For those who might worry, I'm still writing "The Choices that Make Us." But James and Lily have also been pestering me for a turn these last days.

Reminder : James and Lily graduated from Hogwarts in the summer of 1978, they died at 21 years old in 1981.


"Why don't we just call Dumbledore whenever there's a situation involving Death Eaters?"

"Because they have a communication charm of their own : the Dark Mark. Call Dumbledore, and be ready to face You Know Who. You need to catch them unawares. Hope they get overconfident. Cuff their magic before they can ask for reinforcements."

The problem was that Voldemort cared much less than Dumbledore did when his people died. It was how the Order lost their first people. Dumbledore came, and Voldemort went where he wasn't. Another problem was plain cold numbers. Unlike Voldemort, the Order couldn't use 'I reward loyalty and kill opposition,' as a recruitment speech.

The first defiance, part 1 of 2, or how saving the Tonkses became a case of accidental investigative journalism (Spring 1979)

"You realize you're not aurors, boys, right? Not even senior trainees. You're only called junior aurors because the Ministry wants to show they're flexing their muscles. Don't let the inflated title get you killed."

Thanks, Mr. Moody. Good morning to you too.

They were on a terrace cafe in central muggle London. Sirius had come roaring on his new motorcycle, a lock of hair across his face as he showed off his leather vest and trousers (Merlin, those trousers. But they seemed a thing from the way some of the muggle girls stared. James would have to ask Lils if she wanted him to hang around in leather trousers too.)

James preferred cut suits like those music guys, the Rolling Stones, with colorful button-ups that still let his chest breathe and white trousers that fell down properly without outlining ever curve of his butt (no judging, Sirius was single, and hey, those ladies looked happy to ogle).

Moody wore a sharp black suit and tie and from the "oh, sorry Sir!" he got when distracted muggles bumped his chair on the terrace, he looked like the kind of guy who'd cart you off to prison in both worlds.

The auror buttered his toast with deliberate movements that somehow managed to make the blunt knife look dangerous.

"What I'm saying, lads, is that restraint's going to have to come from you. There'll be more to do than anyone can possibly do. You're going to hold back sometimes, and it's going to kill you inside. And mark my words, they'll taunt you. They want you to charge, wands out, full of bravery and ideals. Then you'll die. You're no good to anyone dead." He sighed bitterly and took a big bite out of the toast. "You'll be just another immature Gryffindor who figured their desire to be a hero was stronger than their desire to truly make a difference." He stared straight at James, his piercing eyes blazing. "Stronger than their desire to do right by their wife."

James swallowed down his poached eggs. The taste was kind of ruined by Moody's speech. Breakfast with Alastor Moody was priviledge and an honor, one he'd been looking forward to since Moody himself had issued the invitation, but James hadn't expected it to start with something so damn grim.

Now Moody turned his piercing glare to Sirius. "I've got no use for hotblooded teenagers who want to fight. I need witches and wizards who want to win. To survive to have families of their own. Kids are eager for fights. Men, Women, they're scared. They should be."

Sirius, arms crossed and oversize sunglasses pinned to his white shirt nodded thoughtfully. "I won't hide it, Sir, I want them locked up or dead. But I want to live and laugh at them later too. I'm not suicidal."

They'd been officially members of the Order of the Phoenix for two whole weeks. James would be nineteen years old in a couple weeks more. Soon, they'd be on the field. Fear poisoned James' resolve as he realized Moody was telling them they wouldn't be given missions because they were ready, but because the situation was that desperate.

With his shoulder-length dirty-blonde hair and his lined face that made you want to stand up straight and say 'Yes, Sir!', Alastor Moody was one of the few aurors outspoken about Voldemort. He'd boasted that he never slept twice in the same place these days. James has no idea where that man slept. Or if he slept at all.

"Try the bacon, lads. It's good. Now let me tell you about one of my close calls, back when I was a dumb kid eager to fight."

James tried the bacon. It was good.

"Oi, Black." Moody eyed Sirius up and down as he chugged down his now cold tea. There was a twitch to his thin lips. He'd dropped the muddling spell that made eavesdroppers hear but ignore them. "I have to say you got the look down all right. You look like a right dick."

Sirius' eyebrows shot up. He slid overlarge sunglasses out of his pocket and put them on with a wide smile. "Chickbait. You said chickbait wrong, Sir."

A scoff and laughter was heard next to them. Two women in their early twenties, a blonde in a casual dress and a brown-skinned lady in a business suit, were laughing at them.

