Title: The Lost Generation (1975-1982) (11/20)
Author name: Barb
Author email: psychic_serpent@yahoo.com
Category: Mystery
Sub Category: Romance
Keywords: MWPP Lily Snape Bill Weasley
Rating: R
Spoilers: SS/PS, CoS, PoA, GoF, FB, QTTA, Harry Potter and the Psychic Serpent, Harry Potter and the Time of Good Intentions
Summary: Bill Weasley begins his education at Hogwarts in 1975, in the middle of Voldemort's reign of terror. He never suspects that the Gryffindor prefects he looks up to, Lily Evans and James Potter, will eventually have a son who saves the wizarding world, nor that the Weasley family will eventually play an important role in the Dark Lord's fall. All he knows is that in a very scary wizarding world, Hogwarts is a safe haven where he has always longed to be--until, that is, there are whispers of vampires and werewolves, of Death Eaters and traitors, and a Seeress pronounces a Prophecy which will shake the wizarding world to its very foundations....
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.


The Lost Generation

(1975-1982)

Chapter Eleven

The Moonchild



Saturday, 4 November, 1978

Bill and his father were at Peggy's side in a trice, while Annie and Charlie backed up in fear. Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew pressed themselves against the wall, glancing at each other every so often. Remus didn't know what to think. He saw that Peter was pale as parchment, and he was visibly shaking. Yes, thought Remus; it was a disturbing thing to see a child go into a trance like that and start speaking so strangely. But Peter looked positively petrified.

Child of the silver moon so cold....

Is she talking about me? both Remus and Peter wondered, afraid to speak, eyeing each other warily.

Remus thought of one of the people he'd met at the werewolf pub, a man who used "Moonchild" for his werewolf name. For obvious reasons. What has just happened here? Remus wondered. The fact that the girl had mentioned the moon repeatedly was making his blood run cold; he felt as though everyone in the hall knew he was a werewolf. Did the girl know, somehow? Had she been talking about him?

Peter watched Mr. Weasley scoop his daughter up into his arms and carry her up the marble stairs, his brow knit with worry. The other children followed. Peter heard the voice echoing in his head again:

The lion loves the daughter bright, as does the child of silver moon....

He glanced at Remus, wishing he could read his mind. Why does he look like that? Peter wondered.

Remus assumed Mr. Weasley was taking the girl to the hospital wing. Trelawney was still in the entrance hall, standing transfixed at the foot of the stairs, watching the Weasleys go. Then she seemed to be staring into space, moving her lips soundlessly, and Remus panicked and thought she might be trying to jinx them, even though she wasn't looking at them, so he grabbed Peter's arm and pulled him outdoors again. Peter didn't seem to want to go; he struggled against him, but Remus' strength gave him no choice but to go along.

"What do you reckon that was all about?" Remus said to Peter when they were outside the castle doors again. Peter looked back, and Remus saw again the clear terror in his gaze.

For his part, Peter wondered what Remus' expression could possibly mean. No, Remus couldn't know about the dreams, he thought. Peter hadn't told anyone. But--what if some werewolf sense he has is telling him--something about me?

The two young men looked at each other as though they were strangers, as though they hadn't lived in the same dorm for seven years.

Is he afraid of me? Remus wondered. Does he suspect me? Peter worried.

Remus tried not to dwell on the moon references in what the girl had said, but the words kept coming back to him.

"I d-don't know what that was about," Peter stuttered. "Is the girl--a Seer?" His voice sounded oddly high-pitched to Remus.

Remus shrugged, trying to seem nonchalant. "I never heard Weasley mention it. She might be. If that's what I think it was." Peter nodded absently, not looking at Remus. "I reckon," Remus said, "we should just be going back to the village for lunch...." He thought of his meager funds again. But suddenly, he wanted to get as far as he could from the castle. It no longer felt like a place of shelter and refuge for him, apart from the free food they could possibly get from the house elves....

Peter didn't seem to be paying any attention to him; he continued to stare at the castle doors. "Yeah, fine. See you." He started to moved back toward the doors.

"Where are you going?" Remus said, trying to waken him from his trance. Peter looked blankly at him.

"Visiting with McGonagall," he said after a moment's hesitation. "See you tomorrow..."

Remus nodded, frowning. That didn't make any sense; Peter had never been particularly close to McGonagall in school. Until he finally mastered the Animagus Transfiguration, she had been rather hard on him at times, too. After that, being able to transfigure himself into a rat at will had given him a measure of confidence in her class that he'd lacked before, and he improved greatly. Still, he wasn't as quick as James and Sirius, and his transfigurations generally lacked Remus' artistic flair (he prided himself on that). What's he going to talk to McGonagall about? he wondered, hearing the girl's words in his mind again.

Remus walked back to the village, carrying his gloves in his left hand and putting his right hand back in his pocket with his money; he immediately pulled it hand out when the silver Sickles burnt his bare fingers, and put his gloves on again, sighing. Why did wizards have to continue to use real silver for their money? he thought irritably. As it was, the wizarding idea of how to manage werewolves involved locking them up in cells at the Ministry during the full moon; he was due to turn up at the Ministry at three o'clock, so there'd be no risk of his being out after the sun set and the moon rose. He sighed, longing for the days when he could roam free with his best friends. Unfortunately, they were too busy for him now, and he had to do this instead....

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Peter hesitated before opening the heavy oaken door again; it had been over a week since he'd last had one of the dreams, but they were all very, very vivid in his mind. They had started near the end of the summer term, when he'd been preparing for his N.E.W.T.s. He hadn't been sleeping very much; Lily had the five of them working constantly on revision for the tests. He was certain that if it wasn't for her, he would have greatly disappointed his mother. As it was, he had the lowest marks of the five of them, but among the seventh years in general, his marks were perfectly respectable and he in fact had the tenth-best marks in the year.

When he had managed to sleep during this time, he found himself falling immediately into his dreams without having to be unconscious for a long time. And while the dreams started off as the standard test-panic variety (falling asleep and missing all of the N.E.W.T.s, for instance, or sitting down to take them and discovering that he'd learnt all the wrong things or that the questions were all in Russian), they gradually evolved into other types of dreams.

In one, he stood in a circle of tall, dark hooded figures while a taller, dark hooded figure addressed him in a hypnotic voice.

"We have here--the Moonchild."

And the hooded figures all repeated, as though in a trance, Moonchild moonchild moonchild moonchild.

Then a pain greater than any he'd ever known pressed itself into his left arm, making him awake, gasping, holding his left arm with his right hand.

His arm ached all day after that.

Another recurring dream wasn't much better: He was at a funeral, and approaching the casket in a long line of mourners. When he finally reached the casket, he learned whom the funeral was for.

He tried to back away, but something was drawing him on. He saw in horror the way her long red hair was spread out over the pink satin pillow slip, the way her long, thin white fingers were closed over the stem of a single white lily on her breast. He felt the tears cascading down his cheeks as he looked and looked at her, and then felt as though his heart were going to leap from his own chest as she suddenly sat up and opened her eyes, which were no longer green but solid orbs of obsidian. She opened her mouth to speak, but it was his own voice that he heard coming from her.

Why, Peter? Why?

That was even worse than the other; each time he had that one, he awoke screaming. Sometimes there were variations on the two, such as a dream where the two dreams seemed to be overlapping. Sometimes the church in which the funeral was taking place had no other mourners, just a hall of chairs arranged in neat rows before the casket; each row was roped off and bore a sign on the rope saying, No Moonchildren. He found himself going from row to row, working his way toward the front, looking for one that said Moonchild. Except that once he was near the front again, she sat up with those dark eyes and asked him again, Why, Peter? Why?

He didn't know what any of it meant. After James and Lily had announced their engagement, he'd thought that it had something to do with anxiety about that, perhaps. And though the dreams had started before their engagement, he might simply have been anticipating it. But there were other odd things; wouldn't he be imagining James dead if that were the reason for the dreams? he wondered. Unless--he felt that Lily was as out of reach to him now as though she were dead. That must be it, he reasoned. But why was she asking him why? And what was the circle of dark, hooded figures? Why was he being called Moonchild there, and at the dream-funeral, and why did his arm hurt?

He had arrived home from his final year in school on the day before his eighteenth birthday; he'd had a different dream that night, a dream where a tall red-haired woman whose face he could not see was leading him through corridor after misty corridor, saying, "We're almost there, Peter, we'll be there soon." And he followed along, trying to jog a little to catch up with her, so he could see her face. It was frustrating, because no matter what he did, he could not glimpse her visage. Finally, she approached a door; before opening it, she said to him, "Do you know who is in the ninth circle? For whom the ninth circle is reserved? She opened the door and a fiery blast seemed to emanate from it, and before he could stop her, he felt her hand reach out and grab him, hurling him through the open door, into the furnace.

As he fell, screaming, "Lil-eeeeeeee," he saw that the red-haired guide was a skeleton, and as he slowly descended, the bones collapsed into a heap, and he awoke in his bed, sweaty sheets wrapped around him...

His hand fell from the door handle; he couldn't bring himself to enter, to find out what was happening. Instead, he ran down the castle steps again and round to the Quidditch pitch once more. It was deserted, and he was relieved to see no one. He pushed on, to the forest, the forest he'd learned about so intimately when he was a student. After he'd gone in far enough that he knew no one outside the stand of trees could see him, he closed his eyes and concentrated on the change, wincing at the pain, feeling himself become small and furry, feeling the long pink tail trail out behind him. He could feel the whiskers quivering on the tip of his pointed nose, and his animal's instincts pricked up, telling him whether he needed to fear any predators, or whether any choice morsels of food might be nearby.

Unfortunately, there was no escaping the echoes of his dreams; although he was in a different form, the words still rang through his mind...

Moonchild moonchild moonchild moonchild.

