A/N: Profuse apologies are in order for the delay in updating this fic! I am indeed planning to finish this story, I promise. :)

OK, to recap: Remus is trying to figure out how to get into the Greyback family mansion to find evidence, because he figures Greyback is behind the recent werewolf attacks and the subsequent disappearances of the victims, as well as the deaths of Remus' grandparents (because of the Dark Mark, he knows the Death Eaters were involved there, as well). Remus suspects Regulus is behind the sacking of their bedchamber in an attempt to find the Marauder's Map, which only Remus knows that Filch has confiscated; and he suspects Sirius may have carelessly mentioned the map to Regulus. Remus and Lily are continuing their secret affair, and Remus still hasn't told James about it. Sirius knows about the affair and has suggested that Remus not tell James, that he should instead end it.

I think that's about it. Now, in this chapter, some things will be resolved and some will be made more complicated. Read on. ;)

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"Professor?"

"Enter."

Because of past detentions with his friends, Remus had been inside Professor McGonagall's office before; so he wasn't surprised to see that it was spotless as usual. The large desk in the center of the room was not cluttered with papers and mechanical objects, as Dumbledore's was; in fact, it was polished so severely that he guessed he would spy his reflection in it if he were close enough to lean over it. As he glanced at the bookshelves to his right, he admired the texts arranged alphabetically according to author and placed in sections according to subject. He had already made a mental note to try such as system if he was ever lucky enough to have an office of his own in which he could keep a library of books.

"Have a seat, Lupin," Professor McGonagall said, her profile still to him as she peered down her nose at a large volume resting open on a podium to the left of her desk.

Remus sat on a straight wooden chair and looked around. He could see the Quidditch pitch through the window opposite him. Above him, zooming about the ceiling, were several models of toy broomsticks, some of them out-of-date and, now, probably quite valuable. He tried to stifle a smile but was too late as McGonagall turned sharply and seated herself at her gleaming desk.

"Gifts from former students," she explained, glancing upward at the toys. "Over the years I seem to have amassed a collection."

"Oh," said Remus, impressed.

"So," she said, fingers splayed across a length of parchment she had just Summoned, "you are considering becoming an Auror."

"That's right, Professor."

She dipped a quill in her inkwell, pursing her lips. "I had expected you a few months ago. You spoke to Headmaster Dumbledore in January, did you not?"

"Erm, yes. Yes, I did."

"Any reason for the delay? Because it's only your future we're discussing."

No one could manage to make Remus squirm more than the woman seated across from him now. He willed his legs to keep still, his hands not to fidget.

"No, ma'am," lied Remus. "Just – busy."

"Hmm," she murmured. "Well, then, let's see what credentials you've got and what you'll need." She Summoned a file from a cupboard behind Remus and opened it neatly next to the parchment. Remus saw his name written on a tab sticking out of the file. She jotted down notes silently for a moment, now and then muttering to herself. At last she removed her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose.

For some reason that action worried Remus. He remained silent.

"You've done well in all the required courses except for Potions. If you keep working hard, I don't think you'll need to worry about Defense Against the Dark Arts, Charms, or Transfiguration. You've got first-hand experience in the Muggle world, which will be to your advantage when you interview. I would recommend continuing Arithmancy or Herbology next year. Do you have a preference?"

"I'd like to do both," said Remus.

"May I make a suggestion?" said McGonagall, replacing her glasses.

"Of course."

"You may want to drop one of those, to give yourself extra time to work on Potions. You've only got Acceptables the last two years. You need, of course, Exceeds Expectations next year, if you hope to qualify for Auror training." She paused. "And you may want to stop tutoring. Unless you're still considering teaching instead."

Remus looked at his hands and noticed they were fidgeting. He clasped his fingers together to make them stop and raised his eyes to the professor again. "Those are good ideas, Professor," he agreed. "But I can't."

She placed her quill on the desk. "Can't what?"