Sirius winked at them. "Forgive him, he's too old to keep up with style."

The girl in the suit lowered her coffee and stood up. She smiled at Moody. "Good morning, Sir." Embarrassment at Sirius' attitude darkened her cheeks in a cute way. Lily used to do that that too, get embarrassed on Padfoot's behalf.

Moody tipped his head. "I'll leave you youngsters. Don't let chickbait sweet-talk you, unless you like the kind that leaves you with nothing but fond memories the next day."

"Very fond memories," Sirius protested, wagging his eyebrows.

A popping sound killed James' grin. A panicked elf with a Ministry crest woven into its servant's cloth had apparated right in front of Moody.

"The Tonkses' house," it squeaked. "Death Eaters!"

Moody whipped out his wand in a circle. Mass obliviate. Everybody was staring. The muggles needed a new reason to stare, now, something vivid that'd replace the inconvenient memory of a house elf in the middle of a café.

The woman who'd greeted Moody collapsed, faint. Her forehead hit the side of the table. Her friend screamed as blood began pooling out of the cut. Nobody was staring at them anymore. All eyes were on the bleeding woman on the floor.

"Disillusion yourselves!"

James hastily obeyed, guilt pooling in his stomach. Since he'd started dating Lily, it was harder to think of muggles as people you just mind-wiped or hexed in the name of the Statute for Secrecy. They shouldn't have come here in the first place.

Moody's hand fastened around James' upper arm.

"She'll be fine," Moody gruffly said. "They got healers good enough for that."

The sharp tug of side-along apparition dragged him and Padfoot away from London and into a nightmare.

The muted blues of the clear Spring sky had been wiped away by swirling grays and, over the Tonkses' house, furious, twisting reds. The two-story sturdy brick house was still intact. James allowed himself to breathe.

The howling fire twisted and turned, shooting upwards and slamming down in a torrent of flames. Beneath it, the houses' protective wards cracked and withered. The magical flames parted to reveal blazing eyes and fangs. Fiendfyre.

A golden phoenix shot out of Moody's wand. It was met by two light-signals behind one of the windows. The Tonkses.

The garden, some seven hectares surrounded by a low brick wall, was for now bearing the brunt of the fire's assault. Bees buzzed in a panic as the abused Tonkses' wards folded backwards, almost brushing the hives. James' eyes were drawn to where the fire must have punched through the outer wards : a tunnel of black scorched earth had replaced a chunk of the brick wall and a solid half of the vegetable garden.

The rest was for now, thankfully spared. A small river shaded by alder trees ran just outside the garden, snaking through the lush Welsh hills. Conifers, oaks and apple trees, still mostly naked from the winter, stood tall among clusters of bushes. Nobody else, muggle or wizard lived within a couple of miles of the Tonkses'.

"Why are we staying so far back?" Sirius shouted over the fire's roar. "Shouldn't we go to the house?"

"I don't know that elf," Moody shot back. "Could be a trap!"

A storm of smoke rose around them, conjured by the grim-faced auror. It flowed into the garden and the surrounding grounds. Illusions of running and shouts, making it sound like ten witches and wizards had apparated, filled the air.

It was Moody's way of operating : confuse then strike. James tore his eyes away from the flames and crouched defensively, eyes swiping his surroundings.

"Where are the others?" he asked. Aurors, friends, anyone.

Moody barked a mirthless laugh. "Busy, you bet. Black's cousin is as good as a muggleborn now. Who's going to risk their hides for two mudbloods?" Moody's jaw was hard, his cheeks pale, as he stared at the dancing fiendfyre. "We've got to blast those wards."

What -

A silver revealing spell shot from Moody's wand. Like a paintbrush, it uncovered a new layer of wards : a dome around the Tonskes' house, its base just outside the brick wall.

Horror froze James' insides as the full measure of the situation set in.

Those wards hadn't been woven by the Tonkses. Wards that trapped people inside. And fiendfyre. Merlin, they were so lucky those monsters' wards hadn't prevented a house elve's summons. The Tonkses' wards were holding, and they were some solid wards considering the house was just some re-purposed 20th century muggle home, but for how long?

"Potter, perimeter! Black, with me!"

Moody's spell took shape, a shimmering battering ram of pure magic. Sirius, cursing freely, began pouring magic into it, sharpening the head into something more pointed arrow than ramhead.