And then his ears and another, more primal, animal sense pricked up, and he sat in the shadow of a log, very, very still. He listened intently for he knew not how many minutes as two creatures drew nearer. They were not very near to him, but they weren't far enough away for his comfort, either. He raised his eyes tentatively, seeing two Centaurs stepping into a clearing about twenty feet ahead of him. Centaurs! James had said he'd seen Centaurs in the forest, but Peter had never been swift enough to see what James and Sirius had seen; a stag and a large dog do not have such small legs, so many steps necessary to cover even a small distance. They had the advantage of long, swift strides. James could leap and run even faster than Sirius when he was in his Animagus form. But an advantage that Peter did have was his size; he could be still and unobtrusive and blend into the background, unnoticed. At least, he hoped he could blend in, that he hadn't been noticed. He tried not to shake with fear as he watched the Centaurs from his hiding place.

One was nodding at the other. "It has occurred," he was saying. "What we have seen in the stars is now known by men."

The other Centaur shook his head. "No; they will not know what it means. They do not know how to read the signs, even when they are right before them."

"That is not our concern; we merely observe the affairs of men."

"The events foretold will affect all, eventually," the other Centaur cautioned him.

"We will think on that when it is time," the first Centaur informed him, before marching off haughtily. The other Centaur turned and started to walk off in the other direction, but turned his head suddenly.

He's looking right at me! Peter thought in panic. Do Centaurs know when humans are in animal form? He felt frozen, unsure of what he should do if he was discovered.

But the Centaur blinked and turned away from him again, galloping back through the trees, the hoofbeats receding with distance until even the echo had finally faded and the forest was very quiet.

The Centaurs gave Peter an odd feeling; he didn't have any doubt that they were speaking of what the girl had said. They had ways of knowing things, Centaurs did. No one understood it, but they just did. She's a Seer, he thought. There could be no doubt. And what she'd said...it must have been a prophecy, something that the Centaurs had already seen in the stars. He didn't like the Centaurs, he'd decided; he wasn't sure whether they were friends, foes, or amused spectators who would look on humans being killed as a kind of entertainment. Peter ran out of the forest again but did not change from his rat form. Remembering that he hadn't eaten, he scurried back to the castle, and found a chink that he remembered between two large stones in the foundation; pushing through, he found that he was still able to get into the castle this way, as he had many times before. He was in a dungeon corridor, high up, and he gathered his courage to leap to the floor, his small rat's heart beating even more rapidly than usual.

He found his way to the kitchens, remembering a shortcut he'd discovered when in his rat form before. He knew of even more secret passages than his mates because of his ability to travel through the castle this way. When he finally reached the kitchens, he turned up his nose at the food baiting the rat traps that sat under the large stone sinks along one wall, under windows that looked out upon the extensive grounds; he found his way down to the root cellar and located a nice potato; this small amount of food was oddly satisfying when he was a rat.

They can't get me here, he thought, chewing his potato with satisfaction. The dark, hooded men can't get me here. I'll be safe.

He still couldn't get over the feeling that the little girl, Weasley's sister, had been speaking directly to him, telling him his fate, his destiny. No, he thought stubbornly. He wasn't a brilliant Quidditch player like James, nor an Auror, which Lily would be when she completed her training. He wasn't popular like Sirius (especially with women) nor a stronger-than-human werewolf like Remus. He was just Peter; ordinary Peter. The only thing that had made him special before was being one of the Marauders. He was the friend of James, Sirius and Remus--they'd included him. He'd longed always to be extraordinary on his own merits, but had never thought what the cost might be. Now he knew. Now he knew....

He would find a way to write to his mother in the morning, tell her he was safe and well-fed, but would not be home for a while. It shouldn't be too difficult to get his hands on some parchment and a quill, and take a letter up to the Owlery. He would also send a letter to the Prophet, resigning from his job.

I'm not what she said I was, he insisted to himself, remembering the dream. This is not how I want to be extraordinary....

He heard her voice again, the red-haired woman in his dream:

"Do you know who is in the ninth circle?

Peter knew.

He tried not to think about it, but instead chewed his potato and looked around him at a few other rats who were scuttling about, who would help him blend in. He felt safe and sheltered, and thought that if he stayed here, as a rat, the world was far more likely to be safe and sheltered from him, as well.

And so he hid in the depths of Hogwarts, and watched and waited.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bill stood next to Peggy's bed, biting the inside of his cheek with worry, until he had a welt that would bother him for more than a week. He looked at the door to Madam Pomfrey's office, where his father was speaking to the matron. Bill reached into the bowl on the table beside her bed and withdrew a warm cloth, wringing it out before placing it gently on Peggy's forehead. On the other side of the bed Charlie and Annie stood, looking anxious, and now Bill noticed that Annie had reached for Charlie's hand as they looked at their sister, and Charlie grasped it, looking down at her, trying to send some reassurance her way.

The three of them had been looking at each other somewhat guiltily since Peggy had been brought into the infirmary by their father; all of them had seen evidence of Peggy's unusual gifts at some time or another. None of them had said anything to an adult about it. Now the feeling of guilt permeating the room was almost palpable. But what should we have done? Bill wondered. Oh, Mum and Dad, by the way, I think Peggy has the Sight. Can I have a new broomstick? How did one talk about this sort of thing?

Suddenly, the door leading out to the corridor opened and the last person Bill wanted to see entered: Professor Trelawney. He tried not to scowl, but it was difficult; somehow, he felt that her being in the entrance hall triggered something in Peggy and caused her to have the fit. He tried not to think about what Peggy had said; it was the ranting of a little girl, surely? But he had a strange feeling at the back of his mind, a feeling that that was just wishful thinking. And now--Trelawney.

"Where is she?" Trelawney said, coming into the room with her wispy robes floating around her like dozens of scarves. Considering that the rest of the infirmary was empty, Bill thought this a remarkably stupid question. Peggy was the only patient, and he, Charlie and Annie were standing around her bed. How hard was this to figure out?

But Trelawney clearly didn't think her question was daft; she seemed to glide over to Peggy's bed, and stood at the foot, looking down at her, a small touch of resentment in her expression. It seemed to Bill that she was fighting to hide this. He was startled when the door to the office opened and his father emerged; Madam Pomfrey did not.

His dad looked startled to see Professor Trelawney, and he stopped dead. She ignored the fact that he looked less than thrilled to see her.

"You are the girl's father, I assume?" she said in her misty voice. He nodded, surveying her suspiciously. "I am Sibyll Trelawney, professor of Divination. Since you are her father, I need to speak with you on a quite urgent matter. Privately," she added, glancing at the three of them still standing about Peggy's bed.

Bill looked at Peggy, whose expression when she was regarding Professor Trelawney wasn't any friendlier than Trelawney's when she'd been looking at the six-year-old. All Bill could think was, This is really weird.

Arthur Weasley looked imperiously at the woman with the owlish eyes and misty voice. "Anything you have to say to me can be said in front of all of my children. The ones who are here, at any rate. Can you--can you tell me anything about what happened to my daughter downstairs?"

"Yes," she said immediately. "Your daughter went into a trance and gave a Prophecy. It mentioned the fall of the Dark Lord, so I suspect that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named will know of it before long. That is why I need to speak to you in private."

Bill's father looked very alarmed. "What?" he said simply, staring at the strange woman in disbelief.

"What do you know about the Emperor Tiberius?" she said suddenly. Bill noticed his father swallow, remembering. Thanks to his dad, Bill knew all about this too, and he recalled how it was considered to be treason for a fortune-teller to predict the death of the emperor. Would You-Know-Who be the same way? Was he going to try to kill Peggy now? He put his hand over the warm cloth on her brow and looked down at her little face, seeing the fear behind the clear blue eyes. She looked up at him with love and trust, and Bill's heart felt like it had been put in a vise; she trusted him, her big brother, as she trusted Charlie and their mum and dad, and probably even Annie. But who were they? How could they stand up to a great dark wizard if he really wanted to get at Peggy?

His father nodded at Trelawney, and she went on. "He takes prophecies concerning him very seriously indeed. Your daughter could be in great danger if he learns that she has done this. I don't believe that the Prophecy itself can be kept secret--I was unable to see who all was in the entrance hall and who left immediately afterward. But there is a way to--deflect attention from your daughter...."

Arthur Weasley suddenly didn't care anymore that his son called this woman the biggest crackpot in the school; he was willing to entertain any suggestions she might have for keeping Peggy safe. He looked at her very alertly. "I will take credit for giving the Prophecy," she went on, lifting her chin, eyes glittering behind the large lenses. "Using some self-hypnosis I will be able to recall what she said and reproduce it precisely. None of these children here will tell anyone what really happened, and in fact, your sons will need to propagate the rumor that I am the one who gave the Prophecy."

Bill looked at his father, surprised to see him looking back, as though soliciting his opinion on this. Bill swallowed; he was almost fifteen, but this was a level of responsibility he wasn't sure he was ready for. He widened his eyes while looking at his father and gave a very small shrug, as though to say What's the harm? If Voldemort was likely to target whoever gave the Prophecy--why not say it was Trelawney?

Bill wondered whether she had an ulterior motive, though. She had a terrible reputation as a fraud; perhaps she thought the Prophecy had a good chance of being true, and hoped to finally take credit for doing something right. Bill glanced down at Peggy again, thinking that it might not be such a bad thing to help Trelawney feed her ego if it meant Peggy would be safe.

"We'll all say it was you who did it, Professor," Bill said now, looking at her, hoping she thought his expression was deferential. She nodded to him.

"Very good. It's for the best. But still--" She looked at Peggy, and her eyes widened. "Keep an eye on her," she finished ominously. Bill shivered; even though Trelawney was inordinately fond of predicting her students' deaths (and loved it when they predicted their own) this had a different feel to it. Peggy probably really was at risk if anyone ever found out that she'd given the Prophecy.

"And I'll write to the others who were in the entrance hall," Bill added. "There weren't that many people besides us. Just two, and I know them both. They were seventh years in Gryffindor last term. I'll take care of it. I'm sure they'll understand why--why no one can know about Peggy."

