Starcross'd: part 1 (one): CRESCENT

By:
Fala Reflects The Madness Within Tzipori

Written: Summer, 2004
Fandom: Harry Potter
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Romance, Drama, Angst, Humour
Pairing(s): Sirius/Remus, James/Lily
Warnings: slash, strife, kinky foreshadowing, overused puns, exploitation of the French language and an Obligatory Shower Scene (TM).
Plot: At the start of their fourth year at Hogwarts, James, Sirius and Peter are surprised and intrigued by the new transfer student, one Remus Lupin. Said transfer student, one Remus Lupin, is surprised and intrigued by other things ::koffandotherpeoplekoff::
Spoilers: None, I do not think . . .
Dedications/Thanks: HUGE thanks to Carlea, ├╝ber-talented talented writer and grammar-Nazi extraordinaire for beta-ing all ninety seven pages of this shite. Thanks so much, love. You so totally rool.
Disclaimers: The characters in this story belong to J.K. Rowling. I'll return them before their warranty's spent.
Other comments/schtuff: n/a

A short, stocky boy called Peter Pettigrew passed through the deceptively solid brick wall as easily as if through water and emerged on the other side. He gripped the handle of his trolley and joined the collective sea of black robes that was massing round the scarlet train emblazoned with The Hogwarts Express. Most of the students were already on the train, from the looks of the shapes moving about in the windows, but there was still a fair-sized crowd on the platform. As the students milled about, barely noticing he was there and chatting excitedly amongst themselves, Peter stood on his tiptoes, trying to see over their shoulders, searching them for a hint of familiar black hair . . .

Hoy, Peter! Over here!

Peter turned and saw his two friends standing by the wall a bit to his left and he began pushing his trolley toward them. James Potter was stood in front of his own luggage, holding his broomstick at a fastidious angle. His hair looked as dark and unruly as ever, though possibly a trifle longer and his socks had fallen into folds round his thin ankles, revealing the slightest hint of muscle gain. He'd talked all summer about trying out for Seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch team and it was obvious he'd been practicing and getting in shape. Sirius Black could have attested to that. He'd stayed with James for more than half of the summer holidays and had spent a great deal of time batting Muggle ping-pong balls into the air for his friend to catch. He was now leaning against the wall across from James, his arms crossed over his chest. Sirius was very good-looking with his smoothly muscular frame, cocksure blue-grey eyes and soft black hair which he'd let grow out over the summer. The slight smiles he was directing at passing girls revealed that he was also quite aware of how handsome he was.

All right, Pettigrew? James said, smoothly tossing the broom from his left hand to his right.

Hi, James, Peter greeted his friend with a nod and a smile of his own. Hi, Sirius.

What took you so long? Sirius inquired, audibly bored as he combed a sheaf of hair behind his ear with his fingers. We've been waiting for half an hour.

Sorry . . . Peter said sheepishly, We got halfway to here and my Remembrall went off and then I remembered I'd forgotten my cauldron.

Well, let's get on the train and bagsie our car before some other idiot does, Sirius said, pushing off from the wall and taking hold of his trolley. The three friends then went about boarding the train. The trio had first met in the rearmost car of the train on their journey to Hogwarts in their first year, and, since then, it had become a sort of tradition for them to claim that car as their own when they rode the train back to school.

Now, in their fourth year, they found they they would not have to break this tradition, per se, but they would have to bend it slightly, for when they entered car, they found that someone was already there.

A smallish boy stood on tiptoe with his back to them, stowing his trunk in the overhead compartment. He was grunting and panting a bit from the effort at trying to push the bulky trunk which looked to be about as heavy as he was into the tight space.

The stranger was lean and a bit gangly beneath too-big secondhand robes. His hair was the warm, weary colour of sun-dried earth and fell in forlorn, messy layers round his head. He appeared to be possibly a bit shorter than James and definitely shorter than Sirius, who was the tallest of the four. He did not hear the three come in and they, a bit alarmed at finding car invaded, could only watch him in silence. Finally, he managed to get the thing into the compartment and for a second simply stood, panting and looking up at it as if admiring a work of art. It was then that James found his voice. Well, that looked difficult.

The boy turned round sharply, the excess of fabric flopping lazily at his legs. The slender hands that poked out of the baggy sleeves were held in an uneasy half-curl. His face was narrow and diminished. His eyebrows were set at earnest angles above his his eyes, which were ochre in colour and a bit slanted. They were keen, clear, and true eyes, but the shadows closed in on them, making them quiet, slightly feral and sad. All at once, he perked up and a shy smile shaped his thin mouth. he said.

Er, mind if we join you? Sirius said, trying to keep the annoyance (at not having car to themselves) out of his voice.

The stranger shrugged. I don't mind. He sat and watched the other three struggle with their own luggage, then sit themselves down. Peter took a seat next to him while James and Sirius sat across from them. They were silent for a moment, simply exchanging awkward glances before James spoke up. I'm James. James Potter.

Sirius Black, Sirius said, still slightly annoyed.

Peter Pettigrew, Peter introduced himself.

I'm Remus, the boy said with a friendly smile. Remus Lupin.

Lupine? Like the flower, Lupine? Sirius commented with an amused smirk.

Remus smiled and shook his head. No e' on the end.

Oh, that sounds French! Peter remarked excitedly, as if he were thrilled that he had something to contribute to the conversation Is your family French? I had a French nanny once. She used to read Muggle fairy tales in French to me, like Little Red Riding H-

I'm not French, Remus said sharply. Peter shut his mouth, surprised at the clipped tone of voice Remus had used.

Fortunately, James rescued the conversation before an awkward silence could settle in. So, where are you from? No wait, let me try and guess. He thought for a second, studying Remus for any additional clues he might derive from his appearance. You sound a little Northern. Cambridge?

Remus smiled and averted his eyes as he shyly answered, The other three shared a let's-try-not-to-snigger-shall-we? look and Remus rolled his eyes. I know, I know. Farm boy.

James said, though he was clearly stifling some mirth himself. You don't sound that far north, really.

