Cub4.html Usual disclaimer: all characters are JK Rowling's, and I bet she really didn't make Lily a Slytherin

OK, before I'm flamed too hard for the "muggle-born in Slytherin" thing, here's the explanation.
The Latin terms are all lunar features: mare tranquillitatis, sea of tranquility; mare crisium, sea of crises; oceanus procellarum, ocean of storms; mare ingenii, ocean of cleverness.
(New version has a couple of typos corrected and a new Dementor bit)

Cub Scout 4

The Gryffindors rapidly got used to Lily. They even tolerated her occasional presence in the common room, as long as she solemnly swore to tell none of her fellows its location, and didn't wear anything with green in it. People stopped taunting James so much for his dating preferences--though there was endless speculation on how Lily, from a Muggle family, could end up in Slytherin. James would look uncomfortable at this and refuse to answer.

She was a more than welcome addition as Potion-brewer to the Animagus project, and her advice was taken as readily as James'--with one exception. Sick of being pestered and spied on, James finally relented and let Peter Pettigrew in, over all of Lily's warnings that he would be no good.

It was easy enough to get Peter caught up, slow though he was. James and Sirius had done the hard part already: learned which spells were critical, figured out how to tie them together, and discovered dozens of the ways in which they could go wrong. Peter's late start meant that he would have even less choice in his animal than the other two--his transformation would reflect more of his pure nature--but this didn't seem to bother him as long as he got to spend all evening every evening next to James, imitating him.

They practiced for the first time after more than a month of rehearsal, on the night before the full moon, just on the edge of the Forbidden Forest.

"What now?" Peter asked James worshipfully. James, Sirius, and Peter were a much clumsier fit under the Cloak than the usual threesome because of Peter's big belly, and they had spent a full fifteen minutes waddling out to their meeting site.

James looked at the sky: his best friend's namesake, Sirius the Dog Star, was just visible over the southern horizon. It was nearing midnight. "We wait for Lily and Remus," he said.

There was a crunching in the leaves. "Here we are," said Lily's soft voice, slightly out of breath. She was holding one side of an extremely full, evil-smelling cauldron. On the other end was Remus, looking just about ready to drop it. "Careful…" she warned. "I don't want to end up part infant. Whew." They nestled it into a hollow in the grass. "OK, guys, sorry we're late; it's much harder to sneak out without the Cloak. I love Remus' effect on Filch's cur, though. Who's first?"

"Er, we were thinking Peter should try first," James suggested. "Since he hasn't yet."

With a very serious look on his face, Peter stood between James and Sirius, eyes closed, concentrating.

Lily and Remus met each other's eyes over the cauldron. They were both glad they didn't have to do this.

He's such a nice boy, Lily thought, I can't believe he's a werewolf.

She's such a nice girl, Remus thought, I can't believe she's a Slytherin.

As if they sensed each other's thoughts, they both smiled sardonically, looking with bated breath at Peter.

There was a noise—a very small noise, not a pop but a click. Peter looked the same.

Apparently he noticed a difference, though, because he rolled up his sleeve. "Ooohh…"

"Fur," Sirius diagnosed. "Yeah, that's happened to me a few times. It wears off."

"You should've seen me last month," James reassured.

"But I—but you—can't you remove it?"

"No," Sirius told him, "I've tried. Don't try shaving it, either—you'll be sorry. And since it's not on your face, you shouldn't go to Madam Pomfrey; save her for emergencies."

Peter looked around at each of the others, near tears. Finally he glowered at Remus, the only one he didn't consider a deity. "Are you going to do it?"

Remus yawned. "Oh, I'll do it tomorrow," he said, with a sly peek at the gibbous moon shining nearly overhead. "How about you, Sirius—moment of truth."

"James first." Sirius was tense. He still didn't know what he was going to be.

He hadn't practiced since the horns, but James was sure he'd identified the problems. Now there was an almost immediate pop and the stag was standing next to them.

"My toe!" Peter yelled.

"He's not on your toe," Sirius yelled back.


James went over to Lily and nuzzled her, then gazed inquiringly at Remus.

Remus touched an antler cautiously. He questioned the wisdom of Mother Nature in providing prey animals with such formidable weapons, but tried not to dwell on that. "Hey there, Prongs. Can you come back, or do you need some of this lovely juice?"

There was another pop and James was back.

All eyes turned to Sirius.

