[Remus:  Chapter 5]

V.  Rescue

James, Sirius, and Peter were already seated at the Gryffindor table when he entered; the bright lights stung his eyes after so long in the dimness of the library, and he was still blinking as the three of them rushed over to him. 

"Remus!" Peter exclaimed, sounding particularly breathless.  "Where ya been?"

"We were about to send out a search party!" James put in cheerfully.  "Fall in a hole somewhere?"

Sirius was studying him closely, arms folded over his chest.  "You missed Transfiguration," he said flatly.

"Ah, don't worry about that," said James, waving a dismissive hand.  "You can copy my notes."

Remus, who had just been opening his mouth to offer apologies for his absence, instead blinked and turned back to James in astonishment. "You took notes?"

The boy raked a hand through his thick black hair, a grin quirking at his lips, and shrugged.  "Well, I wrote things down," he amended.  "Some of it might have to do with class.  ...so where were you, anyway?  We looked all over the place."  He winked.  "Even your favorite stall."

"Sorry," Remus apologized as they made their way to the table.  He considered telling his friends where he'd been, so at least there would be some ring of truth to his story, but what if they asked what he'd been reading?  What would he say, then?  He cleared his throat, deciding to go with the old, faithful excuse.  "I guess I just wasn't--"

"Feeling well?" Sirius cut in dryly. 

The smaller boy flushed and slid into his seat.  The food was already out, wafting temptingly around the sounds of clattering silverware and energetic conversation; as Remus reached for the pot of mashed potatoes in front of him, however, he realized with a start that he wasn't terribly hungry.  Frowning, he drew back his hand, wondering if perhaps reading so many books whose authors despised and wished to murder him might have had an adverse effect on his appetite. 

When was the last time he had eaten?  He had skipped both meals the day of the full moon, as he was never terribly hungry just before his transformation; he had only picked at the food Dumbledore brought him as he recovered, and then . . . well, he had skipped supper yesterday and had eaten nothing yet today.  He did recall having read somewhere that wolves could go two weeks without any food at all, but he wasn't sure if that applied to werewolves, as well. 

"So, are you gonna tell us what happened with Professor Iodan, Pete, or do we have to guess?" 

Glancing up from the muddled reflection of himself in his plate, Remus was just in time to see James nudge Peter with his elbow.  The plump, brown-haired boy had been sculpting a mound of potatoes with his fork, staring at his creation with the utmost concentration, but now he glanced up in surprise, a slight flush creeping into his cheeks.  "Well, ah--"  Peter gave a thin smile that looked more like a grimace, and beside Remus, Sirius sat up a bit straighter with interest.  "She wanted to talk to me about what happened yesterday, actually.  About...when the lab blew up."  The boy snickered once, breaking through the hesitancy with a closed-lipped smirk. "McGonagall won't let her use her office downstairs, since she doesn't want anybody down by where the explosion happened, so she's set up in that broom closet on the second floor.  You know, the one where Peeves keeps his collection of wadded up chewing gum?"

Sirius and James laughed, and even Remus couldn't help grinning. 

"Serves her right," Sirius said when the laughter had faded, shaking his head as he shoved a spoonful of peas into his mouth.  "She's bloody mad, leaving the hospital wing all bandaged up like that."

Peter grimaced again.  "You might not think she's so mad after I tell you what happened next."  He leaned forward, eyes flickering from side to side as if watching for eavesdroppers, and finally halted with his head hovering just over a platter of dinner rolls.  "When she figured out that I couldn't understand a bloody word she was saying, she bewitched some weird little puppet thing to do the talking for her.  Anyway, she wanted to know everything I saw right before the explosion, so I told her about the person who ran by, and she said..."  Peter's voice went even softer, so that the three of them had to lean forward themselves to hear.  "She said she saw whoever it was, too," he whispered.  "They came out of the lab just before it blew up, and even Professor McGonagall doesn't know this, but...it was a student."

