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James and Sirius registered a look of realisation, followed by a momentary look of fear which quickly dissolved into steely resolve. “Everybody get down!” James commanded loudly though he needn’t have bothered, as students were ducking behind anything that could serve as protection, screaming wildly. Remus, who had not yet walked 5 steps from their merry little consort hissed to Marjorie, “Take him and any others over there…they won’t see you.” Marjorie gave a frightened nod and obeyed. Remus quickly rejoined his friends who had ducked into a narrow laneway, dragging Lily, Vi, Martina, Warwick and a couple of 3rd years with them. They could hear the sounds of things imploding with the impact of powerful spells, children screaming and crying and a woman’s high shrieking laughter. “So she has joined,” James whispered to Sirius. “Looks that way, doesn’t it?” Sirius replied darkly. “What are you talking about?” Lily demanded in tones of rising panic. “That’s Bellatrix, my cousin…I’ll bet you anything Rodolphous is behind one of those masks too. Who knows, this could be a family reunion,” he added grimly. “What are we going to do?” Marty whimpered. James and Sirius and Remus’s eyes flashed dangerously. “Don’t be stupid!” Lily shrilled, “6 Death Eaters! You can’t take them all on!” “Look around Evans! Do you see anyone coming to help? All the teachers are back at school!” Sirius reminded her. Lily was about to protest further when a spell hit the wall opposite them, brinks and mortar exploded and the wall crumbled. “Don’t worry,” James said softly, forcing his features into a look of reassurance, “The rest of you, stay here, you too, Peter,” he ordered. Her green eyes widened with realisation but he was too fast. He, Sirius and Remus had whipped from the laneway. The three of them were launching spells at their would be attackers, who were surprised by the sudden onslaught and three of them were Stunned, almost immediately. A powerful spell struck the corner of the wall that Lily and the others were pressed up against and they scrambled to get out of the way. Ducking into the rubble they were now given a clear view of the battle. Lily could see Remus furiously dueling with his opponent, his normally meek and compliant expression twisted into furious determination as he roared potent curses at the masked Death Eater. Sirius was dueling with a woman, his cousin Bellatrix she supposed, he ducked and weaved gracefully, his longs legs and arms sweeping skillfully as he fought with her, Lily could hear him hurling swear words and insults as well as hexes and curses. She didn’t see a flicker of mischief in his pale grey eyes, there was no trace of the vehement troublemaker now, just an incredibly powerful wizard. James drifted into vision: he was dueling so forcefully that his adversary was being pushed back by his advances, it occurred to her that both he and Sirius were renowned for their knowledge of jinxes, curses and hexes (they had spent a good deal of demonstrating on Slytherins-she had spent a good deal of time yelling at them for it), this time, though, she was immensely grateful for it. She could now see why they were Hogwarts most brilliant students. James deflected another curse and Lily watched, transfixed. He looked nothing like the skinny, straggly boy she’d always seen him as, his confident air had been adapted into power, he looked intimidating. James whirled to avoid the Stunning spell and she was that he was not unscathed: blood soaked his t-shirt and he had a nasty gash across his cheek. Out of the corner of her eye she saw something move: one of the Death Eaters had recovered from the effects of being stunned. Lily saw with horror that he was pointing his wand directly at James. Without thinking she leapt out from the rubble and raced towards the new opponent. “Expelliarmus!” she bellowed and the wand flew from the staggered Death Eaters’ hands and into her own. “Stupefy!” she yelled before he could react and he was blown back. “CRUCIO!” Lily whipped around as she heard the words spoken and saw that Sirius had been struck down, Bellatrix was laughing maniacally as she watched him twitch and flail, an anguished moan escaping him. Lily seemed frozen to the spot, she felt like if she moved she would be violently ill. She looked around frantically and saw that James’s face was wrought with terror and he leapt forward ready to meet Bellatrix in duel, forgetting about his own opponent. She finally remembered herself and moved to replace James. Suddenly all of the Death Eaters clasped their left forearms. She caught her Death Eater grinning at her through the mask and he Disapparated. “The Dark Lord wants you to give a message to Dumbledore: He wants him to know that the Dark Lord has arrived, darkness shall reign and we shall return!” Bellatrix bellowed defiantly, she quickly summoned the incapacitated Death Eaters and disappeared. Remus