"OK, OK, I'm ready." He stood in front of the cauldron. With a glare on either side—one for Peter, one for James—he shut his eyes and was quiet.

"Should I transform too?" James wondered. "For company?"

"Shhh… no. Show-off. Everyone stop breathing."

Remus nearly did. He stared into the potion… at Peter, sulking… into the forest, where there was a large owl searching for dinner (what did he see?)… Finally he shut his eyes, too, unable to bear the suspense.

There was a tearing noise. Remus, James, and Lily all jumped.

Peter, trying to pull the cloth away from his furry tummy, had torn a hole in his robe.

James pressed a finger to his lips menacingly, making Peter cower.

They waited. Sirius didn't move.

The owl swooped silently from his perch and glided through the air. Remus was so engrossed by the hunt that he heard nothing. It was something bigger than a mouse that the bird was after; he could see the shape, crouched behind a rock… And there went the owl, diving while still far off and sneaking up on the unsuspecting--

A bark brought him back to his senses. A short bark of surprise, followed by the scrabbling of paws on leaves and pine needles.

It had been so many years, and he'd imagined this so many times, that for a split second Remus didn't know what to do. The dog was clearly an animal, from lolling tongue to wagging tail, but it was still Sirius: it had his shaggy black hair, his troublemaker's grin, his restless energy. So easy to believe his friend hadn't changed at all. His eyes were different, though: pale, washed-out blue, as opposed to the boy's dark brown. Funny, Remus thought, mine don't change color when I transform. I wonder what that means?

Finally he remembered his canine manners and stuck out his hand for Sirius to sniff. The dog licked his fingers, tail waving madly, then greeted James, Lily, and Peter in a similar fashion.

"Time to come back," James reminded him.

"Yes, come on," Lily urged, pointing at the potion. "Don't make me use this."

"Like we practiced," Remus added. "One, two--"

"Oh, God!" Sirius was still on his hands and knees. He stood up, threw his hands in the air, and shouted to the sky. "God! I did it! I did it! I was transformed, right, guys? All the way? It worked, didn't it? Oh, it was so different… How could I have been doing it wrong all this time…? Oh!" Finally he was at a loss for words. He ran over and gave Lily a hug. "I did it, right?" He turned to Remus, who was still a little stunned, and embraced him too, knocking his hat into the cauldron. "Buddy, I did it! We'll be cousins! I could see in the dark. The sense of smell… Geez. Wow."

"It's something, isn't it?" Remus commented quietly.

"I could tell you'd had a chicken sandwich for dinner," Sirius addressed Lily. "With mustard and pickles. And I could name every single ingredient in that vile brew you two were carrying. You," he told Peter, "reek of mouse, and you--" he smirked at Remus "—were a little bit scared of me." Everyone except Peter laughed. Sirius turned to James. "I'm just petrified I won't be able to do it again. Should I practice one more time?"

"No, not when you're tired," James advised. "It will be easier next time, though, I bet. Congratulations," he grinned. "No bunny rabbit."

Sirius was in such a great mood that he went to comfort Peter. "You're coming right along," he promised. "Really, I had that fur so many times… Lily, do you really have to lug that potion back with us?"

"We might still need it, Sirius," she told him. "It was your first time, and Peter… Why don't you let Remus and me take the Cloak, James, so we can put this into Zabini's dungeon? We'll bring it back out to you afterwards."

"Do you suppose the potion's still good with my hat dissolved in it?" Remus wondered.

"I'm sure it is. Turned it into a silkworm, probably."

They all crept back through the edge of the forest. Sirius couldn't stop talking. He even wanted to go off and fight Dementors. "Please, Moony? I'd be so good tonight."

"It's late," James reminded him. "You may feel good, but I'm sure your powers are drained, and Remus has a hard day tomorrow."

"Are we doing the real thing then?" Sirus wondered eagerly.

"No, please." Remus was worried and sad, but couldn't possibly have said why. "Let's give Peter a chance to catch up… and we still have to figure out how to stop the tree, so it doesn't club you."

"What?" Peter was confused. "What are you guys talking about? Did you turn someone into a tree?" he cried accusingly.

Fortunately, Lily changed the subject. "I have no interest in being an animal, but I'd love to fight Dementors. There's not a single Slytherin fifth-year who's even heard of the Patronus Charm. Let me know next time you practice."

James and Sirius spent every free moment over the next three weeks training Peter in his transformation, with Lily and Remus nearby in case of emergency. Finally, the night of first quarter, he did it for the first time.