"I can't be ordinary when I finish. I've got to have something more to show than just the basic courses. I'll work harder in Potions. I can get up earlier, and work longer hours on Saturday and Sunday. I'll take Herbology and – "

"Lupin – "

"I'll keep tutoring, in case I don't qualify for Auror. Then I can look into teaching. And Arithmancy would come in handy in case neither of those works out and I have to – "

"Mister Lupin," Professor McGonagall interrupted. "You cannot possibly prepare for every eventuality."

"Yes, I can," he said, feeling agitated. "I have to."

The professor was still as she looked into Remus' face. "Professor Dumbledore and I would, of course, write letters of recommendation to the Ministry of Magic, and – "

"But they've never hired a werewolf before. Have they?"

She glanced at the large volume on the podium and pursed her lips. "No, they haven't."

Remus looked at his clasped hands again, watched his thumbs jockeying for the top position. He willed them to be still again. This was why he hadn't wanted to come talk to McGonagall. There was no such thing as a secure future for a werewolf, so there was hardly any use in planning for one. He wished he would never have to leave Hogwarts.

"But," McGonagall went on briskly, "it's just as likely that no werewolf has ever applied for work at the Ministry, given how werewolves have been – are still – treated. You'd be a fine example for others, and – "

"Pardon me, Professor, but I need to pay the rent. If I'm an example, great, but that's not my primary concern." It was difficult to keep the bitterness out of this voice. He tried to soften it. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude."

Professor McGonagall shook her head. "Don't apologize. It is the Ministry that should apologize. And we'll give them a chance to do so when you send your application to the Auror department."

Remus nodded, although he was far from being convinced by her confidence. "I'm keeping all my classes," he said, clasping his fingers tightly together.

"Very well," said McGonagall with a sniff.

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Later that night, during his prefect duties, Remus patrolled the halls alone, his thoughts swirling from the future to the now and back again. He almost wished he'd catch someone out after curfew, just to have something to distract him from his worry. He had resolved to speak with James tomorrow about Lily, no matter what. He couldn't take the guilt and the sneaking around, and Merlin knew Lily deserved better than that. Besides, aside from his "furry little problem," Remus had never lied to James before; his friend deserved to know what was going on right under his nose. He couldn't stand the thought of James feeling a fool, though it was too late now to take any of it back.

Remus understood that he had to prepare himself for the worst, but at least having it out in the open would be one less thing to torment him. Of course, no longer having any friends would create a lot more time for worry, so it might all even out anyhow. He felt sick just thinking about it. How had he gotten himself into this mess, having to choose between love and friends? But there was no way out, now that he was here. He couldn't give Lily up, not now.

Quiet footsteps caught his attention, and he called out, "Hello?"

The footsteps rounded the corner, and there was Lily, wearing a triumphant expression.

"Bet you'd love to know what I figured out last night," she whispered as she approached him. "Where can we go?"

Remus looked at his pocket watch and saw that he had another forty-five minutes of patrolling duty, forty-five minutes before he'd have to figure out how to sneak Lily back into Gryffindor tower. She was taking risks almost every night, meeting him after curfew like this.

"Come on," he whispered, taking her hand.

It was someplace new each night they met. Tonight he led her to an out-of-the way alcove in which a large, circular window looked out onto the forest. They sat on the rounded stone framework at the bottom of the thick, beveled glass. Clouds passing over the moon cast shadows on their faces now and then, making their skin look alternately white and grey; but Lily's eyes flashed gloriously as she struggled to keep her grin contained, and Remus couldn't resist kissing her and pulling her onto his lap, where she pressed against him in a most delicious manner.

"Listen," she whispered between kisses. "The way to get inside the Greyback house. I've got it."

"Wh – What?" Remus sat up straight. "When? How?"

