December 22nd, 2003, 7:32 am
Hello All! It's your favorite SIN here. Well i've decided to work on a new project along with my other Fan Fic, Voldemort and the Dark Knight. Well here goese chapter one. Hope ya like it!!! BTW, there will be a few chapters dedicated to each Marauder, and finnaly it all comes together
Chapter One Prologue
In the middle of the moors, there was a small wood. In the middle of that wood, there was a clearing. And on the edge of the clearing stood a house.
This house was not a house like any other house. In fact, it wasn't really a house. It was a cottage - but no ordinary cottage. It looked like something out of a fairy tale: A crooked, two-storied building made up of white bricks, with faded red shutters on its windows and almost as many chimney pots perched higgledy-piggledy on its thatched roof as there were flowerpots stacked in the tumble-down greenhouse.
The people that lived behind the little red door in the overgrown front garden, where a tabby cat lay sunning itself among the rose bushes, were not what most people would call 'ordinary' either. Instead of bicycles, they kept bristly broomsticks in the cellar for Sunday outings. They had no central heating, but a merry fire in the living room warmed the whole house. They had no telephone, but a pot of some strange powder stood on the mantelpiece. In the kitchen, the washing-up brush was scrubbing away at the pots and pans all by itself. A feather duster was dancing along among the many strange ornaments on the shelves, and a violin floated in the corner of the room, playing by itself.
This was because the owners of this cottage were the Lupins, and the Lupins were anything but ordinary people. They belonged to a hidden world of magic and mystery. Mr. John Lupin - a tall and handsome young man with black hair and clear blue eyes - was a wizard, and worked for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures at the Ministry of Magic. His wife, Faith Lupin, had wide brown eyes and light-brown hair, which she was at this moment stroking back over her shoulder to pick up their son Remus, aged three, who had his mother's eyes and hair colour.
"Say good night to Daddy," said Faith Lupin.
"Night, Daddy," said little Remus.
"Good night, son," said John, ruffling the boy's hair before sitting down in an old armchair and picking up his newspaper, the front page of which showed a moving picture of several people on broomsticks under the headline Wimbourne Wasps Win Once More - Seeker Sneaker Snatches Snitch.
His wife took the boy to bed and returned, smiling.
"I had to let him sleep in our bed, John," she said quietly, sitting down opposite her husband.
"Oh?" He looked up from the Daily Prophet. "He's not still on about last night, is he?"
"He had a bad dream," said his wife defensively. "About a monster coming for him in the dark. Honestly, John, I've never seen him so frightened."
John smiled at his wife's anxious expression.
"All right, dear. But I'm not having him in with us tomorrow night. He's got to learn ... What?"
He broke off, seeing the grin on his wife's face.
"I was just remembering who it was who went and brought him over to our room last night," she replied slyly.
John grinned back. Faith sighed.
"I'm going to miss you both this weekend," she said.
"You could come with us."
"You know I can't. I promised your mother ages ago that I would help her organise the Witches' Weekly summer fête. I can't turn round and say I'm not going, not now."
John laid aside his newspaper. "Poor Faith. My mother does make you suffer, doesn't she?" He smiled. "You paid a high price when you married me."
Faith smiled back warmly. "No price is too high for the best man in the world. Not even arranging bazaars for middle-aged witches and long- suffering local celebrities while you and my dear brother go off hiking with little Remus."
John got up and came over to kiss her on the forehead.
Well there ya go...more will follow! Good DaY! Cheerio mate
December 22nd, 2003, 7:57 am
Chapter 2 A Hike on the Moors
So it was that, come Saturday, Faith was tying red woollen hat strings under her son's chin, dressed in her best maroon robes.
"Now you will look after him, won't you?" she said for the umpteenth time, looking anxiously at John and her brother. Aged thirty-one, Malcolm Marley was as tall as John, though broader shouldered and more muscular. His hair was the same shade of light-brown as his sister's, his face clean-shaven and roguishly attractive.
"Of course we will," said John.
Faith looked uncertain. "I do hope I've remembered to pack everything for you. You've got the sausages, and the bacon, and the sauce?"
"In the hamper," said Malcolm, his brown eyes sparkling.
"And the tent?"
"Outside with our brooms," John replied.
"And the magical mess remover?"
"In my rucksack."
"And Remus's spare trousers?"
"In the hamper with the sausages, bacon and sauce," Malcolm grinned.
Faith frowned at her brother.
"It's all right," John assured her. "We'll be fine. We're not going for ages, anyway. It's only for one night . and you're going to be late, if you don't hurry."
Faith looked uncertainly from one to the other of them, and shrugged. "Oh well, I expect you're right."
She kissed Remus on the cheek. "Be a good boy for daddy, won't you?"
Malcolm rose from his chair and gave his sister an affectionate hug. "He'll be fine. We'll look after him."
Faith's frown deepened.
"Goodbye, dear," said John, kissing her gently.
She smiled then and finally turned to go. Taking a hand full of floo powder from the pot by the mantelpiece, she stepped into the fireplace and, taking a deep sigh, she cast the powder to the floor and said, "Diagon Alley". The very next instant, she was gone.
John felt a familiar sadness at seeing her leave. But then he looked at his young son, and his mood brightened. This weekend would be fun. There would be just the three of them - a boys' outing.
* * *
After several hours of floating across the moors on their broomsticks, John and Malcolm decided it was growing too dark to continue. They set up the tent with the wave of a wand and lit a fire in the same way to fry their sausages and keep them warm. A full moon was shining and the moors were unusually bright for such a late hour. It was gone eleven by the time little Remus finally lay tucked up in the tent and the two adults sat back down outside. John sank down onto a log and opened a bottle of butterbeer.
"Little tyke asleep at last?" Malcolm asked.
"Yes. Our outing got him rather wound up, and I think he's still frightened about this dream he had recently."
"Dream?" Malcolm looked up from his plate, now holding the remains of his eighth sausage and sixth rasher of bacon.
"He woke up crying the other night, saying he'd dreamt about some monster coming to get him." John grinned. "At least that's how your sister interprets his babbling."
Malcolm laughed and took a long draught of butterbeer. Then he almost dropped it and his plate. A howl rent the night. John sprang to his feet, his face as pale as the moon above.
"What the hell was that?" Malcolm exclaimed.
"Shhh!" John hissed.
They waited in silence for another sound. Before long, they heard the blood- curdling sounds of a wild beast, a monster, and of another creature, probably a helpless moor pony. Judging from the sound, the beast was attacking the pony. They heard its final whinny before silence fell . and then another long, lonely howl followed.
"Quick," John urged, "pack the bags. Only the important things. Leave anything we don't need."
Malcolm came out of his momentary stupor and hurried to help John pack all their things together, not caring what a mess they made. John chucked the tea water on the fire, dousing the flames and hoping that the monster would not be able to find them so quickly without it. He was about to pick up the last of the bags and hitch it over the front of his broomstick when they heard the ripping of canvas. Malcolm froze.
"Remus!" John yelled.
He flew into the tent, Malcolm at his heels, and found a huge wolf-like creature bending over his son. It raised its shaggy head as they entered and snarled.
"Oh my god! It's a werewolf!" Malcolm screamed.
John didn't answer. He was staring at the unmoving shape of his son on the floor at the monster's paws. Whether he was alive or dead, he couldn't tell. But his left side was a sticky red, and there was a pool of blood on the floor beside him. Heedless of the danger, he charged forward and grabbed the boy, before the werewolf quite knew what was happening, while Malcolm drew his wand and used a spell to send sparks flying at the beast. It growled deep in its throat, and John heard it behind him as he raced out through the flap. He laid Remus down by the fire, and cursed his own wits for having doused it so hastily. He hated the thought of leaving his son lying there right now, but the continuing shouts and growls, the snapping and ripping from inside the tent made him take out his wand instead and rush back in. Malcolm had backed against the canvas and was gripping his wand frantically. Without hesitation, John raised his own wand and pointed it straight at the werewolf's back.
Flames sprang up along the creature's back, and it writhed and turned to try and shake them off, howling and setting the sheets and the canvas on fire in the process. Malcolm and John watched it warily. Finally, still howling in pain, the werewolf bolted through the hole in the back of the tent and vanished into the night. The two men fled from the burning tent and returned to where John had left Remus. But even as they drew close, the little boy, still lying unconscious on the ground, began to change before their very eyes. His face became elongated. Fur grew on his bloodstained hands. He had been bitten . and within moments, in his place lay a smaller version of the monster they had just chased away. John approached him slowly and dropped to his knees.
"No," he whispered, his trembling hand hovering over the limp shape. He made to pick him up, but Malcolm grabbed his shoulders and pulled him to his feet.
"No, John. Don't touch him. If he wakes up, he'll turn on you."
John was shaking his head desperately.
"No. No, this can't be true. It can't have happened."
He fought Malcolm, who had to hold John with all his strength to stop him returning to Remus's side.
"Remus!" John cried, pulling free at last. He stopped a few paces away from his son and stared from him up at the moon. "No!" he screamed. "Noooo!"
December 22nd, 2003, 8:18 am
Chapter 3 Father and Son
Eight-year-old Remus Lupin sat with his back to a tree trunk, listening to the slow trickling of a small woodland stream and the twittering of the birds in the branches above. The setting sun shone through among the leaves, casting a green light on the boy's light brown head and on the thick pages of the book in his hands. He paused to stroke a rebellious strand of hair out of his eyes and turn the page. Somewhere in the deep forest a woodpecker was hammering at intervals.
Remus's brow was furrowed. This book was hard reading, even for a hungry young bookworm like him. Oh, he wasn't one of those pale, indoor boys who spent all day with their noses glued to the pages of some boring old story. No, Remus was as keen to be out of doors and climb trees, to build dams in woodland streams and design tree houses as any other healthy boy his age, and did so sometimes with his mother. But that wasn't the same as having a boy his own age to play with. The nearest he ever got to that was when Uncle Malcolm came to visit - Mum always said he behaved just like an overgrown child. But Remus didn't mind that. He liked Uncle Malcolm, in fact he sometimes wished his dad was more like that. But Dad was so close and quiet always. So Remus went outdoors alone, roving through the woods until he reached this spot, some fifteen minutes' walk from the house, where he would then settle down with a book, either leaning against the tree trunk, or up amongst the branches, where two of them created a fork that you could sit in quite safely, without falling off even if you dozed for a while.
Usually he would read an adventure story, but today Remus had sneaked something from his father's bookshelf, a heavy old volume with pages and pages of thick parchment, entitled A Study on Werewolves. Dad had many books with titles like that. He would often spend hours and hours poring over them, until Mum reproached him gently and reminded him that Remus wanted playing with. Then he would kiss her, and lay his book aside reluctantly. He would come to find Remus, and they would play together - quiet games. There was hardly ever any laughter to be got out of Dad. The rare occasions when he even smiled were when, reading in one of his many books, in papers like Medical Magic Monthly or on the wireless, John Lupin read or heard of yet another possible cure for his young son's complaint. They had tried many such miracle cures over the years, but they had all led to nothing. Yet John Lupin - and Faith, too, though she made a better job of concealing her concern - had still not accepted that Remus was destined to be a werewolf to the end of his days. Faith had tried to explain to her son, when they had returned from the most recent ineffective treatment that had robbed them of much of their savings and even more of their nerves, that his father's obsession with finding a cure for him was because he felt Remus's predicament to be his fault. Remus had not understood that. How could it be his father's fault that he was what he was? No. The way Remus saw it, his father was simply ashamed of what he was. After all, he always made such a fuss about people not finding out what had happened to his son. Yes, that was it. He was ashamed. And Remus couldn't bear his father to be ashamed of him.
So Remus had decided that he must be cured, convinced that it was the only way to win his father's true affection. And to find a cure for himself, he must read the books his father had read, to get an insight into the matter and hope against hope that he would spot some release that his father had missed.
But it was hard work for a child of his age. And the hour was growing late, which meant the moon would soon be coming out. Remus feared the moon. It made him shiver just to look at it. And tonight it would be a full moon, and that meant the now familiar though still unbearable pain. He sighed and looked up at the darkening sky. Yes, it was almost time. He bent forward and dug with his small fingers among the roots of the old tree, bringing a metal-bound chest to light. He opened it and carefully laid the book inside, then he closed and locked the chest. The last thing he wanted was to accidentally tear up Dad's book. When he had reburied the chest, Remus stood up and looked around him, taking in the peace of this place that he loved so much. Right now, Mum would be locking up for the night, as she did every month. The woods were as safe a place as any for Remus when he transformed. They were lonely and deserted. No one lived there but his parents, and they knew what precautions to take.
It was growing dark. Remus felt a burning sensation in his eyes. No, he would not cry. He knew it would hurt, as it always did, but that was just his lot, and it was no use weeping over it. He brushed a speck of dirt off his worn trousers and waited. Not long now.
* * *
The next morning dawned bright and warm. Faith Lupin flung open the front door and hurried out onto the path, expecting her son Remus to come running to her as he always did on the mornings following his transformations. But he didn't come.
"Hiding, probably," she thought to herself, and smiled.
"All right, Remus!" she called out loud. "Don't come out of your hiding place. I'll give your breakfast to the cat then, shall I?"
There was no answer. Where had that boy got to? Frowning slightly, but still unconcerned, she walked further into the woods.
"Remus!" she called. "Come on, love, your cocoa's getting cold!"
Still no reply. Shrugging her shoulders, she turned back towards the house. Remus had probably just buried his nose a little too deeply in one of his books again. He'd be along when his stomach called. Boys!
She stepped back into the house and found John standing in the kitchen. He looked bewildered about something.
"What is it?" she asked casually.
"Have you seen Buttons this morning?"
"No. Why, isn't he under the table as usual?"
She pulled the cat's usual chair out, but there was no cat there. Puzzled, she looked under the kitchen table, checking all the chairs.
"That's strange," she said at last. "He always sleeps there. Malcolm was complaining only the other day about that time when he pulled the chair out and sat on the cat. He claims he's still got the scars ."
John looked around the house, but there was no sign of the cat anywhere. He returned to the kitchen, where his wife was still staring at the empty kitchen chair.
"No sign of him," he said. "Oh well, he'll come when he's hungry. What's the matter?" he added, seeing the distressed look on her face.
"I couldn't find Remus, John," she said.
"He didn't come when I called him." She turned to face him, and the rims of her eyes looked reddened. "John . you don't suppose ."
John stared, but thought long and hard before he spoke. "I'll find him," he said at last.
* * *
Remus climbed up the tree trunk and hid among the foliage. He had heard his mother call him, but been unable to go to her. He found the safe spot between the two forked branches and sat there, pulling his legs up in front of him and wrapping his arms around them miserably. His shirt was torn in several places and his eyes were red and swollen. There were damp patches on his cheeks. He peered nervously through the leaves to the ground below and, shuddering, closed his eyes quickly. There were still patches of blood and fur down there, all around his chest. Remus was miserable, more miserable than he could ever remember having been. With his eyes closed, he sobbed silently to himself for what felt like an age. Suddenly he heard a noise. Someone was coming through the undergrowth, walking on last autumn's dry leaves.
"Remus!" his father's voice called. He sounded quite near.
Remus scrambled up among the branches and lay flat on his belly. From this position, he could see his father come through among the trees below and stop close to the spot where . Remus swallowed hard. Below, John Lupin looked around him.
"Remus!" he called again. "Come on out. Remus?"
He broke off as his eye fell on the sticky brown patches in the grass. Bending down, he picked up a tuft of soft, long brown fur. Clinging to his branch high above, Remus trembled. His father was examining the fur.
"Good god," he muttered under his breath. He crouched down and examined the ground. He found an area of loose soil and scraped it aside with his hands, revealing a small chest with a metal lock and key. The initials R. J. L. had been scrawled on the lid in a childish hand. Slowly, John Lupin turned the key and began to raise the lid. But then he seemed to think better of it, and closing the lid, he relocked the chest and replaced it in its hole. He stood, looking around more urgently now.
"Remus! If you can hear me, come out, please!"
His voice was trembling, and he paced around the small clearing, crossing and re-crossing the stream. Finally, he stopped under the very tree in which Remus was perched and ran both hands through his hair. Remus caught just a brief glimpse of his father's face - it looked strangely worn and feverish, the eyes heavy and the cheeks hollow. Remus had never realised how anxious his father looked these days, until now. The boy gave an involuntary gasp. John Lupin looked up into the leaves, shielding his eyes from the rays of sunlight that penetrated the foliage with his hand.
"Remus?" he called.
"G-go away," the child stammered.
"Remus!" his father exclaimed, relieved. "What are you doing up there? You had us worried. Come on down, now."
"I can't come down," Remus mumbled. "Y-you'll only be cross with me."
"Don't be silly, Remus. Why should I be cross with you?"
The poor boy started to sob, and the branch he lay on shook so violently that John was quite alarmed.
"Remus, come down from there, before you fall."
"N-no," Remus sobbed. "I won't. I can't. I . I did something really bad last night, and I ... I ."
He burst into tears again. John looked up helplessly, then began examining the trunk. He found a few good holds and began climbing up slowly, cautiously.
"No!" Remus yelled when he realised what his father was doing. "Don't come up, don't come near me!"
He tried to get higher up among the branches himself, but he was already so high there was nowhere to go. And then his father reached the spot where the two branches forked.
"Remus," he said, and his voice was much softer than the boy had ever heard it. "Don't run away from me. Whatever's happened, it can't be as bad as all that. Come here."
"No. Y-you don't know what . what happened last night."
John looked down at the patches on the ground below. "I can guess."
Remus looked at his father then. He sat there, in his best work robes, perched among the leaves, with twigs sticking in his arms and legs from all angles, his blue eyes fixed on his son, and there was none of the anger there that Remus had expected to see, no reproach.
"Y-you'll hate me," Remus said slowly. "I know you will. I know y-you're ashamed of me anyway, and you . you hate me. You hate me for being a - a werewolf."
"Ashamed of you?" John looked truly upset. "Hate you? Is that what you think of me?"
He looked away. "My god, what have I done?" he sighed, raising one hand and burying his face in it. "How did this happen? Why? Why?"
Remus stopped sobbing with shock and stared at his father. His broad, strong shoulders were trembling, he looked lost and . and so very hurt. Slowly, the boy crept back down the branches, towards his father. He put out a trembling hand and touched his shoulder.
"Dad?" he whispered.
John turned towards him so suddenly that Remus nearly fell out of the tree.
"I was never ashamed of you, Remus," he said with a tremor. "Ashamed? Quite the contrary. I'm proud of you."
He gave a sad smile.
"I'll wager there aren't many kids your age who could go through what you've had to put up with these past five years and come through it none the worse in their nature and heart."
His smile broadened at the bewildered expression on Remus's young face.
"Hate you?" he went on. "I could never hate you, my boy. And I'm sorry if I created that impression. I know I haven't behaved well towards you. I've been too obsessed with finding a cure for you, perhaps, to do what really matters - to show you that whatever happens, whatever you are - I love you, son."
Tears started back into Remus's eyes, and suddenly he found himself in his father's arms, in the warmest embrace he had had from him in over five years.
"I love you too, Dad," he whispered. "I'm so sorry I upset you."
"It's all right," John laughed, stroking his back, and Remus leaned back to see that a change had come over his father's tired face. He looked much younger, somehow, and much friendlier.
"Come," his father said at last, "let's get back to your mother. She'll be worrying about you."
December 22nd, 2003, 8:46 am
Chapter 4 The Young Scholar
Remus Lupin looked at himself in the tall mirror in his parents' bedroom. Like most things they owned these days, it was slightly cracked and worse for wear. What little money the Lupins had once had was gone, wasted on useless attempts at curing their son of being a werewolf. Remus smoothed out the new black robes his mother had sewn for him in the traditional Muggle manner she had learnt as a girl, using an old set of his father's. He ran a hand through his fringe, trying to smooth away a strand of light brown hair that would insist on falling into his eyes, no matter what he did. The sunlight streaming in through the window warmed the side of his face and caught a flicker of silver in his hair. The first of these grey hairs had appeared about a year ago, when he was ten. He had tugged it out quickly, before anyone spotted it. But another had grown in its place, and another, until by the age of eleven, he now had several such silvery strands. His mother had seemed concerned when she had first spotted them, but his father had said with a smile that he thought they suited him, and his mother had agreed quickly, and now indeed seemed to have grown quite used to them. Remus was glad. He didn't really mind them himself, and tugging them out was always so painful. He could use a Severing Charm, but that didn't last long enough. They grew back. Still, he was glad he hadn't grown any fresh strands like that for some time. He didn't want to end up completely grey-haired by the time he was twelve.
He sighed, gazing at his reflection.
"You look smart today, dear," the mirror said.
Remus frowned. A skinny, sickly-looking boy he thought he looked, though his mother frequently assured him there was no boy as handsome as him in the whole wide world. Personally, Remus thought it was just his mother's fondness for him that made her blind to his faults - he even suspected her of having bewitched or persuaded the mirror to offer such encouraging remarks. Though it was true he didn't usually look as bad as this, but he had had a rough night under the full moon two nights ago.
He left the bedroom and made his way slowly down the rickety old staircase, wondering secretly why his parents had insisted he should put on his best robes and manners today - and spend the day indoors. That last was a nuisance. He had planned to go to his favourite spot again today. He had a new - well, second-hand - book on ancient runes in his 'treasure chest', and was dying to learn more about them.
Remus was only halfway down the stairs when there was a knock at the front door. He heard the rustle of his father's newspaper as he laid it aside, and heard his mother's light footfall echoing through the hallway as she went to open the door. From his place on the stairs, Remus could see the bright sunlight stream in through the doorway, though he was half hidden from view himself, and stared in wonder at the strange man who now entered their little cottage.
He was tall and thin. Dressed from head to foot in long elegant robes of deep mauve, on his head was perched a tall wizard's hat that forced him to bend low in order to walk through the door. His hair and beard were long and white, but what most fascinated Remus were his eyes. Small and blue, they sparkled behind a pair of spectacles shaped like two half moons. They were bright eyes, and friendly, yet the boy at once felt that they were also very shrewd eyes, eyes that could 'see through' you in some way. He had the strangest feeling that even now, though he was still half hidden by the wall, those eyes were in some way penetrating him.
So this was Professor Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Oh yes, Remus recognised him at once. His father often brought him home some chocolate frogs, though Remus could never bring himself to stuff the squirming, squiggling bits of chocolate in his mouth and bite them. But he did like to collect the cards. He had at least four Dumbledores in his treasure chest, but none of them had eyes quite like the real thing. He almost feared coming directly under their gaze, yet at the same time he felt curiously drawn towards them, as though he longed to trust the person behind them with all his innermost secrets.
"It's very good of you to come, Professor," Faith Lupin was saying.
"Not at all," said the professor in a soft, kindly voice. He sniffed the air. "Your cooking is always worth a visit, Faith."
Remus's mother laughed. "Thank you, sir. Though I'm afraid that praise is due more to my excellent pots than to my humble skills."
She led Professor Dumbledore through into the living room, and Remus heard his father's voice join the other two. He sneaked down the stairs, avoiding the creaking step, and crept quietly up to the half closed door. His parents and Professor Dumbledore were talking. It seemed quite casual talk, all about the Ministry's latest feats on international magical co- operation, the most recent game of the Wimbourne Wasps and the outrageous new witches' fashion of wearing knee-length robes.
"So," Professor Dumbledore said finally, when there was a lull in the conversation, "how is your son getting on?"
"Oh, he's doing really well," Faith said. "Would you like to meet him?"
"That is why I came," Dumbledore said simply.
Remus felt a rush of warm blood in his face. At the same time, he heard the familiar creak that meant his mother had just got up from the arm of Dad's chair.
"I'll go and call him," she said.
This was it. Remus would have to be quick, or he'd be discovered. He tiptoed back across the hall, then walked back normally to the door and knocked.
"Ah, here he is," his father said, seeming surprised to see his son's head pop round the corner right on call.
Remus stepped nervously into the room, and at once felt the appraising stare of those pale blue eyes as they studied him over the rim of Professor Dumbledore's half moon glasses.
His mother came over and, laying a hand on his shoulder, led him towards the headmaster.
"This is Professor Dumbledore, Remus."
"I know," he blurted out. "Er. I mean, it's an honour, sir."
Apparently completing his scrutiny, the old wizard smiled at Remus.
"Well, young man. I have long been eager to make your acquaintance, you know."
Remus was puzzled, and it must have shown in his face, for Dumbledore chuckled.
"Oh yes, I have heard a lot about you, from your father for one. Very proud of you, your father is."
Out of the corner of his eye, Remus thought he could see Dad go slightly red at these words. Dumbledore went on.
"I hear you're something of a young scholar, Remus Lupin. Never far from a book or two, so I've been told. And not just simple children's literature, either. School books, many of them."
"I read some school books, yes, sir," Remus replied. "But not all of them. I tried a Potions book once, but that was ." He broke off, embarrassed.
"Rather boring, I suppose," Dumbledore guessed. Then he smiled again. "Never mind, Remus. We can't all be interested in the same things. Which subjects do you prefer?"
"I like ancient runes, and history of magic, and defence against the dark arts. I tried reading A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration once, but that was hard to follow without being able to try the actual spells."
Albus Dumbledore nodded approvingly, and Remus found that he was suddenly much less nervous of the professor. As long as he kept on familiar ground, things that he knew - his books - he couldn't embarrass himself or his parents too much.
"And have you thought what you will be doing with yourself this coming year?" Professor Dumbledore asked.
"Well, er . I got my wand last year, and I've already been doing some basic spells with it. Mum said she'll try and teach me some more, the kind I'd learn if I were going to wizard school. Of course, I'll never be as good as your students at Hogwarts, sir."
"Ah, you've heard about Hogwarts, have you? And what do you think of it?"
"I think it the best wizard school in the world, Professor," Remus said enthusiastically. "I mean, both my parents went there, and if I'd been a normal boy I'd have wanted to go there too, but of course I can't. I've read some of the books used there, and Hogwarts - A History, though."
"Really?" Dumbledore chuckled once more. "Then you have done more than many a seventh-year Hogwarts student ever did, I dare say. Very well. Thank you, Remus, for showing me a little of what is in your mind. We will talk again, perhaps - later."
Surprised, Remus took this as a dismissal, and set out to find his chest, and the book he had tucked away inside it.
* * *
The sun was high up in the sky and Remus was engrossed in his book, the world around him forgotten. His best robes were dusty with pollen and dry earth, and his brow was furrowed. He turned a thick page, then flicked back again. He turned the book, and let out an exclamation. Ah, so that was it. He had failed to see the connection before, but now all was crystal clear. This was a good book. It explained everything so well, and it was so fascinating. So fascinating, in fact, that he didn't hear anyone approach until a shadow fell on the page. He looked up with a start and found Professor Dumbledore looking down at him.
"Ah," he said, "so this is where you bury yourself with your books, is it?"
"I like to read here," Remus said, starting to get to his feet.
Dumbledore waved him back, and sat on a tree stump beside him.
"I have been talking to your parents about your future, Remus."
"Oh?" Remus replied politely, closing his book.
"Yes. They seem to think that it is a great burden for you that you must face the prospect of never going to a proper school and learning more than basic magic. Is that so?"
Remus thought for a moment. "I suppose so. I am eager to learn. But I know it would be too dangerous for me to mix with the other students. It wouldn't be safe for them. It's bad luck, but I have to make the best of it."
"You have an unusually gentle disposition for someone circumstanced as you are. Most boys would be bitter and angry. But then, you have your parents to bear it with you, and they love you very much."
"I know," Remus said earnestly. "And I love them."
Dumbledore smiled. "You seem to me to be both a very patient and an intelligent boy, Remus. It would be a pity to let your talent go to waste. So I have spoken to your parents, and we have come to an agreement. I have told them that I will make arrangements. We will make use of an old house that stands empty now in Hogsmeade. There you shall spend the night of the full moon each month. I have already sent an owl to our Transfiguration teacher, Professor McGonagall, who I am making my deputy headmistress this year, instructing her to begin preparations. A tunnel will be dug, leading from the grounds of the school to the house. Our Herbology teacher, Professor Sprout, has recently acquired a very rare seedling: a Whomping Willow. This we will plant over the entrance to the tunnel, to ensure that no one comes across you by chance while you are in your transformed state. If we take all these precautions, there should be no danger in your coming to Hogwarts."
Remus laughed dryly. "You're joking."
"No, I am not," Dumbledore replied.
Remus's mouth dropped open. "H-Hogwarts?" he stammered. "Me? Go to Hogwarts? But ."
"Do you approve of the plan?"
Remus jumped to his feet, half laughing and half crying. "Approve? This is . it's ."
Lost for words, he looked down at the headmaster, now smiling up at him from his seat on the tree stump.
"Thank you, Professor," Remus choked. "I won't let you down, sir."
December 22nd, 2003, 9:04 am
Chapter 5 Journey to Hogwarts
Remus Lupin wished his stomach would calm down. It felt like a hundred butterflies were dancing a jig in there, and there was a strange knotted feeling in his throat. He was going to Hogwarts! He didn't know whether to sing for joy or faint from nervousness. His mother stood beside him, and she looked very much on edge.
"Oh dear, I do hope I've remembered to pack everything you'll need. If there's anything else you find you need when you get there, you must promise to let me know, won't you?"
At that moment, his father came back from where he had been speaking to a porter. He smiled at his wife and son.
"Look, Remus," he said, "there she is."
Remus shot a nervous glance at the big red steam engine as it puffed into the station. The Hogwarts Express. He swallowed hard. It was magnificent, much better even than he had imagined it. He still couldn't quite believe it was real, though. It was the 31st of August, and he, eleven-year-old Remus J. Lupin, was travelling to Hogwarts today. All the other students would be arriving tomorrow, of course, but tomorrow night there would be a full moon, so it had been arranged that he would go a day early. He heard his mother sigh deeply.
She smiled down at him, though her eyes were damp.
"Well, Remus. It's time."
Remus nodded tightly and looked at her. He had so often dreamt of going to Hogwarts, had longed to go away and meet new people, other boys his age, to study and learn . but now that it came to it, and he saw his mother and father standing there, half full of happiness for him, half aching to see him go, he found a horrible fear creeping into his heart. His mother kissed his cheek, and his father lifted his trunk and cauldron and carried them towards the train. Remus followed slowly, but just as he was about to get on, his footsteps faltered. He stopped, and ran wildly back into his mother's arms, tears running down his face.
"I can't do it, Mum," he sobbed, "I can't go to Hogwarts after all. I can't bear to leave you."
His mother hugged him, then she made him stand up straight and pushed his hair out of his eyes.
"Yes you can, dear. You're going to make lots of new friends at Hogwarts, and you'll study such a lot you'll be wishing you'd never set eyes on a book in all your life. You'll do fine."
"But - I'll miss you, Mum," he said.
Faith smiled. She had known this moment would be hard for Remus, who had never been away from his parents in his life so far.
"I know, my love," she said. "I'll miss you too. But it's not all that long until the holidays, and then you can come home and see us." She sighed. "Now run along, and have a good time."
She turned Remus around, and this time he got onto the train and followed his father into a compartment. John Lupin lifted the trunk up onto the rack.
"There," he said, "You'll be all right in here, I think."
"Thanks, Dad," Remus said uncertainly.
John smiled. "I never thought I'd see the day when my little boy sets off all on his own to be the first werewolf at Hogwarts."
He fumbled for something in his pocket.
"I've got a little something for you here. It's not much, but ."
Remus ripped open the brown paper eagerly. Inside was an old, but highly polished gold locket. He opened it. Inside it were the small smiling images of his parents.
"I know it's not the kind of thing for a boy to have, really. But your mother and I thought you might like it as a keepsake anyway."
Remus hugged his father. "Thanks, Dad."
"I'm proud of you, Remus," John said, ruffling his son's hair.
Then, with one last smile, he went back out onto the platform.