They all practiced every day for a week after that, with a single glitch: Peter once ended up with two tails and no head. Remus' spells couldn't help since, headless, Peter had no mind to access—so Lily picked him up and plopped him unceremoniously into the cauldron.

A few minutes later, she put on her dragon-hide gloves and pulled out a fat, screaming blond baby. Ignoring Sirius' variety of suggestions as to what they could do with him in that state--although she laughed at "give him back to his parents and tell them to try again"--she pulled a vial out of her pocket and sprinkled him with a few drops.

Peter was back—spluttering and near tears, but back.

She put her vial away again. "Severus made it; I just nicked some. Not bad, eh? You'd better start working on the next batch of renewal potion yourself, Peter, because I don't think the old one will work twice." She reached into her pocket for a well-worn piece of parchment, and quickly did a copying spell. "Here's the recipe. I'd help but I'm going to be busy fighting Dementors."

Lily was everybody's hero after that. Sirius didn't even gag when she and James kissed goodnight, just watched her disappear into the dungeons with a wistful look. "If they made more girls like that, I might start liking them," he remarked.

The next night, Lily showed up in the dusty History of Magic classroom lugging a large cardboard box. It bulged a bit and squirmed in her arms. "Here's the critters; where's James?" She looked around, finding only Sirius and Remus. "He was supposed to bring chocolate."

"Oh, he's coming," Sirius chuckled. "He's still up there with the rat."

She shook her head. "If I cared, I'd worry that you had something to do with that… but I don't," she added heartlessly, laughing.

"It's his true nature," Sirius insisted. "This time, nature's crueler to him than even I can be."

She put down her shape-shifters. "How do you get these guys to turn into Dementors?" she asked. "You'd have to really be thinking about a Dementor--"

"Only Remus can do it," said Sirius. "I can't figure it out."

"I make no claims for their authenticity, but it's the best I can do." Remus tried to smile, but he had been morose and anxious all month. He should have been eager for the upcoming full moon, but instead he was dreading it more than ever before. And Peter still didn't know. "Do you have a happy memory ready, Lily?"

"Oh, yes—I've been thinking hard about this." She took out her wand. "OK, bring 'em on."

The lights were out when James came in, and the classroom was very cold. A small jet of silver was the only thing visible, and he could hear Lily's voice chanting "Expecto Patronum." He waited at the door, holding his tray full of food, until there was a loud CRACK and the lights came back on.

Lily, ice cold and shaking, went to snuggle him and take a Chocolate Frog. "I think you guys killed it," she chided Remus and Sirius, looking at the wispy remains of the shape-shifter. "You both tried to rescue me at once. Anyway, I was doing fine."

"Sorry," they apologized.

"It's best to stop while you're ahead," Sirius advised. "If you go until you collapse, you can't do it again for days. Oh boy," he caught sight of James' tray, "food!"

"I thought Remus would want something besides chocolate," James replied, "and since I was in the kitchen anyway…"

"Mmm, lamb chops," said Remus. "Thanks!" He took the tray as if preparing to devour everything.

"Save me some," Sirius scolded. "Dementors make me hungry. But don't do anything too gross," he made a face as James and Lily squeezed each other's hands, "you'll spoil my appetite."

James watched with surprise as Sirius made himself an enormous ham sandwich. "Oh no," he groaned, "I hope you're not going to start, too."

"Start what?" Lily questioned, watching Remus with interest. "Hey, do you eat a lot because you're a werewolf?" she wondered bluntly.

Remus choked. James made a funny face. Sirius tried to laugh, but even he looked embarrassed.

"What?" Lily demanded, trying to read James' expression. "We're not allowed to talk about it? That's too stupid." She took another piece of chocolate. "You don't have anything to be ashamed of," she told Remus matter-of-factly.

He gulped and tried to resume chewing. "Uh, right," he mumbled after he could swallow, "whatever." He clearly thought she was either a bit mad or making fun of him. The others could make dog jokes, but they would certainly never bring the topic up in such a callous manner. "I'm always hungry because I'm growing and so is, er, it," he confessed quietly. He was never quite sure what to do about the pronouns: "us" was confusing, and "both of me" just too weird. "It's like being two teenagers at once."

"Interesting," she said. "…Have you ever bitten anyone?"

He choked again. "No!"

