depressing. He guessed that older wizards liked it because the food was good.

They’d been shown to one of the private rooms and he was surprised to find his grandfather Arcturus already sitting at the table sipping a butterbeer. Keeping his features blank to not give away his shock, Sirius decided that Arcturus must have wanted to meet with his uncle, however after placing an order of Shepard’s pie that Walburga despised as being pheasant food, he was unpleasantly surprised to discover that his grandfather wished to talk to him. It began with innocuous inquiries into his health and his exam results – his gaining perfect scores in DADA, Charms and Transfiguration and tying overall with Lily, James, and Snape with Remus just eight points behind. He thought that it wasn’t fair that their exams had fallen right in the middle of a full moon and if it hadn’t, he knew that Remus would have probably tied for first place too.

It wasn’t long before his grandfather got around to the real reason for the audience with his grandson – not a familial one but House business. Sirius supposed he shouldn’t be surprised – the only adult who ever sought him out to spent time with him was Alphard, although to be fair, both of his great aunts, Cassie and Dorea were nice to him when he met up with them. Alphard was the only one to come to Grimmauld to visit him though. He tried to tell himself that he didn’t care but it hurt when he saw the way the other Black kids were indulged and coddled. Even the way that Arcturus spoilt the twins and little Gemini, his other grandchildren and all but ignored him and Reg was hurtful – but at least he knew that it wasn’t solely about him.

Arcturus looked at him appraisingly. “As you may know, I’ve received a formal request from your father to approve a betrothal contract between you and Miss Primrose Parkinson,” he informed Sirius. “Since you are not of legal age, as the Head of the House of Black I must approve any unions or betrothals. I wish to know your preferences on the matter.”

Sirius was so angry that he couldn’t speak but his magic bristled. Arcturus and Alphard exchanged meaningful looks before his uncle put his hand comfortingly on the back of his neck.

“Your dad didn’t tell you, did he?”

Sirius managed to shake his head. He was incandescent with rage. And he was trying hard not to fall back on his default setting of Apparating somewhere to get away.

“I take it this isn’t something you want,” his grandfather asked him.

Sirius exploded. “Just because my uncle and grandfather got witches pregnant when they were twelve doesn’t mean I’m going to do something stupid.”

Arcturus and his uncle looked pleased to hear that.

His grandfather asked him again, “So you do not want this betrothal to Miss Parkinson to proceed.”

Sirius snorted, “Parkinson’s a troll and she’s five years older than me. I don’t think so,” he said, wishing he could say what he really meant but Blacks weren’t permitted to lose control, particularly when they in public.

Alphard tried unsuccessfully to stifle a chuckle before saying, “The poor girl can’t help what she looks like, Sirius.”

“I was talking about Primrose’s intellectual capacity,” Sirius said dryly.

Arcturus nodded. “Sadly, I must agree with you about her intellect and while five years isn’t that much of a difference when you’re older, it is quite significant at your age. So, I’ll happily deny this betrothal…and should I deny all future betrothals that come from your parents, too? You aren’t considering Pegasus Potter as a future wife, are you?”

Sirius laughed before realising that his grandfather was in earnest. He looked at his uncle and rolled his eyes. “Tell him, Uncle Alphard, that Pip has been wanting to marry me since she was five years old, and I keep telling her it isn’t going to happen.”

His uncle nodded. “It’s all true.”

Arcturus looked pleased. “I do not believe she would be a good match for you; nor for that matter would she be suitable for Regulus.”

Sirius figured his grandfather disapproved of Pip because she was a Potter. Plus, she was also a Gryffindor, but then so was he. As for his brother and Pip, he was reasonably sure that Pip would never forgive Reg for his abhorrent supremacist beliefs and the betrayal. Gryffindors took a dim view of selling out your brother and Pip had also cast herself in the role of his champion, not that he needed anyone to fight his battles for him. He’d chosen not to be sorted into Slytherin and as the saying went – he’d made his potion, now he needed to drink it up.

Sirius loved Pip, not in the ‘I want to have babies and spend the rest of our lives together’ sort of way but as his cousin who was his friend and a member of his family. So being told by his grandfather he did not favour them marrying didn’t make him want to rebel. He didn’t notice the calculated look that his uncle shot his grandfather and wouldn’t have given it any thought if he had.

The lunch proceeded with his grandfather quizzing him about his wandless magical tutoring which he was paying for again during the summer holidays and his Occlumency and advanced DADA instructors. Sirius took the opportunity to thank him for arranging and paying for his private tutors. Arcturus looked gratified by his thanks before praising him a second time for his outstanding exam results this year. Sirius shrugged nonchalantly as if getting Outstanding grades in seven subjects and two firsts in DADA and Charms was no big accomplishment but secretly, he was pleased to receive an acknowledgment from the two wizards.

Neither of his parents had praised his efforts or showed any interest in his extra lessons. Not that he was surprised by it – it was about what he’d expected. Nothing he did would ever overcome the fact that he was a Gryffindor, not a Slytherin. They saw him as a traitor and he could tell himself he didn’t give an Abyssinian shrivelfig what his family thought about him, but it wasn’t completely true – it felt good to know that his favourite uncle was proud of him. Apparently, Lord Black was also satisfied with his results and cared enough to help him protect himself by paying for extra tutoring and that also felt good. The weird thing was that while a part of him lapped up their praise, another part of him found that it made him sad since it only served to emphasize what he’d missed out on for the last 14 years.

Shaking off his self-pitying, he refocused on the rest of the luncheon conversation which was mostly between Arcturus and Alphard. Sirius found it quite informative given his own research interests and personal goals, although he was a bit surprised that they talked at length about the Knights of Walpurgis in his presence. They were discussing their current activities including the latest dark wizard they’d rallied behind. Arcturus said that he was a grifter and a fraud who was calling himself Lord Voldemort which was a made-up name to go along with the phony identity he was claiming as a pureblood.

His grandfather pointed out rather scathingly, “A quick perusal of any of several wizarding genealogy books would have proved his story was false.”

Alphard nodded gravely. “Tom Riddle went to Hogwarts before my time but Walburga was in the form above him when he’d started, and Aunt Dorea was in sixth year. Both witches were in Slytherin where he was sorted. According to Dorea, it was common knowledge that that he’d grown up in a muggle orphanage because he always stayed at Hogwarts over the school holidays, even at Christmas.”

Sirius’ grandfather agreed. “Everyone would have known that he wasn’t a pureblood wizard because a pureblood wizard would never have gone to a muggle institution. A pureblood orphan would have been placed in a magical home even if there were no family, so at best he was a half-blood, but he could just as easily be muggle-born, so I really fail to see how anyone at Hogwarts could fall for his Lord Voldemort rubbish.

Sirius was listening agog to their conversation, trying not to draw attention to himself in case they stopped talking in front of him. Finally, he couldn’t contain his curiosity any longer.

“But how do you know that this Voldemort and Tom Riddle aren’t two different wizards?” he blurted out before wanting to hex himself for his lack of control.

His grandfather looked at him appraisingly before his Uncle Alphard answered his question, “Because the cretin started calling himself Lord Voldemort during his last two years at Hogwarts,” Alphard snorted disparagingly.

Sirius had to admit that was quite conclusive, since that would mean a lot of people knew his real identity. Did the stupid berk think people would simply forget about who he was?

The young Gryffindor mentally filed away all the information he’d heard so he could do some research later. Although, if his uncle and grandfather believed it was true, then it probably was. Still, based upon everything his tutors had taught him there was no such thing as too much information when you were dealing with your opponents. Sirius was almost certain that whoever it was that attacked him last year were members of the secret group calling themselves the Knights of Walpurgis. If so, then they were his enemies and by extension, so was this Tom Riddle.

As they finished up their lunch and were preparing to depart the Leaky Caldron, Arcturus startled him by saying, “As a reward for your perfect score on DADA, Charms and Transfiguration you will come to the Manor on Wednesdays from 2.00 pm until 4.00 pm. I will undertake to give you advanced magical training you will one day be required to know as an Heir of the Ancient and Noble House of Black.”

Sirius just stood there, dumbfounded, not sure how he felt that evidently, Arcturus still considered him to be in line to inheritance. He couldn’t imagine that his family would be happy to think that a Gryffindor might rule the House of Black. Merlin’s arse, he didn’t even like most of them!

Unfazed by his lack of speech he finished by saying. “Your Uncle Alphard will arrange your transport and for your first class, please read up on enchanted fire. We will be practising casting it at your first session. I’m sure that you will be able to find information about it in the Library at Grimmauld Place. Don’t be late,” he warned before Apparating away.

The holidays passed by rather slowly, like detentions always did and was filled with tension, aside from his private tutoring which helped to keep him from going crazy. His father was angry that Arcturus had vetoed the betrothal contract between him and Parkinson and made life even more unpleasant. Thankfully, there were also a few highlights – invitations to hang out at James or Remus homes for a sleepover with all four Marauders invited. He noticed that Peter didn’t invite them to his home, and he wondered why – was he ashamed of his parents, but then again, Sirius didn’t invite his friends to his home either.

There was no way in the world he’d willingly bring anyone back to 12 Grimmauld Place to meet his father Orion, the Knights of Walpurgis fanboy and especially not to encounter his mother, Walburga who was batshit crazy. He didn’t want his friends to know how shitty his home life truly was. Although, he’d invited the Marauders to his Aunt Cassie’s a couple of times because she was one of the saner Blacks and her farm was a cool place to hang out.

Doubtful Pete’s parents could be as bad!

Chapter 26

Now that Sirius was back at Hogwarts, he was bound and determined that this year he was going to make progress with his Animagus form – a project which was proving to frustratingly slow to the impatient young Gryffindor. Sirius’ notoriously inability to bide his time was another reason why he thought he wasn’t suited to being a Slytherin, he was much too impulsive. His private tutors had pointed out to him that it was a potential weakness that his opponent could take advantage of. He was working on it, but it certainly didn’t come naturally.

However, over the holidays, Sirius had a breakthrough. He’d come across another book about Animagi in the Grimmauld library called, The Dangerous Process of Becoming an Animagus: A Step-by-Step Guide. The first couple of books he’d snitched from their library had ended up being useless duds as far as he was concerned, or else the Marauders simply weren’t good enough wizards to make it work.

This book had been hidden behind a darkly abhorrent book in the library about 100 useful ways to exterminate magical creatures, which was why he hadn’t found it before now. Sirius was quite sure that the spell book contained a chapter on ways to kill werewolves and had always given it a wide berth.

He wasn’t exactly sure what had prompted him to take the highly offensive book off the shelf because obviously, he didn’t want to read it, except one day while he was looking for information, he’d felt an overpowering compulsion to pull it out. So, he did and voila – hidden behind it was the book on how to become an Animagus written by J.K. Rowle, back in 1855. A quick check of a genealogy book told him that Joseph Karsen Rowle was related to the current Head of the House of Rowle, who was one of the Sacred Twenty- Eight families.

It would be fair to assume that the author was an Animagus but no, Rowle stated that he wrote the book with information that had been passed down to him via his ancestors. Which was possible, that or he had been an Animagus but wasn’t registered with the Ministry of Magic, Sirius reckoned cynically. Anyway, it advocated a different method of achieving the transformation – instead of hundreds of hours of meditation and becoming one with your inner animal form, which so far hadn’t worked for Sirius, James, or Peter.

Instead, it outlined a method of making a potion which sounded extremely tricky. So okay, Peter was rather ordinary at Potions and James wasn’t a whole heap better, which was weird when you thought about the Potters coming from a long line of Potion-makers. Luckily, Remus and himself more than competent and could help the other two with making the potion.

Sirius looked at the first step for making the potion that was a part of the process of becoming an Animagus, wondering for at least the twentieth time how Peter was going to cope with it. Rawle described how you needed to take a single leaf from a mandragora (mandrake) plant and keep it in your mouth for one month, from full moon to full moon. If at any point the leaf was swallowed or removed from the mouth, the process must be started again. He could totally see how difficult that would be, especially when eating or drinking, not to mention sleeping.

Plus, there was no guarantee if you managed to do it successfully that you would produce a viable ingredient for the potion. According to Rowle, the leaf is then removed at the full moon and placed in a crystal phial that receives the pure moon rays and if it is cloudy, the process must be repeated. There was no mention of what might cause the vial to be cloudy, which made it impossible to avoid whatever it was that caused the mandragora to be ineffective. Sirius could imagine how frustrating it could be, but he was willing to give this a shot since the whole meditation rigmarole wasn’t working either.

As he expected, the Marauders were excited when he showed them the book he’d found and it was also no surprise that Peter was horrified by the method necessary to prepare the mandrake, claiming it was impossible. Luckily, James was keen to give it a go and he could be bloody persuasive when he wanted to be. Like Sirius, he hated the thought of Remus going through his horrible transformations all alone. He was determined to become an Animagus and be there for his friend. Peter was always keen to stay in James good books, since he idolised him and agreed to give it a go too.

~o0o~

It was James who organised them – Peter was assigned the job of acquiring the Mandragora leaves from Professor Sprout greenhouse, a task that Peter was uniquely suited to. People tended not to notice him, which came in handy during their pranks when they needed to acquire supplies. He possessed an amazing sleight of hand, being able to snatch something without drawing attention to what he was doing.

Meanwhile, James had assigned Remus the task of figuring out how they could acquire the other ingredients needed for Step 2 of their potion. They would each need one of their own hairs, which was easy enough to acquire but the other ingredients were a lot trickier. A silver teaspoonful of dew which had been collected from a place untouched by sunlight and human feet for seven days, and the chrysalis of a Death’s-Head Hawk Moth were gonna be tricky.

Remus had snorted, “Trickier than tickling a slumbering dragon,” he grumbled before finally agreeing to do his best to figure out how to get the stuff they’d need.