As the Hogwarts Express pulled out of platform 9 ¾, Remus stood with the locket clasped tightly in his hand, his face pressed against the window. His father stood with his arm around his mother's shoulders, and the last thing that Remus saw burned into his memory as the train gathered speed and chugged merrily northwards was her sweet face, watching him out of sight with mingled pride and sorrow.
The train had not trundled far and Remus had barely forced himself to tuck the locket away in a pocket of his robes when there were footsteps in the corridor, so heavy that for a moment he thought there must be an elephant on the train. Then the door was pushed open, and there stood a man so big he ought not to be allowed. His face was a shaggy mass of dark tangles and he wore a gigantic moleskin coat. But above the mess that was his beard two kindly eyes like black beads smiled at the young boy.
"'Ello," said the stranger, "you must be Remus Lupin. Professor Dumbledore told me you were coming ter Hogwarts a day early. 'E thought you might be lonely, travelling all by yerself, it being yer firs' time away from home an' all. Thought you might like a bit o' comp'ny. So I came along down ter London to see ye safe there. Mind if I join ye?"
Recovering from his first shock at the sheer size of the stranger, and discerning his strange countrified speech with difficulty, Remus at last muttered a polite "Please do."
Somehow, the huge man squeezed into the compartment and placed a pink umbrella on the rack over his head. He sat down, taking up at least three seats and making the compartment seem impossibly small. Remus seriously worried that, if he moved too quickly, he might cause the train to derail.
"Rubeus Hagrid's the name," his travelling companion said, "I'm Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts."
"Pleased to meet you," said Remus.
One of Hagrid's dinner-plate hands disappeared in a gigantic pocket and he pulled out about a dozen chocolate frog wrappers.
"'Ave a sweet?"
"No thank you," said Remus. "I don't eat them. I don't like eating things that act like they're alive."
Hagrid looked stunned. "But you collect the cards, don't ye?"
"Yes," Remus admitted.
"Ah, I thought so. Never met a boy in all me life as didn't. Tell ye what, I'll eat the frogs, and you can 'ave the cards. We never 'ad em when I was your age, and I'm sorta too old ter start collectin' 'em now. All right?"
For the first time since the train had left the station, Remus smiled. "Okay."
And so their journey continued with Hagrid eating chocolate frogs, three at a time, and Remus gathering a pile of Morgana Le Fays, Merlins and several other famous witches and wizards.
"Ah, now 'ere's a good un," said Hagrid, unwrapping the last frog. "Albus Dumbledore. You've met him, haven't ye?"
"Yes. He came to our house this summer. He very kindly let me come to Hogwarts although . although I'm a ."
"It's all right," Hagrid said quickly. "Ye don't have ter tell me anything. I know, ye see. Professor Dumbledore told me. 'E trusts me."
His huge chest swelled, if that was possible, to twice its size.
"That's the wonderful thing about 'im, see. 'E believes in people. Gives 'em chances. Even people as others would shun - people like you an' me."
Remus looked up sharply, but Hagrid became very preoccupied with some Every Flavour Beans he found in another pocket just then, and he didn't bring the subject up again.
December 22nd, 2003, 9:21 am
Chapter 6 Welcome to Hogwarts
It was dark out by the time they finally pulled into Hogsmeade station. Remus was just wondering how he was going to get his trunk and cauldron up to the castle, when two large hands whipped the trunk from the rack and Hagrid tucked the cauldron under his arm as though it were a tiny vase.
"I'll take those," said Hagrid kindly. "Come on."
Remus followed the Hogwarts gamekeeper out of the station and through the darkness until they reached the edge of the black lake.
"We go across by water ternight," Hagrid said. "It's traditional for firs' years ter enter Hogwarts that way, an' Professor Dumbledore wanted ye ter be able to have a welcome near as possible to what the others'll get tomorrow."
He dropped the trunk into the boat, and Remus climbed gingerly in after it. Then they set off across the silent lake. As they drew nearer to the castle, Remus saw lights twinkling in several windows, and the moon came out from behind a cloud, silhouetting the castle and its many turrets and towers against the briefly illuminated night sky.
"What d'ye think of it then, eh?" Hagrid asked.
"It's beautiful," Remus answered, awed.
* * *
If possible, he was even more awed by the sight of the great staircase when they finally reached it, and the Great Hall - empty but for four long tables with candles floating above them, and the teachers' table up front - took his breath away. He gazed endlessly at the enchanted ceiling, which was far more magnificent than it had ever been described in Hogwarts - A History.
Hagrid left the trunk by the door and led Remus all the way along the Hall to the teachers' table, where two people stood waiting for them. One was Professor Dumbledore, dressed tonight in sky-blue. The other was a middle- aged, very stern-looking witch in tartan robes with thin lips, piercing eyes appraising him through her square glasses, her hair tied back in a strict bun.
"Ah, Hagrid. I see you've brought us our new pupil," Dumbledore said.
"Yes, sir, Professor Dumbledore. Professor McGonagall." Hagrid bowed slightly to the stern-looking witch.
"Excellent," Dumbledore continued. "Has Hagrid been keeping you well, Remus?"
"Yes, sir. Thank you."
Remus felt all the cheer and courage he had regained on the train journey dwindle under the sharp eyes of Professor McGonagall.
"Well now," the headmaster went on. "You must be tired, and I expect you will want to retire to your dormitory early tonight, since you will not get much rest tomorrow night. But first we must find out where to put you."
Remus looked slightly worried at that. Dumbledore smiled indulgently.
"Don't worry, we will find room for you somewhere. The question is where. Minerva, the Sorting Hat, if you please ."
Professor McGonagall stood aside to reveal a wooden stool and a battered- looking old hat. This she raised and motioned to Remus to sit on the stool. He did so, and immediately she dropped the large hat on his head, so that it fell over his eyes.
*What's this?* said the Hat in his head. *A student already? But the Sorting is not due until tomorrow, I prepared my rhyme especially. Ah . *.
It seemed to ponder something it had found in his mind.
*A werewolf, is it? So that's why you're a night early. Well, well. Whatever next? Now then, where shall I put you? Let me see . You have a lively mind, young Remus Lupin. An inquisitive mind. You seek to learn, but also to please. Now that does make it difficult. Your cleverness almost makes me think I'd better put you in Ravenclaw, and yet . the Hufflepuffs are keen to serve, but no, for that you are too daring, too fond of going your own way. I think perhaps . yes. Yes, I see it now. There is a lot of courage in you. You will endure much, but never falter. Yes .*
Remus trembled. He wondered how the Hat could claim to know so well what was inside him, when he did not know himself. And he wondered what the Hat would say. It seemed to be taking an awfully long time to decide. But then, at last, it said quite clearly, for all to hear.
Professor McGonagall pulled the Hat off his head. Professor Dumbledore was nodding.
"Yes," he said, "I guessed as much. Very well, Minerva. That puts him in your care. I think you had better have a bite to eat now, Remus, and then go to bed. Good night."
And with that, Dumbledore turned and left, taking Hagrid with him. Remus was left with Professor McGonagall. She looked down at him, and for a moment it seemed to Remus as though she seemed slightly less stern than before.
"Well, Lupin, you had better come with me," she said in a voice that could have frozen glowing embers.
He followed her quick footsteps out of the hall and up several flights of stairs. Then they reached a hallway where hung a portrait of a fat lady in a pink dress. She looked mildly curious to see them approach.
"What's this? An early bird?" she enquired.
"Tiddlywinks," Professor McGonagall said.
Remus stared, but the lady in the portrait merely shrugged her amply proportioned shoulders.
"Very well, Professor," she said, and swung back on her hinges to reveal a hole in the wall.
Remus climbed through after the professor, and they came out in a circular tower room where a merry fire was crackling in the grate. A plate of cold ham, cheese, several slices of toast and jam stood on a table in front of it, along with a glass and a large pitcher of milk.
"This is the Gryffindor common room," the professor explained. "Your dormitory is through that door. Go right up the stairs until you reach the very top. You'll find your trunk is already up there. Enjoy your supper. Good night."
And with that, she was gone, and Remus was left all alone. Yet he found he did not mind so much. The fire was warming not only to the body, but to the heart as well. And tomorrow the other students would be arriving. He sat down in one of the large armchairs and drew the table closer to him. Suddenly he felt extremely hungry, and there was not a crumb left on the plate nor a drop in the pitcher by the time he finally made his way up the stairs to bed.
December 22nd, 2003, 9:25 am
Well there you have it! The first pillar of the Marauder's. The other three will come soon. Possibily in the next hour or two. Well I hope you enjoyed. BTW be sure to give me feedback of what you thought...i will definitly need to know. Cheerio mate.
December 22nd, 2003, 10:10 am
Chapter 7 Prolouge
There are many professions among the wizarding community that, at first mention, would not strike a Muggle as peculiar. A wizard may be a landlord, for instance, or a ministry official, or even a bus driver. So long as the Muggle never hears that the pub his neighbour is the landlord of sells butterbeer, or that the ministry in question is the Ministry of Magic, or the bus bears the name Knight Bus, he will detect nothing out of the ordinary. So it was with the profession of Norman Pettigrew.
Norman Pettigrew was an apothecary. He owned a comfortable house in a quiet side street of a small town up North, and was envied by the townsmen for having not only a good-looking wife, Anthea, who engaged locally in good works and went to church every Sunday, but also two charming twin daughters, Philippa and Paula, aged nine. 'Pippa' and 'Polly', as they were familiarly known, went to the local primary school, where they achieved good marks, always did their homework and never gave the teachers cause to scold or reproach them.
Yet behind the façade of their whitewashed and pebble-dashed house with its glass-fronted porch, behind the lace curtains and porcelain figurines in the bay window out front, the Pettigrews concealed a life that was very different from that of a Muggle family. It was true, as Norman told his neighbours, that he commuted to work. What he did not tell them, however, was that his idea of commuting was to disappear from his living room and almost instantly reappear in his apothecary in York, which could only be seen by members of the wizarding community, and sold such essentials as boomslang skin, frog spawn and bezoars.
His wife, meanwhile, did not mention that her failure to attend the long- anticipated car boot antiques sale last Easter had been due not to a bad cold, but to her having a prior engagement with the Yorkshire branch of the Miniature Cauldron Collectors' Club - a venue not to be missed, for attendees were promised the gift of a beautiful gold-plated cauldron (self- stirring) about the size of a large egg cup.
And as for their daughters . Polly was learning to teach her fountain pen to write, while Pippa had long laid it aside completely, and sat with her tongue between her lips and her brow furrowed, poring over a Maths book whose pages turned by itself, a long eagle-feather quill clasped tightly in her left hand.
Such was the life into which, one wet and windy morning in late April, Mr. and Mrs. Pettigrew's third child was born.
December 22nd, 2003, 10:19 am
Chapter 8 Little Brother
Peter Pettigrew kicked off his shoes and dropped back onto his bed in mingled relief and sadness. Relief, because the school year had begun at Hogwarts, and that meant a Polly-free house all the way through till Christmas. Sadness, because with Polly, Pippa had gone too. He would miss Pippa.
Peter got up and walked over to the window. He looked down into the small back garden. There stood a swing with a wooden seat that had orange paint peeling off it, and a slide that had once been red but by now showed little evidence of the fact. Muggle toys. The sort of toys Muggle people in a Muggle town like this expected a family like the Pettigrews to have in their back garden. If they only knew!
At least once a day, every day when there was a bit of sunshine, his mother chased him out there for appearance's sake. Not that he minded, really. He quite liked the slide. What he wasn't keen on, however, was the swing. Ever since that time when, while he was seeing how high his short stocky legs could make it go, his sister Paula had stood behind the kitchen door with her wand and made it go higher, higher, higher . so high he had been seriously afraid he would fall off. Polly was always pulling tricks like that on him, and Pippa was forever having to defend their brother. For Pippa had greeted the arrival of her parents' youngest child with joy, happy to have a little brother to play with and look after, even though he was many years her junior. Polly, on the other hand, had not seen the point of having another child so late, had resented his presence, the noise he made - and the mess - and hated having to look after him when their parents went out.
Peter's mixed mood in his sisters' absence was therefore not surprising. He was glad to see the back of Polly, but Pippa . He wished sincerely that Polly could have gone to Hogwarts alone, and that Pippa could have stayed here with him. All through his young life, Pippa had been his protector. And even at the age of six, when he knew he should be learning to stand up for himself, he still needed Pippa to defend him - which, without fail, she always did.
With a sigh, Peter dragged himself away from the window and walked towards the door. He supposed he had better go downstairs. Mum would be wondering where he had got to.
December 22nd, 2003, 7:25 pm
Chapter 9 Letters
"Mother! Mother!" Pippa Pettigrew cried, waving a thick sheet of parchment in the air.
She burst into the kitchen, a broad grin on her pale face. Now aged twenty, Philippa had become a kindly young woman with a friendly rather than a pretty face. She stood now, her small watery-blue eyes sparkling like two bright beads and a strand of straw-coloured hair detaching itself from her ponytail. Anthea Pettigrew turned away from her flower arranging to look at her daughter. Peter poked his head around the garden door and began to sidle in.
"Guess what!" Pippa gasped.
"Well, what?" Polly enquired as a matter of form, swallowing a mouthful of apple pie and looking up from a thick book propped up against the salad bowl in front of her.
"I've been accepted!" Pippa declared excitedly, squeezing her sister's shoulder before coming around the table and holding the letter up for her mother to see. Anthea took her glasses from the pocket of her apron and put them on.
"We are happy to inform you that your application for a position as a student teacher at Beauxbatons school has been accepted. We expect your arrival some time before the beginning of the next term, that is in August of this year. Yours sincerely, Olive Maxime, Deputy Headmistress," Anthea Pettigrew read.
She returned the letter to her daughter and removed her glasses.
"Congratulations, my dear," she said, receiving a kiss on the cheek from Pippa.
"It's so exciting," she exclaimed. "I'm going to Beauxbatons! I'm going to be a teacher! Isn't it wonderful, Peter?"
She looked around to discover that her brother had sneaked back out into the garden.
* * *
Peter was sitting in bed with his covers pulled up under his chin. He had turned off his light so that the room was dark but for the faint glimmer of the moon that showed through a gap in the curtains. His eyes were burning. He heard the knock on the door and recognised it at once. It was Pippa. Sliding down quickly under the covers, he pulled them tight about him and turned his face to the wall, shutting his eyes and pretending to be asleep. The door opened and light poured in from the hallway. Pippa came in and stopped for a moment, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the gloom. Then she came over to the bed.
"Peter?" she called softly.
He held his breath.
"I know you're awake, Peter," she said, coming over to sit on the side of his bed.
Reluctantly, he turned around to look at her.
"Why are you sad, Peter?" she asked. "I thought you'd be pleased for me that I'm getting what I've always wanted."
"I am," he answered quietly. "But I - I don't want you to go away. I don't know what I'll do without you."
"You'll still have Mum and Dad and Polly."
The boy pulled a face.
"I wish Polly were going away instead of you," he said.
Pippa smiled. She whispered,
"Well, if you're lucky, she'll hurry up and marry that most disagreeable boyfriend of hers and you'll be rid of both of us. Anyway," she added, "you won't have to put up with her too much longer. It's almost July already, and you'll be getting your letter for Hogwarts soon, I expect."
Peter pulled a face.
"If they'll have me at Hogwarts. I don't know, Pippa. I don't know if I'm clever enough."
"Of course they'll have you. As for cleverness - they took Barry Beacher, and I'm sure you're ten times as clever as he is."
The reference to an old school fellow of Pippa's, of whom he had heard many tales so ridiculous he seriously doubted if all of them were true, made Peter smile.
"Come," his sister said, smoothing his covers, "shut your eyes now, and get some sleep. And remember, however far away I am, I'll still always be there when you need me, okay?"
Peter nodded and, shutting his eyes, he fell asleep almost immediately.
* * *
The letter came on a Monday. Anthea Pettigrew peered anxiously out of the window when a large barn owl came soaring in through the kitchen door. But it appeared no one in the street had seen it, so she drew her head back in and returned to the breakfast table. Peter sat with the parchment in his hand, reading the address that was written in green ink. Yes, it was definitely addressed to him.
"Ah, and about time too," said his father, waiting while the milk jug emptied itself over his cereal.
Polly lowered her copy of the Daily Prophet and peered at her brother over the top of a glass of orange juice. Anthea sat down beside her husband, and whisked her wand at the tea pot, which obligingly flew over and filled her cup. Peter looked around at their expectant faces.
"Go on, open it," Pippa urged.
With a trembling hand, her brother undid the seal and unfolded the parchment. Sure enough, there it was in plain green and white. Mr. Peter Pettigrew was invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Pippa squeezed his arm and kissed his cheek happily, Anthea and Norman Pettigrew congratulated their son, and Polly studied him doubtfully. Peter, passing the letter across the table to his father, gave a nervous laugh - and knocked the milk jug out of balance.
December 22nd, 2003, 8:34 pm
Chapter 10 Prologue
The black-haired little boy sat dangling his short legs off the side of a sofa. A very depressing sort of old man dressed all in black with a circle of glass in front of his eye was standing across the room, talking in a whisper to a grey-haired witch in a pointy hat and a tall man with a stern face and cold eyes, also dressed in black. The boy yawned and rubbed his eyes. Why did they make him sit here like this? And who was that woman, anyway? Why was she standing in the middle of his mum and dad's front room? The old man he had seen before - looking just as depressing - not long ago, when Nanny had 'gone to heaven', as his mother had said. That was when he'd seen the other man as well. The child remembered he was supposed to call that one 'uncle', but he didn't know why. He certainly hadn't seen him very often in his young life. And where were his parents? Why hadn't they come home? And why had Ellie, his baby-sitter, run off crying into the kitchen when these people had arrived, and not come back? He liked Ellie. He decided that he would go and find her.
* * *
Ellen Cole dabbed her eyes and turned as she heard the child's call.
She tried to smile. Sirius came closer and looked up at her out of big, questioning eyes. Ellen lifted him onto her lap and held him close, knowing that it may well be the last time she did so. Tears dripped from her heavy eyes onto his dark head. Sirius was only two, he didn't understand what was happening around him. But he knew that Ellie was sad, and that made him sad too. She was his friend - his only friend in this world apart from his parents. So he let himself be cuddled by her, like he had let Mummy do when she was upset because Nanny had gone away.
It was thus that Mr. Mortis the undertaker, Miss Dolesham and Duncan Black found them some time later. Sirius gazed up at them warily, and instinctively snuggled closer to Ellen.
"It's time, my dear," Miss Dolesham said.
"A sad business," added Mr. Mortis, wiping his monocle.
Duncan Black just stood by, frowning.
"W-what will happen to Sirius, now that - now that his parents .?" the girl asked.
"He will live at my orphanage," the grey-haired witch replied.
Ellen looked appealingly at Mr. Black.
"Couldn't you take him, sir?"
"Me?" Black answered scornfully. "What would I want with him?"
"But - sir, he's your nephew. Your own brother's flesh and blood."
"Thomas was a freak," the man said bitterly. "Oh, I know you people called him a 'wizard', but my parents and I saw him for what he truly was. We were glad when he left to go and join the 'magical community', and I can't remember a blacker day than when he insisted we should all come to his wedding, see him married to - to one of his kind. So no, I will not have his child. He can go to the orphanage and stay there for all I care, and good riddance."
Ellen stared at the man with wide-open eyes, hardly able to believe her ears. If only she had been older, she would have taken the boy herself. But what could a young witch of sixteen do? So she let Miss Dolesham take him, and took a last longing look at his sweet face as he was borne away.
December 22nd, 2003, 11:47 pm
Chapter 11 Leader of the Pack
"Well, who was it?" Miss Dolesham snapped, glaring at the row of boys in front of her.
"Who let off that dungbomb in Mr. Featherstone's office?"
She let her eyes swerve along the line. The boys all stood with their backs straight and their chests thrust forward, their eyes cast to the floor.
A nervy, fair-headed boy jumped.
"Yes, Miss Dolesham?"
"Tell me who let off the dungbomb."
The old witch's voice was almost persuasive.
"I d-don't know," the poor boy stammered.
"Oh, don't you? Well, in that case, perhaps we should just assume it was you. Mr. Featherstone's cane, I am sure, will soon find out how little you know."
The boy called Pringle trembled miserably under her stern gaze. He looked near to tears, but he was obviously determined to say nothing.
"Very well," said Miss Dolesham, taking him by the scruff of his neck, "let's go, shall we?"
They got as far as the door before a clear voice suddenly said, "Wait!"
Miss Dolesham stopped by the door, a crooked smile on her face, and turned back.
Sirius stepped forward out of the line with his chin up, his eyes holding her stare.
"Pringle didn't let off that dungbomb. It was me, miss."
Miss Dolesham eyed him appraisingly. His eyes were cold and unblinking, and she smiled inwardly. She had known this boy since he was two years old. She knew he was full of mischief, and many had been the time she had caught him up to one of his tricks - that was why she had known from the start that he was guilty in this case. Yet whatever young Black's faults may be, disloyalty was not one of them. He was usually the moving hand behind the mischief that was made at the orphanage, but unlike your typical gang leader, he never laid blame on others for things he had done or instigated, and she could not help but admire his courage in speaking up in defence of his friend Pringle, who was five years his junior and totally unable to stand up for himself. Releasing Pringle, she said slowly,
"I see. You had better come with me, then."
Sirius followed her obediently out of the room and along the corridor towards the offices. He knew what was coming, or thought he did. But it was not into Mr. Featherstone's office that he was led, but into Miss Dolesham's own.
"Sit," she commanded.
Sirius obeyed. Miss Dolesham took a seat behind her desk and leaned back in her chair.
"Black," she said at long last, and her voice was much gentler than it had been before, "what am I to do with you? You are a bright boy, and could go far, if you wanted. Why do you always have to hinder your own advance with such childish pranks? Mr. Featherstone would have made you a prefect long ago, if only you would show some sense of responsibility. You could have been above the other boys by now, trusted and depended on by your elders. Why do you insist on plaguing us like this?"
Sirius thought for a moment, then he said,
"I mean no disrespect to you, Miss Dolesham, nor to Mr. Featherstone or any of the others. But I enjoy mischief, and I also don't think I would like to be above my friends. I like to be one of them, not responsible for them. They're my friends, I couldn't boss them about."
Miss Dolesham surveyed him for a moment and sighed.
"If that is how you see it, then I must tell you that, for what it's worth, I understand your feelings. But please, Black, try to be less - difficult in future, at least for a little while."
She leaned forward confidentially and lowered her voice.
"I may as well tell you," she said, "that I persuaded Mr. Featherstone to put your name on the list for Hogwarts."
"Yes, Hogwarts. But if you continue with such pranks as dropping dungbombs in his office, I may well find it beyond my power to persuade him out of taking it straight back off again. Be patient, Sirius, and be good. Please."
Her stern face softened into a smile.
"At least until you receive your letter," she added.
"You - really think I have a chance of being accepted?"
"Oh yes," said Miss Dolesham briskly, "I have no doubt about that. When you receive your letter, come straight to me. I will make all the necessary arrangements, come with you to purchase your books and things - and I am determined to see you off on the Hogwarts Express."
Sirius grinned. Hogwarts! That was a prospect it was worth being good for. As long as it didn't take too long for his letter to arrive.
December 23rd, 2003, 12:36 am
Chapter 12 Prolouge
Bridget pushed open the door and peered out anxiously into the hallway. She listened intently, her ears picking up every tiniest sound and enlarging it, until it became a threatening noise in her mind. Yet she was sure - as sure as she could be - that there was no one in the house except her at this moment. He had gone out as planned.
She picked up her rose-patterned hold-all and placed a hand to her middle. Here rested the only good that had ever come of her relationship with that . that odious man. Sometimes she wondered how she had ever been able to let herself be blinded by someone so evil. Why hadn't she seen what he was before she married him? Surely, his choice of best man should have shown her . Perhaps her father and her friends had been right, after all. Maybe she was too young to know what was good for her.
Well, she had made her bed, but she was resolved not to remain lying on it any longer. She hated breaking the solemn vow she had made in church, but no way could she let her child grow up with such a father. She had to keep it safe, away from this monster. Luckily, she hadn't been forced to let him know yet that she was pregnant, it wasn't that obvious yet, otherwise .
No, it didn't bear thinking about. She had to get away, and quickly, before he came back.
* * *
One rainy evening about two months later, Mrs. Hilda Hammersmith of Cheapside, London, was startled to find the slumped figure of a young girl dressed in a shabby-looking cloak on her doorstep when she came home from a very pleasant visit to her friend Maureen Dodd, whol ived just around the corner.
"Really," she thought, automatically jumping to the conclusion that the girl must have had too much to drink, "young people nowadays have no decorum."
"Excuse me," she said out loud in a haughty voice.
The girl jumped and struggled to her feet, holding her stomach and clutching a large bag to her. The light from a street lamp fell on her face, pale and beaded with sweat. Her brown curls hung limp with rainwater, sticking to her hollow cheeks, and a pair of large brown eyes turned away. She stumbled on the steps, and Mrs. Hammersmith's heart immediately went out to her.
Disapprove of these young girls who had no sense of dress, nor seemingly of survival, she may - they drank like men in a pub on Saturday nights, and even took drugs, so she'd heard. But she liked to think of herself as a good Christian, and therefore considered it her solemn duty to aid those in need. And never since the War had she seen a young person in as much need as this girl. She was obviously pregnant, and all alone in the world on a wet and windy night in London. Why, she hadn't even an umbrella!
"Steady there," she said, taking the girl's arm and guiding her back under the roof of the building.
"You shouldn't be walking out there in the rain alone like this. Let me call you a cab."
"No," the girl answered in a weak voice, staggering back against the wall. "Thank you."
"But - then at least let me ring your husband for you, so he can fetch you home."
The young girl seemed to come to her senses for a moment.
"No, not that," she begged, with a hard grip on the old lady's arm.
"Please, you mustn't tell him where I am," she insisted, a wild look in her eyes. "He mustn't find me, or the child. You - you won't tell him where I am, will you?"
"Very well," Mrs. Hammersmith agreed reluctantly. "But there must be someone else. Your parents, friends ."
The girl hesitated a moment. Her father. There was her father. But no, she decided. He had renounced her when she had chosen to marry the man, against his advice. Relaxing a little and leaning once more against the wall, she answered resignedly,
"No. No parents. No friends. No one."
She gave a subdued sob.
"I had better go."
"Oh no, you don't," Mrs. Hammersmith objected, catching hold of her arm and unlocking the front door.
"You're coming indoors with me, until we can find a place to put you. You're wet and feverish, you shouldn't go walking out in this rain in your condition. Come on."
Too weak to protest, the girl allowed herself to be dragged indoors and up to a flat on the fifth floor. She would remember little of the rest of that night, or the days that followed. By the time she opened her eyes and became aware of her surroundings, it was the following Saturday.
* * *
Bridget blinked. A ray of sunlight was shining onto the bed through a rain- splattered window. She looked around her at the unfamiliar room. A small clock stood ticking on the bedside table. It read 9 am. Where was she? She could hardly remember anything since she had left her husband's house. It had been an endless stream of days slipping into one another, one as full of worry as the next, always turning, always looking over her shoulder, half-expecting him to be standing there, come to take her back, and make her pay for trying to leave him. Oh, and how he would make her pay, if ever he found her!
She heard footsteps outside the room, and presently the door was pushed open slowly, and an elderly woman came in, dressed in a tweed suit, with round, horn-rimmed glasses on her straight nose and a dab of grey hair on her head.
"Good morning," said the strange woman.
"G-good morning," Bridget stammered.
"I am Mrs. Hammersmith," the lady went on, sitting on the edge of the bed. "And you?" she asked, smiling.
"My name is Bridget," came the hesitant reply. "Bridget Potter."
Yes, that was the name she would use. Her mother's maiden name. Surely he wouldn't think of her using that. She had left her husband and his name behind her, though she suspected that the old lady guessed she was not being entirely forthright.
"And how are you this morning?"
"Much better, thank you. I am sure I am greatly indebted to you, though I must confess I have no memory of how I got here."
"I should think not," Hilda Hammersmith chuckled. "You have been in a fever for several days.
"A fever? Oh no, I ."
She stared helplessly, but the old lady, seeming to guess her fears, smiled reassuringly.
"Don't worry. The doctor says the baby is quite well."
Bridget sighed with relief, and at last gave a small smile herself.
"I am even more deeply indebted to you than I realised, Mrs. Hammersmith. I wish I knew how I could repay you. I fear I haven't a penny to my name."
"I never thought you would have, my dear," Mrs. Hammersmith replied. "Now don't fret. You've been very ill this past week, and you must regain your strength. You can stay here for the time being. I have always regretted leaving this room empty. Spare bedrooms are so rarely needed in a London flat, and as I never had any children of my own . Well, you're welcome to stay, if you want."
"Thank you," said Bridget. "That is very kind of you."
December 23rd, 2003, 4:01 am
Chapter 13 Friday's Child
Bridget stayed living with Mrs. Hammersmith for quite some time. She had nowhere else to go, and could hardly go job-seeking in the Muggle world with a fatherless child on the way. But living with the old lady had its own dangers, for Bridget was determined that on no account must she discover anything unusual about her tenant.
Her baby boy was born one Friday late in June. Mrs. Hammersmith took to the child uncommonly. Her enthusiasm for his tiny fingers and the little gurgling noises he made was, however, nothing like what Bridget felt.
Often she would sit cradling him in her arms, just watching his face while he slept peacefully, secure and unaware of any dangers in the world around him. In his mother's eyes, he was the most gorgeous thing that ever breathed, and as he grew to a toddler and then a young boy, she found that while he had inherited his father's thick black hair, he thankfully bore far more of a resemblance to her own father in his nature.
When her son was a year old, Bridget decided it was time to move out. She had intruded too long on the kind hospitality of Mrs. Hammersmith, and she feared that a growing wizard might have strange accidents about the place that could not be explained away. So, when a flat became empty on a higher floor of the same building, she and the little one moved there, and a very happy flat it became, for the boy loved his mother just as much as she loved him, and he gave friendship and good humour to everyone he met. He was affectionate and good, in his heart if not always in his actions, for there was nothing he loved better than to play pranks on their fellow tenants.
On many such occasions, Mrs. Hammersmith was his victim, but she only laughed with him at the childish tricks he played on her.
"You have a fine boy there, my dear," she said once to Bridget, "and a good man he'll be when he grows up. Friday's child, he is for sure, and you know what they say, don't you?"
Bridget turned a politely enquiring face to her.
"Friday's child is loving and giving," said Mrs. Hammersmith.
Bridget smiled proudly. Yes, that described her boy.
December 23rd, 2003, 4:31 am
Chapter 14 Off To School
James Potter ran down the stairs of the inconspicuous block of London flats and came to an abrupt halt just before he collided with Mrs. Hammersmith, coming up the stairs from the fourth floor.
"Oh, sorry," he panted.
The old lady chuckled.
"That's all right, my lad. I wonder what can have got into you though? You look like there's someone after you."
James shoved his classes back up his nose and grinned.
"Not yet, Mrs. Hammersmith. But I reckon there will be if I don't hurry up and get outside. Mum's going to be furious with me if I make us miss that train."
"Well, better run along then, boy. You start your new school tomorrow, don't you? Where was it you're going again?" she asked slyly.
"Sorry, Mrs. Hammersmith," he said evasively. "I really must dash."
As he hurried down the last flights of stairs, trying but failing as usual to make his straggly black hair lay flat in the process, James secretly thanked his lucky stars that he had managed, once again, to avoid telling the old lady what school he was going to this summer without appearing too impolite.
And he really couldn't tell her, though she was a nice old lady, and he had known her all his life and was very fond of her. But she was still a Muggle, and that meant you couldn't casually answer her with "I'm going to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry". He felt like shouting for joy just thinking about it. Hogwarts! He had been thrilled when his letter had arrived. His mother had glowed with pride, and now they were off to Diagon Alley to buy his things: two sets of black robes, a cauldron, books - and his very own wand. He raced out into the street with a broad grin fixed on his face.