Remus felt his eyes widening; a quick glance at Sirius and James showed them with nearly identical expressions.

"A student?" James echoed, and he sounded slightly awed.  "A student blew up the Potions lab?"

"Shh," Peter hissed, glancing around nervously.  "Yeah.  Iodan wouldn't tell me who, but I think it's because she doesn't know.  But she said whoever it was was wearing student robes, and had long hair."  He paused, chewing slightly on his lower lip; Remus recognized the expression as the one Peter assumed during particularly-trying moments of deduction.  "I think maybe that's why she left the hospital wing so early, because she wants to find out who it was as soon as possible.  When I was in there, she had a big book of all the students in the school open on her desk, and -- she had it stopped on the Slytherin page." 

As one, their eyes all drifted to the Slytherin table, where Lucius Malfoy, his long, white-blond hair tied at the nape of his neck, was glaring at Crabbe and Goyle as the pair shoveled mashed potatoes into their mouths. 

"Hmm," said James in mock-confusion.  "Now, who do we know in Slytherin who has long hair and might want to blow something up..."

"And if it was him," Peter said, cheeks slightly flushed with the pleasure of figuring something out on his own, "I'll bet none of those Slytherins would say anything about it.  I bet they'd just pretend that he was there in the common room with them or something when it happened, so nobody'd ever find out about it."

Remus frowned.  "But why would Malfoy want to blow up the Potions lab?  And if he did, why would he do it when Professor Iodan was down there?"

When Peter seemed unable to answer this, mouth flapping as he struggled to sort through the logic, James gave a shrug and laid down his fork.  "Probably he didn't know she was down there.  I mean, classes were over for the day, and I'm pretty sure there was a staff meeting going on then, too--although why Iodan didn't go to that, I don't know."

"Oh," said Peter with a fervent nod, "I know why she didn't go.  It was all she could talk about while I was trying to get my lab done."  The boy glanced nervously around again, and this time, his voice was hushed to the point that they could barely hear him when he spoke.  "The staff meeting was about one of the students," he said, his eyes wide.  "A werewolf."

Something jolted into Remus' stomach; his heart was suddenly hammering in his chest, and he felt very cold and small, as if he lay curled at the bottom of an icy lake.  He thought his heart would smash out through his ribs as Peter continued.

"A werewolf?" James breathed; all traces of mirth were gone from his face.  "There's a werewolf at Hogwarts?"

"Yeah," said Peter with another wide-eyed nod.  "I guess some of the staff members didn't know at first, but word got to them somehow, and so Dumbledore was having a staff meeting so he could explain it all to them.  Iodan was really mad.  She went on and on and on about how dangerous werewolves are and how they shouldn't be anywhere near a school and how she'd go out alone at night in the Forbidden Forest before she'd go to Dumbledore's meeting.  I thought she was gonna burst a blood vessel or something."

There was silence for a moment, all four of them staring down at their plates in thought.

Just be quiet, Remus told himself, hiding trembling hands in his lap.  Just don't say anything and you'll be fine.  Don't -- say -- anything.

"A werewolf," James murmured at last, shaking his head in disbelief.  "I wonder if the Ministry knows about this."

"Probably," said Sirius, frowning slightly into his food.  "I don't think Dumbledore would've done it without telling them.  So, they must know.  I wonder if they know who it is, though.  Or if the teachers do."

Peter shook his head.  "I don't think Iodan knew.  Maybe Dumbledore's keeping it quiet so the teachers won't treat whoever it is any different.  But...well, I mean, Dumbledore must know.  And Professor McGonagall, probably."

"Hey," Peter said after another moment of silence, sounding truly excited that he was so bursting full of logic this evening.  "Isn't it kind of weird that a werewolf comes to Hogwarts, and then somebody blows up the Potions lab when the one professor who really hates werewolves is down there?"