Lastly, James said that he and Sirius would search out a suitable location where Step 3 could take place as Rowle stated that the potion had to be left in a quiet, dark place undisturbed. It couldn’t be touched by sunlight or even looked at until the next electrical storm. And try to locate the crystal phials needed to make the potion.

While it seemed like a simple enough task for them both to undertake, he knew that Sirius understood that he’d given Remus the most difficult job because Remus’ wolf was feeling guilty that they were doing all of this for him. James knew that Remus deeply regretted the oath they had taken to become Animagi so they could be with him during his full moon transformations almost as soon as they’d done it. He’d been even more concerned after reading Rowle’s introductory statement about becoming an Animagus.

It stated, “Animagi, those wizards and witches who master the advanced skill of Transfiguration – turning into the form of an animal while retaining their own mental capacities, are thought to be incredibly rare. It differs from the ordinary Transfiguration of a human into an animal’s form which results in the human having an animal’s brain.

As to possible explanations for why Animagi are so uncommon in the Wizarding world it may well be due to this process as outlined in this book being long, complex, and quite tedious. The individual needs to be skilled in Transfiguration and Potion making; also, they need no small amount of patience as this method can take several years to complete. If something goes wrong, horrendous consequences usually involving half-human, half-animal mutations may occur. These mistakes are irreversible, and the witch or wizard will remain in this state permanently.”

Remus had turned a whiter shade of pale (to borrow a phrase from a popular muggle song by a rock band – Procol Harum that the Marauders listened to) and immediately insisted that they stop any and all attempts to become Animagi. Sirius had reminded him gently but firmly that they had no way of knowing if the information in the book was truly accurate and even if it was, they had all taken oaths to do their best to become Animagi. If they stopped now because it might be dangerous, they would lose their magic. At that point, Peter, who had been nodding approval at Remus’ insistence that they halt the Animagus project had turned an even whiter shade of pale than Remus and had a meltdown.

“I would never have taken a Wizard’s Oath if I’d known it was dangerous. Can’t we do something?” he said pleadingly, and they all looked to James and Sirius, who shrugged.

James shook his head decisively. “As far as I know, there isn’t any way to undo the oath.” He looked at his cousin. “Any ideas?”

Sirius looked at Peter a little contemptuously. Peter liked the notoriety of being a Marauder and the protection they gave him from bullies, but he wasn’t keen on the risks and dangers of pranking. He shrugged, “I can check the library the next time I go home, but I don’t think so.”

Remus brightened. “Good idea. I’ll check the school library too.”

James nodded. “Sounds like a plan, Marauders. Meanwhile, until we know the score we need to keep trying.”

This was why when he assigned them tasks in preparation for following Joseph Rowle’s method, he’d given Remus the most complex job to keep him from getting all wolfish and brooding. Peter wasn’t happy but what could he do? At least the sneaking around and nicking mandrake was something he excelled at and it kept him occupied. So, the Marauders all obediently went away and began to figure out their assigned tasks.

As he and James debated the best place to store their potions, they watched rather smugly as Remus (who was the most fastidious of their group) obsessed over the details regarding a chrysalis of a Deaths-Head Hawk Moth.

Did it need to be fresh or not?

Was it the chrysalis, the casing, and the insect or just the cocoon?

What thickness did the crystal phial need to be to receive the moon’s rays?

He would growl constantly at author, J.K. Rowle about the lack of accurate details that could prove the difference between success and failure.

James and Sirius were also busy. They diligently searched mail order catalogues hoping to find crystal phials, but it was proving to be more difficult than they thought it would be. Sirius thought that it was just the kind of obscure item that Borgin and Burkes might have hiding in their store but didn’t say anything to the others since they couldn’t check it out before the Christmas break at the earliest. James also told them that coming from a long line of potion makers his father might have some gathering dust in his lab since he’d retired from potion-making. But he wouldn’t be able to check it out until the holidays at least. Too impatient to wait, Remus started combing the library for any reference to crystal phials and Peter suggested they ask Sluggy – their potions professor.

Although it was a smart suggestion, they decided that would be their last straw, when all other avenues failed because Professor Slughorn had been trying his best to recruit the Marauders for his Slug Club – at least recruit Sirius and James – despite his seeming incompetence at brewing. It was his written assignments that saved Potter from earning Trolls or Dreadful; and the fact that Sirius was his lab partner. Luckily, he was more than competent – he seemed to have a natural affinity for brewing but there was only his great aunt Dorea who held a Mastery in experimental potions in his family. As James came from a family of potion makers back to the eleventh century it seemed inconceivable that James could be so terrible at brewing, but Sirius blamed his ineptitude on the fact that Lily and Severus Snape aka Snivellus worked right in front of him in class.

Unfortunately for his potions grade, James was still hopelessly besotted with the beautiful red-headed witch, although her friendship with Pip Potter, Pandora Abbott and Remus meant that Lily often hung out with the Marauders and their extended social group. The group which included the two sets of Prewitt twins had also expanded to include Gemini Prewitt, Aaron and Anson’s younger sister who’d had started at Hogwarts this year too. Not surprisingly, the little red-haired witch had been sorted in Gryffindor too and was greatly enjoying her first year at school.

Now that they were in their fourth year, the amount of classwork and assignments increased for the Marauders and they were always incredibly busy. Along with their schoolwork, they still had their chocolate business to run and of course, there was their pranking that while a lot of fun, had an incredibly serious side to it. Their teachers often chided them when they were caught out (often deliberately) or were being interrogated as chief suspects in some mischief or crime, saying that they were getting too old to engage in childish pranks.

No one ever seemed to realise that their hijinks served an important purpose. So far, no one looked like they were focused on Remus, his illness and the timing of his attacks always coinciding with the full moon and that was mostly thanks to the Marauders and their nonsense, distracting everyone successfully. However, all that pranking required a lot of planning and time, not that they begrudged the effort, Remus was worth it. It was just that it made for a very full life. Often sleep was sacrificed to fit everything in – but Sirius wouldn’t have it any other way.

Meanwhile, there was also the Marauders ongoing project to become Occlumens since Sirius had rightly pointed out that if they intended to keep their attempts to become Animagi secret they would need to be competent Occlumens as well. That meant that they needed to set aside enough time to practise. Knowing it was going to be an extremely busy year, they decided to ask Ares and Aron to help Gideon and Fabian out with the chocolate business. It would give the guys some welcome pocket money and give the Marauders more time to devote to Occlumency – so a win-win situation all around.

Sirius had received a lot of valuable tutoring in Occlumency over the summer holidays. He couldn’t wait to pass along what he’d learnt. His tutor was a wizard called Ulrich Meyer who’d also taught Occlumency to his cousins, Bella, Andi and Narcissa. He had spent two months with Ulrich working with him on creating a mental mindscape. Meyer explained that the purpose was partly to help organise his thoughts and memories but splitting them up and putting them in separate locations was more than a way to make them easier for him to access. It was to further safeguard himself against an intrusion by a skilled Legilimens wanting to steal his thoughts and memories.

His tutor had also warned his student that his Headmaster was reputed to be a highly skilled mind reader and he needed to avoid making prolonged eye contact with him. Sirius wondered flippantly if that might be why Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled all the time. Perhaps he’d charmed them to sparkle so that students would make eye contact with him, giving him time to read their minds.

Meyer was not exactly a fan of the Supreme Mugwump – although his mother was a Selwyn and a member of the Sacred Twenty-Eight Families in the Wizengamot, Ulrich had been educated in Durmstrang, a school that was renowned for its focus on the Dark Arts. He stressed how imperative it was for each wizard or witch who practised the art of Occlumency to create an utterly unique mindscape – the more complex the better so that any invaders had to figure out how to navigate it.

The longer the Legilimens wasted trying to figure out how to traverse through unique traps and obstacles, the more chance they had of getting caught or having to retreat to avoid being detected.

His tutor was scathing about the Occlumency practised by the British Ministry of Magic where everyone was given a generic mindscape to create, usually a room filled with filing cabinets. Ulrich declared that was far too easy to breach – once you knew how to search the filing cabinets, it was too quick and easy to rifle through the person’s memories. By creating a unique mindscape, the Legilimens had to start from scratch, making it far more challenging for even the best mind reader to breach their defences.

Over the holidays, Sirius had worked hard on creating his mindscape. Remus who had turned out to be the best natural Legilimens of all the Marauders was keen to check it out. Sirius had chosen to recreate the place where he had felt safe and happy – Zornita Ruzha, the family rose farm at Kazanlak – as his unique mindscape. Remus caught glimpses of row upon row of rose bushes, sheds for storage, processing, and equipment, plus a series of dams and various cottages and a distant mansion in a beautiful green landscape.

He realised he was on some sort of farm but had no way of knowing that Sirius had bundled up memories and then buried them in various location around the several hundred acres of land. That was probably because he was too busy running from a ferocious black dog. He exited quickly and scowled at Sirius.

“You didn’t think to give me a heads up?”

Sirius chuckled, “I take it you met Черно?” he said pronouncing it Cher-no

Peter piped up, “What’s a cherno?”

“It’s a bloody huge black monstrosity that chased me out of his mindscape. It tried to bite me on the arse, you tosser!” Remus explained sounding peeved.

James smirked. “A monster?”

Sirius rolled his eyes. “Черно was my friend when I was small. He was a big black shepherd dog that turned up at Zornita Ruzha, in Kazanlak where I was born and lived until I was six. I used him as my security system after I finished organising my memories.”

“Well… he was bloody terrifying,” Remus told him crossly. “A word of warning that you had some traps set would have been considerate for your fellow Marauder.

Sirius looked pleased. “Good, I’m glad he did his job. I thought about using my mother- she can be freaking scary but decided to go with Черно,” he said flippantly, as everyone laughed, not realising it was the truth.

He’d decided after much thought that having a drooling screaming monster residing inside his head was a too high a price to pay and recreated his very own Черно instead. Remus had just validated that decision.

“As to warning you, well a) how would that be a real test of my security if you knew about it and b) you’re a werewolf, Remus; I figured you would make friends with him.”

Since there was no faulting that logic, Remus stopped complaining but he was still peeved. The two other Marauders wanted to meet Черно too even though they weren’t as skilled as Remus. It felt like he had two elephants stomping around inside his head, but they were all impresses and inspired by his mindscape even if Черно tried to eat Peter.

Encouraged by Sirius success, the rest of the Marauders worked away diligently all term, setting a goal for themselves of having a mental mindscape in place by Christmas. Remus decided to organise his memories into a series of dug out earthen dens guarded by a large pack of wolves. That was hardly surprising to the other Marauders given that he was a werewolf and knew a lot about wolves. Sirius reckoned you’d need to go and see a mind healer if you tried to penetrate Lupin’s defences although he appeared to be such a mild-mannered wizard, appearances could be deceptive.

James had opted to create a tree with many different branches, leaves and hollows in which to hide his memories with owls as his security system. When they’d all tried to access it to check for any weaknesses, as they did for each other’s mindscape, Remus had commented later that James tree reminded him more like a deer’s antler than any tree he’d ever seen. James had taken offence and said he wouldn’t know a tree if jumped up and bit him on the bum and Remus laughed and said Potter was spending too much time hanging around the Womping Willow if he thought trees could bite.

To the other Marauders’ surprise, Peter had gotten into Occlumency, especially once they’d gotten into creating their mindscapes. It proved that he could be highly capable when it was something he was interested in or that he enjoyed doing. Sirius figured that most of the time, Peter was just too lazy to put in the effort, unless there was some payoff. Making good grades apparently didn’t meet that criterion.

His mindscape turned out to be a maze, an extraordinarily complex labyrinth that contained some very nasty traps, like a concealed hole in the ground with pointy bamboo spikes inside to impale intruders if they tried to traverse the hole. Peter also had a giant serpent that could swallow a full-grown wizard or witch whole, and a flesh-eating fish swimming in an innocent-looking pond. His defences were bloodthirsty, and Sirius realised that perhaps Pete could have survived in Slytherin after all. Anyway, his traps were a good deterrent for any sneaky Legilimens wanting to gain access to his mind.

All four Marauders had done an outstanding job and as they took the Hogwarts Express home for the Christmas holidays they were smugly pleased with their progress. They’d all achieved their goals of creating effective and unique mindscapes and their Occlumency would help with not only their pranking efforts but more importantly, since they were not planning on registering with the Ministry of Magic, concealing their goal of becoming Animagi. Now all they needed to do was locate those damned crystal phials and they could finally start preparing the Animagus potion in J.K. Rowle’s book. Sirius was going to make a secret trip to Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley to see if they had any crystal phials.

Aside from being able to run that errand by returning to London, he wasn’t exactly looking forward to spending Christmas at home and he was right. It was the usual nightmare, except that his mother seemed to be even crazier than she was when he left or maybe he was just becoming more intolerant of her. Sirius never considered that she might be getting worse since she was no longer able to spend her days with her precious Regulus, who she doted on. And that with his absence for ten months a year, she spent even more time with the crazy house-elf Kreacher, which only fed both of their lunacy.

However, it wasn’t only his mother that Sirius found very disquieting; he also didn’t like the looks his father was giving him or how he suddenly decided to praise him for his outstanding exam results last year. Orion was up to something, but he wasn’t sure what.

The Black Family Christmas dinner was its usual mix of the pomp and ceremony befitting the most powerful of the Ancient and Noble Houses in Britain, mixed with a deep sense of awkwardness. Although with Lycoris Greengrass, Lucretia Prewitt and their husbands and children invited this year as well as Dorea, Charlus, Archer and Pip Potter, he had some friendly faces at the table.

Unfortunately, there was also Bella and her husband, the detestable Rodolphus Lestrange. The pair had married on Christmas Eve and they managed to catch him alone and make dire threats about his longevity. Not that he wasn’t used to that shit from the former Slytherin and his mad cousin Bella, but he couldn’t believe he had to tolerate it at his grandfather’s home.