was left in mid curse as his Death eater vanished and he, like James ran to Sirius and knelt beside him. The two of them looked extremely pale and grave as they checked him over. Lily came down beside them, willing to help in anyway if she could. Sirius lay crumpled on the ground, his eyes were squeezed shut and his face was glistening with sweat, his black hair plastered to his forehead, his breathing was ragged and he was shivering slightly. “Sirius?” James said, his voice quavering. He opened his eyes slowly and let out a low groan. “ ‘M fine,” he said hoarsely. Remus looked like he might die from relief and James let out a string of swear words and heaved Sirius from the ground and into his arms. Sirius choked out something halfway between a laugh and a sob, “I’m all right,” he said gruffly, but he returned the hug all the same. “Honestly, get a hold of yourself Prongs…if you need to get physical with someone Evans here is a better shape for it,” he joked weakly, his grey eyes fixing her with a piercing stare. The image of a flash of red streaking across the street emerged in James’s mind, he let Sirius go and stood up, turning abruptly, his arms shot out and clamped down on her shoulders, “Are you okay?” he asked her seriously. She forged a smile, “I’m okay.” James groaned in reprieve. He wanted to hug her, hold her, kiss her…he also wanted to yell at her for getting involved in the fight but he realised that there were more pressing matters at hand. “We need to get everyone back to school, they could come back at any moment so we need to act fast.” “I don’t think they’ll come back,” Remus said softly. “No, I don’t either, but we can’t take chances,” he agreed. “First of all we need to check what kinds of injuries we’ve got, make sure everyone’s okay.” Make sure everyone’s alive. “You 3 are the worst of it!” Lily exclaimed exasperatedly, her arms under Sirius armpit, holding him up as he swayed gently, “Look at yourselves!” They looked down at their various injuries, as if only realising they were there. All three of them were wounded in some shape or form, blood seeping through their various clothing layers and bruises forming on their exposed skin. “Oh.” James said gently, gingerly running his fingers along the cut on his cheek. “It’s nothing really,” he mumbled; for some reason they all looked extremely uncomfortable. Lily shook her head in frustration and disbelief and turned her back to them, facing the laneway (which now looked like a landfill area) that the others were hiding in. “You guys! Vi, Marty, Peter! Check on everyone, make sure they’re okay, get them organised and ready to leave!” Their 3 heads popped up from the rubble and they nodded, quickly (but shakily) going to work. She turned back to them, “Let me have a look at you at least, I’ll patch up what I can so you don’t die on the way back or frighten the little kids” she said stiffly. “But we…” Remus started to protest but fell silent upon seeing the look on Lily’s face. Seeing as Sirius was still slumped awkwardly in her arms she examined him first, he didn’t appear to have too much in the way of flesh wounds, the damage seemed to be all internal, though his pale skin was rudely glowing with bruises. She let him down onto the ground, ordering him to stay still until they had to move, he grumbled stubbornly but felt too weak and sore to put up a fight. She whipped around, “James, take off your shirt.” “What?!” he yelped, his hands unconsciously clutching his shirt. “She wants your body Prongs, better hurry up and oblige the lady before she changes her mind,” Sirius said garishly, though he winced with every word. “Shut up Sirius.” She would have said more but she remembered that less than 10 minutes ago he’d been tortured, he might still be delirious, though she doubted that. Humour was his defence mechanism, she could understand that at least. James reluctantly pulled his shirt over his head, in any other situation he would have obliged all too willingly, but not with her, not with Lily. Lily swallowed all apprehension and embarrassment and bent down to inspect his chest. There was a long diagonal slash that ran from his collarbone to where his ribs ended, the blood was incredibly obvious contrasted against his pale skin. Lily ran her fingers over his chest tentatively, he shivered and sucked in breath, though she was sure she wasn’t hurting him. Sirius was trying not to laugh at James’s stricken expression. He was trying not to laugh because a.) it would earn him a bucket load of scorn and b.) his muscles were still cramped and sore, even the most minor of movements was painful. “I don’t think anything’s broken, but this cut is pretty deep…I don’t think I should try to heal it…I’m so shaky I might accidentally flay you.” James laughed nervously and Lily conjured some bandages to stem the bleeding a bit. He hurriedly slipped his shirt back on and mumbled his thanks, still blushing furiously and cursing himself