Title: The Lost Generation (1975-1982) (12/20)
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: The prequel to Harry Potter and the Psychic Serpent. It is now 1979. Two events occur, one tragic, one happy, which have lasting consequences. Why doesn't Peggy want Molly to send them to Ottery St. Catchpole? What is she afraid of? Why will Molly, Charlie and Bill be haunted by this day for years to come? We see Peter recruited as a Death Eater, and the first task he is required to undertake to show his loyalty. Does he have the stomach for it? On a bright note, James and Lily marry (with loads of music!) and they learn that Sirius has finally become gainfully employed--and that he has a new hobby. If you've wondered about the events described by Molly in the second chapter of Harry Potter and the Time of Good Intentions, or why Snape attended the Potters' wedding (mentioned in Psychic Serpent), you will find answers within.
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 Twelve

New Lives



Thursday, 12 April, 1979

Bill was awoken early by a noise at his window. He tried to open his eyes, rubbing the bleariness of sleep from them. He saw and heard that Charlie was still snoring deeply, oblivious to the noise that had disturbed Bill. The banging kept on, and finally, Bill staggered to the window and opened it for the post owl that was trying to get his attention.

"Sorry," he told it. "No food up here. Check the garden for mice," he suggested to it after removing a rolled up parchment from its ankle. He closed the window and sat down on his bed to read the letter; he knew it was from Juliet before he even unrolled it. She usually sent him owls in the early part of the morning, after he'd mentioned what a difficult time his siblings and even his mother gave him about it. (If she mussed his hair and sighed, "Ah, young love," one more time he was going to scream.)

He smiled as he read the missive. He could hardly believe his good fortune that he and Juliet were a couple now. They couldn't go to Hogsmeade together, since there was a moratorium on Hogsmeade visits, and she lived clear across the country in a flat without a fireplace (she was Muggle-born), so they couldn't travel to each other's houses by the Floo network. (She had joked, "If they could connect our cooker to the network, I could try fitting into the oven. Perhaps the witch in 'Hansel and Gretel' was merely trying to send them on a trip?")

It was very frustrating; they'd had to content themselves with walks round the lake when they were at school, and some furtive kissing behind one of the greenhouses. Charlie was especially bad about teasing him about Juliet; he seemed to think she'd stolen Bill from him. Alex was all right about it, surprisingly enough, telling him it was about bloody time, and Jack and Geoff tried to hide their envy about Juliet--neither of them had girlfriends yet. For Bill, it was a balancing act to see Juliet as much as he wanted to, see his brother as much as Charlie wanted him to, and to not alienate his three closest friends in the process.

Something had fallen out of the letter when he'd unrolled it, and he picked it up from his bed now. It was a picture of Juliet at the seaside, when she was about ten years old. She'd asked him for a picture of himself when he was younger, since she hadn't known him then, and she'd promised to send one of herself also. She was very thin in the picture, frozen while waving to the person taking the picture with one hand while holding her hand over her eyes with the other, to shade them from the bright sun. She was next to a sand castle she'd evidently been working on. Bill stared at the picture, wondering whether, if he'd come across her on a beach when they were both ten, he'd suspect that she was a witch.

He dropped the picture and shoved the parchment under his pillow when Peggy suddenly burst into the room. At the back of his mind, a familiar thought formed. Oh, no, he groaned inwardly; not again.

"Oh B-b-bill!" she sobbed, throwing herself at him. She crawled into his lap and he held her tightly, rocking her back and forth and shushing her. It had been the same every morning since he'd been home for the Easter holiday. Each day she came running into his room, terrified by some dream she'd had in the night, and would spend the first half-hour of the day sobbing.

Charlie was woken by the noise now, and when he saw that it was Peggy again, he groaned and rolled over, put his pillow on top of his head, holding it in place with his arm. Bill looked down at Peggy with concern. "Pegs," he said affectionately, drying her tears. "What's going on? Why are you like this every morning since we've been home?" She hiccoughed and wouldn't say anything, ducking her head down below his chin. He sighed. "I think I should tell mum, so she--"

"No!" Peggy said suddenly. He was surprised by her vehement reaction.

"Why not?"

She sniffed deeply. "Because...it's Mum who does it. And I don't know why, because I thought she loved us...."

Bill sat up; this didn't sound like a bad dream anymore. Oh, god...what's she Seen now? he wondered. Something our mum's going to do....