"Well, then, quit acting like it's such a bad thing. Things are only bad when you're not allowed to talk about them. I just can't figure out why you're not a Slytherin—no, wait." She put up her hand before he could protest. "Of course I can, you're way too nice. If I were a werewolf--"

"God forbid," said Remus and James at once.

"What?" Lily laughed. "I could deal with it. Half of Slytherin House would take your curse in exchange for your skill in Defense Against the Dark Arts."

"But…" Remus began, looking at Sirius for help.

"They're not necessarily related," Sirius tried. "Maybe he's just good at the subject."

"Oh, sure," Lily snorted. "Tell me, Remus—were you always the kind, well-mannered boy you are now?"

Remus was about to object that of course he was, but nearly-forgotten memories came flooding back to haunt him. That last summer at home before coming to Hogwarts, when his mother had nearly despaired; the horrible effort in the tunnel to Honeydukes, trying to warn Sirius away, seeing his own best friend as prey. Hardly imaginable that that had been himself—and yet it was not so very long ago.

His silence told Lily that she was right. "Take advantage of it," she said, "it's a gift. I get enough of people trying to make me ashamed of what I am when I go home for the holidays, I'm not going to deal with the same garbage at Hogwarts."

Sirius chuckled. "Ah, the infamous Petunia. We're all waiting to be qualified so we can run to their house and change Petunia's nose into a snail."

"You can't do that, Sirius," said Lily in a sweet voice. "…Because she won't have a nose by the time I'm done with her! Do you know what she tried to tell me?" she asked Remus. "That since I was a witch, I had no soul."

Remus was concentrating on his midnight snack and didn't look at her. "Hmm," he said finally, trying to be casual. He still didn't know what to make of Lily. "That would make it hard to do a Fidelius Charm, wouldn't it?"

Lily grew very quiet for a moment. "What do you know about those?" she wondered, suddenly intense.

He met her eyes briefly. "Me? Nothing. Dumbledore is probably the only one in the castle who knows how to perform one. Why?"

Lily shrugged, switching too quickly from fascination to indifference. "I like a challenge as much as any of you. And I was worried for a second—can't have you beating me in Charms. It's the only pride Slytherin has left." She sighed and looked at each of them in turn. "If they'd given us just one of you…"

"Not me!" exclaimed Sirius. He was now eating a sandwich made of two pieces of bread and a chocolate bar. "Why the hell are you there? You're a mudblood!"

"Actually…" Lily allowed there to be a dramatic pause. "My parents are non-magical, but they're not muggles. That's right: Squibs, both of them. And from families that don't take kindly to Squibs, especially on my mother's side…" She dropped her dramatic tone and spoke matter-of-factly. "She was kicked out of the house, disowned, the whole business. I think she hopes they'll start talking to her again if I do something great--that's why poor Petunia, well--" she laughed cruelly. "You just can't feel sorry for her, but if there's a way for a muggle to be a Squib, that's what she'd be."

There was an uncomfortable silence. Everyone looked thoughtful.

Sirius broke the tension with a snort. "Aha! So your mum's a Pettigrew, Lily?" They'd all heard more times than they could stomach about how the great Pettigrew line had never produced a Squib.

"Nope." Lily smiled and raised her eyebrows knowingly. "A Malfoy."

"Oh my God." Sirius was genuinely surprised. James looked a little abashed.

"Eek, help, she's evil," said Remus blandly. "Instead of wishing us in Slytherin, Lily, why don't you wish yourself in Gryffindor?"

"Because, if you'll recall, five years ago Gryffindor was nothing." She stood up and addressed the others as if at a lecture. "Remember? We had won the Quidditch Cup for five years in a row, the House Cup for seven. We were unbeatable at Potions and always took at least the top five slots in Defense Against the Dark Arts. I was proud to be a Slytherin, as anyone would be. You three ruined everything."

"Gee, and she still likes me," James piped up dopily.

Lily glared at him to show this was no laughing matter. "Only because when you win, it's fair and square. Slytherin pride got stupider as we lost anything to back it up," she continued. "Sudddenly being a pureblood was all that mattered, not any real accomplishments. It was empty pride, without honor: when you beat Severus in Potions last year, James, he was determined to get you expelled. But when I beat you in Charms, you sent me a wonderful Mandrake that I still have in a giant pot in the greenhouse, and that I'm sure will come in handy someday." She sighed. "It's been a long time that Slytherins are no longer respected—only loathed."

Sirius and James high-fived each other.