Remus tried to swallow, but there seemed to be no moisture left in his throat; his hands were trembling more violently than before, squeezed between his thighs where he hoped no one would see them, and he was feeling weak and lightheaded.  He gripped the edge of the table with one shaking hand, feeling cold and sweaty, and took deep, long breaths that he hoped might calm him. 

He heard James start to say something, but before he could get out more than "Do you think--", Sirius' voice cut up through his words.

"Remus?" 

His vision was coming in and out of focus, the table swaying wildly in front of him; he could feel the sweat trickling down the side of his face, but didn't dare let go of the table to wipe it away, afraid he might topple over without the support.  His breathing was getting quicker and shallower as the panic crawled up his throat, and he had a bad feeling that if he couldn't calm down, if he couldn't come back under control, he was going to pass out.

He felt a hand on his shoulder, steady and strong.

"Remus," Sirius said again, and there was a steely note of worry in his voice.  "Can you--"

But he never heard whatever the next words were; it was as if someone had thrown a heavy blanket over his head.  The world around him went hushed and dim, the only sound in his ears the frantic thrumming of his own heartbeat and the ragged rush of breath; a dark curtain of blackness was tugging at the edges of his vision, crowding in on the world.  He thought that he might be dying, but the thought raced away before he could give it much consideration. 

The last thing he saw before he passed out was Sirius' face, peering at his own with concern and fear . . . and then everything went black.

~*~

"...to get him to the..."

"...wrong with him, is he..."

"...passed out, I th..."

"...ack to your dormit..."

The voices faded in and out, swimming in the reddish darkness beneath his eyelids; he had a vague sensation of being moved, and of strong arms encircling him, but it was all hazy and dim, as in a dream.  He could feel time creeping by, and had a definite sense of movement from around him, but it was as if he had been bound from head to toe and left at the foot of an immense chasm.  He could try to break free, try to move, try to scream, but nothing would set him free--he would stay here until someone found him and released him, and until then, all he could do was wait.

The waiting seemed to last forever.  Darkness swirled around him, dizzying and complete, and there seemed to be no end to it.  Suddenly, however, there was a shaft of light, piercing in through the blackness like a flare of sunlight, and then there was another, and another.  Warmth crept into his chilled his limbs, bringing back feeling and sensation, and it felt suddenly as if he were floating up, floating out of the darkness...

But just as he was about to burst through the last layer of unconsciousness, something changed.  Icy fingers clenched around his ankle, bony and painful, and he was dragged down a few inches; he didn't dare glance down, knowing what he would find, knowing who was holding him and not wanting to see those too-large, glowing yellow eyes staring hungrily into his own...

He paddled frantically upwards, arms thrashing in the thick black sea that surrounded him, but the fingers stayed clasped tight no matter how he struggled.  He tried kicking, screaming, twisting writhing--nothing seemed to work, nothing seemed to help!  He was being tugged down, deeper and deeper, and the glimmering surface was growing increasingly more distant.  It was fading.  He was fading.

And...it was hopeless, wasn't it?  The wolf was always there, ready to drag him down just when he thought he was safe.  He would never be free from it.  He would never be free.

As moments stretched into eternities, his struggles began to slow, his thrashing limbs going limp against the dark, certain hopelessness. 

Never...

He squeezed his eyes shut, hearing the growling cackle of the creature below him at his submission, and--rather half-heartedly--stretched one arm up above his head.  It was hopeless.  He knew it was hopeless, and certainly that simply offering an opportunity for rescue wouldn't guarantee one.  It had never worked before, after all--and he had tried.  He had screamed as the thing lunged at him on that sticky summer night, pleading for them to help him--he was the smallest of them, and he couldn't reach the window as they could.  He couldn't climb out, he couldn't reach...  But even knowing it was hopeless, he had stood there, poised on his tiptoes with arms stretched high above his head, fingertips just brushing the sill, and had prayed that someone would just reach in and help him... 