"Ah, there you are," his mother said. "I thought you were never coming."
"You're joking, Mum!" he laughed.
His mother hailed a cab, and soon they were crawling along in the London traffic, headed for a place the driver didn't even know existed.
* * *
The Leaky Cauldron. James had been here before, but it still fascinated him every time. Having spent all his life living in a Muggle-style flat with his mother, he found it a rare treat to see so many un-Muggle people assembled in one place. As usual, it was crowded with wizards and witches of all sizes and descriptions. Wizards with tall hats, witches with ribboned bonnets. Wizards with bowlers, witches with tall pointed affairs on their heads. There was even the odd hag and goblin about today.
James and his mother walked right through and out the back door. They found themselves in a small backyard, and his mother took out her wand and tapped the bricks. The wall gave way, and the next instant they were in Diagon Alley.
It was like something out of an old Dickens tale. Houses of all shapes and sizes stood crammed side by side into a narrow street, and there were people everywhere, chattering and nattering, bustling to and fro, pushing and jostling to peer into shop windows. There was a screeching of owls and a humming of birds, not to mention a strange kind of music on the air. James's mother took hold of his arm, and they made their way through the crowds to a tall, white building on the corner - about the only building that didn't look completely crooked. Gringotts, the wizard bank.
James stared up at the goblins behind the long counter. He wondered briefly why such small creatures insisted on having such high desks, but when he and his mother approached one of them, and a hook-nosed, shrivelled face peered over the top of it sternly, James understood that it was probably to make them appear more awe-inspiring and mean. Not that they needed it, in his opinion. Ugly little blighters.
His mother named the vault they wanted, and soon they were leaving the bank again, the knuts and sickles and galleons tinkling in their pockets and James's stomach feeling a bit like he'd been eating too many ice-creams. Really, those carts that took you down to the vaults were much too fast.
"Well, dear," his mother said, drawing him aside and lifting his hand palm upwards to place some coins in it. "This should be enough for your robes. Madam Malkin's is right over there."
"Now, I'll go and buy your books for you. You go and get your robes. Just tell them you're for Hogwarts, they'll know what you need. I'll meet you in there. All right?"
James stuffed the money in the pocket of his jeans and strolled along the alley, feeling completely content.
* * *
He entered Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions with a light step and was immediately greeted by a friendly witch with bright cheeks and a full figure.
"Good morning, dear. Hogwarts, is it?" she said.
"This way, please."
She led him to the back of the shop. There was another boy there, taller than James, with black hair and a devious look in his bright eyes. The assistant stood James on a small pedestal.
"Hi," the boy said.
"Hello," said James.
"Come for your Hogwarts robes?" the other asked him.
"Yes. Is this your first year at Hogwarts too?"
"Yep. I'm Sirius. Sirius Black."
The other boy grinned broadly. It was an open, inviting smile, full of mischief, but also very charming.
"Well, James," said Sirius, paying the witch who had served him, "Got to go and get my books now. See you tomorrow, on the Hogwarts Express?"
"Sure," James answered, feeling somehow that he'd found a friend already. "Bye."
And that was how the Marauder's came to be at Hogwarts. Keep watching though! Soon the tale continues with them in Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry!!! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, five me your FEEDBACK here:http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=22028
December 23rd, 2003, 6:06 am
Chapter 15 Welcome to Hogwarts
James sat back happily in his seat on the Hogwarts Express. He was sorry to leave his mother behind all alone on platform 9 ¾, but he was also thrilled to bits that he was off at last. As the train pulled out of the station, he leaned out of the window to wave, and he stayed there long after King's Cross was out of sight, feeling the breeze brush against his face and watching the steam fly away overhead. He didn't turn back, in fact, until he heard the door slide open behind him. Sirius Black's head of thick black hair and ready smile were peering in cheerfully.
"So there you are!" he exclaimed. "I've been looking for you everywhere!"
James smiled back. "Hi, Sirius."
"Want to come and explore the train with me? See who else is about?" Sirius suggested.
James nodded eagerly, and the two of them set off along the corridor together while the train chugged along merrily. As they went, Sirius said hello to several of the other students the passed in the corridors.
"Do you know everyone already?" James asked at one point.
"No, not everyone. But I met some of them back at platform 9 ¾. It never takes me long to get to know people."
They passed a plump witch pushing a trolley of sweets, and bought several chocolate frogs each. They strolled further along, munching happily, until they heard quiet whimpering noises from behind a door, and a squeaky voice saying,
"No, no please, don't. I didn't mean to bother you, I'm sorry."
James and Sirius looked at one another and nodded. They pushed the door open and entered. There were two boys inside the compartment. One was a tall, greasy-haired kid with a hook nose and a wicked smirk on his face. The other was small and a little podgy, with thin fair hair and small eyes that looked scared out of their wits. The tall boy was pointing a wand at him. On the floor in the corner stood a small box containing what looked like a very ugly, large grey rat.
"Hello," Sirius said, "What's going on here?"
"None of your business," said the tall boy. "Go away."
Sirius placed his legs apart and his hands on his hips. James, meanwhile, was watching the other boy. He had turned towards them and looked excessively grateful for the interruption.
"H-hello," he said nervously. "I'm P-Peter Pettigrew."
"Hello, Peter," James answered. "I'm James Potter and this is Sirius Black. We were just stretching our legs out on the corridor. Like to join us?"
Peter Pettigrew shot an anxious glance at the scowling boy behind him and nodded eagerly.
"Come on then," said James, leading him to the door. "Sirius ."
But Sirius was still standing frowning at the other boy, who was still clasping his wand tightly in his hand.
"What are you staring at?" the other boy asked.
"Sorry. I've just never seen anything quite as ugly as you before," Sirius replied.
"You take that back!"
The boy raised his wand, but Sirius spread out his arms.
"Just in case you're thinking of trying a jinx on me, I'd better warn you I'm not carrying a wand right now," he said. "So you might want to reconsider. Might not look too good on your record, if you jinx a defenceless student before you even get to Hogwarts."
The other boy looked about to burst with wrath. James grabbed hold of Sirius's arm.
"Come on. Let's go."
Reluctantly, Sirius let himself be led away, back towards James's compartment.
"Stupid ugly git," he said, dropping into a seat by the window.
"Yes," James agreed, "but that's no reason to pick a fight on our first day."
"I don't like bullies," Sirius snarled.
"Nor do I," James said, taking the opposite seat. "But unfortunately, you seem to get them everywhere."
"Yeah, we had one like that at the orphanage where I grew up," Sirius answered. "I hate kids like that."
"You grew up in an orphanage?" James asked, surprised.
"Yup. Lived there practically all my life. My parents worked for the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad. They were killed at the site of a really bad accident when I was about two. Luckily they were both magic, though, so I didn't have to go to a Muggle orphanage, thank goodness. It wasn't too bad, really."
"I've never met my father," James said slowly, "and I don't really know much about him. But I can't imagine being without my mother."
"It's okay, when you can't remember it any other way. How about you, Peter?" he added, suddenly remembering that they weren't alone.
Peter Pettigrew sat down gingerly on the edge of a seat.
"I've still got both my parents," he began, "and two sisters. Philippa and Paula. They're twins, and both left Hogwarts three years ago."
"That's a big age gap," James remarked.
Peter grimaced. "Yes. It's not always easy, being that much younger than them."
There was a pause before Sirius asked,
"So what was the problem with that slimeball in the other compartment?"
"I . err . I was coming back from the toilet, and I went in the wrong door. He was sitting practising some spell or other on his rat. I think he was cross because he thought I'd seen what he was doing, but I honestly don't know what he was up to."
"Must have been something nasty, I expect. Judging by the look of him."
"I think he was about to something nasty to me, too," Peter agreed. "I . I'm glad you two came by when you did. Th-thanks."
"Don't mention it," said Sirius and James together.
* * *
There was much excited chattering when the train reached Hogsmeade station. Crowds of older students climbed off the train and disappeared into the night, leaving their luggage behind them, so it seemed. James, Sirius and Peter followed onto the platform, glad that it was quite a mild night.
"Firs' years over here!" a loud voice bellowed.
They turned and saw a giant of a man in a moleskin coat waving a large lantern in the air.
"Who's he?" Sirius wondered.
"I think that's Hagrid," Peter replied. "My sisters - told me about him. He's the gamekeeper. Polly - that's Paula - said he's really fierce. But Pippa said she was just trying to scare me. She says he's really very nice."
"Hm. Well, I hope Pippa's right, then," said James.
They followed the swinging lantern to the edge of the lake, and clambered into a boat together. It rocked gently as it carried them towards the castle. The full moon shone brightly, as though eager to welcome the first years to their new home.
Sirius nudged James in the ribs. "Pretty awesome, isn't it?"
James nodded. Yes, that about described it. It was great to be coming to Hogwarts at last. He thought of Mrs. Hammersmith, back in the London block of flats, and grinned as he imagined what she would say if she could see him now.
* * *
The tables in the Great Hall were already packed full when the first years were led in through a side door by Professor McGonagall. They filed through, feeling nervous and excited under the staring eyes of all the older students.
At the teachers' table, Professor Albus Dumbledore rose from his seat and beamed on his students, new and old. The blue eyes behind his half moon spectacles sparkled.
"Welcome, boys and girls, teachers and new students. As ever on this first day of the new term, now is the time we discover where our new first years will begin their career at Hogwarts. I am sure we all look forward to receiving them in our midst, wherever the Sorting Hat may put them. Professor McGonagall ."
Dumbledore sat down again. Professor McGonagall brought forward a wooden stool and an old, battered wizard's hat. The first years stared at it anxiously. A tear above the brim opened suddenly and the hat began to sing.
"Hello new students, girls and boys,
Welcome to learning's wonders and joys.
I am the Sorting Hat, don't you see,
Of Hogwarts School of Wizardry.
Put Me on and I will tell,
Which house of ours will suit you well.
For Gryffindor, brave Godric,
The ones with courage I must pick,
While Ravenclaw, Rowena's nest,
Only the wisest above the rest.
Helga Hufflepuff won't lead you to spoil,
Only ones willing for honest toil.
Salazar Slytherin, at last,
Demands ambition from his caste.
So place me now upon your head,
And where you'll go shall soon be said."
The Sorting Hat's song ended there, and the Hall erupted with applause. As soon as the clapping and cheering had subsided, Professor McGonagall took out a scroll and began to unroll it.
"First years, I will call out your names now, one by one, and you pill put on the Sorting Hat, which will sort you into your houses. Anderson, Catherine ."
James Potter watched interestedly while one student after another went nervously forward to sit on the stool, and listened while the Hat called out the houses they would be in. Some people seemed to sit for a long time while the Hat debated where to put them, others barely had time to wriggle onto the stool properly before it was time for them to get up again and join their house tables that greeted them with storms of applause.
A short pause.
A long silence, then,
Sirius took a deep breath and went forward. He sat on the stool, and McGonagall dropped the hat over his eyes.
*Ah,* said the Hat into his mind, *a young whirlwind they've sent me to sort. Yes, you'll have fun at Hogwarts, my boy.*
The Hat chuckled, then called out loud, "Gryffindor!"
The Gryffindor table made a deafening row as Sirius went and took a seat.
"Ravenclaw!" cried the Hat.
The Ravenclaw table exploded with clapping as the first Ravenclaw to be sorted this year went to join them, her face flushing beetroot red.
James and Peter stood side by side, watching one first year after another be sorted. All the tables clapped each student - all except the Slytherin table, James noticed. The Slytherins cheered their own newcomers rather solemnly, he thought, and seemed to look down their noses at anyone who wasn't sorted into their house.
Cheers and clapping from the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw tables accompanied the shouts and whoops of the Hufflepuffs. The Slytherins scowled.
"Excuse me," said a timid voice behind James.
He jumped, and stepped aside to let a red-haired girl walk by him and up to the front, catching only a brief glimpse of the greenest eyes he had ever seen.
"What house d'you think you'll be in, James?" Peter whispered while Lily Evans was made a Gryffindor.
James shrugged. He hadn't really thought about what house he would be in. Now that he was beginning to think about it, he felt like all the chocolate frogs he'd eaten on the train were playing leapfrog in his stomach. The line of first years continued to grow shorter, all too quickly, it seemed. What house would he be sorted into? James wished he knew. He sincerely hoped it wouldn't be Slytherin.
Jorkins. So they had reached J already. Just K - not many of them - L, M, N, O ... and then it would be Peter's turn, and his own soon after.
The Hat took a bit longer this time. Then,
James felt Peter begin to tremble beside him.
"It's going to be my turn soon. Oh, J-James, do you think .?"
But James had no time to answer.
"Pettigrew, Peter," said Professor McGonagall, and shaking like a leaf, Peter went forward.
*Hello,* the Sorting Hat mused. *Now what do I do with you? Hm.*
*Put me in with Sirius, please,* Peter thought, *I don't want to go anywhere where I don't know anyone.*
*Gryffindor?* the Hat said back. *Are you quite sure? Only the stout- hearted should go there. Do you really think you are strong enough? Don't you think you might be safer in Hufflepuff?*
*No, no! I can be strong, honest I can, as long as I have a friend who will help me. Please, please put me in Gryffindor,* Peter begged the Hat.
It seemed to him as if the Hat sighed before it said out loud, "Gryffindor."
Sirius clapped hard while Peter came and joined him, his face brick-red, looking rather shaken. James drew himself up. Any minute now.
He looked over towards the Gryffindor table. Sirius was grinning at him, and held up crossed fingers. James smiled meekly. He suddenly felt very sick. But there was nothing for it. He went forward and closed his eyes before the Hat landed on his untidy mop of hair, knocking his glasses askew. He waited for something to happen, but the Hat remained silent for what seemed like an age. At last it said slowly,
*So. James Potter you call yourself, do you?*
*That is my name.*
*Is it? Well, well. If you say so. I remember your parents, James Potter. Your mother sat on this very stool, and I had no doubts when I put her in Gryffindor. It was in the blood she had inherited from her father. Yes, nowhere else to put her. A brave family, that. Brave and good. But your father - your father wasn't of the same kind. No. He was something quite different, wasn't he?*
*I . don't know,* James confessed.
*Don't you now? Well . your father, too, was brave, in his own way. But he was also ambitious. He desired greatness, and to that end allied himself with one whose lust for power may yet lead to much adversity in the future. But enough of that. We were talking about you. You have the potential to become a great wizard, you know. Yet there are different kinds of greatness. Which will yours be, James Potter? Will you follow in the footsteps of your grandfather, or are you, after all, your father's son? Gryffindor or Slytherin?*
James gulped. Slytherin? Oh no, not that! He closed his eyes still more tightly, feeling more sick than ever. For the first time in his life, he wished that he had been more insistent on being told about his father. At least he might have known what was coming to him. But the Hat was not yet finished with him.
*Your potential for greatness would be well served in Slytherin, I think. Yet perhaps . yes, I think you deserve a chance to be better than that, and to that end .*
There was a pause, a tortuously long one in James's opinion. Then, at last .
"Gryffindor!" the Hat called.
James heaved a sigh of relief and hurried over to the Gryffindor table. Sirius jumped up and thumped him on the back, then dragged him down in the seat next to him.
"You were ages!" he exclaimed. "I was beginning to think you'd gone asleep under there or something. What took the Hat so long?"
James shrugged. He felt dreadful. He didn't want to tell anyone what the Hat had been saying, not yet, anyway. Maybe he would tell Sirius later. He was so deep in thought about what the Hat had implied that he never even bothered to look up when Sirius groaned, "Oh no, it's him", and Severus Snape, the greasy-haired boy from the train, was made a Slytherin.
At last the line of first years dissolved, the last of them had been sorted. Professor Dumbledore waited until the applause died down, then he rose once more.
"Now that the first years have all been sorted," he said, "it is almost time for me to announce the feast. But before I do, I have the usual notices to give out."
James wrenched his thoughts away from the Sorting Hat's words for a while to look at the headmaster. A tall and wise-looking man he was, standing there in his wizard's hat and elegant robes. Beside him sat Professor McGonagall, looking most strict and disagreeable. James looked along the line of teachers. There was a plump witch with a round face and an out-of- doors kind of expression. An old wizard with grizzled hair dressed in black robes with a long scar down his left cheek. A younger, colourful and exotic- looking witch with huge glasses that made her look like an overlarge insect. A tall wizard with a long, pale face and cold, steel-grey eyes. A tiny little wizard. If that was what he was, with a dark mop of wiry hair. And at the end sat Hagrid the gamekeeper, making the gigantic table look like no more than a low bench. James turned his attention back to Dumbledore.
"On no account," the headmaster was saying, "must students enter the Forbidden Forest beyond Hagrid's cabin. Also, Professor Sprout has acquired a very rare whomping willow, which has been planted in the school grounds. It is a somewhat - temperamental specimen, and I would advise you all to steer well clear of it. Our caretaker Mr. Filch has asked me to inform you that he has added laughing out loud in the corridors and looking cheerful during the lunch hour to the list of forbidden actions. As usual, you may feel free to examine the complete list in his office at any time. Finally, before we tuck in to plenty of good food and pumpkin juice, it gives me great pleasure to announce that Professor McGonagall, whom all but the first years already know well, has agreed to act as my new deputy headmistress and head of Gryffindor house in addition to her duties as Transfiguration teacher."
There was polite clapping at all the tables, though many Gryffindors felt far from pleased at the prospect.
"And now," Dumbledore announced with a smile, "let the feasting begin!"
The students stared eagerly at the empty golden plates and platters, which in an instant were filled with delicious ham and chicken and dumplings, not to mention enough gravy to float an ark, as Sirius aptly put it.
December 23rd, 2003, 7:04 am
After the feast, James, Sirius and Peter followed the Gryffindor prefect out of the Great Hall feeling very full, very pleased and not the least bit tired. They stared with wide eyes at the moving paintings along the walls, and watched in amazement as the staircases to right and left changed directions at whim. Finally they reached the corridor leading up to the portrait of the fat lady. She smiled a welcome at the first years.
"Tiddlywinks," the prefect replied.
The portrait at once swung back on its hinges, and the first years filed into the Gryffindor common room after the prefect. The room was already crowded with Gryffindor students of various ages.
"Gather round, gather round," said the prefect impatiently.
There was much giggling and pushing and shoving before everyone was finally near enough to listen to what he had to say.
"Now," the prefect continued, "this is the Gryffindor common room. Boys, your dormitories are through that door and up the stairs. Girls, your dormitories are through there."
"Your luggage has already been brought up to your dormitories. The password to Gryffindor Tower is tiddlywinks. Please don't forget it, but don't write it down. We don't want it falling into the hands of unauthorised persons - Slytherins, in particular. You'll be given your timetables tomorrow morning at breakfast. And now off to bed, first years. Come on."
They were ushered up the staircase into their dormitory. James looked around. Five four-poster beds stood in the room. He found his trunk and cauldron standing at the foot of the bed against the far wall, nearest the window. Sirius was already flinging himself onto the bed beside his.
"Comfy," he remarked approvingly.
Peter Pettigrew was in the third bed, and another boy had followed them in. He was short and slightly stocky with short dark hair and a friendly face. James remembered having seen him join the Gryffindor table not long before Peter.
"Hello," Sirius was saying to the boy, "you're Frank Longbottom, aren't you?"
"Yes," he answered.
"Great. I remember cheering you when you joined our table. I'm Sirius Black, this is James Potter, and that's there's Peter Pettigrew," Sirius introduced the three of them.
"Hello. So," said Frank, smiling, "seems we four are stuck with one another for the next seven years at least."
"Five," James corrected, indicating the fifth bed. "There's another trunk and cauldron there."
"That's odd," Sirius said, sitting up. "I didn't see any other boys being sorted into Gryffindor, did you?"
The other three all shook their heads.
December 23rd, 2003, 7:50 am
HEY GUYS AND GALS! I NEED TO TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT THIS STORY! IT HAS GOTTEN ABSOLOUTLY NO FEEDBACK! :upset: SO IF YOU LIKE THIS STORY, OR HATE IT, GO TO THE FAN FIC FEED-BACK AND TELL ME!!! IF NO ONE DOES ILL HAVE TO TAKE THAT AS "LACK OF INTEREST" AND STOP WRITING... :frown: PLEASE PUT YOUR FEEDBACK HERE:http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=22028
December 24th, 2003, 12:08 am
Hello All!!! Special Thanks to:Panik,Mel Black, DogStar, and Padfoot 127 for replying in the Fan Fic Feedback!!! You must all understand that Feedback is VERY vital to a writer and I hope i get more soon. Well in the meantime I'm gunna give you chapter 16...HERE YA GO!!!
Chapter 16 The Fifth Boy
James was wakened the next morning by someone pulling back the heavy curtains around his bed and letting the sunlight stream in. He yawned and fumbled on his bedside table for his glasses. Pushing them on his nose, he sat up in bed.
"Oh it's you, Sirius. What sort of time is it?"
"Time to get up, sleepyhead," Sirius said. "Frank's already up and dressed. I woke him up about twenty minutes ago. I couldn't bear him snoring any longer."
"I don't snore!" Frank protested, pretending to be hurt. "It's Peter who snores."
James smiled and looked across to where Peter Pettigrew was lying, his eyes still shut tight and his mouth hanging wide open. It was true he was making a lot of noise.
"We'd better wake him up," he suggested.
"I'll do it," Sirius offered.
He grabbed hold of James's pillow and lunged it straight at the sleeping boy's head. Peter sat up with a fright.
"Rise and shine!" Sirius laughed, "It's our first day at Hogwarts, people. Come on James, get dressed. I can't wait to find out what lessons we've got today. I hope it's something good, not History of Magic or something. I met a second-year down in the common room earlier and he says it's taught by this ghost, Professor Binns, who's a dead bore."
He laughed at his own pun.
"Oh, very funny," James said with a smile, getting up and looking at himself in the mirror. His hair, as usual, was sticking up in all directions. He and Peter got washed and dressed hurriedly, and soon all four of them were heading down the stairs and into the Great Hall.
* * *
The enchanted ceiling was a bright blue this morning and clouds floated along the walls. The tables were laden with huge bowls full of cereals and plates piled high with toast, bacon, sausages, scrambled egg and everything imaginable. They sat down and tucked in. Professor McGonagall came round during their third helping of sausages and handed out their timetables.
"Charms and Herbology with the Hufflepuffs. Transfiguration with the Ravenclaws . oh no, and History of Magic with the Slytherins!" Sirius groaned through a mouthful of toast.
James just smiled. He didn't care if they had a boring lesson on their first day. It was too much fun just being at Hogwarts.
After breakfast they fetched their books from the dormitory and made their way to the Charms classroom. James, Sirius, Peter and Frank Longbottom squeezed into the seats behind the wooden desks. They unpacked their books and wands and waited expectantly for their teacher to come in. The door at the back of the classroom opened, and for a moment they thought it must have done so of its own accord. But then they heard a scrambling noise behind the teacher's desk, and the next minute the tiny little wizard James had spotted at the teachers' table the night before stood there, atop a pile of books, and peered around at them eagerly from under his tangled brown hair.
"Ah, welcome, welcome, my first-year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs. Well, well. I am Professor Flitwick, your Charms teacher. Before we start with basic charms, I'd like to read out the register, just to make sure you're all here," he said in a high-pitched voice.
A dark-haired Hufflepuff raised her hand.
Sirius's hand shot up.
The small Hufflepuff sitting the other side of Frank Longbottom called 'here'.
James looked round and saw the girl he had let pass last night raise her arm behind him.
Professor Flitwick went on that way, until after "Jorkins, Bertha", "Keynes, Anna", "Osmond, Olliver", Longbottom, Frank" and "Pettigrew, Peter" he reached "Potter, James" and last of all "Truffle, Tina".
Then he put the register away, and James wondered why he hadn't read out the name of the missing Gryffindor boy. All the people he had called up had been there. He didn't have time to wonder for long, though, for they were soon instructed to open their books, and Professor Flitwick summoned a large cardboard box onto the desk. It turned out that this box contained a collection of long white feathers, and the professor soon sent one soaring onto the desk in front of every student.
"Now," he said in his squeaky voice, "I thought we would start with Levitating Charms. The important thing to remember, apart from the magic words, is of course the wrist movement. Watch closely, and then I want you all to copy what I do. So ..:"
He lifted his wand and, accompanying his words with the appropriate movement of his own short arm, said,
"Swish and flick. Go on, try it, all of you."
They did, and repeated it several times before Professor Flitwick pronounced himself satisfied. At last he told them to rest their wand arms for a moment, and was just about to continue speaking when there was a knock on the door.
"Come in," he chirped.
The door opened, and Professor McGonagall appeared, ushering in a boy of about James's height with light brown hair and tired eyes. James thought he looked ill.
"Sorry to bother you, Professor Flitwick," said McGonagall. "I've brought you your missing student."
Professor Flitwick thanked her, and she withdrew again. The new boy came forward uncertainly.
"Remus Lupin, isn't it?" Professor Flitwick said.
James noticed that the boy's voice was soft and friendly, though it sounded a little weak.
"Good. Well, I'm sure we can find a seat here somewhere for you."
Remus Lupin looked around a trifle shyly under the inquisitive stares of the other students. James caught his eye and, nodding, removed his bag from the seat beside him. Remus came over and sat down.
"Thanks," he whispered gratefully.
Professor Flitwick now went on with the lesson as though nothing had happened, reading them a paragraph from the book.
"Well," he said at last, "let's try the charm, shall we? Lupin, here's a feather for you."
A white plume raised itself from the box and landed on the desk in front of Remus. The students all picked up their wands and pointed them at their feathers.
"Remember," Professor Flitwick squeaked. "Swish and flick. And don't forget the words. Wingardium Leviosa."
All around the classroom, students nervously began 'swishing and flicking' their wands. James was quite surprised when, as he flicked his wrist upwards and said the words, his feather actually left his desk and floated up to the height of his nose before sinking back onto his desk.
"I did it!" he exclaimed.
"That was good," Remus said.
James turned his head to look at the new boy, and discovered that his feather was floating mid-air, totally under the control of his wand. He stared.
"How can you do that?" he asked. "You missed all the practice we had before you got here."
"I've been doing a few charms at home," Remus admitted. "My Mum showed me this one."
He smiled, and for a second his face looked less weary. Then it went back to that tired paleness. James studied him side-on, and spotted the grey streaks in the other boy's hair.
"We wondered why you weren't in the Great Hall or in the dormitory last night," he said conversationally.
There was such a lot of noise in the classroom with frustrated students trying to get their feathers to float that there was no need to whisper. Remus Lupin's expression seemed to close.
"I wasn't very well yesterday," he answered quietly.
"I'm sorry," James said. "I hope you're feeling better now."
James let the matter rest, but he had the distinct impression that Remus Lupin was still far from well.
All of you that DO like this story and wish it to cintinue, HEAD OVER TO THE FAN-FIC FEEDBACK AND TELL ME! FEEDBACK IS VITAL SQUIRTS! Even if you think this story majorly sucks, TELL ME! Cheerio Mate
December 24th, 2003, 4:42 am
:clap: :clap: :clap: I'M SOOO HAPPY!!!! THANKS FOR THE FEEDBACK!!! IF YOUR READING THIS AND STILL HAVENT GIVEN FEEDBACK SHAME ON YOU! :grumble: BUT PLZ DO!!!! WELL HERE'S THE NEXT CHAPTER!
Chapter 17 Advasaries, Mischief, and Mystery
Herbology with Professor Sprout proved quite as much fun as Charms had, and Sirius and James in particular proved so skilled in Transfiguration that even Professor McGonagall seemed to show a hint of pride. But now they were all walking dispiritedly towards Professor Binns's History of Magic classroom.
"Perhaps it won't be as boring as we've been hearing," Remus suggested hopefully. "I've read a bit about magical history, and some of the stuff is actually quite interesting. All about goblin rebellions, you know. And the Pixie Protection Act of 1643."
He had brightened up considerably over the morning, and was looking a little healthier now.
"I don't know," Frank answered mournfully. "I bumped into Damian from Hufflepuff after Transfiguration. He's got a brother in third year, and he says Professor Binns is lousy."
"Oooohh, I wouldn't say that so loud if I were you, ickle firsty," an evil voice trilled.
Startled, they stopped short and looked around them. A colourful creature with a huge and ugly bow tie came bursting out of an empty classroom to their right. He stopped just in front of Frank and eyed him with a wicked grin on his face. Then, so suddenly that it made them jump, he stuck out his tongue and made a rude noise. He zoomed round them and came to a halt, hanging upside down in front of Remus.
"Who are you?" Remus asked.
The creature snorted.
"Not very polite, are you?" it complained. "I'm Peeves the poltergeist, if that's anything to you. And who are you, if I might ask?"
"Remus Lupin," Remus answered.
Peeves chuckled evilly and did several somersaults. When he stopped, this time he was the right way up.
"I've heard about you," he said with a menacing tone in his voice. "Oh yes I have."
He paused, and when he went on it was in a strange, high and chanting voice, barely audible but none the less unpleasant for it.
"Loony, loopy, Lupin. Loony, loopy, Lupin."
"Oh shut up, Peeves," Sirius barked, striding past the poltergeist. "Come on, you lot, or we'll be late."
The others followed him at a run, for Peeves was now grabbing hold of everything he could find and hurling it after them, still repeating the little chant that seemed to amuse him so greatly.
They reached the History of Magic classroom just in time, and slumped into some empty seats at the back. Looking around while getting his breath back, James suddenly felt a pair of cold, hard eyes on him. He looked across the classroom, and his eyes connected with those of Severus Snape. James held the other boy's gaze and wondered vaguely what it was about the lad that instinctively made him dislike him so much.
* * *
Over the weeks that followed, James tried to overcome his dislike of Severus Snape, but found that he could not. Quite the contrary. However much he tried to be polite, if not actually friendly, the more Snape seemed to endeavour to make himself disagreeable. He spoke to Sirius about it, but Sirius just shrugged.
"I don't know why you worry about it," Sirius said. "He's obviously just not willing to be civil."
James had not been satisfied with that, but had let the matter rest, especially when even good-natured Remus had agreed with Sirius.
And so they had decided to avoid Snape and his fellow Slytherins as far as possible. School work came easy to James, Sirius and Remus, who had already studied some of the spells they were learning now at home, and they all did their best to help Peter along quickly, so that they had plenty of time to spare after lessons. They had set about exploring the castle and grounds of Hogwarts, sketching down every new staircase and hidden room they came across on a sheet of old parchment.
The end of their first month at Hogwarts was now nearing to a close, and it felt to the four friends both that the time so far had flown by, and yet also as though it had been a lifetime of friendship and fun and mischief, for never in as long as any save perhaps Dumbledore himself could remember had Hogwarts known a set of mischief makers as devious as "Potter and Black's little gang". Frank Longbottom and his friend Damian Diggle from Hufflepuff were sometimes included in the pranks they played on the teachers, but mainly the four of them kept to themselves.
They were sitting at the end of the Gryffindor table together one afternoon in October, enjoying some scones and tea, when Professor McGonagall suddenly entered the Hall and came straight over to them.
"Sorry to interrupt," she said briskly. "Could I have a word, Lupin?"
Remus looked around at his friends, then got up and followed the professor out of the Hall. His friends waited for twenty minutes, but he did not return. Finally, Sirius got up from the table.
"Well," he said, "I'm not spending the rest of the day in here. I'm going outside for a bit. Coming, James?"
James shook his head, looking puzzled. "No, I'll wait here for a bit longer. When Remus comes back, we'll come out and join you."
"James, I think if he was coming back down, he'd be here by now," Sirius objected.
"Perhaps Professor McGonagall's not finished with him yet," James said. "I'm waiting here."
Sirius shrugged. "Suit yourself," he said. "What about you, Pete? You coming out?"
Peter shot a glance at James, but then he rose and followed Sirius.
James stayed behind, his brow furrowed, waiting. He sat there for about half an hour, but still Remus did not come back. At last, James got up and made his way back to their common room. He climbed the stairs to their dormitory and pushed the door open. The room was quiet, but a boy was sitting alone by the open window, the crisp afternoon breeze playing in his hair.
