Author's Note: Hello there. I feel really bad seeing that my last update was in April. At least this is a long chapter. And I'm without a beta reader again, it seems. Looks like I'm not lucky with beta readers. Sentrosi is an exception - but everyone else just seems to disappear mysteriously. Anyway, please excuse any mistakes (that are sure to be there). And I'm even more sorry that this chapter is not really exciting but just a necessary set up. At least everyone who likes James/Lily will be happy, I hope.

Chapter 12

Almost Kisses

Owl post. It was something James dreaded nowadays. There had been insults. And threats. Bad insults. Bad threats. The first time he had had to read "Die, werewolf!", he had felt like vomiting. By now, he had almost grown used to it. But he liked to keep it to himself. There was no need for his friends to see the letters and worry about it. Especially Sirius and Lily should not see them. The two of them would surely explode with anger and do something which would only complicate everything.

And then there was the Daily Prophet. Almost every day, you could read a statement from a politician or a famous wizard to the Werewolf-at-Hogwarts scandal. But this morning, it was worse. Much, much worse.


Henry and Scarlett Potter finally commented on the accusations directed at their son James Potter, student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, who was lately revealed to be a werewolf. Both of them claim he is not a werewolf. Mrs. Potter: "What the media is doing to our son is outrageous. They obviously need a story to distract from You-Know-Who and that they don't make any progress in stopping him. But they don't care at all for an innocent, completely normal boy who is victim in their games. They just ruin his life!" Mr. Potter adds that he will bring the matter to court if the Daily Prophet does not stop misreporting about their son. They also demand an apology and a correction of the "false rumours" as they call it.

From what reliable sources have told this newspaper, James Potter himself has admitted to being a werewolf. Therefore this fact is hardly debatable. It is not unexpected that his parents now try to cover up the truth as they have also shown no scruples whatsoever in sending him to a school for young wizards where he could easily cause harm. Since the truth about James Potter's identity has come into the open, already eight students have left Hogwarts because their parents feel it is no longer a safe place.

James groaned and buried his head in his arms. Sirius, Peter, Remus and Lily, curious because of his odd behaviour, poured over the Daily Prophet and read the article, too.

James hit his palm against his forehead several times. "Why did they have to do this?!"

"What?" Lily asked. She was the only one who did not understand what it was that really bothered James. "James, I don't understand. Don't they ..." She hesitated and threw the other boys a worried glance. "Don't they accept you for it?" she asked almost inaudibly.

"What? No, of course they're fine with it," James said quickly.

"But then why ...?"

No one answered Lily's question. They were all thoroughly lost for words.

"James?" she prodded.

"I really don't know," he said without looking at her.

"I think the Daily Prophet is right," Sirius said unexpectedly and everyone turned to look at him in confusion. "I ... I think your parents are worried for you. They try to hide the fact that you're a werewolf. And who could blame them? After all that shit everyone did to you when they found out ... Really, I'd do the same for my kid."

"Your kid?" Remus raised his eyebrows. "And how on earth are we going to have a kid?"

Everyone laughed. James exhaled in relief and inwardly thanked Remus for the diversion.

"I think I need to send my parents a letter and explain everything," James said and hastily stood up. He had to get away before people would ask him more questions.

"Wait," Sirius called him back. "I bet there's a bunch of reporters around your parents' place. They're just waiting to intercept your letters."

"Then ... I'll just have to use the Floo Net. I'm going to sneak into Hogsmeade this night and use a fireplace in the Hog's Head."

"How about if I come with you?" Lily said unexpectedly. "You shouldn't do such a cloak-and-dagger operation. If you got caught, you'd really be in trouble. We could simply make this look like Head Boy and Girl business."

"That would be brilliant." James hated that he sounded faintly breathless. But really: going to Hogsmeade together with Lily - that was practically a date!

"We could ask Professor McGonagall to grant us permission to leave. We'll just say it's for the Halloween party. Erm, we say we want to talk to a local musician. Who is a widow. Yes, and performing at Hogwarts might help her get over her depressions."

"There isn't a depressed widow in Hogsmeade who is a musician, is there?" asked Sirius.