"Sssh, Peggy. Mum would never do anything to hurt you, nor any of us..."

"Not hurt. And not all of us. Just me and Annie."

He shook his head. "What are you talking about? What do you think Mum is going to do to you and Annie?" He tried to be jocular about this. "Wizards don't do arranged marriages much anymore in this country, so that can't be it...."

Peggy just shook her head and then leaned her cheek on his chest. She put her little arms around his shoulders and said softly, "I'll miss you, Bill."

"Miss me! I'm going to be home again before you know it. The summer term will just speed by..."

She sniffed. "That's not what I mean," she said softly into his shirt. He held her bony little body against him, wondering what could be giving her such a fright. Peggy just wasn't like other children, and it was no good to try to gauge her behavior based on any other model. Even Annie was an open book compared to Peggy. Annie was always very clear about everything she thought or felt. And Annie didn't see tantalizing and sometimes terrifying glimpses of the future...

They sat quietly for a while, until their mother finally bellowed up the stairs, "What do I have to do to get you lot out of bed and down here for breakfast? Or were you all expecting room service?"

Bill grimaced; their mum had been very edgy lately. He wondered whether she'd been getting quite hacked off at Peggy, and now Peggy was terrified of her own mother. The twins were more of a handful than ever as they approached their first birthday. They'd been walking for a month, his mother had informed him, and getting into everything they shouldn't, despite their parents' precautions.

"Just when I think I have every possible thing shielded with a charm, they find something to get into..." his mother was saying just the night before, her head on her hand as she sat wearily at the kitchen table, drinking a rare cup of tea.

Their usual source of entertainment, however, was Percy. Within an hour of Bill and Charlie's arrival the previous Saturday, Percy, just over two-and-a-half now, was crying over his stuffed bear being spewed on by Fred, and several minutes later, his hair was being pulled mercilessly by a giggling George, who was clapping his hands over this even after their mother had taken poor Percy into her arms to cuddle and comfort him, after she cleaned Fred's sick off the bear. Even though they were more than a year younger than him, Percy always seemed to be the one bellowing because a toy he'd been playing with was plucked out of his hands or broken by one or both of the twins. Bill never saw the twins cry or look unhappy in any way; they seemed to live in a world of perpetual glee due to their having Percy to amuse them. Percy looked far less happy about this than they did, and their mother was clearly at her wit's end.

Bill kissed Peggy on the top of the head and packed her off to her room to get dressed. When she was gone, Charlie sat up on his elbows and asked, "Don't you think we ought to tell Mum and Dad about her? She's been in here every morning." He looked uncharacteristically serious for Charlie.

Bill shook his head. "Can you imagine talking to Mum about something like this right now? She'd bite the head off anyone who tried."

Charlie nodded as he threw back his bed covers. "Good point. God. I've spent the entire holiday just trying to find ways to avoid her. And the twins. Right little buggers, aren't they? Tell me again why Mum and Dad had them?"

Bill opened and closed bureau drawers, searching for clean socks. He sighed. "The theory was that the baby would be a mate for Percy. Not two little pests who would gang up on him."

"And Mum. I've never seen her so--"

"Yeah. I know."

They finished dressing in silence and descended the rickety, winding stairs to the Burrow's messy, comfortable kitchen. Everything was going along fine until, just as he was putting the last spoonful of porridge into his mouth, Annie, who'd been swinging her legs under the table, accidentally kicked Charlie in the shins.

"Hey!" he immediately responded, and before anyone knew what was happening, Charlie was using his spoon as a catapult to hurl a dollop of porridge at Annie.

"Charlie!" their mother exclaimed from the cooker, where she was watching a fork moving about by itself, scrambling some eggs for the twins. "Look what you've done!"

Annie had a sticky, gleaming bit of porridge in her fringe, dripping down onto her nose. The look she gave Charlie was murderous, and she picked up her own spoon now.

"But Mum!" Charlie protested. "She kicked me! Hey!" he added, as Annie's ammunition reached him. Now he had porridge in his hair.

"Charlie and Annie Weasley! I have enough to do around here without the pair of you giving me even more work!" She waved her wand at each of them, cleaning them up. Just then, the twins, on either side of Percy, each grabbed one of his hands and put his fingers in their respective mouths, biting with their new teeth. Percy's howls now filled the kitchen. Molly Weasley threw up her hands. She strode to the mantle and opened a small jar there and withdrew a wrinkled five-pound note.