I was born in Blackpool. We moved when I was six, Remus explained. We've lived all over, really, but we stopped in Yorkshire when I was eleven. I did live in Cambridge for a year, though. Before that, we were in Manchester for a while, then we moved to Aylesbury. . . he furrowed his brow pensively. Wait a minute . . . He then began counting his past hometowns off on his fingers, Blackpool, Manchester, oh right, we spent a few months in Birmingham, then we went to Aylesbury. Cambridge was last before we went to Yorkshire. Well, we lived with my gran in Leicester for a month between, if that counts.

Hence the muddled accent, Sirius noted sleekly. Remus humoured him with a nod. Peter, however, seemed genuinely impressed. Wow, that's a lot of moving. I have an aunt in Aylesbury-

Hang on, James interrupted, waving his hand, You said you moved when you were eleven, as in you're not eleven anymore?

Remus tilted an eyebrow. That's right. I am fourteen.

So you're not a first year, James confirmed.

Remus shook his head. I'm transferring.

Sirius frowned. I didn't know you could transfer to Hogwarts.

Remus shrugged uneasily. He was no longer looking at the others and was fidgeting nervously with a loose thread on the sleeve of his robes.

All at once, the train gave a sharp jerk underneath them, making their luggage rattle in the overhead compartments. The train had begun to move and the station outside the windows soon became a blur of greys. A few moments later, a kind-faced witch came by the car with a trolley full of snack foods. The four traded gold for munchies and the remainder of the train ride passed in a pleasant haze of conversation, cake, chocolate, and laughter. By the time they arrived at Hogwarts, the three had gotten to know Remus and found that while he was a little evasive and withdrawn when certain topics were discussed, they enjoyed his company well enough to forgive him his trespasses. Even Sirius had gotten over his little grudge and was laughing with Remus about a chocolate frog Peter had accidentally let escape the previous year. Apparently it had hopped into the next car over and given a first-year Hufflepuff girl quite a fright.

When they rode up to the castle in the strangely horseless carriages, Remus rode with Peter as James and Sirius seemed inseparable and he was hardly one to try and come between two best friends.

Upon reaching the castle, James and Sirius expected to regroup with the other two, but were surprised to find themselves greeted only by Peter who simply pointed to the group of first-years clustered toward the front of the Great Hall. Standing noticeably taller amongst them was Remus.

James smacked his forehead. Of course, he's never been here before, so he's got to be Sorted first. He, Sirius and Peter took seats at the Gryffindor House table and turned to watch the Sorting, which began with Argent, Ginger! ().

So, where d'you think he'll get into? Peter asked a few minutes into the Sorting. He was looking down at his empty dinner plate with anticipation.

Sirius shrugged. Dunno. He's kind of twiggy, doesn't look like he'd be good for Quidditch or anything. Probably Hufflepuff.

James, who was also fairly , kicked his friend under the table for saying that such people weren't good at Quidditch, then added, He talks really well for a farm boy. You know how people who read a lot of books talk really well? I'm banking on Ravenclaw- Oh, look, new Gryffindor! James applauded with the rest of the table as Fairchild, Beverly was Sorted into Gryffindor.

He seems nice enough, Peter said quietly. But there's something . . . I dunno, off about him. I mean, did you hear him when we were talking? He practically snapped at me. His eyes are really strange-looking, too. Every time he looked at me it gave me the creeps.

He was probably nervous, James reasoned dismissively. Remember how nervous you were in our first year? You were shaking so badly you couldn't even ask where the toilet was.

So you wet yourself, Sirius added and laughed. James laughed as well, remembering the incident very clearly.

Keep it down, will you? Peter pleaded, looking round and making sure no one had heard them. And I still think there's something weird about him. Something scary. I wouldn't be surprised if he got put in-



James said suddenly, silencing Peter with a hand on the shoulder and pointing the front of the Great Hall where Knetch, Charlotte had just been Sorted and Lupin, Remus! had been called for.

He won't get in Slytherin, James added quickly. Remember, on the train he told us he's half and half. Slytherins are almost always purebloods.

Point taken, Peter nodded and turned to watch their friend get Sorted. A slight kink of anxiety hitched his stride as Remus approached the stool and the three could see the other first years whispering amongst themselves as they watched him. He sat down and the hat was placed on his head.

It was always amusing to watch the newcomers twitch with surprise when the Hat began to speak. Remus started a bit when the seam in the hat opened.

Hmm, tricky. Let me see . . . Well, clearly the mind is not lacking as you've managed to cram three years' worth of magical knowledge in this head over the course of a year with a tutor, the hat mused aloud. Common sense and compassion aplenty also. There's a great deal of daring here, as well, though you don't always show it. After all, you're very brave to come here at all, considering the circumstances . . .

Remus twitched uneasily at that and vaguely wondered whether or not this conversation was private or whether the Hat was about to go blabbing his utmost secrets to the entire school right then and there.

Don't worry, no one can hear me but you. I may be a Hat, but I've mind enough to keep secrets . . . well, secret, it threw in quickly and Remus felt a swoop of relief in the vicinity of his ribcage as the Sorting Hat made its final decision, though this bit it chose to announce out loud. Brains and bravery can only be GRYFFINDOR!

When Remus emerged from under the hat, he hurried over to the Gryffindor table. James waved. Over here! He scooted over to make a space and Remus happily sat next to him. Good show, mate! James said, giving Remus a congratulatory clap on the shoulder. Peter and Sirius looked almost apologetic as they offered their own welcomes to Gryffindor.

When the Sorting ended, Dumbledore stood to make a his speech before the start-of-the-term feast as he had done the previous year when he had been appointed Headmaster. Another year has begun, he said, and with it, we have garnered a group of new faces. I do hope the returning students will be as gracious in welcoming the newcomers as they are about to welcome this marvelous feast. He gestured ceremoniously. Tuck in!

At once, a dazzling array of food materialised on the surfaces of the golden plates that had been set along each of the house tables.

Sirius commented approvingly and snatched up a turkey drumstick which he wasted no time in sinking his teeth into. James laughed around a more reasonably-sized mouthful of peas. Sirius, has anyone ever told you that you eat like a dog?