The ram struck against the wards with a clap of thunder.

Streaks of magic like scars shot out from the impact point, lighting up the whole pulsing dome. It looked like a tangle of dark vines, thin and thick, entwining like a child's angry scribble. Nothing like the tightwoven symmetry of the Tonkses' wards behind it. Hopefully it was something Padfoot and Moody could break swiftly.

Sirius groaned as he wrestled with the sheer volume of magic he was pushing into the battering ram. "Why isn't the fiendfyre attacking those wards?"

"It always eats at the most powerful magic first. If the house wards fall, we'll have seconds to get out of here."

James fought the urge to stare in all directions at once as he wove his own detection charms. Every wizard within a couple of miles would have heard the ram striking those dark wards. A part of him itched to fight, but after Moody's morning speech, he hoped the Death Eaters were long gone.

An explosion of sparks signaled the end of the bees. The houses' wards snapped back, wrapping themselves tightly around around the house.

Merlin, little Nymphadora was in there.

He froze when one of his charms sung a warning, like a plucked guitar cord.

One masked man had apparated, or perhaps just come close enough to be detected. Two. He recognized neither. They looked young, perhaps as young as he was. They walked slowly, confused by the illusions.

James' grip was tight on his wand. The new echoes from his charms struck him like sharp rods.

Four masked people. Five. He couldn't take on five.

Should he call Kipper? So Lily could apparate as reinforcement? Or would that just get Lils killed? James took a slow breath. Then another, to shake away the growing panic. For now, nothing was stopping the three of them from leaving if things got too bad. He had to stop fretting and start focusing on doing what Moody has tasked him to do. He'd trained for this.

Time. Padfoot and Moody needed time to break through the wards. James just had to get them that time. Then there would be five of them with Ted and Andromeda. Solid odds.

Crouched in the magical smoke, he transfigured dead branches, stones and pine-cones into wasps, stinging beetles and poisoned toads. The trick was to get the venom right. Prof. McG, Minerva, had almost looked almost mournful when he'd managed it, saying he was wasted as an auror. James figured he had all the time to do a transfigurations mastery if he survived this first. The kick he got at seeing his former Head of House light up in pride felt a bit dimmed as he crouched in the concealing smoke, deafened by the fiendfyre's howl. It didn't feel all that much, with five death eaters prowling around him.

The masked wizards cast useless banishment charms on the smoke and shoot stunners in the direction of Moody's sound illusions. James smiled tightly in relief. Not experienced wizards. Probably nobody from Hogwarts even.

He ordered the buzzing, crawling, hopping creatures around him to go attack. Get yourselves swallowed, go up their noses, he magically whispered to the wasps.

Voldemort had seduced them, the wizard-born who spent their days crafting portkeys or transporting food, those who minded post-owls or owned tiny struggling shops. Those whose children weren't welcome at Hogwarts because nobody in their line had ever married into the right sort of blood or wealth. Who didn't even bother apply for a Ministry job, aware it wasn't for their kind. He told them you're special, I'll help you show it to those who looked down upon you. Of course, he convinced only the stupid, the angry, the bullies thrilled for an excuse to blow things up.

But it was enough to outnumber the Order five to one. And with threats laced in his promises, those numbers had quadrupled. Who needed to be coherent when Fenrir Greyback would show up on the front door of those who displeased him?

Soon, James heard screams. Wasp-sting screams were ugly. It wasn't the kind of fighting he'd dreamed of when he'd started training, but Moody was right. This wasn't about glory. Distracted by the wasps, the Death Eaters didn't see the toads until they were rubbing their poisonous skins on their calves. Two of the men fell, their leg muscles paralyzed. The other three had broken into a panicked run.

James powered Moody's illusions with cries of 'there!' and jets of light that looked identical to stunners without the right detection charms.

BOOM! James smiled despite his wince. Come on, Padfoot. Break through that cursed ward!

Unfortunately, the Death Eaters weren't that incompetent. A ball of fire, followed by more soon crisped his poor insects into nothingness. James whispered furiously, this time conjuring wasps, a fireproof kind. Conjured creatures could easily be banished, but since the transfigured ones had been resistant to banishment, he hoped the Death Eaters would try fire first and then panic when it didn't work.

More screams tore through the morning air. James tried to ignore the churning in his stomach. Fiendfyre. These were the kind of people who cast fiendfyre on a family. They deserved no sympathy.