But no one had, and as the claws scratched jagged red lines on his arms and those glistening white teeth sank into his shoulder, he had known that he would never escape.

It would be no different now. 

But just as he was about to draw the arm back down to his side, there was a sound above him as of a warm, beloved voice, speaking soothing words that even the black sea couldn't swallow.  Instinctively, he tilted his head up towards that voice, descent slowing ever slightly as the wolf paused in confusion--

And suddenly strong, sturdy fingers wrapped around his outstretched wrist, and as he floated there, unable to breathe for the shock, they began to very steadily tug him back up towards the surface.  The thing beneath him gave a shriek of anger and dismay, trying to drag him back down, but the hand that rose from the surface...  It was too strong.  Renewed hope surging through him, Remus kicked his feet wildly, and it helped to propel him even more quickly upwards--he was only inches short of the surface when the bony fingers finally slipped from his ankle, and he was free.

As he felt, again, the welcoming warmth of consciousness returning, he couldn't help twisting his head down to look--and there it was.  The wolf, with yellow eyes large and glittering with anger, was falling away from him, unable to keep pace with the speed and strength of that rescuing hand.  The wolf would always be there, he knew, swimming in the murky depths in wait of him, but for now...for now...

He was safe.

Thankful tears on his lashes, Remus opened his eyes.

He was lying on his back in a bed that was not his own, soft, cottony blankets tugged up to his armpits.  From the thick white curtains that surrounded the mattress, he gathered he was in the hospital wing, and the nearby murmur of Madam Pomfrey's voice—as well as the unmistakable odor of Skele-Gro, mingled with the sharp, leafy scent of crushed herbs—seemed to encourage this assumption.  At first, he remembered very little of what had brought him here, knowing only that he was trembling and weary and had apparently been dreaming, although he had little memory of that at all. 

He let himself believe, for a moment, that this was merely another of his post-full moon check-ups, but a quick look down at himself showed none of the usual streaks of blood or knots of bandages that meant he'd hurt himself.  No, he was here for something else—something had happened.

He was just considering trying to sit up, or at least calling out so someone would come and explain his situation to him, when Madam Pomfrey's words came into sudden focus. 

"…and Black said that he didn't think he'd eaten at all since he'd come back, and of course he only picked at his food before that, so…well, it's no wonder he passed out.  I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner, especially after how badly he hurt himself after that last tr—"

"Now, Poppy," came a low, gentle voice, which Remus recognized immediately as that of Professor Dumbledore.  He sounded strangely wary, however, and Remus thought he detected a note of warning to his tone.  "Some things—private things—should not be discussed in places where young ears might overhear.  And in any case, I'm certain Mr. Lupin was not trying to starve himself.   Most likely he simply forgot."

Madam Pomfrey sputtered for a moment.  "For…forgot?" she echoed incredulously.

"Indeed," said Dumbledore, sounding as if he were smiling that thin, knowing smile of his.  "We must simply encourage his friends to…remind him to eat more often, and I'm certain he will be just fine."

From Pomfrey's scoff, she didn't think much of this theory, but she seemed unwilling to argue with the headmaster over it; Remus heard her stomping off towards her office, muttering under her breath as she moved, and a moment later, heard Dumbledore's soft chuckle.

"I'm afraid I may have upset her," he said, and for a moment, Remus thought there must be someone else standing out there with him, but soon realized this was not the case.  Dumbledore had come to stand just in front of his bed, little more than a tall, robed shadow through the curtains, and a quick tug on the fabric brought that smiling, bearded face into view.  "I'll wager she's not terribly accustomed to having her opinions dismissed so easily--but I don't think I am mistaken.  How are you feeling?"

Remus cleared his throat, tugging the blankets self-consciously higher despite Dumbledore having seen his scars before, and spent a moment pondering that question.  "I feel all right," he answered at last, the words little more than a croak.  "Where are..."  He stopped halfway through the question, suddenly remembering those last frantic moments before he'd passed out--his friends.  They knew there was a werewolf in the school--they knew!  Struggling not to let any hint of that panic touch his expression, he drew a few deep breaths and tried to ask again--but Dumbledore seemed, somehow, to know what he'd been on the verge of asking.