"Well, Sirius was right. The 'merzi, et cetera' that the delivery man had written on the back of that list of sweets was short for a password to get into the manor. I kept thinking of it in terms of languages, or potions, but of course I couldn't figure it out. But last night when I was taking a bath I started humming a song my dad used to sing to me and Petunia …"

Lily hummed a tune, and after several measures Remus found himself humming along with it. It was something his grandmother had sung to him as a boy, something familiar and friendly that called to mind quiet evenings in front of his grandparents' hearth, curled up with a mug of hot chocolate and a stack of comic books.

"You know it?" asked Lily.

"Yes," said Remus, "yes, but I can't remember what the words are."

Lily sang quietly. "Maresydotes and doseydotes and liddlelamseydivey."

"Yes!" Remus whispered, and he sang the rest with her. "A kiddleydivey too, wooden ewe – I remember! It was a nonsense song, but when you slowed it down it made sense."

They spoke the words together "Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. A kid will eat ivy too, wouldn't you?"

"Maresydotes. That's the 'merzi.' Brilliant," said Remus, kissing Lily and smiling with his forehead against hers. "You are, you know." She laughed, a quiet puff of air that he felt on his chin.

Remus' grandmother had introduced the song to him shortly after he was bitten, saying cryptically, "Everything is what it is," and she proceeded to sing that little ditty as if it gave him permission to be exactly who he was at all times, and that included being a werewolf.

And now Remus remembered that that was the snatch of tune he'd heard when he'd searched Lucas Lovegood's memory for a password, only he hadn't recognized it at the time, much less made the connection to the delivery man's scrawled "merzi" on the back of the papers they had discovered on the night they'd snuck into Honeydukes. His grandmother had sung it to him. Lily had heard it as a child, too.

And so, probably, had Fenrir Greyback, Remus realized with a shudder.

"It works, too," Lily went on. "I Apparated there today, and it's true – you can't get in without – "

"Hold on, hold on," said Remus, grasping her hips in his hands. "You Apparated where?"

"To the Greyback manor. We got the address that night – "

"I know, but you went there alone?"

"After classes," said Lily impatiently. "I had to see if I'd figured it out. If the password worked – "

"No, Lily," said Remus. His heart pounded horribly in his throat. "No, no, no. Tell me you didn't go there alone."

"Well, of course I did! Remember, the Quibbler said the place was a wreck, like it was abandoned – "

"No, no, as if someone very messy still lived there. And perhaps he still does." Remus slid Lily off his lap and took her face in his hands. "Promise me you will never, ever go there alone again. I want to search the place, too, but I have no intention of going there alone – "

But as he spoke he realized with a hollow feeling that he might have to, if he lost all his friends tomorrow.

"I didn't go in," said Lily in a small voice. Finally, as if hearing the horror in Remus' voice had tipped some set of sensible scales inside her, fear shone in her eyes. "I just opened the door and shut it again. And I came right back. Promise."

"Lily … " Remus began. He clutched her to him, burying his face in her hair and trying hard not to shiver. "You can't – you just – Lily, I – " He wanted to say I love you, but his throat closed up and he could speak no more, could voice none of the terrible things flashing through his mind about what would happen to him if something happened to her.

Lily nestled closer to him, gathering his robes in her fists. "I won't go there alone again," she whispered.

She looked into Remus' eyes and he nodded, running the backs of two fingers along her cheek. Then he cupped her nape and kissed her once, twice, harder than he usually did; but he couldn't not kiss her that way tonight, after what he'd found out, after what could have happened to her because of him. His fear made her kisses necessary, and he couldn't seem to tear his lips away.

They kissed for a long while, and still Remus couldn't speak. Later, when Lily unbuttoned his trousers, he remained voiceless. They made love on the bare stone of the hollowed-out window frame, and all he could do was sigh into her wet mouth. She whispered his name into his ear when her body collapsed over his, and he could only run his tongue along her salty neck, heating the sweaty places with his ragged breath.

