Disclaimer: Don't own, don't profit
AN: Devon's outfit was picked for reasons not related to mood or coolness factor. (Damn you, Mary Sues. If you didn't exist, I wouldn't even have to mention this, but...oh well.)
Prologue: The Letter
Part 2: James
"There's not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn't in Slytherin." —Ron Weasley to Harry Potter.
Mid-April, 1975. Hogsmeade
"You are a Hogwarts student, no?" The girl asked in a heavy German accent.
"Yeah, so what?" Something didn't seem quite right to James Potter, so he carefully pulled his wand out of his pocket, in case he needed it. Slight movements told him that Moony, Sirius, and Peter were doing the same thing. One could never be too careful in a war-torn world.
The girl pulled a letter out from under her cloak. "Madame me told to you to deliver the letter," she said, proffering the aforementioned letter.
James unscrambled the girl's words. Madame told me to deliver the letter to you, he concluded, accepting the letter gingerly. It didn't seem cursed, and nothing happened when he touched it. He ran a magical scan on it; it seemed to harbor no spell other than a simple anti-Muggle charm. Still, a good Dark witch or wizard could have easily woven a curse in that would not trigger James' admittedly weak detection spell.
"For...Dum-bul-lee-dore?" the girl sounded out. "Or Mac-gone-a-gull? Deliver it to them, you will."
James stared at the girl suspiciously. She was obviously not a native; her English was absolutely horrible. He stared at her, not caring if he was being rude or if she thought he was hitting on her. It wasn't that he was interested; he needed to memorize as much as possible about her. It's not paranoia if the danger is real, James thought. Perhaps Dumbledore will know if she is a spy of Voldemort's.
She had a fairly distinctive appearance, he thought. Dyed purple hair hung across her face. From her pale eyebrows, James could tell that her natural hair color was blonde. He wasn't sure if her paleness was real or the result of make up, but either way she looked like she had just stepped out of a grave. Her unnatural thinness accented the undead effect, as did the dramatic purple lipstick and the overdark eye makeup. A long-sleeved black shirt, chain-covered corset, short plaid skirt, voluminous black cloak, and oversized black boots completed the undead look.
"Your name?" he snapped, coldly.
The girl paused, chewing on her lower lip. "Devon," she finally admitted. "Madame Emma sent me."
James handed the letter to Sirius, who took it gingerly, an eyebrow raised. "I don't recognize any of those names," James muttered, "You know who 'Devon' or this 'Mada—"
"It's from Lily," Sirius interrupted. He had opened the letter and was now reading it.
"What?" James gasped, snatching the letter out of Sirius's hand.
He could not mistake the neat handwriting. "Oh Merlin," he gasped. "She's alive." He felt his eyes widen and thought his breathing had accelerated to a rate that bordered on hyperventilation. Lily was alive! He didn't know what he was feeling exactly...hope, or guilt? He had assumed that she had died for more than a year now, and now he definitely felt guilty for giving up on her. We should have tried something, he thought, although he knew that there was nothing he or anyone else could have done.
"What?" Remus asked, grabbing the last page of the letter. "It's from Lawson," he said, confused.
James snatched the page back. "What the heck?" he asked, looking at the page. "No, this is Lily—" James waved the first two pages of the letter under Moony's nose "—and this is Lawson," he said, gesturing with the last page of the letter. He took a look at Lawson's letter. "Oh Merlin," he cursed.
"What?" Wormtail joined in, and for a minute James thought Sirius was going to chime in with a "What?" as well, just to balance things out.
James pointed at the bottom of Lawson's letter. "It's not signed 'Syvanna Lawson'. It's signed 'Syvanna Morthia, née Lawson'."
Sirius snatched Lily's letter from James. "Fuck," he muttered. "If you see Syvanna Lawson, capture her. If that's not possible, kill her on the spot," he read out loud. "What the hell. Does. This. Mean?"