Sirius elbowed James roughly, nearly making him lose his peas, but Peter nodded in agreement as he cut up a steak. More like a rabid wolf.

CLANG!

The three looked over at Remus, who'd suddenly dropped his fork onto his plate and was cradling his right hand in his left. S-sorry . . . he said, looking at his fork as if it had burned him.

What happened? James asked, puzzled. Remus just shook his head, as baffled as they were. After a moment, the other three resumed munching on their dinners and talking. Remus, however, was studying the edge of his plate. Oh . . . he said vaguely, jumping up from his seat and running over to the staff table.

The three watched, curious as Remus approached Headmaster Dumbledore and appeared to be apologising for interrupting his conversation with Professor McGonagall. He then leaned in and whispered something in Dumbledore's ear. Dumbledore nodded and snapped his fingers, conjuring a plate, soup bowl and set of cutlery, which Remus took with a quick nod of thanks. He carried them back to the table and set the gold plate down on top of the one that was already there, then nudged the eating utensils and the first soup bowl toward the centre of the table with his new soup bowl and set the rest of his dinnerware up. Food immediately appeared on his new plate.

James, Peter and Sirius watched all of this with immense curiosity. Any particular reason why you can't eat off that stuff? James queried, gesturing toward the set that had been pushed away. They look exactly the same.

Those are only gold-plated, Remus explained, then tapped the edge of his new plate. These are solid gold.

Sirius snorted, And I thought my family had expensive tastes.

Oh no, that's not it, Remus said, shaking his head, I can't eat with anything silver. There's silver under the gold plating. He pointed to the edge of his first plate where some of the gold had been chipped away, revealing the shiny grey metal underneath.

Can't eat with-? James started, but Remus was swift to explain. I'm allergic to it, he said quickly, cutting James off. Very allergic. Lead's harmful to some Muggles isn't it? Even if it's painted over. Why shouldn't silver be harmful to me? He then took a huge bite of shepherd's pie and the subject was dropped.

By the by, on the way up did anyone notice the big freaking willow tree? Sirius asked of the others, helping himself to some spare ribs.

James nodded. Strange that they'd plant something that dangerous right on the grounds.

Peter frowned. What're you talking about? Why would a tree be dangerous?

Did you see this thing? Sirius burst out incredulously. When Peter shook his head, Sirius rolled his eyes. It's not just a tree'. This tree is, I dunno, mad or something. It's got branches going like this, he said, waving his arms wildly round his head, every which way!

Half of the people at the table looked up at Sirius doing his impression of the violent new addition to the grounds. When he noticed all the unexpected attention he'd garnered, he slowly lowered his arms only to touch his chin suavely with the thumb and forefinger of his left hand and smile at all the girls at the table. A few of them exchanged a giggle and went back to eating.

Remus had not said a word since the topic had been brought up, but stared at Sirius's antics with a troubled glint in his eyes. He knew he should have laughed to see this fellow student who obviously had a excellent rapport amongst his classmates - the girls seemed to be especially taken with the handsome and charming Gryffindor - acting out so ridiculously, but somehow, he could not bring himself to laugh. Remus knew why that tree had been planted. He was probably the only student in the school who did, and now the mere mentioning of it was enough to send dreadful chills along his bones. Sirius, however, had not noticed Remus's troubled state and resumed the somewhat barbaric consumption of his food.

The meal continued fairly uneventfully for the next few minutes until, all of sudden, James spotted something across the room that made his features light up in a positively devilish way. Sirius . . . he said in a gleeful hiss, nudging his friend's shoulder.

Sirius acknowledged his friend through a mouth full of pork. James pointed across the room at the next table over and Sirius swallowed, breaking out into a wicked grin. he said in a mischievous whisper, he looks like he hasn't washed his hair or his face all summer! Peter grinned conspiratorially as well.

Remus looked in the direction that James had been pointing. He then saw that they could mean no other than a curious-looking student who was sat at the table next to theirs soberly munching on a steak. While the rest of the students were conversing animatedly round him, he was hunched over his plate and eating in silence. Even without the dark colour of his robes and the black of his hair (which, Remus had to agree, was very greasy), he looked so very alone and dismal that the candlelight appeared to touch everyone at the table but him. His pale skin did little to counter his shadowed appearance, though it was very light and greasy enough that Remus thought it should have shone in the candlelight. He had an angular face, which showcased a sprinkling of acne and a hooked nose that gave him an almost vulturine appearance, Remus thought.

Peter was quick to explain. That's Severus Snape.

Better known as Snivellus, Sirius added lightly, grinning. Oh and look at that, James. He's got peas.

Cottoning on immediately, James covertly drew his wand and put his knife into the same hand to hide it. Keeping his actions as covert as possible, he aimed the wand at Snape and whispered,

All at once, a pea that Snape had been carefully balancing on his fork flew off the prongs and dissappeared up the boy's left nostril. It must have gone up very fast because Snape's head jerked back violently and he fell backwards off of his seat.

James and Sirius high-fived, or indeed low-fived each other under the table and Peter flashed them a thumbs-up. Gets him every time, James sang, pocketing his wand. Learned that little gem flipping through our Charms textbook last year, he explained to Remus, grinning proudly. I'll teach it to you sometime if you want. I don't think you'll learn something like that in Twideon's class, after all.

Laughing a bit, Remus nodded. All right. He had to admit, the concept of shooting a pea up someone's nose was pretty funny, even if it probably wasn't very funny to the owner of that nose. When he looked back over the other table, he was only half surprised to find that no one had actually gotten up to help Snape. In fact, they seemed not to notice his plight at all. When Snape got to his feet, he was plugging his right nostril with a thumb and flinging his head forward, trying to dislodge the pea and glaring for all he was worth directly at James and Sirius.

Remus blinked when Sirius and James smiled angelically and both made rude gestures from across the table, nearly perfect in their synchronisation as if they'd done it many times before. How'd he know it was you? Remus asked.

Because it usually is, Peter said simply. They've been at it since last year.

James nodded. It's become something of a sport, now.