He’d been looking forward to catching up with Andi who was by far his favourite older cousin, but she hadn’t come and when his Uncle Cygnus announced that he had disowned Andromeda Black for disobeying his wishes and eloping with a muggle-born wizard he was shocked and relieved. Andi had finally done it. Good on her! He grinned, remembering the looks of distaste on most of the family seated around the dinner table, except for the Potters and Uncle Alphard, although he couldn’t read anything on Arcturus face, it was a blank mask.

Lestrange and Bella looked like they wanted to throw up but that was no surprise – they both loathed muggles and Walburga looked ready to start foaming at the mouth, except that a razor-sharp look of warning from Arcturus tamped it down, even though Sirius knew her insane ranting was merely delayed. Sure enough, the moment they got back to Grimmauld Place she blasted Andi off the Black Family Tapestry accompanied by a stream of vile insults that Sirius could hear from his room even with a privacy charm in place.

As he stared at the posters of scantily clad muggles his mother failed to remove from his walls while he was away at school, he thought about his paternal grandfather. He could be mistaken but he had the impression that Arcturus didn’t seem to be anywhere near as revolted by the thought of Andi’s rebellion as he would have expected since he was a firm believer in blood purity. Maybe he was just pleased that Malfoy wasn’t marrying into the family. Given that the blonde vampire had tried to kill him twice, Sirius was ecstatic!

Thanks Andi – best Christmas present ever!

Chapter 27

When school resumed after the Christmas break, James reported that his father was going to check and see if there were any crystal phials tucked away in one of their attics, leftover from his ancestors, but he wasn’t all that hopeful. It seemed that using crystal phials had gone out of fashion in the late nineteenth century and no one made them anymore.

Sirius nodded, telling the Marauders that he hadn’t been able to find any on his trip to Borgin and Burkes. He suggested that if they didn’t find any soon, perhaps they could try to make their own because how hard could it be and besides, what other choice did they have? Remus offered to research making crystal glass in the library and they decided that it was their best option for now.

Seeing the dejected air of his fellow Marauders Sirius decided it was a good time to share his good news with them. “So, while I didn’t find any crystal phials, I did find a dimensional trunk at the back of the store. I bought it.”

James stared at his distant cousin excitedly. “You found one? That’s awesome Siri. So, it wasn’t a total waste of time then.”

Seeing the confused expression on the other two boys faces, Sirius took pity on them. “James and I concluded that a dimensional trunk would be the best place to store the potion after we complete the second step. Step 3 states the mixture needs to be placed in a quiet, dark place and must not be disturbed, touched by sunlight or even looked at until the next electrical storm.”

Sirius looked at James. “I’m thinking we could do the brewing there too.”

James looked pleased. “Brilliant idea. And we can also use it for meetings which we don’t want anyone else to overhear.”

Peter and Remus were still looking mystified. Peter whined, “What is a dimensional trunk, anyway?”

James grinned. “Do you know what a charmed tent is?”

Remus and Peter looked bemused by the change of topic. Peter shook his head, but Remus nodded. “My dad borrowed one once before I was bitten, and we all went camping. It was much bigger inside than it looked on the outside, plus it had a separate kitchen, bathroom and sleeping sections. It was awesome!” he grinned, full of enthusiasm.

As realisation dawned, Remus said, “So you’re saying that a dimensional trunk is like a charmed tent?”

Sirius nodded. “Yep, except it’s a trunk. But this one has a massive room in it and unless you know the password, all you see is a typical trunk.”

Of course, the Marauders all wanted to see it, so they trekked upstairs from the corner of the Gryffindor common room which they’d long claimed as their own, up to their dorm. Luckily, their other roommates were absent, so the wizards opened the trunk and examined it before pronouncing that it looked like your average trunk. Now they were looking at Sirius expectantly.

He smirked and waited, letting the tension build up before tapping the trunk with his wand and saying, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

Suddenly the bottom of the trunk began to move slowly, and a dark hole appeared with a ladder descending into the maw. Sirius led the way down a surprisingly long way before landing at the bottom, using his wand to provide light before activating the lamps down there as his fellow Marauders joined him eagerly. Looking around they were excited at how much space there was, even a couple of lounges to sit on. They agreed it was a good place to have private conversations without anyone eavesdropping.

When they left and climbed up the ladder, he tapped his wand against the trunk lid, saying, “Mischief managed,” to ensure that the magical room was hidden again.

As the weeks went by, the issue of procuring the crystal phials seemed, if not surmountable, at least extremely difficult. Getting hold of lead oxide was not as easy as they thought, and Sirius and James were getting very impatient. They were thinking that they might just be desperate enough to ask Professor Slughorn which would come at a huge cost since he was desperate to have James and Sirius in his Slug Club. So, it was a shock and an enormous relief when Pandora came to their rescue, just in the nick of time.

She sought Sirius out one day to say that her mother had owled her with a message for him.

“For me? Why would your mum have a message for me, Panda?”

Dragging him into an alcove she whispered, “Because it was a vision.”

Sirius knew that Callisto Abbott was a seer and that it ran in her family. He also was one of the very few people who knew that Pandora had inherited the ability too, but the Ravenclaw preferred to share her secret with only a trusted few. Feeling dread at what she might have seen, he tried not to show how freaked he felt.

“Oh. What’s the message?”

“The items you’ve been seeking are in the room of lost and unwanted things.”

Okay, that was both creepy and potentially exciting. Did Callisto know why he needed the phials? As if she could read his mind, his friend told him, “She said you were making a potion.”

Hoping she didn’t know exactly which potion, he said, “I don’t suppose she told you where this room was, did she?”

Giggling, she grasped his hand and said, “Of course she did. I want to see it too. Come on, Siri. Let’s go!”

Eager to see if this place would have the phials, he let the little blonde witch pull him up seven flights of stairs and drag him down a corridor to a large and incredibly angry tapestry of some nutter who looked like he was giving dance lessons to a bunch of trolls tressed in ballet skirts. He raised an eyebrow at his friend, and she shrugged.

“Mum said that he was called Barnabas the Barmy.”

“Sounds about right. So where is this place?” He asked, trying to contain himself.

“She said that we need to walk past the blank section of the wall opposite Barnabas the Barmy’s tapestry and concentrate really hard on what we need, and the room will appear.”

Thinking the whole thing sounded a bit barmy, he decided that they had nothing to lose and started to pace up and down thinking ‘I need to find crystal phials, I need to find crystal phials, I need to find crystal phials.’  As the third pass by the blank wall was completed, a door appeared out of nowhere and grabbing his friend’s hand, he opened the door and pulled her inside.

He couldn’t believe how big the room was and how full of junk it was too. “This is going to take weeks to go through everything,” he said crestfallen.

Pandora surveyed the room. It’s a lot bigger than I thought it would be, but I can help you look for whatever it is you’re looking for, if you want me to,” she offered tentatively.

He considered her offer realising that he could trust Panda – besides, she already knew about the room. “Thanks, that would be awesome but even with the two of us, it is going to take way too much time. I think I need to get more help,” he said deciding to drag the Marauders up there too.

“James, Remus and Peter?” she asked knowingly.

“Yeah, with the five of us looking, it should cut the time it took to go through everything. Do you want to go and get them or should I?”

She thought for a couple of moments before saying, “You. They might not believe me. I’ll stay here and start searching if you tell me what I’m looking for.”

He grinned. “Okay, thanks Panda. We need to find some crystal phials for potion making not plain glass ones.”

She looked intrigued. “Okay, I’ll start looking. And Siri, can you figure out a way to tell the boys without them knowing I’m a seer?”

Her friend looked at her empathetically. “Sure, I’ll tell them that you were telling me about a room that your mum discovered when she was at Hogwarts.”

She smiled, tucking a strand of her long blonde hair behind her ear. “Thanks, that will work.”

As he left the room, he told her, “Be back soon.”

It took three days of searching in the room of lost and unwanted things before James got lucky, finding six phials and then Peter found another seven in another old cabinet. Finally, they had somewhere to make and store the Animagus potion and the crystal phials to make it in. Now they were finally ready to get started. Now it was up to Peter to get hold of the fresh mandrake leaves and they could begin.

The Marauders were excited and nervous, determined to complete the potion and they’d begun on the next full moon directly after they’d located the crystal phials. It hadn’t been as tough as they’d envisaged, it was much tougher. The first step after Peter had managed to easily obtain the Mandrake leaves for them was tricky. They needed to keep a single leaf from a Mandrake plant in their mouths for a month, starting from the full moon and ending exactly one month later at the following full moon.

This was as challenging for the three wizards as it was meant to be, since becoming Animagi was not supposed to be easy. The first attempt was a dismal failure. Sirius swallowed his leaf in his sleep, Peter spat his out accidentally and James sneezed, expelling the leaf unintentionally but Sirius chivvied them into starting again the next month. He told them that practice made perfect!

The second time he tried, Sirius managed to go the whole month but when he placed the mandrake leaf inside the crystal phial with his initials already neatly labelled on it (SOB) the result was cloudy, not clear and he was forced to start all over again. He had no idea why the attempt hadn’t worked, and he felt very frustrated and angry but reminded himself and the others that this inconvenience was nothing in comparison to the pain Remus went through every month.  The other Marauders hadn’t even managed to get that far.

The third attempt was successful and along with a hair from his head, a silver teaspoon of dew that Remus collected from a place untouched by sunlight or human feet (somewhere deep in the Forbidden Forest) and the chrysalis of a Death’s-Head Hawk Moth, it was then placed inside a wooden box inside his dimensional trunk.

Third time around, which was supposed to be lucky, neither James nor Peter was successful, although James claimed he had an excuse. They were in the middle of playing a Quidditch match against Slytherin and Regulus who was playing only his second game for his house had knocked him off his broom. Although James had managed to keep a hold of it and remount it in mid-air, he’d accidentally spat the Mandrake leaf out before he realised his mistake yelling at Regulus. As excuses went, it was a damned good one, Sirius admitted.

But that failure left the Marauder in something of a dilemma; should he wait until the two other Marauders completed their preparation of the Mandrake root or forge ahead without them. He’d talked to Remus about it first and he’d recommended that Sirius not wait.

“There’s no way of knowing how long the potion will remain fresh. If you wait and the potion isn’t effective, then you are right back to square one, again Sirius.”

Sirius had considered this possibility too, but it was good to hear that Remus thought that it could be a problem as well. “But it seems selfish not to wait. We promised to do this together.”

“And you are. But do you want to guess what the odds would be that all three of you can get your potions to work at the same time might be?”

“Okay, I hear what you’re saying but it isn’t impossible.”

“No, but bloody near impossible. This is a real bugger of a potion, Siri. I think you have to keep going and accept that you can’t all finish together.”

Seeing Sirius’ guilty expression, he said, “Have you ever considered that all three of you might not succeed in becoming Animagi? If you wait for James and Peter, that might never happen.”

Sirius looked shocked. “I’d never even considered we wouldn’t be able to do it, Remus. We have to.”

Looking sombre, the sandy-haired wizard pointed out, “Just because you want something really badly, doesn’t mean that it has to happen.”

Sirius knew he was correct. How many times did he wish that Reg would come to his senses or that he would have loving parents who didn’t hurt him? Looking over at Remus who looked depressed he figured that he was thinking about how many times he wished he hadn’t been bitten by Greyback and turned into a werewolf. If he were the only one who could become an Animagus, it would suck because they’d planned to do it together. Yet surely the main thing was that Remus wouldn’t have to be alone anymore.

Nodding sadly, he replied, “That’s sad but true, Mate. Let’s ask James and Peter and if they’re okay about it, then I’ll start working on the transformation spell.”

Remus gave him a small grin. “Of course, if they feel like you are going to be the first Marauder to become an Animagus, it might give them a hurry up, you know.”

Sirius chuckled, his sad expression morphing into genuine amusement. “I hadn’t thought of that, Remus. You are sneaky. You sure you shouldn’t be in Slytherin, my friend?

Remus snarled at him and threw an apple core that he’d been gnawing on at his friend’s head and Sirius dodged it neatly. He was after all, used to dodging spells from Kreacher from an early age.

~o0o~

It wasn’t exactly surprising that James (after a bit of straight talking from Remus about the unlikelihood that they could coordinate their transformations for the three of them) was more than happy for Sirius to keep going with his potion and transformation, if only for Remus’ sake. He was realising that the transformation into Animagi wasn’t necessarily a sure thing for all of them, no matter how much they wanted to be there for Remus.

James pointed out that letting Sirius forge ahead also had the advantage that he could help with advice that might make things easier for him and Peter. Plus, he admitted honestly, he was competitive enough to know that if he thought Sirius was going to become an Animagus before him, that it would spur him on to try harder.

So, while the two Gryffindors attacked the first part of the potion again at the next full moon, Sirius began to cast the spell by placing the tip of his ebony wand over his heart without fail every dawn and dusk and saying the incantation, “Amato Animo Animato Animagus.”

He decided to do the incantation inside his dimensional trunk and after faithfully carrying out the incantation for almost six weeks he finally was rewarded when one evening at dusk, as his ebony wand touched his chest, he felt a double heartbeat – as if suddenly, there was a second entity inside of him. Which he supposed there was, in a sense. Sirius wondered because the book hadn’t said anything either way if he would always have a double heartbeat. or would it only exist until the two separate parts of him had been successfully integrated into an Animagus.

If he had to learn to permanently live with two heartbeats, he would willingly pay the price for being able to transform and be there to support Remus. He realised this was what James had been speaking about; he could prepare Peter and James for how weird this was, so they weren’t caught unawares. He kind of he wished in some ways that he hadn’t been the first to go through this but maybe the others would catch up before there was an electrical storm and they could go through the final transformation stage together.