Remus looked around. "You know, guys, we probably shouldn't be discussing this here," he whispered.
"Yeah," Devon chipped in, to James's surprise. He had forgotten that she was still standing there. "Private walk is best. That way, less chance of eavesdroppers." She flipped her purple hair out of her eyes, smiling vacantly, giggling slightly.
"Well, somebody has been reading way too many trashy spy novels," Sirius muttered darkly.
They left Hogsmeade and returned to Hogwarts. Two years ago, they would have simply hidden in one of the castle's many hidden passageways, to keep away from prying eyes. Now, well, after Death Eaters had managed to invade the castle and capture five students, Hogwarts didn't seem quite so safe anymore.
Oh, Merlin. As if James could ever forget what had happened, that night, one and a half years ago.
October 31st, 1973.
"Seriously, Sirius—oh, Merlin, give that stupid joke up! How do you think you're going to get good grades if you absolutely refuse to do any studying or homework!" Remus ran his fingers through his hair. "I do not want you to fail out!" he said, emphasizing each word with a wave of his quill. Ink splattered from the end of the quill and landed on Remus's planner.
"Come on, Remus, don't be such a flobberworm!" Sirius taunted.
"Seriously—oh, stop laughing, Sirius! The joke's old by now! We have a test tomorrow, and Professor McGonagall isn't going to tweak grades to help us!" Remus looked down on his planner and cursed, siphoning off the ink.
"Remus is a flobberworm, Remus is a flobberworm," Sirius sing-songed.
"Oh shut up!" Remus placed his hands over his ears in a gesture that was obviously meant to be theatrical.
"Remus is a flobberworm, Remus is a flobberworm." James joined in.
"Leave me alone! Fine, if you guys refuse to study and thus fail out, it won't be my problem!" Remus snapped, slamming shut his planner and resolutely sitting down. He opened his History of Magic textbook to an arbitrary page and began to read.
"Remus is a flobberworm, Remus is a flobberworm..."
"You. Guys. Get. Out. Of. Here! I'm trying to study!" Remus flipped a page, loudly.
"Remus is a flobberworm, Remus is a flobberworm..." Now Peter had jointed in with the singing as well.
"Oh, fine," Remus muttered, slamming his book shut and shoving his stuff into his bag. "And for the record, I'm only going along with this to keep you three out of trouble!"
James smirked. "Like you could ever keep us out of trouble, Moony."
Remus spluttered."Oh, why do I always get pulled into these things?" he asked the ceiling.
"One for all, and all for one, right? We're the Marauders. We always stick together," James answered, pulling his invisibility cloak out of his trunk.
"First of all, I'm pretty sure you mean the Three Musketeers, and I would like to remind you that we are not musketeers." Remus glared at the invisibility cloak. "We are students, who have tests. Very Important Tests."
James was already pulling the invisibility cloak over their head, however, and the four boys gathered together underneath it. They were so close together that Remus hovered right above James' left ear and Peter (whose height forced him to be in front, so he could somewhat see where he as going) was practically squished between James and Sirus. It would have been extremely awkward if they hadn't done this so many times before.
As it was, it was still quite awkward. Sirius, who somehow managed to shoot up nearly two inches during the summer, was not yet in complete control of his coordination. As a result, he kept on treading on Peter's robes, or Remus's feet, once tripping Remus, which nearly sent the tetrad down a flight of stairs. Thankfully, James and Sirius managed to grab opposite handrails, Peter managed to hold onto the front of James' robes, and Remus fell onto Sirius. An arm or a foot may have poked out of the invisibility cloak, but as there did not appear to be anyone around, it didn't matter.
"So, does anyone have any clue where we're going?" Remus asked, after about thirty minutes of random wandering.
"Nope," Sirius replied, all too cheerily. "Just felt like walking."
"This is insanity," Remus muttered darkly.
"This is stupid," James complained.
"I'm glad at least someone agrees with me, this time," Remus said.