More like a vendetta, Peter intoned, then shrugged. But I admit, that stunt with the itching spell last year was hilarious.

As the three shared a snicker at the memory of whatever had happened, Remus privately thought that he'd rather not know the extent of what they got up to. He decided he'd like not to be involved in it, whatever it was, and only if Snape, or any other student, lashed out at him directly would he counter the attack. He wasn't the type to go taking the mickey out of the people because he was a potential oddball himself and his situation was precarious, even if he was the only one who knew it.

So, d'you think dear Miss Lily Evans will go out with me this year? James asked of Sirius who rolled his eyes. When Remus looked questioningly at Peter he cocked his head toward the end of the table where a group of fourth-year girls was sat. Red hair, green eyes, he said before returning his attentions to his meal. Even as Remus was leaning forward to get a better look, James stood from his seat and yelled loudly down the table, ALL RIGHT, EVANS?

A girl with long, auburn hair and strikingly bright green eyes looked up from her plate, raised her eyebrows along with two fingers at James before she resumed talking with her friends. Sirius sniggered, James sulkily kicked him under the table, Peter didn't look up from the turkey leg he was working away at and Remus continued to look across the table at the girl named Lily Evans. She was very pretty in a feisty, tomboyish way, he thought, and there was something almost stylish in the way she had so coolly responded to James's intrusion upon her conversation. When she looked to her left, presumably to make sure James wasn't trying to get her attention again, her eyes met Remus's own. He quickly looked away.

As the academic year commenced, James, Sirius and Peter were friendly enough to Remus, though they were a little leery of him. The more time they spent with him, the more they realised that Peter had been right in his initial assessment. While his company was generally pleasant if not rather uneventful, Remus did tend to snap at them at unexpected places in conversations and he struck the other three as a bit moody at times. He also spent a great deal of time in the library poring over his homework assignments with far more devotion than was necessary in James's and Sirius's opinions. On the rare occasion that he didn't study during his free time, he generally kept to himself, socialising only when he was approached. Stranger still, barely a week after the term had begun, Madam Pomfrey came to the Gryffindor table at breakfast and informed Remus that she would meet him at the castle entrance that night.

What was that all about? James asked after she'd left.

My gran's ill, Remus answered, not looking up from his grits, My parents want me home for a couple nights.

So what's that got to do with Madam Pomfrey? Sirius asked.

She's going to escort me, Remus explained, more intent than ever on finishing his breakfast. To the train station, I mean.

But why her? Peter pressed, looking up from his oatmeal. Shouldn't the head of the House be in charge of something like that?

Remus just shrugged and got up from the table muttering something about packing. However, when the other three returned to the dormitory that night after he'd gone, they found all of his things by his bed, right as he'd left them.

When he returned two days later, Remus looked, to say the least, worse for the wear.

It was a few hours into Sunday afternoon and James was about to win his fourth game in a row of Exploding Snap against fellow fourth-years Blaire Ingle and Derry O'Connor. Several students in other years were strewn about the room working at tables or sitting in chairs and talking. Sirius was lounging in a handsome heap of limbs, draped languidly over the armrests of his favourite overstuffed chair. He was wearing a pair of loose-fitting slacks and a tight white tee-shirt that he'd cut the sleeves off of and every once in a while, a girl would look up from her book, eying him hopefully. Meanwhile, Peter was studying feverishly behind a stack of textbooks across the room.

Sirius saw him first. The Portrait Hole opened and in stumbled Remus, looking positively haggard. He waved sleepily when James and Peter said and Sirius got up to give him a sheet of parchment. He met him at the staircase to the dormitories.

Lucky you only missed Friday, he commented, holding out the bit of parchment. We wrote all your assignments down for y- Are you limping?

Thanks . . . Remus muttered, ignoring the question and accepting the parchment with a slightly shaking hand. He tried to pocket it, though he missed three times before his finally got it in. Sirius watched all of this with mounting concern, taking in the dark circles under Remus's eyes, which he seemed to be having difficulty keeping open, his trembling hand, and the generally exhausted state he seemed to be in. Are you all right? You look right knackered.

Remus didn't look at Sirius, but gestured vaguely up the stairs toward the dormitories. I was up all night . . . Need sleep . . . he mumbled and started up the staircase. He hadn't gone two steps when the leg he seemed to be favouring shuddered violently and Sirius found himself catching an armful of limp, barely conscious Remus Lupin.

Er, Peter? A little help? Sirius called as quietly as he could across the room to his friend, trying not to draw too much attention to himself. A few of the students who were working at tables had looked up from their books, but a sound glare from Sirius got their attentions back to where they belonged. His first thought had been to call for James, but he knew James could be in the middle of an earthquake and not notice while he was playing Exploding Snap.

Upon hearing his friend call for help, Peter quickly put down his quill and hurried across the room. When he reached Sirius, he was met with a peculiar sight; Remus slumped backwards against Sirius on the first step up to the dormitories and Sirius holding Remus awkwardly under the arms. Remus appeared to be in a state of general collapse, his head resting against Sirius's chest and he was staring up at Sirius with half-lidded ochre eyes.

Stop gawping and give us a hand here! Sirius snapped heatedly at Peter who responded immediately, taking one of Remus's arms and slinging it about his shoulders. Sirius did the same with Remus's other arm, swearing quietly as the woollen sleeve of the dark blue jumper Remus was wearing irritated his bare shoulder.

They started up the stairs and it was very awkward balancing Remus between two boys as one of them was quite a bit shorter than the other. The lack of coordination between Sirius's and Peter's footsteps on the stairs made it even more frustrating. Walk, dammit, Sirius hissed at Remus. We're not doing all the work for you! Remus obediently lifted his foot onto the next step and between the efforts of all three of them, they managed get him upstairs. Once they were on the landing, Remus was able to make it to his bed on his own, keeping his hand on the wall for support. Once he'd reached his bed, he climbed into it without changing his clothes. He didn't even take off his shoes. The two on the landing, no small bit puzzled, turned to go downstairs.

That was weird, Sirius muttered.

Tell me about it, Peter agreed. What kind of person goes to visit his grandmother and comes back looking like something a cat coughed up?

