Disclaimer: I do not own any characters, themes, places, names, etc., from JK Rowling's Harry Potter series.
Author's Note: This is the FINAL CHAPTER!! And far longer than any I have written thus far. I hope you all enjoy it. I apologise for the wait. I want to thank now all who have read this story, who have enjoyed it, who have reviewed it. I wish you all the very best in life. Thank you.
Tomorrow night. Remus. The Whomping Willow. Remus. Night. Sirius dared Snape.
The full moon…
Chapter 19 – The Night of the Full Moon
Lily waited in the Gryffindor common room till the fire was almost out, yet they did not return. But who was 'they'? Who was she waiting for?
Not Sirius. As the perpetrator of the dare he was unlikely to listen to reason. Not Peter. He was ineffectual in the Marauder clique. He held no power over the others. He was like a little mouse following them around, rarely noticed, largely ignored.
Remus was quite unreachable. She suspected he spent the nights preceding and succeeding the full moon locked away as well. Suffering the prequel and sequel to the change, an awful sickness, she had read, could be almost as painful as the change itself.
As for Selene, she had skipped dinner entirely and was fast asleep – spell induced; trying to escape the empathetic connection that joins lovers in times of great pain as well as great joy.
That left only James. Yet how could she confide in him after all that had happened, all that had been said. A malicious voice within her suggested that he was the mastermind of the challenge, yet she dare not own such a voice, not without proof. Besides, why would James make Sirius do it? Why wouldn't he just do it himself? He was the type to make his own mischief, pull his own pranks, not to get others to act for him.
She would have to wait till morning. There was still time. The full moon was the next night.
Whether Snape was good or bad or some grey shade in between, if the challenge were consummated, he would die. Remus would kill him. Not Remus her friend, kind and gentle, but the werewolf he became. The burden of such a murder he could not bear. The consequences of the act were innumerable: suspension, expulsion, Azkaban…who could tell?
For Remus' sake, Lily had to stop it.
Selene awoke to a pair of almond shaped emerald eyes peering intently at her. She groaned and rolled over. Light blazed into the room. The curtains had been flung open.
"Leave me be," she moaned from beneath the covers. "Need more sleep."
"No chance. That spell knocked you out for long enough. Get up. Get dressed. I have something important to tell you."
"Can't it wait till after breakfast?"
"You've missed breakfast. It's past noon. The marauders have been missing all night and all morning. They weren't even at breakfast! I need to talk to you."
"Food first, then talk."
"You don't understand. It's about Remus!"
Selene stopped midway climbing into her jeans.
Lily glanced around the dorm. It was empty.
"Selene, I know that you're dating him, so I hope you already know this, but Remus is a werewolf."
Selene frowned, but she was clearly relieved. "I know. He told me. How did you know?"
"It was in my diary, I figured it out first year. Saw him sneak off with the nurse to the Whomping Willow once a month on the full moon when he said he was visiting his grandma. Just put two and two together I guess."
"First year? You've known since first year?!" Selene rolled her eyes. "I can't believe you never told me."
"It was his secret to tell, not mine."
"Okay fair enough," Selene smiled. "I'm glad you know though, I felt bad keeping it from you. Let's go have lunch."
"Wait Selene, that wasn't all."
Something in her voice, a sadness, made Selene stop and turn.
"I overheard Sirius dare Snape to enter the Whomping Willow tomorrow night. The night of the full moon. If he does, then Snape will find Remus. Remus the werewolf. Remus has no control over the beast. He could kill Snape. Who knows what would happen then!"
"Who else knows?"
"I don't know."
"I'm going to kill Sirius."
"First we have to stop Snape."
"We'll need help. Where is James?"
"I don't know. I couldn't find any of them."
"It's Saturday…so…quidditch pitch."
But they were not to be found at the quidditch pitch. And though Lily and Selene searched the entire grounds of Hogwarts, not a single Marauder was there. Were they to have searched the forbidden forest and locked chambers of the castle, the secret rooms and passages they didn't know, they would not have found them there either. It was Saturday and they were gone.
Lily and Selene ate their supper early, while the Great Hall was quite deserted. Selene's fuming anger had subsided and a quiet anxious worry was left in its place as the sky lost the orange hue of sunset and began to fade into darkness.