Sirius shrugged and stepped on the hem of Peter's robes again. "Sorry, mate," he said as he grabbed onto Peter's shoulder, preventing him from falling over.
"What's that?" Remus asked. He stopped, suddenly; James felt a quick burst of air at his ankles where the cloak got pulled off the ground.
"What?" James looked around, Peter placed a hand to his ear, and Sirius sniffed the air. "I don't see anything," James muttered. "There's a statue of armor over there, however. Perhaps that's what you saw."
"Footsteps." Remus dragged his friends towards the nearest alcove. "Close too. Probably Prefects. Oh, why the hell did I let you drag me out of the Common Room?"
Sure enough, James could hear the tap-tap-tap of footsteps emerge from their left. There was definitely more than one person; although how many more, he didn't know. Not more than half a dozen, though.
"Fuck it," someone was murmuring. "I didn't think it would be so late." Not Prefects, then. James could feel Remus exhale and relax slightly.
"Sy!" another voice exclaimed, scandalized.
"What, it's a word," Syvanna Lawson spat. "Part of the English language, meant to be used...Stop," she ordered suddenly.
The footsteps continued.
"No, seriously. Stop."
Lily rounded the corner, closely followed by Alice. "We need to get back to the tower, now. It's past curfew. I don't want to run into a Prefect."
"Don't move," Lawson ordered, her voice colder than ice. She rounded the corner running, Marlene and Dorcas on her heels.
"Come on, Sy, you're being paranoid again," Lily complained, picking up her pace, tucking a strand of her glorious hair behind her ear.
"We're running into a trap!" Lawson had drawn her wand and was gesturing with it. Sparks flew from the end.
"No, seriously, Sy, you are being paranoid."
"There. Is. Something. Dark. Right. There," Lawson declared, pointing her wand at the alcove where the Marauders were hiding. James felt his heart jump up into his throat; how did she know, how could she know? Wait a second, she said something dark, he thought. Maybe it's just the alcove? he hoped. Yes, an excellent thing to hope, that you're hiding from the Love Of Your Life in a Dark Alcove, James thought sarcastically.
"Sy, you say that at least once a week." Lily sighed, turning around to face her (then) friend. "This is Hogwarts. How could anything Dark get past the wards?"
"Something did," Lawson spat. "We can't just assume that no one—"
"The Hogwarts wards are over a thousand years old—"
"And therefore so much the weaker. It doesn't take a thousand years to find cracks in a wall..."
"—and they've never been broken...God. Turn around." Lily paled, and she drew her wand.
Lawson complied. "Fuck."
James craned his head as far out of the alcove as possible, in an attempt to see whatever was going on. His attempts were thwarted by Peter, who was attempting to push the group as far into the alcove as possible. He shoved Peter lightly, and Peter stumbled. Sirius grabbed Peter, preventing him from falling forward. "What the hell are you doing?" he hissed. "Are you trying to get us killed?"
"What's that?" a voice snapped—James thought it may have been Marlene, but he wasn't sure.
"It's...not...dangerous," Lawson muttered. "It's dark, but...not a threat. The threat is...over there."
James could feel something cold to his left, something Dark. The Dark presence threatened to overwhelm him, and James felt a sudden urge to throw up. This was a strong one, he thought. Even the Black family house had not provoked such a strong reaction from him. There had to be multiple Dark witches and wizards. At least a dozen. James thought he saw the flames of the candles flicker slightly as the dark vortex expanded.
"Could be worse," a voice (Lawson?) muttered darkly. "At least they're not behind us."
"I'll hold them off while one of you guys go get Dumbledore," Lily said, grimly. James felt his heart drop. There was no way...absolutely no way...that Lily alone could stand up to that...darkness. She was going to her doom...willingly, and he felt the sudden urge to jump out in front of her. The nausea picked that moment to rise up again, unfortunately, and James was forced to conclude that if he did jump out, he wouldn't be much help unless he managed to blind the Dark wizard by throwing up.