Arthur Weasley looked at his eldest son; he felt very old suddenly, and Bill wasn't helping, appearing so mature and responsible. At the same time, his heart swelled with pride, seeing what a fine young man his eldest son had become. He worried sometimes, when his job took him into dangerous situations. More and more, when he and Perkins had gone on raids, they encountered rather belligerent witches and wizards, more than one of whom seemed to be connected to You-Know-Who. He worried about how Molly would manage if anything happened to him, but seeing Bill standing by Peggy's bedside made him feel for the first time that there was someone to step in and help Molly should the worst happen. He turned to face Pomfrey's office door, wiping an errant tear from his eye as he did so, knowing that Bill would be dreadfully embarrassed if he knew his dad was tearing up because he was proud of him.

At that moment, Madam Pomfrey emerged from the office and stopped short when she saw Trelawney standing near Peggy's bed.

"Sibyll," she said shortly, her lips pursed. It's official, Bill thought, trying very hard not to smile. No one around here likes her. That must be why she never comes downstairs.

Trelawney nodded to the matron. "Poppy," she said quickly, snipping it off; it was the least-misty thing Bill had ever heard her say. The enmity was mutual.

Pomfrey crossed her arms. "Forgive me, Sibyll, but I'm not overly fond of having a guest in my infirmary whose favorite pastime is predicting others' deaths. I have a patient to tend to, so if you don't mind..."

Trelawney narrowed her eyes at Madam Pomfrey, but said nothing, just turned on her heel and left. She no longer seemed to glide; every slapping footstep sounded to Bill like a seal's tail on water. When she was gone, it was as though the room had been infused with a fresh supply of oxygen, and they all breathed easier.

Bill looked down at Peggy again, refreshing the warm cloth on her brow. All that mattered was that she would be safe. He didn't care if Trelawney puffed herself up or if Voldemort came after their Divination professor. For a moment, knowing that he didn't care what happened to Trelawney frightened him, and he felt a flicker of doubt.... He was glad that no one would know about Peggy, though. He reckoned that was how the Death Eaters operated; you might do anything to protect someone you loved, so they would discover who mattered to you and threaten them....

In his case, he hoped he never attracted the attention of the Death Eaters, as there were far too many people who mattered to him, mostly in his own family. If someone came after Trelawney--well, it had been her idea to take credit for the Prophecy, no one else's. It was her own lookout, or perhaps Professor Dumbledore's, as her headmaster. But certainly his conscience was clear. His obligation was to his family and friends. He would do whatever was necessary to protect them. Whatever was necessary.

If I have to strike a deal with the devil to protect Peggy, he thought, picturing Professor Trelawney with a pair of horns; then strike a deal with the devil I will.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Saturday, 23 December, 1978

Remus rolled over groggily and found that his hand didn't come into contact with another person, as he'd expected. His head on the pillow, he looked up, finding his companion of the night before on the other side of the room, buttoning robes, brushing them down fastidiously, making Remus smile. Those beautiful brown eyes then met Remus' before looking down and away, and a flush colored the skin below the eyes. Remus thought the shyness, even after they'd just spent the night together, was adorable. Until this relationship, he'd never slept with anyone when it wasn't the eve of the full moon, (he'd never had a real relationship, for that matter) and he had learned that that wasn't the only time he desired men. He also learned that he wasn't as strong and aggressive during sex when it wasn't the eve of the full moon, that he was capable of being a gentle and considerate lover, that his partner didn't always have to end up bitten and bleeding, or with broken limbs.

He could hardly believe how his life had changed in less than two months. After he'd fled Hogwarts on the day of the Quidditch match, he'd gone back to London through the Floo network, hoping he could cadge a little money from Old Tom, at the Leaky Cauldron, or at least convince him to extend him a little credit. However, when he arrived, the pub had been strangely full and boisterous, as the Wimbourne Wasps were celebrating another Quidditch victory there, with Ludo Bagman, their famous Beater, the center of attention.

Bagman was effusive, buying round after round for everyone in the house, and food too, so that Remus needed neither credit nor a loan. He sat at a corner table, trying to deny the envy gnawing away at him as he watched Bagman at the bar, bragging about the way he'd hit a Bludger right at the opposing team's Seeker as he was poised to catch the Snitch, which meant that the Wasps' Seeker had been able to swoop in and grab it instead, while the other Seeker plummeted to the ground.

"Be in hospital a good month, he will!" one of Bagman's teammates crowed, slapping Bagman on his yellow and black striped back. Remus shook his head as he drank his stout; he wasn't above getting a free drink--and a meat pie--from a braggart, but he couldn't believe the other Wasps being so cavalier about the other Seeker's injuries. It was the nature of Quidditch that people were injured by Bludgers, and that it was the job of the Beaters to hit the Bludgers at people. (When Remus thought about it, he realized that this amounted to a kind of legal foul, and thought it ironic that something that could kill you if done just right was legal, whereas an elbow in the ribs was not.) It was a built-in danger, part of the territory if you played Quidditch. Bagman had been doing his job and doing it well. Because of him, Remus had some stout to help take the edge off the panic he'd felt when Weasley's little sister had said child of the moon...

Suddenly, through the crowd, Remus had seen a face looking back at him, a familiar face. The other face smirked; a hand raised a glass to Remus. Remus nodded and continued to gaze at the familiar face, trying to place it.

Hufflepuff, he finally decided. Our year. Twin sister is a Slytherin.

That was it. He was one of the two stranger people in their year: Emil Gaillard. His twin sister, Claudine, was one of the Slytherin girls who'd made Lily think she was her friend. But Remus had always liked Emil; they'd worked together in Herbology sometimes, and Remus found himself strangely transfixed now by the other young man's waving dark hair, his ironic, very Gallic smile, his shining dark eyes.

Suddenly, Remus realized that the other young man had risen from his chair and was making his way across the room, stepping cautiously around the various celebrating members of the Wimbourne team, until he was standing at Remus' table, looking down at him.

"Remus Lupin, right?" he'd asked cheerfully. He too was the beneficiary of Bagman's largesse, so it stood to reason he'd be in good spirits about the free food and drink. The Gaillards, despite their name, had no French accents, as they had grown up in England. Remus caught his breath; he remembered feeling oddly mesmerized by Gaillard when he was in school, especially before the full moon. Remus wasn't certain why he suddenly found the young man so compelling all over again. It could have been the nearness of the full moon, or the fact that Emil had a slight shadow on his face, as though he hadn't shaved that day, which gave him a slightly feral appearance whose appeal Remus couldn't deny.

Whatever the reason, Remus suddenly found himself feeling a bit flustered, realizing that the odds that Emil would be interested in him were astronomical (Not that I want him to be.), and that he'd probably only walked across to him to be polite. There was also the fact that Remus was clearly just about the only option a person in the Leaky Cauldron had if they didn't want to have a conversation about how wonderful the Wimbourne Wasps were, and Ludo Bagman in particular. Everyone else in the pub was rather single-mindedly worshipping the victorious team and its star Beater. Remus decided not to mention that one of his best friends, James Potter, had been on the English team that had lost the World Cup just a few months earlier.

"Right. And you are--don't tell me--" Remus said, even though he remembered. He didn't want to seem too eager. If he was interested in me, what would I do? Probably die of shock.

"Emil Gaillard," he said, grinning and holding out his hand. Remus shook it while trying not to melt into a puddle under his chair. Damn, he thought. Dimples. Forgot about them. Stop grinning already and get rid of those dimples!

But Gaillard had not stopped grinning. He waved his glass at the assembled revelers, saying, "Do you believe this? You'd think they had won the World Cup, or done something that was actually important.." He seemed unconcerned about a Wimbourne supporter hearing him and accusing him of blasphemy. If he didn't have his werewolf hearing, Remus would have had to strain to hear him over the noisy crowd. Taking a deep breath, Remus waved his hand as casually as possible at a chair next to his.

"Join me?"

"Thanks," Emil said briefly, putting down his glass and pulling out the chair. When he was seated, he took another sip of his drink and then looked at Remus.

"You look all right. In school you used to look tired quite a lot. What're you doing these days?"

I'm busy denying that I'm in a prophecy concerning the biggest dark wizard bastard to come along in thirty-odd years. You?

Remus shook himself, irritated, trying to get the girl out of his head. He thought Emil was probably referring to the fact that he was remarkably calm for once, despite the full moon coming in a matter of hours. He knew that he was relaxed because of Luna and the outlet she'd given him. That and the stout. But suddenly, sitting next to Emil, knowing that if he moved his leg a mere six inches to the left he'd bump the other man's leg, he wondered what would have happened if he'd gone off with the man he'd seen eyeing him from the end of the bar at the werewolf pub....

"Not much. Still looking for work. You?"

"Ministry hack, of course. Thanks to my dad. Pushing a lot of papers about. Counting blades of grass is probably more stimulating," he laughed, taking a swig of his drink. Remus fought down a cough and also took a drink; somehow the word "stimulating" had had a stimulating effect on him, and he felt acutely embarrassed now.

"Erm, sorry. I think I'd rather be a Ministry hack than jobless. Maybe something will open up in another department and you can transfer. Where are you now?"

He sighed. "International Magical Cooperation."

"Ah," Remus said, having no idea what working in that department would entail, so he couldn't even think of any halfway intelligent questions to ask about it. "Do you ever see anyone from other departments?"

"Sure. Especially in the commissary. But everyone knows everyone else, and even my dad says he can't spend all day introducing me to everyone he knows, so when I go to lunch, I'm alone in this room full of people talking to each other, all of these conversations I can't join. It's a mess. I'm a mess, and I feel completely stupid and useless." He sighed. "Sorry. Didn't mean to lay this on you. Tell you what--if I hear of any openings at the Ministry, I'll owl you, all right? Since you're looking for work." He stopped and laughed. "Now that I've made it sound so appealing and all."

Remus laughed now too; Emil was engaging and funny and attractive and oh hell, what do you think you're doing? Most women would kill to have him ask them out; he'd never go for blokes in a million years. I don't go for blokes either, Remus reminded himself abruptly. And then, Not usually. Followed by: Do I?

He felt very confused suddenly; when he'd been attracted to boys before, it was always during his pre-full-moon mania. Or so he'd told himself. Now that being with Luna had calmed him down, his attraction to men should have waned. Shouldn't it? He looked at the young man sitting with him, drinking his stout with a smile, and then he realized that Emil had put his heavy glass down and that they were looking in each other's eyes intently. The other man wasn't looking away.