"They brought you here," he explained, "and rather than allowing them to wait and be told of your condition, I'm afraid Madam Pomfrey shooed them out."  Blue eyes twinkling beneath his half-moon glasses, Dumbledore leaned in; his voice was scarcely a whisper when he spoke next.  "But, don't worry.  They're standing over there by the door, under an invisibility cloak.  I daresay they won't show themselves until I've left, so I'll be on my way in a moment."

Remus' eyes widened at the mention of the invisibility cloak, as well as the fact that his friends were hiding just across the room.  How long had they been standing there?  And what if Madam Pomfrey had said something about his being a werewolf before Dumbledore was here to stop her?  What if they knew everything and were only waiting for Dumbledore to leave before confronting him about it?  Suddenly feeling sick and dizzy again, Remus lay limply back against the pillows, thinking he might faint again.

"From what I understand," said the old wizard slowly, and in a very gentle sort of voice, "for one already weakened, for instance, by having forgotten to eat over a matter of days, indulging in very stressful thoughts can lead to spells of nausea and even fainting.  Thus, I would suggest not dwelling on those thoughts while in such a weakened state.  Your friends will be there for you, Remus, and even if you doubt that, all you can do is have faith in them."  He smiled, sliding wrinkled hands into the folds of his robes, and started to walk for the door.  "The house elves have been alerted that you will be needing their services," he commented as he moved.  "I would suggest finding someone—perhaps three someones—to escort you to the dining hall and ensure that you do not…forget to eat while there.  Goodnight, Mr. Lupin."

And then, with a swish of displaced air and the click-snap of the door closing, Dumbledore was gone.

…and only seconds later, the air just to the right of the door shimmered, and Sirius, James, and a ruffled-looking Peter appeared.  James had the usual flush of disobedience to his cheeks, while Peter was looking decidedly nervous, as well as a bit claustrophobic—the moment the cloak was removed, the short, plump boy sucked in a deep breath of air and scurried away from his friends.   Sirius, meanwhile, had a strangely-thoughtful expression on his features, dark eyebrows sliding together on his forehead.  For a moment, Remus was terrified that it was because his friend had finally fit the clues together—the thought sent another nauseous wave of dizziness swirling through his brain—but then the dark-haired boy turned to James.

"I think he knew we were there," he said.

James glanced at him in surprise, cheeks still pink with mischievous pleasure, and raised an eyebrow.  "Which of course is why he didn't say anything to us and just...left," he offered dryly.

Sirius looked as if he was about to argue, but a glance in Remus' direction seemed to quell this urge.  Leaving James to the task of folding the cloak back into a neat square, Sirius crossed the room and came to a halt beside Peter, who was already standing at the smaller boy's bedside. 

"Are you all right, Remus?" Peter asked a bit nervously.  The boy's round, plump-cheeked face was screwed up in worry, tiny tendrils of sweat creeping near his ears, presumably from the close quarters beneath the cloak.  His short brown hair was mussed and even more unruly than James', but he didn't seem to notice or care, fingers tangling anxiously in front of him. 

Drawing a deep breath that helped to calm his worries--his friends wouldn't, after all, be speaking to him so normally if they knew--Remus nodded.  He was still mostly on his back on the bed, only elevated by the slight rise of the pillows, but he was able to meet Peter's eyes with what he hoped looked like reassurance.  "I'm all right," he said, and immediately cleared his throat as his voice was still sounding more like a croak. 

Wolf, not frog.

"I'm all right," he repeated in a stronger voice.

Sirius stepped around Peter so he stood next to Remus' head; his dark hair was hanging in staticky tangles around his face, and despite the slight smile that tugged at his lips, Remus could see the concern in his eyes.  He lifted a sheepish eyebrow.  "I guess you really weren't feeling well."