"Tomorrow," he finally managed between kisses. "Tomorrow, I'll tell – " But he couldn't say that, either. Tomorrow I'm giving up James. His throat felt tight, as if he were about to cry, but there were no tears in his eyes. "Stay," he said simply.

Lily looked up at him, her solemn eyes darting back and forth between his, and nodded.

Under the eye of the moon, lying on the curved stone base of their round window, they curled up under his cloak and held each other for a long time until they fell asleep.

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"Where were you last night?" asked James as he poured himself a glass of pumpkin juice. "You've been out all night again."

James gestured at Remus' rumpled shirt and waggled his eyebrows. Peter took the pitcher from him and nearly spilled it into the bowl of porridge sitting in the center of the table as he realized that Remus was wearing the same clothes as yesterday. Lily, fortunately, had decided to skip breakfast and go back to the girls' tower before classes.

"Fell asleep on duty," he muttered. He caught Sirius' eye as he sat down, and there was no mistaking the hint of approval in his pursed lips. Of course Sirius wanted him to remain silent. Remus wanted to hit him.

"Is that all?" asked James with a grin. He shoveled some eggs onto his plate and began devouring them, shaking pepper onto his meal between mouthfuls. "How boring," he said, mouth full. "I thought maybe you'd got a girlfriend."

Remus tensed, and so did Sirius.

It was so easy for James to believe his lies. Remus had been without a girlfriend for so long that it didn't even cross James' mind that maybe, just maybe, Remus might want to be discreet about having one now.

But Remus had made up his mind yesterday: he would tell James tonight, after classes. He'd go and sleep somewhere else, in one of the hidden passages of Hogwarts, or in the Shrieking Shack if he had to, afterwards, if James wanted rid of him. He hadn't told Lily that he was going to do it, hadn't been able to say the words to her, last night or this morning. But she would be relieved when it was over; there would be no more secrecy, no more sneaking about after hours and on the weekends.

He hadn't recently seen James alone, without Sirius, even for a second lately. So, resolutely ignoring Sirius' eyes, he took a deep breath and said, "James, we've got to talk – "

"What about getting into the Greyback house?" blurted Sirius, stirring sugar into his coffee and clinking the spoon rather loudly against the lip before setting it down beside his plate. "What happened to that little mission, eh? All those people missing – Tristan, Araminta, Madhav. Don't you still want our help?" He looked meaningfully at Remus, challenging him.

"Of course I do, Sirius," said Remus. His heart felt like it had swelled to three times its normal size and was now battering like a wild animal wanting out of its cage. "But only if you want to – "

"I've been thinking," said James. "We've put this off long enough. Tomorrow's Saturday. We should pop on over to the Greyback mansion and see if we can figure out that password. Between the four of us – five if Lily comes, too – we can do it."

Remus shook his head. "She's already figured it out."

Peter swallowed his bite of bacon and whistled. "She's smart, that one."

Sirius' eyes darted towards Peter, then back at Remus. He looked down at his plate and used a fork to fiddle with his food. He stabbed a bit of sausage with it and bit off the end.

"It's a song," said Remus. His mouth felt dry and suddenly he wasn't very hungry.

"Really?" said James. "It's a song? She sussed it out? How'd she do that?"

"I dunno," said Remus. "Her dad used to sing it to her."

"Cool," said James around another mouthful. He was so trusting. It wouldn't cross his mind to wonder how Remus knew these things, or why Lily and he were having conversations about Fenrir Greyback without them, Remus' oldest friends.

Sirius glared at Remus, who dropped his gaze and began to play with his food as well. This was miserable. It was awkward and strange, in ways he'd never thought possible. He felt ill.

"So, Prongs, I've got to talk to you tonight," said Remus quietly to his plate.

"We'll make a plan for how we'll search the Greyback place," said Sirius, talking over him. "Right, Peter?"

"Sure," Peter said nervously. "Right."