"Well, no." Lily blushed brightly. "But --"

"Miss Perfect Evans, are you implying that you intent to lie to your Head of House?" Sirius taunted her. "And that as Head Girl. My, my, you're not as goody-goody as I always thought."

"It's just a white lie, for heaven's sake!" Lily shot at him. "And contrary to you, I don't do it for fun but because this is an emergency case."

They glared at each other. Sirius and Lily had never gotten along. It worried James a bit. It was no good that his best friend and his future wife were always at each other's throat. He would have to think of doing something about it.

But right now, Lily was not his wife yet, not even his girlfriend. James would not even call her his friend yet. Actually, he was not sure what they were. She was a classmate, a girl in his House who was being nice to him. Very nice.

Convincing McGonagall to allow them to go to Hogsmeade did not pose a problem. Lily had not even finished the second sentence and the normally so strict teacher already granted them permission to go. James sort of regretted that he had played so many pranks on her, otherwise she would probably be as trusting and nice to him as she was to Lily.

Late in the afternoon, James and Lily set out on their walk to Hogsmeade. It was an awkward situation. James did not know what to say. He had no idea how to start a conversation. What was a good topic to start a conversation with the girl you were in love with? Lily did not say much either. She asked twice if James wanted to 'talk about it'. He reclined twice. Although they spent so much time together nowadays – they sat together in class or during meals in the Great Hall and sometimes even did homework together – it had never before been awkward like this.

"Have you been in the Hog's Head before?" James asked her when they had arrived under the sign of a hog's head.

"Well, to be honest ... I haven't been there very often, that is ... no. I haven't been there before. Why? Is there something I need to know about this place?"

"No. Just that it isn't a very lovely pub. You could ... wait in the Three Broomsticks or somewhere else. You can't come with me to my parents' place anyway. It'd only make everything more complicated if there's someone around they don't know."

"Yes, of course. I can wait in the Hog's Head, it's not a problem."

They went inside, both of them quite apprehensive. There were not many guests here because it was the middle of the week and still quite early. But those that were here did not look very trustworthy. A young man with dirty bandages all over his body. A witch with black runes tattooed under her eyes. A being (you could not tell their gender because their face was hidden under a threadbare hood) whose grey tongue was lolling out of their mouth. And there was someone else sitting in a corner who smoked so much that you could not see anything of him or her.

James felt a bit bad about leaving Lily in such company. Wasn't he, as the 'man', supposed to protect her? Then again, Lily was hardly the girl who needed protection. She would certainly feel insulted if James only mentioned such a thing. Sometimes she was just so unapproachable.

James went to the bar and asked the barkeeper for some Floo Powder. James hesitated and threw Lily an appraising glance. Was he supposed to buy her a drink? He had no idea how to behave on a date. But this was not a real date, was it? But he wanted it to be one. From all he had heard so far, the boy usually paid for the drinks. He wondered briefly how Sirius and Remus did it. Stupid thought. He was on an almost-date with Lily, so no thoughts about homosexuals now, please. To be honest, most of the things James knew about dating was what Sirius had told him. And his ex-dorm-mate Alex had complained that boys always had to pay so much for demanding girls. And Sirius had said something quite similar after he had broken up with a girlfriend who had lasted surprisingly long. But if James remembered correctly, it had not been about drinks but about an expensive birthday present. A ring. Or maybe a necklace? Or had it been a wristband? Damn it, I should've asked Sirius about what to do on dates, James thought now. Sirius had experience with that kind of thing. No, forget about it. I'd rather stick my head in dragondung than ask Sirius for dating advice. Merlin, he'd never stop teasing me. He'd probably tell me to do something completely ridiculous and then Lily will dump me and Sirius will have his laugh over his stupid prank.

James then realised that Lily had already bought herself a butterbeer while he had been debating with himself. He smiled nervously at her.

"Well. I'm going now."

She smiled back. "Good luck."

James stepped into the flames and moments later, he arrived at home – where his parents literally assaulted him: hugged him, talked to him (talked very loudly, very quickly and also both at the same time), asked him questions, complained about something ... James did not understand a word of it.