"No, I'll hold them off while the four of you get out of the way," Lawson replied, and James silently urged Lily to take the option, although he knew that Lily's pride and loyalty would not let her. "They breached the wards. Dumbledore should already know by now," Lawson continued.
A red beam of light streaked down the hallway. One of the candles went out.
"Stunning spells," Lily declared. "They don't want to kill us."
"They're trying to capture us."
"Thank you for declaring the obvious, Marlene," Lawson snapped. "Leave, save yourselves. I'll hold them off for as long as possible."
"We can't let you face them alone," Lily replied. James groaned quietly. He loved her for those characteristics, but right now, he thought that she should simply save herself. He didn't want her to get captured...or worse, die.
"We. Can't. Defeat. Them. Whoever stays behind will be captured...or killed," Lawson muttered darkly. "Makes sense to sacrifice the weakest of the pack. Plus—" Lawson dodged another stunner. "I have the best chance at escaping."
"No," Lily insisted. "We fight together, we will go down together." She gracefully dodged a stunning spell, her hair flying out behind her. "We can do this, right?"
"Ditch your Gryffindor bravery and grow a sense of self-preservation." Lawson did not sound impressed. "Run before it's too late." She raised her wand, casting a stunning spell of her own. "Save yourselves."
"Pity. You could have lived," Lawson spat. "Alice, Dorcas, Marlene, be smart and scat before the Death Eaters get here."
"Too late for that," a cold voice declared.
"Bellatrix!" Sirius whispered. "What is she doing here?" He shrank even further back into the alcove, causing Remus to squeak in protest. Thankfully, between the Stunning spells and the Dark wizards, the squeak wasn't noticed.
"Spread out," Lily ordered. "Don't let them get behind us, but maintain enough room to maneuver."
The other four followed her instructions silently.
"On three. One!"
Marlene, Alice, Dorcas and Lily fired hexes. Lawson chucked her wand away from her.
"What was that for, Sy?" Lily asked.
Lawson ignored her and stepped forward. "Take me, and leave them! I am the only one you can break!" she shouted. The stunner caught her in the chest; she crumpled.
"Oh, God." Lily was muttering something under her breath; James could not catch what it was. He wanted to jump out of the alcove and help, but Peter blocked his way. He gave Peter a small shove, but Peter simply shoved the group deeper into the alcove. James's nausea was clearing away now, as his magical core got used to the presence of the Dark vortex.
"You'd only get yourself captured as well," Peter muttered.
James cursed, but he remained where he was. He regretted that, later, of course, but Peter was right. The vortex was strong; extraordinarily so. There was absolutely nothing he could do.
"Resistance is futile." Bellatrix laughed, and the hairs on the back of James' neck stood up. So much pure evil in that voice, so much dangerous insanity.
"That's cliché," Lily remarked, a façade of cool calmness hiding her true emotions. She stepped over Lawson's unconscious form. "We won't go down without a fight."
What the hell are you thinking, Lily? James thought. Why didn't you just leave...that...traitor? He wished that Lily would come to her senses and abandon Lawson. After all, Lawson had willingly surrendered to the Death Eaters.
Stunning spells lit up the hallway, bathing it in an ominous red light. Like blood, really, James thought. Such a banal thought. He saw Lily fall, felt Sirius's hand across his mouth, muffling any sound he could had made.
Oh, Merlin. James briefly considered biting on Sirius's hand. He gripped his wand tightly.
Lily got to her feet again; she hadn't been stunned—she had just been ducking.
Thank Merlin. James wondered if he could stun one or more of the Death Eaters without giving away his location. He cursed himself for not learning about invisible spells before, despite the fact that they were well beyond the NEWT level. If only he could do something...something that had the potential of actually helping, he amended.
Dorcas and Marlene were down too, now; only Lily and Alice remained against the Death Eaters.