Of course, it didn’t work out that way. Three weeks after he’d first detected a second heartbeat and was still prone to get freaked by it, Hogwarts was inundated by a massive storm which including thunder and lightning. When all the Marauders descended into his dimensional trunk the morning after the storm to check out the potion and see if it had turn blood red as the book had described,

Sirius wasn’t sure if he would be disappointed or relieved if it hadn’t turned blood-red. The truth was that now he was getting so close to finishing the process he was starting to panic about what might go wrong but looking at Remus’ excitement when he saw the blood-red potion, he tried to bury his concern. He had sworn an oath to do this – he couldn’t back out now.

Peter and James were excited, but they were also a little jealous, both vowing to finish up the first step this time or die trying. Since today was a Thursday and they had double Potions in the morning, Charms and DADA after lunch, Sirius’ next step – drinking the potion to induce the vision of his Animagus self would have to wait until classes had finished. He briefly thought about skiving off classes, pleading a headache to get it over and done with but he knew that Peter and James would skip class too and maybe even Remus who never skipped classes. All four of them disappearing would be far too suspicious.

So, they had to wait until after DADA was done. Normally Sirius enjoyed this class but today he just couldn’t focus and the Slytherins, especially Snivellus revelled in his inattentiveness, especially when Professor Thickness – their fourth-year DADA professor reprimanded him. Although the Marauders all enjoyed Defence Against the Dark Arts, Sirius wasn’t all that impressed with their teacher, even if he were an Auror who’d taken a year’s sabbatical to teach DADA.

There was a rumour going around that the role of DADA professor was cursed so that no teacher could hold the job for longer than a year before something happened to make them leave. He didn’t know if it was true, but Remus had researched the rumour and learnt that ever since Professor Galatea Merrythought retired in 1945 after fifty years in the position, no one lasted longer than 12 months. That meant, the best DADA instructors were very reluctant to uproot themselves if they were only going to be here in Scotland for one year. It was why Aurors were often persuaded to take a sabbatical and teach for one year since most of the more qualified DADA instructors declined when offered the job.

Still, just because you might be a competent Auror and able to defend yourself and fellow citizens against threats however dire, that didn’t automatically mean you were able to impart that knowledge to a group of students. Pius Thickness fell into that category – his classes were mind-numbingly boring at the best of times, even to a Gryffindor like Sirius stuck living amongst deadly snakes waiting to strike.

Normally he was extremely motivated to learn everything he could about surviving attacks of wizards using dark magic. Today, nervously anticipating drinking down a potion to discover what his Animagus form was going to be, Professor Thickness didn’t stand a chance of maintaining his attention. Not that the other Marauders were that much better; they were almost as inattentive as he was.

C’mon, Sirius, hold it together!

Chapter 28

A part of Sirius wanted to swallow the potion and experience the vision in his fellow Marauder’s presence – he knew it was safer and that he would feel more secure. But there was a part of him that was terrified that his form might be a serpent, especially given that he was a member of the House of Black, whose totem was a snake. The whole family was so closely aligned with the Dark Arts and Slytherin. What would James, Remus and Peter think of him if his Animagus was a venomous viper or a basilisk for example?

But he knew that it made sense not to take it alone. He decided to take the potion inside the Marauder’s dimensional trunk. Sitting on the sofa. He looked at his friends and grinned before holding up the glass phial and saying, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” before swigging down what would have to be the worst tasting potion EVER.

It was a big relief to discovered that his Animagus form was a huge black hairy dog that looked rather like his childhood friend, Черно when he was living in Kazanlak. Aside from his baby brother, he’d been Sirius’ only friend until they’d come back to London and he’d missed the big mutt so much. Even when his Uncle Alphard had adopted a dog for him, it hadn’t felt quite the same as his friendship with the big sheepdog who had guarded him and had seemed to understand how sad he was. So, it felt somehow right and comfortable to be a massive black dog and it was a great form to be able to rumble and rough house with Remus when he was transformed.

As he returned to awareness, he found three sets of eyes, watching him anxiously. It should have been creepy to be watched so intently, but he found it rather comforting that they were worried about him.

When he didn’t speak, James nudged him in the stomach playfully and said, “Well…don’t keep us in suspense, you prat. What’s your form?”

Grinning he decided to tease them a bit, saying, “A pink and orange dragon and it’s huge.”

Seeing the looks of horror as they tried to act supportive was just too funny, he continued the prank for a few minutes before confessing that his form was a bloody big black hairy dog. After they’d all expressed their relief at his much more appropriate form, they all piled on top of him in retribution for him playing a prank on them.

Later he described his experience after he’d drunk the potion and performed the incantation for the last time, confirming that just as the book warned, he’d felt a burning pain and that the sensation of the double heartbeat had intensified unbearably. Just when he thought that it would drive him mad, he’d begun experiencing the vision of his form, at which time the physical pain and awareness of a double heartbeat had dulled to a level that he could cope with.

They went to dinner that night in a celebratory mood, although Sirius, knowing that the last stage of the process was nigh, was quite nervous given that this was potentially the trickiest part of the procedure of becoming an Animagus. According to The Dangerous Process of Becoming an Animagus: A Step-by-Step Guide, the first transformation was painful and frightening. Rowle said it was particularly important not to resist the change or panic, as the animal mind may try to take over. In another section, he’d also said that if something goes wrong, horrendous consequences such as half-human, half-animal mutations may result and ere irreversible for the witch or wizard. They would be forced to stay like that permanently.

Part of him wanted to talk to Remus about his first transformation but he felt that it wasn’t appropriate. The poor little blighter had only been four years old when it had occurred, and it must have been very traumatic; he didn’t feel like he had the right to force him to relive that. Plus, while his first Animagus transformation would be incredibly painful and scary, subsequent ones (supposing that he managed the first one successfully and didn’t get stuck) would get successively easier.

However, their fellow Marauder’s transformation would never become easier – it would always be painful and frightening for the hapless wizard, forced against his will to transform into a monster every full moon ever since he’d been bitten as a small boy. So no, Sirius was not about to ask Remus about his experience – he would endure this with appropriate Gryffindor courage and remember that this would get easier with time.

After dinner, they retired to their dorm room to discuss the timing of Sirius’ first full transformation. Tomorrow was Friday and so there were classes and quidditch practise after school. Saturday Gryffindor had a quidditch match against Ravenclaw which theoretically could go on for hours, so the Marauders decided that they needed to wait until Sunday for Sirius to carry out the first transformation. In some ways, he wished that he could get it over and done with immediately but as Remus pointed out, having read Rowle’s book cover to cover, it was important to allow a lot of time when transforming for the first time to complete the change. It also said it was important to be calm and stay extremely focused and he knew he was still feeling madly euphoric from the potion. By Sunday, the effects would have well and truly worn off.

The match had proved to be an uneventful win for Gryffindor which was appreciated since Sirius was having trouble concentrating. Belatedly, he realised that James was having difficulty focusing as well when the bludger from the Ravenclaws beater hit him in the head and knocked him out cold. Although he fell, it was lucky that he was only about 10 feet off the ground at the time, nevertheless, he broke his ankle and his wrist and spent the night in the infirmary regrowing bone. Gryffindor had to play the remainder of the game a chaser short and it was fortunate that Ravenclaw had a young team, still they were still rebuilding after losing three 7th year players at the end of the last season. Gryffindors new seeker, Maureen McKinnon caught the snitch 45 minutes after James had been taken out of the game and it decided the match.

As he left the pitch, Sirius was glad that they hadn’t decided to do the transformation after the match. James would probably have refused to go to the infirmary if they had, not wanting to be left out. Happily, he should be fine by the morning to be there when Sirius transformed for the first time. The three uninjured Marauders attended the obligatory celebratory party in Gryffindor partaking in several butterbeers and party food supply by the school elves, but their thoughts were not on the celebration. As soon as it was polite to leave, they all snuck out to go and check up on James who was grumpy and in pain. Peter was upset when James snapped at him, and eventually, Matron chased them off to bed, telling them to come back in the morning and they could eat breakfast with Potter who should be in a better temper then.

As they made their way back to Gryffindor, Peter was still whining about how grouchy James was and he was only trying to help when Remus defended him quietly but firmly.

“They say that regrowing bones with Skele-Grow is incredibly painful, Pete. I haven’t used it, but I do think it is a bit like when I transform and some of my bones break and then regrow when I shift back again. I know that is agonising,” he said mildly.

Pettigrew abruptly stopped his whining. Remus seldom talked about the pain and horror of his monthly transforming so hearing him say how much agony he endured, kind of took the wind out of the blonde wizard’ sails. Anyway, it was rather pathetic to be complaining about a friend being irritable because they were in a heap of pain. Sirius tried not to think about his coming ordeal – after all, if Remus could endure it month after month, he had no right to grumble, either.

He reminded himself that it was lucky that he had quite a high threshold for pain, having been a clumsy child, prone to running accidentally into Kreacher’s ‘punishing spells,’ or his mother’s closed hand when he was being a disrespectful ungrateful child. Of course, Sirius had been disrespectful a lot. Until his little brother arrived, he thought his mother’s behaviour was normal.

Anyway, the truth was that it would all be fine or not; pain and fear was the price magic demanded. There was no sense dwelling on it because he wasn’t about to chicken out now.

They’d decided to do it outside where there was lots of room and away from prying eyes. Peter suggested that they go to the Forbidden Forest where they wouldn’t be disturbed but Remus vetoed that, saying that he’d found a massive nest of Acromantula spiders there and Pete had turned a nice shade of pale green. It seemed that he had a phobia of anything that possessed more than six legs and did not want to meet any giant spiders. Sirius wasn’t keen to meet them either, not without his full quota of faculties, not to mention he might be half-crazed with pain, so James suggested that they head in the opposite direction to the old dragon enclosures instead.

Everyone agreed so they set off after breakfast, going sedately for once instead of the usual frenetic pace in recognition of James unpleasant night in the infirmary – even if he pronounced himself to be fully cured. When they arrived in the lush green fields that still held some antiquated stone buildings where the young dragons used to shelter back in the days when Hogwarts kept dragons for Magical Creatures classes, they gathered around Sirius, trying not to look excited.

He looked at James, “Okay, read what Rowles says again, Mate.”

Of course, he already knew it backwards, forwards and could recite it in Bulgarian as well as English but he wanted…no he needed a diversion.

“Step four… It is important not to resist the change or panic, as the animal mind may take over. The Animagus changes back into their human form by mentally visualising themselves as human.

Learning to transform at will takes a lot of time and practice for the novice Animagus. It does become easier and faster the more that you do it…,” James read out dutifully.

Sirius gave a small grin, appreciating that James had omitted to read out the first part of the opening sentence stating that the first transformation is painful and frightening, even though he knew it. All the Marauders shook his hand and wished him luck. He took a deep breath and thought about his animal form. Nothing happened.

James looked at him, raising an eyebrow. “What happened?”

“Nothing bloody happened. I’m thinking of my form but nothing!”

Peter pursed his lip. “Maybe you’re resisting the change, or you aren’t calm enough, Siri.”

Sirius frowned; he didn’t think he was panicked or resisting but Remus noticed his frustration. “Why don’t you meditate and see if that helps. We can all meditate with you,” he suggested wanting to help but feeling useless.

Not having any better ideas, they sat down in a circle and began to meditate – it was a familiar activity. Despite their rambunctious appearance as a bunch of pranking Gryffindors who never took life seriously, they had all been meditating for several years, since they had decided to become Animagi and learned Occlumency. They slipped easily into a meditative state and although Sirius had believed he was calm and receptive before, now he felt quite Zen and open to his transformation. Yet, twenty minutes later, nothing had happened.

Opening his eyes, Sirius said quietly. “It’s no use guys, I’ll just have to accept that I’m not a good enough wizard to make the final transformation.”

Remus looked relieved before seeing how devastated his friend was. “That can’t be right; if you weren’t supposed to be an Animagus I don’t think you would have seen your animal form. We’re just missing something.”

Peter giggled and they shot him a dirty look and he quickly explained to the other Marauders. “I wasn’t laughing at you Sirius,” he said truthfully because he was always a bit afraid of Sirius who had a definite air of danger about him. He was by far the best student in their DADA classes, knowing so much more than anyone else about the Dark Arts, even the Slytherins. Sirius was one wizard you did not want to piss off.

Then why laugh, Peter? Sirius demanded, still feeling a shred of distrust over Pettigrew’s cowardice when he’d been abducted and almost killed.

“I was thinking of my Mum. When she gives people recipes, she always leaves one small but vital ingredient out, so it doesn’t turn out well. She does the same with household spells too and it makes people think that they’re at fault.”

James snapped his fingers and grinned. “That’s it, Pete. Your brilliant, Mate!” he leaned over and planted a sloppy kiss on his round chubby face as the Marauder wiped his face in disgust.

“Yuck! Wizard don’t kiss other wizards, Potter! Just like witches don’t kiss other witches.”

“Sure, they do!” the Marauders chorused in perfect unison.

“My Dad kisses me all the time, and Pip’s mum kisses her too.” James countered crossly.

“I didn’t mean parents and kids, that’s different.”

Sirius told him, “Well, before I started at Hogwarts, Regulus used to kiss me, and I used to kiss him.”

“That’s family, it doesn’t count with family.”

Remus, James, and Remus exchanged surprised looks. It seemed that Peter was homophobic, and they’d never noticed it. They were silently debating whether to tell him that his prized autographed photograph of Kennard Wilby who played goalkeeper for the Cannons had a male lover who also played beater for the Chudley Cannons.

It was Remus who decided to shelve the conversation for another day. He said, “I think that Peter might have been onto something. That tosser, J.K. Rowle either deliberately left something out to cock a snoop at wizards and witches who tried to become Animagus or whoever he was getting his information deliberately left it out.”

James nodded enthusiastically. “Yep! We just have to figure it out!”

Sirius was thinking about the problem. Thinking about how throughout the book Rowle had made much of the fact that becoming an Animagus was dangerous and could end in disaster.

“What if it’s a test?” he asked the others?

“What sort of a test?” Peter quizzed him. He preferred his explanation more.