He put his hands over his ears and shouted, "I can explain, okay? I just said I was a werewolf to help someone else, okay? And it's fine. And you really should stop giving interviews to the Daily Prophet."

Their shouting only got worse after that. It was beyond his comprehension how two people could make so much noise. The same thing, however, had McGonagall told him and Sirius on more than one occasion.

His parents said many silly things, things which only made James angry and which, in return, made his parents more angry.

"James, you're intelligent, you're gifted – why're you ruining your future when there's nothing wrong with you?"

"There isn't anything wrong with the other boy either," James protested. "His future would be ruined just as well." Truth be told, he had never thought about the consequences for his or Remus' future. He had mostly thought about students bullying another student and making life hard for him.

"Have you any idea how the employ outlook for a werewolf is nowadays?" his father asked him incredulously.

"No. Besides, who cares if I'm a werewolf or not if I'm ace at duelling?"

"Everyone," lamented his mother. "Have you ever heard of a werewolf who had a decent job?"

"Well, I haven't met a werewolf before but I'm sure there are some who are rich and have great jobs and all. They just keep it secret."

"There aren't any," his father said harshly. "Here, look." He tossed several old newspapers at James that he must have collected during the last days. "Bones, he was a high Ministry official, they found out and the next days he was fired."

"It's happened to every werewolf," his mother added.

"Well, that's discrimination then," James stated matter-of-factly.

"Yes, it is!" said his mother, who was close to a nervous breakdown. "And I just don't understand why you'd willingly inflict that upon yourself."

"Someone has to change something, right?" James said grimly.

"But not you!"

"Why not me?"

His parents were momentarily lost for words. Finally, his father said in a forced calm voice, "Because you're only seventeen."

"So what? I'm of age. Grown up. Adult. When should I start to change something? When I'm sixty or eighty? But no, I'd probably get my grandchildren into trouble then," James said cynically. "Someone has to start, right? And if you adults won't do it, then we have to do it."

His mother smiled sympathetically. "I know how you feel, James. Don't you think we felt just like you when we were younger, too? We wanted to change everything right then and there, too. But at some point we understood that things weren't as easy as we liked to think."

"Why didn't you do anything then?" James asked his parents accusingly. "Why didn't you try to change something?"

They did not answer his question. They just smiled at him in an infuriatingly superior way.

"Well, I won't give up," James finally broke the awkward silence.

His father sighed audibly. "It's Sirius, right? He's the werewolf, isn't he? And that's why his parents threw him out of their house."

I have to tell Sirius about this, James thought. It was amazing how everyone developed such crazy theories. So far, no one had guessed that Sirius was the werewolf.

"I won't tell you who it is," James said stubbornly. "And there isn't really much you can do about it. You can tell everyone all you want that I'm not a werewolf. I'll keep telling people I am one. I suppose they'll believe me, won't they?"

It was not a pleasant conversation. His parents did not give up. They told him again and again to stop his pretending. They tried everything, they even tried to bribe him and said they would allow him to fly in one of the brilliantly dangerous broomstick course that were in the amusement park in Greenland. As if he needed their permission! He was of age now, he could do what he wanted anyway.

The conversation continued much like that: the arguments stayed the same but none of them was ready to back down from their position. Finally, James decided that he should not let Lily wait much longer. They had not reached an agreement. The whole conversation had only led to all of them being furious at each other and being exhausted from the pointless discussion. They parted in anger.

But that was not the end of James' tiring day. When he flooed back into the Hog's Head, he saw that someone was sitting at Lily's table, talking to her. It was a young woman, not much older than Lily. She looked oddly colourful: peroxide blond hair, blue mascara, green eye shadow, pink lipstick, red finger nails.

"Oh, hello, Mr. Potter!" she exclaimed upon seeing him. "I've been dying to finally meet you!"

"Hi," James replied and threw Lily a questioning glance. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Rita Skeeter." She grabbed his hand and shook it enthusiastically. "I'm a journalist. And I think I've just discovered the story that could give me a regular employment."

"That's great to hear. Has it got anything to do with me, by the way?"