James turned his head away. He knew that the two girls were no match for the Death Eaters. He didn't want to see Lily fall.
"That fucking traitor," Sirius cursed. "Third-in-fucking-command, after Bellatrix? She didn't do that in less than two years." Sirius flipped over the first page of Lily's letter. "Merlin..." he breathed. "I can't believe this."
They were in the Room of Requirement, the only room in the entire school that the Marauders still felt was safe. The room had conveniently provided comfortable chairs that looked suspiciously like the ones in the Gryffindor tower, aromatic coffee, biscuits, and a few small cakes for good measure. The fireplace managed to bathe the entire room in a warm, reddish light that somehow managed to contain a completely different feeling than the dismal reds of the stunning spells. A pair of bright lamps illuminated the letters.
Sirius had the first page of Lily's letter, and James the second, although it was questionable if James was actually reading the letter. He kept running his fingers over Lily's signature, as if he was trying to reassure himself that the letter was real. Remus was looking over Lawson's—no, Morthia's letter, and Peter was sampling one of the biscuits.
"I don't recognize half of these names," Sirius muttered, pointing at the hierarchy Lily had sketched. "Watchers? Who the hell thought that was a good last name?"
"Not a last name," James muttered darkly, reading the second page of the letter: "I call them Watchers; yes, I know it's a stupid nickname, but since it's likely that no one but me will ever see this, that doesn't matter. There's five of them; Morthia and four others. I don't know the others' names. I wish I did; they are as evil as their leader."
"Merlin." Remus looked up from Morthia's letter. "I had no clue...that a Gryffindor could...you know." He proffered Morthia's letter. "She doesn't deny it. 'I know you don't trust me; I wouldn't trust me,'" he read. "'I admit I have committed crimes that would make others consider me a pillager, a thief, an arsonist, a torturer, and a murderer. I know I am beyond redemption.' There is no way someone changed so much in two years."
"'Take me, and leave them! I am the only one you can break!'" Peter quoted. "It wasn't just the last two years." He took a bite of the biscuit he was holding and mumbled around it, "These aren't bad."
James ran his fingers through his hair, absentmindedly. "Merlin...I can't believe...that...it was Lawson behind all of this," he muttered, picking up a nearby object and nibbling on the end. He spat it out when he realized that he was nibbling on the end of a quill instead of on a biscuit. "Merlin."
"How did Dumbledore not...realize?" Remus asked. "For the matter, how did the Sorting Hat fail to realize..."
I am beyond redemption, Morthia had written. James wondered how everyone had miss the vortex of evil in their midst. He had felt the Dark auras of the Death Eaters when they had...kidnapped...Lily, but he couldn't remember Lawson having one. Perhaps it was because of her youth and inexperience, combined perhaps with a relative lack of magical power, that prevented Lawson from having a detectable aura.
Yet shouldn't the teachers...and Dumbledore...have known? James had always had the feeling that Dumbledore knew all, much like the various renditions of supernatural deities. Those twinkling-but-piercing blue eyes could penetrate any defense, any lie, James thought. He could never lie successfully to Dumbledore in the same way that he could never lie successfully to his own mother. Somehow, they knew the truth even when they shouldn't have been able to know.
And the Sorting Hat! His father had told him that the Sorting Hat was capable of delving into every part of someone's mind, knowing and analyzing details that even the person didn't know about. How could the Sorting Hat miss something? Ditch your Gryffindor bravery and grow a sense of self-preservation, Lawson had said. Why did the Hat place...that traitor...in Gryffindor and not in the House of Evil, Slytherin?
"James?" Sirius shoved James so hard that James nearly toppled out of his armchair. "James?" Sirius asked again, his voice tinged with concern. "You alright, mate?"
"Yeah," James responded automatically. He realized that he was running his hands through his hair in the way that made people wonder if he had lice. He forcibly removed his hands from his hair and, to give them something to do, picked up a biscuit and took a bite. It was rather dry, he thought, but not bad. His empty hand toyed with the hem of his sleeve. "Sorry. Blanked out for a while. Was thinking."