"Remus! Here you are," James exclaimed. "We were waiting for you to come back."
Slowly, Remus turned to face him. He looked tired and care-worn, though James found it hard to make out his expression properly in the gloom of the tower room.
"What's the matter, Remus?" James asked gently.
Remus swallowed and hesitated, as though he didn't quite know what to say. He turned back to look out of the window.
"It's - my mum," he said at last, still not looking at James. "She's ill."
"Oh," said James. "I'm sorry."
"I have to go home and see her," Remus went on.
"Yes," James agreed. "Yes, of course."
He stood in silence for a while, unsure how to react. He thought that Mrs. Lupin's illness must be pretty serious to make it necessary for Remus to leave school.
"Is there anything I can do for you?" he asked at length.
"No. Just - just tell the others for me, will you?"
James hesitated, then he began to stretch out a hand to touch Remus's shoulder. But just at that moment, Remus rose and with a hoarse "I'd better go," he snapped up his cloak and hurried from the room.
* * *
James found it hard to sleep that night. He tossed and turned for what felt like hours. An owl hooted somewhere outside. James rubbed his eyes and sat up in bed. He pulled the curtains around his four-poster aside a fraction and peered out with blurry eyes. Finding his glasses on the cabinet beside his bed, he put them on and went over to the window. There he sat on the window ledge, staring out into the night at the grounds below. They were unusually bright tonight, for a full moon hung over the Forbidden Forest. James liked to look out of this window. From here he could see all the way down to Hagrid's hut, and to the whomping willow, its leaves rustling quietly in the night breeze. He leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes, thinking about Remus, and how worried he would be in Remus's place, if his own mother were ill.
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December 25th, 2003, 6:13 am
NEW CHAPTER!!! WELL I HOPE YOU ENJOY!!! FEEDBACK DEPERATLY NEEDED!!!! THANK YOU VERY MUCH-
Sirius sat on a bench beside the frozen lake wrapped in his winter cloak. He was listlessly kicking up the snow with the tip of his boot. It was a late afternoon in early December, and the festive spirit had already got hold of Hogwarts. Everyone was busy wrapping up presents in hidden corners, Hagrid had dragged several huge Christmas trees up to the castle, the suits of armour in the corridors were practising Christmas carols under the skilled direction of Professor Flitwick, and most of the students were looking forward to going home for the holidays. Sirius Black, however, was not feeling the yuletide spirit. Having no family to go to, he would be spending a lonely Christmas here at Hogwarts. James would be going home to his mother, Remus would be spending Christmas with his parents and Peter, naturally, would be at home with his parents and sisters. No, Sirius was not looking forward to Christmas.
Suddenly there was a shout behind him, and Sirius heard familiar footsteps running his way.
"Sirius, Sirius!" James shouted, laughing happily and, skidding to a halt, dropped breathless onto the bench beside him, waving a sheet of parchment. "Sirius, guess what."
"Well, what?" said Sirius testily.
"This is a letter from my mum," James puffed. "And do you know what she says?"
Sirius was looking like he didn't care what Mrs. Potter had to say, but James just grinned.
"I'm going to wipe that scowl off your face, Sirius," he said eagerly. "You see, I wrote to Mum and told her all about you - well, actually, not all. I didn't tell her about the bubotuber pus you smeared on Snape's scarf last week. And I sort of forgot to mention the time you dropped a tickling potion in Professor Flitwick's tea. And the time ."
"Oh, get to the point, James," Sirius begged. "I'm not in the mood."
"Well, you will be. The fact is, I told Mum what a great friend you are, but that you've got no family and all that, so you're upset because you'll be on your own here at Christmas ."
"I'm not upset!" Sirius barked.
James went on, undaunted. "Oh, shut up for a minute, can't you? I'm trying to tell you my mum says why don't you spend Christmas with us!" he finished.
Sirius stared. "You're kidding!"
"Nope," James grinned. "Not a bit of it. What do you say, will you come?"
Sirius sat stunned for a while, then a grin spread across his face. "You try and stop me," he said.
"Hello," said a voice behind them, "you two look pleased."
James turned to face their friend. "You're back! Come and sit down. You look exhausted."
It was true that Remus looked much as he had done when they had first met. It seemed strange to James how his friend always looked so ill when he had been away. Several times that had happened since they had known each other. Back in October, his mother had been ill. Then he had been to his grandmother's - his mother's mother's - funeral. And yesterday evening his mother had been taken ill again. Yet whenever Remus returned from these brief visits to his family, it was he who looked ill. It worried James. He hoped it wasn't an indication that his friend suffered from whatever serious disease his mother seemed to have.
"How's your mother?" he asked when Remus had joined them.
"Not too bad," Remus said tightly, then quickly changed the subject. "But you two look like you're celebrating."
"Sirius is coming to stay with me for Christmas," James explained.
"That's great," Remus said, pleased for his friend. "That way we'll all be able to travel to London together. All four of us in one carriage - the Hogwarts Express will never be the same again."
* * *
The last school days stretched endlessly, but at last it was time for them all to pack their trunks and go down to Hogsmeade station. James thought the school must be practically empty, judging from the amount of students who stood shivering on the platform.
He, Sirius, Remus and Peter found an empty compartment and passed a very pleasant trip to London, discussing all the things they would do at home, and wondering what presents there would be. Time seemed to fly by, and before they knew it, the Express was slowing down, drawing into platform 9 ¾. Sirius was first off the train, and the others passed the trunks down to him, one after another. Then they climbed down onto the platform and began looking around for their families.
A fair-haired girl near the porter's hut was waving in their direction. James noticed she had a short, slightly upturned nose and small bead-like eyes. She caught Peter's eye, and he waved back.
"It's Pippa!" he cried. "Well, I'll be off then. See you all after Christmas."
He heaved one end of his trunk off the ground and walked away. James, Sirius and Remus shifted their trunks out of the way of the train doors to where they could get a better view. Sirius, being the tallest, stretched as high as he could and tried across the heads of the crowd to spot anyone who looked like they might be related to his two friends. Finally he spotted a woman with shoulder-length brown hair, dressed in what to him was unusual attire: a pale grey trouser suit, as worn by many Muggle women.
"See anyone?" James asked.
"I'm not sure. Is that ."
James tried to follow where Sirius was looking, and started waving wildly. The woman smiled and came their way. She drew level with them and hugged James.
"This is my mum," James said, straightening his glasses. "Mum, this is Sirius, and this is Remus."
"Hello," Mrs. Potter said kindly.
They answered politely. Then Remus uttered an exclamation. "There are my parents," he said, pointing.
James turned with some curiosity to face the two people who were now coming towards them. The man was very dark-haired and quite good-looking, with shining blue eyes. But it was the woman - unmistakably Remus's mother, she looked so much like him - who interested him most. He had always imagined her to look something like this, of course. The long, light-brown hair and brown eyes were just what he had expected. What he had not expected was that she would look so vigorous, so full of life. The illnesses that obliged Remus more than once to leave school and visit her had seemed to his mind to imply a somewhat sickly appearance, something resembling Remus's own weary face and heavy eyes, certainly not the rosy cheeks and cheerfulness that he was witnessing now. As she reached them and said hello, James found that he liked Mrs. Lupin very much, and the mystery of her frequent illnesses occupied his mind more than ever.
December 27th, 2003, 8:40 pm
Well Hello All! It's ME your Favorite SIN!!! Well heres the long awaited NEW Chapter!!! Hope you enjoy! But I NEED FEEDBACK!!!! IF YOU WANT THE STORY TO GO ON I REALLY DESPERATLY NEED FEEDBACK!!!! thank you
Remus Lupin's Dilemma
Remus came down the stairs to breakfast, marvelling at the speed with which time had flown and trying to burn every last moment of his visit home into his mind. The fire was crackling away merrily in the living room, and the old familiar stair creaked when he stepped on it. There was a smell of fresh bread coming from the kitchen, and the sound of his mother's soft humming was so sweet that it hurt him to think he must leave her again so soon. He entered the room as quietly as he could, not wishing to disturb her, but Faith turned around at once and smiled.
"I can't believe you're leaving us again so soon," she sighed.
"Nor can I, Mum," he answered, slipping onto a kitchen chair. "I wish I could stay. At least another week," he blurted out.
His mother looked across at him sharply, and sat down opposite him with a wise smile.
"I see," she said quietly. "So I was right."
"Right?" Remus asked, guessing the answer. "About what?"
"You haven't told them, have you? Your new friends. James, Sirius, Peter . they don't know you're a werewolf."
Remus winced slightly.
"No," he confessed. "I haven't told them. Does - does Dad know?" he added anxiously.
"No," his mother reassured him.
Remus breathed a sigh of relief. He didn't want his father to know. His father would be disappointed in his son . as disappointed as Remus was in himself. And yet .
"May I ask why you haven't told them?" his mother persisted.
Remus stood and turned away, but he could feel his mother's eyes watching him as intently as if he had been looking at her.
"I can't. If they find out what I am, they won't want anything to do with me any more. No one else who knows does. Even my own grandmother ."
"Your father's mother only needed an excuse. She never really liked me, or any child of mine. She blamed my 'bad blood', as she called it, for what happened to you. Your father broke with her after that."
"She's not the only one though, is she? People don't want anything to do with a werewolf. Why should my friends be any different?"
"Because they are you're friends. Because if your friendship means anything to them, they won't care. They'll just accept you and like you for who and what you are."
"You just say that," Remus said impatiently, "because you love me."
"Yes," his mother said, speaking so tenderly that the boy couldn't help but look at her, and be moved by the loving look in her eyes.
"I do love you, Remus," she went on. "And whoever knows you as I do must inevitably love you too. Tell them, Remus. Put their friendship to the test."
Remus thought for a long time. Finally he said, "I don't know if I can, Mum. I don't know if I'd have the courage to go on if . if they deserted me."
Faith Lupin smiled and came to him. She pushed back the strand of hair that hung in his eyes and kissed his forehead.
"You can, my love. You have more courage than you know."
Remus tried to smile back at her. But he was still not sure.
December 29th, 2003, 3:42 am
Continuing our adventure...
James Potter's Discovery
The holidays were over. Back at Hogwarts, Peter sat rapt as James began to unwrap the special present he had received for Christmas. Sirius was sprawled on his bed, grinning. He knew what was coming. Remus was perched on the window sill, hardly taking any notice of them, staring out unseeingly towards the whomping willow and still going over that talk he had had with his mother.
"It's beautiful!" Peter was whispering, awed. "What is it?"
"Wait and see."
"Oi, Remus, come and look!" Sirius called. "You don't want to miss this!"
Remus tore himself away from the window. James was holding up a long cloak of a shimmering, elusive material. One minute it seemed to shine a thousand different colours at once, the next moment you thought you had imagined it, it was like a dream on the edge of your memory - you knew it had been there, yet you couldn't quite grasp it. In spite of his preoccupation with his own private worries, Remus found himself intrigued.
"Put it on!" Sirius urged.
James smiled, and with a flourish draped the cloak around his shoulders. As he did so, his arms, his torso, his legs, all vanished from view. All that was to be seen of him now was his head, floating in mid-air, and his fingers where they held the cloak about his neck. Peter gasped. Remus stared.
"It's an Invisibility Cloak," Sirius said proudly, as though it were his own. "A perfect asset for nightly escapades, don't you agree, Remus?"
"It's brilliant," Remus agreed.
"Where did your mother get it?" Peter asked James.
James, reappearing from under the Cloak and folding it carefully, said,
"She says she didn't get it for me at all. It came by post and there was no card with it. Mum said she only knows of two people who used to have one, but that it couldn't have been from either of them."
"She wouldn't tell me any more than that."
Remus came nearer and touched the material gently.
"Fantastic. It must have cost whoever owned it originally a pretty penny. But . do you think it's safe to use, not knowing where it came from?" he said doubtfully.
"Oh come on," Sirius said, swinging his legs off the bed and coming to join them.
"What d'you suggest should be wrong with it? I mean, who'd want to jinx a thing like that?"
He took the Cloak from James and wrapped it around his middle, so that the upper and lower halves of his body looked like they were moving about the room individually. Remus still looked concerned.
"Remus," James said seriously, "I really think Sirius is right. The only one I can think of who might think of jinxing something and sending it to me as a present is Snape, and you can't tell me even he'd spend that amount of money, just to be mean to someone."
"I suppose you're right," Remus agreed. "It's not as though there were anyone who would wish you any serious harm. But it would still make me feel a lot easier if we knew where it came from."
"Oh, loosen up, Remus," Sirius scolded.
He threw the cloak over his friend's head with a laugh and wrestled him to the ground. James and Peter watched, laughing, while the half invisible tangle of arms and legs struggled and then resurfaced at last, smiling up at them, slightly out of breath.
* * *
Their lessons began again all too soon. On their very first day, they had to endure double Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts with the Slytherins, and that meant taunts and evil smirks from Severus Snape. But James found he wasn't so very bothered about that. When Snape got too annoying, he just thought of his Invisibility Cloak lying folded up in his trunk, and imagined the look of envy on Snape's face if he only knew. He still believed the Cloak was harmless, but Remus had made him wonder more than ever who might have sent it. Which two people could his mother have meant? She had no siblings, no family at all that he knew of. Though it was only logical that she must, at some point, have had parents. James began to wonder about his grandparents. Were they still alive? Had one of them sent the Cloak? Or was it - his heart leaped at the thought - could it be that it was from his father? He was torn from these thoughts by the teacher's voice, asking him a question to which Sirius quickly whispered the answer, while Snape smirked across the room at him.
That Friday, Professor McGonagall interrupted their afternoon snowball fight in the grounds, again summoning Remus away. He apologised and asked them not to wait for him. James was reminded at once of his concerns before the holidays, and was so preoccupied with thinking about Remus and his mother's mysterious illness which left no outward mark that Sirius's snowball took him by surprise and squashed unpleasantly into his left ear.
* * *
Remus did not return all that afternoon and evening. Long after Sirius had dropped off to sleep and snores were issuing from behind Peter's and Frank's curtains, James Potter remained seated on the window sill, gazing out into the night.
He let his eyes roam aimlessly about the grounds, imagining the endless amount of fun he and his friends would have exploring them, now that he had his new Cloak. Who knew, they might even venture out into the Forbidden Forest one night, maybe on a night very like this, when the full moon shed enough light to remove the necessity of carrying a tell-tale lantern. James stared up at the moon, admiring its smooth brightness, the milky whiteness of the giant disk, that looked so near from up here that he almost felt he could touch it. He turned to look around the dormitory, his home here at Hogwarts.
The light of the moon fell on the empty bed by the opposite wall, and the cold hand of worry seemed to close once more about James's heart. He was sure there was something very wrong with Remus, and it pained him not to know what it was. He felt, somehow, that he should know. It was nagging at the back of his mind, an idea forming like a word that rested on the tip of your tongue and would not come out. The harder you tried to make it reveal itself, the further it seemed to run. And at the same time, he felt it was very important he should find out what it was. In the relatively short while that he had been at Hogwarts, he had grown deeply attached to his fellow Gryffindors. He would hate anything to be seriously wrong with any of them. With a deep sigh and a heavy heart, James finally crept into bed.
His dreams were disturbed. Always there entered into them the silhouette of a great beast standing out against a pale light whose source he could not see, but felt he knew very well. He turned over in his sleep, trying to look away from that menacing shape, but he couldn't.
He heard heavy footsteps on dry leaves and felt his breath coming hard. Then he realised the footsteps were his own, and he was running, running away from something. Or was he? The faster he ran, the nearer he seemed to get to whatever it was. A grey shape, the same shape whose silhouette he had sought to escape from before, only now it no longer seemed frightening. It was . gentle. Helpless. Lonely. James stopped a few paces away from it.
The beast turned its head, and James found himself looking into a pair of large brown eyes, sad and weary and somehow oddly familiar. His heart ached to see it, alone and friendless, appealing to him to help it, to do something to make its sad existence more bearable. But what could he do, a boy of eleven? Trying to escape that longing gaze, he looked away, up at the sky, and saw the moon. His heart gave a leap.
James sat up in bed with a start, his dream for once as clear in his mind as if it had been a real event. He tore aside the curtains around his bed and blinked. The full moon still lit the dormitory, its light falling straight on the pillow of the empty bed. James snatched up his glasses. His heart was pounding. Of course, if he was right, it all made such perfect sense. It was so simple, he wondered why he hadn't seen it before.
He climbed out of bed and pulled his trunk out from underneath it as quietly as he could. Then he took out his Invisibility Cloak and wrapped it around him. He thought of waking Sirius, but decided against it. He may be pretty sure he was right, but he had to be absolutely certain before he told anyone about his theory. He crept out of the room on tiptoes and, sneaking down the stairs and out through the portrait hole, immediately made for the library.
IMPORTANT: IF I DONT GET ANY NEW FEEDBACK I WILL HAVE TO STOP WRITING :upset: ....IT JUST SEEMS THAT NOBODY"S READING IT....PLZ GIVE FEEDBACK, ITS VERY IMPORTANT TO WRITERS YA KNOW!!! :frown:
December 30th, 2003, 10:17 pm
Sirius Black's Plan
"James? James, wake up!"
Sirius threw back the curtains and stopped in mid-action. The bed was empty. Puzzled, he turned to the two boys behind him.
"James isn't here."
"Perhaps he was hungry and went down early," Peter suggested.
"He wouldn't do that, not without waking me," Sirius said, sounding hurt.
"Well," said Frank, patting his stomach, "I'm starving, so I'm going downstairs. Anyone coming?"
Peter nodded, and he and Frank left the room, but Sirius sat down on the end of James's bed, a frown fixed on his face. He looked up suddenly. Surely he had heard the floorboards creak? The door to the dormitory closed, seemingly of its own accord.
"What the -" he began, but another voice said,
There was a movement, and suddenly James stood right in front of him, his Invisibility Cloak slung over one arm, a thick book in the other. He came over to the bed and, replacing the Cloak in his trunk, sat down next to Sirius.
"James - where have you been?" Sirius asked, bewildered. "And why didn't you take me with you?"
"Sorry," James replied. "I felt I had to be quite sure before I mentioned it to anyone."
By way of an answer, James dropped the heavy book on Sirius's lap.
"Beasts and Birds in the Wizarding World," Sirius read. "James, what is all this about?"
"I didn't sleep very well last night," James began. "I was thinking. About how Remus keeps 'going home' because of some emergency or other in his family. You know how he says his mother is ill? Well, I thought somehow it was strange, when we saw her at Christmas, that she didn't look ill at all. And I started wondering - well, I'd wondered before that. But it really got me thinking."
"About what, for heaven's sake?"
"Why Remus really disappears so often. And why, while his mother looks perfectly all right, he usually looks like death warmed up when he comes back. Last night, I found the answer. And it's really so obvious! I could kick myself when I think how blind I've been."
"Well, you'd better kick me then, because I still don't get it," Sirius complained.
"The answer's in that book. But I actually figured it out because I never sleep very well when there's a full moon."
"What's that got to do with it?"
"Don't you see?" James whispered excitedly. "Remus always makes up some excuse for going away when there's a full moon. I checked all the dates, as near as I could, of his mother's so-called illnesses."
"So-called? You mean he made it all up? Why on earth would he do that?"
"Obviously because he didn't want us to know the truth."
"Which is what, exactly?" Sirius demanded.
"Don't you see?" said James. "He's a werewolf, Sirius."
Sirius gaped at him.
"You're mad," he said at last. "I mean, he can't be a - a werewolf. Not Remus. He's so - so ."
James was nodding hastily.
"I know it seems crazy. But the facts fit. He makes excuses about not being here every month at the full moon, he comes back looking dreadful, he's even got grey hairs, and he's only eleven!"
Sirius was watching him with an unfathomable expression on his face. What James was saying all made sense, when you thought about it. It all added up. It explained everything that was, admittedly, odd about Remus Lupin. And yet it seemed incredible that a boy whom Sirius had always - if he was entirely honest - thought a bit soft, or gentle, to put it more kindly, should become a monstrous werewolf at every full moon. He thought about it in silence for a long time, unsure of what to say. At last he admitted to himself that, though he was undoubtedly far from being as tough as Sirius would have approved, Remus Lupin was without doubt a decent kid, and a good friend. All he could say, finally, was,
"It's - not fair, James."
He worried briefly that his words might sound very hollow, even silly. But James was looking at him in complete earnest.
"No," he agreed. "It's not."
"But why make up all those lies and excuses? Why didn't he just tell us?" Sirius wondered.
James shrugged his shoulders.
"Werewolves generally aren't very popular. They're regarded as outcasts by most wizards. Or worse, as dangerous monsters. No parent, for instance, would want their child to share a dormitory with a werewolf. I reckon if my mum had ever heard of this before she met Remus and saw what he was like, she would have had a word or two to say about it. She might still, if she knew. I suppose Remus must have thought that if we found out, we wouldn't want anything more to do with him."
Sirius shook his head.
"He should know us better than that. We're his friends."
"It's easy for us to say that. We don't know what problems he may have had before we met him. We can't even begin to imagine what it's like."
He paused. Then he said,
"The question is, now that we do know - what do we do about it?"
"What can we do?" Sirius answered helplessly.
James got up and paced the floor. He stopped by the window and looked out pensively. At last he came back and sat down on the lid of his trunk.
"First of all," he said, "We have to tell Remus we know, and let him know that it's okay and we're still his friends."
"Okay. We'd better have a word with Peter first, though. It's all very well for us two, but I don't know if he'll be quite as unconcerned about being friends with a werewolf."
"I suppose you're right. But I don't think we should tell any more than that. Not even Frank. He spends more time with the Hufflepuffs, anyway, so he won't be too upset if he ever finds out, and we haven't told him."
"Agreed. So we talk to Peter, and then we tell Remus. Then what?"
"I started looking in all the books I could find for a cure, but there's nothing. Still, I've a feeling there must be something we can do to make this more bearable for Remus."
They sat together for a while in silence, thinking.
"There might be something," Sirius said at last.
He laid the book on his lap on the bed, dug a different, very old and battered-looking volume from his trunk and began flicking through it.
"I remember reading something about a werewolf once. If I've got it right, then ."
His face brightened as he discovered what he was looking for. He pointed at the page that now lay open in his lap.
"This book says that werewolves are extremely dangerous to humans. Left to their own devices, if there aren't any humans about they can also sometimes attack wildlife. But this book mentions a few werewolves who actually became friends with some animals - a dog or a bear, for instance. Larger animals that can control them, I suppose."
James was watching his friend's face as he worked furiously at an idea. Sirius's speech had slowed towards the end, and now he broke off altogether. Nevertheless, James knew him well enough to guess at the outrageous idea forming in his brain.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" he asked.
"Probably. It would mean another night time trip to the library with your Cloak, though. We'd probably only find the kind of books we're after in the restricted section, and we'd never be able to get a teacher to sign a note for us without telling them what we're up to. And that's out of the question."
"A typical plan à la Black, in fact. I like it."
January 2nd, 2004, 11:08 pm
Remus stalked past the annoying Peeves, who chanted at him as he went,
"Loony, loopy, Lupin."
He was just too tired to be hurt by the poltergeist and his silly insults. He reached the portrait hole and muttered the Christmas password,
"You don't look in the mood for them, dear," the fat lady commiserated, swinging back on her hinges.
Remus climbed through the hole and up the stairs to the first years' dormitory with a weary step. He had suffered a lot of pain last night, and the added burden of having lied to his friends yet again, and his mother's gentle reproach at his not having told them the truth, weighed heavily on his already sagging shoulders. He ran a hand through his hair and across his face. It felt like a new line of care had engraved itself between his eyes. With an effort, he pushed down the door handle and went in. Then he stopped short.
Three faces were turned towards him. On the left sat Peter, his small eyes darting frequently to James and Sirius, but avoiding Remus altogether. On the right, sitting cross-legged on the trunk by the foot of James's bed, was Sirius, quietly watchful, his eyes - unlike Peter's - fixed unmoving on Remus's face, his jaw set in an uncharacteristically serious expression. In the middle James waited, sitting on the end of Sirius's bed like a king upon a throne.
"Hello," Remus said, a little warily. "What's going on here?"
"We thought we'd welcome you home," Sirius replied. "How is your poor mother? Or was it your father this time? I hope your labouring by the sickbed didn't keep you from a nice midnight stroll under the full moon."
Remus felt his cheeks go hot. Oh no. He really didn't need this, not now. He was too tired.
"Don't you just love going for walks when there's a full moon?" Sirius went on. "I do. It's so ."
"Sirius," James broke in, studying Remus's gaunt face. "Stop it."
Remus looked from one to the other of them, and his eyes came to rest on James. In spite of the unaccustomed coldness in his voice, he looked quite normal, kind and understanding as ever. Remus felt as though his heart were being twisted around in his chest. These were his friends, the only ones he had ever had. If he lost them .
"James, I ." he began, but James held up a hand and stood up.
He came towards Remus and stood looking at him. Then he turned briefly back to Sirius and they exchanged glances. Facing Remus once more, James smiled, and Remus was relieved to see it was the same friendly smile as always. And then James did something he had never done before. He embraced Remus like a brother, and led him over to his bed.
"Sit down," he advised. "You look terrible, and we don't want you passing out just yet, because we want to talk to you first."
He sat on the edge of Remus's bed, and Peter and Sirius followed suit.
"Now," said James matter-of-factly, "as you may have guessed, we've found out you're a werewolf. Don't worry, Dumbledore didn't tell on you or anything, we worked it all out for ourselves."
"Well, James did," Sirius put in.
"Anyway," James went on, "once we had found out, we assumed you had your reasons for not telling us."
"I - I thought you wouldn't want anything more to do with me," he said, still not quite willing to believe his luck.
"Well, for once you were wrong, weren't you?" Sirius said, smiling.
At this characteristic, affectionate tease from Sirius, Remus actually managed a small smile himself.
"And for once, I'm glad of it," he replied.
He listened in amazed, happy disbelief while James unfolded the story of how he had worked out his friend's secret, and when James and Sirius told him of their scheme - to secretly become animagi so that they could keep him company when he had transformed - he was so overjoyed and grateful that he didn't know what to say. A great lump seemed to have formed in his throat and his eyes were burning madly. The others tactfully looked away while he recovered, and Sirius dug out their map of Hogwarts.
"So, Mr. Moony," he said lightly, "show us where you've been hanging out lately."
He handed Remus a quill and ink pot.
But Remus, grinning and looking still physically tired, but much healthier and less weary, pushed it aside and instead took out a clean sheet of very old parchment, a quill and a pot of a different kind of ink.
"I have a better idea," he said. "This parchment and ink pot were a Christmas present from my parents - the best apart from the one you three have just given me," he beamed.
Pointing his wand at the map, he said,
"What we need, first of all, is a password. An original line that only the four of us will know, and that you have to say so you can read this new map. And of course another spell to wipe it clean again."
They thought for a moment. At last Sirius put out his hand.
"I've got one. How about 'I solemnly swear that I am up to no good'?"
"Excellent," Remus said.
He repeated the words, waving his wand over the piece of parchment. He then began to copy all the lines of the old map onto the new one. He also added a spot marked 'whomping willow', and the others gasped as he drew a long tunnel leading from the tree off the edge of the map.
"There's a tunnel under the whomping willow that was made especially for me. The willow itself was only planted to guard the entrance. There's a knoll on the side of its trunk. You press it, and the willow stands still. This tunnel leads to an empty house in Hogsmeade village," he explained. "The Shrieking Shack. That's where I . transform."
They sat for a moment in silence, then Sirius, taking the map and quill from Remus, said,
"Hey, Pete ."
Peter, carried away by the excitement of the moment, jumped.
"Have a look in my trunk, will you? There's a book in there called 'The Art of Magical Cartography'. Open it where I left the bookmark."
Peter did so, and handed Sirius the thick volume. Reading quickly, Sirius then looked up, satisfied.
"Watch this," he whispered, "it's a handy little trick we used once back at the orphanage, when we made a map of the teachers' wing."
He pointed his wand at the map once more, and said,
Immediately, small dots began to move all over the map. Peter leaned in close and examined those in the first year dormitory of Gryffindor Tower. They were labelled James Potter, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew and Sirius Black.
"This is brilliant," he said admiringly.
"May I?" said James, taking the quill and map from Sirius.
He thought for a moment, then bent low and wrote something along the top of the parchment. He leaned back at last, satisfied.
"The Marauder's Map," Sirius read out loud. "Excellent."
He took out his own wand and, waving it over the map as he had watched Remus do earlier, said,
The parchment went blank.
January 5th, 2004, 7:23 pm
James Potter stood with his mother and Sirius Black on platform 9 ¾ at King's Cross station, London. At fourteen, he had caught up with her in height, though he was still not as tall as Sirius, who had shot up over the past summer.
James and Sirius stood watching the wall that they knew was the other side of the barrier dividing platforms 9 and 10 of the Muggle station.
"I don't believe it," Sirius said, glancing at the platform clock.
"What is it, dear?" James's mother asked.
She had had Sirius to stay with her and James for most of the holidays since they boys' first year at Hogwarts, and grown very fond of him.
"It's ten to eleven, and they're still not here!" he explained.
Bridget Potter checked her wrist watch and frowned.
"I'm sure they'll be along any minute now," she said.
"There's Frank . and Damian!" Sirius exclaimed, waving.
Suddenly James grabbed Sirius's arm.
"There's Moo. Remus!" he cried, checking himself.
It would never do if he called Remus 'Moony' in front of his mother. If she found out Remus was a werewolf, he wasn't so much afraid that she'd forbid him to be friends with Remus - she knew him well enough to realise that would be in vain - but he did fear that she would be more alert in future, and begin to suspect something very secret and very much against the rules in his whispered talks with Sirius in their bedroom at night. Not that she wouldn't be right, of course. Because, undaunted by initial failure and the difficulty of the task they had set themselves, he and Sirius were still determined to become animagi secretly, and to help Peter along too.
"James! Sirius!" Remus exclaimed, hugging them both.
Behind him followed his mother and father, and they shook hands with Mrs. Potter and the two boys. John Lupin watched them for a moment in silence, then he said,
"You must tell me what you feed these lads with, Mrs. Potter. I'd be willing to swear they look more alike each time I see them, you'd almost think they were brothers. And yet my son persistently refuses to look anything like me. Not that I mind."
He laid his arm about his wife's shoulder and laughed. It was true that, three years on from when the boys had first met, Remus still looked as much like his mother as ever, and barely at all like his father.
"He's your son all right, though," Faith Lupin answered. "There's no denying that."
James's mother smiled.
"We are both rather outnumbered during school holidays, aren't we?" she commented.
"Oh yes," Remus's mother sighed, "With these two together and my brother thrown in for good measure, I don't stand an earthly."
James, Sirius and Remus hardly took any notice of the adults and their chit- chat. Even when the talk turned away from casual joking to more serious matters, rumours of division in the Ministry and stricter law enforcement, they were too busy chatting among themselves, and looking out all the time for their other friends.
A girl with long red hair and green eyes came through the wall, followed by a tall woman with a long, thin neck, a kindly-looking man wheeling a trolley that bore her trunk, cauldron and owl-cage, and a sullen girl who looked positively horrified at the sight of all these chattering Hogwarts students and their families. When a boy near her suddenly yelled out 'stop!' and bent down to pick a large, warty toad up off the ground before her, she seemed to go thirty shades of green.
The red-haired girl looked over towards James, Sirius and Remus and waved. The three of them waved back.
A gang of girls came running up immediately, gossiping in loud voices and giggling, folding her in a many-armed embrace and dragging her off towards the back of the train.
"There's Peter!" Sirius suddenly called.
James, recalled as if from some dream, turned and saw their friend Peter Pettigrew coming towards them. With him was a girl with straw-coloured hair tied back in a bun and a turned up nose, and James guessed at once from her solemn glare and the unhappy look on his friend's face that this must be Paula Pettigrew. He hadn't met her before, since it was usually Philippa who picked her brother up and dropped him off, but she certainly looked a miserable soul.