Remus stared at Sirius, who raised his eyebrows as if daring him to contradict him. All right, if he wanted to be there, Remus would just say it to all of them at once.

"Fine," said Remus. He forced down his breakfast and didn't speak for the rest of the meal.

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Because he didn't want her caught in the crossfire, Remus didn't tell Lily about the meeting. She was supposed to spend some time with her friend Olivia tonight, so she had told Remus she couldn't meet him later; the two girls had already disappeared into the girls' tower earlier this evening. And when the last Gyffindor shuffled up to bed, Remus closed his book with a pounding heart. James, Sirius, and Peter had just finished a game of Exploding Snap, and James now reclined with his socked feet on the low table in front of him.

Remus drew in a breath to speak; but of course Sirius cut him off, saying, "So, tomorrow. We'll need James' invisibility cloak."

Remus sighed. "Of course."

"And Lily's emergency potions kit, just in case," said James.

Sirius leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers together behind his head. "D'you really think we ought to bring Lily? Might be dangerous."

"Will be," said Remus, staring hard at Sirius. "But she can handle it."

You're not going to dictate this one, thought Remus. Several ugly thoughts flitted behind Sirius' eyes as the two glared at one another, but Remus quickly managed to shut them out.

"We can Apparate from Hogsmeade," said Peter.

"But no one's allowed to go there anymore since that kid Madhav disappeared," said James, tapping his chin with a finger.

"Since when does that stop us?" Sirius, arms folded, propped his feet up on the low table in front of him and tilted his chair back. "That's what the cloak is for."

"It'll take us forever to walk down there," said Peter, "because we barely all fit under that cloak anymore as it is."

"And whose fault is that, big boy?" asked Sirius, eyeing Peter's growing paunch.

"Aw, come on," whined Peter. "You lot grew about a foot each last year."

"But at least ours was up rather than out," said James.

"Shut up," said Peter with a sullen look.

"But you've got a point," said James. "If Lily comes, too, there's no way we can all fit. Much as I'd love to be in such close quarters with her."

James shot a pair of mischievous eyes at Sirius, but his friend didn't offer a sexist quip in return as he usually did. Instead Sirius busied himself with tracing a circle on his knee.

James paused for a moment, then glanced back at Remus. "D'you think she'll come?"

"I'm not sure we should go tomorrow," said Remus.

"Why not?" asked James.

Remus and Sirius looked at each other, and Sirius' still, even gaze held a thousand warnings.

"Because I've got to tell you something first," said Remus, "and I'm not sure you'll still want to go after I'm – "

"Moony," said Sirius, lowering his chair to the ground, "this is not a good idea."

Remus stood up, needing to move. He paced behind Sirius' chair, feeling his pulse throbbing hard in his veins. He ran a hand through his hair and took a breath, then two. On the third one, he decided to get it out all at once. "I've been – "

But his throat tightened, and he couldn't finish.

Sirius pushed his chair back, stood up, and faced Remus. "I really think you should keep this to yourself," he murmured.

"Sod off, Sirius," said Remus, glaring hard at him.

With that, Sirius' posture changed in the subtle way it always did when he was about to fight someone. Everything became symmetrical, his stance, his limbs, even the expression on his face; and his right hand – his wand hand – twitched.

Remus cleared his throat and tried again. "Lil – "

His throat closed up again and this time, when he caught his breath on a sudden inhalation, he found himself coughing for a long minute. What was happening? He circled the room, clearing his throat and rubbing it.

"Moony, what's going on with you?" asked James.

Remus shook his head, his brow furrowing. He didn't know. He'd try again. "James, I've fallen – "

Again, his voice stopped working, as if he were suddenly emotional and could no longer speak. But he wanted to speak; he simply, physically couldn't do it.

It had happened last night, too, when he'd tried to tell Lily that he loved her, and when he'd tried to say that he was planning to tell James about them. And it had happened for the first time in study hall, when he'd tried to make Sirius understand that he –

Sirius.

