Marauders fic in flashbacks from the perspective of Frank and Alice
It had been way too long since he had seen James, Frank thought. Sure, he and Lily went into hiding, but they were supposed to at least write to the order. Without James and Sirius as the link, he didn't know how Regulus was doing either and it was grating on him. He caught a glimpse of a tree set in motion by the wind, and when he turned to look at it properly he could no longer remember why James and Lily would be hiding. James and Lily Potter didn't hide. Ever. Wait, Lily Potter? No that wasn't right either. Nothing about this was right.
He took a deep breath, attempting to ground himself in the present. The walls around him were white and unfamiliar, closing in on him. 'Where is Alice?' He thought. 'What happened to James? What is wrong with my head?' He was vaguely aware of his own hands gripping his hair, pulling on it, just to feel something other than his overcrowded mind.
When his eyes zeroed in on one of the tree branches where a bird had just landed, his headache faded away. The white walls and overbearing confusion and fear faded with it. The bird pushed itself off the branch and zoomed towards the forest in a blur of grey feathers. The Hogwarts grounds were always beautiful in spring.
Inhaling the fresh spring air he turned, the last of his uneasiness becoming harder to grasp. The sun warmed his face and he had to squint to see Alice reaching for his hand. Of course, she would be there, she always was. Was there something he was worried about? A test he had forgotten about perhaps? He must have frowned because Alice pulled on his arm. "Don't worry, it's just transfiguartion. Even if you fail this one assignment, you will still pass." She slung one arm around his shoulder and he instinctively knew she was right. Everything would be fine. They didn't have a care in the world that day.
"We're only third years anyway, we really could care less until we have to prepare for our O.W.Ls," he shrugged. Alice's soft laughter echoed like the memory of a pleasant bell and everything beautiful about life, it made him smile even if he didn't feel like it. "Don't let anybody else hear that Mr. Straight Os." When he looked up they were halfway across the school grounds. "Are you coming to Hogsmeade with me or not?" Alice turned toward him. As she turned, she grew.
When she faced him again, her hair was spikier than before, her freckles more pronounced, but the smile was the same and they were still the same height so he didn't react. She snapped her fingers before his face. "Frank. Hogsmeade? I told Sirius we'd be there, first inofficial Order meeting of the year?" Her eyebrows drew together in concern. "I know this is difficult for you, we don't have to go. They'll understand."
Disagreement he couldn't quite place flared up in his chest. "No," he startled into focus, "we'll go." Even as he got up, (when had they sat down? How did they get to the common room?) He felt heavier, securer in his steps, like wherever he was going it was with purpose. Alice was now at least one head shorter than him. They walked down the corridor and behind the first corner Pete caught up to them.
"I'm not running late, am I?" Peter said in his usual hectic voice. The guy was always anxious about one thing or another. Not that Frank could blame him, as of late there was an awful lot to be anxious about. "I spent hours following Rosier and Crouch, I thought I might catch something useful," he said. Peter sounded so mournfull that Frank and Alice just exchanged bemused glances and patted him on the shoulder rather than asking if he had heard anything useful. They went on their way, trying to cheer Pete up with the promise of Butterbeer and a few minutes without the fear of being spied on. Nothing cheered their gang of Gryffindor misfits up like the prospect of some good old fashioned scheming.
It felt wrong to talk about classes, sure they were supposed to care, but in times like these grades were hardly less trivial than the weather. However, they were still in the halls of Hogwarts. They were still students. What were they supposed to care about other than classes? Still, something about Pete's tale was just such a thoroughly normal story; the marauders and their willingness to go through any fire for one another. Even the boredom of listening to Rosier whine about charms homework. Some things would never change.
Alice would say 'their willingness to suffer to spare the others the pain.' They had discussed this more than once and Frank firmly stuck to his way of phrasing it. Gryffindors like them don't suffer in silence, they charge into the fight head on. Consequences be damned.
Alice swore he just had some leftover hero worship for them from first year and even though he'd never admit it she was probably right. Not that he truly believed they were anything other than students too, his friends actually, it just seemed easier to live in a world where the marauders were invincible. Sharing a short smile with Alice, he knew that she was thinking the same thing and it never failed to amaze him how an entire conversation so complex could fit into a single glance. How lucky he was to have a best friend like her.
In no time they were wandering the trodden path to the three broomsticks. The door swung open in front of them and without feeling himself move, Frank suddenly sat in a booth on the other side of the room across from Sirius and James. Alice was gone but even as he noticed he wondered why she should have been there in the first place.