"Well," said Paula, having been introduced to James's mother and the Lupins and, feeling that her duty was done, turning to Peter with a look of the utmost dislike on her face, "since your friends are already here, I may as well be going. Goodbye."
Peter watched her leave. He looked thoroughly relieved. John Lupin, frowning after the girl, whom he too had found most unpleasant, clapped Peter on the shoulder and said kindly,
"Come on. Let's get your trunk on the train, shall we?"
"Err . Thanks, Mr. Lupin," Peter stammered, and followed him dazedly to the carriage.
Faith smiled across at Remus, who caught her eye. It was just like his father to forget all about his own son's heavy luggage in the face of such unkindness shown to another boy. It didn't matter. They both knew he would be back for Remus's trunk in a moment.
At last, John Lupin and the boys had stowed all their luggage on the Hogwarts Express and it was time to say goodbye. James and Remus stood side by side at the window, waving. Both felt a slight pang at leaving, and even Sirius felt sorry that he wouldn't be seeing James's mother at least until Christmas. Mrs. Potter was always very kind to him, and the nearest he could remember to a mother, unless you counted Miss Dolesham at the orphanage, who he knew wasn't as strict and heartless as she liked to pretend.
They changed into their school robes when it grew dark outside, and at last the train slowed down as it drew into Hogsmeade station.
"Firs' years over 'ere!" a familiar voice bellowed.
James, Sirius, Remus and Peter turned. A huge hand waved at them across the heads of the crowd.
"Hello, you lot!" Hagrid called while they waved back. "All set for more mischief-making this year, are ye?"
"You bet!" Sirius shouted back.
Then they went along with the other students and clambered into a carriage, and soon were trundling along, past the winged boars at the gates and up to the castle, eager for another term of magic and mystery - and mischief, as Hagrid had so aptly guessed.
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January 5th, 2004, 11:16 pm
Sirius, as usual, reached the Gryffindor table first and swung himself onto an empty seat. Peter and Frank sat either side of him, Remus opposite, on the end of the table, and James climbed in beside him. Happily they looked around the Great Hall at all the familiar faces of their fellow students and the teachers up at their table. Dumbledore delivered a typical welcome, the Sorting Hat was brought forward, and soon they were busy clapping their hands raw while a long line of first years were called forward and sorted.
A yellow-haired bow hastened over to their table amid a roaring cheer and everyone moved a bit closer together. James looked round at the new boy, and spotted Lily Evans sitting a little way away on the other side of the table. She flashed a smile at him, then turned her attention back to "Hawk, Hannah", who became a "Hufflepuff!"
A lot of new, excited faces joined all the tables. "Parkinson, Plato" was made a Slytherin, and the Hat continued to sort all the new Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors and Slytherins and Ravenclaws.
Last but one in the line, a shy-looking girl with thick brown curls came forward.
At last all the first years had joined their tables. Dumbledore issued his usual warnings about the Forbidden Forest, Filch's list of forbidden activities and a special warning - added at the end and with a sparkle in his eyes, which seemed to dwell all to obviously on James, Remus, Sirius and Peter - that dungbombs, shrinking cauldrons and vanishing wands should please be kept distant from the classrooms. Then, at long last, the headmaster said,
"Let the feasting commence."
* * *
"That was delicious," Sirius said happily, sinking onto his bed in their dormitory, behind the large wooden door that now read 'Fourth Years'.
"Great," Peter agreed, stroking his stomach.
Remus was already lying flat on his back, feeling fuller than he could ever remember having felt, and just about ready to close his eyes and go right off to sleep. But that would be a shame. He hoisted himself up a fraction while James came in, closing the door behind him. Frank Longbottom wouldn't be along till later, he had gone to the library with Damian Diggle.
"So," James said, sitting down on his trunk, "here we all are again. Looking forward to finally achieving what we planned, everyone?"
"You bet!" Sirius promised. "We're going to make it this year."
"I . I don't know if I can do it," Peter said quietly.
"What do you mean?"
"Y-you and James are so much cleverer than I am, and it's taken you over two and a half years to try and do this. I'll never learn."
"Of course you will," Sirius reassured him. "You know you can do it, if you really want to. And you do want to, don't you?"
Peter looked so uncomfortable at this that Remus sat up and said,
"Look, Peter, if you're not happy with the idea, don't do it. I know you're all doing this as a favour to me, but I don't want you to think you're being forced into it. Honestly, Peter, if you don't want to do it, don't worry."
Peter shot him a grateful glance, but he knew at the same time that, to remain a member of their little group - the Marauders, as they had christened themselves a long time ago - he would have to go through with this.
"I do want to, Remus. Sirius is right. I'll manage, somehow."
"Good," said James. "Then I suggest we sneak out to the Shack tonight and give it a try. I can't wait any longer. Somehow I feel like I know I'll be able to do it tonight."
* * *
The Shrieking Shack. It always made Remus shiver to come here, even when there wasn't a full moon and his friends were with him. He looked around uncomfortably at the ruined furniture in the downstairs room. His friends had never mentioned it, or the bloodstains on the floor. He thought they probably knew or guessed well enough what happened here in those long, lonely nights. The windows were boarded up, and only a very little light came in through the odd crack in the wood. James whisked the Invisibility Cloak off them and they went upstairs, to the bedroom, which was relatively untouched - Remus rarely ventured up here when he transformed.
James pulled a thick, leather-bound volume out from under the bed and opened it where he had left the bookmark before the summer holidays. They had acquired this book by owl order about two years ago, and it had helped them a lot in the course of their endeavours to teach themselves one of the most difficult spells in existence.
"Here it is," he said, handing the book, the Invisibility Cloak and his wand to Remus.
"You hold that, Moony, and now watch. Ready, Sirius?"
Sirius laid his wand and the Marauder's Map on the dusty bed and took a deep breath, as though preparing for a dive. Then he and James both muttered something under their breath, and they began to change.
Remus and Peter watched breathlessly. James's head was changing shape. Sirius seemed to be sprouting black fur. Then James suddenly bent forward. His spine was transforming. Meanwhile, Sirius dropped to all fours.
"Oh my .!" Peter cried.
"They've never got this far before," Remus whispered in awe.
Suddenly a kind of panic seized him. So far it had all been very amusing, planning and scheming, thinking what it would be like if his friends became animagi. But so far they had only ever been able to change bits of themselves, leaving the rest intact. Seeing them now, so totally transformed, made Remus feel ill and very much afraid. What if they couldn't change back? If they stayed like that forever? It would all be his fault. He stared in mingled wonder and concern while their transformation was completed.
In the middle of the room stood a huge, shaggy black dog and a magnificent stag, its antlers held high. The stag trotted towards him and looked up into his eyes. Remus held out a shaking hand and touched its proud head. The stag lowered its antlers, turned around, and suddenly changed in a twinkling back into James Potter. The dog looked up at him, and a second later Sirius Black stood in its place. Remus stared at them both in amazement.
"Don't look so startled, Moony," Sirius said.
"Y-you did it!" Peter exclaimed.
The others looked at one another and laughed.
"We did it all right," said James. "Now all we have to do is get you to do it, and we're away. Watch this ."
And he changed once again into the elegant stag, this time hardly moving his lips to say his spell. He made a mock charge at Remus, who laughed, relieved that it had gone so well after all.
"Watch those prongs!" he called.
James materialised once more.
"That's it," he said, "You've got it, Moony. I was thinking we all need a kind of nickname, to put on our map. I shall be Mr. Prongs."
He bowed low.
"Sirius here can be Padfoot. How's that, Sirius?"
Sirius considered it for a moment.
"Okay then. Now Peter, what about you? Come on, try it. We've got to know what to call you in future."
Elated by his friends' success, Peter Pettigrew stepped into the middle of the room, mumbled the words to himself and actually transformed on the spot, to his own amazement as much as to everyone else's. When the grey rat hat changed back, Sirius said,
"Great, now we know what to call you. I hereby name you Wormtail."
And with that he picked up the Marauder's Map and Remus's special quill, and added a few lines above where James had written in their first year at Hogwarts. He stood back and surveyed the result happily. The he showed it to the others.
"Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs
Purveyors of Aids to Magical Mischief-Makers
are proud to present
The Marauder's Map."
"I like the wording," James said approvingly. "People, I've got a feeling this year is going to be great fun."
January 6th, 2004, 1:07 pm
Magical Mischief Makers
James Potter checked his watch.
"It's nearly time, Moony," he said.
They were all sitting together in the otherwise deserted Gryffindor common room. Remus looked up from a thick book on ancient runes.
"Okay," he sighed, "I'd better go and find Madam Pomfrey then."
He closed his book and, laying it aside, went towards the portrait hole.
"Hey, Remus," Sirius called when he was halfway through, "See you later."
Remus smiled. Yes, he would see them later. This would be the first full moon where he was not alone.
He walked down to the whomping willow with Madam Pomfrey, feeling considerably less miserable than he normally did. The nurse prodded the trunk with a long stick and the willow froze.
"In you go then, dear," Madam Pomfrey said, looking sorry for him.
"Good night," said Remus.
He continued alone into the passage, leading away from the castle towards the village of Hogsmeade. A few moments later, he came out in the Shrieking Shack. He pulled up one of the few chairs that were still intact and sat down. The waiting was often the worst part. He would sit here, wishing he at least had a book to read, and knowing that it would be no use, because he would tear it up as soon as the full moon came out.
But today he did not have to wait very long alone. Madam Pomfrey had barely been gone ten minutes when there was a scuffling noise by the door, and it opened a fraction to let in a grey rat that hurried over to Remus's side.
Remus got to his feet just as the door opened wider and a shaggy black dog entered, followed by a tall stag.
"You shouldn't be here yet," he said, worried. "You should have waited until you knew I'd transformed."
"Sorry," James replied, materialising in human form to Remus's utter horror, "We were impatient. We thought we'd keep you company."
Remus was shaking his head desperately.
"No, James, don't you understand? It's going to be difficult enough when I have transformed, but while I actually do . You can't imagine what it's like, James. It's not just the pain, it's ."
He broke off as the first moonlight shimmered through a crack in the wood. Sirius's shackles were rising. Peter had withdrawn into a hidden corner. James stood rooted to the spot, watching, while Remus's back stiffened and he lurched forward, grabbing the back of the chair. His fingers were becoming hard and bony, turning into long claws. The colour left James's face.
"Remus," he muttered, taking a step towards him.
"Don't!" Remus cried with a final effort, backing away. "Go! Now, James!"
His shoulders humped and he cried out in agony. His face lengthened, fur began to creep over his whole body, and he gave a long, painful howl. He turned, and his claws slashed the wooden boards covering one of the windows. A rain of splinters came down on him, and he howled again. His claws ripped at his own flesh, and James watched in terror as blood gushed from the self-inflicted wound. And then the thing that his friend had become turned to face him.
In a flash, James remembered his dream of long ago. He had been running both from and towards something big and terrifying, but at the same time weak and helpless. He knew that was what he was looking at now. He knew that, though Remus would never wish to harm him, he was not safe.
Even as these thoughts crossed his mind, the werewolf prepared to leap on him. But then something large and black shot past James and flung itself at the werewolf. James, coming out of his momentary stupor, realised what he must do. While Sirius and Remus lay locked together, rolling on the floor, he quickly transformed back into a stag and joined the fray.
It was several minutes of snapping, biting and prodding with his horns later that he and Sirius finally had the werewolf under control. It cowered in a corner of the room looking forlorn, and at last James was able to approach safely and bow his wise stag's head towards it. The werewolf avoided his gaze at first, but then it looked up into the stag's eyes, and it seemed to James that suddenly something softened within the mind of the beast, as though his friend's spirit was struggling to assert itself. The werewolf stopped trembling. It raised itself off the ground and paced the floor. Then it threw back its head and howled, but this time it was a different kind of sound. It sounded free and almost contented.
Deeming it safe to come out now, Peter scuttled back into the room. Sirius was licking a wound to his front forepaw. James pranced towards the door and nudged it open. He motioned the others to follow him. Peter hurried out ahead of the others. Sirius followed close behind. James stood in the doorway, looking back at the werewolf. He inclined his head, nodding towards the door. The werewolf looked hesitant. James nodded his magnificent head slowly, and at last his friend approached and went out along the tunnel with the others.
January 8th, 2004, 10:42 pm
Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw
It was a cold evening and the Gryffindor common room was crowded. Remus sat in a high-backed chair in the corner, holding a book up to his face and pretending to be reading, when in fact he was going through one of his usual self-accusing phases. He couldn't deny that his last transformations hadn't been as bad as the ones he had had before. Ever since James and Sirius had learnt how to control him, he himself had proved able to fight against the beast inside him, and to remain relatively sane and 'human'.
They had used the nights of his transformations to fully explore the Hogwarts grounds and the village of Hogsmeade, sometimes straying dangerously near the houses. Thus they had added many more secret passages in and out of the grounds to their map, seeking the entrances to those that ended in the village and learning the layout of the castle better than even Dumbledore himself knew it.
Yet Remus felt guilty every time, knowing that he was betraying the trust placed in him by Dumbledore, the other teachers and not least his own parents. No matter how he looked at it, there was always a risk that he would give the others the slip one night and hurt someone. And that was the last thing he wanted to do. Still he could not wholly convince himself to stop. He had tried to, he had even spoken to the others about it, but they had told him not to worry so much, that he was entitled to some fun as much as anyone else and that they couldn't possibly enjoy their night-time escapades as much without him.
And so Remus continued to roam the grounds with his friends under the full moon, and he couldn't even deny that he enjoyed it. But that didn't alter the fact that he felt guilty, and right now he was in a glum mood, even though he was healthier than he had been in a long while. It seemed the presence of his friends not only allowed him to keep his mind, but also strengthened his very body, so that the transformations ceased to take such a terrible toll on him.
"And what are you brooding about?" a voice said just beside him.
He looked up with a start to see James standing by his elbow.
"I'm not brooding," he lied. "I was reading."
"What? Reading the same page for ten minutes, you mean?"
James sat down in the chair next to him and looked around the common room.
"You've been telling yourself that it's wrong to go out with us at night, haven't you?"
Remus frowned. There was never any point in trying to hide what he felt from James. The trouble was that James was too understanding. More than any of his other friends, he always seemed to know what was troubling Remus, and that could sometimes be very awkward, because James also never kept this knowledge to himself. Right now, however, Remus didn't feel like talking about it, so he changed the subject.
"How did the Quidditch training go?" he asked.
James's brow furrowed. He had been longing for the Quidditch season to begin. Now that it had, he was feeling the familiar thrill of anticipation as well as nervousness before the first game.
"I don't know," he said. "Ravenclaw are going to be a tough struggle tomorrow. They've put together a strong side."
"They can't beat the best chaser Hogwarts has ever seen, though," Remus assured him.
* * *
The next day, James said goodbye to his friends before entering the changing rooms.
"Don't worry," Remus said, "You'll do fine."
"Yeah - don't you dare let us down," Sirius joked.
"Good luck, James," said Peter.
James nodded tightly and walked away to join the rest of his team.
"Come on," said Sirius eagerly, "Let's go and find ourselves some good seats."
They made for the tall stands, Sirius chatting, Peter listening and Remus tagging behind, allowing his thoughts to dwell on other matters, going back to his doubts of the night before. It just wasn't safe.
Remus was so deep in thought that he collided suddenly with a student hurrying the other way.
"Oh, sorry," a timid voice said.
Remus looked down. There stood one of the first year Ravenclaws, a petite girl with pale skin and brown curly hair. He remembered having seen her being sorted at the beginning of the school year.
"No," he said frankly, "It was my fault, sorry. I should look where I'm going."
The girl muttered something incoherently. She looked up, blushing, and suddenly Remus found himself staring into a pair of clear, sky-blue eyes. For a minute, he didn't know what to say. Then another girl called,
"Heather! Heather, we're over here!"
"Excuse me," Heather mumbled shyly.
She took to her heels and ran to join the other girls, but when she reached them she looked back briefly. Remus just stood there, until he heard his own name being called. Sirius and Peter were waving at him to come and join them. He made his way slowly to the stands.
James marched out onto the pitch with the others, his faithful broom tucked under his arm. The captains shook hands and both teams rose high into the air on their broomsticks. James looked around the stadium. He could see Professor McGonagall with a Gryffindor scarf tied around the collar of her robes, and Professor Flitwick waving a Ravenclaw flag. He searched the rows of students and spotted Lily Evans waving together with the other Gryffindor girls. A bit further on sat Sirius, Remus and Peter, all waving with both hands and giving him thumbs-ups.
Far below on the ground, Professor Quagmire blew his whistle and released the four balls. James briefly caught sight of the golden snitch before it disappeared, almost as soon as it had been set free. He concentrated on the centre of the pitch, relying on the beaters and ignoring the bludgers. The annual Quidditch tournament had only just begun, which meant that there was no need yet for the seekers to play for points. The sooner either of them could catch the snitch, the better. Meanwhile, it was the job of the chasers to simply score as many goals as they could. Across the pitch, just above the Ravenclaw goalposts, James caught sight of Mary Crimple, their seeker, closely followed by the Gryffindor seeker Donald Gills.
"Gryffindor in possession!" cried Hufflepuff sixth-year Michael Hornby, who was commentating.
James snatched the quaffle out of the air and sped away to the sound of loud cheering from the stands and Michael's voice shouting,
"James Potter is flying like a cannonball, the Ravenclaw chasers don't stand a chance of catching up with him - no, hang on - ouch, that must have hurt!"
From James's point of view, it looked like all the other players around him were performing upside-down broom ballets. The bludger had caught him right in the stomach, but he hung on to his broom and brought himself upright once more to the sound of the bad news:
"Tom Royle's got the quaffle, and he's racing towards the Gryffindor goalposts. He dodges a bludger - no, two - he's zooming straight for the target, he's released the quaffle - "
A roar went up from the crowd.
"Brilliant save by the Gryffindor keeper!" Michael Hornby commented.
James grinned. There was no beating Colin, he was a marvellous keeper.
He looked across the pitch towards the goalposts, and then he saw Donald Gills zooming after a glimmer of gold circling around the right-hand goalpost, then darting away towards the stands . Mary Crimple had seen it too, and as luck would have it, she was nearer that end at the moment.
James turned his attention back to the quaffle, while the Gryffindor crowd watched with baited breath as Donald Gills flattened himself against his broom and urged it forward, using all the speed he could muster to reach the snitch before Mary did, but there was no denying she was fast. There was no way he could beat her to it. So instead he swerved. The crowd gasped, wondering what he was up to. Donald charged straight at Mary, daring her to stay on course or avoid him, forfeiting her chance to catch the snitch.
She was keeping her broom steady, seemingly taking no notice of him. Donald was almost level with her, any second now he would have to loop back or crash into her - then, just at the last moment, Mary dived out of his way. Donald performed a spectacular loop and returned the right way up, scanning the air with his eyes to find the elusive snitch again, but it was gone. A sigh of disappointment went through the Gryffindor crowd, and suddenly the chasers became the focus of attention once more.
James caught the quaffle after an excellent pass from his team mate and tuned back in to Michael's commentary while he raced through the air, dodging a bludger here and a Ravenclaw chaser there and making straight for the goalposts.
"And it's Potter for Gryffindor," Michael Hornby commentated. "He passes the quaffle to Botch, the Ravenclaw beater aims a bludger at her - whew, it missed her by an inch! She throws it back to Potter, he's going for the goal now, he's going to score - no! Ross saves and throws the quaffle back to Royle. He's really going for it now, he's got a clear shot - no he hasn't, a bludger comes spinning his way! Ow! Royle takes a bludger on the head, but the quaffle's still flying, flying . It's in!"
The Ravenclaw crowd cheered. A groan went up from the Gryffindor end and James whacked his broom angrily. Amid all the turmoil, James suddenly heard a noise close by. It was quiet, barely audible at all. Like the fluttering of a wings.
Wings? He turned his head, and even as Mary Crimple came speeding towards him, he saw the snitch floating just behind his shoulder. He swung out of the way quickly and was struck hard on the arm by the same bludger that had caught Royle a moment before. James heard a loud cracking noise and pain shot up into his shoulder. A murmur of shock and concern went through the Gryffindor seats.
The game continued, but the knock had hurt James's arm badly and he was finding it difficult to stay on his broom, let alone catch the quaffle.
Meanwhile, Donald had turned his broom around with lightning speed. The snitch was racing downwards, towards Mary's end, and Donald sped after it. He crawled forward along the broomstick, holding on with his legs and stretching both arms forward. Mary Crimple, coming from the opposite direction, was doing the same. The small-built Donald threw what weight he had forward, and even as the broom hovered no more than a few feet above the ground, he jumped off it and landed with a thud, the fluttering snitch caught between his fingers.
James heard the whistle blow and sighed with relief. His arm was hurting badly, and he immediately turned his broom around and towards the ground. Suddenly he froze. Mary Crimple was trying, too late, to pull out of her dive. Her broom's handle collided with the ground and snapped. She pulled it back upwards, but though it obeyed her command, it was jerking and gradually spinning out of control. A rumble of gasps and mutters went through the crowd. James looked around. All the other players were floating far above his head. He had only seconds in which to act. Wrapping his good arm around the front of his broom, James chased down towards Mary at top speed, lying completely flat on his broom. The Ravenclaw seeker was hanging on with both hands, but the jerking of her broom was almost unseating her.
Overhead, the other players had noticed what was happening and were heading towards them, but they were still too far away. James spurred his broom on and drew level with Mary's. It was acting like a rodeo horse, as though trying wantonly to throw her off. James tried to get closer, but nearly got knocked off his own broom. So instead, gripping his broom firmly with his uninjured right hand, he painfully held out his left.
"Mary!" he shouted. "Take my hand!"
"I can't!" she screamed. "If I let go I'll fall!"
"No, you won't. Just hold on to my arm. Come on!"
He leaned over as far as he dared. Trembling, Mary let go of her broom with one hand. It gave a violent jerk and she slipped off, screaming. James felt a hard tug on his already aching left arm and heard another snapping noise. Again, pain shot up through his shoulder, but his fingers clung desperately to Mary's wrist. She was dangling from his arm, which felt as though it were in a vice. James's face contorted with pain, but still he held on. He had to get down to the ground.
"Pull yourself up onto the broom," James said through gritted teeth. "I can't lift you - my arm ."
Still shaking with fright and trying not to look down, Mary pulled herself up James's arm and swung her leg over the broom behind him. She put her arms around his middle. Steering with one hand, James turned them around and inclined the broom downwards.
They landed rather sooner than usual, the added weight causing the broom to descend faster. James rolled onto the ground and lay there. He opened his eyes, which had lost their focus with the strain, and could just make out figures moving their way. A moment later, Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall were looking down at him, and then he heard Remus and Sirius's voices as they pushed their way through the crowd.
"Mind out the way, can't you?"
The next minute they were both kneeling beside him, and behind them stood Peter, looking shell-shocked. Professor McGonagall was now also bending over him. Her hands examined his wounded arm.
"It seems to me you have dislocated your shoulder, as well as broken a bone, Mr. Potter," she said at last. "We had better get you to the hospital wing."
James nodded, and Sirius and Remus helped him to his feet. Dumbledore led the way, and the crowd parted. As he passed the other students, James heard a lot of awed whispering and gasping and girlish giggling.
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January 10th, 2004, 1:49 am
Madam Pomfrey had set his shoulder back in order and mended the break, and all that now remained was a slight throbbing, a dull echo of the pain James had felt before. He was under orders to spend the night in the hospital wing, mainly in order to recover from the shock, and it was surprising how many people had been to visit in the short time he had been here. Sirius, Remus and Peter had hardly left his side, but their enjoyable company had been constantly interrupted.
First the Gryffindor team had come to congratulate their seeker on his spectacular catching of the snitch. Then Mary Crimple had come - accompanied by a gang of extremely giggly Ravenclaw girls - to thank him for rescuing her. After that, the whole Ravenclaw team had appeared to express their thanks. These had been followed by several other groups of students, most of them girls, whom James was hardly aware of ever having seen before, all giggling and blushing and some even asking for his autograph. This was too much for Sirius, who burst out laughing when the last group of girls - a delegation of second-year Hufflepuffs, it seemed - had left.
"What's so funny?" asked James testily, feeling quite exhausted.
"You've got a fan club," Remus said, smiling.
"Oooh, James, do you think I could have your autograph," Sirius said, putting on a high squeaky voice.
"Shut up!" James complained. "If I'd known what would come of it, I'd have left Mary to fall off her broom - or let someone else catch her."
Sirius was shaking his head.
"Heroes don't let damsels in distress fall from broomsticks. You'd better watch it though, mate - she'll be expecting you to marry her next."
James glared at him. The last thing he needed was for rumours about him and Mary to start spreading.
"That's enough now," Madam Pomfrey interrupted. "You should get some sleep. Come on, out you go, boys."
And with that, she firmly led Sirius, Remus and Peter from the room. James waved to them, but he couldn't pretend he wasn't glad of a bit of peace and quiet. He closed his eyes, and drifted off at once into a disturbed sleep.
He was on his broomstick, flying over the Forbidden Forest at night. There was a full moon, and far below he could see his friends - dog, werewolf and rat - running across the grounds. James looked up at the moon, and wondered vaguely why it had a pair of fluttering wings. Then he realised it was the snitch, and he looked around for Donald. But there was no sign of him. James frowned. Where was the seeker? Oh well, there was nothing for it, he would have to catch the snitch himself. He raced towards it on his broom, but suddenly the broom refused to go any further.
And then another broom appeared, a broom that was jerking and swaying from side to side. A girl was sitting on it, clinging on for dear life. It must be Mary Crimple. James tried to urge his broom towards her, but it wouldn't move. Her broom was growing ever fiercer, she would be thrown off any minute now. James watched helplessly, and then the girl turned her head. It wasn't Mary at all. Under a black starless sky, James found himself looking into the greenest eyes he had ever seen. They were drawing him in, deeper, deeper. He felt a rising panic. Something was wrong, terribly, fatally wrong. He sensed a bottomless malice close by. There was a flash of bright, blinding green light and then he heard a woman's voice scream his name.
James opened his eyes with a start and listened, but all he could hear was the hooting of an owl somewhere in the forest. Through the window he could see a crescent moon, and stars twinkling brightly. He ran his hand across his forehead, and discovered that he was soaked in sweat. He lay back on his pillow, trying to calm his nerves. Then he thought he heard a sound. He pricked up his ears and held his breath. There it was again. A slow, hesitant footstep. He sat up and peered across the hospital wing, in the direction of the door, and his heart leapt. In the shadows, hidden from the light of the moon, stood a figure standing completely still.
"Hello?" James called quietly, finding his voice. "Who is it?"
The figure moved suddenly, darting towards the door and disappearing. James jumped out of bed and followed, but by the time he looked out into the hallway, it was deserted but for Mrs. Norris, the caretaker's scrawny, mean- eyed cat.
January 10th, 2004, 4:58 pm
End of Term
James seemed to be pursued by what Sirius called the 'PPFC' (the Potty Potter Fan Club) - consisting mostly of a very giggly gang of girls led by Mary Crimple - for the rest of the school year.
He was almost glad when, after the longest months he had ever known at Hogwarts, the day of the leaving feast was finally there. Sirius, James, Peter and Remus hurried down the stairs in the direction of the Great Hall. They were eager for a feast of delicious dishes washed down with pumpkin juice, with entertainment provided by the house ghosts and a lot of hilarity owing to the start of the holidays tomorrow.
James jumped the last couple of steps and waited for his friends at the bottom. He turned to continue into the Hall, and in so doing collided with something wrapped in dark, glittering robes. Looking up, he found himself face to face with Professor Mathilda Hopshanks.
"Oh, sorry," he mumbled.
"That is quite all right, my dear," the young Divination teacher began in her unearthly voice. "I knew you were going to run into me tonight, but one doesn't like always to avoid these encounters simply because one can."
Her eyes peered so deeply into James's that it made him feel uncomfortable. All around him, teachers and students alike had stopped in their tracks and were staring his way.
"Yes, well . sorry anyway," he mumbled.
Professor Hopshanks shifted almost like a ghost and walked towards the door into the Great Hall, where Professor McGonagall was waiting impatiently.
"Really, Mathilda," James heard her say quietly, "Must you always make such an exhibition? Now what?" she added, and James turned his head to see what was happening.
Professor Hopshanks was staring in Professor McGonagall's direction, but seemed to be looking through her. Then she turned right around again and faced the entrance hall, packed with students. Her eyes were glazed. She stood there like that for a long time without moving.
"What's she up to?" Sirius whispered to James.
"I don't know," James answered. "I think we'd best just ignore her. She seems ."
"Death!" Professor Hopshanks shrieked suddenly.
A hush fell on all the students in the entrance hall, and even Professor McGonagall's face lost its scorn. Professor Hopshanks seemed to go rigid all of a sudden, and her eyes focused for a moment on James. They weren't empty and vacant as usual, but so cold and hard as they fixed him that he felt as though someone had driven a spear of ice into him. He involuntarily took a frightened step backwards. Professor Hopshanks spoke again, and when she did her voice was very different, as though it wasn't really her speaking, but a deep and cold voice, hollow as though it were speaking from the grave.
"Darkness. Evil is coming. A power arises that is greater than any. It is littering the world with its seed. The spark has been kindled, and soon a flame will spring up and engulf us all. No force on earth can stop it. No force but one."
James shivered under her cold stare, but then Professor Hopshanks' eyes glazed over again. She began turning in circles, her arms spread wide, palms upwards.
"Where are you, Gryffindor?" the strange voice said in a barely audible whisper as cold as the morning frost, "Where are you in our time of need? Reveal yourself, for on you alone rests the charge of defeating the Dark Lord. You alone can stem the tide of evil. You alone can save us."
She stopped, and her arms dropped to her side. She began walking towards the door, and her gait was quite normal, for her standards anyway.
"Mathilda .," Professor McGonagall said, starting towards her.
"Yes, Minerva?" Professor Hopshanks replied in her familiar chanting voice.
"What was all that about?" McGonagall hissed.
"What was what about?" she asked innocently.
Professor McGonagall shook her head in disbelief. The Divination teacher seemed totally oblivious to what had been going on. James stood watching her while she entered the Great Hall.
"Come on," Sirius said in his ear, looking around at the inquisitive faces of the other students, "Let's go in, shall we?"
James allowed his friends to lead him into the Great Hall, but he had lost all enthusiasm for the feast. Somehow he felt that Professor Hopshanks - famous for making up predictions she could fulfil herself as it suited her - had at least one real vision on her record now. He wondered what it meant, and why she had stared so intently at him when she had spoken of the growing evil. All through dinner, it was all he could think of. Surely, she hadn't meant that he was somehow connected to the dark power? What had she said to him?
"Death. Darkness. Evil is coming. A power arises . No force on earth can stop it," she had said. And then,
"Where are you, Gryffindor? . on you alone rests the charge of defeating the Dark Lord."
What Dark Lord was she speaking about? The feast was followed by another sleepless night for James, and the next morning he decided he had to do something, if no more than to speak to someone about it. He needed the advice of someone who might understand the words of the prediction.
He thought of waiting until later and talking to his mother, but he wasn't sure if she would be able to help.
Professor McGonagall, perhaps? She was their house teacher, but still . No. James decided there was only one person he could discuss this with.
* * *
James Potter was not the only one deeply intrigued by Professor Hopshanks' words. In the Slytherin common room, Severus Snape sat up after midnight, still fully dressed and wearing an even deeper frown than usual. Like James, he was convinced that Professor Hopshanks' prediction had, for once, been genuine. But, unlike James, he knew the power no force on earth could stop . no force but one. She had implied that, somehow, Gryffindor would return and defeat the Dark Lord.
This part of the prediction worried Severus. On the one hand, he couldn't imagine that anyone or anything could stop the Lord, but on the other, the prediction had rung all too true to be invented.