"I will go to him. I will warn him."
"You mustn't," said Lily. "He won't know you. It's too dangerous."
Selene wasn't listening.
"Find the boys and tell them. I'm going to get my jacket."
"You're mad," Lily called. But Selene had already gone.
Lily stared despondently at her half eaten dinner, the leftover scraps of pork, green beans and carrot; the mash potato that had been teased this way and that with a four pronged fork but not eaten. She downed the last of her pumpkin juice wishing it was not so sickly sweet, but grateful it lacked the tang of the medicine potion they had dosed her with at St Mungo's, the one to help her sleep, to help her remember. She wondered dimly if it had held any magic at all for the good it did her.
The Great Hall began to fill and she realized how odd she must look sitting there by herself with dark rims around her eyes from lack of sleep. She shivered feeling very much alone. Their eyes were upon her. What were they thinking? That she was crazy? She felt crazy. She felt sick. They had been searching so long all over the castle. It had been like some twisted tour of a haunted mansion. They had conversed with ghosts and students, repeating their query… where were the marauders?... over and over like a broken record till it screeched to a halt and they could take no more but must stop and eat food they could not taste.
Now she must start the search again, while Selene, slipped out under the cover of dark to meet Remus, only Remus would be changed. He would be the beast.
Lily rose from the table not meeting the eyes of her peers and left. The Entrance Hall was so large with so many stairs and passageways she did not know which way to take. She picked one at random and followed its twist and turns looking this way and that into every unlocked room she passed and even the locked ones with the spell she remembered… the alohomora. Despite the day's wanderings, she did not know her way. It was not long before she was quite thoroughly lost.
Halfway along the corridor of what she thought might be the third floor, but could very well have been the fifth – an upside down staircase had swung, whilst she was only midway across, righted itself and twisted it seemed at a hundred and twenty degree angle south till the portrait of the lady in a black dress with a white wimple was sitting a writing desk with a dimly lit lamp was turned crooked and was no longer by the side of the painting of the blue and silver dragon that breathed fire upon the countryside – Lily came across a statue of a humpbacked, one-eyed witch she noticed for its exquisite ugliness. No one else was around. She stopped by it and spoke.
"Do you have any idea where I am? Because I certainly don't. You old crone, you don't even know what I'm saying do you?"
"Yes I do." Came a deep and distant masculine reply from the very stone of the statue it seemed.
"What magic is this?" she cried. "I am too tired for any more nonsense today. I have spoken with ghouls who chilled my bones, I have wandered this castle from head to foot. My feet! Oh how they ache. What magic is this?"
There was a deep rumbling laugh.
"No magic at all," said the voice.
The hump of the old crone began to lift and from the cavity in the statue a face emerged.
Lily raised her hand and slapped it hard.
"How dare you!" she yelled.
The face fell back into the statue. There was a clamour below.
"Sirius Black you get back up here now," Lily yelled into the witch's hump.
"I'm not coming. You'll slap me again."
An off-white hanky that appeared to have used more than once rose from the hump and was waved in surrender in Lily's face. She stepped back.
Out of the witch climbed James, not meeting Lily's furious gaze. Peter squeezed out next, but got stuck midway.
"Sirius give him a push," called James, grabbing Peter by the arms and pulling hard. He made it through. They waited.
"Is it safe?" called Sirius.
"Promise not to slap him again?" James asked Lily.
"For now," she fumed.
"Safe," called James.
Sirius gingerly climbed out. The hump closed over again.
"It was only a joke Lils."
"Oh and I suppose Snape was only a joke too was it?" She pushed him back.
"I have been searching for you three all day. All over. Selene too. Do you know where she is now? Because of you? Because of your jokes? With Remus. What do you think Remus will do when he finds out about your joke Sirius? It's seriously unfunny. It's murder. And not just Snape. Since you lot disappeared all day Selene's gone to try and warn Remus. Now. In his state."
"Woah Lily," said James. "Slow down. What's going on? What are you talking about? What do you know of Remus?"
"Sirius knows what I'm talking about. I thought you might to…" she paused.