Oh my god, Remus thought. I must be dreaming....

Emil swallowed his drink and cleared his throat a little. "Erm, listen Remus. I--I wasn't really very open about this at school for--for obvious reasons--" He looked furtively around at the raucous crowd; no one seemed to be paying them any heed. "But, er, I was wondering whether--whether you'd like to get a drink sometime...."

Remus smiled at him and laughed, raising his own stout. "Like this?" he said mischievously. Emil slapped one hand over his eyes.

"Oh, god, I'm so stupid. You must think I'm the biggest--"

"No," Remus said adamantly, putting his hand over the one Emil wasn't using to hold his drink, then guiltily pulling his hand back again, looking around to see whether anyone had noticed the brief contact their fingers had made.

Emil looked at him, wide-eyed. "I--I was never sure about anyone in school. You don't like to ask, do you? I--I thought I saw you--saw you looking at--at someone once, and the way you--you looked at him made me think--just maybe--"

Remus surveyed the bottom of his glass. "Just out of curiosity--who did you see me looking at?"

"Virgil. Virgil Clifton. Or rather--he said something about it later, in our dorm. He said, 'Was Lupin ogling me during Herbology today?' Sounded a bit upset. I was glad I'd never let on that I'd ogled him, too. We did share a dorm for seven years. It wasn't like I had a choice of what to see sometimes. I suppose I was able to be a bit more subtle. I didn't really fancy him, mind you. I thought he was a pillock."

Remus looked around furtively again. "So did I. I don't remember it, the ogling, but it's possible that it happened. That my--mind could have wandered. I certainly remember Virgil and--and what he looked like."

Emil nodded and an adorable lopsided smile appeared on his face. Remus tried very hard to control himself when he saw that. "Pillock or not, Virgil had no idea how good he looked when--" He stopped and reddened. "Sorry. So--what about a drink sometime? As in some other time?" he added hopefully.

Remus nodded, checking his watch. "Yeah. Unfortunately--I've got somewhere to be very soon. Appointment at the Ministry," he added, in case Emil wanted to follow him. It was true.

"Oh! Job interview? Odd for it to be on the weekend, isn't it?"

Remus shrugged. "Not really what I'd call an interview." That was the truth. He sighed inwardly. This was hard enough, making a connection with another man--which he hadn't even been aware of wanting to do until he'd met Emil's eyes across the room--without the added complication of his lycanthropy. He knew that he would have to tell anyone he wanted to date, male or female, especially after the horrid reaction Lily had had to finding out that he'd kept it from her, but somehow he felt like he wanted to put off telling Emil just a little longer. At least until they weren't in a crowd of Quidditch revelers who might hear what the reason for Emil's bad reaction was--if he had a bad reaction. They were all keyed up and drunk, and while Remus was strong, he had a healthy fear of the mob mentality and didn't want to know what this crowd was capable of if they suddenly learned that there was a werewolf in their midst, with the full moon due to rise within two hours....

"Oh," Emil said, looking a little disappointed. "You, erm, doing anything tonight?"

"Yes," Remus said reluctantly. "For the next three nights I'm booked. I'm free after that, though. Why don't I owl you?"

Emil looked like he was unconvinced this would happen, like Remus was just letting him down easy. "Sure," he said carelessly, running his fingers through his wavy dark hair. Remus felt a lump in his throat; he longed to reach out suddenly and do the same with his own hand, comb his fingers through the dark hair...

He took a bite of meat pie to quell the rebellious thoughts he was having; in two bites, it was gone, and he stood to go. "Sorry I have to run. At least he," he said, nodding toward Bagman, "is good for something. I needed a drink and a meal, but I didn't need to be broke afterward, you know?" He grinned at Emil and was gratified this time when he saw the dimples reappear, rather than terror-struck.

When the three nights in Ministry lock-up were over, Remus practically raced to the post office in Diagon Alley so he could send an owl to Emil. He'd arranged for his mail to go there while he was in Ministry custody, and there were two letters waiting for him, one from Peter, and one from Bill Weasley, of all people. Peter's letter was very short:

Dear Remus,

I'm going away for a little while. It may be months, actually. I've quit my job at the Prophet if you want it. I've told mum I'm going away, but if you could look in on her occasionally and make sure she's all right, I'd appreciate it. I'm writing to the others, too. Sorry this is so sudden. Thanks for meeting me to see the Quidditch game. If I don't see you before the end of the year, Happy Christmas and New Year.

--Peter

It was a decidedly odd letter, but then he read Bill's, which, if anything, was slightly odder still.

To: Remus Lupin
From: Bill Weasley

I know you must think it peculiar for me to be writing to you, but it's kind of important. I told my dad I'd take care of contacting you. It's about what happened in the entrance hall at school on the day of the Quidditch match. We have all agreed that PROFESSOR TRELAWNEY said THOSE THINGS in the entrance hall and no one else. If you decide you want to talk about what happened that day with anyone, you should make certain that you are clear that it was PROFESSOR TRELAWNEY. It may not be the best idea to talk about it at all, come to that.

Oh, and something weird happened when I tried to write to Peter Pettigrew about the same thing. The owl turned right around and came back. I must have tried ten times. Have you ever heard of that? So I don't know how to contact him and tell him the same. Since he's your friend, can you tell him when you see him?

Thanks,

Bill Weasley

Remus thought that perhaps Peter had gone far enough away on his trip that the owl knew even before leaving that he or she couldn't manage such a long trip, so it didn't even bother. He thought then about the request in the letter, to say that Trelawney had said "those things," not Weasley's sister. Frankly, while he was in the Ministry lock-up, he'd put Weasley's sister out of his mind, forgetting everything but Emil, and he shrugged and did it again now. Fine. If anyone asked--he'd say he heard Trelawney saying the strange words in the entrance hall. Not that he wanted to think about the words, either.

Child of the moon.

He shook himself and thought about Emil again, a much happier thought. He began cheerfully to write a letter on one of the desks in the post office, and went to the window to pay for a good fast post-owl to deliver it for him. He left the post office with a skip in his step; he'd never felt this way before, had never known he could have this kind of optimism welling up from inside him, making him positively giddy. It was almost like being drunk, and Remus couldn't believe it when Emil Apparated to his parents' house that evening after work, so that they could discuss plans to go out. Thoughts of Peter, the Weasleys and pretty much the rest of the world fled his brain.

Two days later they went out again. And three days after that. They were soon seeing each other three or four times a week. The first time, he'd told Emil that he didn't have his Apparition license, and he hadn't questioned it; they traveled by Floo wherever they needed to go. Not every witch or wizard felt comfortable with the idea of Apparating, and Emil didn't try to talk Remus into learning, so Remus didn't have to explain (yet) that he was a werewolf and couldn't Apparate.

They usually went to a wizarding pub in Brighton where the clientele just happened to be all gay witches and wizards. It was a very subdued place, where Remus had the feeling that they were all waiting for the other shoe to drop. Some of the couples held hands occasionally, but even that was a very open display of affection for that establishment. It was hardly a hotbed of wizards meeting wizards and witches meeting witches; it largely seemed to be people who were already in couples patronizing the place.

Remus decided he didn't want Peter's old job after applying and being turned down because he told the manager at the Prophet that he'd rather not give them his medical records. He managed instead to get a job doing manual labor for a Muggle businessman in Manchester, moving boxes in a warehouse. As he was very strong, he found it to be easy work. The man was paying him on the sly, off the books. Remus didn't care that it wasn't legal; he didn't have much choice. He didn't technically exist in the Muggle world, but with a little more money, he could possibly contact one of the many wizard businesses that produced forged Muggle documents to allow a wizard to have an official identity as a citizen of Britain. It was starting to look like his prospects of getting a job in the wizarding world were very dim. His medical records, required for any job worth having, stated very clearly that he was a lycanthrope, and there were a number of people to whom he didn't want to give this information, as he strongly suspected that they wouldn't hire him if they knew about it. And then they'd know his secret, on top of not having hired him. He was especially glad he hadn't given this information to anyone at the newspaper office.

In the meantime, he took his pounds to Gringotts, converting the slips of paper into wizarding money and wincing at the exchange rate. He was actually able to treat Emil to a couple of dinners. They repeatedly returned to the Brighton pub by Floo, but Remus was starting to tire of the place, and after two weeks of seeing nothing with Emil but the inside of that establishment, he asked him whether they could just go for a walk in Brighton proper, get some fresh air.

It was on the cold beach at Brighton that they kissed properly for the first time, two weeks after they'd started seeing each other. Remus had kissed Emil on the cheek after their first date, and similar exchanges had occurred since then, but nothing more other than some hugging. They were both very tentative with each other still. They transfigured their robes so that they looked like Muggle overcoats and went to see Brighton Pavilion. Remus threw his head back, taking it all in.

"Pretty unbelievable, eh?" Emil said, putting his arm around his shoulder as they gazed at the huge central onion dome, the curling minarets that mimicked a sultan's palace. "You look cold," he whispered. "Here," he added, drawing out his wand and holding it to Remus' chest, muttering a soft spell Remus couldn't hear. Immediately, a warmth started to suffuse Remus' body. Emil put his wand away and tightened his arm around Remus, who looked up at him nervously. It was after dark and very few people were around, as it was just past mid-November. A cold wind swept in off the sea, but Remus wanted to go down to the ocean and really see what it was like. The only other time he'd been at the seaside before was that cold winter's day when James had scattered his parents' ashes at Penarth Promenade, and he wasn't sure whether to admit this to Emil and seem hopelessly provincial.

The warmth stayed with him as they walked on the hard-packed sand, their arms around each other, the smell of the salt water in the air filling Remus' nostrils in a way nothing ever had before; he felt like he was in the sea, surrounded by it. Not all of the smells were good; there was seaweed and rotting fish and old shellfish and waterlogged wood. But the way it all combined with the salt water and the neutral smell of the sand, all that sand, created a picture in Remus' mind of the sea which he would never forget. No matter how many times he went to the seaside for the rest of his life, he would remember the impression he had of it that first time, and a cold November night in Brighton would be what the seaside was for him.