Not only that, Sirius added. What kind of person wears a long-sleeved wool jumper in this weather?

The next morning, Sirius woke up a bit earlier than his friends and was one of the first to
sit down at the breakfast table in the Great Hall. He'd barely begun scooping eggs into his mouth when he heard a familiar voice from behind.

Mind if I sit here?

He looked over his shoulder and saw Remus looking well-rested and generally better after having had close to twenty hours of sleep. He still looked a little worn around the edges, but it didn't look like anything a good meal wouldn't fix. Sirius nodded. Go ahead.

Remus said, lifting his robes from beneath him so that he wouldn't end up on top of them as he sat. He began helping himself to some bacon and sausage. And thanks for your help last night, he added quietly, looking up at Sirius with an earnest flicker in his eyes.

Sirius swallowed his eggs a little more heavily than was necessary. Peter was right. Remus's eyes were very strange, but it was not their shape or colour that was so disconcerting, Sirius realised. There was a certain sincerity in their depths that was softly ominous like distant thunder, but keen and sharp like a cry for help. It was very eerie, as if the gaze itself were licking at something in the pit of Sirius's stomach, triggering a strange, tickling uneasiness within him. He suppressed a shudder. No problem, he said as casually as he could and quickly shovelled more eggs into his mouth.

At that moment, James and Peter arrived and sat on either side of the two at the table, James next to Sirius and Peter next to Remus. Morning, gents! James positively chirped.

Sirius snorted. Being that chipper on a Monday morning ought to be illegal.

Peter said through a yawn. He inquired politely, Feeling any better, Remus?

Remus smiled and nodded, appreciative of his friend's concern. I am, thanks.

Oh, they told me you were really ill, James said, his voice still perky, but more apologetic. Sorry. I would've said something last night if I'd known, but you know . . . He fiddled with his sausages guiltily.

Caught up in the heat of competition? Remus grinned good-humouredly. It's all right. Sirius and Peter took care of it.

James brightened, smiling widely and practically singing, Well, glad to hear you're feeling better, mate! Sirius rolled his eyes. All right, why are you so obscenely bouncy today?

You didn't see the notice on the board, then. Quidditch try-outs are next Friday, James explained cheerfully, pouring pumpkin juice into his glass with a little more flair than was necessary.

Quidditch try-outs on a Friday? Sirius queried incredulously, That's pretty stupid, waiting till you're all knackered from a week of slave labour to see how good you are.

I know, James lamented, stabbing at his cereal with a spoon. And I can't practice for it either ever since that arsebasket Prensely booked the pitch for Hufflepuff all this week and Slytherin has it all of next week.

I know a way you could practice, Remus offered quietly.

James dropped his fork onto his plate with a clatter. His hazel eyes had grown almost comically large and eager. Remus nodded. Meet me outside by the Quidditch pitch on Saturday morning and I'll show you. Wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty.

Saturday morning followed a rainy Friday night and the three friends awoke to find Remus already up and gone from his bed. They dressed quickly and made their way outside, assuming they were to forego breakfast.

It was still fairly early and a feeble mist hung low in the air, dampening the grounds. After walking round to the rear of the castle in the direction of the Quidditch Pitch, they found their target. Remus was gambolling about on the grass with a strange black and white ball that neither James, nor Sirius nor Peter had ever seen before.

he explained brightly, swiping his hair out of his eyes with the back of a hand and unwittingly leaving a great smear of dirt over his left eyebrow. Judging from the grass stains on his trousers and the dirt on his hands and sneakers, he'd slid and fallen several times already. It's a Muggle sport.

The others were skeptical of this with its one ball and lack of brooms, but once Remus explained how it was done and they saw how simple it was, they decided to give it a go. The lack of bludgers was an added bonus. James figured it might help hone his reflexes and get him back into the mindset of competition, if nothing else. He and Sirius formed their own team, leaving Remus with Peter and they began the game.

Even though they were new at this sport, the other three found that they were each quite good at it. James had excellent reflexes and a keen eye and Sirius's long, strong legs carried him swiftly over the damp grass. Peter was neither agile nor fast, but his shorter legs ended up being a great advantage to him as they were ideal for making quick turns. He would have the ball, Sirius would be catching up to him and just as it looked as though he was about to sneak up beside Peter and steal the ball, Peter would dart to the other side and take off in the opposite direction in the blink of an eye. Once, Sirius tried to follow through on one of these sharp turns. He tripped over his own ankle and plunged face-down onto the grass.

They played until lunchtime, each surprising the other with his own newfound tricks of the trade. James and Sirius worked spectacularly together. Previous years of classes had given them plenty of practice at communicating with each other using simple noises and gestures from across a room, which came in quite handy. Remus and Peter did not have this advantage, but Peter had surprisingly good aim and his sturdy legs made for some impressive kicks. Remus was, on the whole, the most average player of the lot, being faster than Peter but not nearly as fast as Sirius or James. He could get the ball and keep it very well, but he had terrible aim and often ended up passing to the other two when he meant to pass to Peter. However, what amazed Sirius and James the most was that while Remus was losing abysmally and getting very dirty for the many times he'd tripped over his shoelaces, he was still laughing and smiling like he was having the time of his life.

By the time they're reentered the castle dirty, sweaty and, in Peter's case, positively gasping for breath, Remus had become an official member of their little circle. The other three, all of them purebloods, were very interested in the softspoken, spindly-limbed half-Muggle who knew about football and electric torches and television. They had also seen a new side of him when they were playing football. As they were heading back to the Tower to get cleaned up, Remus was carrying the muddy ball in his arms, getting his shirt rather dirty, but positively beaming beneath all the dirt that had gotten smeared all over his face.

The other three secretly thought that this was the first time since they met him that they had seen Remus looking genuinely happy. While his smiles were frequent and his manner was bright, secrets swam in those curiously coloured eyes which betrayed a deeper sadness. Ever the canny one, Sirius picked up on it immediately and decided that there was more to Remus J. Lupin than what met the eye.