He shook his head. "Lily I'm confused."
"I heard him. Sirius dared Snape to follow the passage under the Whomping Willow. To find Remus. To discover the 'Marauder Secret' as he put it. Some secret! I knew since first year. How dare you do this to Remus!"
"You dared Snape to do what?" yelled James, outraged.
"You knew?" whispered Peter, awed.
"James, Prongs, please." Sirius said.
James punched him right in the nose.
"You idiot," he said. "Lily I promise I had nothing to do with this. Come on. Let's go, we have to stop him before he reaches Remus. Where is he? Quick Peter, pass me the map. – I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
Lily watched as the parchment turned black from ink and a spider web of print and lines formed. She saw a small cluster of dots labelled "James Potter", "Lily Evans", "Sirius Black" and "Peter Pettigrew" at the location on the map labelled "Third Floor Corridor". Outside the domain of the castle she saw the Whomping Willow and from it a passage that led off the map. By the Whomping Willow was a dot labelled "Severus Snape".
"Oh Bollocks!" James swore. "We have to go now."
They began to run. As they ran Lily said to James:
"You know, if I had a map like that, it would have saved me a lot of time today in finding you lot. We probably wouldn't be in such a mess now."
"Yes we would. This map can do a lot of things, but it only shows Hogwarts grounds."
"We weren't on Hogwarts grounds. Neither is Remus or Selene... Selene," he thought and ran faster. They all ran faster. Through the dark corridors, it was past curfew, but they had the map and Filch was down in the dungeons being taunted by Peeves. The Entrance Hall was empty when they reached it and they burst through the doors and out of the castle.
Snape was no where to be seen. The Whomping Willow was flailing madly about.
"He's in the passage already," surmised James. "Quick Wormtail, you know what to do."
"But - ?" he whimpered, his wide eyes glanced fearfully at Lily.
"No buts Peter. Change now." James ordered.
So Peter changed from boy wizard to a grey fat looking rat. He scampered through the grass beneath the swinging branches to touch the knot at the base of the tree with paw extended. The Whomping Willow froze mid swing. The three still in human form passed through an opening in the roots into a dark earthy passage. Peter would remain at the start of the tunnel.
The followed it blindly and quietly until they saw a small light up ahead. The lighted tip of a wand. James put up a staying hand, motioning for the others to remain. He would go on alone. He crept up behind Snape as softly as he could. But Snape was no fool and turned before he came in reach.
"Who's there?" he cried. He spun his wand around. James' face lit up.
"Potter," he spat. "No, I've come too far. I have to see now. You won't stop me. Perfect Potter, I'll know your secret."
He turned and ran full ball down the tunnel. James ran after. There was light up ahead. An open door. James ran faster. He leaped and tackled Snape to the ground before he could reach the door. He pinned him down with his knee to Snape's back and his elbow to Snape's neck. He pushed Snape's cheek into the dirt floor.
But Snape could still see. He saw through the open door and into the light. He saw the beast beyond and knew it for who and what it was.
Lily came round from behind them. She fumbled with her wand.
"Petrificus Totalus," she pointed her wand at Snape's struggling body.
At the same moment, Sirius yelled "Stupefy."
Snape went rigid and lost consciousness. James slumped in relief and crawled off of him.
In the distance, there was a high pitched scream.
"Selene," cried Lily.
There was a rush of air beside her and a great black shadow moved from behind her, passed James and the stiff Snape through the door at the end of the tunnel. It appeared to be a dog, a dog of monstrous size. It wrestled with the beast that was Remus and fought it back through the house deep into another room. They growled and howled, barked and bit.
There was a second scream louder than the first.
Lily almost ran towards it, towards the light, but James held her back. The beasts were still fighting; it was too dangerous. Again the shadow of their might fell across the door.
A third scream was cut off early.
Lily struggled against James, but he held her tight.
"No Lily. It's not safe."
"But Selene! We have to save her."
"Sirius is trying to do that. We would just get in the way."
"Sirius?" Lily looked about her, and made out through the dark that indeed he was not there, had not been there since…realization dawned. "The dog."
James nodded and though it was too dark to see, she felt it. She felt his chin brush against her hair. She felt him draw her closer to him. And she let him.