James looked worn and tired, his smile was grim. "I'm sorry Sirius, I thought he'd stay," he mumbled. Sirius swallowed back whatever he actually felt, saving it for later. "It's not your fault that my brother is an ambitious idiot who doesn't know what's good for him," he replied a little too quickly. Frank struggled to catch up on how they had gotten to this part of the conversation. What had Regulus done now? The expression on James' face seemed ancient and out of place but a lot of people from their year looked like that nowadays. He wondered if he did too.
"Maybe I can find him," he heard himself say. James leaned back to properly look at him and Sirius's head whipped around, grey eyes suddenly piercing. Frank felt scrutinized, but before he could stammer out his idea, Sirius raised his chin in his usual defiance, the kind that let people know there was a plan. When he nodded to himself with a satisfied smirk, "maybe you could get to him Frank," the room changed again.
They were back in school, bent over a game of Kobalt stone. "No way," Remus laughed, "I win this round and you better deal with it Pads, or you can go talk to someone else next time James is out with Lily." There was something in that knowing smirk that he didn't quite catch but he didn't mind. Remus rarely smiled this time of the month and he was just glad to be there. Not that Remus knew that he knew, he'd spare him the pain.
Frank had no reason to dislike werewolves and even less of a reason to dislike Remus but Alice had carefully explained to him why it would be better if he said nothing. So he didn't. Remus had done so much for him over the last three and a half years, he'd gladly keep this one secret and any others.
It made him wonder again if he should bring up how Snape seemed to always be onto them but that would start a line of conversation none of them were ready for. Where was the line between school bully and deatheater? It felt like it should be distinct, yet some of their classmates were toeing the shadowy part of it. Something malicious was growing in the dark, promising power to those weak enough to take it. None of them wanted to acknowledge it but it was only a matter of time.
He wondered how they'd deal with it. He saw Sirius and Remus, caught up in their own world, and he thought of James and Lily, head strong and already silently preparing for a war they hoped to avoid. Not that they had said anything yet, but they certainly hadn't become so grown up over summer for fun. He saw Peters determined and scared face, always behind them.
He wondered if maybe James had access to more information than the rest of them. It wouldn't be unlike him to not share anything he didn't have definite proof of to keep others from harm. Lily would know still but that was different. He couldn't lie to her and she was more his other half than his friend even if she didn't know it yet. Maybe Peter had heard more than was good for him. Or maybe he was just his usual anxious self.
Sirius hadn't mentioned his family all term and they all knew what it meant. Still, he would occasionally slip notes to his brother and Frank worried that if he had noticed, who else had? Remus had returned from summer break with worse scars than ever before and students were whispering again. They had enough problems and still their Professors went on about their grades more insistantly than ever. They said it was because of the O.W.Ls but Frank felt like there was more to it. Perhaps they hoped to force normalcy. Or perhaps they wanted them as good at magic as possible for when it counted. Whenever that would be, next week or in a month when the war finally breaks loose or at their finals before they graduate, if they made it that far. Whatever it would be, they'd need their magic.
A while ago he had overheard Slughorn say they were the strongest generation of witches and wizards this school had seen in years. Optimistic researchers thought magic in general might be getting stronger. Deatheaters were convinced their plan to keep magical bloodlines pure was to thank. Frank thought that more often than not, strength was born from necessity. Nobody cared to study defense spells until their wrists turned blue if they didn't think their lifes might depend on it someday. Soon.
He sighed, and before the last air from that breath had left his lungs he was smaller again. A Gryffindor prefect who hadn't been in school since Franks second year was scolding the marauders over one prank or another and Frank really wished he had been a part of it. During his first week at Hogwarts Snape had decided that Frank represented the worst qualities Gryffindor had to offer and a far easier target than James. Everybody knew Snape and James hated eachothers guts. The older students thought it was funny that two eleven year olds regularly tried to kill each other but Frank got hit with the fallout quite often and didn't think it was nearly as funny. He wasn't as quick as James (yet, he promised himself, he'd be that quick someday) with either magic or witty comebacks. Snape targeted him when it was too difficult to get to James, which was as annoying as it was humiliating.
At least the marauders had taken to warning him when they were responsible for Snapes foul mood. At least they looked guilty. At least their comebacks were fun to watch. He never felt resentment toward them because they were just so much more creative than Snape. And far less cruel. Robes that sing christmas songs aren't nearly as hard to take as dark curses, no matter who got stuck with them.