inwardly for allowing himself to get worked up at one of the most inappropriate moments he could think of. She stood up straight and turned to Remus, who, if possible, blushed brighter than James, “I’m all right,” he muttered. She sighed impatiently. Why were they acting so immature? They had just fought fully grown Dark Wizards and yet they were afraid of what? Girl Germs? “Look Remus, don’t be stupid, I’m not asking you to strip naked or anything, but you’re bleeding,” she said forcefully, pointing at his bloodied and tattered shirt. Remus’s eyes darted between his friends, silently pleading for their help. “It’s okay mate,” James encouraged softly. Remus’s eyes were wide with fear but he gave a resigned sigh and lifted his shirt with a deep breath. Lily gave him her most soothing smile and she shifted to look at his injuries. Her eyes caught on his pale flesh and she let out an exclamation of shock, her hand flew to her mouth. She looked to both James and Sirius for answers but their expression revealed nothing. She looked up at Remus and saw that his eyes were squeezed tightly shut, his breathing shallow and erratic, his hole body was in fact tense. There were injuries, yes, but only a few of them looked recent. His skin was a positive battlefield of scars, he looked as if he had been ripped apart and then roughly sewn back together. She traced the scars lightly with her hands: deep gouges and scrathes, bite marks…where had they come from? Her hands paused over one particular wound on his side. It appeared to be a bite, something rather large had gripped him in it’s jaws. The scar itself was white and hairless, the skin surrounding it was fetid and warped. She recalled seeing a similar wound in her DADA text book, it had belonged to a werewolf: the bite that had turned him. Realisation dawned on her and she gawked up at Remus: his eyes stills crewed shut, his breathing almost non-existent now. She couldn’t imagine shy, sweet, studious Remus as…a monster, a homicidal nightmare, he was the most gentle person she’d ever know, the idea was utterly absurd! She repeated what she had done with James and stood up to face him, she now noticed that he had light scars across his face and neck too, “It’s okay,” she whispered and he opened his eyes, his fear painfully apparent in those soft, warm, brown eyes; she smiled tenderly at him, “It’s okay Moony,” she repeated, his nickname tentatively rolling off her tongue. He fixed her with a stare, unsure if he was hearing her correctly, did she really understand…his eyes locked onto her own, and he felt the warmth resonating from them; he gave her a grizzled smile, “Thank you,” he said in his soft voice, pulling on his shirt nervously. “Didn’t do anything,” she said brightly. James and Sirius were beaming at her and now it was her turn to colour; she felt almost as if she had just breached something very special. The bond between James, Sirius, Remus and Peter was so strong it was tangible, evident in their every movement and word and she had just been allowed to glimpse a part of it. “Come on, we’d better make sure everyone’s okay,” said James, assuming the role of leader once again. Sirius stumbled to his feet, abetted by Remus, as his balance was slightly off and when they started walking towards the others, Lily observed that Sirius did so with a slight limp. As they approached the other students, the four of them felt keenly powerful; perhaps it was the shock, but they all felt somewhat invincible, as if they could tackle anything right now. Peter and Marjorie rushed to meet them and inform them of the current situation: No major wounds, just a few concussions, bruises and a lot of scared kids. “It’s okay!” James said loudly, “They’re gone, everybody please keep calm, we’re going to go back to school, keep together and we’ll be fine. People seemed to calm in James’ presence, but then, Lily mused, they always had. He carried an air about him, something that reassured them: his strength, his compassion, his confidence…a natural born leader, a powerful wizard. The four of them led the way back to school; not a word was spoken as the gravity of what had happened sunk in…they were extremely lucky that no-one had been killed. Sirius understood this better than all of them his body was an all too painful reminder. James ordered Marjorie, Vi, Marty and Peter to escort the injured students to the Hospital Wing. Lily wanted James, Sirius and Remus to go also, but they refused, insisting on informing Dumbledore themselves, though, Sirius joked, he would have liked to have seen Madam Pomfrey’s face when she’d been told of the situation. The remaining students were ordered to go wait in the Great Hall. James, Lily, Sirius and Remus then started off towards Dumbledore’s office, unfortunately they ran into Professor McGonagall along the way. “Potter! Black! What have you been doing?!” she shrieked furiously, “Look at yourselves! Have you been duelling again?” she