Emil stopped suddenly and looked down at him; there was no moon tonight, or rather, it was the new moon. Remus felt calmer and more collected at this time of month than at any other. He thought the stars shone more brightly with no competition, and he pointed out the evening star to Emil, pulsing brightly in the eastern sky.

"That's actually Venus," Emil said, his face very close to Remus', and then Remus didn't know anything else but the thrill of finally running his hands through Emil's hair, holding his head in place by lacing his fingers through those wonderfully soft curls while they kissed properly for the first time, after two weeks of tentatively coming very, very close--but never quite making it.

Emil pulled back and looked down at Remus, who found it odd to not need to attack the other man. He wanted him, it was true--but during the new moon, it didn't feel like a desperation had taken hold of him. He remembered that Lily had once kissed him during the new moon, in a castle corridor. He'd been surprised by her suddenly doing that; he'd laced his hands into her hair and pulled her against him, but a minute later, he'd thrust her away. For a heavenly minute, it had been bliss; kissing the girl he loved without feeling insane and out of control. But then he knew that he had to use the self-control he had at that time of month and push her away, since he couldn't really be with her....

Remus smiled up at Emil. Can I be with anyone? he wondered. Should I be doing this at all? He'll find out and he'll leave me. I can't do this to him--

"Everything all right?" Emil asked, putting his hand on his shoulder. "I mean, I kiss you, and then you get this look--"

"Yeah," Remus said quickly. "Could we--um--could--"

Emil smiled and leaned down again, and Remus groaned in the back of his throat, sliding his fingers into that hair once more.

Everything was fine until two days before the next full moon. Remus wasn't quite in the grip of his mania yet, but he certainly felt like he had less control than during the new moon. He was also feeling incredibly frustrated because he wanted Emil dreadfully, but he was afraid; this was new and different for him, and he thought it possible that Emil had never done this before, either. It was definitely a case of the blind leading the blind. They'd kissed some more since that first time, and touched each other tentatively, through their clothes (they were always on the sand at Brighton, standing up, so there wasn't much more they could do).

Remus had been going mad, so even though it was two days before the full moon, he went to the werewolf pub again and found it surprisingly busy with other people who were already starting to feel a bit restless, like him. Across the room, he saw a young man with dark, soulful eyes and curling dark brown hair. Remus was struck by how much he looked like Emil. The young man was looking right back at Remus, and finally, he rose and crossed the room, standing in front of him. The next thing he knew, they were in an upstairs room, attacking each other...

Afterward, a part of him wished he hadn't done it, because after the fact, he felt that he'd cheated on Emil. Another part of him felt like it was research--he understood much more now. But doing it with a stranger--he'd felt so empty afterward, wishing he'd waited for Emil. Technically, he wasn't a virgin, hadn't been since he'd first slept with Lily in his fifth year. But in a way he was as inexperienced as any fifteen year old, at least when it came to being with another man.

The next morning, he'd owled Emil to tell him that he was going away for four days. All the next day, he locked himself up in his room, determined not to weaken and go to the werewolf pub. He put himself in the Ministry lock-up for the full moon again, and when it was over, he sent Emil another owl, saying he was back and needed to see him.

They'd been together for a month, except for the full moon. So, Remus thought. My first real relationship will have lasted for a month. He was meeting Emil for lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, in a back room where they wouldn't be seen. Emil looked disturbed when he entered.

"What is it?" he asked immediately. He saw the look on Remus' face and sat, groaning. "Oh, god. You're breaking up with me..."

Remus drew his mouth into a line. "Well--not as such. I've got something to tell you, and then you're probably going to break up with me...."

Emil frowned at him. "What have you got to tell me? Why would it make me break up with you?"

Remus swallowed and then confessed, gibbering about how stupid he was. To his surprise, Emil strode to him and pulled his body against his, lifting his head up to kiss him hungrily. Remus had wanted to tell him about the lycanthropy, but he hadn't been able to bring himself to do it before. He's going to break up with me for this anyway, he had thought; why tell him something I don't want the world at large to know just when we're breaking up?

When Emil broke the kiss, Remus looked at him in amazement. Everything moved very fast after that, more kissing, Remus telling him that he loved him, and then--that he was a werewolf. But oddly enough--it was his being bisexual that seemed to bother Emil more. Although he didn't dwell on it. He found himself coming back to the werewolf announcement.

Emil had smirked ever so slightly. "God. That explains why you're so strong, doesn't it? And the red lights in your eyes. And--"

Remus rolled his eyes. "--and why I can sometimes eat like there's no tomorrow. I know, James used to tease me--"

"No," Emil replied, sounding breathless now. "Why--why I find you so damn sexy."

Remus stopped dead at that. He had no words. But it wasn't necessary. Emil led him to the fireplace and they went to his house. ("My parents went out.") It was so strange, to be alone with him, in a house, to walk up the stairs behind him, to enter his bedroom...

And in the morning, Emil's parents were completely blasé about it. "Oh, Remus and I were out at the pub last night and he'd had just a bit too much so I let him stay in my room. He couldn't have Apparated in the state he was in--"

("I can't Apparate at all, remember?" Remus had whispered to him.)

At the breakfast table, Mr. and Mrs. Gaillard were friendly and kind, but Emil's sister Claudine looked at the two of them suspiciously, and Remus guessed that being Emil's twin meant she was a bit more tuned in to him than their parents were. Remus made a mental note to watch out for her. She'd been a Slytherin. And she looked at him funny.

But now it was established that, at times, Emil stayed at the Lupins' or Remus stayed at the Gaillards', and neither family commented upon it or questioned it (although Claudine looked sorely tempted at times).

Remus turned on his side to watch Emil comb his hair now that he was finished dressing. He knew he had to get out of bed himself and do the same, but he was uncertain how to tell Emil that he was going to go to James' party by himself. He hadn't even told Emil about the party, which James was holding to celebrate Lily finishing her Auror training. Even though they'd been seeing each other for almost two months, Remus suddenly felt shy about introducing Emil to his friends, and explaining to them that he was attracted to both men and women, and that he was in particular attracted to Emil. It was too much too soon. Everything with Emil still felt so fragile, like he would slip away from his grasp if he wasn't careful, and he didn't want to risk that.

"So where did you say you were going today?" Emil asked, his hand on the door knob.

"Um, to James and Sirius' place. It's Sirius' parents' place, actually. No big deal. Just passing some time with the lads. Peter's not even going to be there. He's not back yet. No one can find him. It's really weird." But he shrugged nonchalantly, as though to indicate that he wasn't exactly worried about Peter. He was a big boy and could take care of himself.

"All right," Emil said, sounding a little hurt that he hadn't received an invitation. "Have fun," he added, leaving the room. Remus moved around, getting dressed, trying not to feel guilty about not being ready to tell James, Lily and Sirius about this part of his life. It just--felt like a very separate thing from his friendship with them, and for a little while longer, he wanted to keep it that way.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Lily popped! into the entrance hall of Ascog Castle, then blinked and brushed down her robes; suddenly, she stopped, realizing that this reflex to clean herself up when traveling wasn't needed when she wasn't covered in dust because of the Floo Network. She'd learnt to Apparate and passed her test during her training, and wasn't quite used to the freedom it afforded her yet. A moment later, she heard two other people arrive by Floo; she stepped into the sitting room and saw Sam Bell emerge from the fireplace, followed by his very pregnant wife, Trina, who looked quite green after her trip. Unfortunately, Apparating wasn't an option for a pregnant woman, and Sam didn't want her to travel through the network by herself in her condition, so he hadn't Apparated.

Lily gently led Trina into the large old kitchen and seated her at the long refectory table, fetching her a glass of water to drink. Sam sat next to her, stroking her brown curls affectionately, but Lily could also see that he was a bit on edge; the entire time she'd been training, he'd been distracted by his wife's pregnancy. All Aurors who'd been on the job more than five years were supposed to be involved in training new recruits one week a month, so in the three and a half months she'd trained, Sam had taught her class of would-be Aurors three times. Once it had been a classroom course in magical surveillance techniques; another time it had been a combat course, during which Lily had dueled with him and won, which she could see had shocked him--but she could also see that it was in part because of his distraction. He had congratulated her and held her up as an example to the rest of the class, but she noticed that after that, he also watched her out of the corner of his eye, as though she might attack him any time.

And now she was done, and James wasn't playing for the Montrose Magpies on this day, either. Lily had found out just the night before, as she and James lay quietly together in her bed in London, that he'd been in hospital for two weeks after a match against the Wimbourne Wasps. He'd discreetly Apparated directly into her bedroom after her parents were in bed, as he also had his Apparition license now.

"That damn Bagman," James had said, playing with her hair. "Most annoying Beater I've ever seen. MacFarlan was there, too, and Martha--I did mention that she's captain now? Anyway, Martha said he was shaking his head over us. Mind you, as head of Magical Games and Sports he's not supposed to show preferential treatment, but MacFarlan was a star on the Magpies for over ten years, and even though he's been with the Ministry for the last ten, I think he still expects to go to a Magpies game and see a win. Personally, after a game, I expect to be conscious and have a memory of what I did that day, but you can't have everything..."

Lily kissed his chest affectionately. "I'm glad you're all right. I'm sure you did fine. You're just not used to losing, even after the World Cup. It will happen to you sometimes, you know," she teased him, tweaking his nose between her thumb and forefinger. "Professional play is different. You know you love it. I just wish I'd known you were in hospital." She sighed. "I don't know why they feel the need to isolate us all during our training. I missed you so much it hurt..."

She edged further up the mattress and leaned over to kiss him lightly; James, however, had different plans, holding her head in place and deepening the kiss. She pulled back slowly and smiled at him. "Is that supposed to show me that you're worth waiting for?"

He smiled and nodded. "And to remind you of why you're marrying me."

She laughed. "That's not why, silly, although it's a nice fringe benefit." And soon they were both enjoying yet another fringe benefit...

Lily rubbed Trina's back and looked at Sam, who was focused on his wife. "I can't imagine where the lads are. You stay here, I'll look upstairs."