~*~

With Sirius on one side and James on the other, Remus began the agonizingly-slow trek to the dining hall.  From the scuffle of shoes on stone, he knew that Peter was following just behind them, but weariness and the somewhat-restrictive support of his friends' arms prevented him from turning to see. 

Despite feeling stronger and less dizzy than he had earlier, Remus was still having trouble keeping himself upright; Madam Pomfrey had assured him that he would feel better after he'd eaten, but he couldn't help but think that there was something more to his state than just hunger.  He felt drained, as if he'd just come through a three-day battle and had only barely survived, and he had the definite feeling that the dream had had something to do with it.  As they made their silent, scuffling way down the staircase, he chewed on his lip and strained to remember. He'd never had difficulty recalling his dreams before, but then of course, generally he was asleep and not unconscious when those dreams occured.

He closed his eyes for a moment and tried to concentrate, willing his mind to return the images of the dream to him.  He succeeded, after a few seconds, in catching a glimpse of those familiar yellow eyes rising up through the darkness, but the usual tinge of hunger to them was gone, replaced by...

Anger?

Something grabbed his wrist, a firm, steady grip, and he opened his eyes to discover that they'd stopped.  A glance down showed Sirius' fingers wrapped around his wrist, and he could feel the taller boy's eyes on him, concern flaring through midnight blue.

"Are you all right?" Sirius asked, and despite how many times he'd heard that question over the past few days, it still felt good, to know someone cared.  "Do you want to take a break?"

He shook his head, and was pleased to notice that the motion didn't send the corridor spinning around him.  "Let's keep going," he said quietly, and so they did.

When they reached the dining hall, the food was already waiting there for them, a variety of bowls and plates and platters squeezed together at the very end of the Gryffindor table.  There were chicken legs, chicken thighs, chicken wings, turkey slices, mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, baked potatoes, green beans, string beans, bowls of ripened fruit...  He heard sounds of astonishment and hunger from his friends, and remembered that he had passed out before any of them had had much to eat at supper.

Four places had been set at the table, two on each side of the long table.

They moved forward slowly and silently, as if afraid of scaring off the feast that had been prepared just for them; after Sirius and James had helped him into his seat, Sirius settled in beside him while James and Peter circled to the other side and sat down. 

"It's weird, isn't it?" Peter whispered after a moment, leaning forward in his seat.

James raised an eyebrow at him, already piling potatoes onto his plate.  "What's weird?"

"This," said Peter, glancing around the silent, vacant dining hall.  "It's so...empty."

"Well," James replied, popping a green bean into his mouth, "it is the middle of the night, you know, Peter."

Remus was dragged out of his own musings at the empty hall when he noticed Sirius' arm reaching past his face.  The taller boy had slid over on the bench so their shoulders touched, and was now using that closeness to heap potatoes, beans, and pieces of chicken onto Remus' plate; the smaller boy stared at it all for a moment, mouth hanging open, before he could find the voice to speak.  "Sirius, I...I really don't think I can eat this much."

After three more spoonfuls of mashed potatoes, which were now piled wobblingly-high on the plate, Sirius replaced the spoon on the table and cast his friend a stubborn look.  "Try," he said simply, and Remus found that his tone left no room for argument.  That firmly-set jaw clenched just a bit tighter. "I'm not taking my eyes off you until you eat at least half of that.  I mean it."

And Sirius was good to his word.  While Peter and James laughed and chatted and ate, Sirius sat there at the table in silence, unmoving, and stared at the side of Remus' face while the boy slid tentative bites into his mouth.  Remus felt his cheeks warming at the attention, and tried to summon a bit more appetite so as to remove that stare as rapidly as possible; fifteen minutes later, and just when a clock somewhere was chiming midnight, he did so, and a glance to the left showed Sirius smiling at him. 