"Yes!" Rita Skeeter beamed broadly at him. "With you and this charming young lady." She pointed a finger (with that disturbingly bright nail polish) at Lily, who shrugged and smiled nervously.

"Okay." James eyed her warily. "Should I say something now? 'Cause I am a werewolf, if that's what you wanted to know."

"Oh yes, yes, I know. Poor boy." She patted his hand and still beamed broadly at him. James quickly removed his hand from her clutch. No woman but Lily was allowed to touch him like that!

"I reckon all of this is really too much for you," she continued sympathetically, "so I don't want to harass you with questions. Miss Evans was so lovely to tell me all about how the two of you got to know each other and how the revelation of your lycanthropy affected your relationship."

'Relationship'? 'Got to know each other'? Did I hear that right? Is she implying what I think she is implying? No, it can't be. Why would Lily say that? Wishful thinking ...

"I'd just like to take a photo of you," Rita Skeeter interrupted James' muddled thoughts. "How about if you give Miss Evans a little kiss?"

It felt like something was dropping into James' stomach. 'Kiss'?! "W-what?" James spluttered. He stared at Lily to see her reaction: her whole head had turned a bright pink, clashing horribly with the colour of her hair. She shook her head, mouthing some words James unfortunately could not read from her lips.

"Well?" Rita Skeeter had meanwhile taken a little camera out of her bag and beamed expectantly at them.

"Er, listen, we're really --" Lily began but was interrupted by Rita Skeeter.

"Oh, you don't kiss in public? That's alright, my dear. Let's see, how can we do this. Ah, Mr. Potter, how about if you put your arm around her shoulders."

James started to sweat. What was going on here?? Lily shrugged and mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like "okay".

"Er ..." James said. He threw Lily another questioning glance but when she did not protest, he put one arm very, very cautiously around her shoulders.

"Fantastic!" Rita Skeeter squealed. "You two make such a nice couple! Now, Mr. Potter, why so unhappy? Smile a bit! Yes, show me your teeth!" There was a camera flash, then Rita Skeeter exclaimed "Fantastic!" once more and went on and on about how it was such a nice photo. James quickly removed his arm from Lily's shoulder and unobtrusively retreated a few steps.

Rita Skeeter bid her farewells with more enthusiastic exclamations and expressed her wish to meet them again. Lily smiled politely and said something noncommittal. Their way back to Hogwarts was even more awkward than the way there. There was tense silence again but this time, the incident with the overzealous reporter lingered over them as well.

"Did things go well with your parents?" Lily asked at long last when they had already walked half the way.

James construed his answer very carefully. He did not want to lie to Lily, at least not directly. "They're still not happy with this development but there's not much they can do about it, is there?" It was the truth – from a certain point of view.

"They worry about you, don't they?"

"Yes. Always."

Thankfully, Lily did not tell him that his parents only wanted his best and loved him so much and that was why they always worried. But it was there nonetheless, unspoken, but James knew that was what Lily had meant to say – what everyone would say. Especially Sirius, who would become moody and say something like, 'At least your parents worry for your well-being. You should be glad.' Yes, of course he was glad that his parents were not like Sirius', and of course he loved his parents but that did not stop him from getting annoyed by them from time to time.

"Listen, James, I'm sorry for that ... thing earlier." Lily pushed her hands into the pockest of her cloak and chuckled nervously. "I just said that I liked you and the fact that you're a werewolf wouldn't change that, and Miss Skeeter immediately assumed it meant we were a, well, couple."

"You did?" James felt more hopeful than he had felt in days. Lily had said that she liked him. She had never before admitted that much.

"Yes. She didn't give me a chance to explain properly, she just rambled on and on, and was so excited about this cheesy romance that she wanted to see. I tried to explain but she wouldn't listen." Lily bowed her head and shrugged apologetically.

"Let her believe it if it makes her happy," James said and added in his mind: It makes me happy, too. "I just hope it wasn't too uncomfortable for you when ... you know ..."

"No, no, don't worry, it wasn't a problem," Lily said quickly, still staring at her feet.

If she didn't mind, then I could put my arm around her shoulders now once more, James thought but he did not do it. Because what if Lily pushed his hand away? Or what if she didn't but expected more from him? It seemed everything he did would be wrong.