She found Mr. and Mrs. Black first, who hugged her warmly and congratulated her on finishing her Auror training. She was very fond of the Blacks, as they were the closest thing James had to parents now, other than his Aunt Othalie. Sirius' mother said that he and James were up in their room still.

When she opened the door, James cried out, trying to shield a package from her view; she saw now that he was wrapping a present on his bed, and was just finishing tying the ribbon.

"Don't look!" he cried. She immediately clapped her hand over her eyes.

"What are you two still doing up here? Sam and Trina are waiting downstairs, and Remus will probably be here any minute. Managed to contact Peter yet?" she asked, her hand still over her eyes.

"No. Although the owl didn't come back for me, as it did with the letters Weasley tried to send to him. Odd. Anyway, I was just finishing wrapping your present, and Sirius is in the shower. He'll be out presently." She took her hand down from her eyes and James seemed to forget about her not being able to see the present.

He had no sooner spoken than the door to the en suite bath opened and Sirius emerged, still slightly damp, wearing nothing but a towel around his waist, while he used another to do some preliminary hair drying. James wasn't thrilled by the way Lily immediately became speechless, looking at Sirius with her mouth open slightly, and he saw the way her eyes traveled down his chest to his legs. He wished she still had her hand in front of her eyes.

Then she raised her eyes and noticed James watching her reaction, and felt herself flush. She smirked at Sirius and said lightly, "Are you sure you can't be talked into wearing a kilt for our wedding? Both of you?" she added, thinking about James' legs. "Appropriate tartans, of course..."

"No!" James and Sirius said in unison. "You're having all of those Muggles coming," James went on, "so we agreed that we're wearing Muggle suits. No robes, suits."

"We said Muggle clothes," Lily reminded him. "Kilts can also be thought of as Muggle clothes. I know some Scots wizards still favor kilts over robes, but they're considered Muggle clothing also--" She was finding it difficult not to laugh; they were so funny about this. She didn't really want them in kilts, she just liked winding them up.

"No kilts!" James and Sirius chorused.

"Well, if Sirius didn't walk around showing off, it wouldn't give me ideas..." She smirked evilly, looking very pointedly at Sirius' legs now.

"All right, all right, move along--" James said, pushing her out of the room and closing the door after they were both on the landing. "Besides, Sirius has to get dressed, and--"

"Oh, I don't mind if he dresses in front of me--" she started to say with wide-eyed mock-innocence, wondering how much longer she could wind up James before he hit his limit. James told her by suddenly covering her mouth with his and kissing her deeply. She shuddered and slid her arms up around his neck, pressing against him.

When he finally pulled his mouth gently away from hers, she looked up at him with her large green eyes glittering. "Well," she said softly. "That'll teach me."

She grinned at him and he grinned back. "You are a she-devil, Lily Evans."

"And now a licensed Auror. A deadly combination."

He laughed. "I'll say. Oh--damn. The present is still on the bed." He rapped on the door.

"Don't come in, Lily!" Sirius' panicked voice said through the door. "I'm not decent."

"When the hell are you ever decent?" his best friend joked. "Just do me a favor and bring the present when you come, all right? We're going downstairs," James told him. They went trippingly down the winding stone stairs, hand in hand, but when Lily was still half a flight up from the ground floor, she heard a moaning that suddenly made her pull her hand away and clutch her robes in her hands, rushing down the remaining stairs.

James sprinted into the kitchen after her, finding her stooping next to Trina Bell, whom he hadn't yet met. There was a large puddle on the floor under Trina's chair, and her hazel eyes were wide and frightened. Her husband was rubbing her back, also looking panicked.

"Um," Trina said, her hands covering her distended belly. "I think my water broke."

"You think your water broke!" Lily said, her voice rising in pitch. She turned to James, resisting the urge to tell him that he looked like a ninny, hovering in the doorway. "Go get Sirius' mum. Upstairs," she said tersely. James nodded and ran out of the room.

He didn't care that Lily was ordering him around; he could only think, Oh, god. Lily and I are getting married in six months, and the next thing you know she'll want to have a baby....

For some reason, this hadn't occurred to him before. He just knew he wanted to be with Lily always when he proposed to her. It had been awkward and inarticulate, and she'd practically had to ask him, "Um, are you proposing to me, James?" to which he'd nodded dumbly.

He found Callisto Black and gibbered out something about what was happening, and she immediately went into gear, pulling her wand out of her robes and making the sheets and blankets fly off her own bed; different sheets flew onto the bed from the wardrobe with another flick of her wand, and she turned to him and said tersely, "Get her up here. If her water's broke, there's no time to waste."

James nodded and ran out of the room again, thinking how businesslike women suddenly became about this sort of thing. How could they do that, when another woman was suffering so? How could they be so dispassionate that way, when the thought of what Trina was going to do was tying his stomach in knots?

The vigil seemed to last forever. Even though her water had broken, she wasn't having contractions at first. Callisto Black contacted the Bells' midwife, but she was busy delivering a baby in Bristol and couldn't come immediately.

James had seen Lily swallow and whisper, "I--I suppose I could help. I just finished my Auror training, and they taught us a number of emergency medical procedures--including delivering a baby. And of course, Sam's an Auror, too."

The midwife shook her head over that. "He's the father. He needs to keep her calm. And he needs to work at staying calm himself. You need to keep a cool head, girl, and make sure you remember your training. Can you do that for me? Until I can come?"

Lily nodded, swallowing again; perhaps she wasn't being completely dispassionate. She was going to be responsible for overseeing Trina's labor until the midwife could come, along with Sirius' mother. She was eighteen years old and had only delivered a baby in a magical simulation. She was scared to death.

James, Sirius and Walter Black paced the landing outside Sirius' parents' bedroom, and Remus joined them when he arrived. Lily, Callisto Black and Sam were in the room with her. It seemed forever before they were hearing a baby's cries; James tentatively opened the door a sliver and glanced in; Lily saw him and smiled beatifically, waving him into the room. Trina was collapsed on the bed, Sam mopping her brow with a cloth, while Callisto cleaned the baby and swaddled her. She handed the baby to Lily, who then handed her to Trina. When Trina immediately pulled down her blouse and put the baby to her breast, James wished he could drop through the floor and disappear. Lily laughed at his expression and hustled the other men out of the room again, wiping her face with exhaustion. Sweat trails ran down her cheeks, and her eyes had dark circles underneath. Somehow, it had become night and it was well past time for tea. No one had noticed, or made any food.

She laughed tiredly and leaned against James, who gathered her into her arms and kissed her brow. "You were wonderful," he whispered to her.

She lifted her face and frowned. "You weren't there. I was a dolt a lot of the time."

James shook his head. "I don't care what you say. I contend that you were wonderful."

She grinned at him now. "Watch it. I just may marry you if you keep that up."

He grinned back. "I'll take my chances."

Remus saw the love between them as they exchanged this bit of light-hearted banter; he couldn't help but smile and picture Emil, which immediately made him think, Huh. I must be completely over Lily at last. It was a strange thought, but he looked at her now, with James' arms around her, and felt oddly content, as though the world were coming round to being just right. He glanced at Sirius, who looked a little less content, but then Sirius had neither gainful employment nor a steady girlfriend, and Remus also wasn't sure how he would take the news of Remus' relationship with Emil. He'd groused about not being able to get in touch with Remus whenever he liked recently, even though Remus had pointedly refrained from complaining about his lack of companionship during the full moons that had occurred since they'd left school. Sirius had always had a remarkable talent for being self-centered, Remus thought, and as much as he loved his friend, he couldn't deny that that talent was still much in evidence.

A little later, they were down in the kitchen, having some tea and sandwiches, when Sam entered, tiptoeing, carrying a blanket-wrapped bundle in his arms. He sat next to Lily, a too-happy-for-words smile splitting his face. She peered into the bundle, seeing bright brownish-greenish eyes gazing back at her above a button nose, with a tuft of curling brown hair on the crown. The baby was rosy-cheeked and curious-looking, and Lily caught her breath, gazing at her.

"Oh--Sam! She's so beautiful..."

He nodded proudly at his daughter. "Would you like to hold her, Lily? The first baby you've ever delivered?"

Lily smiled back at him and gently took the baby from him, feeling something inexplicable and primal move inside her as she held the small body against hers, felt the warm weight on her arms, both heavy and far too light, as though it could disappear at any moment. James was sitting on her other side, and she looked up into his eyes, feeling that she had never loved him more, and surprised by how much she wanted to have his child. She also knew how that conversation with Bonnie had panicked him, but now--now he didn't look panicked at all. He gazed into her eyes lovingly, then down at the baby, and put out his finger tentatively, poking gently at the tiny curled fingers with the impossibly minuscule nails. The baby's hand reflexively reached out and grasped James' finger, and Lily looked at him again, shocked to see the expression on his face change.

He looked at Lily, thinking that he had never loved her more, and that she had never been more beautiful than she was now, with that soft look on her face as she held the baby. He felt something move within him, too, and found that he couldn't look away from her, even as her eyes went back down to the baby again, who seemed determined to keep James' finger always.

"Um, do you mind if I have my daughter back?" Sam asked, clearing his throat. Lily looked like she'd woken up, and she forced a laugh.

"I'm sorry," she said, disconnecting James' finger from the tiny fist and handing Sam his daughter. Sam held her tightly, possessively, and James understood. He may trust us, basically, but the fact remains that she's Sam's and his wife's. Their responsibility. Forever.

He swallowed, feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all again, but also having an incredible urge to carry Lily up to his room and make love to her....

"What's her name?" Lily asked, peering into the blankets as the tiny face was contorted into an adorable yawn that sent her insides spinning again, little fists flailing.

"Kathryn. But she'll be Katie. Sort of named after her mum, since her full name's Katrina, but not exactly. One will be Katie and one Trina, to avoid confusion."

Lily nodded. "That's nice." She looked into James' eyes again; the love she saw there was both empowering and frightening.

"Some party, eh?" James said feebly, trying to make the moment a little less intense. She grinned at him and laced her fingers through his, wishing the following six months would hurry up and pass.