The taller boy clapped a hand onto his shoulder, the movement noticeably gentler than the slap he typically afforded James.  Remus felt the flush returning to his cheeks.  "There," Sirius said, still grinning at him; his eyes were as murky as ever, looking more black than blue in the dim candlelight.  "Now, I hope you realize that from now on, we're gonna be watching you every mealtime to make sure you eat."

James and Peter, whose mouths were both full of mashed potatoes, nodded and mumbled their assent.

"Because if you think we're going to keep skipping supper to carry you up to the hospital wing, you're mad."

Another mumble of assent from James and Peter.

Despite his best intentions, Remus felt a small smile touch his lips.  "All right," he said. 

After having been deprived of food for so long, his stomach felt heavy and filled to the point of bursting; although so much still waited on his plate, Remus knew that if he didn't stop now, he was going to end up in the hospital wing again, this time for very different reasons.

He laid down his fork.

Beside him, Sirius was shovelling food into his mouth at an astonishing rate, making him very unfit for conversation, but as Peter and James were still discussing something animatedly, the small boy turned his attention to them.

"--said it goes right into Hogsmeade," Peter was saying.  His eyes were very wide, his elbows propped against the table; a tiny smudge of mashed potatoes clung to his chin.  "He said he found it in his fourth year by accident but that he never told anybody because he was afraid they'd tell other people and then everybody'd know about it.  And, well, he told me not to tell anybody, but I had to tell you guys.  I mean...think what we can do with something like that."

Noticing Remus taking an interest in their conversation, James--who was looking about as full as Remus felt, one arm wrapped around his middle while the other lay limply on the table--turned to the smaller boy to explain.  "Peter has an older brother in seventh year."

"Panamore," Peter supplied.

Sirius, who had taken a moment to breathe before diving back into his food, raised an eyebrow at the boy.  "Panamore Pettigrew?" he echoed; his voice quavered with repressed laughter.

Peter nodded, frowning at the dark-haired boy as if struggling to figure out just what was so amusing.  "Right.  ...but we call him 'Pan' for short."

James burst out laughing.  "P-Peter and...and Pan!" he crowed; his voice bounced around the empty hall at ten times its volume, so much so that Remus spent a few nervous moments watching the door, expecting an angry McGonagall to poke her head in any moment and demand that they go to bed.  When she didn't appear, he turned back just in time to see Peter throw a glare at James.

"What's so funny about that?"

"Oh, come on," James said with a grin, reaching up to adjust his round black glasses.  "Peter Pan?  Boy who never wanted to grow up?  Honestly, don't you guys pay any attention to Muggle culture at all?"

Receiving only blank looks from Peter and Sirius and a non-committal shrug from Remus, James shook his head in exasperation and crossed his arms on the table.  "Anyway," he said, casting a brief, apologetic grin at Remus, "Peter's brother...Pan..."  He spent a moment trying to force back his laughter, which ended in a little snort of amusement before he could continue.  "Like Pete was saying, when Pan was in fourth year, he found a secret passageway in the castle that leads--"  Despite the completely empty hall, he glanced around, then leaned far forward to finish the sentence.  "--right into Hogsmeade."

Remus, who had heard of the all-wizard community from his parents, felt his eyes widen.

"Of course, first years aren't allowed to go to Hogsmeade," Peter said, his cheeks still slightly flushed from his earlier irritation.  "You can't go until you're at least in third year, and then only if you have a permission slip from your parents."

"Unless," said James, grinning his wicked I Have A Plan That Could Get Us Expelled grin, "you have an invisibility cloak and a secret passageway."

~*~End Chapter Five~*~

Friday, January 24, 2003:  Greetings, all!!  Humooooooongous thanks to the twenty-three reviewers of chapter 4:  Mariliss, evil spapple pie, Skittles, NK, white owl, WildFireFriendship, S.C. Hardy, ForceMuette, Orange, silent-wishes, shadow priestess, Flying Heart, no one, moontimegrouch, Kioko Mitsu, J. Liha, Joey Potter, Moonee, Bookworm 2000, Fleur Delacour, Hello, Balail, and yes, even mark. 