Sirius had been sitting on Remus' chest when he'd uttered, smugly, "Silence is golden." It was a spell, wasn't it? A spell of such magnitude that Remus couldn't speak about his love for Lily. How had Sirius managed that? How long, truly, had he known about the two of them? Long enough to perfect such a horrible, violating spell?

A wordless spell. Perfect.

Oddly, Remus felt himself smiling as he drew his wand, pointing it at Sirius' chest. Sirius seemed taken aback – and that satisfied Remus, he couldn't deny it – but he was only thrown for a moment and then he, too, drew his wand and pointed it at Remus. He grinned back. It could almost be a friendly expression, if one didn't notice the ferocity in his steely grey eyes.

"Erm, fellows?" squeaked Peter as he rose from his chair.

"What the hell is going on?" asked James.

"I'm afraid I can't tell you," replied Remus honestly.

Heart thudding, he backed into the main sitting area, to have more room to fight. Sirius advanced towards him and began to circle the room slowly so that Remus had to follow suit, keeping him in sight.

"What do you mean you can't tell me?" asked James as he rose from his seat. "For crying out loud, put your wands away, you idiots."

"Someone's – " Remus tried to say hexed me, but again his throat tightened and the words wouldn't come. He shook his head and laughed mirthlessly. "Well done, Sirius."

Sirius' brows knit for a second in apparent confusion – how dare he play the innocent, the self-righteous? – but he said, "You've made the right choice."

"What the bloody hell are you two on about?" James asked again, this time stepping between his two friends and pulling his own wand from the rear pocket of his trousers. "Remus? Sirius?"

"I can't say," said Remus.

"Good man," said Sirius with a slight bow. The dramatic wanker.

Remus felt anger rising in him like bile as he stared into Sirus' unrepentant face. There he stood, full of himself, Sirius Sodding Black, once again having everything his way, bollocksing everything up for Remus – interfering – like he always did, and not feeling a damned bit sorry about it. Remus thought about how Sirius had undoubtedly told Regulus about the Marauder's Map – Merlin only knew why – and now half his meager belongings were destroyed after Regulus – or someone – had broken into their bedchamber trying to find the map. He thought about his grandparents, dead now because of Fenrir Greyback and Death Eaters looking for maps, as well, and Merlin only knew what Regulus had had to do with that. He thought about how Sirius had tried to make him, Remus, a murderer, by sending Severus Snape to the Shrieking Shack during the full moon …

Remus' knuckles were white around his wand. But he felt a strange calm inside him as he thought a wordless spell and watched it hurtle towards Sirius' chest.

Peter shrieked and James tried to jump in front of Sirius to protect him; but it was hardly necessary as Sirius dropped behind a sofa, which swelled to the size of a bloated hippopotamus when the spell landed. He quickly leapt up again to hurl a spell of his own back at Remus. It singed James' hair on its way across the room, but it missed its intended target.

"Stop it! What the hell – "

"Get out of the way, James," ordered Remus.

"Nice to see some stones after all," taunted Sirius, casting a Protego to deflect another series of rapid hexes.

"Peter, get out from behind that chair and help me!" shouted James.

Spells now flew between Remus and Sirius so quickly that James' and Peter's figures on either side were mere blurs in Remus' peripheral vision. Finally one of Remus' spells –even Remus wasn't sure which one, he'd fired them off so quickly – landed, rendering Sirius' right arm useless. Sirius dove to retrieve his wand and continued to hurl spells, now using his left hand. A returned hex hit Remus' left shoulder, and he felt the skin there sizzling. The pain was almost unbearable, but he couldn't stop now.

"You ignoramus," Sirius huffed. "You got yourself into this mess."

"And you've sewn it up rather neatly, don't you think?" shot back Remus. "Should I thank you for that?"