"Still," Sirius peered at her with suspicion, "even if you're a Malfoy, there are plenty of people who get Sorted differently from their families. My mum was a Hufflepuff, Remus' parents were both Ravenclaws, James--"

"Gryffindor from way back," said James. "In fact, my parents are friends with the famous Pettigrews. I met Peter three or four times when we were both little and I couldn't stand him. Do you remember how, way back when, I tried to tell him I was a mudblood? I was afraid he'd recognize me."

"OK, so of three of us, only you follow your family," Sirius persisted. "The Hat must've known something about you, Lily; what did it say?"

"That's kind of a personal question, isn't it?" She leered at him. "But I might tell you if you tell me what memory you use for your Patronus Charm."

"Bad idea," said Sirius. He finally finished eating and picked up his wand. "I haven't gotten it to work yet. Moony, are you ready for one more go?"

Remus got up and went to the cardboard box, thinking hard about Dementors. "The problem is, when they send you to Azkaban they take away your wand," he remarked. "I don't think there's anything you can do to repel these guys then."

"Now that's a horrible thought," said Sirius. "We'll have to work on it, won't we? OK, now everyone shhh…"

Remus didn't fight any Dementors that night. He claimed that conjuring them was depressing, which it wasn't, particularly, and waited impatiently for Sirius and Lily to tire. He had discovered, with his first couple of tries at the Patronus Charm, that "Getting Into Hogwarts" really didn't work as a happy memory. His only near success had come when he thought back to the first day of their third year, when he'd arrived at school with a trunkful of Transfiguration books. Not only were James and Sirius delighted to read them, but they, too had spent their vacations doing research and rehearsing spells. The Animagus project had begun in earnest.

Somehow, tonight, that was just too nerve-wracking. When James leaned over to whisper that he'd shown Peter how to shut off the Whomping Willow, Remus tried to look grateful, although this bit of news made him more anxious than ever.

Maybe he wasn't the only one, though. Sirius was doing worse with his Patronus than the very first time he tried it; he didn't seem to be able to concentrate. Finally, in a rage, he blew the last of the shape-shifters to pieces and stomped off to bed. Remus followed; James and Lily clearly had another ideas.

Neither spoke as they mounted the stairs to Gryffindor tower, which had to be a first. The password this week was "mare tranquillitatis," which Remus thought was cruelly ironic, and he didn't even like to say it. "Mare crisium, oceanus procellarum," he murmured under his breath.

"Mare ingenii," Sirius added with a grin, showing he knew his lunar maps as well as anyone. "Nervous, buddy?"

The dorm was filled with sleeping boys. "Oh, God," Remus tried to whisper as softly as he could. "I keep having dreams that you're caught and expelled, or that you change back and--"

"Me too." Sirius clutched his stomach. "I dreamt McGonagall transformed me in class! Don't worry, everything's fine. We won't change back."

Remus finally put his finger on his anxiety. "I'm afraid you'll hate me," he whispered, glad for the darkness. "You're such happy, cute animals—and me--"

"So first James is an herbivore, and now I'm a domesticated swot, is that it?" He glanced at the surrounding beds, then cupped his hands around his mouth and put them to Remus' ear. "We'll wait for half an hour after moonrise. I'll come down the tunnel first, and before I meet you—I'll bark. If everything is OK, bark back."

Sirius' obvious delight at being able to bark amused Remus. Laughing quietly, they got into their beds.

Lily wasn't sure what awakened her—she had a vague sense that she'd heard howling. She crawled out of bed, climbed out of the dungeons, and looked out the window. The full moon was still high in the sky, illuminating the grounds. Everything was very still.

Then she heard it again: more than one voice, long howls, but not of pain: she didn't know what they meant. Telling herself that her friends wouldn't have left the Shrieking Shack, she went back down to the Slytherin dorms and crawled back into bed.

Her lunascope bleeped just at moonset. Wrapping herself in her warmest robes and James' Invisibility Cloak, she mounted the stairs and headed for the Whomping Willow. It was darker than it had been at midnight.

She almost didn't see the rat before she trod on him. "Peter!" she whispered. "Good, don't change back yet—wait until you reset the tree."

Peter couldn't reply, of course, but he seemed to be quivering all over. Was he stuck? He would certainly be easier to get back to the castle this way—Lily had an urge to pick him up and cram him into her pocket.

Now there was a rustle in the leaves underneath the willow, and the dog appeared. He shook himself, once, and then he was Sirius.