And now, because there were a few questions in Chapter 4's reviews, iiiiiiiiit's Q&A time!  ^_~

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Q:  Sevvie's a little selfish, isn't he?  Is he going to work on any of the assignment?  Remmie can't do all the work...  Selfish Snape.  What does 'xenophobes' mean? (evil spapple pie)

A:  Severus will, indeed, be working on some of the assignment. ^_~  He and Remus, actually, were supposed to meet to go over his part of things, but as Remus spent that time in the infirmary...well.  But Snape will definitely make an appearance in chapter 6.  As for your second question, a xenophobe is someone who is afraid of things that are foreign or strange or extremely different from him/her—such as werewolves. 

Q:  I just hope this doesn't become a love story between Sirius and Remus; I hate those fics.  (Orange)

A:  Ehehehehehehwell.  ^__^;  I'm sorry to disappoint you, Orange, but as the warning in the first chapter states, that is indeed the direction this fic is heading.  If you disapprove of that, and it sounds as if you just might, then you're welcome to stop reading, but if it's how authors handle the relationship that bothers you more than the relationship itself, then I ask that you give me a shot.  *shrug*  First off, the romance aspect of things won't happen until Remus and Sirius are much older—perhaps not until fourth or fifth year—and second of all, I swear on Remus' bushy wolf tail that this will not just be all about s-e-x.  So, I do hope you'll give it a chance, but if you'd rather not, I understand completely, and wish you well. ^_^

Q:  Are Malfoy and Wealsey and Snape and The Marauders in the same year? I didn't think that Malfoy and The Marauders were in the same year...O_o (Flying Heart)

A:  As far as I know, there's nothing in the books that says precisely how old The Marauders are in relation to Lucius Malfoy.  Now, granted, there's a very good chance that in a later book, dear J.K. will prove me wrong, here, but in this story, yes, Lucius Malfoy is in the same year as the Marauders.  Again, I'm not sure how well this matches with J.K.'s vision of the characters, but I think it's plausible, so...well, there you go. ^_^

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If there are any more questions, just leave 'em in your reviews and I'd be glad to answer them.  And now, because I unfortunately don't have any excerpts to share (sorry! ^_^;), I'll address three reviewers who I think deserve addressing. 

First of all, I want to thank Kioko Mitsu and Joey Potter:  the two of you left the kinds of reviews all fanfic authors dream of—longer than a sentence, thoughtful, and filled with details that demonstrate a thorough reading of the chapter.  I appreciate all the reviews I receive, but reviews like these always make me smile that wide toothy smile that gives random passersby reason question my sanity. ^_~  So, thank you.

And now, to Fleur Delacour.  Thank you for all you said in your review; it's brave to say things of that caliber in an open space like a review page, and I'm glad that it was me you chose to say them to.  I'd also like to invite you to join the okamalist, which is a yahoo groups mailing list I run geared towards gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and supportive-straight fanfiction authors; a link to it can be found on my fanfiction.net member page, or you can go to the main page of my website and put your email address in the Join box.  You don't have to join, of course. ^_~  But I just thought I'd invite you, because we have a lot of fun, and I think it's a good community to enter into considering the problems you're having with your family and friends. 

Anyway, okay.  Spiel over. ^_^  And anyone else, of course, who would like to join the okamalist is welcome.  *nod* 

Allllllllll righty, then.  I suppose that's all for me.  Sorry for the lack of any excerpt from chapter 6, but there's a very good reason for that—it's not written yet. ^_~  However, I will tell you that Snape will return, and that there will definitely be more with the book Remus rescued from the library.  And that's alllllllll I'm going to say. ^_~  Thanks again, everyone! 

~Ryuen