"Here, Bill," she said, giving it to him. "The last bit of Muggle money I have on hand. Take Charlie, Annie and Peggy into the village for the day. You can use that to get some pasties for lunch. Go to Fillmore's, in the High Street. They're good." She looked very weary. Bill was amazed; he knew that five pounds in Muggle money was about one Galleon in wizarding money. He'd never had a Galleon in his possession in his entire life, nor its equivalent. His mother had carried the money when they'd shopped for their school things in Diagon Alley, and he'd been shocked by the fact that his wand was over six Galleons. It seemed like a fortune.

Suddenly, they all realized that Peggy was sitting at the table with tears streaming down her cheeks, her spoon half-way to her mouth, the porridge dribbling back into the bowl. "What's the matter with you?" their mother snapped at her impatiently. Bill winced; their mum really needed a holiday. It was just as well he and Charlie and the girls would be going to the village.

"P-please, Mummy. D-don't send us a-a-away!" she pleaded through her tears. Their mother looked even more impatient.

"Don't you start, now. You and Annie can play with some nice little Muggle girls in the park. The Muggle schools are also having their Easter holiday, so there should be plenty of children there. You're always saying you'd like to have other playmates..." she muttered as she took the eggs from the stove and divided them into two identical bowls and set them before the twins.

"B-but M-m-mummy," Peggy stuttered, her sobs making it almost impossible for her to speak, her eyes streaming.

"Not another word!" Molly Weasley said imperiously; Bill knew his mother wasn't going to budge. Peggy scrambled out of her chair and ran to her mother, throwing her arms around her waist.

"I don't want to go, Mummy! Don't make me go!" she sobbed into her mother's apron. Bill gently pried her fingers from the cloth and pulled her to him.

"It'll be fine, Pegs. We'll have a nice day out, some lovely pasties for lunch, and a beautiful park to play in. You like the swings, don't you? You're a great girl now; I'll teach you how to do it yourself..."

She looked at Bill with large blue eyes, very wet from crying. Looking in her eyes was like looking in a mirror for him. "I already know how," she said softly. "Learned last month, finally." Bill nodded; Annie had been teasing her for the better part of a year about not being able to use the swings without being pushed by someone; Annie had been able to do this since she was four.

"That's good! You can get more practice."

She looked up pleadingly at her mother one last time, but said nothing. Bill saw that his mother was softening somewhat. She stooped down and held Peggy's thin shoulders. "Tell you what, Peggy-pumpkin, I'll give you a cheering charm and you'll be right as rain and ready to enjoy a day out..." She waved her wand over her daughter and moments later, Peggy was smiling sunnily and skipping to the door, ready to go. Molly Weasley watched her. "I don't normally like to do that," she confided to Bill. "I think we should all be responsible for our own happiness, without resorting to charms to make us think we're happier than we are. But just this once..."

Bill smiled at his mother. "We'll all be fine. Try not to go mad while we're gone, yeah?"

She pecked him on the cheek. "Thank you--and you too, Charlie--" she added, "for taking the girls today. When the wee ones are napping I may actually be able to do the same..."

"Don't worry, Mum. We'll be home for tea," Bill told her. "Until then, you have four fewer people to worry about."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The weather was uncharacteristically warm and they had a fine day in the park. Charlie and Bill had made the acquaintance of some boys who were playing football, and Annie and Peggy spent most of their time on the swings and playing jump rope. They also met up with some Muggle girls who were pushing dolls in small prams, and soon all of the girls were sitting on a bench, changing the dolls' many outfits. Bill could usually see them out of the corner of his eye, when the football action wasn't too hectic.

As at Quidditch, Charlie proved a natural, but Bill kept forgetting not to touch the ball with his hands, like a Quaffle. The four of them went walking down the High Street just after noon and bought some pasties at the shop their mother had recommended, taking them back to the park to eat, sitting on stone benches near the duck pond and throwing bits of crust to the ducks who begged the most adamantly.

The afternoon was much like the morning, except that Bill felt more like he was getting the hang of football. He glanced at the swings, where Annie and Peggy were moving in perfect synchronicity. Someone on the other team sped by him with the ball and he raced to intercept them, wishing he was on a broomstick. Another player, trying to do the same thing, wound up fouling the boy in possession of the ball. An older boy who was acting as referee blew a whistle and Bill turned again to look at his sisters, but he didn't see them this time. It was no more than a minute or two since he'd last looked, but now the swings they'd been on were swaying back and forth at exactly the same speed--only without his sisters.