He resented Snape, and Bella Black, and quite few other students looking to the dark side for inspiration, but never the marauders who remained nonchalant throughout all their endeavors. And maybe he forgave them so easily because he wanted to be like them. Just a little. Just sometimes.
Then again, they obviouly all had a price to pay to be who they were. They didn't show it and it was easy to overlook behind all their bravado but none of them had it easy, Frank was sure of it. Sirius without a family, James as the only heir of his, Remus who was got new scars each month and Peter who studied twice as much as the rest of them just to keep up.
The thing about Sirius and his family was that it was far more complicated than one would expect. There was no easy clean cut, no Slytherin/ Gryffindor family divide. He still had to live there. His family was legally required to keep him. It was about so much more than just the houses. At least they somewhat hid their disgust for Sirius until the uprising began. They kept him as an alibi. Were even nice when they thought he'd be useful. Until it turned out he wouldn't be useful. At least not to them.
Watching Sirius mourn the family he thought he had, seeing him loose all hope that they were redeemable was like watching a well constructed and thought through essay burn after it accidentally fell into the chimney, hours of work going up in flames. Loss and hurt remained but they belonged to nobody because it was always meant to happen. No matter how often either side accused the other of setting the fire on purpose, they both knew it wasn't true. They both knew they wanted a different outcome but the flames had been inevitable. In the end only one tiny speck of paper remained unharmed, and of course it was the only piece that didn't have a word written onto it just yet. At least not in visible ink.
Regulus Black was a story in himself. Young, but grimmer than all of them combined. Highstrung and void of hope. The Slytherins loved him but he didn't seem to particularly care for them. A mystery at every turn he took, but Frank found it hard to find the kid intimidating.
Not after hearing Sirius' rendition of the many times he and Andromeda talked Regulus into stealing stuff from Narcissa and Bellatrix to make them ruin Christmas while their parents stayed convinced that Regulus could do no wrong. The kid was cunning, but not evil. A little sad perhaps.
As he mulled over the complex character of one Regulus Black, he felt like he was forgetting something.
Of course, his heart stuttered, Reg was out on a mission for them. It all became clear again and the fact that he forgot something like that, even for a second, scared him.
He was supposed to recover something for them. For Sirius and James. Before the Potters go into hiding they needed information about something and Regulus was going to get it for them. But what was it?
The rain splattered heavily onto his traveling cloak but he was too distracted to care when it had started raining. The dim light of the street corner didn't do anything to make him see and he was torn whether that was good or not. The cloak should be big on him but he filled it out completely, his own wand was digging into his arm, hidden half up his sleeve he held onto it like a lifeline. Someone was supposed to be here. This was important, like, lifes on the line important. He wondered if he was the wrong person to be dealing with this when a figure appeared at the end of the street. The rain was clouding his view and when he exhaled, the street had turned into a quidditch pitch but the heavy rain hadn't subsided. He wanted to turn back to the alley, the sense of dreadful urgency hadn't yet left him and he needed to know who he was supposed to be meeting. But no matter where he turned, around him he only saw cheering students in a blur of house colors and pride.
Gryffindor scored. The cheers around him were deafening, loud enough to turn into white noise. Marlene threw an arm around his shoulder, she had to get on the tips of her toes to do so. He steadied her with an arm around the waist and felt her weight press into him, comforting and warm. Marlene and Alice were best friends, achingly close, no need for an unbreakable vow to trust each other with their life kind of close. He didn't always get her the way that Alice did but he could apppreciate what they had. The familarity that came with watching them interact. The fact that Marlene never excluded him. He glanced down to meet her smile, to join the slow motion celebration going on around him. The lively gleam in her eye seemed brighter than usual.
The deafining white noise turned to deathly silence. He fell back, weighed down by emotions he couldn't comprehend, things he had felt a long time ago, or hadn't felt yet. His back hit the wall. He was wearing his traveling cloak again but he was only barely aware of it, the silence of the kitchen at Grimmauldplace encompassed him far more completely than the cloak ever could.
His head hadn't moved, he was staring down at the same angle but his face was frozen in terror, his skin clammy and cold, the breath knocked out of his lungs. He still saw Marlene, the same otherworldy light in her eyes. But this time it was the reflection of a cameras flash, there was no smile on her face, she wasn't looking at him, she was staring into nothingness.