“To see if the witch or wizard was prepared to take the risks. If something went wrong, Rowle might have thought he’d be blamed so he concealed the final piece of the process so that you had to be deeply committed if you wanted to take the risk of it going wrong.”

Remus nodded, “You could be onto something, Sirius it was a safeguard or Pete could be right and Rowle left it out because he was an arrogant prat,” he said, not noticing he’d just insulted Peter’s mum.

James had noticed though and he quickly moved the conversation along before Peter did. “Either way, fellow Marauders, we still need to figure out what the final step is.”

Sirius looked at the other wizards. “Does anyone have a pen knife on them?”

Remus handed over his immediately with a look of curiosity matched by Peter and James. The almost Animagus asked James to pass him the copy of The Dangerous Process of Becoming an Animagus: A Step-by-Step Guide and he stared for a while at the page before opening Remus’ folding pocket-knife.

With the book on his lap, he slashed his palm, the blood running freely onto the page and declared, “I Sirius Orion Black do solemnly swear that I acknowledge the process of becoming an Animagus can be extremely dangerous. I understand that I may suffer consequences that cannot be reversed, and I chose to proceed with the final step of transformation regardless, so mote it be!”

There was a purple and green flash and then the words on the page rearranged themselves, shrinking as some new ones appeared.

The first time that the Animagus transformation is attempted, the witch or wizard must place the tip of the wand over the heart. The incantation “Amato Animo Animato Animagus Transformare,” is spoken while focusing solely upon the form revealed in the preceding step. Should the process result in a successful transformation, but the wizard is unable to transform back into their human form, a trustworthy confrere may expedite a return of the Animagus to human form by using the anti- transfiguration spell “Reparifarge”.

The three other boys started at the book, spellbound. “That’s awesome, how did you know about the secret writing, Peter squeaked excitedly.

I didn’t know for sure, he said, smiling at Remus as he healed his self-inflicted cut for him. The werewolf had a lot of practice healing his own wounds and Sirius appreciated the gesture, but the fact was that he would probably be in a lot more pain when the transformation was done. Of course, he didn’t say that to Remus, the Marauder was already feeling guilty about the dangerous transformation as it was. He wouldn’t make him feel any worse because it had been Sirius’ idea to become an Animagus and James and Peter had gleefully agreed. If anything went wrong this was on him.

Standing up and handing the priceless old book into James’ care and carefully cleaning Remus’ knife on the grass before returning it to the Marauder, he faced his friends.

“Okay, Marauders. I move a motion that we get on with transforming into an Animagus. You blokes know what to do if I transform and can’t turn back. One of you needs to step up and be my trustworthy confrere, okay?” he said, making fun of the old-fashioned language of a book written centuries before they were born to lighten the tension-filled atmosphere.

Peter took the bait. “What is a trustworthy confrere anyway?” he wanted to know.

“A good friend,” Remus offered.

“A collaborator you can trust,” was James’ contribution.

“A partner in crime,” Sirius joked.

Peter nodded and said, “So in other words, a Marauder?”

Sirius chuckled and raised his hand, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

Somehow after Sirius had used the phrase as the password for his trunk, it and its locking password, mischief managed had become their credo.

Looking incredibly grave, one by one the three other Marauders raised their hands and said, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

Sirius nodded and raised his ebony wand and touched the tip to his heart, saying, “Amato Animo Animato Animagus Transformare,”

He promptly let out an unearthly moan, dropped his wand which James was quick to pocket for him and dropped to the ground, writhing in pain. Remus held back the other wizards, reminding him that Sirius was hurting and afraid and might attack them. Instead, he encouraged the others to speak to him and remind him he wasn’t alone.

As the groaning dragged on and on, the boys became fearful that the transformation wasn’t going to work. Would Sirius be left like this forever? Just as they were thinking that they’d better fetch help from the staff, Peter said in a scared voice, “Did you hear a growling noise? Are there wolves?”

Remus was staring intently at Sirius. No, Pete, that was Siri.”

As the growling grew louder, they could slowly see him beginning to change into a huge black dog as he grew four legs and a massively hairy tail.

Good dog!

Chapter 29

September 1974 (The Marauders’ 5th Year)

The Marauders returned to Hogwarts at the beginning of their fifth-year bursting at the seams to take the final step and become Animagi like Sirius. It had taken all last year figuring out how to make the potion along with the usual tomfoolery of the Marauders distraction campaign to deflect attention from Remus. Not to mention their class work and assignments, quidditch, their ever-popular Honeydukes chocolate enterprise and were a hairs breath away from achieving their goal to be Animagi. Soon they would get to enjoy all their hard work with Remus at full moons. FINALLY!

As the year got underway, the Marauders were hoping that it might be a little less frenetic than the last one but Fabian and Gideon in their last year at Hogwarts and they had decided to focus on their NEWTS. That meant that the Marauders would need some help from the younger Gryffindors to pick up the slack.

Like Frank Longbottom and Alice Wellborn before them, the twins had decided to enter the Auror Training Programme because of the rise in attacks on muggles and muggle-borns by the Knights of Walpurgis who’d recently undergone a change of name and with it, had adopted a new appearance. The Knights were now openly aligned with their new master – Lord Voldemort. They were now calling themselves Death Eaters and had swapped their pious white robe and hoods for more menacing black robes and hoods that were meant to intimidate their intended victims, although the white masks to conceal their precious identities remained.

Rumours were rife that Voldemort was recruiting Death Eaters with an evil initiation rite, making them swear allegiance to him and marking them in some way that let him control them. With such an ominous threat to the wizarding world, Gideon and Fabian put their personal ambitions aside; they now planned to apply to the DMLE the day after they’d graduated from Hogwarts after completing their final year.

It was becoming abundantly clear to everyone, as the Daily Prophet ran story after story of muggle-borns being killed or abducted and tortured in their daily edition, that the situation was becoming desperate. Pureblood families were espousing supremacist beliefs in the Wizengamot and the Ministry and with each passing week, it was clear that not only were they siding with Voldemort politically, but they were also being recruited into his Death Eater ranks.

Sirius suspected that at least four members of his house had sworn loyalty to the half-blood murderer: his father, Bellatrix, and her husband Rodolphus Lestrange and his Uncle Cygnus but there could easily be more who were a whole heap more discreet. It made him very aware of how potentially vulnerable he was every time he returned home to 12 Grimmauld Place. The Gryffindor was not looking forward to the Christmas and Easter school holidays although he wasn’t convinced that Hogwarts was a whole lot safer. He suspected that many of the older Slytherins were Death Eaters too.

He knew it was only a matter of time before they tried to force him to join their Death Eater ranks, thanks to listening in on conversations between Orion and Cygnus. Well, let them try! He’d rather die than become part of Voldemort’s cult of Dumbshit Eaters. He wished he were old enough to join the Aurors and fight against this madness right now, but he knew he had to have his NEWTS before he could apply to enter the Auror training programme.

However, just because he wasn’t old enough to enlist, it didn’t mean that he couldn’t help. He’d resolved to try to gather as much information about the Death Eaters as he could because he was in a unique position to spy on his family. He hadn’t told the other Marauders what he was planning to do over the summer or why he’d been so keen to push the Animagus process along, aside from a genuine desire to hang out with Remus each full moon. Instead, he used the excuse that with OWLS in the fifth year, it would be extremely difficult to achieve good results and become an Animagus too. It also happened to be true.

Having achieved his first transformation almost at the end of the last school year, he’d practised transforming every spare minute after that. With each attempt, he was finding it a little bit easier to transform into the shaggy black dog who was fiercely protective and loyal but was also a playful great goofball of a puppy. By the time he’d gone home at the end of the school year at the end of June, he’d already spent one full moon with Remus. It had been terrifying and thrilling in equal measure; the werewolf was initially highly suspicious of him and wanting to attack the intruder aka Sirius Black. He realised that this was the first time that Remus’ wolf hadn’t been alone when he shifted. It wasn’t surprising that the wolf should be all paranoid and yet, the lone werewolf that circumstance had forced him to be, also had a longing in the wolf’s eyes that convinced Sirius that the werewolf wouldn’t hurt him so long as he didn’t challenge him in any way.

That wasn’t to say that it was all smooth sailing either; Remus’ wolf had demanded subservience and had immediately sought to establish his status. Not surprisingly, the werewolf had easily dominated the domesticated wolf aka Sirius, forcing him to submit to the Alpha (and apex predator) and Sirius had happily obliged.  He took the view that anyone who wanted to battle for dominance with a werewolf was a crazy nutter since a werewolf was an inhumanly strong and ruthless beast when challenged. He knew that his usually mild-tempered friend could if easily rip him limb from limb without breaking a sweat if he wanted to.

Sirius and his inner dog were more than happy to show him good old canine submission. He figured it was fortunate he’d spent a lot of time with Черно and Paddy growing up since he had a strong instinctive awareness of canine body language and how dogs expressed dominance and submission. By ceding dominance to the bloody huge werewolf, his submissive behaviour automatically switched off Remus’ instinctive feelings of being under attack and helped cement him as a pack member.

So, after an initial testing time when Sirius-the-dog wasn’t afraid to admit that he might have piddled in fear and submission, after that, he and the werewolf had roughhoused all night until the full moon set, falling into a heap curled up together. When he woke up the next morning, Remus was partway through his involuntary transformation and Sirius wanted to cry for the pain that his fellow Marauder was forced to endure. It was so unfair, and he wanted to kill Fenrir Greyback for Remus and the other ‘offspring’ like him.

Yet Remus was surprisingly cheerful, thanking Sirius for keeping him company, telling him that it was the best full moon he’d ever had since becoming a werewolf. He said that despite the pain, he hadn’t been alone or afraid and that was awesome. He was so grateful and cheered that for all full moons that they would spend at Hogwarts from now on; he wouldn’t have to spend them alone. As they chatted, Sirius speculated about what form the other Marauders might have, thinking if they were canine too, it would be bloody brilliant.

Although keen to put his new Animagus abilities to good use spying on his father, he soon became more ambitious. Over the summer Sirius had used his doggy form to follow his insane cousin Bella and her husband, Rodolphus as they met up with Tom Riddle’s stupid dupes, also known as Death Eaters, as they planned their muggle raids. Padfoot tried to follow the hooded thugs to their attacks on muggles and muggle-born wizards and witches, but they tended to use portkeys or would Apparate en masse which made it impossible for him to follow them.

Frustrated, he settled for keeping a low profile and recording everything in a little red book filled with the names of any Death Eaters who he recognised, despite their childish behaviour dressing up in costumes. Sirius hadn’t been surprised when he’d recognised quite a lot of the older Slytherin wizards, and one or two witches from 6th and 7th years. The war was coming ever closer to home and it underlined the need to take plenty of precautions at Hogwarts.

Before he’d returned to school for his fifth year, Sirius had slipped Alice and Frank a copy of his list. He knew that they couldn’t arrest the Death Eaters without proof but at the least, his friends could be on their guard. He didn’t want anything bad to happen to them, especially Alice; he had a bit of a soft spot for the pretty Auror. Okay, she may be planning on getting married to his Cousin Frank, but it didn’t stop Alice Wellborn from indulging and spoiling him whenever they met, and weird as it was, he’d found that he liked it when she did it.

Sirius had always been intensely protective of the people he cared about and since becoming an Animagus he found that instinct had become a whole lot stronger. He was desperate to keep the two former Gryffindors from harm if he could, although he wasn’t sanguine about how dangerous their job was. With the Death Eaters seeming to grow in strength every week, he knew how risky their job was.

Aside from chasing Death Eaters in his canine guise, the summer holidays had also been quite eventful since the two other Marauders had completed their Animagus potions too. After he’d successfully transformed at the end of his fourth year, Peter and James were determined to stop messing around and create the potion. On the second last day of school, they debated on what to do with the Mandrake leaf they’d successfully been keeping in their mouths. The full moon had commenced on the fourth of June and they endured the Mandrake in their mouths during the entire two weeks of exams. That showed a lot of commitment!

As Remus and Sirius saw it, James and Peter had several options. They could forget about it and start again next year but neither wizard wanted to do that. They could persevere, each wizard take home the other ingredients and the crystal phial with them and on the next full moon, try to make the potion on their own, but Peter wasn’t at all keen on this option. He was generally a mediocre student (although his fellow Marauders were convinced that it was because of his overall lazy nature rather than lack of ability) and potions were probably his worst subject. Which left only one option, that Sirius would meet up with Peter and James on 4th July and make the potions and store them safely in his dimensional trunk which he could shrink and take back to Hogwarts in the new school year.

The three Marauders met up at James home and made the potions even though it was weird not to have Remus with them because of the full moon. Both potions stayed nice and clear, and Sirius locked them away in the dimensional trunk where it was dark, and no one would accidentally look at it. Both Marauders had hoped to complete the transformation before they headed back to school for the beginning of a new academic year, but the skies proved stubbornly clear. Although it was hot and summertime usually saw quite a few electrical storms, none graced London this year. Both wizards had achieved the double heartbeat and were just waiting for a storm so they could drink the potion and discover their form, but as they headed back to the castle in Scotland, they were still waiting for the next stage to take place.

Meanwhile, amongst the usual high jinks of the Marauders back in residence in the castle, as the term kicked off, there was the excitement of Remus being made a Gryffindor prefect along with Lily Evans. The Marauders were justifiably proud of their fellow Marauder even if Peter had initially whined that he would have made a good prefect too. When James (gently) and Sirius (bluntly) pointed out that he was too lazy to wander around the castle multiple times per week, chasing students out of broom cupboards and making sure they weren’t breaking curfew, he agreed somewhat grumpily and congratulated Remus too.