The next morning, Remus woke up earlier than usual. He'd been having a strange dream, in which he was lying on his back and staring up at the full moon . . . Only to realise it was no moon, but a pale, silver-blue eye set into the face of a great black dog which he'd mistaken for the starless night sky. Nonetheless, it was the night of the full moon, and the dog was standing over him, staring intently at him as he lay, wounded and bleeding upon the ground. The dog lowered its head to lick at Remus's face and neck which had been slashed and clawed. The rough, warm tongue did not hurt, but almost seemed to make the wounds disappear, as if they'd never been incurred at all . . .

Remus shivered a bit, recalling the dream vividly as he retrieved his robes and a fresh change of clothes to wear underneath them. As he put his trunk away, he saw Sirius emerging from his bed on the other side of the room, clad in the most unholy shade of chartreuse the human eye had ever beheld. He yawned enormously, dropping to his knees like a bag of wet cement beside his bed and began rummaging noisily through his trunk. Remus smiled. Sirius was one of those people who simply could not greet the day quietly. If he wasn't dragging his feet on the floor or thumping down the steps, he made up for it with all sorts of grunts and growls and other such graceless morning noises.

After he'd finished getting his robes and clothes together, he kicked his trunk unceremoniously under the bed and stood, noticing Remus was watching him with rapt interest.



Remus nodded purely for the sake of keeping his mouth closed lest he burst out laughing. Coming away from sleep does odd things to people's voices and Sirius was a prime example of that. His tongue always seemed to wake up about ten minutes after the rest of him. Remus smiled to himself. Amusing, that.

As he watched Sirius and his maddeningly chartreuse pyjamas disappear downstairs to shower, Remus noted that, if nothing else, Sirius did somehow elude bed-hair. How he managed it, Remus would never know but for some reason, Sirius's hair almost always left his pillows in almost the same handsome state as when it was laid upon them.

Gathering his robes and a change of clothes, Remus followed Sirius to the showers.

They had both risen to greet the day early enough that they were first to use the showers. Remus usually made certain he woke early enough so that he could shower alone. His body was something he felt obligated to spare others the sight of. This morning, however, it was just Sirius with him and if he took a few preventative measures, there was a good chance that Sirius would not notice. Remus retreated to a corner of the tiled room to get out of his nightclothes, but Sirius just pulled off his pyjamas and threw them in a messy heap on the sink beside his robes, then strode without any hesitation at all to the sideboard on the other side of the room. Remus looked on enviously, admiring not only the handsome, muscular contours of Sirius's back and legs, but also the confidence in his stride.

Sirius retrieved a towel and a bar of soap from the sideboard. En route to a stall, he saw that Remus was staring at him, frozen in the middle of unbuttoning his blue tartan pyjamas.

What's the matter with you? Sirius barked, looking at him strangely. You never seen a lad starkers or something?

Remus had the decency to avert his eyes. Hadn't his mother had always told him it wasn't polite to stare? Yet, Sirius had a point; Remus had not, as far as he could recall, ever seen another boy naked. He'd never seen a girl naked either. He was an only child, so he'd never been required to help bathe a sibling or change their napkins. Also, due to all the moving across the country he had done, he'd never really been able to make any close friends, so there had been no skinnydipping or games of or anything else that would have primed him for the sight of Sirius standing before him now. Warmth rose in his face and he shook his head slowly.

Sirius seemed genuinely surprised. he said, then he grinned slyly and set his towel and soap down. He turned to face Remus, threw his head to the side so that his hair fell softly about his jawline and rested his fists on his hips, which he tilted at a showy angle. Well, take a good look.

Against his better judgement, Remus did as he was told and slowly looked up at the boy before him. The Blacks must have had quite a few gems in their gene pool, he thought, looking over Sirius's long legs, rounded shoulders and finely angled hips. Puberty had given him a strong jaw and had tastefully distributed faint, black hairs along his limbs and lower torso. He smiled very slightly, his grey-blue eyes glittering quietly. Like what you see?

Remus could not answer. Sirius grinned and said simply, Well, you won't be seeing anything better. He then picked up his towel and soap and dissappeared into a stall. When Remus heard him turn the faucet on, he fetched a towel and bar of soap for himself, then hastily finished removing his pyjamas, feeling very self-concious. He wrapped his towel round his middle and hurried into the next stall over. Once he'd shut the door behind him and locked it, he pulled the towel from his hips and hung it up on the peg. As he placed the soap into the little tray nailed onto the door, he could hear Sirius alternatively muttering and humming to himself as he washed. He could picture Sirius pushing pale fingers through deep black hair, which was even blacker and shinier when it was wet. In the back of his mind an image surfaced of those same pale fingers moving, dreamlike, in the shadows of a deserted classroom . . .

Remus hastily started the water and washed, trying not to look at his own skin.

Their first lesson the following Monday was Potions, which they were to take alongside Slytherin.

I'll never understand why we have to have class with these slimy gits, James was saying as he set his cauldron on his worktable. He made a vague gesture toward the other side of the room where the Slytherins were sat. Oh, but Jimbo, some of our best and cleverest Snivellus-pranking has taken place here, Sirius reminded him, drumming his fingers lightly against the rim of his cauldron. James cuffed him playfully behind the ear. Black, if you call me that too many more times, you're gonna have a black eye.

Why do you two hate Snape so much? Remus queried, glancing over at the Slytherins' half of the room, where the young man in question was meticulously setting up his cauldron, mortar and pestle and textbook. James turned in his chair to answer as Remus and Peter had taken seats next to each other in the row behind himself and Sirius. You don't know him yet, but once you do, you'll see.

Remus blinked. You can't just tell me?

James snorted. Why we hate him? Why not? No one likes him, so why should we? I mean, look at him. He's just . . . James turned to Sirius, Hey, Sirius, how did I describe Snivvie-kins this morning? I said something rather good, I think.

A manky, moth-eaten excuse for a greasy, shit-eating git, Sirius recited smoothly, smirking approvingly. Remus wanted to say something, but remembered his resolution not to get involved, so he kept his mouth shut. A minute or so later, the Potions Master, Professor Eldwight, arrived. She was a short, stout woman with long, wavy black hair that dragged lightly on the floor as she walked to the front of the classroom and began the lesson. She announced that they were to make the Amphimorgous Potion which could turn toads into frogs and was used to remove warts from human skin.