"Lost in unfamiliar territory?" Remus joked. He looked at the letter in his hand and quickly sobered. "Merlin. I can't believe..."
It's like shock, almost, James thought. It hasn't really sunk in yet that they were alive, they might still be alive.
Lily had written: I don't know if we'll ever get out of here; maybe it would be a good idea to limit the damage we can cause before it is too late. No, scratch that, we are too late, way too late, but maybe we can redeem ourselves.
Morthia had written: I am beyond redemption, but she had also written: I can never return to the castle, but I believe that, one day, they can be free again. I alone am guilty, I alone am tainted. She had added, perhaps the most tantalizing words in her entire letter: Abbey of Saint-Savin sur Gartempe. May 17th, 10PM. Bring as many people as possible. We may have a way.
"It's probably a trap," Remus had declared, when he read that line.
"Yeah," James had agreed.
Now, however, he wondered if it could be worth the risk. "What if it isn't a trap? What if Law...sorry, Morthia, is trying to be...helpful?" Don't hope, he thought. Having his hopes crushed a second time...Merlin, he didn't know if he could take it.
Sirius scoffed. "She's a self-admitted...thief, arsonist, murderer...and I'm forgetting one...oh, yeah, pillager. And she doesn't seem to care. I don't think she has a conscience whatsoever."
Peter shrugged. "Maybe they are in her way," he offered. "I mean, she obviously didn't mean for all of them to be captured." He took a bite of the biscuit, chewed, swallowed. "Either that, or she's not that smart."
"What do you mean?" Remus asked. A quill, an inkwell, and a blank sheet of parchment appeared on the table. Remus picked up the quill and the parchment and began taking notes.
Peter shrugged. "Assume you were a traitor, and you wanted to sell yourself and your friends to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. What would you do?"
"Let the Death Eaters into the castle, of course," James snapped. "Isn't that obvious?"
"But when?" Peter asked. "At noon, to make a big scene, maybe. Late at night, when everyone's defenses are down, which poses the least risk to the Death Eaters. But late evening, when the Prefects are making their rounds, and when the teachers are still up and about? The time of the highest risk but the lowest reward?"
That made sense, James thought. "So, why did the Death Eaters arrive then?" he asked.
"To give themselves enough time to break in and leave before dawn." Peter shrugged. "Only it took less time than what they expected. Listen," he said, leaning forward over the table. "If it was truly Lawson behind the kidnapping, it would have been much more discrete. Lawson never attacked anyone directly."
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "Lawson never attacked anyone, period."
"Exactly," Peter said. "However, did you not notice that anyone who crossed her would get sick...really sick...a couple of weeks later?"
"You seriously think...oh." Sirius bit his lower lip. "Oh."
"The flu?" James asked, grimacing slightly. He remembered the unpleasant feeling of coughing until his throat felt like someone had attacked it with sandpaper.
"If it was really a flu," Peter replied.
"You think that was Lawson?" Remus asked.
"No one else had a motive...or the background," Peter said. "But, anyway, this is all completely irrelevant."
James jumped, almost guiltily. "Right," he said. He had almost forgotten the more pressing business: the whole Lily may still be alive, and there may be a way to rescue her part. "Abbey of Saint-Savin sur Gartempe? That's in France."
"Well, no duh, James. It has a French name," Sirius drawled.
"There are other countries that speak French, Sirius," Remus pointed out. "Haiti, Canada..."
"The French speak French, Remus."
"So do other people, Sirius," James said.
"Martinque, Guadoulpe, Switzerland..."
"Lily spoke French, right, James?" Peter asked.
James shrugged. "I think so." He was pretty sure that she did.
"Algeria, Cambodia, Benin..."
"Shut up, you've made your point, Remus." Sirius snapped.