There was also the anticipation of welcoming the final Ankle Biter to Hogwarts; the fact he was James’ cousin and Pip Potter’s little brother meant that Archer was a popular figure. It wasn’t a surprise that Archer, being a Potter, had been sorted into Gryffindor along with a bunch of other first years. Sirius looked at them and marvelled how small and young they seemed. Had the Marauders ever been naïve little shrimps like Archer and his cohorts? It didn’t seem possible.

The Marauders had undergone another growth spurt in the holidays, although Pete was still a pipsqueak and a bit rotund. Like himself, James and Remus were at the tall and lanky stage. As he watched Archer climb up on the stool, looking scared, he watched as his fear changed to wonderment as the Sorting Hat got inside his head. In a way, it was like a forceable intrusion that a skilled Legilimens could carry out – except that it was illegal to so without the person’s permission.

As he watched his little cousin’s beaming countenance as a manky old piece of cloth, in essence, forced its way inside Archer and every other little first year’s head, he found himself feeling anger, no doubt due to his increased protectiveness. Surely this amounted to a mind rape under the guise of an ancient tradition of sorting into houses. He wondered if there was some sort of charm – a variation on a Cheering Charm, that left the wearer compliant and unable to resist the intrusive probe into their brain. He glanced over and noticed the headmaster watching the sorting, his eyes twinkling furiously and again, Sirius wondered if it was a deliberate device to mesmerise people and make it easier to read their thoughts. Was the Sorting Hat in some sort of communication with him, he wondered with his usual degree of paranoia.

Sirius was disturbed enough about his thoughts that he decided to talk to Pandora about it later. Coming from a long line of seers and wandmakers, she might have knowledge that he didn’t. He also resolved to send an owl to his Occlumency tutor Ulrich Meyer and ask his opinion. Sirius was cynical enough to know that if he talked to James, he’d defend the headmaster since his grandfather, Henry Potter was a Dumbledore supporter during the war against Grindelwald.  Likewise, Remus was unlikely to be neutral as he was beholden to Dumbledore for inviting him to enrol in Hogwarts since traditionally, werewolves were home schooled.

Archer leapt off the chair as the Sorting Hat shouted, “Gryffindor,” to the tumultuous applause of the Lions.

As he hurried over to the long table where his sister, and various cousins, Aaron and Ares, James and Sirius were sitting, Archer’s plain black school robes changed to include the Gryffindor colours of red and gold and the house crest of the lion appeared on his robes. The only Black to ever grace the long wooden form in Gryffindor House clapped a little absentmindedly as Pip pulled her little brother into the space that she’d been saving for him, totally confident of his sorting into her house. After all, every Potter who’d attended Hogwarts had ended up there, so Pegasus Potter had every reason to be so confident.

Sirius looked over to the Slytherin table at his brother Regulus watching their Great Aunt Dorea’s son and the last Ankle Biter with a smugly supercilious expression and he couldn’t help envying Pip for having her brother in the same house as her.  As Archer beamed at everyone around him and sat down, Regulus, staring at the young happy wizard, made some remark to Rabastan Lestrange and they both laughed nastily. Honestly, Sirius no longer recognised Reg and did not doubt that if the war against the Death Eaters still waged on in a few years when he was old enough, he would willingly join their ranks.

If Sirius were accepted into the Aurors when he graduated from Hogwarts in three short years, as he intended, they could find themselves fighting on opposite sides of the pureblood war. He knew that Regulus had been a sweet caring little boy until he’d left and gone to school. Reg was not a rebel, he was a follower, wanting to please people. His mother was not only insane, inherited from the Crabbe side of the family, but she was domineering and his brother, like their father Orion, let her rule the owlery roost. The only people who stand up to her were Lord Black, her father Pollux (sometimes) and her brother Alphard who pretty much ignored her.

It seemed inevitable that Regulus would follow her lead when his older brother was away at Hogwarts for ten months out of every year but as Panda had said, (knowing more about his family than anyone else) what choice did he have? The adults should have protected Regulus from a lunatic of a mother– it was their responsibility – not an eleven-year-old kid.

As the term got underway, Aaron and Ares Prewitt stepped up, ably assisted by Pip and Pandora to help the Marauders out with their chocolate business which was a good thing since the older Prewitt twins had become extremely serious about their NEWTS and had little time to spare this year. Sirius had decided that when they left Hogwarts in three years that they should hand the business over to the other Gryffindor Ankle Biters and Panda if she wanted. It was a pity to just let it die, even if the reason he’d started it up had been to provide Remus with the chocolate he craved every month. Yet there was time enough to figure that out later; there was still a lot of full moons between now and that point.

Two weeks into term, there was another full moon that Remus and Sirius spent together in the Shrieking Shack. Peter and James were beside themselves with impatience, still for an electrical storm so they could complete their own Animagus transformations. With no way to hurry up their potions, Sirius decided that now was as good a time as any to divert them with his new plan.

It had been brewing in his brain over the holidays, especially since he’d discovered how many of the Slytherin sixth and seventh years had joined the Death Eater ranks. He’d heard Bella boasting over the summer that Lord Voldemort had marked his army of full blood bigots (Sirius term, not Bella’s) with a magical tattoo via which he could communicate with his minions. He’d also in the guise of his big black dog, managed to creep up and listen to Death Eaters on some occasions and heard them talking about who they’d killed to earn their Death Eater tattoo.

This meant that every Death Eater inside the school was effectively a cold-blooded killer and extremely dangerous to all the muggle-borns like Lily but also purebloods that they perceived to be traitors, such as the Potters and of course himself. Feeling even more vulnerable with so many Death Eater running around Hogwarts, he was searching for a solution other than disillusionment charms. Of course, with Remus and Lily doing nightly prefect rounds, the need for care was even greater. He’d already devoted a great many hours to lying on his bed at Grimmauld Place during the summer trying to come up with a plan.

Of course, staring at the scantily clad muggle models on his wall wasn’t exactly a chore, either and not just because their presence continued to drive his mother crazy…er crazier. No, with the completion of his Animagus transformation, he suddenly found his interest in the opposite sex had become a bit uncontrollable. He was suddenly thinking it might be nice to have a girlfriend although he wasn’t sure how well that would work. He was aware that a lot of witches thought he was rich, and his family certainly was and that he would one day inherit the title of Lord Black.

He on the other hand was certain that when his father was Lord Black after Arcturus’ death, he’d appoint Regulus as the heir as he shared Orion’s pureblood views. As far as Sirius was concerned, Reg was welcome to it – his brother was a true believer in the whole purebloods being superior nonsense – so he should do a fantastic job.

Most witches didn’t want to date him for who he was but WHO HE WAS, and they would drop him like a hot rock when he was disowned. He knew that day was coming…he’d overheard his father and mother discussing that the Dark Lord as they called him was demanding that Sirius join his ranks when he was of age. Since he had no intention of ever joining that idiot and murderer, he knew that his rebellion would result in Orion and Walburga disowning him.

The Gryffindor fiasco had died down somewhat due to Arcturus, whose own grandsons, Aaron, and Ares had been in sorted into Gryffindor but while they had Black blood, they were also Prewitts by name and blood, so it truly wasn’t the scandal that Sirius’s sorting had caused. But Sirius was under no illusions that this act of defiance would be the last straw.

Time was running out!

Chapter 30

Calling the Marauders meeting to order, since it had been Sirius who had organised it, he told them a bit about his exploits in his dog form over the summer holidays, spying on Death Eaters.

James interrupted, “You’re telling us you went off alone, sneaking around eavesdropping on Voldemort’s bunch of murdering thugs? What the bloody hell were you thinking?”

Remus looked equally mad. “Why didn’t you tell us, you bloody great prat? They could have killed you.”

Sirius sighed. “I told you, I shifted into my dog form.”

Peter looked scared. “It sounds dangerous, Siri. You should leave it to the Aurors. It is their job, isn’t it?”

Sirius shrugged. “Look, I did it and maybe it was dangerous, but do you want to listen to my idea or not?” He didn’t tell them about his family being supporters of Voldemort slash Riddle.

Remus who still looked furious with him, gave him a swift kick in the ankle. “Spill! What mayhem are you proposing for the Marauders now, Padfoot.”

Sirius looked at him, “Padfoot? Where did that come from.”

Remus looked sheepish. “Sorry about that, it slipped out.” Seeing three sets of Marauders’ eyes: brown, silver-grey, and hazel staring at him, he shrugged.

“That’s the name my wolf came up for you in your dog form. He missed him over the summer and kept wanting to know where Padfoot was.”

Sirius grinned. “It’s okay, I like it. I think we should all have nicknames for our animal forms. What does the wolf call himself?”

Remus chuckled ironically, “Killer.”

James frowned. “No, that won’t do. I hereby move a motion that we, aka The Marauders, call you Moony. All those in favour, say yea.”

Sirius and Peter duly raised their hands and spoke, “Yea,” along with James who grinned.

“All those not in favour, raise your hand and say nay,” he said, even though it was clear that it was a foregone conclusion.

Remus glowered at them and growled crossly, “Nay. It’s a terrible name. I object.”

Ignoring him, James crowed, “The yeas have it, three votes to one. I declare your Marauder’s werewolf name to be Moony.”

Peter, never fond of arguments, was quick to get the subject back on track again. “So Padfoot, what mischief were you on the point of telling us about before you got distracted?”

Sirius felt like it was the other’s who’d derailed his discussion but seeing Remus pouting had been extremely funny, so he let it slide. “What I was going to tell you was I came up with a plan for a map of Hogwarts.” Seeing their looks of disappointment, he hurried on.

“You remember how the final information about Animagus transformation was hidden in J.K. Rowle’s book? I was thinking that we could do something similar so that only Marauders could use the map. There’s this charm that my Grandfather mention called the Homonculous Charm which tracks the movements of anyone within a certain area using dots on a piece of parchment,” he explained.

“We could use it to help our pranking,” Peter enthused, his squeaky voice lower now that his voice had broken but when he got it excited it was still prone to squeakiness.

“It would help us keep track of Death Eaters, so we don’t run into them as we did back in 2nd year,” James remarked more calmly.

“Exactly, plus when Lily and Remus are on prefect patrol late at night, it could protect them from Death Eaters ambushing them,” Sirius pointed out.

“I’m in!” James said firmly and he stared pointedly at the other Marauders, daring them to opt-out.

Sirius swallowed a chuckle. Anything that threatened Lily was guaranteed to get James on board. The other two Marauders weren’t that far behind. When they agreed to help create the map, he warned them that the charm work was complex – he’d looked at it and figured it was mastery level, but it didn’t deter his fellow Marauders.

Peter said, “If we can become Animagi, we can do this.”

Seeing as how only one of them had completed the transformation, it was probably a bit of a cocky declaration, but no one contradicted him. The Marauders were known for their cockiness.

Instead, James surprised his friends by admitting that he’d had an idea of his own over the holidays. “I was wondering if it would be possible to charm something small like a mirror to work something like a muggle radio.”

You mean, so you could play music,” Peter asked.

Well, that’s a good idea, Pete but I meant two-way radios. Muggles can talk into the radio and another person who has a radio can hear what they are saying and speak back.”

Remus tried to clarify, “So a muggle can hold a conversation with another muggle, and they could be far away from each other and still talk?”

James nodded.

“So, it’s like a floo call?” Sirius checked.

“Yep, but the mirror works instead of the floo.”

Remus chuckled. “A lot more convenient than carrying around a fireplace. Great thinking, James. Any idea how we create communication mirrors?”

James smiled. “Hey, I came up with the idea. Now the rest is up to you lot of lazy sods, to figure out the minor details,” he said jokingly.

Sirius felt his stomach rumbling and decided to call an end to their meeting. “All those in favour of shelving further discussion until we’ve eaten dinner, say yea.”

Peter smirked, “I support the motion, I’m starving.”

Chuckling, James teased the blonde Marauder, “I’ll refrain from pointing out that you’re always hungry and ask instead if that was a convoluted yea, Pete.”

Taking the bait, Peter huffed, “You know it was, Potter. And I can’t help getting hungry. Pranking is hard work,” he declared, his chin jutting out the way it did when he was cranky.

Smothering down a laugh, Sirius looked at Remus with a mischievous look. “And Messrs Moony?”

Mock growling at his friend, he said, “The wolf is ALWAYS hungry,” pretending to sniff James and lick his chops exaggeratedly.

“Then I declare this meeting of the Marauders to be adjourned until a later time when we’ve sated our hunger.”

Laughing and jostling each other as they climbed up the ladder of Sirius’ dimensional trunk, Remus nudged his mate. “Sated, good word choice, Padfoot,” he remarked appreciatively.

“Thanks, Moony. I thought so,” he grinned as he closed the trunk and motioned to the three others.

In chorus they all chanted, “Mischief managed,” to lock it so to all intents and purposes it looked like an everyday wizard trunk.

As they made their way down to the Great Hall for dinner, he tuned out his friends’ discussion about who would make the next Quidditch World Cup. His thoughts strayed back to the part of their meeting when he’d told them about the Homonculous Charm, and he briefly wondered why he hadn’t told them that he’d been taught about the charm by his Grandfather Arcturus.

For some reason, he’d never told anyone, not even the Marauders that he was been tutored by him in Advanced Defensive Magic during the summer holidays. Maybe because the lessons felt special, and secondly, he tended not to share information about his family. He had shared that Alphard was duelling with him and that Ulrich Meyer tutored him in Occlumency.

Seeing as lessons with Arcturus was something he instinctively kept close to the vest, it was just as well that they only took place in the summer holidays otherwise they might notice his singed eyebrows and hair after trying to control Fiendfyre. He’d been working on it from the start, and he was somewhat depressed that he could only control the enchanted flames for a short time before his grandfather had to step in and take over, even if the stern wizard assured him was doing marvellously. As well as working with Fiendfyre, Arcturus had also taught him how to cast a Patronus in case he ever ran into dementor.