"Whoa, Sirius," Lily whispered, "you stink."

"I know," he grinned, "I rolled in something. It smelled great at the time. Do you have my wand?"

Lily gave it to him so he could de-stink himself, and was about to say something about them running around the grounds—or the forest? the village?—but Sirius noticed Peter first.

"What's wrong with him?"

"I don't know. I thought he was just waiting to reset the Whomping Willow, but--"

From deep inside the tunnel, there was a terrible crunching noise and a bellow of pain. Lily's heart leapt into her throat. James was down there, and Remus—the moon hadn't entirely set. What would happen if she yelled? "Sirius, what should we--"

But Sirius was doubled over with silent laughter. "He gets his head stuck every time. He's such a spazz. And the hooves! I keep telling him to have nice, proper paws, like everyone else, but no--"

James' head appeared under the tree. He was human already. He pulled himself out hastily and brushed sand and pebbles out of his hair. Lily grabbed him in a tremendous hug. "I was so worried!" she whispered. "What happened?"

"Nothing." He looked sheepish. "It's hard to crawl when you're an ungulate, that's all."

"James," Sirius whispered, cackling, "James, it behooves you--"

"Shut up, you paw chauvinist--Padfoot. I notice I'm the faster runner. Hey, what's wrong with Peter? We have to get out of here before Madam Pomfrey shows up. Peter, get the tree. The knot on the tree, Peter."

Even in his weakened, trembling state, Peter obeyed James, and soon the Willow was Whomping once again. They all tucked inside the Cloak, Lily holding Peter roughly by the tail. "It's like a nasty big worm," she remarked.

"Oh, this is awesome," Sirius laughed, unable to keep his voice down. "Now we've all got names. Moony, and Prongs… Padfoot, and Wormtail!"

Wormtail gave an enormous shudder—and suddenly he was fat Peter again, taking up more than his fair share of room. He was sniveling, too.

"Zip it," Lily told him. "We're sneaking, remember? I thought you understood that concept?"

Only his fear of James kept Peter's mouth shut, but the instant they were back inside the castle he ran bawling to the infirmary.

Remus was in such high spirits when Madam Pomfrey fetched him that he thought he wouldn't need to rest, but he still fell right to sleep and it was past suppertime when he woke up. He looked around the room, wondering where his friends were, hoping they'd experienced last night the way he had. His heart still raced with exhilaration as he remembered tearing through the trees after James, Sirius somewhat behind, the moonlit forest to his wolf's eyes as bright as day. The only pain he felt right now was a slight ache in his legs from too much running, and he was hungry, restless, and wanted out of here.

But the figure in the next bed looked somehow familiar.

"Peter?" Remus whispered, guiltily caring less about his friend than about their secret.

Peter rolled over under the covers and didn't answer.

Remus leapt up and peeked under the blanket. "Peter? What are you doing here? What happened, did something go wrong--?"

He wasn't furry. He didn't have a tail. But he wasn't talking.

Dressing as quickly as possible, Remus dashed for the doorway—but came to a skidding halt as he almost plowed into Madam Pomfrey.

"Just where do you think you're going, young man?"

"I'm fine!" he protested, praying she wouldn't ask him anything about Peter. "I have homework, and--"

"You're fine when I say you're fine, and I don't want you out of that bed today. Look at you, like a ghost."

"I'm just hungry, that's all. I wasn't hurt, you know I wasn't, not this time." He searched for a story, and was very surprised at the one his brain decided to tell. "The moon was at apogee last night, it was farther from the earth and smaller than usual." This was in fact true, but it was only 7% smaller than usual, and he was quite certain that didn't matter. It was just a random fact he'd learned last week from Professor Sinistra.

It probably wasn't this story that convinced her, but Madam Pomfrey let him go after just a few minor indignities (what did she expect to see by flipping your eyelids over like that?). Remus tore off down the corridor and up to the Gryffindor common room. There was no one there.

He tried the dormitory. James' drapes were pulled. Not him, too! "James!" Remus stuck his head in. "Oh!" he yelled, pulling his head out again.

He wouldn't have thought what James and Lily were doing was geometrically possible.

"Sorry," he called. "I'm really sorry. I just had a heart attack when I saw Peter in the infirmary--" He turned to run away, dreadfully embarrassed.

"Wait, don't go!" There was laughter. James and Lily emerged with most of their clothes back on. "I think he just got a little stuck," Lily snickered.