Remus ignored him. "Madagascar, Luxembourg, Ivory Coast..."
"Can we ignore the atlas here and get back to the real point of discussion?" James asked.
"Yeah, shut up, atlas," Sirius said.
Remus complied. "We could consult Dumbledore, you know, since...what's-her-name said it was for him anyway."
"Devon," Sirius said. "What kind of strange name is that, anyway?"
"An alias?" Peter asked.
James shrugged. "Probably. She didn't want to give her name." He shrugged again, saying, "Not that I'd blame her. Would you give your name to strangers, nowadays?"
"Would you accept random envelopes from strange and unknown people?" Peter asked. "Or would you do the smart thing and be more careful?"
"Hey! Nothing happened!" Sirius protested.
"Yes. This time."
"Peter is right," Remus said. "It could have contained all sorts of things. Arsenic, hemlock..."
"Oh, dear, not another list," Sirius moaned. "We get it. You know all."
Remus glared at Sirius; James ran his hands through his hair. "Guys," he said. "Maybe we should ask Dumbledore?"
Sirius glanced at James suspiciously; Remus nodded eagerly. "As I suggested earlier," he said, folding his notes into his bag and standing up.
"Professor Dumbledore?" James asked. "Is there a chance...that...you know..."
"That Lily is still alive?" Professor Dumbledore smiled, his eyes twinkling. "It's highly likely." The professor looked down at the envelope in his hand, staring at it intently. "It's not Arabic," he muttered quietly.
"What's not Arabic?" James asked.
"This." Dumbledore pointed out two small lines of writing on the back of the envelope; James had not noticed it before. The cursive letters sure looked like Arabic to him.
"What does that say?" James asked.
Dumbledore pulled out a quill and some parchment. "It's in code," he replied, writing the message on the parchment.
Tk ths t Hgwrts; gv t Prf Dumbldor r Prf McGonagall. 'M stll alv; dn't wrry bt m. Lmst thr. Lmst dn.
"What the hell?" James asked.
Remus stared at it. "Arabic doesn't usually write vowels," he commented. "It's been de-voweled."
"What?" Sirius asked.
"Well, Dvn probably stands for Devon; M. may be an abbreviation for 'Madame' or the first syllable of 'Emma'," Remus pointed out. "It's a normal message, except for the fact that nearly all the vowels have been removed."
Peter took a look at the parchment. "Take this to Hogwarts," he read. "G...give...to? Probably. Prof...professor! Dumbledore, obviously, or Professor McGonagall. Not exactly the greatest code in the world," he muttered. "But then again, it's short and none of us knew Arabic."
"I'm?" James guessed. "stall...no, still al...alive?"
Sirius stared at the parchment. "Don't worry...about, probably, me. What's 'Lmst'?" he asked.
"Almost," Dumbledore said. "Almost there. Almost done. Lawson didn't mean for us to read that."
"Lawson?" James asked. "You think Lawson is Madame Emma?"
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "Her chosen last name was 'Morthia'," he explained. "And she was the only one of the five who knew Arabic."
Lawson knew Arabic? James thought. Since when? "So, Professor," he asked. "Do you think...it's real? That she's sincere?"
"It's possible," Dumbledore replied. "It's also possible that she considers them a threat to herself."
"Lily wouldn't—" James gasped, just as Sirius said, "No way could four girls pose a threat to—"
"It's what they know," Dumbledore explained. "Lawson changed her name. That's the first step to erasing her past." Dumbledore stood up, pulling a small silver instrument from his bookshelf. Delicate silver tendrils crawled up to surround a single diamond, suspending it within a cage of silver filaments. "Dark wizards and witches thrive when others fear them, and there is nothing more terrifying than not knowing." A small flame appeared in the diamond; Dumbledore studied it intently. "Interesting," he muttered.
"Professor?" Peter asked. "May I ask why you use Morthia's given name, not her chosen one?"