According to his grandfather, there were rumours that Dementors (unearthly magical creatures who fed on positive energy, leaving behind negativity) appeared ready to side with Voldemort in the approaching war. This was bad news…really bad news. What he’d read about the Dementor’s Kiss, clamping its jaws on the mouth of the victim in a sick parody of a kiss, nauseated him. They would suck out the victim’s soul, leaving only an empty vessel alive, but everything that made the person who they were: thoughts, feelings, and a soul, irreversibly gone It had given him nightmares for months.

Still on a bright note, with all Arcturus’ tutoring in the last two summer holidays, he was a sure bet to make it into the Auror Training Programme if he didn’t blow his NEWTS, and then a year or two after that, a hit wizard. He wanted to help defeat Voldemort – he was an evil bastard that needed to be stopped before he destroyed everything and everyone in his insane desire to rule the world.

Alphard had explained to him one day as he shared his ambition with his uncle that he was extremely lucky to have Lord Black as a private tutor. He said that even before he assumed the Lordship, Arcturus had always been an immensely powerful wizard. Once he became Lord Black his magical power had doubled. Seeing his nephew’s expression of bemusement, he explained that when the Heir to an Ancient and Noble House such as the Blacks died, a part his magic was passed on to his successor.

Sirius had wanted to know why and how, and Alphard shrugged and said no one knew for sure but magical scholars had come up with various theories that tried to explain the phenomenon. It had to do with the protection of the family, which theoretically would grow larger every generation as more offspring were procreated and that they may all contribute a small percentage of their own magic to their house, like a magical surcharge or levy. Another Unspeakable had posited that it may be some sort of failsafe like a security ward, to ensure that the Lord’s magical powers remain greater than the sum of the other members of the family so that he couldn’t be overthrown by an ambitious sibling or cousin.

Sirius was not sure that he’d been persuaded by his uncle’s attempts to explain the doubling of a wizard’s power on assuming a Lordship, maybe it went some way to explaining why his grandfather could control Fiendfyre. He did know from his studies that Fiendfyre was only rarely used as only an exceptionally strong or gifted witch/wizard was able to bending the devastating enchanted fire to their will.

Taking a cleansing breath, he tuned back into the Marauders conversation with Peter insisting that the next World Cup would see the Belgians take on Wales. Sirius snorted, that was so never going to happen. The Welsh team sucked!

Overall, the first term of the Marauders fifth year at Hogwarts was a busy one. Sirius and Remus spent another full moon as pack members just after the school year started and disappointingly, another one again one month later because James and Peter were still impatiently waiting on an electrical storm to arrive. Until they had a storm, they were effectively stymied…all they could do was wait which was frustrating them and making them grumpy.

It wasn’t until October the 12th that a massive electrical storm hit Hogwarts Castle, also bringing torrential rains in its wake. In the village of Hogsmeade, there were reports of flash flooding due to a large amount of rain that had been dumped on the region in just a few hours.

When Professor Dumbledore announced that Madam Puddifoots’ popular tearoom in the Hogsmeade village would not be open for the third to seventh-year students to visit this Hogsmeade visiting weekend due to the tearoom which was struck by lightning, James and Peter were hard-pressed not to whoop and cheer. Not because they had anything against the tea shop proprietor, they didn’t, indeed they often enjoyed a pleasant afternoon tea there. It was just that the word lightening reminded them (as if they truly needed it) that they’d soon be able to determine their Animagus forms, which was extremely thrilling.

Finally, the eager pair of wizards were going to get the chance to take their potions and discover what their Animagus form would be which evoked a huge amount of excitement from the two Marauders. Still, they had been a hairsbreadth away from getting detention instead since Professor McGonagall was rumoured to be a good friend of Madame Puddifoot. When their Head of House had caught the expression of delight and glee and understandably misunderstood the reason for it, she had looked furious. If it hadn’t been for Sirius and Remus’ quick thinking and reflexes in each casting a Sting Hex at the pair, it was highly likely they’d have found themselves scouring cauldrons all night as detention instead of climbing down the ladder into the dimensional trunk after dinner and drinking their potions.

There’d been a lot of conjecture in the preceding months about exactly what animals they might be – some of it, serious discussion. For example, the odds of them all being some type of canids such as a coyote, jackal, or a wolf. Peter thought he might be a fox and Sirius could see that happening, while James insisted that he would be a Northern Timber wolf. It was a subspecies of the grey wolf and was the largest wolf in the world weighing in at 80 kilograms, which was roughly the size of an average wizard.

Sirius hoped James was wrong, simply because he thought that Moony would be quite threatened by such a massive wolf trying to join the pack. Other suggestions were more ridiculous or teasing, including turning into a warty toad, a kneazle or a hippogriff but the long wait was finally over. Tonight, they would find out for sure.

After classes had ended for the day, they retired to the dimensional trunk and checked on James and Peter’s potions. Both were the correct blood-red colour as described in Rowle’s book. The two wizards made themselves comfortable on the couch sitting cross-legged, placing their wand over their hearts and spoke the now-familiar incantation, “Amato Animo Animato Animagus,” before swigging down the potions that had taken so long to prepare. Feeling the fiery pain and intense double heartbeat wasn’t fun but all too soon each wizard was caught up in the vision of what their transformed state would be. When they finally returned to themselves, they found two very impatient Marauders waiting to learn their friends’ forms.

Peter looked a bit disappointed. “I’m a rat,” he told them self-consciously, trying not to squeak.

Sirius and Remus looked at each other and tried to cheer Peter up. “Well, a rat is useful for spying on people. It’s perfect for a Marauder, Mate.” Sirius said bracingly.

Remus agreed. “Padfoot is right, Pete. Plus, you’ll be able to escape into small places if someone’s chasing you and you were in danger,” he said honestly.

Peter looked much happier, and he grinned. “I hadn’t that of that, guys. Thanks.”

Remus looked at James who was uncharacteristically quiet. “And your form, James?”

Potter replied, “A stag.”

Peter, feeling a little better grinned, “A deer?”

James immediately corrected him. “A stag, Pete. With a bloody massive set of antlers!”

Peter couldn’t help wanting to needle his friend and said, “But a male stag is still a deer, yeah?”

Sirius could see that James was about ready to lose his temper with Peter and he stepped in swiftly.

“Sounds very impressive, James. I can’t wait until you guys can join Remus too. It’s going to be so cool. But I think we should head off to bed now. I know how exhausting the vision is and the pain. Let’s figure out when to do the final transforming step tomorrow.”

James and Peter wanted to do it immediately, but Remus backed him up. “You need to be fully rested, guys. Remember Rowle says how dangerous it is and if you aren’t properly focused you can end up stuck as a half-human half-beast for the rest of your life. You don’t want to rush this.”

So, the two wizards agreed to get a good nights’ sleep. They climbed back up the ladder and went off to the school kitchen to get some cocoa and a slice of treacle tart before curfew and headed off to bed.

They decided to do the transformation two days later, on a Saturday since Quidditch hadn’t started yet. Tryouts for the new team members to replace those players’ positions who’d graduated last June were still underway. There’d be another six weeks of practice before any games got underway. So, Sirius had suggested that it made perfect sense to do the final step of transforming on Saturday morning to give Peter and James as long a recovery time as possible before classes resumed on Monday morning.

He knew that the first transformation, as well as being bloody scary and super painful, had also drained a lot of magical energy and he’d felt like shite for days. Of course, since the whole trying to become secret Animagi so they could spend full moons with Remus prank was a sworn secret he had to pretend to be fine. He couldn’t afford to be sent off to the infirmary and answer a lot of awkward questions from a wily Mediwitch.

If James and Peter did the transformation on Saturday, they would have all weekend to sleep, and the other Marauders would keep anyone else from getting suspicious. They could say that they’d dared them to run up and down the stairs all night for a bet or something and since they were always pulling dumb shit on each other and the rest of the students, no one would think twice. At least they would get to rest and by Monday, would be feeling much better and Sirius noted that Remus got a mischievous look on his face, making it clear that he’d come up with a prank. Honestly, he might be a prefect, but Remus was pure evil!

Everyone agreed that it was a good idea and they’d gathered on Saturday morning in the old dragon enclosures with Remus’ knife and J. K. Rowle’s Animagus book. Peter argued that because they already knew what the extra part of the incantation was, there was no reason to go with the whole slicing hands and dripping blood stunt.

Sirius mentally rolled his eyes. Sometimes Padfoot wondered how Peter ever got sorted into Gryffindor since he didn’t seem very brave, but over the years, he’d learnt to keep those thoughts to himself. The others trusted Peter implicitly and he knew that his upbringing had made it difficult to trust people, but he trusted James and Remus and they trusted Peter – that was good enough for him.

Remus had signed patiently, “I thought we had already settled all of this, Pete. As Sirius said, this transformation is extremely dangerous. We have no way of knowing if the blood oath didn’t just reveal the last word of the incantation, it might have offered him special protection against getting stuck midway between human and beast.”

James nodded earnestly. “Padfoot’s transformation wasn’t easy but it was successful. Call me superstitious but I plan to do everything he did, even the meditation.”

Why tempt fate?

Chapter 31

Sirius could tell that James and Remus thought Peter was being a silly git for being afraid of a little blood, too. Still, he was so close now. Maybe he just needed a bit of encouragement.

“We don’t know if the blood oath or the meditation made any difference. We also don’t know if my Occlumency helped me to stay in my human mind during the transformation. BUT” he said, with emphasis, “We also don’t know that they didn’t make a difference either. Why would you take the chance?”

Peter looked at his fellow Marauders slightly furtively. “Because I hate the sight of my own blood, I feel faint and… sometimes I pass out, alright? Are you guys happy now?”

James looked empathetic. “Hey, Pete, my uncle’s a healer. He told me about that – some people faint at the sight of their own blood – it’s a thing. He said it’s got nothing to do with being afraid either. How about if you slice your hand quickly and then close your eyes so you don’t see your blood and take the oath and then when the incantation is revealed, I can heal it for you.”

Pettigrew nodded reluctantly. “I guess so if you guys really think it’s necessary.”

“We do!” they chorused, before moving on to debate if James and Peter should do it together or one at a time. After fierce debate it was decided to do it exactly as it had been done before – so one at a time. James volunteered to go first.

They all meditated together for 15 minutes to calm and centre themselves and then he took the blood oath and the revised incantation appeared again. Remus healed his cut swiftly and James pointed his wand towards his heart and the double heartbeat, saying, “Amato Animo Animato Animagus Transformare.”

As Sirius had done, he dropped to the ground, curled into a ball, moaning with a pain that seemed so unbearable that it would drive him crazy. His friends offered supportive words; Sirius especially was able to talk him through the fear and pain. He reminded him to use his mental mindscape to focus on his stag form, picturing the intricate and powerful antlers which were like the branches of a tree.

Finally, James cries of agony shifted into snorts as James slowly began to transform into a truly magnificent male deer with an enormous set of antlers that looked lethal. The whole transformation seemed to take hours, although it was probably only about 20 minutes and the transformation back into his human form took even longer.

Sirius, already proficient at transforming at will, was able to talk him through it again. Last time Remus had been coaching him, but Remus’ shifting was involuntary, so it wasn’t quite the same process. At one point, James seemed too exhausted to complete the transformation. Although Sirius had gradually transformed his whole body at once, James had done it from the top down. He still had two front legs and two hind legs with hooves when he seemed too exhausted to keep going and after an intense discussion between the other three panicked boys, they decided to force some of the Honeydukes chocolate down James’ throat that they’d brought for later.

They’d figured they could maybe let him rest and try again but they weren’t sure if he stopped halfway would he get stuck, so they went with the chocolate to pep him up. Luckily, it seemed to work, and he completed the transformation successfully before collapsing in a heap in the grass, completely spent.

Meanwhile, Remus refused to let Peter start the transformation before they figured out why James had so nearly come to grief. Sirius understood that he felt responsible for them wanting to become Animagi and Sirius admitted that the near disaster had kind of freaked him out too. So, the three Marauders talked about what had been different between Sirius and James’ transformations.

“There’s the obvious difference of James changing himself a little bit at a time when Sirius had done it gradually as a whole person to the whole dog and then back to a whole person again. It might be that doing it Sirius’ way used less magical energy,” Remus theorised.

While that was a very plausible theory, there was also a possibility that Sirius possessed more magical power than James, not that he’d ever say that to the other Marauders.

Peter said, “Maybe it was because a stag is a lot bigger than a dog.”

The other boys (not James who was curled up too exhausted to speak) smiled at each other, amused that Peter wasn’t making cracks about James’ form being a deer anymore. Well, it was a massive and intimidating stag. It was a reasonable theory too.

Sirius had another one. “It could be that because I’ve spent so much time around dogs, especially Черно,” he said, referring to the dog who’d befriended him as a child in Bulgaria. “I didn’t have to concentrate so intensely on what a dog’s anatomy looked like. I doubt that James has had the opportunity to get so up close and personal with a stag, so he had to focus on one bit at a time,” he said, and Remus and Peter agreed it was a reasonable explanation too.

“Remus considered the situation carefully.

If James is suffering from magical exhaustion because of the size of his stag form, that shouldn’t be an issue for Peter because a rat is a lot smaller than a dog, so we don’t need to worry,” he said, and Sirius and Peter nodded in agreement.

“That makes sense,” Peter said eagerly.

“If the problem was that he tried to transform by focusing on individual features rather than the whole, I’m not sure how we can overcome that except maybe try to talk him through shifting, emphasizing that he must stay focused on the whole rat form, not separate features,” Remus said.

It was clear Moony was unhappy with the available solution and Sirius sympathised with him, not liking it either but he wasn’t seeing an alternate option, except not going on with the transformation.

“And the other theory,” Peter asked them.

“If I’m right about the familiarity factor, then we could transfigure a rat and have Peter study it before he attempts the transformation,” Sirius suggested and the boys nodded enthusiastically, finding this option a lot more proactive.

Remus looked at Peter. “Of course, there is a fourth option, “Don’t complete the transformation.”