Suddenly there was silence. Only the muted scuffle of a single beast remained; still raging in the house, scratching at a door, howling its lonely cry. The light from the door was blocked again. Sirius cradled Selene in his arms.
"We have to leave," he said in a dead tone of voice as if feeling for the first time, the gravity of the situation. "He won't stay like that for long." He indicated back towards the door, which was now closed. The girl in his arms was limp. "She's alive. But hurt. We can't take her to the Hospital Wing, they'll ask questions. I'm going to take her to the Room of Requirement."
James nodded soberly. "I'll take care of Snape. I'm taking him straight to Dumbledore. I don't know what or even if he saw anything. That he got this far is a worry in itself. He may attempt to come back another time. Lily, you go with Sirius and look after Selene."
"I'd rather not," she glared at Sirius, only halfheartedly though; the events of the night had left her struggling to breathe and make sense of it all.
"For Selene," James suggested.
She acquiesced reluctantly.
"And all of you: be careful not to be seen. Take the map with you and Peter. I'll be right."
James was left alone with Snape. First he removed the binding spell. Then he whispered,
Snape's body rose into the air and floated along beside him. He led it all the way back to the roots of the tree and out of the passage. Once in the open air he called,
"Accio Invisibility Cloak." He waited a few minutes, shivering under the caress of a sharp cool breeze. Finally he felt the silky material brush against his arm. He grabbed it from the air and pulled it around himself. He pulled the floating body of Snape beneath its folds and awkwardly made his way back up to the castle. Once inside, he searched for the gargoyle that marked the entrance to the Headmaster's office.
It loomed before him larger than life. He thought of all the sweets he knew from his boyhood. Dumbledore was in the habit of using the names of sweets as passwords, which James thought made the grotesque appearance of the gargoyle before him almost comical in a garish sort of way. He began to recite the list till finally the gargoyle stepped aside at the mention of 'Pepper Imps'. James rubbed the corner of his eyebrow ruefully that had once been singed by Sirius' breath after eating one of these and had grown back slightly crooked…not that anyone had or would notice, it was not considered to be a blemish but to give his face character and so only added to his charm.
He prodded Snape onto the moving staircase and followed behind him, removing the Invisibility cloak and stowing it as he did so. The stairs stopped their spiral ascent and a door opened into an office. Behind the desk sat Dumbledore solemn as an old man would be at that hour of the night when he would have rather been in bed.
"Mr Potter kindly set Mr Snape down. I believe an explanation is in order."
James met the others in the room of requirement. It was three a.m. and he had come straight from Professor Dumbledore, despite exact directions to return immediately to bed. He was exhausted. Selene was sleeping. The others sat in comfy arm chairs by a fire.
"How is she?" he asked without hesitation.
Lily answered softly. "She's doing well. She's got a broken arm; she's fairly scratched up and bruised. Mostly shaken up though. He didn't recognize her at all. He was looking sickly when she arrived. Then the change began. She saw it all. And then the beast took over and…
"I've dressed her wounds and bound her arm. She's taken a potion for the bone and ointments have been rubbed into the cuts and bruises. But I think the hurt is deeper than what can be seen. She's hurt and she's scared. She'll stay here for now. Later in the day we'll take her back to the dorm. Hopefully she'll be right for class on Monday, but I can't say. How went things with Dumbledore and Snape?"
"He saw Remus. But Dumbledore made him swear not to tell, so Remus can stay at Hogwarts. Neither Snape nor Dumbledore know that anyone was there other than Remus and I. He didn't see any of you and I didn't tell. Though Snape did snitch that you dared him, Sirius. He thought I was in on the joke too. I have three months of detention. You are to meet him in his office later today at a reasonable hour. We were lucky we weren't expelled."
"But you had nothing to do with it James, why are you being punished?" Sirius protested.
"Do you really think anyone would believe me? Besides, we've always done detention together, it's the Marauder way."
"James, I'm sorry."
"It's not me you have to apologise to. It's Remus who deserves your apology. I don't know how you could do that to him. We four are as brothers."