"One I'm sure we'll never forget."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thursday, 15 March, 1979

"Hello?" Bill called uncertainly into the quiet forest. "I'm looking for--for Firenze. Firenze the Centaur. Hello?"

Silence.

After waiting for a few minutes, Bill walked on, his boots crunching dead leaves underfoot. He didn't hear any sounds not made by him. Which wasn't to say there weren't any. He didn't notice, for instance, the sound of a rat running on very small feet on a path parallel to his, but about twenty feet away. As far as Bill could tell, there were no other humans in the forest.

He stared around at the legion of trees. It looked the same in all directions. He began to feel uneasy in the silence. He stared around some more. How do you get a Centaur to come to you? he wondered. What do Centaurs like? he asked himself. Fortune telling. Stargazing. Well, this was an opportunity to interpret a prophecy. One might even call it The Prophecy. What Centaur wouldn't be interested in that?

He and Charlie had pored over the Prophecy for hours on end. Bill had asked Professor Trelawney whether she had written it down, and she had allowed him to copy it from the parchment on which she'd recorded it, cautioning him again about who had given it. Bill couldn't make head or tail of the thing, and, not realizing that he was speaking aloud, said to Charlie in frustration, "I'll bet one of the Centaurs could tell me what all this means." Bill had kept this from his dormmates, and from Jack and Geoff as well, as he couldn't tell any of them about his sister. Charlie had been there, so he knew, and at any rate, Peggy was also his sister.

They were alone in the fourth year dorm and Charlie had been silent for some time. Finally, Bill heard a light snore coming from him, and realized that Charlie's eyes were closed, yet he still held the Divination text open on his lap, as though he was reading it.

"I'm looking for help," he said loudly now, to whatever spirits of the forest might hear him, "interpreting a Prophecy about the Dark Lord's fall! I'm looking for Firenze the Centaur!"

The echo of his voice died away. He looked up; he'd walked into a clearing, and he heard wingbeats overhead. An owl was flying toward the castle. Perhaps that's what he should have done, he thought. Sent a letter to the Centaur by owl-post. None of this wandering about the forest nonsense. He wasn't even supposed to be in here.

He looked down from the sky again and screamed in surprise, practically jumping out of his skin. An enormous half-man, half-horse creature was standing before him, gazing at him calmly. He hadn't heard him enter the clearing. Could Centaurs Apparate? he wondered. He knew humans couldn't Apparate on the Hogwarts grounds, but did that include the forest? And he knew that house-elves could get around at Hogwarts with no problem. Their mode of travel evidently wasn't quite the same as Apparition. Perhaps the Centaurs had a Centaur version of Apparition that worked at Hogwarts. Or maybe he'd just been very quiet.

"F-Firenze?" Bill said softly, uncertain whether there was some more formal protocol one should use for addressing a Centaur. He wasn't even sure whether he should be addressing this Centaur, but for some reason the name "Firenze" had been written in the notebook where he'd recorded the Prophecy and his many theories about it. It wasn't in his handwriting and Charlie denied that it was his.

"Yes. You have come to see me, William Weasley?"

Bill refrained from asking how he knew his name. Probably just one of those Centaur things. "I have," he answered formally, to make up for his previous informality. It felt natural to do this in response to the dignified Centaur. He felt rather like he was being presented to the queen.

"You said that you have a Prophecy...."

"Yes. My--my teacher gave it..."

The Centaur turned to go suddenly, and Bill panicked.

"Where are you going?" he asked, his voice shaking.

The Centaur did not turn around, but he did stop.

"Do not lie to me."

Bill shivered. Could he trust this being? Or was he a Creature? He couldn't remember what had been decided by the Ministry--or by the Centaurs themselves.

"O-okay," he said, voice still shaking. "My--my little sister gave it. I think she--she may have the Sight."

Firenze nodded sagely, turning around. "She does. We see things in the stars, and one of the unmistakable things the stars tell us is when a True Seer is born. Her words, even as a child, should not be taken lightly."

Bill bobbed his head. "That's what I thought. Do you think--could you listen to the Prophecy and tell me what you think it all means?"

He nodded again. "I think we have already seen some of this Prophecy in the stars, and in our scrying. But it is in fragments; perhaps what you have will help us to make sense of these fragments."

"Right," he said, feeling odd that he might be helping the Centaurs, since he'd come to them for help. "It starts like this:

"In days to come the Dark Lord's fall
Is split by silver into gold.
A Triangle, each time, his bane...."

"Ah!" the Centaur said, looking displeased. "Bane is in this Prophecy. Pity."

"What does it mean?" Bill asked him, perplexed. Unless he was joking, which, Bill realized, he probably was. He would have laughed politely, just to show that he recognized the joke, but it was a bit late now.

"Give me the rest. Let me think on it."

"All right." Bill continued:

"One corner is a Lion tall,
Of good intent, named for the coal;
Twice hidden, both a beast and man.

One corner comes from blood of yore,
Child of the silver Moon so cold,
Dark Lord's servant and Lion's mate.

Last comes a flame-haired Daughter of War,
Caught between silver and the gold,
One of two and one of many.

The Lion loves the Daughter bright
As does the Child of silver Moon.
But the Dark Lord's servant shall betray.

What though they flee before their fate,
Three shall bring forth the days of doom,
And Love shall end the Dark Lord's reign....

Bill looked up at Firenze expectantly. The Centaur was staring at the sky and frowning, pulling at his chin. After waiting several minutes, Bill cleared his throat.

"Well?" he asked. "Any ideas?"

The Centaur nodded, but looked a little distracted. "This would explain some things we have seen in the scry. There have been many omens lately concerning the Dark Lord's falls."

"Fall," Bill corrected him automatically. Then he bit his tongue, but the Centaur didn't seem to mind.

"Falls," he said again, unperturbed by Bill's interruption. "The first triplet clearly indicates that the Dark Lord will fall twice."

Bill thought about the words again. "It does?" He furrowed his brow, puzzling over this. Then he thought about the words A Triangle each time his bane. "So three people will be responsible each time? Is that what it means?"

"I believe so. The Three can be described the same way each time, if I am judging the rest of the Prophecy correctly."

Bill was still frowning. "But what does 'is split by silver into gold' mean?"

Firenze waved his hands as though this were self-evident. "What it says. The Dark Lord's fall is split by silver into gold."

Bill shook his head. "What?"

"The two times are split by silver into gold," the Centaur repeated reasonably, as though Bill would understand this better. The boy shook his head, still baffled.

"Maybe we should move on," Bill said. "What about One corner is a Lion tall, Of good intent, named for the coal; Twice hidden, both a beast and man."

Firenze nodded, looking at the sky. "There are, of course, two Lions. Or there will be. We have seen the signs. One will be like a father to the other."

Bill squinted. "One of them isn't born yet?"

"Yes. And his mate. His number is five." He looked at the sky once more; Bill looked up too. It was growing dark. He saw Venus winking at him in the twilit sky. "The Lion's number is eleven," the Centaur added dreamily.

"Eleven? What does that mean? Which Lion?"

"Both of them," he said casually. What did it mean? Bill wondered. What did Lion mean? He was a Gryffindor; they were all called Lions. If it meant someone from Gryffindor, that didn't narrow it down much. That covered roughly twenty-five percent of the wizarding world. The pronouns seemed to indicate that it was a male, but that only brought it down to twelve or thirteen percent of all wizards.

Bill had no idea what to make of the 'eleven.' "How about the next part?" he said to Firenze. "One corner comes from blood of yore, Child of the silver Moon so cold, Dark Lord's servant and Lion's mate."

"The Moon Child," Firenze said mistily, reminding Bill of Professor Trelawney. Then he had a sudden thought; he remembered the many hours of working on his own horoscope and star charts for Trelawney.

"Wait," he said breathily, trying to get his thoughts out as quickly as he was having them. "Aren't people born under Cancer called Moon Children?" He looked up at the Centaur, who nodded at him with a smile. Bill felt he was really on to something. "And the Lion--what if that's a sign of the Zodiac too? What if it's someone born under Leo?"

"It is someone--two someones--born under the sign of a Lion," he said placidly. How is that different from what I said? Bill wondered. It sounded so literal, like someone's mother having a sign with a lion hanging on the wall above where she was giving birth. "You know both the Lion and the Moon Child," the Centaur told him casually.

"What?" Bill said, his voice rising in a squeak. He cleared his throat, embarrassed. "I know them?"

"And they know each other. Well. They have conspired together. They have been friends. And they love the same woman. The same will be true in the future."

Bill shook his head. This was so confusing. "Is that the woman in the Prophecy?" Firenze nodded again. "The Daughter of War? Who is she?"

"One of two and one of many," the Centaur said.

"I know, that's what the Prophecy says. But what does it mean?"

"There are two Daughters." Bill waited for more. What did that mean? He hated to ask the same question again, but he felt the so-called answer had been clear as mud.

"One of them is one of two and one of them is one of many?" Bill asked, getting a nod in return. He breathed a sigh of relief. He'd guessed something correctly. Not that it did much good... "What's the Daughter's number?" he asked now, even though he had yet to figure out what the Lions' and Moon Children's numbers meant. Firenze consulted the skies again.

"We have seen their signs," he said quietly. "We have watched the movement of Mars. Red is the color of Mars, the color of war, the color of discord. Yet, together, the two Daughters make one. Together, they will bring Peace."

"What?"

"They make one. The two Daughters do not have the same number. If that were so, the Dark Lord would be utterly defeated by the first Triangle, or fail to be completely defeated by the second. The second Daughter also makes the second Triangle one. The three in that group make one. The three in the first Triangle make only half of a whole."

"Half of a whole...because the job is only half done?"

"And together--the six people make six."

Bill didn't know why he was saying this. "Right--six people make six," he repeated. Was there a point to saying something so obvious?

But Firenze nodded at him again, still staring at the skies. Then suddenly he looked very penetratingly at Bill, making him catch his breath. The Centaur had not looked at him so directly before. "Your family...." he said slowly, softly, almost menacingly. "From your family will come many who will fight the Dark Lord before he falls. Your youngest brother will march by the side of the second Lion. His number is also eleven. A Daughter of War will come from your family...."