Peter looked torn. “I want to go out with you guys at full moon, but I am scared.”

Remus told him, “I get it, Mate. I’m not sure that I would want to if I could become an Animagus.”

Peter gave him a grateful look. “I’m a Marauder, I want to try the transformation.”

Sirius pushed some Honeydukes chocolate on him for energy, before transfiguring a cute white rat out of a stone for Peter to study before he began his transformation. Peter stuffed the chocolate in his mouth and picked up the rat, scrutinising it carefully for many minutes before handing it to Remus.

“Okay, let’s do this,” he said tensely.

Picking up the knife and holding the Animagus book carefully on his lap, he cut his palm and quickly shut his eyes, so he couldn’t see his bright red blood dripping down and landing on the parchment of the page as he made his oath. As before, the text began to rearrange itself and the final word in the incantation appeared. Since James was still struggling to recover magically from his own transformation, Sirius healed Peter’s cut hand with an elegant swish of his wand and Remus told him he could open his eyes again.

Peter stared at the rat again before lifting his wand and pointing to his heart, reciting, “Amato Animo Animato Animagus Transformare.”  As he dropped onto all fours and started keening in fear and pain, Remus and Sirius started talking him through the process, reminding him to keep the whole rat foremost in his mind, not to focus on separate features. His transformation into a brown rat seemed to take as long as James had into the massive stag, suggesting that it wasn’t the size of the animal that the individual transformed into, rather the actual process that expended the energy. They were hopeful that since a rat was a common animal, Pete would be able to complete the transformation back to his human state again.

After approximately thirteen very tense minutes, he’d slowly, painfully changed back into his human form, the two Marauders encouraging and coaxing him to keep going. It was painfully slow but finally, all that was left of his rat form were some whiskers that they reminded him weren’t his human features and he managed to banish them before collapsing in a heap, gasping. Remus pressed more chocolate on him and then he curled up and fell asleep next to Potter. James had stayed awake by sheer force of will and now that it was over, let go, falling into a deep sleep, while Sirius and Remus exchanged mightily relieved looks.

The worst was over – now it was a question of the two Animagi practising enough so that they could change at will and then they could spend full moons with Padfoot and Moony. Meanwhile, the two Marauders stood guard as the pair slept and Sirius handed Remus some celebratory chocolate.

“We did it Moony, we’re Animagi!”

Remus regarded him with amusement. “Pretty sure you were already an Animagus, Pads.”

Sirius rolled his eyes at his friend. “I know that. I was speaking of ‘we’ in the collective sense, you prat!”

They were silent for several minutes, each wizard lost in his thoughts before Sirius grinned and chucked a blade of grass at his friend.

“Hey Moony, what do you think the collective noun for a group of Animagi would be?”

Remus grinned, not even pausing to think about it before replying, “I’d say it’s a Maraud of Animagi.”

Padfoot grinned back, “Perfect!”

~o0o~

Peter and James slept the entire weekend. Someone (Remus) started a rumour that the two Marauders had had a marathon session of sex with various witches to explain their exhaustion, but Padfoot had objected that the story wasn’t all that plausible. Everyone knew that James was completely gaga over Lily Evans who wouldn’t give him the time of day, and Peter wasn’t exactly the most likely candidate to feature Which Witch Weekly’s 50 Most Eligible Schoolboy Wizards edition.

But even if it was a ludicrous rumour, it served the purpose of diverting everyone’s attention away from their extreme feat of sleep through the weekend. Most of the Gryffindors spent the weekend debating who would be in the 1975 Edition now that quite a lot of last year’s list of wizards had graduated and weren’t eligible for inclusion anymore. Sirius and Remus may have sparked that debated, knowing that two sets of Prewitt twins were likely to start taking bets on whether James and Perter would make the list. As diversions went it, was brilliant. As pranks on their fellow teammates went, it was pure Marauder-inspired ingenuity.

Although they were still very sore and sorry for themselves come Monday morning, their fellow Marauders had plied them with potions to get them out of bed. After Padfoot’s transformation last year he’d brought pain and Pepper-up potions to school for this very purpose. Remus realised that they should have taken some of their potions with them to use on Saturday at the transformation. He hadn’t thought of it, to be honest – although he should have.

In his defence, Sirius hadn’t made that much of a fuss of being in pain afterwards though and Remus had wrongly assumed that it wasn’t akin to his involuntary forced transformations. Sure, Pads had slept for the rest of Sunday after completing his transformation, but he got up the next day and went to classes without complaints, unlike Peter and James who were whining piteously about being sore and still feeling exhausted two days later. So, either he was a lot physically tougher than they were, or the transformation hadn’t taken as much out of him.

By the time, the pair of new Animagi had recovered enough to start practising transforming, they had less than two weeks until the full moon. As he watched them shifting, with Sirius giving them hints, since he was able to morph with ease, Remus was still pondering over the different reactions from Sirius, James, and Peter. It was feasible that Padfoot had a much higher tolerance to pain than the others, and he resolved to ask Madam Pomphrey about it the next full moon. Not that he would tell her why he wanted to know, but he was curious.

The other explanation was that Sirius Black was a powerful wizard and he used up the same amount of magical energy as the other two boys, but he still had plenty in reserve. Of course, he knew that his friend was an excellent student, he was always coming up with crazy ideas and had no trouble with the practical side of magic, but could he be a lot more powerful than they’d realised.

By the full moon on the 1st of November, the boys had been diligently practising changing from human to animal form for several weeks and they all gathered in the Shrieking Shack just before moonrise. It was a Friday night and Gryffindor were playing Hufflepuff at Midday, but James and Sirius didn’t care that they would be short of sleep. It was a momentous occasion, and they had no intention of missing it. The Marauders were together at long last during Moony’s transformation. It had taken them years of trying but they’d achieved a dangerous and tricky feat and they were determined to celebrate.

Not that the first full moon together went off entirely without incident. His wolf Moony was not immediately accepting of a rat and a stag joining his pack. Padfoot was not a wolf, granted, but he was a canid and close enough to understand wolf body language and culture. When James tried to show submission to Moony by lowering himself to the ground, Moony interpreted it as him lowering his head (with his massive set of antlers) to charge him. While Peter’s submission consisted of hiding behind Pads and James and emitting a high-pitched squealing that only served to remind Moony that he was prey. Sirius had to intervene quite a few times, growling, and chivvying him to divert his attention.

Of course, taking those sorts of liberties with an Alpha wolf by a lower-ranking pack member incurred his wolf’s extreme displeasure. It immediately invoked a penalty since, by the laws of the dominance hierarchy, he was instinctively forced to disciple Padfoot to remind him of his place in the pack. Even though he ended the night with a heap of bruises, Sirius managed to avoid any severe injuries by showing his unconditional submission, luckily switching off any true feral aggression, for which Remus was terrible thankful.

Just because the Animagi weren’t in danger of contracting lycanthropy from a bite, didn’t mean he couldn’t do considerable damage to them or even kill them if he were truly threatened. Somehow (probably because canines were a close relative of the wolf) Padfoot managed to walk a fine line between protecting James and Peter and not pissing off Moony too badly, thus avoiding having his throat ripped out by the werewolf, but it was quite tense.

Just before sunrise, Moony (Remus’ werewolf) seemed ready to accept the two strange new animals as members of his odd wolf pack and he curled up beside Padfoot. James lay down on Pads’ other side with Peter tucked up against the great stag for protection and they slept for an hour or two until Remus began to shift back into his human form. Knowing that Madame Pomphrey would soon be here to transport him back to the infirmary where he would spend at least a day recovering as she treated his usual injuries, Sirius woke up the other two so they could sneak back to Gryffindor. They were probably planning on grabbing some extra sleep since today was Saturday and the quidditch match didn’t get underway until midday.

Later that night, after Madame Pomphrey had chased the Marauders off to bed, he’d talked to her about high and low tolerance levels, using his lycanthropy to bring the subject up.

“She said, “There are some people who seem to be born with an abnormally high tolerance to pain but it isn’t common. Rarely, very rarely, I’ve heard of individuals who cannot feel pain at all.”

Remus looked wistful. “What I wouldn’t give to feel no pain.”

Poppy looked at him sadly. “I can understand that Mr Lupin, but we are supposed to feel pain for a reason. A person who doesn’t feel pain doesn’t know when they’ve broken a leg and may keep using it until it becomes too damaged that even Skele-Grow cannot save it and it needs to be amputated. They can suffer horrific burns and not know it and so they fail to seek treatment in time to save their life. It is not a gift – it’s a curse.”

They were both silent for several minutes before she resumed speaking. “Of course, by far the most common reason for high tolerance to pain is constant exposure to it. Aurors, especially hit wizards who see a lot of action and incur many injuries can often develop a tolerance to pain that the average witch or wizard couldn’t dream of; as I would suggest, have you, Mr Lupin. And sadly, a high pain threshold in average magic folk who aren’t Aurors, or Lycanthropes can also be a warning sign of physical abuse in childhood. I’ve seen it occasionally in my career,” she said looking angry.

“In squibs?” Remus asked, appalled at the thought of someone physically abusing kids but knowing that many children born without magic power were despised in the magical world. Often their own parents were the most bigoted.

“From squibs, muggles, muggle-borns, half-blood and pure-blood children, Remus. Abuse of children spans all races and cultures, including the wizarding world.”

Neither spoke at all after that – there wasn’t a lot to say. But as he settled down for the night, Remus wondered about Padfoot. During their first moon time together, he’d been very protective of James and Peter (probably like he’d been with Regulus before he betrayed him) and he’d stepped in and taken Moony’s harsh physical discipline without flinching to keep his mates safe. Of course, Remus was mighty glad he had, he’d feel horrible if he’d hurt them but neither of them had a scratch on them, but Padfoot did. When he asked him about it, he said it happened during the quidditch match which the Gryffindors won, but Remus, even in his human state had a keen sense of smell and he’d detected deceit, which meant he hurt Sirius last night.

~o0o~

The rest of the term flew by. Sirius seemed jumpy to his fellow Marauders just before they headed home for Christmas but was fine when they returned. Their fifth year was passing by in a whirl of full moons spent with Moony and studying for OWLS. Their chocolate business selling to the staff and students continued to turn a healthy profit with Sirius’ cousins Aaron, Gemini and Ares Prewitt and Pip Potter picking up a lot of the slack from the suddenly studious twins, Fabian, and Gideon.

There was always still the need for pranking to keep anyone from paying too much attention to Remus’ monthly illness and his time in the infirmary plus, in their spare time, the Marauders were also dating. Well, Peter, Sirius and Remus did. James was too busy pursuing Lily to go out with anyone else, even to Hogsmeade on visiting weekends so he and Pip would hang out together plotting ways to attract the objects of their unrequited love. Needless to say, their plans didn’t work, and their romance remain one-sided.

On the ongoing project making a magical map of Hogwarts, they were still working hard toward casting the Homonculous Charm, which was NEWTS level charm work, plus there was the charm work involved in combining the map with a security feature so that no one realised what it was. Remus suggested that like the dimensional truck, the map should be keyed to only respond if the correct phrase was uttered. Of course, they planned on using the same one that Sirius had come up with for the trunk, ‘I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.’

Additionally, James and Sirius wanted an extra layer of deflection and wanted to have the supposedly blank parchment insult the individual that was trying to snoop. Although it was totally prank-worthy of a Marauder, it also increased the complexity of the charm work exponentially.

Apart from the security features, they were still working on the actual Hogwarts map. In their somewhat limited spare time, the Marauders were exploring the castle, inch by inch to be able to record it on their map. Granted in the time they’d already spent there, they’d developed a good working knowledge of Hogwarts, but they needed to ensure every hidden passage or secret room was recorded for it to be fully effective. It was a complicated task though because there were seven floors, plus a basement and there were all the shifting staircases. They had to figure out how they were going to record them.

Their progress with the mirrors was a different story. They were making steady progress. They’d determined that a type of Protean Charm with some modifications and some added security measures would probably be their best option. James was quite certain that he could find some small mirrors at home that they could use. He was confident he could find some in one of their many attics that held generations of Potter junk when he went home for Easter.

Meanwhile, it was with much excitement that Moony (Remus’ wolf) had duly named the two newest members of their pack. James was named Prongs since while in the rather cramped confines of the Shrieking Shack, he was prone to accidentally stabbing everyone, himself included with those massive antlers of his. Peter was gifted with the name Wormtail, for no other reason than Moony said so and they all knew that what he said was law. Peter pouted and sulked, disliking the name and Sirius empathised, he thought it sucked. However, Moony would not be moved so James advised Peter that he might as well accept it with good grace.

As the Easter holidays approached, Sirius started acting jumpy and paranoid as he had before Christmas break. Remus was starting to get suspicious, and he kept an even closer watch on Sirius and the rest of his pack than he usually did. That was how he’d noticed that Rabastan Lestrange and Padfoot’s little brother, Regulus were going around with smug expressions on their faces. Moony felt all growly and worried.

Remus tried to talk to him about it, but Sirius just kept stonewalling him and saying that said everything was fine. Remus reminded himself that Sirius had been weird like this at Christmas, but everything had been okay. It was likely that this would be alright, too.

Nevertheless, it was a most unhappy wolf who farewelled his pack at Kings Cross Station as they were all swallowed up by family and friends. Moony wanted to threaten and intimidate Padfoot’s family but it was his Uncle Alphard who met him and Regulus on the platform. He knew Padfoot’s uncle was a good guy; when Sirius talked about him, he produced happy scents that told Remus’ wolf that he loved his uncle, and the wizard must care for him too.

Crossing his fingers, Remus turned to his own parents and hugged them glad to spend some time with them. Even if they were sometimes afraid of Moony, he knew that they did love him.

Moony always knew when people lied.


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SASundance

Writer and reader from down under, obsessive filler of pot-holes um plot holes. You can find me at A03 and fanfic.net under my pen name SASundance

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