So they walked the rest of the way in silence. James liked to imagine that this meant something. That the girl he loved walked next to him, that they understood each other without words, with the stars above them and all that stuff you needed for a good romance. Unfortunately, it felt rather like there was something between them preventing them from perceiving each other's thoughts and feelings. Or maybe it was just that Lily did not want this? Or maybe she thought James was a looser, a coward, a wimp because he had not kissed her when Rita Skeeter had told him to?

In front of the portrait of the Fat Lady, Lily stopped for a moment and looked at him – expectantly? James simply smiled because he could not think of anything to say. She smiled back – a genuine and beautiful smile. If it had not been such a impolite thing to do, James would have been content just looking at her smiling like this for hours.

"When I heard that you had been made Head Boy, I was sure it would be hell," Lily said, laughing softly. "I'm glad things turned out so well."

James nodded fervently. "Yeah, I'm glad we get along better now, too." It felt like the smile was edged onto his face. Lily was still gazing intently at him and that was when he lost his nerve and told the Fat Lady the password.


It was one week before the full moon. Sirius had gone to purchase Polyjuice Potion. When James held Remus back when everyone else was going down to dinner, Remus had the feeling James had been waiting for this opportunity for quite some time now. He was unusually apprehensive.

"Listen, Lupin," he started after clearing his throat demonstratively but then trailed off. He took off his glasses, twisted them in his hands and then added, as if to correct himself, " -- Moony. I need to talk to you."

"Alright." Remus waited for James to address whatever it was that was bothering him (there had to be something that bothered him, otherwise he would not be that uneasy) but nothing came.

"Well," Remus said. "What is it?"

"This is not easy to say," James retorted slightly disgruntled.

"Okay." Remus gestured for him to sit down together on one of the sofas in the deserted common room. James did so but edged away from Remus as far as possible.

"So, what is it?" Remus asked again.

"Swear not to laugh."

Now, this sounded interesting. "I'll try not to but I can't promise anything."

"If you laugh, I'm going to turn you into a flobberworm and then stomp on you and squash you." James sounded rather desperate – almost like he really meant it.

Remus smiled at him. "Alright. Out with it. I'm curious now."

"I was wondering ... ," James spoke to his glasses that he kept bending, "if you could ... sort of tell me how to ... how to ..." His voice became smaller and smaller. "... You know?" He finally finished with a pleading look at Remus.

"Er, no, I'm afraid I don't know."

James took a deep breath, full of frustration. "Well, tell me how to kiss someone, of course!" he exclaimed abruptly. "You know, the first kiss, when you kiss someone, you know, two people who're in love with each other! There has to be a first kiss at some part!"

Remus snorted in amusement. To his defence, it should be said that he tried really hard not to laugh out loud. James threw him a devastating glare.

"I told you not to laugh!" he said accusingly. His face had meanwhile turned a fascinating shade of red.

"I'm not laughing," Remus said quickly.

"But you're grinning," James insisted and leant back against the sofa cushions, one arm draped over his face.

"Sorry." Remus tried to muster his face into a neutral mask – without much success.

"So? Can you tell me?" James said, his voice a bit higher than usual.

"Why're you asking me of all people?" Remus asked curiously once he had gotten over the initial shock.

"Why not?!"

"I mean, why don't you ask Sirius? He's had much more experience than I."

"Exactly," James grumbled. "Has probably already forgotten what it's like to have your first kiss."

"Why don't you try and ask him?"

"Because I'm asking you, dammit!"

"Okay, okay," Remus said placatingly. He could not deny that he was somehow touched that James trusted him with something like this, something about which he could – for whatever reasons – not talk to Sirius. "What about Peter? He's at least straight."

"Already asked him. He hasn't had his first kiss yet either," James said glumly.

"Well, isn't that funny?" Remus mused. "I'm gay and yet I've had my first kiss much earlier than you or Peter. Crazy if you consider the odds for that."

"Great, thanks, Lupin, you had to rub it in, didn't you?!" James snapped at him, really angry this time. "You don't wanna help me? Well, fine, then just tell me and don't make a fool of me."