He thought hard. From what he had heard, he gathered that Gryffindor's last living heir still bore that name. Could Professor Hopshanks have meant him? But he was by now an old wizard long past his prime, a hermit who rarely ventured out of his home. What threat could he be?
Still frowning and trying to find the solution to the problem, Severus took out a piece of parchment, fetched his quill and ink pot, and began to write a letter.
PLEASE SUBMIT FEEDBACK HERE:http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=22028
January 11th, 2004, 8:19 pm
Words of Advice
James approached the stone gargoyle that guarded the entrance to Dumbledore's office cautiously. He had risen early and slipped away before any of his friends were awake. Today was the day they got on the Hogwarts Express and went home, but he felt that he had to at least make a start on this mystery before he left. In his hand he held the Marauder's Map. It showed the hidden staircase to the headmaster's office, and also the circular room beyond and Dumbledore in it, sitting at his desk. Mrs. Norris, James noticed, was prowling around the entrance hall. He waved his wand across the map and said quietly,
At once, the map wiped itself clean. James stored it in his pocket. He turned to the gargoyle and said,
He grinned as the gargoyle moved aside and the moving spiral staircase appeared. Being called up to the headmaster's office frequently for such offences as putting toppling charms on other people's cauldrons and jinxing Slytherins did have the advantage of keeping him up-to-date on Dumbledore's passwords. James stepped onto the stairs and let them carry him up to the headmaster's door. He cleared his throat and knocked.
"Come in," said Dumbledore's voice, muffled by the door between them.
James entered and looked around him. No matter how often he came here, this circular room was still the most fascinating in all of Hogwarts to him. All around the walls, past headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts sat attending to their morning toilet, some waving merrily at him, others ducking hastily out of sight. And behind the desk sat the present headmaster, Albus Dumbledore himself, looking at James over the rim of his half-moon glasses, apparently not the least bit surprised to see him there.
"Good morning, James," he said. "Have some tea?"
"Good morning, sir. No, thank you," James replied.
He stood there feeling awkward. Now that it had come to it, he didn't quite know how to begin. Dumbledore assisted him by saying,
"Professor McGonagall tells me you had a very interesting encounter with Professor Hopshanks last night. I presume that is what brings you here?"
"Yes," James said gratefully. "She said some very strange things."
"That is hardly unusual," Dumbledore remarked.
"No . I mean ." James looked anxious, but Dumbledore's blue eyes twinkled.
"I understand this time was rather different from her usual ramblings," he said. "From what I hear, it seems more than likely that she actually made a true prediction - her first ever."
"It certainly felt very real. I don't think she was . well . putting it on."
"No," the headmaster agreed gravely, "I don't think so either."
"The things she said though - about the rise of a 'Dark Lord', an evil tide or something. They got me thinking. I know she didn't seem to know who she was talking to most of the time, but she fixed me with her eyes at that point, and I felt . I felt like she meant me. But that can't be true, can it? I mean, I can't have anything to do with the evil power, can I?"
Dumbledore's eyes seemed to delve deep into his mind.
"Do you have reason to believe you might?"
"No. That is ."
James thought back.
"In my first year, the Sorting Hat took a long time to decide where to put me. It said something about my father. I know it chose in the end to put me in Gryffindor, but what it had said worried me at the time. It said it would put me in Gryffindor to 'give me a chance'. I stopped thinking about it after a while. I thought the Hat wouldn't have put me in Gryffindor if I really didn't belong there. But now with this happening, I wonder whether it wasn't wrong after all. Could the evil that Professor Hopshanks spoke about be connected with me?"
"I think," Dumbledore began slowly, "that Professor Hopshanks' prediction may be very closely connected to you."
James paled. He started to say something, but Dumbledore raised a hand to silence him.
"You misunderstand me, James. I do not believe that you have anything to do with the dark power. I have been aware of its presence for some time, and I believe I know who is at the bottom of it."
"Who?" James asked anxiously.
Dumbledore eyed him thoughtfully. At last he said,
"Someone I once knew. A former student of this school."
James swallowed hard.
"You don't mean my . my father?"
"No, James. But someone your father was rather close to. Someone who influenced him greatly, both at school and in later years."
James frowned and sighed.
"I don't really know anything about my father."
"No. That is because, all your life, your mother has done everything in her power to protect you from him, and more still from the person he most admired and whom, I believe, he still serves.
It is that person whom I suspect of being the moving force behind things that have been happening. The Ministry has chosen to deny that there are evil doings afoot, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. He has been gaining influence for a couple of years now, and soon even the Ministry will have to acknowledge that something must be done about it. It will no longer be possible to hide the truth from the world, or for the world to hide from the truth.
But hopefully, it will be possible to hide you from the evil power that is growing for a while longer. For I do believe that part of the prediction may have been addressed to you, and that you have an important part to play yet."
He paused, and studied James for a long time. Finally he went on,
"Do you know the story of Godric Gryffindor, James?"
"No," James admitted. "I expect it's in Hogwarts - A History, isn't it? Why, is it important?"
"I think it could not hurt for you to learn it."
"Then couldn't you tell me about it?"
"I could. But I think I have given you enough to think about today already. I suggest you consult your friends, for you may yet need them in times to come. I believe, also, that your friend Remus will be able to tell you all you want to know about Godric Gryffindor."
"Moony?" James used his friend's nickname by accident, so surprised was he to hear Dumbledore speak his name.
The headmaster watched his face.
"Ah, so I see you know about your friend's difficulty," he said slowly. "I am glad."
James felt awkward. He sincerely hoped Dumbledore wouldn't discover what they had done about it. But he said nothing more on the subject. Instead, he went on,
"Remus is the only boy I know who had read Hogwarts - A History before he ever came here, and probably one of the few students who ever will read it. I'm sure he will be able to help you."
January 12th, 2004, 3:00 am
Well Hello To You ALL!!! Its Me Your All Time Favorite Sin! Special Thanks to LunaFan and VelvetGhost for the comments and feedback! :clap: Well here it is, Chapter 30....Well I must say the story is really taking control of my time right now, All i ever want to do is write and I love that! Well I won't delay any further. Just one more tid bit though...If you really love this story(or absolutly hate it) then TELL ME! Go to http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=22028 and tell me about it!!! And here it is.....
The Journey Home
The Hogwarts Express was chugging along. Remus sat with his nose buried in a heavy book, Peter was munching a sandwich and Sirius had yawned about a dozen times in the past fifteen minutes. James was staring out of the window, watching the countryside go by. At last he turned round.
"Moony," he said, "Look, I know this is going to sound odd, but . I was wondering . What do you know about Godric Gryffindor?"
Remus, surprised, looked up from his book.
"Gryffindor? What do you want to know about him for?" Sirius asked.
"Well, you remember Professor Hopsjanks' prediction?" James replied.
"Yes. But look here, James, you're not saying you take her seriously? She's completely batty," Sirius said.
Remus was still watching James's face.
"You think what she said was true?" he asked.
"I think it might be," said James. "And Dumbledore thinks so too."
"D-Dumbledore?" Peter stammered. "You went to see Dumbledore?"
"Yes. And he told me to ask Moony about Gryffindor."
James turned his face to Remus, who laid his book aside.
"How much do you want to know?"
"I don't know. Anything might be important. You'd better start at the beginning."
"Well," Remus began slowly, "No one really knows where Godric Gryffindor came from. The earliest account states that he was a blacksmith's apprentice in a place called Pine Hollow - its name was later changed to Godric's Hollow. He wasn't content with being a blacksmith, though, and at night, he secretly forged himself a magic sword and armour of his own.
According to legend, Pine Hollow was a dangerous place in those days - there were lots of robbers and evil goblins about. The people were too frightened to stand up to them. The only one who would was a 'mysterious black knight' who appeared at night and raided the robbers' camps. He drove the goblins away and made Pine Hollow a safer place.
Then a dragon came to Pine Hollow. It's said he set fire to several of the houses and made off with the farmers' sheep and cattle. No one fought him, so he kept coming back. One day, the dragon supposedly attacked the nearby stronghold, where the lord of the region lived, and kidnapped the lord's daughter.
A reward was put out for the man who rescued her."
"Let me guess," Sirius interrupted. "He said the man who rescued his daughter could marry her and be rich to the end of his days, right?"
"Got it in one," Remus replied with a smile.
"So Gryffindor rescued the girl and married her - and then what?" James asked.
Remus went on.
"He rescued her and married her, and the lord had a golden suit of armour and a new sword forged for him. A large ruby was set in its hilt, and Godric Gryffindor's name was engraved on it. He continued to fight dragons and ruffians all over the country, and in the end he was knighted for his deeds, and given a castle to be his home - Hogwarts castle. His wife was dead by then, I think, but he had a young son.
He called his friends Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw to him. They wanted to found a school of witchcraft and wizardry, but they had a rival who also planned to start up a school nearby - Salazar Slytherin. Rowena Ravenclaw suggested they should all work together to found just one school. So they did. Then comes the part we all know ."
James nodded. "They couldn't decide how to choose the students for their school, because they all valued different qualities. So they made four houses."
"Yes," Remus confirmed. "And Helga, Rowena and Godric were satisfied. But Slytherin wanted more. He began teaching the students the use of Dark spells and the Unforgivable Curses. He fell out with the other three, and finally left. But before he went, he added a chamber to the castle that only he could open. None of the others knew where it was. The Chamber of Secrets.
They say a deadly monster slept in the Chamber, and that it would awake one day and spread horror and death. But time went by and nothing happened, so people started thinking it was all just a legend, and the other three founders went on as usual.
And then, about thirty years later, Slytherin came back. He wanted to open the Chamber of Secrets. His plan was to set the monster free and let it kill all the students and teachers that weren't pure blood. But Gryffindor found out, and he stopped Slytherin. He killed him with his sword, but when he was dying, Slytherin swore that one day, his true heir would return to Hogwarts and open the Chamber to finish his deed."
"Gryffindor killed him?" Peter exclaimed.
"What would you have done if someone wanted to kill off all the students?" Sirius pointed out. "Go on, Moony."
"Well, there's not much more to tell really," Remus said. "Gryffindor left Hogwarts and hunted down Slytherin's brother and his heirs. He fought them, and he killed them - all except one. The last heir of Slytherin killed Godric Gryffindor. Gryffindor's son went looking for him, but he never found him.
Supposedly, an heir of Slytherin actually did return to Hogwarts once. A girl was actually killed, I think. But they caught whoever did it and still no one's sure whether the Chamber of Secrets really exists. Still, some say Slytherin's heir will return one day and continue to work evil."
"There you are then," Sirius remarked triumphantly, "I was right: Hopshanks made it all up. She obviously knows this story, and she was just being a bit spookier than usual. 'Dark Lord' is probably just her melodramatic version of 'Slytherin's heir'. I really don't think there's anything to worry about, James."
But James was looking thoughtful.
"Dumbledore says that part of Professor Hopshanks' prediction is definitely true," he said at last in a hushed voice. "He says there is something evil going on, and that he thinks he knows who's behind it. If that part of the prediction was true, why couldn't the rest be?"
"B-but if it is . well, wouldn't it be wiser if we kept our noses out of it, whatever it is?" Peter suggested.
His voice was trembling and he looked white as a sheet.
"I don't know that we can," James whispered back. "Dumbledore seems to think that I, at least, am somehow involved or going to be involved, and he suggested that I should talk to you three, because I might need your help."
Remus leaned forward confidentially.
"But if all this really is true and there is a dark force growing, what can we do? And what does Gryffindor have to do with it? I mean, even his son is long dead by now. Unless she meant that there is a more recent heir of Gryffindor, and that he can stop this evil."
"But who could that be?" Sirius wondered.
James shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't know."
"Well, that at least shouldn't be too difficult to discover," Remus said hopefully. "There must be a book somewhere in the library that will tell us about Gryffindor's descendants. All we have to do is go there after the holidays and look it up."
James frowned. He didn't like the idea of waiting so long before finding out more. But there was little else they could do - or that he could do, anyway. He had hardly any access to magic books at all during the holidays. Remus seemed to notice his dissatisfaction, because he said,
"Look, I'll find out what I can at home. But I doubt we'll get very far without the Hogwarts library."
January 13th, 2004, 1:29 am
NOTE: Proffesor Hopshanks was an edit i made because of the release of Order of the Phoienix. Originally it was Trelawny, but OotP complcated that. Just so you know, I have now changed Hopshanks back to Trelawney, due to my laziness :) Just letting you know so no confusion is made. Enjoy!
Back to School
At last the holidays were nearly over. Looking back, James wondered why he had been so looking forward to them in the first place. Now, he longed to go back to Hogwarts, somehow feeling that the solution to all the mystery could be found there. It was the morning of the 30th of August, and James looked across the sunlit room to the camp bed standing against the opposite wall. As though feeling his friend's eyes on him, Sirius Black turned over and, blinking in the bright light, opened his eyes and stretched.
"Morning, James," he yawned. "How long have you been awake?"
James turned his head to look at the clock on his cabinet.
"About an hour," he said.
"Crikey," Sirius exclaimed. "And you're not up yet?"
"Didn't feel like getting up," James answered. "I've been thinking."
"You're not on about Professor Trelawney and her so-called prediction again, are you?"
James picked up a sheaf of parchment from the bedside cabinet. It was a letter written in a very neat hand.
"Moony says there's definitely something going on, but he won't tell us in a letter. And he hasn't been able to find out much about Gryffindor or his descendants. You'd think there'd be a book somewhere on someone as famous as that."
Sirius shrugged his shoulders lazily.
"I really wouldn't worry about it," he said for the umpteenth time, "I still think the batty butterfly was making it all up."
James still looked doubtful. There was a knock on the door, and his mother looked in.
"Good morning, you two," she said brightly. "Ready for your breakfast?"
"You bet!" Sirius replied enthusiastically, jumping out of bed.
Bridget Potter withdrew to let them get washed and dressed and went into the kitchen. She opened the window wide to let some air in and set about making tea and sandwiches. There was a fluttering noise behind her, and she turned to see a large barn owl sitting on the draining board. It had a folded parchment tied to its left leg. Anxious that the neighbours might see it, Bridget hurried to relieve the bird of its burden and let it take flight, praying that no one would notice an owl flying through the middle of London in broad daylight.
She unfolded the parchment, and as she did so a newspaper cutting floated out onto the floor. She picked it up. Her heart beat faster. She felt the blood drain from her face and turned her attention to the letter.
James heard the kettle whistle and wondered why his mother didn't take it off the heat. He hurried into the kitchen, grabbed a tea towel and moved the boiling water quickly, turning off the gas. Turning round, he found his mother sitting on a kitchen chair holding a piece of parchment and staring at it. Her face was as white as a sheet.
"Mum!" he exclaimed. "What's the matter?"
There was a silence interrupted only by the sound of water running in the bathroom, where Sirius was having a shower.
"Sit down," James's mother said at last, getting up to close the kitchen door.
She came back and sat down on the chair next to his.
"This letter," she began, "Is from Professor Dumbledore."
James's mind raced. He thought immediately of Remus, and that he himself had let slip his friend's nickname before the holidays. Surely Dumbledore hadn't found out about the Marauders? But then he realised his mother was holding something else in her other hand - a newspaper cutting. Bridget Potter went on, holding up the cutting,
"He sent me this, and he seems to think that you should see it too. I suppose he is right that there are certain things that, at your age, I can no longer protect you from."
James took the cutting from his mother's hand and examined it. There was a moving picture of a man being led away by wizards dressed in solemn black robes. The headline read "Wizard arrested for Muggle torturing".
James read the article. It was about a wizard called Vindictus Lothian, an employee of the Ministry of Magic, who had been caught in the act of torturing a young Muggle woman and child with a curse James had never even heard of - a 'Cruciatus' curse, the Daily Prophet called it - apparently just for sport. They were now to be taken to St. Mungo's, where it was hoped they could be healed.
James looked up at his mother.
"That's . terrible," was all he could find to say.
Bridget nodded tightly.
"Did . did you know the woman?" James guessed.
This time, his mother shook her head.
"No, not her. But I do know the man in that picture."
James looked back at the photograph. The wizard that was being arrested looked to be in his late forties. He seemed quite tall, with a handsome face and untidy black hair.
Bridget rose from her seat and crossed the room to look out of the window. When she finally turned her head to look at James again, he noticed that her eyes were red, her brow lined with care - she looked somehow much older than usual.
"That man," she said in little more than a whisper, "Is the man I married when I was too young to know what I really wanted, or to see him for what he was. My father warned me of him, but I thought I knew better than he did, for all his years of experience. I ran away with Vindictus Lothian, and I married him. I was young, and I was a fool.
I soon discovered my mistake. His friends were a bad set, already plotting certain acts against people with what they called 'bad blood', and he was no better. When I found I was pregnant, I knew there was only one thing I could do to keep you safe from him and his friends. I waited until he had gone out, and then I packed my bags and left. I didn't know where to go or what to do, but I knew I had to get away before he ever found out that you were on the way. If he had known . You wouldn't have stood a chance. He and his friends would soon have 'converted' you to their side, and I couldn't allow that to happen.
I ended up here quite by chance, frightened and penniless. If it hadn't been for Mrs. Hammersmith's kindness, you and I would both have died one cold and rainy night, somewhere on a street corner in London. But she took pity on me, and she helped me get through the first few years on my own. I changed my name and left everything I ever had behind to start a new life where you would be safe. But I have known for some time now that a dark wizard has been gaining influence here and abroad, and I have long suspected who he is, and that Vindictus still supports him. And now we have evidence."
James was still staring at the picture in his hand. At last he asked timidly,
"Then . this man is my father?"
"Yes," Bridget answered sadly. "I'm afraid he is. And I'm afraid that there will be worse news to come before this is ended. There is something evil going on, and I am pretty sure that the person behind it will not stop at a little torturing. There are far worse things he can do."
James debated for a long moment before he asked the next question, the one that really intrigued him.
"Who is behind it all?"
Bridget studied him anxiously.
"He was at school with Vindictus - your father - and your father looked up to him. His friends called him Lord Voldemort. But I don't think that's his real name. Your father used a different name for him once when he thought they were alone. I'm afraid I can't remember it, though."
* * *
Lily stroked her long red hair back over her shoulder and took a deep breath. She was standing in front of the barrier that divided platforms 9 and 10 at King's Cross station. With a nervous look around her, she made sure there were no Muggle porters watching, then she walked straight up to the barrier - and right through it.
She came out on platform 9 ¾, where the big red steam engine of the Hogwarts Express was already waiting. The platform was crowded with students and parents. Lily sighed. Her own parents had not been able to come today. There was some special performance going on at her sister Petunia's school, and though her parents would rather have come to see her off, Lily had told them to go with Petunia, who was always so unbearably jealous of her anyway. She looked around and spotted several familiar faces.
Near the front of the train, just climbing up into a compartment was a surly, greasy-haired boy with a look about him that seemed to say everyone else was not good enough to breathe the same air as he did. He caught Lily's eye as he turned to say goodbye to his parents, and she quickly looked the other way.
A few compartments on from this youngster - Severus Snape of Slytherin house, as Lily knew - she spotted Frank Longbottom, who smiled her way and waved. Lily smiled back. Frank was not only a bright boy, but he was also good-natured and friendly at all times, which made him very popular. With him was his best friend, Damian Diggle from Hufflepuff.
A little way to her left, Lily spotted another fifth-year: a thin, weary- faced boy with scattered streaks of silver in his light brown hair. Recognising Remus Lupin, she immediately pushed her trolley in the opposite direction, towards the rear of the train, staring down at her feet and hoping he would not notice her. If he did, she would have to stop and say hello, and then his friends would turn up, and among them would be . Suddenly she came up against an obstacle. Looking up, she realised that she had collided with another trolley that was being pushed by just the person she had wanted to avoid.
James Potter smiled, but it struck Lily that he looked rather different from the last time she had seen him. His face looked drawn, his hair - if possible - was untidier than usual and the eyes behind his glasses looked tired. Lily felt her cheeks flush, mumbled a hasty "Sorry" and pushed on, forcing herself not to look back. She fancied she could feel James's eyes on her back, but she went on, no longer seeing the other students around her.
"Lily! Lily, over here!"
She turned her head and realised that she had just walked straight past her friend, Aurora Borealis from Ravenclaw.
"Rory!" she cried, hugging the other girl.
Aurora hugged her back.
"A sickle for your thoughts," she joked.
Lily stared at her rather vacantly.
"Oh, come on," Aurora laughed, her eyes twinkling. "Don't think I didn't notice you staring at James again."
Lily went beetroot.
"I wasn't staring at him!" she protested indignantly.
Aurora just grinned and tossed her head of auburn hair.
"Come on," she said, "Let's get on the train, shall we?"
* * *
James waited until after the welcome feast, when he and the others sat together in a quiet corner of the common room, before he told Remus and Peter what he had already told Sirius yesterday: what his mother had said about his father and his friends. When he had finished, Remus nodded his head slowly.
"I've been hearing a lot of things through the summer as well," he said. "Seems there have been a lot of strange goings-on at the Ministry. I asked my dad about it. He wouldn't tell me anything at first, but in the end he admitted they've been hushing a lot up for a couple of years now.
Apparently it all began when a couple of Ministry officials started getting ideas that they were somehow better than others, because they were what they call 'pure-blood'. It all started with reasonably harmless pettiness, but it's been growing steadily worse, and spreading to higher places. There are actually several ministers now who think that anyone who's not pure- blood shouldn't be allowed to hold certain positions, and won't employ Muggle-borns or half-bloods.
This Muggle torturing reported in the Daily Prophet wasn't the first, either. It looks like the right-thinking magic community has rather a problem on its hands."
"But h-how did all this get started?" Peter asked.
"Goodness knows," said Sirius, finally convinced that there was more to Professor Trelawney's prediction than just her battiness. "But the general opinion seems to be that there's just one moving force behind it all. One wizard who's been making pure-blood wizards think they're superior to anyone else and do more than just look down their noses at them."
Slowly, Peter nodded. He said,
"Like I told you all, my sister Polly got married this summer, and . well, she and her husband, Leonard Lestrange, seem to be of that opinion too. But why do people listen to that sort of talk?"
"Oh, people will believe anything, if it makes them feel better," Remus said. "Look at Severus Snape, or any of the other Slytherins. They all think they're better than the rest of us anyway. If someone came along and played up to their arrogance, and suggested they should kick us all out and take over the school, I don't doubt they'd be on his side at once."
"Then maybe we should just kick all the Slytherins out instead," Sirius suggested.
"I only used that as an example, Sirius," Remus replied. "There won't be only Slytherins who support whoever's behind this. The question is, who is 'He', and how do we stop him?"
They all instinctively looked to James, who had said nothing for the past minutes, but sat thoughtfully in the corner.
"I don't know that we can," he said at last. "What I've heard and what you were saying, Moony, makes me more sure than ever that Professor Trelawney was right. There is an evil drawing closer every minute, we have enough evidence of that now. All we know about this Dark Lord is that my mother says they used to call him Lord Voldemort. But it doesn't seem likely that that's his real name. She said he was a friend of my father's when he was at school here. The Sorting Hat implied something of that sort when it was on my head four years ago."
"Well, there must be a book or register somewhere that lists all the students Hogwarts has ever had," said Remus. "Now that we know your father's name, it shouldn't be too difficult to find out what year he was here, and from there all we have to do is discover who his friends were. I'll go and check the library now, if you like."
"Thanks, Moony," James said, "But I'd rather go myself, if you don't mind. I need a bit of space to think."
He left the common room with a heavy heart. The portrait of the fat lady swung back into place. But shortly after, the gap in the wall opened again, and another figure climbed through the hole.
* * *
James wandered aimlessly back and forth between the bookshelves in the library. He was supposed to be looking for something that would help him find out more about the Dark Lord, but his thoughts weighed too heavily on his mind. He couldn't think straight, and in any case he had no idea where to begin searching for the kind of book he wanted. He could ask the librarian, but he didn't want to let any more people know what he was up to than was absolutely necessary.
With a sigh, James sank down onto a seat and, resting his elbows on the desk, he shut his eyes and hid his face in his hands, tugging with his fingers at his already untidy hair. He didn't hear quiet footsteps approach, or notice anyone looking down at him. It wasn't until he heard the creaking of the seat opposite his that he looked up. His eyes widened.
Opposite him sat none other than Lily Evans. Her long red hair was tied back in a ponytail and her green eyes were watching him thoughtfully. James's frown deepened. He hardly knew how to talk to her. There had been a time when they had been almost friendly, when she had smiled when she saw him, and he had smiled back. But today at the station, she had seemed far from pleased to see him, and had hurried away. She had barely looked at him or spoken to him for ages, even before the holidays.
Actually, they hadn't exchanged a single word since the day of the Ravenclaw vs. Gryffindor Quidditch match last year. While that match had seemed to make most of the other girls at the school regard him with some kind of awe bordering on hero worship, it appeared to have made Lily colder towards him, though James couldn't think why. But now Lily spoke.
"Hello," she said awkwardly.
Her voice was soft. James gave a meek smile in answer.
"Were you . looking for something in particular?" she asked.
"Nothing you can help me with," he replied a little too sharply.
"Well, you'll hardly know that until you've tried me," said Lily quietly.
"I don't need your help," James snapped. "Just some peace and quiet."
"Oh, right," she said haughtily. "Sorry I spoke. I'll just go away again then. I just thought you looked upset about something, but if you're going to be like that, don't let me bother you."
She got up and stalked out. James sat for a moment, not thinking at all. It wasn't until he heard the door slam shut that he realised how unkind he had been. After all, she had only tried to be friendly. He got to his feet and went after her, but by the time James reached the door, Lily was gone.
January 17th, 2004, 12:20 am
Defense Against the Dark Arts
The first lesson the next day was Defence Against the Dark Arts with the Ravenclaws. Lily took a seat in the back row with Aurora. She had been telling her friend about her meeting with James in the library.
"Oh, come on, Lily," Aurora whispered while they unpacked their books, "You said yourself he seemed upset. I'm sure he didn't mean to snap at you like that."
Lily gave a tired frown. She had barely slept a wink last night, and it showed in her face.
"He's been behaving so differently lately. I can't think why ."
"No, Lily," Aurora objected honestly, "He's not behaved differently at all, if you'd noticed. You're the one who's been different. It all started with the Quidditch match last year. Before that, you were all for him, always flashing your eyes at him ..."
"I wasn't!" Lily protested.
She quickly held her hand in front of her mouth. Professor Darkhardt had just entered the classroom and glanced her way. Aurora wisely waited until he looked in the other direction before she answered.
"You were, you probably just don't know it was that obvious. But don't think I didn't notice you looking across at him at every opportunity. Then he goes and rescues Mary off her broom - which is no more than any other boy would have done in his place, by the way - the whole school goes nuts about him and you somehow blame him for having become the school hero over night.
All the other girls, who've never looked at him before in their lives, suddenly swarm around him like flies - one of the Hufflepuffs actually pestered him until he signed her copy of 'Quidditch Through the Ages' - and you wait until you think everyone's fast asleep before you sneak off to the hospital wing."
"How do you know about that?" she whispered.
Aurora smiled slyly and touched her temple with her right forefinger. Lily sighed.
"I don't even know if he likes me or not."
"I could find out for you," her friend offered.
Lily looked horrified.
"You mean you'd actually, well . read his mind?"
"If that's the only way I can get you to see what's good for you."
Lily shook her red head vehemently.
"I won't have you poking around in his mind."
"I wouldn't poke. He'd never even know I was there. But okay, if you'd rather not, then you'll just have to do it the old-fashioned way. Give him another chance, Lily."
"Miss Borealis, Miss Evans!" Professor Darkhardt interrupted them. "I have no doubt whatever you two are discussing must be highly fascinating. Perhaps you would like to let us all benefit from your intriguing conversation."
The two girls fell silent and looked uncomfortable. The professor looked from one to the other of them.
"No?" he said at last. "Well, then perhaps you'd like to turn your attention back to the subject at hand. Mr. Black just mentioned the luring charm the Dark Wizard of Hamlyn performed with his pipe. Can either of you tell us any more about that?"
Aurora fingered the pages of her book. Lily looked across at her friend miserably. It was all very well for her to talk like that. She didn't feel as Lily did about James .
* * *
James, Sirius, Remus and Peter were the last to leave the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. James was still brooding, and his friends were growing rather worried about him.
"Oh, do brighten up, Prongs," Sirius whispered. "We'll find out what we need to know soon enough. Meanwhile, we ought to be having some fun. I didn't buy that special offer packet of fifty dungbombs and the exploding wands for nothing, you know. And we've got tonight to look forward to. It's a full moon, remember. Also, I've thought of something we could add to our map."
James brightened up a little. Sirius was always full of ideas for anything that was against the rules.
"What's that? A Peeves-repelling charm?"
"Not quite," Sirius grinned. "Just a bit of fun, really. I thought we could magic it so that, if a teacher tries to read it . ouch!"
A sharp nudge in the ribs from Remus interrupted him. Sirius looked round, and discovered that Professor Darkhardt had caught up with them. He eyed them all with a cold stare for a moment, then he turned to Remus.
"Lupin, could I have a word?"
Remus looked around anxiously at his friends, then he nodded.
* * *
Lily and Aurora turned down a corridor to the left of the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom.
"I can't believe our luck," Aurora was saying cheerfully. "We were talking all through the first part of the lesson, and Darkhardt didn't even give us detention. I knew he couldn't be as evil as a lot of people seem to think."
Lily didn't answer. Aurora turned her head to look at her. Her brow was furrowed and she was biting her lip, not looking where she was going. Suddenly Lily collided with someone coming the other way.
"Oh, sorry," she muttered, looking up and recognising Severus Snape.
He looked down at them both coldly and lifted a hand to slick back his thin black hair. His stare seemed to fix Lily, who felt an involuntary tremble.
"Get out of my way," he hissed.
"Hey," Aurora protested, reaching out a hand to hold him back. "She said 'sorry', there's no need to be so downright unfriendly."
Severus looked down at her with a raised eyebrow.
"A word of advice," he said with his typical superior air. "I suggest you show more discretion when choosing your friends. Times are coming when it would be wise for decent witches not to be seen in the company of ."
He studied Lily with a sideways glance, seemingly looking for a suitable word.
"People like her," he said finally, making it sound like he was referring to something slimy and disgusting.
"And what is wrong with people like me?" Lily demanded, recovering some of her spirit.
Severus Snape just sneered.
"Get out of my way, mudblood," he whispered menacingly.
"You take that back!" Aurora cried, reaching for her wand.
Severus Snape reached for his at the same time.
* * *
Professor Darkhardt sat down behind his desk and fingered the scar on his left cheek, gazing thoughtfully up at Remus. Finally, he leaned forward and motioned to the boy to sit down. Remus did so, feeling rather nervous. As always when a teacher asked to speak to him, he feared that his nightly escapades with his friends had been discovered, and that he would be expelled. But Professor Darkhardt's next words caught him by surprise.
"I have been wondering," the grizzled old man said in his gruff voice, "What you plan to do with yourself after you finish school."
"I . haven't really thought about it all that much," Remus said truthfully. "I mean, I still have a few years to go."
"Do you think you might like teaching?" the professor asked.
"I suppose I might," Remus said. "But I . I don't really think anyone would employ me as a teacher."
The professor looked thoughtful.
"You are a very bright student," he said at last, and Remus was surprised by this open praise. "And I think you have a real knack for Defence Against the Dark Arts, which may yet come in useful, the way things are going."
"Err, thank you, sir," Remus muttered.
Professor Darkhardt smiled for the first time since Remus had known him. It was a crooked smile. The left corner of his mouth twitched up briefly to meet his scar, which gave him rather a lop-sided appearance.
"I have another student at the moment who is not so good at this subject," he went on. "A student whose skills could no doubt be greatly improved with a little assistance. Would you be prepared to help?"
"I'd love to," Remus found himself saying.
"Good lad," said the professor approvingly. "Wait here."
And with that, he left Remus all alone in the room.