She'd never look at him again, she'd never vanish with Alice into their own little world again. He'd never see her again as anything but the photograph he was holding. Someone had left yesterdays daily prophet opened to her page on the kitchen table for him or someone else to find. He couldn't breathe. This was a costum they had all adapted to, for the sake of those who had to go on undercover missions for weeks at a time. He couldn't breathe.
The newspaper was crinkling in his hand, he was shaking too bad to read what had happened. Not that he had to read it to know what had happened. There was someone he considered family, dead on a page of the daily prophet. Written with infuriating formality and decked in lies it described her death. It didn't say that she was a halfblood but it might as well. It didn't say it was murder. It didn't need to.
His vision was cloudy, he kept staring at the photo without seeing it. He couldn't breath. But he did see it, whenever he closed his eyes he'd see Marlenes dead body for weeks to come. He'd never live another day without remembering the shock that overcame him when he realized that the red surrounding her wasn't her Gryffindor scarf. Before he understood, if he ever understood, how this would change how he saw the world, he thought that the next time he saw Alice it wouldn't be the same Alice he had last seen. She would never be that girl again. And Marlene would never be again. It just kept hitting him. He couldn't stop hyperventilating until someone snatched the newspaper away from him. This time, losing his memory came as a welcome relief. This time, he didn't fight it.
He looked up and Marlene and Alice sat across from him, hunched over the daily prophet they had nicked from him. "I can't believe they let that legislation pass," she complained, voice full of genuine disbelief. "I thought the wizengamot was better than that."
"Welcome to the real world," deadpanned Marlene with grim satisfaction. She had sworn this was coming all summmer long. And all summer long they had told her not to be so pessimistic. There was no way the use of unforgivables would be granted for ministry missions. He had sworn up and down this wouldn't happen. Yet here they were.
Alice buried her head in her hands, well aware that they were now truly alone. There was no higher justice, only more corruption and misery above them. He saw Marlene stifle a smirk, to her credit, she didn't say 'I told you so', but he kind of wanted to punch her anyways. Her unrequited crush on Sirius had turned her cold and sarcastic. Alice kept making apologies for her but that the most miserable person in their friend group always seemed to be right these days grated on him. They were all miserable in their own right and an unrequited crush didn't really make the priority list right now. Alice needed her best friend and Frank resented Marlene for not being present and himself for being unable to step in. And then himself some more for relating to her. Alice still didn't know how he felt and most of the time he thought she never would.
Where he had turned his admiration into productivity, in the silent hope to someday be good enough for her, Marlene had turned hers into self hatred. It was hard to watch.
When Alice looked up again her hair fell over her shoulders in one smooth motion, determination back in her eyes. They were no longer sitting in the common room, she was lying on a picknick blanket by the lake, a dozen books strewn around her. Frank handed her one of the sandwiches he was suddenly holding. "I am going to ace this transfiguration quiz," Alice told him, big blue eyes free of any doubt. "And I'm going to prove that I'm just as good as Mary," she swore. "If not better," Frank told her with a smile. He'd waste a thousand summerdays to study with her even if she didn't know that. What did it matter anyways, they surely had more than a thousand summerdays to waste ahead of them. Alice took the sandwich with a grateful sigh.
The great hall around him seemed taller and brighter than he remembered. The other students were taller too. Their faces were familiar and foreign at the same time, younger than he remembered, than again he didn't remember them at all cause he had never seen most of them before.
"Longbottom, Frank," McGonagall called. Before he could decide to move he was already sitting on the three legged stool with the old hat covering his eyes. The sniggering about his name was subsiding slowly, he remembered dully that he had decided (was deciding in that moment?) that he wouldn't put up with jokes about his name. Before the determination had won out over his fear, the head already called "Gryffindor". And in the next moment he was at their house table and a kid with messy black hair and a confident smile sat down next to him. "Unfortunate name mate, if its any condolence, my second name is Fleamont," he grimaced, "don't tell anyone." That was the first time Frank truly laughed within those walls, many other times would follow, but he had never forgotten that moment.
It was that moment that he thought of when he first heard about the prophecy, when he realized that his family would go into hiding and so would the Potters and it wasn't unlikely that they'd all be killed. That both their families would be found. They had finite targets on their backs and there was only one way it would all end. And probably for the first time since that moment in the great hall, he wanted to be nothing like James Potter. They had been equals before but never the same, until now.