Bill looked round the park quickly, spotting a number of other children, some of whom he'd seen playing with his sisters earlier. I'll look in a minute, if they don't show up, which they probably will, he thought. He turned and started running when his team's goalie caught the penalty kick; he felt great, running down the field, the spring air in his lungs. He didn't know when he'd had such a good day.

However, when the girls didn't rematerialize ten minutes later, Bill jogged over to where Charlie was. His brother wore on his face a grim combination of concentration and determination that Bill recognized from when Charlie played Quidditch. He was bobbing on the balls of his feet, watching his teammates passing the ball, then one of them dribbling toward him with it. Bill said his name repeatedly, but Charlie didn't seem to hear him. Finally, Bill took his shoulders and shouted in his face, "Charlie!"

The ball hit Bill in the back of the knee and he thought he was going to fall over; it had been kicked very hard and made his leg buckle for a moment. When the ball bounced off him it was intercepted by a player from the other team, who started toward the goal.

"Sod off, Bill! What do you think you're doing? You just made me miss that pass!"

"Annie and Peggy aren't where they were. It's been about ten minutes since I've seen them. We should look about."

Charlie looked like he couldn't believe this was the reason for what Bill had done. "Ten minutes? Are you mental? They probably went to play with some Mugg--I mean, some village girls. I'll bet they're all off somewhere dressing up their ruddy dolls..."

"Still--we should look," Bill insisted. Charlie glared at him, then turned with a sigh and called to the boy who was captaining their team, "We have to go! Have to look for my stupid little sisters!"

The other boy waved them on. "I know what you mean. I have four little sisters. S'okay. You still home from school tomorrow?"

"Yeah!"

"Come on down again. We'll all be here." The other boy, who had sandy hair and tan freckles, a slightly large nose and a good deal of acne, said wonderingly, "I can't believe you've never played football until today. I thought you said you go to boarding school? What boarding school doesn't have football?"

"Erm," Charlie said awkwardly. "I didn't say our school doesn't have football; I said I'd never played. Which is true." He also hadn't said that his school had football.

The sandy-haired boy grinned at him. "Well, when you get back, you should think about trying out for the team!"

Charlie gave Bill a sly smile. "I just might do that," he said. Bill wondered what the boy would do if he saw a Quidditch match. As he's a Muggle, he'd probably drop dead in shock just from seeing people riding broomsticks.

They started scouring the park for the girls, walking over every path, but did not find them. Near the swings Bill found one of Annie's hair ribbons, but nothing else.

"When's the last time you saw them?" Charlie asked Bill.

"Just before that penalty kick. They were on the swings."

Charlie looked thoughtful. "You know what I'd do..."

"What?"

"Let me finish. What I'd do if I were them is go home on my own, to make us look bad. I'll just bet that's what they did, and they're home now enjoying their tea and having a good laugh!"

Bill frowned. "I reckon they might be home. They certainly don't seem to be in the park." He sighed. "Let's go. You're probably right--I'll bet they went home without us."

They walked back to the Burrow, tired in a good playing-instead-of-working all day sort of way. They stumbled into the Burrow and Charlie immediately started bellowing, "All right, you little devils! Where are you hiding?"

"Ssssh!" their mother immediately hissed at him, from her rocker near the fire, where she was doing her own knitting for once. Although she said she found knitting relaxing, she rarely had the luxury of enough time to indulge in this, and they were accustomed to seeing her charmed knitting needles hovering above her basket of wool methodically knitting, knitting, knitting. They all had numerous jumpers their mother had made for them; for Christmas, Bill had received one in Gryffindor colors of red with a gold "B" on it. Charlie's jumper was ochre with a maroon "C" on it, which, with his red hair and brown eyes made him look very autumnal. "I have masses of maroon wool, but I hate the thought of making an entire sweater out of it," she had said when they'd been home at Christmas. "I expect that someday I might, but thankfully, I have a good supply of other colors until then..."

"What do you think you're doing?" she demanded, pausing in her knitting. "I've only just put the twins and Percy in their cots, and for once I've a little time to sit and enjoy the quiet." Somehow, Bill had suspected she wouldn't actually take a nap. "Where are the girls?"