"Lawson chose the name because it would inspire fear," Dumbledore explained. "Voldemort prefers to be called He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named because the unknown is feared." The flame in the diamond turned a deep red. "Even more interesting," Dumbledore muttered, before continuing. "Lord Morte is a common character in children's stories, no?"
"Death?" James asked.
"Indeed," Dumbledore replied, as the flame in the gemstone suddenly turned black. "Thia is a suffix meaning 'son' or 'heir'. Morte plus thia shortens down to Morthia."
"She descends from Death?" Sirius asked.
"Not literally, no," Dumbledore explained. "Lawson is trying to set herself up as the second Lord Morte. She wants people to believe that she has control over life and death." The flame in the diamond faded, and Dumbledore replaced the instrument on his shelf. "Her former friends are the only ones who know about her previous humanity; thus, she wants to destroy them. It is possible that she cannot overtly murder them because Lord Voldemort would not allow it; thus, she may be attempting to set up a situation where they can escape."
"So she can kill them when they try?" James muttered darkly. Lily was still alive, he thought. He did not want her to die now, right when he just got used to the idea that she was still alive, that hope still existed and that maybe, one day, she could return (to him) and live (with him) and love (hopefully him), again. He remembered the fire in her hair and in her eyes, the lilting tone of her voice as she yelled at him for setting off fireworks in the Common Room yet again, not knowing that he had set off those fireworks just so he could see her, talk to her, try to get her to love him. He supposed he used to be a bit of a juvenile idiot.
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "Why would Lord Voldemort oppose...murder?"
"Insurance, perhaps," Dumbledore replied. "It is not uncommon for Dark wizards and witches to mistrust each other; after all, most Dark wizards and witches are motivated by greed or other selfish factors. They do not know loyalty; nor do they know true sacrifice. They are capable of turning upon allies, friends, or even family members in a heartbeat if it may profit them to do so. They are ambitious and cunning, a very dangerous combination."
"Bring as many people as possible," Peter quoted. "Why?"
"So she could claim self-defense," James spat acidly. He remembered how Lily had looked when she had collapsed to the ground, ducking from those red Stunning spells. In his mind, he replaced the Stunning spells with the green Avada Kevadra's. He envisioned Lily, ducking from the spells, staring open-eyed and blankly when one of them finally caught her in the chest, and he suppressed a shudder. Merlin, don't die now, he begged. Not when we just recovered hope.
"Wouldn't be able to," Peter said. "Our side uses nothing but Stunning spells. Which, incidentally, work better on escaping captives than does the Killing Curse."
"Makes sense," Dumbledore mused. "Perhaps Lawson cannot rationalize killing someone she knows, and thus she would set up a circumstance where they could escape."
"Let's go," Sirius insisted. "Easiest way to solve this mystery is to spring the trap."
Remus opened his mouth, paused, and then closed it, clearing his throat. Peter bit a thumbnail and muttered something. James sat up eagerly, ready and willing to run out of Dumbledore's office to find this Abbey and hopefully save the girl he had loved for as long as he remembered.
And Dumbledore nodded his head grimly. "It will be dangerous, but it is the only thing we can do. I would recommend you read up on as many defensive and dueling spells as possible."
"Wait, we're coming?" Peter squeaked.
"Of course," Dumbledore replied. "Now scat," he said, his eyes holding a mimicry of their usual twinkle.
As James turned to leave, he saw Dumbledore turn to consult the portraits behind his desk.
do they only stand,
By ignorance, is that their happy state,
The proof of their obedience and their faith?
(John Milton, Paradise Lost).
I'd like to point out that Devon speaks in a German accent, but uses French grammar. The discrepancy may be important.
There may be a small delay in the posting of the first chapter; I have finals coming up. (Yikes).
And thank you so much, Jack'N'SallyGal and MoonFlower, for reviewing. (And thank you, Jack'N'SallyGal, for pointing out the major plot hole. I've tried to patch it as best as possible.)