"He got stuck? And I couldn't help--"

"Don't worry. He's fine. He's just trying to attract attention."

"OK. I'm so sorry for barging in like this." Remus looked at the floor, afraid to meet their eyes. "I was just worried something had happened to you, too, James." When he finally looked up, he saw kindness in James' gaze and laughter in Lily's. "Are you OK? Where's Sirius?"

"Clearly I'm feeling fine," James replied with a grin, his cheeks turning a little pink. "Sirius—or Padfoot, rather—is out running laps around the field right now so he'll be able to keep up with us next time."

"You mean it? You had an OK time?" Remus sounded like a geeky boy after the prom.

James laughed a deep, cheerful laugh. "Oh, Moony, I won't miss another full moon with you for as long as I live."

"That should be more than a thousand of them," said Remus, for once rounding the number up and hoping that saying it would make it true.

"So much for staying in the Shrieking Shack," Lily commented wryly. "So it was you I heard."

"Totally my fault," Remus admitted. "I wanted to howl at the moon, couldn't resist. Sirius kind of liked the idea. Then he smelled a squirrel, and before you know it, we were halfway to London." He tried not to smile, but failed.

She looked at James. "Sometimes I wonder: dead squirrels, dashing through the forest… this is your idea of fun? And isn't that forest full of monsters… oh, right."

Remus laughed. "We weren't the biggest and baddest monsters, but we could hold our own, right, Prongs? There was an ogre behind that tree—did you smell him?"

"I sure did," James replied. "He gave me a fright."

"We gave him a worse one." Still hardly daring to believe, but with most of his anxiety dissipated, Remus felt sleepy once again. He shut his eyes for a second, trying to recapture the sounds and smells of last night before his human mind took over completely and erased them.

"I can see we're not tempting you," James told Lily, squeezing her hand.

"I'm less tempted with every new detail."

Remus opened his eyes and looked at her. "But you'd be so good, Lily!" he cried, forgetting himself. "Something intelligent and beautiful, like a red fox…"

She smiled, both at the innocence in his voice and his obvious preference for members of the dog family. She'd never received a werewolf compliment before; it was kind of cute. "I'm glad you think so highly of me, but you know what kind of grades I get in Transfiguration. I'd either get stuck or end up a wretched little beast like Peter." She cackled. "I bet he's just in the infirmary because you three scared the snot out of him!"

"Do you think so?" Remus raised his eyebrows. "I did pick him up in my mouth once… just to help him across the creek, he's a poor swimmer… I hope he didn't take it wrong," he added, clearly having difficulty understanding why Peter might have been frightened at being dragged through an icy torrent in a werewolf's jaws.

"Why don't you get some dinner and catch up on your homework, and I'll deal with Peter," James suggested. "It's probably not a good idea to let Madam Pomfrey to see you two together. That's why we didn't come to see you--we were afraid she'd see we were tired, or notice leaves in our hair, or something."

"Are you sure? Well, thanks. When you find out, I'll be in the library." He dashed off.

James looked at Lily. "Whatever form they're in, Remus tries to help and Peter gets it wrong," he said with a laugh. "Do you want to come along and wring the truth out of him?"

A look of scorn appeared briefly on Lily's face, but she wiped it off. "If I must… But only because I love you, James."

Supper had ended not long before, so Remus had no trouble getting a plate of sandwiches and a jug of pumpkin juice. He carried his plate outside and sat on the stone steps of the castle to watch the moon. It had risen about an hour later than yesterday, and would still have looked full to a less trained eye. The apogee event—the moon was farther from the earth than it could possibly get—didn't make any noticeable difference in the size, but Remus imagined that the features on its surface looked slightly different than at other times.

A flash of light drew his gaze down towards the forest. Hagrid had just illuminated his cabin for the night, and something whose eyes glinted yellow was peering around one corner. At least the creature, whatever it was, appeared to have no more than one head and two eyes.

Although James and Sirius visited Hagrid often, Remus had always avoided, even disliked him. Maybe it was the gamekeeper's love of animals, which evoked such mixed feelings in Remus. More likely it was that Hagrid was a living, breathing example of the worst thing that could happen to any of them: expulsion from Hogwarts. They'd all heard that whatever he'd done, it had actually resulted in a student's death. Had he really been at fault? Would his name be cleared one day?