Bill and Charlie looked at each other. "Erm," Bill said, taking it upon himself to answer, as he was the eldest. "We--we thought they were here. That they'd come back on their own. We--we couldn't find them in the park anywhere."

Their mother dropped her knitting and stood abruptly, so that the ball of wool that had been sitting on her lap went rolling across the floor. "You have to go back," she said tersely. "Go back and look some more. I'll contact your father."

Bill and Charlie looked at each other and swallowed. As they were leaving, they saw their mother toss some Floo powder into the kitchen fire and say clearly, "Arthur Weasley, Ministry of Magic, Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office."

Bill and Charlie ran back to the village, barely pausing to catch their breaths. It was the hour of the day when most of the villagers had their tea, it seemed, and there was almost no one on the street. A lone car went through the roundabout they needed to go past to get to the park; it seemed to be moving very fast when it was in fact going rather slowly, a concession to the curve. To Bill, all Muggle automobiles went far too fast. They unnerved him. He'd almost leapt into Charlie's arms when they'd been walking down the High Street to get their pasties and a very fast red convertible had sped by, almost clipping his heels as he scrambled for the pavement.

"You don't suppose--could they have been hit by an automobile?"

Charlie rolled his eyes. "There would have been a bit of a fuss if two girls were hit by a car, don't you think? Please-men and ambulances and so on. We'd have heard those noises the please-cars and ambulances make. And Bill, can you say 'car' like the Muggles, please? Do you want to make all of the Muggles think you're weird, even without knowing you're a wiz--"

"Ssssh!" Bill hissed at him. "While you're at it, could you not mention what we are, and stop using the "M" word? You should talk, when it comes to Mug--erm, terms used by people who aren't like us. At least some people in Ottery St. Catchpole probably still say 'automobile.' I doubt anyone says 'please-men.' It's 'policemen,' stupid, not 'please men.'" His head hurt and he felt like he was being distracted by the nit-picking the two of them were doing. "Bloody hell, Charlie, we have to think! Where could they be?"

Charlie looked weary and somewhat guilty. "I don't know, Bill. I wish--I wish we'd paid better attention to them...."

Bill nodded grimly. "Me too. Okay, you take the half over by the duck pond, I'll take the area from the swings to the other edge of the park. Give a yell if you find anything, any clue at all."

"Right," Charlie said, moving off, looking like he wished he could do so wand in hand. Bill flexed his right hand, also feeling like it was empty and wishing there was no Restriction on Underage Magic. He strode toward the swings and began looking for some indication of what had happened to his sisters.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"So--what do you think?"

Lily looked at James anxiously. He bit his lip. "A bit smarmy. Do we have to have some bloke who thinks he's Sumatra--?"

"Sinatra. Sumatra is a place. And yes; I want to dance with my dad to his favorite Sinatra tune. What can I say? Mum and dad raised me to love the music they love, and that means a lot of standards from the fifties and late forties, including some big band music. We'll have some more contemporary Muggle music as well. They do tunes from the nineteen-forties up to and including disco, they claim." She sighed. "It seems that Mum and Dad are inviting everyone with whom they ever went to school or uni, plus a number of people Mum has met when she's been in hospital.. And some of their friends' kids, as well. So don't worry--we won't just have ancient music."

"But--but--none of this is ever heard on the Wizarding Wireless!" James said, holding up the cassette tape to which he and Lily had just been listening.

"Yes, well--we'll just have to live with that," she said with only a slight shake in her voice as she tried to suppress her laughter. James was being completely serious, and she couldn't bear to hurt him.

He sighed. "I reckon we will. All right, they don't sound too bad. The girl who sang some of the songs was good. At least she's not pretending to be someone else, like the phony Sinatra fellow."

"Actually, I rather thought she was trying to sound like Rosemary Clooney, and sometimes Ella Fitzgerald. She didn't quite pull it off, but few people can do that..."

"She sounded like who?"

She smiled at him. "Just ask my dad. He can show you his record collection. He's nurtured it since he was fifteen. Honest. Mum thinks that if there was a fire, he'd get all of his precious vinyl discs out of the place first and then ask after us."

James looked horrified. "That's awful!"

Lily looked at him as though he were daft. "I was kidding, James. It's just--to show how much he loves those records." James looked like he felt rather foolish. "At any rate, I think we have a lovely band for our reception now. All right, we already have the music taken care of for the ceremony...I assume your groomsmen will be Sirius, Remus and Peter?"