"I didn't think. I was pissed off at Snape. I wanted to scare him. After everything he's done to you and Lily and all of us. I never meant for this to happen. Selene…"
"It's okay. I know." James stuck out his hand. Sirius took it in his. The hand shake became a brotherly one armed hug.
After a few hours silence by the fire, Peter asked the question that had been burning in his mind all evening.
"How and when did you discover Remus was a werewolf?"
"You mean me?" Lily asked.
"Yes you," he rolled his eyes. "You with the blank memory."
"Wormtail!" Both Sirius and James snapped.
"Never mind," Lily sent a withering look at Peter who shrunk away. "I found a diary the other day from my first year. One of the entries recorded that I'd noticed him disappearing once a month at the full moon, and that he always looked sick and tired and I guessed…"
"First year?" Sirius whistled approvingly.
"Took us till second." James admitted, a little sheepishly.
"You slept in the same dorm!"
"Yeah? So?" Sirius defended lamely.
"But, I don't know if Remus knows I know…as in…I wrote in first year that I didn't want to tell him because I didn't want to upset him. But the diary ends at the beginning of second year or so…and I don't know if I ever told him, or if he ever told me."
"As far as we know, he didn't. He didn't like to talk about it. Selene only found out after they started dating… he told her then. It meant so much to him that she stuck around after that." James explained. "But, he'll be happy that you know. You're one of his best friends. He'd want you to know."
"Thanks," she whispered. She continued to gaze into the flames. She had not met James' eye the entire morning. She couldn't. Each time their eyes met she quickly looked away. She didn't know why. It just seemed easier that way.
All morning the vigil by Selene's bed continued. When she woke around noon she did not speak. They led her back to Gryffindor common room where she retired miserably to bed once more. Remus would spend one more night in the shrieking shack recovering his strength and being ill. He would restlessly sleep the day away, unaware of anything other than his immediate physical needs.
They had been sitting listlessly in the common room for at least an hour when Lily decided she needed a walk, a breath of fresh air. She knew the way to the Entrance Hall at least by herself now and she wandered that way and out onto the grounds. The air was crisp. She breathed it in deeply.
It was not long before she was joined by Sirius.
"I think I owe you an apology too. I'm sorry Lily."
"Apology accepted," she smiled slightly at the Great Lake before her.
"I suppose I also owe you an explanation…you saw a few things last night that were a bit… out of the ordinary."
"I'll say!" she exclaimed.
"Well you have to understand when we found out about – " he looked around to check no one was listening. "About Remus and all, we felt real sorry for him. Seemed kinda lonely and all. So we wanted to help him. Eventually it was James' idea. He was doing all this extra reading for Transfiguration class. I know – don't ask – I can't explain it. But he came across the idea of the 'Animagus' and became fixated on them. He did a whole heap of research and finally – finally he figured out how to become one. I helped, of course, so did Peter. Remus was a bit iffy at first, but he came round eventually."
"An animagus is?"
"A person who can transform into an animal at will and back again. It's only one animal and you have your special markings that tell you apart and stuff. Professor McGonnagal is one. She's a cat. And me and James and Peter are too. Only she's registered legally… we aren't… as such. So, please, you mustn't tell. Only you and Remus know. Selene doesn't even."
"You're a dog and Peter is a - a rat?"
"Yes – I'm Padfoot, and he's Wormtail. And Remus is Moony because he's a – a – " again he looked cautiously around. "A werewolf."
"James is Prongs…what animal is he?"
"I think that's up for him to tell you. You already saw me and Peter so no surprises their. But James would be awfully disappointed if I told you. I doubt he'd approve terribly much of me telling you this much. But you already saw, so no point in hiding it further."
Lily nodded and gazed thoughtfully into the depths of the lake.
"Thank you. For letting me know. I guess that's one Marauder Secret Snape doesn't know."
"One of many," Sirius laughed ruefully. "And one he certainly won't know. Not by me at any rate. That I promise."
"Good," said Lily approvingly. "Very good indeed."
Both Remus and Selene absented themselves from classes on Monday. For rest and recovery, but also to talk. The common room was empty. They sat in a seat by the window. They sat apart.
Remus dimly remembered the events of the night of the full moon. But a stark image that would not fade no matter how it hurt him to recall it was that of Selene's face as she cowered in terror beneath him. He could not forget and nor could she.