demanded, but gave them no time to answer, “Remus Lupin! I expected better from you! And Potter! You’re Head Boy now! It’s high time you started to act your age! Explain yourselves!” she fumed, her face a shade of red that Godric Gryffindor would have been proud of. “Please Professor,” Lily interpolated quickly, before McGonagall could launch into another tirade, “We were just on our way to see Professor Dumbledore, there was a…situation at Hogsmeade and we need to see him now,” she said, hoping McGonagall could sense the urgency. Their Transfiguration Professor stayed silent but continued to eye them suspiciously, “All right,” she said sternly, “I’ll escort you.” They didn’t argue, already fatigue was settling in and they needed to see Dumbledore. “Flossing Stringmint,” McGonagall snapped at the Gargoyle. The five of them entered and ascended the staircase. “Come in,” Dumbledore said cheerily, anticipating McGonagall’s knock, he smiled as he saw who the visitors were but his expression sobered when he saw the state they were in. “What has happened?” he asked quietly. Sirius hobbled to a seat, while the rest of them organised themselves around his desk. James, Lily, Sirius and Remus looked from one another uncertainly. Where to begin? “Death Eaters,” James said finally, earning an exclamation of fear from McGonagall behind them, Dumbledore said nothing, did nothing, but he continued to look grave, his light blue eyes boring into James. “There was a scuffle, between a couple of boys, Gregory Warwick and Sebastian Mallory…Warwick said a number of… offensive things about Mallory’s father, we were just sorting it out when 6 Death Eaters Apparated into Hogsmeade, started destroying things immediately…fair amount of damage to the village and a couple of concussions, but nothing more serious than cuts or bruises,” said James quickly at the wary look of concern on Dumbledores’ face. “Except for Sirius,” Lily corrected softly; everyone turned to her, observing her apprehensively, “One of the Death Eaters used the Cruciatus Curse.” Sirius shifted uneasily in his seat as McGonagall clapped her hands to her mouth, muffling a scream, “I’m all right,” he mumbled indignantly. Dumbledore remained silent but his passive face aged 50 years as his gaze fell on Sirius, who could not look back at him. Dumbledore continued to observe his young student for a few more moments before returning his attention back to James. “How did you escape?” “We, er, we dueled,” James explained, “Me and Sirius and Remus sort of took them by surprise and Stupefied 3 of them, so that evened up the odds a bit and we dueled. Eva…Lily too.” McGonagall’s face had gone a grayish colour, “You dueled!” she repeated disbelievingly, “What did you think you were doing?! You could have been killed!” “The thought had occurred to us,” said James grimly, “But we didn’t have much of a choice.” “Where are they now?” Dumbledore asked, his calm almost unnerving. “Gone,” Lily answered this time, “They Disapparated, one of them said something about giving you a message: ‘The Dark Lord has arrived’ or something.” “I think we were supposed to be the message,” said Remus quietly, “I think they came to kill as many of us as possible and send a message to Professor Dumbledore and the rest of the world.” “I have no doubt that that was His plan,” Dumbledore agreed brusquely. “The four of you have performed admirably and saved many lives today. There can be no price on what you have done, but I think I shall start by awarding you with 50 points each for Gryffindor and awards for Special Services to the school, I must now ask you to place yourselves in the care of Madam Pomfrey.” “But sir!” James protested, “We want to know what’s going on!” “When I myself understand that, I will inform you, but right now you need medical attention. When you have been released from Madam Pomfrey’s able hands we will speak again. Might I ask where the other students are?” “The injured ones are in the hospital wing, the rest of them are in the Great Hall…someone should go speak to them.” Dumbledore gave James a smile that showed how proud he was of him, of them all, “Well done. Minerva perhaps you should inform the other teachers while I address the school.” He turned to the four of them, “I cannot stress how much your actions have meant, you have, for a long time, been the brightest students Hogwarts has encountered, but today you showed more than skills or intelligence, you showed courage and compassion in the face of evil, qualities of a true Gryffindor. I can offer you no higher praise than that.” His serious expression flickered to reveal a smile, “Well, perhaps I could but we haven’t got three hours.” A/N: I suck at action writing, so bear with me, updates may be few and far between while I do my exams and major works for school, the next 4 weeks are full on but I have 3 more chapters to post, so it won't be too bad.

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