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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.
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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.
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Last edited by FivePointSin; December 29th, 2003 at 3:46 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.
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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."
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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.
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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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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."
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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.
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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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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.
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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.
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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."
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Well Hello To You ALL!!! Its Me Your All Time Favorite Sin! Special Thanks to LunaFan and VelvetGhost for the comments and feedback! 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."
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Last edited by FivePointSin; January 12th, 2004 at 3:06 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.
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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.
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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.
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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."
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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.
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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.
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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.
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