James itched to bolt, to shout, to cast more spells. But he wasn't Padfoot. His hexes, curses and shields were solid NEWTs stuff but nothing special unlike his transfiguration work. So he waited, making sure he always knew where the five were. He could barely see them, but they had yet to undo his detection charms. Thank you, Moody, for riding my ass until I could cast discreet locators. One of the men (he always pictured men when he wasn't sure, it made things easier somehow) had run off to the limits of his range, and one was hovering around the three who were still twisting in pain from the stings and venom. Anti-venom charms were tough, and James let himself hope the Death Eaters hadn't stocked up on potions.

He blinked. The smoke was dissipating. Someone had summoned wind. Strong wind across the whole field. NEWTs level magic.

James' charms shivered. And begun unraveling. New panic began sinking its claws in James' chest.

He took a slow breath. So six death eaters.

He raised the mirror hanging around his neck to his mouth. "Three down, two moving. I've got a sixth who knows what he's doing."

"Hang tight." Sirius whispered back. "Moody's going to strengthen the illusions."

BOOM! The dark wards were cracking. They were visible now, even when Moody's and Padfoot's battering ram wasn't striking them. The magical vines making up the wards writhed like snakes, struggling under the assault.

Balls of fire filled the air along with fat, mean crows, shooting for the Death Eaters. Thanks, Moody.

"They're illusions, you morons!" An adult male's voice. A imperious ring to it that could be just arrogance, but probably meant pureblood. The Hogwarts, my-family-has-seats-in-the-Wizengamot kind. "Get to the wards! Stop them!"

James squared his jaw and transfigured two nearby rocks into fat, mean crows identical to Moody's illusions. He smiled in satisfaction when one crashed with all its weight on the back of the head of one of the Death Eaters. The idiot hadn't even ducked, convinced he was dealing with another illusion.

The leader, unfortunately, blasted the crow before it had come within a yard of him. James knew he needed to get the Death Eater's wands, but once he betrayed his position, there was no going back. There were still two standing, and the leader wasn't someone James felt confident dueling.

A ripping sound had him whip his head towards the wards. It had come from inside-

"Meda finished our job. They're through, they look fine." Padfoot's voice in the mirror was like warm honey. "Get back here."

James grinned. It was so much better when the people you wanted to rescue were helpful at rescuing themselves.

His smile died as the wind changed, no, not wind, magic was sucked from the house and towards them.

The dark wards were gone. Vanished like they had never existed. The fiendfyre split in half, and half shot above them, an arch of cursed fire. Flames filled the air in every direction, cutting away their escape. Twenty yards from them, the fields began to burn. James blinked bitter smoke out of his stinging eyes.

"Don't apparate in fiendfyre!" Moody boomed. Brooms!"

They all carried magically miniaturized brooms. The added enchantments murdered the broom's performances, but it was better than nothing. Faster than running.

Sirius, Meda, Ted and Moody whipped up a shield to give them time to mount. A spinning hex James didn't recognize crashed harmlessly against it. The leader stiffened some ten yards away from them. Hesitating.

James' left hand was slippery on the broom handle as zoomed back towards the others. There were gaps in the flames wide enough to fly through, but if the fiendfyre was left unchecked... The few miles until the closest muggle houses didn't feel like so far anymore.

"Morning," James greeted with a grin. He'd always laughed like an idiot when nervous.

Ted weakly smiled back and cast a strapping spell to fasten Nymphadora to Moody's back. The five year old was so silent James was startled to notice her wide open eyes. Ted hastily kissed his daughter and climbed behind Sirius.

"Thank you," Andromeda whispered as she climbed behind James.

Her arms were warm around his chest. His throat constricted. "You managed to salvage some things?"

"All that matters. It's not a manor." Merlin, that woman sounded calm. Andromeda was like his mum, all frosty pureblood poise that revealed nothing when she didn't want it too. "I've got you shielded," she whispered.

James swallowed and put his second hand on the broom handle. This was the most dangerous part. They'd be visible, vulnerable and half-blinded by fire and heat. If he lost control of the broom, there wouldn't even be ashes left.

Their protective shield buckled and screeched when a sizzling reddish-curse struck it.

"On three," Moody said tightly. "Potter, open the way."

A new burst of smoke surrounded them, covering them. James kicked off, hastily testing the balance with Andromeda weighting him down. His eyes narrowed at the flames. He had this. Easy flying. He had to trust Meda to do the shielding and find the best path for the others.