Selene had found him lying on the floor, sleeping. He had been tossing and turning and looking sickly and pale. She had reached out to touch him, to wake him and warn him. Just a gentle hand upon his shoulder. He had woken and his eyes were not his eyes. The soul behind them, if it was there at all, seemed tortured and inhuman.
She watched as his back arched in pain and his fingers clawed out for a hold. She watched as his features elongated, furred and sharpened into those of a wolf. And as a wolf, he was filled with a wolf's hunger; a werewolf's hunger for human flesh, for her flesh. He had come upon her, ripped at her with his claws. Growled at her and baited her. She had struggled and he had cast her about the room, breaking her arm.
Finally it became too much and she had fallen into a faint.
Now she sat before him. He was human again. But when she looked in his eyes, she could not help but see the memory of the beast. It was within him always and would show itself every month. Every month he would lose control. He would not know her.
She loved him. But she could not bear him not knowing her. Not knowing that he was hurting her and unable to stop. She knew he could have, and would have, killed her the other night.
"Remus I –" she began, but was too scared to continue.
"I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt you."
He raised a hand to stroke her cheek but she edged away.
"It was not your fault." Yet as she said it, she knew it was not the entire truth. It had been Sirius' joke. But Remus was and always would be a werewolf.
"I wish I was not what I am. But I can't change that. I was bitten and now…now I cannot change that."
"I know," she whispered. "And I – I love you, but – "
"Please, don't say it."
"I can't be with you Remus."
"Selene," he made to touch her cheek again and again she shifted away from his fingers, not meeting his gaze.
"To see you change, to feel your pain. To see your eyes and have them be not you, but a beast who doesn't know me, a beast who hurts me. I cannot bear it."
She choked each time on the word 'beast', hating it for all its fierceness. Hating that she was using it to describe Remus the werewolf, when Remus the boy was so kind and gentle and loving.
"I will always be here for you Remus as a friend, but I cannot be with you."
With that she stood and returned to her bed hidden away in the girl's dormitories where he could not follow. Where he could not see the tears that fell. She had always believed herself so strong, so unbeatable. But the weekend had challenged her more than she had ever imagined. She felt fallen and beaten down inside and she just couldn't be who she was before, she couldn't live as she had before. She had changed.
The break up of Remus and Selene came as a terrible blow to Gryffindor. They had been so sweet a couple and were now so sad. It was a bittersweet parting that left the Gryffindors most forlorn. The Marauders retired early to bed; James and Sirius both with three months detention to look forward to.
James sat behind the closed curtains of his bed and pondered over the Marauders Map. Lily had seen it. Lily had seen so many things. Seeing Remus so hurt at the loss of Selene made James realize something. If he couldn't work things out with Lily, if he couldn't show her how he felt, he would be miserable for the rest of his life. Upon the map he saw a dot sitting beside the Great Lake. A dot named Lily Evans.
He pulled the Invisibility Cloak from out of his trunk at the foot of his bed and draped it around his shoulders. With stealth he exited Gryffindor tower and made his way to the Entrance Hall. It was when he saw Filch mopping the floor that he realized he had left the Marauders Map upon his bed. He cursed silently.
Filch was whistling loudly and off key. James decided to take his chances. He took one step. Then another. The tiles were wet, but it seemed okay. He went slowly and steadily towards the doors.
He was on his buttocks and sliding fast. The Cloak stayed round him, but for his feet. It must have been quite a sight, two shoes and two ankles seemingly detached from any legs sliding across the Entrance Hall of a castle such as Hogwarts, but weirder sights had passed those halls and Filch had seen them all.
"Peeves! What tricks are you up to?" he yelled angrily.
He chased after the disembodied feet. They pushed through the doors and into the night where they disappeared. Filch stared out for a while, but seeing nothing resolved upon the mystery of the matter and shut the doors.
James stumbled through the dark and down towards the Great Lake where he shuddered to a halt. Her long auburn hair glistened in the moonlight. He removed the cloak and came to sit beside her. She started then relaxed when she saw who it was.
"I feel so sorry for Remus," he whispered.