"Okay, okay, calm down." James had been about to jump up from the sofa but Remus grabbed his wrist and pulled him down again. "I'll try to help you even if I don't know how. And I won't tell anyone you asked. I promise."

James scrutinised him sceptically but in the end, he remained sitting. However, he did not say a word.

"So, you and Lily... ?" Remus ventured cautiously. James nodded curtly. "But you haven't kissed yet?" James shook his head. "But you want to kiss her?" James nodded again.

Remus sighed inwardly and leant back into the plush cushions. Was he supposed to give James lectures on kissing techniques now? He was hardly an expert as he had never kissed anyone else but Sirius. So how would he know if the rest of the world liked the same things Sirius and he did?

"Problem is really," James mumbled, "how do you start a kiss? I mean, I can't just walk up to her, grab her face and press my lips against hers. There's supposed to be this special moment, right? When you look at each other and you both know now's the time to kiss and then you both lean forward and get lost in each other's eyes and then your lips touch. The thing is, there hasn't been such a moment or maybe there has been but I just didn't realise it. And sometimes I thought it was such a moment but then she pulled back at the last possible moment. Or I did. I think there just isn't such a special moment between Lily and me, and that's really the problem because I have no idea how to start it. And I think she expects me to do something about it." James took a deep breath after his 'speech', folded his hands and unfolded them again.

"Why would you get that idea?"

"Because there was this time ... well, I told you about that journalist who wanted to know all about our supposed love affair. She actually wanted to take a photo of the two of us kissing. It would've been the perfect opportunity. But I didn't do it."

"Why not?"

"I don't know why!" James sounded close to hysteria. He was fiddling so much with a lose thread from the sofa that Remus feared he would tear the whole furniture apart.

"Maybe you should just wait and next time it'll work." Remus groaned inwardly. It was such a lame thing to say. Just like 'Everything will be fine.'

"But how do you do that kind of things? I mean, I couldn't possibly just say, 'Hi Lily, can I kiss you?'"

"Maybe she'd like such a direct and honest approach," Remus tried to encourage James.

"Yes, but maybe she'd think it's totally unromantic."

Remus shrugged. He could not deny James' idea was just as likely as his.

"How did your first kiss happen?" James asked unexpectedly.

"It was Sirius who started it," Remus replied, feeling himself blush slightly.

James sighed audibly and ran a hand over his forehead. "I guess I should have expected that. But still: How did it happen? How did he start it?"

"Well, it was Christmas and there was mistletoe," said Remus and smiled fondly at the memory.

"Mistletoe?" James echoed, slightly disappointed. "Well, that's easy then."

"But it's still two months till Christmas, so that won't help you much."

"That's not a problem. I can wait."

Remus had not expected that. Then the solution was this easy? James would simply wait? Sometimes he was really hard to figure out.

"Good." James sounded almost businesslike now. "Then there's just one more thing I need to know: What should a first kiss be like? Anything important I should keep in mind?"

What should a first kiss be like? Briefly, Remus was tempted to answer: It should be like an attack with lips, teeth and tongue, and with hands everywhere so that you can't think clearly anymore and are rendered a wonderfully helpless mess. That's a perfect first kiss.

Instead he said, "I suppose a first kiss should be gentle. Wait for her to deepen the kiss and if not, it's okay as well. You probably shouldn't grope her too much already during the first kiss. That can come later."

"Okay." James listened raptly, taking everything Remus said in.

"You should tell her that you love her before you kiss her."


"Make sure she knows you're not just kissing her because there's mistletoe above you. I'm sure Lily is clever enough to understand it means more but better tell her to make sure she knows."

"Okay. That's all?"

"That's all."

"Good." James grinned awkwardly. "Thanks for the information."

Remus returned the grin. "You're welcome. Oh, and don't worry if nothing goes according to plan. It'll be special because it's the first kiss, no matter how crappy it is."

"So your first kiss was crappy, eh?" James teased him.