An unnatural sound, between a hiss and a sigh and a wail pierced through the howl of the fiendfyre.

Meda's arms tightened violently around him. James blanched. The Tonkses' wards had failed. The house was recent, no magic-infused manor, meaning that the most magical thing left around was them.

The protective tunnel Moody had cast between two blazing walls was swallowed in flames as the fiendish snake around them tripled in volume. James sharply changed direction to find another escape.

A spiderweb of purplish-green magic, no spell of theirs, cut them off. Twin spells flew at it, Sirius, Meda and Ted, but unless you knew the curse, it'd be luck to undo it with a single shot.

And it didn't matter, the spiderweb pulsed with magic. The fire swallowed it whole.

Like a hydra, heads sprouted out of the flames. The biggest shot directly at Ted and Sirius.

Meda hissed and raised her arms. The closest outgrowth of fiendfyre... dissolved?

James winced as her magic chafed against his. Dark Arts. Not that he'd voice a word of complaint. But how long could the eldest Black sister keep this up?

He rose upwards. He needed to see. There! The leader was some a hundred yards from them, with the other Death Eater, a sturdy, short person that might actually be a woman. The four death eaters they'd incapacitated looked liked they'd been transfigurated into puppies and stuck into a bag.

James figured those people intended to get out of here alive. Indeed, behind the leader, was a large gap between flames.

"Cover me!" He shouted, turning his broom a hundred and twenty degrees and shooting for their enemies.

Fierce satisfaction welled inside him as the sight of the Death Eaters starting in shock. The broom reached maximum speed. Adrenaline burned his veins as hot air whipped against his face.

The woman next to the leader seemed to break into panic. She waved her wand. Merlin, no! Run away! The leader shoved her, but he wasn't fast enough. Magic shot out to form some kind of spiky shielding hex.

The fiendfyre noticed. A hydra with a dozen hissing heads dived towards them all.

Meda screamed as she dissolved more of the heads, somehow swallowing up the magic. It was dead impressive. It wasn't enough. Moody, snarling, joined her. Still, there was too much fire, and it kept feeding itself. Perhaps, if they'd had two Moodys and two Medas, but -

Suddenly, it was like the anti-magic syphon struggling to stifle the fiendfyre had doubled in strength. The tear-inducing heat dimmed. The light faded, leaving James to blink furiously to adapt to natural daylight.

The fiendfyre around them was embers. The leader wasn't alone anymore. A woman, a halo of black curls surrounding her face stood right next to him. Unmasked.

James recognized her with a jolt.

Bellatrix Black-Lestrange pointed her wand straight at him and Andromeda.

Author's note :

This should be roughly six chapters long, with each defiance taking up two chapters. There's an even chance it will be longer as my stories tend to grow fat when they take a life of their own (Edit : called it! Six chapters is going to cover just the first two^^).

A digression about population numbers (TLDR : Hogwarts isn't the only wizarding school in the British Isles because numbers and stuff don't add up otherwise.)

There are forty students or so in Harry's year (that's the number from JKR's notes, there's even fewer named characters in canon). In book 2, it says there's 200 Slytherin in the Quidditch stands, but that would mean between 20 and 30 Slytherin in each year, which makes no sense. You could argue Harry's year is the smallest because it's the kids born during the war, but there's are too few teachers to support the idea that there is more than one class per year (unless the teachers are using time-turners, but that's one deep plot-hole in waiting).

So let's say 40 kids per year, and 280 kids in total in the seven years (40x7). Assuming wizards live on average 100 years (sure Dumbledore's ancient, but many have died because there's a war every generation), you have roughly 100x40 so 4000 wizards in the Isles. That's too small considering the size of the Ministry, of Saint Mungos, the fact that Azkaban needs 200 prisoners in there at all times (unless perhaps you have foreign prisoners brought in... I digress) and other facts in canon.

Add to that the fact that Ron is one of the poorest kids attending Hogwarts. This guy has a father with a solid (although not high status) job, and two older brothers with solid, pretty impressive jobs. If that's the poorest you get in wizarding England, I'm a flobberworm.

We see in canon shops with assistants and shifty people in the Hog's Head, we have Stan Shunpike driving the Knight's bus. What about their kids?

So I roughly tripled the population and decided the other kids go to another day/boarding school (schools?) are home-schooled, or whatever other set up you can imagine. Hogwarts is for the top 30%.

Okay, enough about the world-building. I hope you enjoyed this first chapter^^.