It was during this lesson that Remus came to realise that he was, to say the least, not much of a Potions brewer. While he was an adept learner, had a firm grasp on the concepts and was quite brilliant with a wand, this class required nothing but sheer concentration and precision. He had trouble focussing on such mundane matters as grinding dried ginger root to a perfectly smooth consistency, measuring nothing more or less than the exact amount of hedgehog spines or stirring his concoctions at a fixed speed. Unfortunately, Peter had the same problem. Neither of them could pay attention to what they were doing long enough to brew the Potion properly.

Halfway into the lesson, Peter's creation was leaking out of a hole it had burned through his cauldron (and thus burning further holes in the worktable and floor) and Remus was all but cowering in his chair, convinced that his cauldron (which was making ominous crackling noises and belching large clouds of smoke) was going to explode.

Professor Eldwight came to the rescue, repairing Peter's cauldron and snuffing Remus's with two flicks of her wand. After a quick assessment, she deemed that their potions were not beyond repair and they could still make them correctly, but she recommended the two not sit together any more because two wandering minds are not bound to reach the finish line. She asked James to work with Peter and Sirius with Remus.

All right, let's see what he have here, then, Sirius said, either to himself or Remus as he slid into Peter's seat. Much to Remus's relief, Sirius seemed to have either forgotten the incident in the showers or he paid it no mind. This was a good thing because Remus was going to need all the help he could get with his potion. Sirius and James were both excellent in this subject as could be seen from their own potions which had been completed successfully and in record time. Remus also had a feeling that Sirius rather liked the opportunity to share his smarts with fellow students, and also to showcase them. He peered into Remus's cauldron and frowned. The stuff inside was no longer smoking, but had turned a vile shade of . . .

Sirius observed, tsk-tsking. Well, that's probably because your ginger root wasn't ground up right or you didn't put in enough. He looked expectantly at Remus and Remus's heart sank. Recollection struck him rather nastily and he slowly reached for his mortar and pestle which held a fair amount of ground ginger root. I forgot to put in the ginger, he said sheepishly, It's all still in here. He recalled that he'd immediately began chopping his sage leaves after he'd finished grinding the ginger root as all of the ingredients were supposed to be prepared before putting actually putting any of them into the cauldron. When he'd finished getting them all ground, chopped, sliced and peeled, he must have bumped his mortar and pestle to the side and completely forgotten about it.

Sirius raised his eyebrows and grinned. Well, there it is. He held out a hand for the mortar and pestle. Give it here and let me have a look before you put it in. Remus handed the mortar and pestle over and Sirius appraised his work on the ginger roots. Hmm, this looks all right, but I'll give a bit more for good measure, Sirius said, and Remus looked on in rapt silence, watching his pale, smooth hands gripping the two pieces of marble firmly and grinding them together with an almost sensual rhythm. When he was satisfied, Sirius deposited the ginger into the cauldron.

All right, next you've got to stir that in. He handed Remus a wooden spoon, but held up a hand in warning. Now you've got to be really careful with this part. If you stir it too fast, it'll heat up. That's probably why it started smoking last time. Here, I'll show you a trick . . . He fished a piece of chalk out of his robes and made a small mark on the rim of the cauldron, then pocketed the chalk again. All right, I'll count off by threes for you. When I say , your spoon should pass this mark. That way, you'll know you're pacing yourself right. You ready?

Remus nodded and dipped the spoon into his cauldron.

All right . . . go, Sirius said and Remus began stirring slowly. One - two - three. One - two - three. One - slow - down. One - that's - good. One - two - three . . . Sirius counted the stirs off on his fingers as he continued to count aloud for Remus. As he stirred, Remus saw that his potion was slowly starting to turn the correct mustard yellow colour and he looked over at Sirius who nodded approvingly. After Remus had stirred the potion eight times according to the eight fingers Sirius was holding up, the potion was the colour it was supposed to be and Remus's confidence was restored.

All right, I think you can pick up where you originally left off now, Sirius said, leaning back in his chair. I'll let you finish it off on your own, but I'll keep an eye on you, make sure you don't arse it up, all right?

Remus grinned and nodded. He then added the hedgehog spines and essence of sage, stirring them in with the utmost care, watching Sirius's chalk mark and counting off by tapping his toe under the table. Lastly, he added three drops of bloodyberry juice and the potion was complete.

Very good, Professor Eldwight said of both Remus's and Peter's assignments. She nodded to James and Sirius. Ten points to each of you for helping your classmates. Then, she turned to the class, saying, I'd like each of you to place a flask of your potions on my desk so that I may mark them, and please don't forget to put your names on your flasks. After you have done this, you are dismissed.

As they were packing their books and things into their bags, Remus turned to Sirius, thanking him very much for his help. Sirius shrugged. No problem. Besides, your cauldron might have blown up and then where would we be? He dropped a quick wink and a grin and they hurried to catch up with James and Peter.

After lunch, the Gryffindors headed upstairs for their next class, Charms. The lesson was enjoyable enough even if their teacher, Professor Twideon, was very strict. She was a stern, but comely woman not a day over twenty-five with shoulder-length honey-blonde hair and wire-rimmed spectacles. Her lesson for the day consisted of two simple but potentially fun charms. The aim of the first was to change the basic colour of an object and the second was a silencing charm (Very useful for those annoying, squeaky hinges when you don't have any grease).

At the end of the lesson, Peter, James, Sirius and Remus were making their way back to Gryffindor Tower when Sirius stopped them for a moment. He'd spied Snape across the hall and was taking aim with his wand. Pigmentia Alterus.

There a small burst of light, and a yelp of surprise. Sirius turned and quickly hurried his friends into the next corridor over, stopping only when they were all safely hidden to peak round the corner and admire his handiwork.

Positively fuming, Snape and his filthy, fluorescent pink hair stormed off.