"No, not crappy. Not crappy at all." Once more Remus got lost in the memory. How everything that had been just an abstract thought until then, had suddenly become a real warm mouth and a warm body against his own. Definitely not a 'crappy' kiss. Sirius was a very talented kisser, after all. Not that Remus had any comparison. But ... what would he need comparison for when everything was perfect anyway?

"I'm really glad I'm not a Legilimens," James brought Remus back into the present.

"Hm? Why?"

"Because I really don't want to see what's happening in your mind right now. And I know there's something ... well, going on because you look like a very contented, very well-fed wolf."

Remus laughed – mostly in relief because James seemed to like him now. They were not exactly friends yet but at least the open hostility had gone.

"What are you two laughing about?" Sirius, followed by Peter and Hestia Jones, entered the common room.

"Ah, James just told me about the prank you pulled on Professor Dumbledore in your second year," Remus quickly made something up as he had promised James not to tell anyone about his first-kiss-complex.

Sirius looked contemplative for a moment but then he seemed to remember and burst out laughing. "Yeah, that one was brilliant, one of our best. Remember how his glasses fell from his nose in his shock?" Peter soon joined in Sirius' laughter and so did James, who gave Remus the thumbs up when the others were not looking.

"Top-secret Marauder Meeting," Peter announced once everyone had calmed down.

"There's something we need to discuss," Sirius added. "Let's get into our dormitory."

"Wait a moment," James said when Hestia Jones made to follow him up the spiral staircase. "What's she doing here? She can't be coming here."

"It concerns her, too," Sirius explained.

"But it's a Marauder Meeting – she's not a Marauder," James protested indignantly. "She's not even a Gryffindor. And she's a girl. She can't possibly come into our dormitory!" Hestia looked rather intimidated at that and remained standing indecisively at the base of the stairs.

"James, this is about you-know-what," Sirius said impatiently. "If you want it to work, you'll have to stop acting so childishly."

James made a rather rude hand gesture at Sirius but kept quiet. Hestia followed them in a safe distance. When they were all inside the dormitory and Remus had locked the door securely, Sirius said, "We have a problem," and flopped down on his bed.

"Oh really." James crossed his arms over his chest, leant against the bedpost and made sure everyone saw his disgruntled facial expression and knew how much he disliked the situation with a non-Marauder Ravenclaw girl in their dorm.

"But we already have a solution," said Peter and sat down on his bed. "Jelly puffskein anyone?" He offered a box with the sticky sweets. Remus was the only one who took one. Hestia still hovered uncertainly in front of the door, throwing wary glances at James from time to time.

"Sit down." Sirius patted the place next to him on his bed and smiled reassuringly at her. Remus often thought Sirius had, in a way, adopted Hestia as his little sister to replace Regulus.

Once she had sat down next to him, Sirius continued, "The problem is that it's not enough if you just turn into Remus for the full moon night. You would have to stay 'Remus' for at least three days."

"Because Remus usually has to stay in the hospital wing at least one day to recover," Peter added.

"And then he should stay away from everyone's eyes a little bit longer until he looks completely healthy and his wounds have healed," Hestia continued, "so no one can prove anything."

Remus sighed inwardly and looked at no one in particular. He hated being a werewolf. Not enough that he transformed into a bloodthirsty monster one night each month, no, but he also had to stay uselessly in the hospital wing to recover. How pathetic sounded that?!

"Okay, what's the problem?" James said impatiently. "Don't you have enough Polyjuice Potion for a few more days?"

"It's enough Polyjuice Potion for a whole week at least," Sirius said, proudly took a fishy-looking bottle out of his cloak and waved it for everyone to see.

"But," Peter looked at James gravely, "you'll have to be back after the full moon night. You have to be in the hospital wing, supposedly recovering from your transformation."

There was a silence during which James looked rather clueless and Remus once more cursed his lycanthropy.

"You said you already have found a solution?" Remus asked hopefully.

"Yeah. Someone else needs to take the Polyjuice Potion and turn into you," Hestia said, smiling hesitantly at him. "I could do it."

Remus blinked in surprise. Why would this girl whom he hardly knew – he had helped her with her runes translations once or twice, maybe discussed the latest Quidditch results with her but nothing more – offer her help, just like that? He really hoped Sirius had not forced her into this ...