January 18th, 2004, 12:23 am
While Severus and Aurora were drawing their wands, Lily, forgetting for a moment that she was a witch and reverting instead to the much earlier instincts of her Muggle childhood, suddenly swung her right arm and sent her bag crashing into the Slytherin's side. Severus Snape stumbled, but he just had enough time to mutter a hex under his breath in the process.
Aurora screamed and covered her face with both hands, dropping her wand. Lily, turning around to see what had happened, was caught unawares by a disarming spell which hit her in the back and sent her flying forwards. She landed on the floor with a heavy thump. Quickly struggling to sit up, out of the corner of her eye she could see Severus Snape, still sneering, raise his wand again to hex her too. She knew she could never get her wand out of her bag in time to stop him, and dreaded to think what he was going to do. But no hex came.
"Expelliarmus!" a voice behind her called.
Severus's wand flew from his hand. For a moment he just stood there, looking dazed. Lily turned her head and her heart gave a leap. A few paces away stood James Potter, wand in hand, glaring at the taller Slytherin boy.
"Potter!" Severus hissed between gritted teeth.
"Hello," James said with icy politeness.
Severus Snape looked about to pick up his wand, but then another voice spoke.
"Don't!" called Sirius Black, stepping out from behind the wall. "You've picked a bad time to annoy us, slimeball. We're really not in the mood."
He gave a nod, and Peter Pettigrew appeared. Slowly and rather timidly, the boy approached Severus Snape and picked his wand up off the floor. He then slipped it into Severus's pocket.
"And that's where it stays," Sirius warned him. "Or else you'll be crawling to the hospital wing on all fours, and don't think anyone will help you."
Severus Snape looked like he was about to answer back, but faced with three young wizards and two witches who were against him, he thought better of it. Instead, he merely snorted and strode past them, allowing his cloak to billow out behind him in what he seemed to think was an impressive manner.
James and Sirius watched him out of sight before turning their attention to the girls. James helped Lily to her feet, while Sirius went to see what was wrong with Aurora, who was still covering her face.
"What's the matter?" he asked, putting his wand away.
"My . my eyes," Aurora mumbled.
"Let me see."
Aurora struggled, but at last Sirius managed to draw her hands away from her face. He drew a deep breath, and James, Lily and Peter hurried over as Aurora covered her face again.
"It was a disorientation curse," Sirius explained. "Her eyes keep moving in all directions, they won't stop. I'll take her to Madam Pomfrey," he added practically.
He took Aurora by the arm.
"Come on," he said reassuringly, "You'll be okay."
"I'll come with you," Lily said, but Sirius shook his head.
"She'll be fine, I'll look after her. See you later."
He gave Peter a wink and a nod, then he led Aurora away towards the hospital wing.
* * *
Remus nervously tapped the arm of the chair for a while. Then he began to study his surroundings. The Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher's office was quite small and smelt musty, but it was full of fascinating devices. On the window ledge stood something that looked like a small spinning top, whirring steadily - a sneakoscope, he guessed. On the shelves stood rows upon rows of books about the Dark Arts, Dark wizards in history, curses and counter-curses.
Gaining a little confidence, Remus left his seat and took a look around. He peered out of the window, and even dared to touch the back of the teacher's chair. Actually, he found he quite liked this room. He could feel quite comfortable here himself. There was a knock on the door, and Remus hardly felt nervous at all.
"Come in," he called out, curiously fingering the sneakoscope.
The door was pushed slowly open, and someone stepped timidly into the office. Remus turned, and surprise registered at once in his face. He studied the small girl who stood in front of him, her curly brown hair swept back and plaited, her clear blue eyes fixed on the floor.
"Hello," she mumbled.
"Hello," said Remus. "You're Heather Woodcock, aren't you?"
The young girl stared at him.
"Y-you remember my name?"
Remus nodded matter-of-factly. Heather's face brightened and her cheeks flushed a pretty shade of pink.
"So," Remus went on, smiling. "You need help with Defence Against the Dark Arts, do you?"
She nodded eagerly.
"I think I must be pretty hopeless at it. Professor Darkhardt held me back after our last lesson and I thought he was going to be really cross with me, but instead he was quite friendly, and he said he knew of someone who was very good at the subject, and that he was sure you'd help me. I'm . ever so grateful to you for taking the time," she finished slightly short of breath.
"You're welcome," Remus replied.
Heather beamed at him.
* * *
"Err . I . err . Excuse me," Peter stammered when Sirius had left them. "I must get back to the dormitory. I want to finish a letter to my sister. See you later, James."
He smiled at them both and disappeared in the wrong direction, if he had really been going to the dormitory. Lily watched him leave, then she turned shyly to James.
"Thanks for what you did just then," she began. "If you hadn't showed up when you did ."
"Don't mention it," James said awkwardly.
"It was very good of Sirius to help Aurora like that. I must admit I always thought he was just a bit of a . well ."
"A rogue," Lily concluded apologetically.
"In that case, so am I."
James shrugged his shoulders in a manner that secretly amused Lily very much, because it was the same way she had often seen Sirius shrug his shoulders. She stood back and seemed to consider him.
"Perhaps you are," Lily said lightly.
James held the gaze of her bright green eyes for a while, then he looked away.
"Look, about yesterday," he said. "I realise I was rather rude, and I'm sorry."
"It's all right," she assured him, surprised at how little she cared about what had happened yesterday anymore. "You've more than made up for it today. Besides, you were obviously upset. I shouldn't have butted in."
James shook his head.
"I still shouldn't have talked to you like that. Forgive me?"
Lily flashed a brilliant smile at him. He looked into her eyes again, and suddenly a memory came back to him. A dream. Himself on a broomstick. He had raced after a broom he had taken to be Mary Crimple's, and then he had seen a pair of bright green eyes. He knew whose eyes they were now. But with that knowledge came an inexplicable fear, and he remembered another part of the same dream. A woman's voice screaming his name.
"James," Lily said. "Are you all right?"
James started. His face had paled while remembering the dream, and he now looked once again worried. He looked down, and found that Lily's green eyes were searching his face anxiously. He smiled.
"Sorry," he said, "I was just thinking about something."
"You know, yesterday's offer still stands," Lily said gently. "If there's anything I can do ."
James hesitated on the brink of telling her he didn't feel like he could confide in her. Then he realised that would be a lie.
"Not now," he said instead, checking his watch. "We both have to get to the Charms classroom. I'll tell you later, okay? Meet me in the courtyard after lesson? Say at five?"
Lily hesitated only a moment before she nodded.
* * *
"Really," Madam Pomfrey complained. "It is time the teachers did something to stop all the hexing and jinxing that goes on outside lessons. Mr. Filch's ban on magic in the corridors doesn't seem to have helped either. Poor girl," she muttered, scraping an unappetising gooey grey paste onto a bandage and placing it over Aurora's closed eyes.
Aurora flinched at the touch of the cold goo. Madam Pomfrey fastened the bandage and led Aurora to a bed.
"There, dear," she said. "You just lie here for a while. The bandage will have to stay on until tomorrow morning, I'm afraid, but you'll be as right as rain again then. Call me if you need anything."
With that, she bustled away to her office at the end of the ward. Sirius approached the bed.
"How do I look?" Aurora asked in an attempt to make light of her problem.
Sirius grinned, although he knew she couldn't see it.
"It suits you," he said.
"What was that stuff she put on my eyes?"
"Trust me," Sirius whispered. "You don't want to know. It looked revolting. Like . jellyfied rat."
"Eurgh." Aurora pulled a face. "You're right, I didn't want to know."
"Listen," he said, "I must get back downstairs for lessons. I'll look in again later, okay?"
Aurora leaned back on her pillow and listened to his brisk footsteps leaving the room.
January 19th, 2004, 3:04 am
The Secret of the Whomping Willow
Later that afternoon, Severus Snape strolled along a corridor on the fourth floor of Hogwarts castle going over the day's events in his mind. He scowled at the mere thought of how James Potter and Sirius Black had humiliated him. And as for Peter Pettigrew - Severus snorted. He was nothing more than a worm. A crawler, fawning on people who were stronger than him, people he thought could protect him.
Fool. A cruel smile tugged at the corner of Severus's mouth. They were all fools. But soon they would all be taught better. Soon they would know there were some things it was impossible to protect yourself against. Powers far beyond their control. Soon they would wish they had never crossed him, and they would grovel before him, begging for forgiveness. But Severus would show them no mercy. 'There is only power, and those too weak to see it.'
Those had been the Dark Lord's words to his supporters, and Severus had been proud to be one of the youngest to not only hear them, but to understand their meaning, and feel secure in the knowledge that he was on the side of power. He would show them all. That intolerably over-confident Sirius Black, behaving like he owned the world; cowardly Peter Pettigrew, afraid of his own shadow; Remus Lupin, the sickly, soft bookworm; Lily Evans, that green-eyed mudblood; and James Potter.
A hot flood of hatred boiled in Severus at the thought of Potter. There was nothing he could really put his finger on that made him hate James Potter, but hate him he did, with all his heart. And one day he would unleash that hatred, and Potter would curse the day of his own birth.
Severus smiled grimly and stopped in front of a window. He looked out towards the Forbidden Forest and placed a clenched fist on the window ledge. One day soon he would be free of this school and its foolish old Muggle-loving headmaster. Some seemed to doubt that even the Dark Lord had the power to overthrow Dumbledore. But not Severus. He was certain the old wizard would bow and scrape before his master, the same as everyone else.
He looked down onto the lawn, and suddenly his thoughts were interrupted. Two figures were moving slowly across the grounds, away from the castle and towards that hideous and vicious tree that had been planted in the year Severus himself had come to Hogwarts. He recognised one of them as Madam Pomfrey, the matron. And the other . Sirius felt a thrill of excitement. Surely that was Remus Lupin.
Severus looked quickly around him. There was no one there. Good. He leaned forward out of the window, craning his neck to see better. To his surprise, for some reason the tree seemed to have frozen, and Madam Pomfrey was now standing back while Remus . Severus caught his breath. Remus Lupin had vanished. He seemed to have disappeared among the roots of the whomping willow. Madam Pomfrey turned away from the tree and made her way back to the castle.
Severus stood back from the window, his thoughts racing. There was something very mysterious going on here, and he would find out what it was, if it was the last thing he did. With a determined spring in his step, he strode back along the corridor in the direction of the staircase.
* * *
James checked his wristwatch on the way down to the courtyard. It was exactly five to five. Good. That should give him enough time to tell Lily what he and the others had discovered, grab a bite to eat, get back up to the dormitory, finish his Divination homework and go to bed early. He, Padfoot and Wormtail would get a couple of hours of sleep, and Sirius would set his silent alarm clock for ten o'clock. Frank Longbottom would be fast asleep by then - he only needed to look at a pillow and he'd fall asleep. James sometimes envied him. He wished he could sleep like that. Then they'd take the Marauder's Map and his Invisibility Cloak, and they'd sneak down to the whomping willow. Wormtail would crawl under its thrashing branches and freeze it, and then they'd go in and get Moony. He smiled. They had planned a trip into the Forbidden Forest tonight. It would be fun, and probably rather dangerous.
James slowed his steps as he came around the corner. He spotted Lily waiting for him on a low wall. She smiled and waved when she saw him. James smiled back and went over to join her.
"Hello," he said, sitting on the wall beside her.
"Hello, James," she replied.
"Err . how's your friend?" he enquired, although he already knew, really. Sirius had told him.
"She's fine," Lily said brightly. "Madam Pomfrey put some revolting goo on her eyes, and she'll be back to normal again by tomorrow. So - what's all the secrecy?" she asked.
James looked at Lily. Her green eyes were bright with eager anticipation. James could understand that. He himself loved nothing more than mystery and excitement. Unfortunately, what he had to tell her didn't make him feel excited at all. In fact, if he was honest, it just plain scared him.
"I suppose it all started with Professor Trelawney's prediction," he began. And then he told Lily all he knew.
* * *
Sirius Black closed the door of the hospital wing behind him, buried his hands in his pockets and strolled away in the direction of the main staircase, whistling to himself. He wondered what he should do with himself for the rest of the evening. Moony was in the shrieking shack by now, Prongs was meeting Lily Evans in the courtyard. He supposed he could go and find Wormtail and play a game of chess, but somehow he didn't feel like it.
He went down into the Great Hall and found Frank Longbottom sitting with Damian Diggle and Bertha Jorkins at the Hufflepuff table. They looked up when he entered.
"Hello Sirius," Bertha cried eagerly, waving a pack of cards at him. "We were just going to play exploding snap. Care to join us?"
She shifted to her right a little, rather superfluously making room for him on the long bench. Sirius shook his head.
"Nah," he said. "Don't feel like it. I think I'll go for a walk," he added on an impulse, turning right around again.
Bertha sighed and watched the door close behind him.
"Are you dealing, Bertha? Or aren't we good enough for you?" Damian asked, pretending to be hurt.
Bertha ignored him and began shuffling the cards with a disappointed look on her face.
"Ooh, think our Blacky's rather handsome, do you?" Frank teased.
"Shut up," Bertha muttered, blushing furiously.
"Sorry to disappoint you, Bertie," Damian put in. "But a lot of girls seem to share your opinion. I'm afraid you don't stand much of a chance with girls like Aurora about."
"And what would someone like Sirius want with her?" Bertha retorted hotly. "If she didn't happen to be able to read his mind and know just what he wants her to say, he wouldn't think twice about her."
"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Damian disagreed.
"And why is that?" Bertha demanded.
Damian looked down at his hands.
"Oh, nothing. Just that . well, you've got to admit she's rather pretty," he admitted, his ears going red.
Frank laughed merrily.
"Oh pack it in, both of you. Are we going to play exploding snap or not?"
* * *
Sirius pushed the heavy front door open and walked out into the last rays of the day's sunlight. His foot touched something soft. Looking down, he saw Mrs. Norris, the caretaker's scrawny tabby cat. She hissed at him angrily.
"Well, you shouldn't get in my way, should you?" Sirius said.
He walked on down the stairs and around the corner of the castle, following the wall along the grounds. Then he slowed his steps. A few paces away, a black-haired boy in Slytherin robes was standing with his back to Sirius, looking out across the lawn. Sirius waited until he stood right behind the other boy.
"Bird-watching, Severus?" he asked. "You won't spot anything like that."
Severus Snape spun round and glared at him.
"You had better keep out of my way," Severus replied quietly.
Sirius took half a step back in mock fear.
"Tough words for someone who threatens to hex girls who haven't even drawn their wands."
Severus clenched his fists to control his fury. Sirius smiled with exaggerated friendliness.
"So, what are you up to?" he asked.
Severus considered telling him to mind his own business, but then he changed his mind. Instead he smiled back.
"It's a strange thing," he began slowly. "But I was looking out of the window earlier and I saw two people walking across the lawn to the whomping willow."
Sirius tried to look politely interested. Severus continued.
"Yes. One of them I'm sure was Madam Pomfrey, but she went back to the castle a few moments later. And I could have sworn the other was your friend Lupin. He seemed to disappear . inside the tree."
Recovering from the initial shock at having this secret discovered, Sirius brought his fake smile back into place.
"Really? Well, isn't that fascinating?"
Sirius felt the other boy's cold eyes on him.
"Now as we all know," Severus went on, "it's strictly forbidden for anyone to approach that tree, and until now I had always thought no one would want to. It is well known, after all, that the whomping willow is violent. And yet it allowed Lupin to approach and seemingly vanish among its roots without so much as a murmur. Curious, don't you think?"
"No," Sirius replied lightly.
An outrageous plan was taking shape in his mind. He wondered briefly whether it was a little too outrageous, but then he looked at Severus's smug, self-satisfied smirk, and his doubts were blown away. He would give Snape the fright of his life, and serve him right.
"It's quite simple, really, when you know the answer," he went on. "You see, there's a secret opening below the whomping willow ."
He paused, both for effect and because it amused him to see that Severus was hanging on his every word.
"A simple action is all that is required to freeze the tree and enter the hole."
"A spell?" Severus guessed wrongly.
"Nothing so complicated as that," he said. "All you need is a very long stick. There's a particular knoll on the side of the trunk. Press it from a distance, and the willow will stop moving and let you in."
He looked around him and added conspiratorially,
"I'd wait until it gets dark, if I were you though. You don't want any teachers to catch you prodding the tree."
And with those words, Sirius turned on his heel and walked briskly back to the castle, smiling to himself. Somehow he no longer felt so listless. He thought he would go and join that game of exploding snap after all.
* * *
James stood in front of the mirror trying to smooth his hair, but it refused to lay flat. He frowned and examined his features. He found himself, for the first time in his life, debating whether he was good- looking or not. It seemed to him that it was an awfully plain face that looked back at him. He thought of his friends. Now Sirius - Sirius was handsome, James knew that. And even Remus seemed to attract girls, despite or maybe even because of his tired eyes and grey-flecked hair. James supposed Remus appealed to what people called the 'maternal instinct' in girls.
But James himself had had to save a girl from falling off her broom before girls had taken any notice of him. Then, of course, they had been all over him. He hadn't wanted that either. All he wanted was . James paused in the middle of the thought. What did he want? He thought of Lily. She had sat and listened patiently to everything he had told her. She had been sympathetic and reassuring and . nice. He looked into the mirror and wondered whether Lily thought him good-looking.
Behind him, the dormitory door opened with a flourish and Sirius strode in.
"Padfoot!" James exclaimed. "Where have you been?"
"I had a nice little chat with Severus Snape, and then I played snap with Frank, Damian and Bertha," Sirius replied, dropping onto his bed and crossing his arms behind his head.
"A chat with Severus?" James repeated suspiciously. "What about?"
"Oh, he saw Moony disappearing under the whomping willow."
"He was puzzled and wanted to know how to do it. So I told him."
James stared at his friend.
"Of course I did. Haha, I can hardly wait to see his face when he comes back from his little 'adventure'. It should be quite a laugh."
James ran his hands through the hair he had just spent ten minutes trying to flatten.
"I don't believe it!" he cried.
"What's the matter with you?" Sirius asked, his smile fading. "Don't you think Severus deserves a little punishment for all his bullying?"
James was pacing the floor, shaking his head.
"You told him how to get inside the willow? Tonight, of all nights? Are you mad?"
"Steady!" Sirius protested, sitting up. "It's just a bit of fun, that's all."
But James still stared at him in wide-eyed disbelief.
"A bit of fun?" he said, his face powder-white. "Sirius, you've seen Moony transform. It's no joke. When he's like that, he doesn't have any control over his actions. He . he's dangerous. He could very easily kill Severus."
"Severus will turn and run for his life before it comes to that."
"And what if he doesn't? What if he gets trapped in there? That was one hell of a stupid idea, Sirius. ****!"
James snatched up his wand and the Marauder's Map and threw a cloak about his shoulders.
"Prongs, wait!" Sirius called, getting to his feet.
But James ignored him. He raced out the room, banging the door behind him.
* * *
The grounds were dark. Severus Snape looked up at the inky black sky. The silver disk of the moon was shrouded by cloud, but for some reason he couldn't quite put his finger on, the mere knowledge of its presence made him uneasy. Something told him what he was about to do wasn't a good idea, but he couldn't back down now. He hitched his cloak a little higher about his shoulders and sneaked across the lawn.
* * *
James flew down the main staircase, secretly praying that he wouldn't meet anyone on his way down. He stole a glance at the Marauder's Map. The dot marked 'Severus Snape' was already awfully close to the one marked 'Whomping Willow'. James stuffed the Map in his pocket and took the next flight of stairs three steps at a time.
* * *
Remus peered out through a large crack between two of the wooden planks that boarded the windows of the shrieking shack. The moon was still hidden behind a large cloud, so he hadn't transformed yet. It wouldn't be much longer before he did, though. Remus sighed and tried to think of something more cheerful. He started by reminding himself that it wouldn't be too long before his friends came, and they all set out to explore the woods. Then his mind wandered to his meeting with the young Ravenclaw girl, Heather Woodcock. He had decided she was a nice kid, and was genuinely looking forward to teaching her Defence Against the Dark Arts. A noise in the tunnel behind the hidden door made him turn around. Surely it was still too early for Padfoot, Prongs and Wormtail. The moon began gliding out from behind its cloud.
* * *
Sirius paced to and fro in the tower room. He was in two minds. On the one hand, he didn't see what all the fuss was about. Surely even Severus wouldn't be stupid enough to hang around once he realised what was going on. On the other hand . on the other hand, James had gone down there in his human form - Sirius was sure he wouldn't risk Severus finding out he was an unregistered animagus - and that meant that Severus was no longer the only one whose life was in danger if Sirius's plan went wrong. He stopped in the middle of the room and looked around him. Sweat was pearling on his brow. He caught sight of himself in the mirror and shook his head in exasperation.
"Idiot!" he muttered angrily, not sure whether he meant himself or James.
Coming to a decision at last, he checked to make sure his wand was in his pocket and hurried down the stairs.
* * *
James clutched at a stitch at his side and tore across the grounds. He found a long stick lying forgotten on the grass, and that alone was enough to tell him, without getting the Marauder's Map out again, that Severus had entered the tunnel. James picked the stick up and prodded the tree. The willow froze, and he rushed forward and down the hole. His footsteps sounded oddly muffled on the ground of the dark tunnel as he jogged along it, making sure not to hit his head. As he drew nearer to the other end, he could make out the silhouette of a boy in Hogwarts robes outlined against the green light from a wand tip.
* * *
Severus shone his wand light on the door in front of him and reached for the handle. He could hear strange scratching and scuffling noises on the other side. His hand pressed the door handle down, and suddenly everything happened very quickly.
"Severus, no!" James yelled.
He grabbed the other boy by the collar and pulled him away from the door just as it swung open. For a moment they lay in a tangled heap on the floor, while outlined against the moonlight that shimmered in through the cracks in the wooden panels stood the shaggy shape of the werewolf, powerful and menacing. Severus just lay there, paralysed by shock. James tugged at his arm and pulled him to his feet, shoving him back along the tunnel, away from the doorway.
"Run!" he shouted, pushing Severus along in front of him and glancing anxiously back over his shoulder. "For god's sake, get a move on."
The whomping willow had already stopped moving when they reached the other end of the tunnel and Severus scrambled out into the open. James felt a pair of hands seize his arms and drag him up, and he looked up into Sirius's pale face.
"James," the latter muttered under his breath, pulling his friend free of the tree's lower branches so that the hole could be sealed again. "Are you all right?"
James nodded silently. He thought of reproaching Sirius again for his foolish idea, but the look of fright on Sirius's face was enough to tell him there was no need, though he knew very well Sirius's concern had been only for him and not for Severus.
Severus Snape got up shakily and brushed some dry earth off his knees. His lips were thin and white, and a boiling anger shone through the terror on his face.
"Y-you!" he stammered, livid with rage.
"Severus, it was only meant as a joke," Sirius began meekly. "Come on now, you'd have done the same."
"A joke! You will regret this, Black. And you, Potter. The headmaster shall hear of this!"
"Indeed, he shall," said a voice right beside them.
All three of them jumped and whirled around. No more than four paces away stood Albus Dumbledore, and for once there was not a hint of a sparkle in his blue eyes. He peered sternly at James and Sirius over the top of his half-moon glasses.
"Professor Dumbledore, I ..:" Sirius began, but he was silenced by a single look from the headmaster.
"I think," Dumbledore said in a dangerously quiet voice, "that we had better discuss this in my office. This way, if you please."
He stood aside, and James and Sirius led the way with drooping shoulders, hanging their heads. Severus followed after Dumbledore, the familiar sneer back in place.
* * *
James and Sirius stood side by side in Dumbledore's circular office. It was dark in the room, apart from the light shed by a tall candlestick beside the desk. The headmasters and headmistresses around the walls were all either nodding or looking serious, and Fawkes the phoenix sat on his perch looking bedraggled and adding to the overall gloom of the moment.
Albus Dumbledore took his time entering the room and walking over to his desk. He sat down slowly, leaned back in his chair and folded his hands. His keen blue eyes were studying the faces of the two boys opposite him. Severus Snape stood to one side, looking uncommonly pleased with himself.
After a long silence, Dumbledore said,
"Well, perhaps one of you would like to explain how it happened that I glanced out of a window tonight to see two fifth-year Gryffindors and a Slytherin apparently crawling out from under a tree you have all been warned against approaching - and quite distinctly enough too, I should have thought."
He looked at all three of them in turn.
"Severus," he said, "you look eager to speak. Why don't you start?"
"Certainly, Headmaster," Severus simpered. "It so happened that I saw someone else disappear under the willow earlier today. It was hard to tell from a distance, but I was sure ."
". that it was Remus Lupin," Dumbledore finished for him, waving that part of the information aside. "Go on."
Severus looked rather put out at having what he obviously considered one of the most vital points of his story cut short. But he went on nevertheless.
"Well, naturally I was intrigued. I wondered why Remus Lupin had entered the whomping willow, and how. Then Black here came along and told me how to do it."
Dumbledore shot a quick glance at Sirius, who looked away guiltily.
"It's obvious it was a plot by their little gang," Severus was saying. "They knew I would go down there and investigate. It was lucky I kept my head, or I would not have been able to escape alive," he finished dramatically.
Sirius snorted derisively before he could stop himself.
"Keep your head?" he retorted loudly. "Is that what you call it? It looked to me more like you were scared out of your wits. If James hadn't gone after you and more or less carried you out ."
"He did not!" Severus protested. "You both tried to kill me!"
"James saved your life!" Sirius yelled.
Severus started towards him, looking ready to wring his neck. Sirius raised his arm, but James caught his wrist.
"Silence!" Dumbledore commanded.
Severus and Sirius both relaxed, but kept their hands balled into fists and turned away from one another.
"I'm sorry, sir," Sirius said, struggling to keep his voice down and his temper in check.
He met the headmaster's eyes evenly.
"I realise what I did was stupid and . and dangerous. And I'm ready to take any punishment you think appropriate, as long as you don't punish James, because it wasn't his fault."
James stepped in, but Sirius would not be deterred.
"No, James," he said. "It wouldn't be fair to let you take the blame, or Remus for that matter."
He turned back to Dumbledore.
"It's true, sir, that I told Severus how to enter the whomping willow, even though I knew it was dangerous. He had been bullying friends of ours and I thought it would serve him right. But you have to know it was all my fault, and no one else's."
"Liar!" Severus hissed. "Give it up, Black. You're just trying to shield your friends, but you know no one will believe you. Potter and Lupin, and even Pettigrew, no doubt, were in on it all."
"That's not true," Sirius protested. "Honestly, Professor," he said to Dumbledore, his words coming quickly and his voice urgent, "it was my idea alone, and neither James nor Remus nor Peter knew of it. I swear James only found out when it was already too late to warn Severus, though he tried. James went after him, and got him out."
Dumbledore watched his earnest face. Then at last he turned to James.
"Is this true?" he asked quietly.
"Yes, sir. But Sirius didn't intend any real harm to come to Severus, he only ."
Dumbledore held up a hand to silence him. He sat in silence for a while, thinking. Then he turned to Severus again.
"I agree that you have been the victim of a very foolish, and extremely dangerous trick," he said. "And yet I must ask you never to mention a word of this to anyone."
"But ..:" Severus sputtered.
"No one must hear of this," Dumbledore insisted. "I must have your word that you will never tell a soul about Sirius's 'prank', Remus Lupin, the whomping willow or anything you may have seen down there. Your word, Severus."
Severus Snape looked livid, and for a moment James and Sirius thought he would refuse. But at last he bowed his head and said quietly.
"You have my word, Headmaster."
Dumbledore nodded his satisfaction and turned next to James.
"To you, James, I agree no blame can be attached. Your behaviour was commendable. You showed great courage, and under normal circumstances that would earn your house fifty points at least. However, I am afraid that you too must promise me never to mention it."
"I promise," James said without hesitation.
"As for you, Sirius," Dumbledore continued in an uncharacteristically harsh voice, "I hardly know what punishment would be fitting for your foolishness. I trust that I need not ask you to promise that you will never make such a mistake again. For the next month, you will spend your spare time helping out wherever help is needed about the castle. I am sure Mr. Filch will find ample work for you to do. And I must tell you that I personally am deeply disappointed in you. Now go, all of you."
January 22nd, 2004, 10:51 pm
The Dark Mark
That same night strange things happened elsewhere. Tom, the barman of the Leaky Cauldron, a grubby little pub tucked in between a large book shop and a record shop on a street in London, woke to hear the floorboards creak on the landing outside his bedroom. He listened and thought he could hear hushed voices. He got up, thinking maybe one of the guests wanted something, and removed his green flannel dressing gown from the hook on the back of the door. He was just tying the belt and smoothing what little hair he had when he caught a snippet of a conversation going on on the other side of the door.
"You are certain it is tonight?" a foreign voice said quietly.
"Positive," a woman replied.
She wasn't keeping her voice quite as low, and Tom thought it sounded like the woman who had booked in yesterday. He had put Paula Lestrange and her husband in number six.
"The letter said that the Dark Lord would reveal himself to the world on the night of the next full moon, and that is tonight," a firm man's voice - probably Leonard Lestrange's - agreed.
"So the hiding will end at last," said the foreign voice.
Tom decided that this must be Karkaroff, the young Bulgarian who had been staying at the Leaky Cauldron for two nights.
"Yes. We will finally be able to come out into the open and purge the world of all Muggles and mudbloods," the woman said savagely.
Tom caught his breath. He heard footsteps retreating towards the stairs and wondered for a moment what he should do. Should he follow them and see what they were up to? He thought hard, and decided that it was obvious enough from their talk what was going to happen. But he had to do something. He had to warn someone, if nothing else. But who? His first thought was the Ministry, but then that had been becoming infiltrated more and more by supporters of the man whose name seemed to frighten even the most sensible witches and wizards.
Tom sat on the end of his bed debating, furious with himself for being so slow. Professor Dumbledore? He seemed by far the best person to tell, but by the time Tom had got hold of him . He considered his other guests. But what if they were also on the wrong side?
"No, don't be daft, Tom, they won't be," he told himself. "Anyone who's still in the house must be against . that lot, otherwise they'd be out there themselves."
Decided at last, he stepped out onto the landing, though not without stowing his wand in the pocket of his dressing gown.
* * *
John Lupin opened his eyes and blinked in the semi-darkness. He turned over and looked at his wife. Her mouth was slightly open and her features were relaxed and peaceful. John sighed. He had been in two minds when his brother-in-law Malcolm had suggested they should come up to London to see him. Because Malcolm's flat was not very large, they had done the natural thing and come to the Leaky Cauldron. On the one hand, John agreed that a holiday would do them both good and it would make a nice change to see something other than the woods around their house, which could be very gloomy at this time of year.
On the other hand, he was deeply worried about taking Faith away from the safety of their home. He watched her sleeping now, and felt a sickening fear creep back into his heart. Times were bad, there was no denying it. And they were especially bad for Muggle-borns like his wife and brother-in- law. There had been such a lot of reports lately about wizards and witches terrorising others who weren't pure-blood, that he was becoming increasingly afraid for his wife's safety. He couldn't bear it if anything happened to Faith.
Her hand was lying on the pillow beside him. John stroked it gently and lay awake just watching her sleep. He heard several sets of footsteps cross the hallway outside and fade away. A few minutes later, there were more footsteps, but this time they seemed to stop just outside their door. There was a quiet knock that made John jump and his heart pound. He held his breath and waited. The knock was repeated. Again he waited, releasing Faith's hand to turn and pick his wand up from the bedside table.
More footsteps, firmer this time. A voice spoke.
"What are you doing?" it demanded.
"They don't seem to be awake," a quieter voice replied.
There was another dull knock, then an impatient sound from the second man and a loud rap on the door. John pushed back his covers and walked towards the door. The moment he moved, Faith stirred and opened her eyes.
"John?" she muttered sleepily.
He pressed his finger to his mouth and went to open the door a fraction. He found two people outside, apparently about to turn away and go downstairs.
"Ah, Mr. Lupin," Tom the barman whispered. "For a minute we thought you weren't in your room."