Remus simply could not understand how James and Sirius did it. They hardly put any time or effort into their studies, yet they seemed to do so well in class, he thought bitterly as he worked slavishly behind a stack of textbooks. The stack was just short enough that if he sat up a bit, he would just be able to see and James and Sirius playing wizard chess on the other side of the room and attracting quite an audience while they were at it.

It was well past bed-time by the time Remus had finished all but one of his assignments and everyone had gone up to bed except himself and James, who was sat in an armchair, hurriedly reading his Charms textbook. Reading chapter one of Intermediate Charmery was Remus's last assignment and, stifling a yawn, he reached into his satchel for the book. It was not there.

Alarmed, he began rummaging frantically through his bag for the book when recollection reached him. During Charms class, he and Peter had sat together and he'd put his book under his chair in favour if sharing with Peter to make more room on the desk. He must have forgotten about it and left it there when the class was dismissed.

What's up, mate?

Remus looked up. James seemed to have noticed he was distressed over something and was looking over his book at Remus with inquisitive hazel eyes.

I left my book in the Charms classroom, Remus explained.

James made a face. Not good. I'd let you use mine, but I'm kind of using it right now.

Remus nodded. Right. And I don't want anyone mad at me for waking them up to ask them, he added gloomily.

James thought for a moment, then rose from his chair. Well, maybe I can help you . . . he said cryptically, tiptoeing up into the dormitories and reappearing a moment later with what appeared to be a silvery bedsheet gathered up in his arms.

What is that? Remus queried, pointing at the bedsheet-looking thing. James grinned. Swear not to tell anyone and I'll show you how it works.

Remus grinned back, delighted that he was being let in on a big secret and nodded, drawing an over his heart with his finger.

James said proudly, shaking out the cloth, is the secret of out success. He whipped the sheet over his shoulders and was suddenly nothing but a floating head.

Remus blinked, a bit startled by the sudden dissappearance of his friend's body. An invisibility cloak?

James pulled it off himself, bundled it up and handed it to Remus. If you get caught with this, he said, smiling grimly, I'll see to it you're royally arse-kicked.

Smiling gratefully, Remus accepted the cloak and headed for the Portrait Hole. He then threw the cloak over himself and looked back to James, who flashed him a thumbs-up before opening the Portrait and slipping stealthfully out.

Light from the gibbous moon spilled over the floor in elegant trains through the windows along the hallway. Remus felt a strange tingle at his lack of a shadow when he padded over one of these lengths of light. He could feel the invisible hem of the cloak dancing round his ankles as he made his way down the hall.

He crept quietly into the Charms classroom and saw at once that his textbook was lying beneath his desk. He fetched it quickly and quit the classroom, intent on getting back to Gryffindor Tower as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, Remus's return to the dormitory did not go as planned. As he was sprinting up one of the staircases, it shuddered beneath him, causing him to lose his footing and fall. By the time he'd cleared his head enough to discern what happened, he realised that the staircase had swung out to the left and attached itself to a different landing.

Remus swore quietly and picked himself up off the steps, making haste for the landing before the staircase decided it fancied another switch. As he looked round him, he felt panic seize his heart. He had never been down this corridor before. If he had, he certainly did not recognise it in the throes of darkness. The moon did little to penetrate the blackness on this side of the castle, only chancing an occasional brave strain of pearlescent light. Remus silently berated himself for leaving his wand in the dormitory. Getting caught by a teacher because he'd risked using the lumos charm was better than stumbling round in the dark in an unfamiliar place. He pulled the cloak more tightly about him.

All of a sudden, a glint of light caught his eye and he turned to the side. To his left was a door, which was slightly ajar. He pushed it the rest of the way open, wincing when it uttered a faint creak, and slipped inside.

He stood at the front of what appeared to be a classroom that had not been used in years. The great, arching windows yielded to the flood of moonlight which illuminated the grey film of dust that covered the desktops, chairs and floorboards. Then at once, Remus saw the source of the glint he'd seen.

A great mirror stood at the back of the classroom, gleaming and beckoning in the moonlight. Panic diluted by curiosity, Remus padded over to the mirror for a closer look. There were words carved into the frame which he had to stand on tiptoe to read. They were in a different language and he did not understand. He noticed a chink of glass was missing from the topmost part of the mirror and he glanced down at the floor. Sure enough, at his feet lay the triangular shard. He carefully picked up the piece and lifted it to the top of the mirror to wedge it in where it belonged. However, he stopped when the reflection of the shard in the mirror caught his eye.

His forearm had left the sanctuary of the cloak and looked as though it were floating in the air, the hand attached to it holding a sharp piece of glass that shone in the moonlight. As if this weren't strange enough, the shard was reflecting ERISED, the first word carved into the frame. In the reflection of the shard in the mirror the word was shown in reverse and Remus saw that was simply spelled backward. What could that mean? He wondered as he pushed the piece back into its place. Had it been intentional? He felt something inside him tell him that it had been and he withdrew his arm into the cloak.

Remus looked at the glassy surface of the mirror, seeing only the reflection of the room behind him and instinctively pulled off the invisibility cloak. As he dropped the shimmering fabric to the floor, what he saw made him jump back in surprise. He looked sharply over his shoulder, expecting to find someone there. There was no one. But he could have sworn he'd seen . . . Trepidation riddling his breathing with shudders, he turned back to the glass.

In the mirror, he saw the softly glinting eyes and lanky fourteen-year-old frame he knew to be his own. Behind him, he saw the black of the shadows thrust loosely round the room, solid and stark against the pale grey wash of moonlight and the black of darkness that had gathered in the corners. Black of an entirely different kind was also behind him, touching his shoulder with a smooth, bright hand and smiling at him with obvious affection before touching his lips to Remus's temple. The hand then moved to his neck, where it slid down slowly, deftly, like a wave over sand. Remus's heart leapt at the sight, then clenched painfully and he tore his gaze away as that hand moved to unbutton his shirt.

You c-can't be serious . . . he murmured, either at himself, or at the mirror. Even he did not quite know which it had been. Keeping his eyes on the moon-brindled floorboards, Remus threw on the invisibility cloak and darted out of the room.