"What the fuck?" shouted James, throwing up his hands. "Will someone please tell me what the hell – "

But Remus ignored him and sent another spell across the room. Sirius, trying to dodge it, slipped on a small rug, falling backwards and catching his good elbow on the arm of a chair on the way down. He cursed loudly.

Remus leapt across the room and was standing over Sirius with his wand trained on him, not sure which body part he should hex next, when a powerful Expelliarmus hit him from the side, disarming him and sending his body flying into the ashy stones in front of the hearth. His knee landed hard and he felt pain shoot upward into his thigh and hip.

"I'm sorry, Remus," said James, "but you're being a prick."

Remus retrieved his wand with a quiet Accio, stood up, and backed away, limping, pointing his wand and James and Peter. "Stay out of this," he said. "It's between me and Sirius."

He noticed other students now, attracted by the commotion, standing in their nightclothes in the stairwells. He didn't want to look and see if Lily was among the crowd. He just wanted to finish this, one way or another. He glowered at Sirius.

"You've – " He tried again to say hexed me, but of course the words wouldn't come. All he could say was, "Fix it."

"Me?" Sirius hauled himself to his feet. He could barely raise his left arm now, and it shook. "You're the one who's made a dog's breakfast of everything." And then, quietly: "You fix it."

"I won't," said Remus. "You know I won't."

"Well, I certainly can't," replied Sirius. He looked almost hurt when he said it. But he raised his trembling arm and fired off a blast of fiery fuchsia and Remus barely had time to defend himself against it.

Another array of hexes and jinxes crisscrossed the room, setting furniture on fire and battering the fighters until they both were forced against opposite walls. James and Peter tried shooting their own spells to defuse the friends' duel, but they were met with forceful parries that disabled Peter and compelled James, holding his ribs, to take cover behind a smoking suit of armor.

Meanwhile, it appeared that the entire Gryffindor student body had now congregated in the corners of the Common Room, buzzing excitedly in their pajamas and dressing gowns. Remus couldn't spare a thought to wonder what they must be thinking, watching the four inseparable friends sweating and cursing and fighting like this.

A voice rent the air like the screech of a bird of prey. "WHAT IS THIS?"

The friends froze, wide-eyed, wands still pointed at each other. Remus glanced towards his right and didn't know which he found more frightening: McGonagall's thin-lipped fury, or her tatty tartan dressing gown. He knew it was never a good thing when a teacher was dragged from her bedchamber for any reason, and slowly he lowered his wand.

McGonagall put out the fires and turned towards the culprits. At first she simply stared at each of them in turn. "Explain yourselves," she said at last.

The four boys were silent, though Remus and Sirius, breathing heavily, continued to glower at each other.

McGonagall inhaled sharply, nostrils flaring. "Lupin, I'm particularly surprised at you – a prefect fighting with other students. A fine example you're setting."

Remus felt his insides twist as if her words were knives.

"Tell me what happened."

He tucked his wand away and faced the professor. "Fight," he mumbled.

"Thank you, Lupin, but that much I could deduce from the evidence in front of me." Her gaze pierced him. "Why?"

He looked at Sirius. "I can't say."

"All right. Black?" she tried.

"Neither can I, professor." He sounded almost contrite.

"Potter? Pettigrew?"

The both muttered something inaudible. They'd stand together, the four of them, even if everything was ruined now, even if half of them didn't know why.

McGonagall sighed and turned on her heel, approaching the open portrait hole. "You're all injured. Come on, to the hospital wing with you. Then we'll talk about detention."

As Remus limped towards the portrait hole, he spotted Lily at the foot of the girls' stairwell, arms folded across her white nightgown. Her eyes questioned him, but he could only shake his head.

He had failed her.

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A/N: If anyone is still reading this fic, thank you for your patience; hopefully this chapter did not disappoint. We've just got a few more chapters to go, and I do hope you'll keep reading. In the meantime, reviewers, there are some Marauders who need tending in the hospital wing. Any takers? ;)