Pity was one of the least noble of the emotions, and Remus was ashamed to feel it now—but to be expelled… To lose your wand

Yet Hagrid continued to live, bustling cheerfully about his cabin with his menagerie of savage monsters.

Oh, hell, Remus thought, pouring a glass of juice. They'll make him a teacher here about the same time they make me one.

The yellow eyes had moved from the cabin and were now heading for the castle. Remus watched, alert but not frightened, as the beast came running directly at him.

When it was less than three feet away, he began to get scared—but not for the reasons he would have thought.

"What are you doing, you idiot?" he whispered.

Sirius was laughing even before he was human again, jogging to a stop beside his friend and taking the last sandwich. "I knew it was you."

"But someone in the castle might see… or Hagrid… Be careful, Sirius." Might as well try to tell him not to chase squirrels.

"But it's so much fun!" He glanced at the moon. "I can't believe we only get to do this once a month. I'm getting really fast, you'd better watch it." He looked down at his sandwich with distaste. "I smelled ham and cheese, and this is peanut butter… Hey, you know what, Moony?" He hesitated only slightly. "I can't tell what you are, when I'm a dog. You smell like any other person."

"As you smell like any other dog, when you're transformed, otherwise it'd be bad news for you," Remus told him frankly. "There are subtler clues," he added after a moment's thought; sensing these sorts of things had become so instinctive to him that it was hard to describe. "I can't tell you're an Animagus, necessarily: but you're clearly cleverer than an ordinary dog, and there's an aura of magic about you. It's good magic, too—so I imagine real animals like you, is that right?"

"Hagrid's dogs all do," he replied, grinning.

That thought was somehow disgusting. "You just need more practice," Remus told him. "There are plenty of monsters in the Forbidden Forest--just sniff carefully next time."

"Are you saying you should smell like Dark Magic?" Sirius was intrigued, but even he wasn't foolhardy enough to transform right here on the steps of the castle. He put down the peanut butter sandwich and drank the rest of the pumpkin juice. "I can't tell; you're right, there are lots of things I need to practice. Just running on all fours is kind of strange--I keep trying to stand up to get over things, instead of jumping properly. Hey, maybe Lily's right in a way: maybe you're good at Defense Against the Dark Arts because demons and things are afraid of you."

"Lily's almost always right," said Remus quietly. "That's why it's so beautiful to see her and James together."

Sirius put down the pitcher with a thump and a "gack" of disgust. "Oh, God... Come on, it's nice to see you cheered up, and all, but if you turn into some kind of sappy pinhead like James--"
Growling playfully, he chased Remus up the stone steps and into the castle.

James put some books and parchment onto the bed. "We brought your homework. Are you OK?"

"You were just scared, Peter," said Lily, "admit it."

Peter couldn't ignore James, thought he was still a bit quivery. "Thank you, I..." He rustled through the pile of books looking for snacks.

"No sweets for you," Lily told him. "You're too fat." She laughed. "If you lost weight you might be a better swimmer."

This made Peter squeal in terror, turning to James with his little beady eyes open. He wouldn't look at Lily.

"Did you have any problems with--" James almost didn't expel air as he spoke, so that there was no chance Madam Pomfrey would hear-- "with the spell?"

Peter shook his head emphatically, trying to regain his dignity.

"Well, then," said James, as if that settled it. "You don't have to come with us, but--"

"I want to!" squealed Peter. "I really do! I just-- he's a monster," he finished pleadingly, tears coming to his eyes.

"Which one?" James wondered with a laugh. "Really, if you're scared, I'm sure either Sirius or Remus would let you ride on his back..."

Peter gave such a squeak that Lily burst out laughing. She slapped her hand across her mouth in apology. "Oh, I'm sorry. There's nothing wrong with being scared, Peter," she tried to say, bending over to whisper even more softly than James. "I certainly wouldn't want to be in the Forbidden Forest in the middle of the night. But your friends will take care of you; they're nice puppies."

James didn't like to imagine Remus' reaction at hearing himself called a "nice puppy." "Or you could try to ride on my back, I suppose," he said doubtfully. "There's less to hang on to, but if you'd feel better--"

Peter nodded vigorously, pulling the blankets up to his chin and looking at James with what appeared to be reverence, but might have been something else as well.

Lily regarded him with suspicion but said nothing. She rose to go, tugging on James' robe impatiently.

As they left, Peter's smile dissolved and he gave them both a glare of hatred out of his tiny, watery eyes.