"I do to, and Selene, it wasn't easy for her. I think she really did love him."
"Do you reckon they'll ever try again?"
"Maybe," she said. "Then again, maybe not. That's just the way it goes, I guess."
"I've been thinking," began James again. "Did you really keep a diary of first year?"
"Yes." The corners of her lips twitched in the beginning of a smile.
He cleared his throat. "Was I in it?"
"Of course! Apparently," she began in a confidential tone. "You taught me how to fly."
"Did I now?" he said, the corners of his lips now twitched amusedly.
"And you teased me about my hair and my red jumper…"
"How awful of me."
"And you sent me notes…"
"What did they say?" He prompted, but being first year, he thought he knew exactly which one she referred to.
"A lily for a lily," she whispered.
"All my love, James." He finished.
She looked up. He met her emerald eyes steadily.
"And did this diary of yours mention the train ride home, did it mention – "
"No," she said and turned her cheek to hide her blush. "No it did not."
This time it was Lily who broke it.
"Sirius told me that you three are Animagi. That he is a dog and Peter is a rat, though I saw both for myself. But he would not tell what you were."
James' face grew dark. "I wish Sirius were not so free with our secrets."
"Do not blame him. I had seen enough already. I probably would have figured it out in time."
He looked at her thoughtfully. "No doubt you would have. I still can hardly believe how quickly you discovered Remus."
"I can hardly believe it either, that girl seems almost like someone else. Almost but not quite. I know her to be me. I know it."
She blushed once more at the thought of the train.
"But, James, which animal are you?"
He smiled. "I should have you guess rather than tell you, but I'll give you a hint. Remember my nickname is Prongs."
"That's not a hint, I knew that already."
"Then think of it as a steer in the right direction."
"Okay then, Prongs," she bit her lip thoughtfully. "That would suggest you've got some poky bits? Like horns? Are you a bull?"
"Lily! No!" he laughed. "A bull? Where did you get that from?"
"Well… you did say steer, and you can be a bit bull-headed from time to time."
"It's true," she giggled then glared mockingly. "Like the other day for instance."
"I'm sorry. But if only you knew what he had done."
"Enough to be murdered?"
"Yes and no. I should like it, but I would not make it so. I saved his life the other night. Is that not proof enough?"
"You suppose," he smiled grimly. "Keep guessing. No I am not a bull. Look at me Lily. Just look at me and you would know that."
So she did. She tore her gaze away from the tranquil lake and looked at him. It was his eyes that captured her first and held her firmly hypnotized. Two big brown eyes that were hauntingly familiar in their soul searching intensity. She choked on the words that came out as barely a whisper.
"The white stag."
He nodded slowly and before her eyes transformed into the glistening noble white stag her memory admired so.
It came. The tidal wave of memories came flowing back. The memories of her youth. The memories of her first year at Hogwarts, that she had only read about came to life and she felt a connection with the words as she had been unable to create without the memories themselves to bind her. She remembered the years at Hogwarts spent in fear of the impending marriage to Cameron and his climatic arrival at the school with his mother and her parents. She remembered all that passed in his time here and the spell that had transformed her into her child-self. The breaking of the engagement, the bond of sisterhood with Selene, the bonds of friendship with the Marauders.
Snape. The forbidden forest. The potion. The Stag. James was the stag.
She threw her arms around the stag's neck and cried into hair so white it was almost silver. Her body shivered with the force of the tears, with the burden of her memory. She clung to him most ardently.
Slowly, so as not to frighten her, he transformed back into human form and returned her embrace.
"I remember," she cried. "Oh James I remember everything!"
He held her tight and smoothed down her hair. He kissed it gently, just once, to have the taste of her upon his lips. It had seemed an eon since he had last held her. She remembered. Everything, she said. That first time in the train. He had been so nervous. They had been so close and yet not touching.
Her shivers faded and her tears dried. She tilted her head towards his and he met her with his lips first upon her cheek to kiss away a tear that lingered their still and then upon her lips which opened beneath him.
"I love you, Lily Evans, and I will never let you go, for as long as I live."
So, he held her in his arms beneath the light of a silvery moon, by a Great Lake of unfathomable depths and kissed her with all his love.