"What?" Bill squeaked again, but not--this time--because he did not understand. He understood all too well. Was it Peggy? Or Annie? Then he realized that there were two Daughters of War. Were they both of his sisters? Was only one of his sisters the Daughter of War?

"Who?" he asked. "Who is it?"

The Centaur stared up at the sky some more, not answering him. Bill waited. But it was as though Firenze had forgotten why he was in the clearing and what he'd been doing there. "Curious," he said softly now. "Most curious...."

Without another word, he turned and walked from the clearing, leaving Bill standing alone, staring after him. Am I supposed to follow him? Somehow he didn't think so. It seemed that his time for consulting Firenze was over.

Your youngest brother will march by the side of the second Lion. The Daughter of War will come from your family....

His youngest brother? That was Fred; George was born just before midnight on April 17, Fred just after midnight, on April 18. His heart ached; the twins weren't even quite a year old yet. His number is also eleven. What did the damn numbers mean?

He turned to walk back through the forest, but it had grown very dark, so he lit the end of his wand. He walked carefully, but his mind was whirling with everything the Centaur had said, and he had a hard time paying attention to where he was walking. Only stumbling a few times, he at last reached the edge of the trees again. He was able to put his wand away once he was in the open; there was still a glow in the western sky, lighting his way back to the castle, and without the dark trees around him, he was able to see. As he strode up the sloping lawn, he thought again about his family. Peggy had given this Prophecy. Fred would march by the side of the second Lion. And either Peggy or Annie was the Daughter of War. As it had been Peggy giving the Prophecy, it seemed most likely that the one in the Prophecy was Annie. Annie was only eight years old! She would be nine in September, starting her sixth year at the village school in Hogsmeade. It wasn't fair. It just wasn't fair.

He swallowed, wondering whether to tell Charlie about this. Whether to tell his parents. What could he say to them? Fred's going to be the right-hand man of one of the three people who's going to defeat Voldemort. Oh, and Annie will be one of them, too. Just thought you should know.

He shook his head; they'd all think he was barking mad. What could he do, drag them to the school and take them into the forest to talk to Firenze, so they'd know he wasn't out of his mind? He entered the castle and went to the Great Hall, sitting down in the middle of the Gryffindor table and staring at the banners on the high walls, at the rampant Gryffindor Lion. He thought of his baby brother, and his young sister, and wondered what on earth he should do....

Back in the forest, Firenze had been aware from the beginning that he had not one visitor, but two, and he decided that it was time to speak to the second one. He walked calmly through the trees, away from the clearing where Bill had consulted him, hearing the scuttling of tiny feet behind him, the rustling of leaves and brush on the forest floor. He reached another clearing, a large grassy one that had the reputation of being a fairy ring, and he stopped and turned, facing the direction in which he'd come.

"Show yourself, wizard," he said sternly, looking with his keen eyes through the trees to where he knew his other visitor hid. A small animal crept out from behind the root of a tree, clearly trembling. It was a thin grey rat. "Do not speak to me but in your true form," the Centaur said, his eyes glittering.

In the blink of an eye, the rat changed into a young man, hardly out of school for a year. He was a small man with a round belly and close-cropped colorless hair, his pointy noise making it seem like he might have neglected to completely leave his rat form behind. The young man was trembling. The Centaur looked at him sternly.

"Why are you here?" His voice rang through the forest with authority, and the man knew now that when he'd been addressing Bill Weasley, the Centaur had been making an effort to be kind and gentle and non-threatening. He made no such attempt now.

Peter shook violently. He had tried to steel himself to follow Bill Weasley, he had. He'd been hiding at Hogwarts for months, even taking up residence in the fourth-year Gryffindor dorm. It wasn't too bad, when he managed to avoid the large grey cat owned by Weasley's friend, Alex Wood. A thin blond boy by the name of Booth had adopted him and made a pet of him. Wood and Weasley didn't get along well with Booth and and his best friend. Having Booth for a master had worked out very nicely for Peter, as he now had a rather easy time getting food (when he was hungry, which wasn't that often) and someone to protect him from Wood's cat. And he was able to find out whatever Bill and his brother knew about the Prophecy, since they didn't bother being careful about speaking around him. He could curl up on Booth's bed while Bill and Charlie were in the dorm, talking about the Prophecy, and they didn't care that he could hear everything, because he was just a rat.

He'd panicked a bit when Bill had sent a letter to him, Peter, about his sister. Bill had evidently used a school owl, up in the Owlery, and when he'd come back downstairs to Gryffindor Tower and gone to his dorm, he'd discovered the same owl bashing itself against the window, trying to get into the dorm. Peter had shivered and run into a crack in the stone wall, afraid at first because owls preyed on rats, and then he was afraid for a different reason, when Bill opened the window and took the parchment from the owl, saying to his brother, "That's odd. The letter I wrote to Pettigrew has come back. Why do you suppose that is?"

Charlie's brown eyes had gone very round, and the second year had said fearfully, "I've heard that when you try to send owls to dead people, they just come back. D'you reckon someone's killed him? Because he heard the Prophecy? Is everyone who's heard it going to start dying?"

Bill Weasley had actually looked panicked about this for a second, his eyes very large as he stared back at his brother, holding the owl on his forearm. Then the older boy seemed to shake himself. "Don't be daft. Let me try again."

He made certain the parchment was tied tight to the bird's leg and hurled it out the window. Peter watched as the owl wheeled in a circle and headed back to the dorm again, perching on the windowsill and glaring at Bill.

"Damn!" Bill said, clearly getting quite annoyed. "The letter to Lupin didn't come back." He turned toward the window. "Are you sure you're a post owl and not just someone's stupid old pet?" he asked it. Bill and Charlie Weasley tried to shoo the owl away, tried to convince it to deliver its letter more than half a dozen additional times before giving up. Peter continued to watch nervously, knowing that the owl knew full well that he was there, somewhere in the room. Bill and Charlie had never suspected that the owl was doing precisely the right thing all along. It knew where to find Peter Pettigrew all right.

He'd been very careful about transfiguring into his human form in the night and taking out Bill's Prophecy notebook, copying down the words there, then putting the parchment he'd written on into his robe pocket before transfiguring himself into a rat again and sleeping on the old trousers in Booth's wardrobe that he particularly liked. He also wrote the name "Firenze" into the margin of Bill's notebook, because he'd visited the forest on occasion since he'd returned to Hogwarts and he tracked several Centaurs, determining that Firenze was the best hope that Bill had. He'd waited and waited for Bill to go to the Centaurs, but still he did not. The dreams did not leave him, and finally, he had stood over Weasley in his human body and pointed his wand at him, unsure whether he could do it, shaking as he uttered the dread word:

"Imperio."

The next morning, Bill decided that he would go to the forest to see Firenze the Centaur.

"I'll tell you why you are here, wizard," said the Centaur. "You are here because you have heard your own destiny, but you wish to contest it. Is that not correct?"

He dared lift his eyes to the enormous creature speaking to him. "M-my destiny? How so?" he stuttered out. He didn't like the sound of that.

"When you heard the Prophecy, it was not the first time you heard your destiny, was it? You have known before now, and you came to me hoping for a different answer. I cannot give you that. And now that you have shown your true form, I should call you by your true name," the Centaur said more conversationally now.

"M-my true name?" He hadn't given the Centaur the name of Wormtail, rather than Peter Pettigrew, so he wasn't sure what was meant.

"Yes, your true name, Moon Child."

The small man trembled even more and sank to his knees. "No, no, no--" he chanted, remembering his dreams again.

"Yes," said the Centaur. "You denied it, you didn't want to believe it, but when you heard the Prophecy, you knew it was telling your own fortune."

No, no, no, he screamed again, inside. The dreams filled his head....

"But--" he stammered, "--that means--"

"That means that you know who the Daughter of War is."

Peter sank down further. No, no. Not her....

One part of the Prophecy had been frighteningly clear to him from the start:

The lion loves the daughter bright, as does the child of silver moon....

"You know whom it is you love. There can be no question..."

And the lion. James, he thought. Who else could it be? James who had been the one responsible for Peter always being included, ever since their first year in school. James who was going to marry Lily, he reminded himself crossly.

He looked up at the Centaur. "Are you sure?"

Firenze nodded. "It is all part of the plan. The stars and planets move in their dance and care not for human concerns. This has been destined since the dawn of time, since before men and Centaurs looked at the skies and saw in them their own fates. Yours is not a pleasant part, this is true; but it is a necessary one. It is not for the faint of heart."

Peter tried to think, I'm a Gryffindor. I can do this. Only--

"People will hate me. I'll probably hate myself..." His lip shook.

"Quite possibly. If they find out...."

Right, he thought. Maybe no one will ever know.

"You know what you must do."

What you must do.

"Yes." He stared at the ground, feeling like he might throw up, but he hadn't eaten recently, so there was nothing in his stomach. He'd had the nightmares again the previous night, after putting the Imperius Curse on Weasley so that he would finally come to the forest. He lifted his eyes again, but the Centaur had mysteriously disappeared. He swallowed, then changed into a rat again to scurry out of the forest undetected by creatures who might like to prey upon a human.

He knew that he could not deny his destiny. His mother had taught him that. He knew that what you are born to do, you do. He had often wondered why he'd been sorted into Gryffindor, but now he stopped wondering. When he'd been in school, he had flinched when they had dealt with many evil things in Defense Against the Dark Arts; he had feared to ride a broomstick the first time they'd learned; in fifth year; he had quaked and hidden behind his friends when Remus Lupin transformed into a werewolf, and his friends had been amazingly tolerant of him. He had screamed the loudest about the pain of the Animagus Transfiguration. Now he needed to be braver than he'd ever been. He needed to do two things which went against everything he believed in and held dear.

Peter Pettigrew needed to betray the woman he loved.

And he needed to approach You-Know-Who himself and convince him that he truly wanted to be a Death Eater.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thanks to Atlantis Potter, Aegeus and George Hobbes for beta reading. Thanks also to everyone who commented on Chapter Ten!


Join the Yahoo discussion group for this series of fics! Click on the above link to my author page to find the url.

Please be a responsible reader and review!