John looked suspiciously from him to his companion, a serious-faced man in a black dressing gown whom he had seen down in the bar yesterday evening.
"What's going on?" he asked.
The serious-faced man answered.
"There seems to be something going on in Diagon Alley tonight," he said. "Tom overheard people talking about the Dark Lord, and he and I were about to investigate and wanted to ask you to come along."
"And who are you?" John asked.
"Bartemius Crouch is the name."
"You're Barty Crouch?"
Crouch looked uncomfortable.
"That is what some people call me," he admitted.
John relaxed a little.
"Just let me get my cloak," he said.
He turned back into the room and closed the door behind him. Faith was sitting up, looking anxious.
"What's happening?" she asked, getting out of bed and coming over while John pulled on his cloak.
"There seems to be a bit of bother down in the Alley. I'm going down with the others to check."
Faith held him back a moment. He tried to smile reassuringly and gave her a quick kiss.
"Don't worry, love," he said. "I'll be right back."
* * *
The full moon shone down on Diagon Alley and shed its light on the crowd of people that had gathered in front of Gringotts. They were all dressed in black robes and their faces were shadowed by large hoods. John Lupin followed Crouch and Tom out onto the street and noticed that several faces were peering out from behind half-closed shutters in windows above the shops.
Suddenly a bright flame sprang up in front of the bronze doors of the wizard bank. A loud murmur ran through the crowd as a figure took shape on the steps before their very eyes. John thought that it was the figure of a man wrapped in that long and flowing black cloak, though he could not see a face under the hood. Sure enough, it was a male voice, though strangely high-pitched and unearthly cold, that spoke over the noise of the murmuring voices.
"Welcome, my friends. Thank you for coming here tonight to witness the dawn of a new age for wizardkind. From this night on, we will no longer be forced to hide who we are and what we are. From this night on, we will cast aside the shackles placed on us by Muggles and the Muggle-loving fools that have so far ruled us. We will establish a new order. No one will dare to oppose us, and all the world will learn to fear the power and the very name of Lord Voldemort."
At this point there was much clapping and cheering. John felt a shiver down his spine.
"But you, my loyal comrades," the man on the steps was now saying, "need fear nothing. You shall all have power beyond imagination, and those of you who prove most loyal to me I will raise into my inner circle, and they shall bear my mark upon them."
He gestured to two people who had stood a little way back, and they brought forward a very old man with a hunched back. He was shaking and trembling with fear.
"This man," Lord Voldemort went on, "was once an important minister for the great Ministry of Magic. But when I paid him a visit and suggested that he should fire his mudblood staff and employ only members of the old wizarding families, he refused bluntly. He will now learn that it is a mistake to refuse anything Lord Voldemort requests."
The old man was brought up closer to Voldemort and the two people who had been holding him backed away. With a shock John recognised the old man as Damocles Dorset, a former minister at the office of International Magical Cooperation who had mysteriously been 'taken ill' a few months before. But the last time John had seen him, he had been in perfect health and his back had been as straight as any. Yet now he seemed barely able to stand, and he was trembling before Lord Voldemort, who was levelling his wand at the old man's chest.
"Oh my god," John muttered, more to himself than to his two companions, "he's going to kill him."
He started forward in the direction of the bank, but Tom grabbed his arm and held him back.
"There's nothing we can do, Lupin," he said quietly.
"But we can't just stand by and let that man commit a murder!" John exclaimed.
"We have no choice," Bartemius Crouch answered coldly.
John stared at him and was about to reply when Lord Voldemort's voice interrupted him.
"Avada Kedavra," he said.
There was a blinding flash of green light and the old minister collapsed to the ground. He had died in the blink of an eye, and there had been nothing John could do to prevent it. All colour drained from his face and he watched in silence while the Dark Lord chanted,
A gigantic cloudy green shape issued from the end of his wand and rose into the sky above. Next to him, John heard Tom the barman gasp. He looked up at stared. A huge skull was floating above the spot where Voldemort stood, a serpent writhing in its mouth like an overgrown tongue. And then John heard Lord Voldemort's unnatural, high-pitched laughter.
"It has begun, my friends. The Dark Mark has been conjured, and from now on it will put fear into the hearts of all the filthy mudbloods and Muggles. Come, follow me, my friends, and we will toast this night."
Voldemort turned and walked away towards Knockturn Alley. The crowd parted, all bowing their heads as he passed, then following behind him. When they had gone, John turned his attention back to the front doors of Gringotts, where a limp form was still sprawled on the steps. A moment before, his legs had felt like lead, but now they suddenly came to life again, and they led him straight to where Voldemort had stood a moment before. The others followed him. John crouched beside the old minister's body and examined it, but there was no sign of any wound.
"How did he do this?" he asked, bewildered.
"He used an ancient curse - an Unforgivable Curse," Crouch replied.
John looked up at the other man's stern face.
"One of the three curses that have been outlawed for centuries?"
John rose slowly and said,
"How do we fight someone like him? Someone who will stop at nothing - torture, murder, the use of banned curses .?"
"There is only one way," said Crouch. "We must use his own weapons against him. If he is ruthless, we must be more so. If he is cruel, we must be crueller. If he uses outlawed spells, so must we."
John thought for a moment, then he shook his head.
"No. If we try to fight the enemy with his own weapons, then we will become like him, and in the end he will win, even if he is defeated."
"There is no alternative," Crouch insisted.
"Yes there is. There is always an alternative," John said firmly. "I will write to Professor Dumbledore. It is in men like him that we must place our trust if we really want to stamp out this evil."
* * *
John Lupin dragged himself up the stairs at the Leaky Cauldron and pushed the door to his room open. An oil lamp on the table in the corner added its pale flicker to the fading light of the moon.
Faith rushed to him before he had even closed the door and wrapped her arms around his neck. John returned the embrace and for a while they stood there in silence. Finally Faith drew back a little and touched his cheek with the palm of her hand and looked into his eyes.
"What happened?" she asked.
John led her over to the bed and sat down beside her. Then he began telling her about the night's events.
January 26th, 2004, 12:00 am
An Offer of Friendship
Remus dragged himself up the main staircase. The moon had waned, and he was aching all over with weariness and pain. The others hadn't come at night, and that meant that he had had a worse transformation than he had experienced for a long time. While the others were with him, Remus was able to stay relatively sane, and in consequence suffered less self-inflicted injuries. As they hadn't turned up this time, though, things had gone back to the way they used to be, but made worse because he was no longer as used to it.
His head was spinning, and he stood for a while without moving, feeling so weak that it frightened him. He heard soft footsteps coming his way and tried to force himself to go on, but he had only just taken one more step when Frank Longbottom appeared, coming the opposite way.
"Hello, Remus," he said brightly.
Remus forced a smile and took another step forward, but his shoe caught on the stairs and he nearly fell. Frank put out an arm to steady him.
"Are you all right?" he asked, looking worried.
"Fine," Remus lied, taking his weight off Frank's arm. "See you later."
He moved on painfully, and only a few steps later, he stumbled again.
"You should go to Madam Pomfrey," Frank recommended, rushing back up the stairs to help him.
"No, really," he protested. "I'll be all right. I just need some rest. Just tell Professor Flitwick I won't be coming today, will you?"
He could vividly imagine what would happen if he went to Madam Pomfrey now. She would tend his cuts all right, but she would also be likely to begin wondering why he hadn't been along more often with similar wounds after his transformations. On the other hand, he didn't see how he could make it to Gryffindor Tower like this.
"Need any help?" Frank asked.
"You'll be late for lessons," Remus said.
"Never mind that."
Frank took Remus by the arm and helped him up the stairs. They continued that way all the way up to the Gryffindor common room and on to their dormitory. There Frank guided Remus to his bed. Remus dropped down onto it gratefully.
"Thanks, Frank," he said.
"No problem," said Frank, still looking worried. "You sure you won't see Madam Pomfrey?"
Remus nodded, biting his lip. He moved slightly, and a cut in his arm twinged so suddenly that he groaned involuntarily.
"What is it?" Frank asked, coming nearer.
"Let me see."
Before Remus could stop him, Frank had reached the bedside and pulled Remus's cloak away from his arm. He whistled through his teeth. The sleeve of Remus's shirt bore a sticky brown patch.
"That's a bad gash you've got there," Frank commented, examining the wound.
"It'll heal," Remus replied.
"Might leave a nasty scar though," Frank said. He paused for a moment, then seemed to make up his mind about something and added, "Still, I expect you're used to them."
Remus looked up sharply. Frank Longbottom had sat down on the side of his bed and was looking more serious than Remus had ever seen him.
"I think it's time we both stopped pretending," he said. "Aren't you fed up with making up excuses? I know I'm fed up with making out I'm some sort of blockhead."
"I don't know what you mean," Remus answered half-heartedly.
"Yes you do. I'm not stupid," Frank said heatedly.
"I know what you are, and I've decided it's time you knew that I know. It will save you thinking up reasons for being missing on certain nights, and me from making out I'm an idiot. It'll be easier for both of us."
"Y-you know I'm a ." Remus broke off his sentence. "How did you find out?"
"Various things. You missing from lessons on a regular basis, not turning up in the dormitory - and not being in the hospital wing when the others said you were. And I've heard them call you 'Moony' a couple of times when you all thought I was asleep. I just put two and two together."
"And - what are you going to do about it?"
"Nothing," Frank replied. "I just wanted to tell you I know, and I want you to know it's okay - it doesn't bother me, and I'll never tell a soul."
He looked at Remus intently, lying on the bed with a pale face and tired eyes, his grey hairs seeming to sparkle more than usual in the bright morning sunlight.
"But if there's anything I can do to help, just let me know," Frank added quietly.
Remus stared at him for a while. Finally he shook his head.
"No," he said softly, "but thanks for the offer. I appreciate your honesty, and I'm sorry if I've upset you by seeming not to trust you ."
"Hey," Frank interrupted, "I told you it's okay. I understand why you've kept this to yourself, and I'm not blaming the others for not telling me. You four have your secrets, just as Damian and I have ours. But I can imagine that it can be tough living a life like yours, and I really just wanted you to know that I'm here if you ever need me. That goes for the four of you, by the way. I don't know what's going on at the moment, but there's trouble brewing, I can see that. It might not be long before we'll all need all the help and friendship we can get. When that time comes, I'll be ready to do my bit, and so will Damian."
Frank smiled suddenly.
"That's enough doom and gloom," he said in a lighter tone. "Now let's get that cut of yours cleaned up, and then I think you should get some sleep. I'll try and sneak some bandages from the hospital wing. I'll be right back."
Remus watched the door close behind Frank and lay back on his pillow feeling strangely relieved. He had never felt before that keeping a secret from the fifth boy in their dormitory was such a big deal, but now he was suddenly aware that it had made him uncomfortable. And it was always good to know that there was another person who accepted him for what he was.
January 27th, 2004, 12:57 am
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That evening, Remus told the others what Frank had said. Then James told Peter and Remus everything that had happened the night before. Sirius sat in the corner of the dormitory, saying nothing. When James had finished, Peter said,
"That was a close shave. Sirius might easily have been expelled for that."
"Yes," James agreed, casting a sideways glance in Sirius's direction.
Remus, meanwhile, had risen from his bed and strolled to the window. He touched his wounded arm with his other hand. It still throbbed slightly.
"I remember a little bit of what happened," he said quietly. "I had only just transformed, and I saw the door open. I saw Severus standing there, and I saw you, Prongs."
There was a heavy silence.
"This has to stop," Remus said sadly.
It was ironic. Only that morning, he had spoken to Frank, and afterwards felt that maybe his life wasn't so bad after all. And now .
"It can't go on like this," he went on. "There's no way around it. I'll have to talk to Dumbledore. My being here is dangerous. I should never have come in the first place."
His voice faltered, and James spoke up quickly.
"That's nonsense, Remus. This has nothing to do with you. It's not your fault."
"Isn't it?" Remus retorted, looking perfectly miserable. "Whatever way you look at it, if I hadn't been here, none of this would ever have happened. I could have killed someone last night. I could . I could have killed you, James."
His voice caught in his throat.
"Stop it!" Sirius ordered sharply.
He got up and came closer so he could look Remus in the eye.
"Trust you to find some absurd way to make everything your fault," he said. "But I won't let you take the blame for something you couldn't do anything about. I may be a bit of a scoundrel - I certainly feel like one right now - but I have never let anyone else take the blame for my mistakes, and I don't intend to start now. What happened last night was entirely my fault, Dumbledore has punished me, and there's an end to it. Don't go grabbing for guilt, Moony."
"Sirius is right," James agreed. "Let's just forget it as quickly as we can and think of something more cheerful. Sirius, why not tell us about that spell you said we could put on our map? You know, the one that makes it 'answer back' when a teacher tries to use it."
Sirius brightened up at once and went to fetch a thick spellbook from his trunk. Remus tried to join in the fun as best he could, and actually contributed greatly to making the spell work as they wanted it to, but all the time his mind was dwelling on the trouble that had occurred last night. Whatever the others might say, he still felt it was his fault, at least in part. And he still felt guilty about every single time that he had left the shrieking shack and broken his promise to Dumbledore.
January 29th, 2004, 2:27 am
Pixies and Potions
It was the Saturday after. Heather waited nervously in the front row of the empty Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, staring down at the books and her wand on the desk in front of her. She felt strangely shaky and there seemed to be something wrong with her stomach. It was churning as though she had eaten something she shouldn't have. She felt so tense that she was considering just packing her bag and going straight back to her dormitory when she heard the classroom door open behind her. Heather turned and saw Remus Lupin coming towards her.
"Hello," he said.
Heather smiled shyly as she watched him come to the front of the classroom and set a box down on the teacher's desk.
"How are you feeling?" Remus asked, sitting on the end of her desk.
"A bit nervous," she confessed.
"Nervous? Not of me I hope."
Heather bit her lip and looked down at her hands. Remus frowned.
"You are nervous of me. But you needn't be."
"I'm a bit nervous of you too," he said.
This brought Heather's curly head up.
"Of me? Why?"
"I've never taught anyone before," he explained. "Oh, I've helped Peter Pettigrew with his homework, of course. But this is very different. I've been thinking about what Professor Darkhardt said, and I think I may actually like to be a teacher someday. But I don't know what I'll do if it turns out I'm lousy at it."
"I'm sure you won't be!" Heather said quickly.
She blushed as he smiled at her.
"Do you really like doing Defence Against the Dark Arts?" she asked nervously.
"And you get on with Professor Darkhardt?"
"He's all right, I suppose," Remus said. "Why?"
"He scares me. That scar of his, and his odd manner. And then I'm so useless at the spells he wants us to do. Potions is much easier," she concluded.
"Potions? Now you've scared me," Remus laughed.
Heather giggled. Remus turned to the side and began to get a few large items out of his bag. Heather studied him: his grey-flecked, light brown hair was falling into his eyes. His face looked drawn and his eyes tired, though he didn't look as ill as he had done a couple of days ago, when they had arranged this meeting.
Remus caught her eye.
"What's the matter?"
"You look - tired," Heather said.
"Yes. I wasn't very well this week. Had a bit of a fever," he replied a little gruffly. "Now - shall we get started?"
"What's in the box?" she asked.
Heather looked alarmed.
"You're not going to set them loose, are you?"
"Not yet. I thought we'd practise some simple stunning spells first."
"How? I mean, how do we practise them without the pixies?"
"That," Remus replied mischievously, "is why I brought these cushions."
He held up two hands full of thick red and gold cushions. Heather gazed at him blankly.
"You can't stun a cushion, can you?"
Remus seemed to consider this.
"I don't know. I've never tried. I should hardly think so. They do make for a softer landing, though."
He put the cushions down on the floor and looked at Heather.
"Now, I want you to use your wand to knock me out. Use any spells you want - just please make sure they're ones you know the counter-curses to."
"But I - I can't do that!"
"Why not? You're not going to hurt me, and it's much safer than practising on a bunch of fluttering pixies. Just imagine I'm an evil wizard or a monster come to get you or something."
"That's impossible!" Heather laughed. "What is it?" she added.
Remus had stopped smiling and was gazing at her with a strange look on his face. It was a queer, half sad expression that he checked as soon as he noticed her eyes on her.
"Let's get started then," he said.
January 29th, 2004, 5:26 am
In the library, Lily Evans was sitting brooding over a thick book when James strode over to join her.
"Hello," he said. "How's it going?"
"Not very well," she sighed, stroking a thick strand of red hair back from her face. James looked into her green eyes.
"Look - there's no need to tire yourself out with this," he said. "I'm sure it's not that important."
"And I'm sure it is," Lily answered, smiling slightly. "This here is a simple register I found. It lists all the students that have visited Hogwarts during the past fifty years."
James stared at the huge leather-bound volume.
"That must be a lot of names."
"Oh yes," Lily said. "But the thing is, that's all it is. Just names. No background. I have no way of discovering who was friends with who or anything like that. I can find a list of all the people who were in your father's year, but that's still a lot of names to check up on."
"Hello! Am I interrupting something?" Sirius suddenly said right beside James's shoulder.
"No," Lily said. "Why don't you join us?"
"Don't mind if I do."
Sirius ignored James's dark look and pulled up a chair.
"What's going on then?" he asked.
"Lily's been trying to find out who my father might have had dealings with when he was at school. But all she's been able to find is a list of names without any more information," James explained.
"I'm sure Dumbledore must have a book somewhere that would tell us more," Lily said. "There must be some files with all the students' details. You know, what they got up to while they were here, what points they won or lost for their houses. But we'd never be able to get at such files. What?" she added, seeing the broad grin spread across Sirius's face.
"I think I have an idea," he said.
James waited for him to continue, but Sirius was not forthcoming.
"That's great," said James. "Now if you wouldn't mind telling us ..."
"Well, I was just thinking of Filch."
Lily's brow creased, but James began to smile.
"Of course. Filch's office must be full of files about the students of the past two hundred years!" he exclaimed.
"I don't think he's been here that long," Lily objected.
"No, but if his predecessor kept as many files as he does, then his office should be a gold mine. We might even find out something about Gryffindor's heir, if he ever came here, which he must have done."
"But he'll never allow you to read his papers!"
"Then we'll just have to read them without his permission, won't we?" Sirius said.
He glanced at James, who nodded.
"Where are Remus and Peter?"
"Up in the Tower," Sirius replied.
"Right. Let's go and tell them. Excuse us, Lily."
Lily watched the two boys go with a slightly worried expression on her face. She knew they were both fond of getting up to things that were against the rules, and she was seriously concerned what might happen if they got caught.
She never noticed that she wasn't the only one watching them. Behind a bookshelf in the far corner, Bertha Jorkins was making up her mind to keep guard near the caretaker's office that night.
* * *
It was exactly midnight. The reason John Lupin knew this was that he could hear a church clock striking somewhere not too far away as he walked along a long and dusty road that wound its way past endless rows of trees, taller than any he had seen before. He wondered just where exactly he was. Professor Dumbledore's letter - sent in reply, it seemed, to John's own warning about the rising of the Dark Lord - had merely instructed him to go to a certain place at a certain time tonight and touch an old, battered bucket that he would find lying in a hedge; a Portkey, enchanted so that it would bring him here - wherever 'here' was.
He was just wondering whether he would ever reach the end of this path when he turned a corner and came to a place where the trees suddenly parted into a wide clearing. John stared. He was standing outside the wrought iron gates of a large mansion unlike any he had ever seen before. It looked like some kind of stately home, except that it was more mysterious, its walls grey and forbidding in the pale light of the waning moon and the stars, veiled by wisps of cloud.
John was just wondering where he should turn next when the gates opened slowly, making no sound at all. He stepped through them onto a gravel drive and followed it, still staring at the magnificent house. A figure stood on the steps before the large wooden doors, and it seemed to be looking his way. As he drew nearer, John was surprised to find he recognised the man. It was none other than his brother-in-law Malcolm, though his face had a ghostly appearance in this light.
"John!" Malcolm whispered, sounding every bit as awed as John felt.
"Hello," John replied. "What are you doing here?"
"I got a letter from Dumbledore, asking me to go to Piccadilly tonight and pick up a broken umbrella that I would find sticking out of a certain dustbin. He said there was something important he had to tell me. And you?"
"The same, more or less. Any idea where we are?"
The old familiar grin split Malcolm's face.
"I had a quick look round the village before I followed the path," he said. "I came a cross a sign that said 'Godric's Hollow'."
He paused for effect.
"Godric's Hollow?" John repeated. "And what's this place?"
"I don't know. But take a look at the doors."
John's eyes left his brother-in-law's face to examine the coat of arms on the vast doors: A golden lion on a scarlet background.
"The Gryffindor lion?" he said.
"Looks like it," Malcolm agreed. "Shall we ring the bell?"
John nodded, and Malcolm tugged at the old-fashioned chain by the door. There was no sound, and for a moment they stood looking at one another, wondering what they should do next. But then the doors opened wide of their own accord, revealing a vast hallway with a marble staircase leading up to a gallery. The place was lit by chandeliers and candelabras, and a mysterious music like the song of some exotic bird reached their ears.
Sure enough, as they entered the mansion and the great doors swung shut with a boom behind them, a beautiful bird with flaming red feathers soared down from the gallery and came to land on a leather-padded chair to their left.
Both John and Malcolm were so fascinated by this creature that they did not notice a person coming down the stairs until Professor Dumbledore stepped right up to them.
"Good evening," he said, smiling at their startled faces. "I see you are impressed with my phoenix. "Say hello, Fawkes."
The bird bowed its head in greeting, then it flew up and landed on the headmaster's shoulder.
"Professor - What's going on?" John asked. "Why are we here and - where are we, exactly?"
"This way," was all Dumbledore replied, and he led them up the magnificent marble stairway, along the gallery and through corridors lined with suits of armour and portraits of noble-looking wizards and witches, most of whom frowned solemnly as they walked by.
The headmaster of Hogwarts led them through a door at the end of a long passage into a narrow room without windows, lit only by a cluster of candles floating above the centre of a large round table that bore the Gryffindor crest.
Several people stood in a group at the end of the room, and Dumbledore introduced them all:
There was Bartemius Crouch, whom John had already met. Professor McGonagall, Dumbledore's deputy headmistress. An ageing woman with grey hair and piercing eyes whom Dumbledore introduced as Arabella Figg. Alastor Moody, a tall wizard with straggly dark hair that came down to his shoulders and an impossibly long and pointed nose.
Beside him stood a young man with thin red hair and his young wife. This, so Dumbledore informed him, were Arthur Weasley and his wife Molly, who were eagerly awaiting the birth of their second child.
Next in line was a tiny man who introduced himself with a flourish of his top hat as Dedalus Diggle. John wondered whether he might be in any way related to the boy he had heard Remus mention from time to time. Mundungus Fletcher, a shabby-looking wizard. Then came a slim girl with fair hair whom John definitely recognised at once as one of the Pettigrew twins - Philippa.
Last in line, wearing a dark expression on his scarred face, came the grizzled Professor Darkhardt. When the introductions had been completed, Dumbledore motioned them all to seats around the table.
"First of all," he said when they were all sitting, "I would like to thank you all for coming. The reason I asked you here tonight is that we now stand on the brink of a darkness that threatens to bend not only our world, but also the Muggle world to its will.
For myself, I have feared that this tide of evil was coming for many years, ever since a certain event at Hogwarts, the details of which I do not wish to elaborate on at this time.
However, I am aware that some of you had your first inkling much later, and some not until a teacher at Hogwarts made a certain prediction which, admittedly, is probably the first true prediction she has ever made."
"Then you really do believe what Sybill Trelawney said? You don't think she was just dramatising, as usual?"
"No, Minerva, I do not believe that," he replied, "and neither do you, or you would not have come to me so quickly to tell me about it that night. But I see that several of our friends here have not heard about it ."
"I think I have," Pippa Pettigrew said. "My brother told me something about a prediction in a letter. He said Professor Trelawney had predicted the growing of an evil power, a power that no one could stop, except for the heir of Gryffindor."
"Well, she was right about the first part," John Lupin said. "What Mr. Crouch and I saw this week certainly looked like the celebration of pure evil."
"Yes," Dumbledore agreed. "It was your letter about that event that made me summon this council tonight. Voldemort has been recruiting his forces for longer than you may think. I believe it is time we built up our own."
"Can't we just root out his supporters one by one and eliminate them? Without them, his base of power would surely crumble," Crouch suggested.
"Oh yes? And how would you eliminate them, exactly?" John demanded. "By authorising the use of outlawed curses like you suggested the other night? And against whom would you use them? Only against those who are proven to have voluntarily sworn themselves to his side? Against people he has frightened into following him? Against those he is mind-controlling? Against anyone you suspect of supporting him?"
Across the table, John noticed Professor Darkhardt give a curious smile.
"Sacrifices must be made," Crouch said coldly.
"I refuse to sacrifice innocent lives!" John protested, getting to his feet.
Dumbledore raised both hands for silence.
"Gentlemen, please! Let us discuss this in peace. Sit down, John."
John Lupin returned Bartemius Crouch's cold stare, but did as the professor had asked.
"My friends," Dumbledore went on, "we must stand together if we are to prevail in the face of this threat. We must act with caution, and we must find more who share our opinions. Professor Darkhardt here has already begun looking for promising students who might help us fight the Dark forces."
"Students?" Mundungus Fletcher repeated sceptically. "You think that's advisable?"
"In some cases, very much so," Professor Darkhardt assured him. "Some of our students show great potential, and more sense than many an adult I could name."
His gaze rested briefly on Crouch.
"It would be a shame not to have them on our side."
The professor turned his scarred face towards John.
"One of my first recruits," he said, "is your son, Mr. Lupin."
"Remus?" Malcolm exclaimed, turning to his brother-in-law.
"Remus?" John repeated quietly, sounding a trifle worried. "What do you mean?"
"Your son has shown great skill in his Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons, and I have encouraged him to help others - well, one other at least - to improve their skills. He has both courage and brains, but that's not all I am looking for. Your son is very much like you, sir, in that I believe he too would never be willing to make unnecessary sacrifices to achieve his ends. That is, I think, a vital characteristic."
"And who else do you plan to 'recruit' in this manner?" Dedalus Diggle asked.
"Several of the older Gryffindor students: James Potter and Sirius Black, especially. A couple of Ravenclaws. And I dare say your nephew, Mr. Diggle, is likely to find himself involved as well - I hardly think I would be able to keep him out of it if I persuade Frank Longbottom to join us.
With the headmaster's permission, I would like to talk to the students as soon as possible."
"What about their parents' permission?" John asked.
"I am sure most parents would rather have their children well prepared to fight the Dark Arts than taught to use them by Voldemort himself," Dumbledore put in.
John slowly nodded his agreement.
"But if this prediction you mentioned is correct," Arabella Figg said, "all these efforts will only be of any use against Voldemort's supporters, but we will not be able to defeat him himself."
"Very well perceived, as always, Arabella," Dumbledore approved. "And that brings me to the reason I asked you all here, of all places, tonight."
"Godric's Hollow," Malcolm whispered softly. "The legendary town where Godric Gryffindor lived."
"Exactly," Dumbledore agreed. "And this place here is none other than Gryffindor Hall, the home of the last person alive who still bears the name of Gryffindor."
This announcement was greeted by various exclamations.
"The heir from Professor Trelawney's prediction?"
"Not necessarily," Dumbledore said mysteriously. "But I decided that this meeting place would be not only one of the safest in the country, besides Hogwarts, but a symbolic site for the first gathering of Voldemort's enemies. The presence of Fawkes is also symbolic."
Right on cue, the red-feathered bird flew over and perched on the arm of Dumbledore's chair.
"The wand of Lord Voldemort contains a feather from the tail of this phoenix. But instead of using it to do good, Voldemort has chosen to abuse it for evil. Fawkes, like the rest of us, has a score to settle with him. I therefore ask you all, now, to pledge yourself to his cause and mine, though it may mean pain or even death for some or all of us. I am calling together the Order of the Phoenix, to stand against Voldemort and all who willingly support him. Will you join me?"
He looked around at the series of faces before him. One by one, those present nodded their heads. Dumbledore smiled.
"Good," he said. "Then I would suggest that we have sat here long enough for one night. I ask you all to keep your eyes and ears open. I will summon you again soon. But for now I have something to do. I must speak to our host. Minerva, Narbus ."
He turned to Professors McGonagall and Darkhardt.
"You two will please go straight back to Hogwarts tonight. I am uneasy about leaving the school unguarded for too long. When I have talked to Gordon Gryffindor, I will speak to some members of the Ministry who, I think, will help us."
While the headmaster was talking to the other teachers, the rest began to get up and leave. John was halfway out the door when Dumbledore dismissed his colleagues and called him back.
"How is your wife, John?" he asked.
"She's well, thank you," John replied. "I - couldn't help but notice you didn't invite her here tonight."
"No. But I assure you that had nothing to do with mistrust."
"Of course not. In fact, I wanted to thank you for not asking her. I know she would pledge herself to anything you said, but ."
"But you would rather keep her safely out of the way?" Dumbledore guessed. "I understand. That was part of the reason why I did not ask her here tonight. The other is that, though I don't doubt she would never serve Voldemort, she is not as strong as you are, or as her brother is. And yet - I am not sure if I have done her a favour by leaving her out of this. It is sometimes safer to learn to fight evil and face danger prepared than hide from it and be caught unawares."
He looked John in the eye.
"Your wife is a lovely woman. I have always been fond of her. Look after her, John."
"I will. I would sooner give my own life that let any harm come to her."
Dumbledore nodded understandingly. There was a long pause before John asked,
"Was there anything else you wanted to talk to me about?"
The headmaster's head came up suddenly, as though his thoughts had been elsewhere.
"Yes," he said slowly. "How well do you know Bridget Potter?"
"James Potter's mother?" John said, surprised. "A little. We've met her at the station a few times, of course. Why?"
"I hope to bring her into the Order," Dumbledore replied. "I hoped you would be able to tell me whether she would be likely to agree to help us."
"You think it important that she should?"
"Perhaps. It depends. If my suspicions are correct . I must ask you not to mention this conversation to anyone," the headmaster added. "You must promise me that."
"You have my word," John assured him.
"Good ... one day I may have to ask more of you, John. I hope I can rely on you to come at once if I call on you."
* * *
Back in the Slytherin common room at Hogwarts, Severus Snape was feeling slightly ecstatic. He pulled up his sleeve and ran a finger over the black symbol on his arm: A skull with a snake protruding out of its mouth like a tongue. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone approach and sit on the low sofa opposite. Severus looked up into a narrow, pale face. Lucius Malfoy grinned crookedly.
"Well, it's started at last," he said, leaning back and twirling his wand in his hand.
"Yes," Severus agreed.
He felt strange. Tonight he had seen the Dark Lord, and been accepted into Voldemort's inner circle as one of his youngest supporters. A Death Eater, and not yet sixteen!
Lucius, of course, was two years older. He would be leaving Hogwarts soon and would probably take some high position in the Ministry that would give him power - much more power than Severus had. Still, it had been Severus, not Lucius, who had realised the importance of that ridiculous Divination teacher's prediction and warned Voldemort. Severus smiled coldly. Voldemort had been very pleased with him. In fact, it was probably part of the reason why he had been accepted as a Death Eater at such an early age.
He wondered, as he had so often done, who and where this 'heir of Gryffindor' might be. Voldemort had seemed to think there might actually be more than one heir of Gryffindor. He had tried, almost as soon as he had received Severus's message, to find some sort of book or register that would tell him who these descendants of Slytherin's arch enemy might be. But there were no such works to be obtained anywhere. Though such texts must surely have existed, it was as though they had vanished that night. Certainly there were none available now.
Severus thought of Dumbledore. Could he be the reason these texts had disappeared? Did he have enough power and influence to ensure that all copies of such works vanished in a single night? Did he know whom the prediction had referred to?
More importantly: Was the prediction true? Was Gryffindor's heir, whoever that might be, so powerful that he - or she - could pose a serious threat to Lord Voldemort?