"Why?" James asked bluntly.

"Because we said it'd be too obvious if Sirius or Peter did it. People would get suspicious if one of them suddenly missed, too." She looked at Sirius and Peter for support.

"And she's the only one apart from us four who knows Remus is the werewolf," Peter said.

"But why -- her?" James asked, his question directed at Sirius and it sounded almost like an accusation. "Couldn't someone else do it?"

"I believe we just told you why she would be the perfect person to do it," Sirius said icily.

James narrowed his eyes and shot a brief glance at Hestia. "But wouldn't people get suspicious, too, if she missed?"

"She thinks ... it won't be as obvious," Sirius said. "At full moon, everyone's attention will be on us – Remus, Peter and me – and no one will be interested whether a Ravenclaw fourth year is missing or not."

"You can stay in the hospital wing," Peter told James, "so everyone can visit you and see for themselves that you obviously need to recover. We smuggle Remus back into our dorm where he can stay until he looks better again."

Remus nodded slowly. It made sense. It could work. "You would really do that?" he asked Hestia , who, so far, had mostly been left out of the conversation.

"Yes, sure."

"That's really ... really nice of you," Remus said, surprised once more that people were willing to do so much for him.

And so it was decided that Hestia would play Remus at full moon and the days after.

"I don't think this is a good idea," James said as soon as Hestia had left.

"Why not?" Peter asked.

"I don't think she's going to betray the secret," Remus said.

"Of course she won't," Sirius said indignantly.

"I don't like this," James said sourly.

"Why, what's your problem?" Sirius snapped. "Did Evans once more say no to one of your ridiculous advances?"

Remus winced. Lily was a touchy subject. Sirius should not have brought it up unless he wanted to get into an argument with James – which probably had been his very purpose when mentioning Lily.

"What has Lily got to do with everything?" James shot back at Sirius. "And just so you know: She didn't turn me down. Maybe your brain has suffered from your gayness but it was actually she who asked me if we should go to Hogsmeade together."

"You call that a date? Wow, you must be really desperate. Let's see: She came with you because you lied to her. She would not even care for you if you didn't lie to her about that whole werewolf thing."

"Will you just shut up? I did not pretend I'm the werewolf to get her to care for me!" James' face had turned red from his anger. Sirius, however, looked smug and completely unaffected by James' insults. "And by the way, we almost kissed!"

"Really?" Peter chimed in curiously. "How --" But he did not get an answer to his question because Sirius and James were too busy arguing.

"Almost? You got an almost-kiss? I'm sure it must've been a really thrilling experience for you. The kissing-virgin James Potter got almost kissed. Worth an article in the Daily Prophet, don't you think? Oh, and how come you didn't kiss? Did you faint from the sheer closeness of her?"

Remus looked away and took one more jelly puffskein from Peter. He could really understand now why James did not want to ask Sirius for advice on kissing. How could someone be so tactless?

James, however, seemed ready to compete with Sirius for the title of absolute tactlessness. "Well, at least I don't have the reputation of a slut!" he hurled at Sirius. The muscles around Sirius' mouth twitched dangerously.

"Get down!" Without warning, Peter grabbed Remus' arm and pulled him down behind the bed. Not one second too late. Colourful sparks whizzed through the air and spells hissed above them from James and Sirius duelling.

"Shouldn't we, I don't know, disarm them?" Remus whispered at Peter.

"No, that wouldn't really help. It'd only make them angrier."

Remus sighed and crouched down more deeply to be safe behind the bed. "I thought the two of them were supposed to be 'best friends'. But I've never before seen two people who argue that often."

"Oh, they've always been like this," Peter explained matter-of-factly. "I think this daily arguments are the base of their friendship somehow. Besides, didn't you ever wonder why they're such fantastic duellers?"

"I wish they'd at least have their duels outside our dorm. I want to sleep here tonight."

"Don't worry, they'll be back to being best friends by then."

And Peter was right with that: Later that night found James and Sirius pouring over the Marauder's Map, giving it the finishing touches and congratulating themselves for being such brilliant Marauders.