James shrugged. "Probably. Peter finally wrote back last week, after I sent him six owls. Funny thing is, he still didn't say where he is, just that he will definitely meet us at the tailor to have the suits measured and fitted, and also be at the rehearsal and wedding."

She waggled her eyebrows at him. "And your party."

He frowned at her. "What party?"

She rolled her eyes. "Only the party Sirius is probably going to throw for you. Don't worry--I'm quite secure. I don't think a last night of debauchery will ruin you for marriage..."

"Debauchery! What do you think I'm going to do?"

"You? Oh, it's not you I'm worried about. It's Sirius. He'll probably get completely pissed. You'll be the one holding him up during the ceremony, no doubt. When you can't do it, he can lean against Remus," she grinned mischievously. "Just--I think you should brace yourself. This is Sirius. I'd be prepared for him to throw a very risqué party--"

There was a sudden knock on the door and her father's voice called, "Lily!" Lily jumped and James quickly pulled on his Invisibility Cloak; he was planning to spend the night and her parents didn't know--for obvious reasons. They didn't even know he was in the house. Sometimes it seemed very odd to him that she was nineteen, working as an Auror and living with her parents still, but it also didn't seem worth it for her to get a flat of her own when they were marrying at the summer solstice and would be living together soon enough.

When he was concealed by the cloak, Lily opened her bedroom door wide, so her father had a good view of the apparently empty room, just in case he should wonder. "Yes, Dad?"

"Erm, there's someone here to see you, Lily," he said uncertainly. He stepped aside and Lily could see Sam Bell standing there, carrying his wizarding robes over his arm. Her father leaned close to her. "Are you certain you should be entertaining a gentleman caller when you're engaged to be married?" he asked her, sotto voce.

Lily reddened. Under his cloak, James seethed. "I work with Sam, Dad. He's another Auror. He helped train me. I told you I helped his wife deliver their daughter, remember?"

Sam nodded to Mr. Evans. "I'm here on business. Is there a sitting room or some other place downstairs where we could talk, Lily?" he said, turning a little red himself, perhaps at the thought of speaking to her in her bedroom.

"Of course," she said, starting to leave the room. "Let's go to the kitchen."

"Bring your robes," he told her. Then he turned and said, "On second thought, don't. We'll be going to a Muggle village--"

"Going?" Lily said, frowning. "I worked all day at the Ministry, standing around doing nothing but holding my wand ready during three Death Eater trials where the accused looked like they'd already received the Kiss and were about as likely to try to escape as the people they were accused of killing. My feet are dying; I can't believe how exhausting it is to simply stand at attention for hours on end. I just arrived home a little while ago--"

Sam looked very grim. "I'll explain when we get downstairs. Everyone's being recalled, no matter how recently they've worked. Believe me--you won't be standing still."

Lily's heart was in her throat. "Oh my god. Is it--You-Know-Who?"

Sam looked sideways at Mr. Evans; something about his expression made her father clear his throat and say, "Well, I'll just be getting back to my newspaper--" He jogged downstairs hurriedly. Lily thought her father had both looked curious about what was going on and about what Sam might do to him to get him to leave if he didn't go on his own.

Lily felt James brush past her in the doorway and when she and Sam were walking down the stairs she was aware of him also descending, several steps behind her. They went into the kitchen and Lily took a bottle of ginger beer from the fridge and offered one to Sam. He took a long swig while she was opening one for herself.

"Thanks," he said with feeling. "We're about to be involved in thirsty work, so it's good we're having this now. Oh, and don't you think you had better get one out for James?"

Lily practically spit out her mouthful of ginger beer. She only just managed to swallow. "J-j-james?"

Sam gestured around the room with his bottle. "Not sure where he is in the room, but I know he's here. Where'd you get the Invisibility Cloak, old boy? Nice, that. Wouldn't mind one myself, if a long-lost relative died and left me a fortune..."

James sheepishly lifted up the cloak so Sam could see him. "My Aunt Othalie gave it to me. She decided she didn't need it any more. Is that part of Auror training? Being able to detect people in Invisibility Cloaks?"

Sam grinned. "It's part of one's training to be very alert to what's going on around you, and not trusting what you see on the surface, necessarily. I heard very small inexplicable noises, and Lily obviously knew about you; the way she's been behaving and sometimes looking in the direction of the noises rather tipped me off. As I couldn't imagine her letting anyone else hang about in her bedroom in an Invisibility Cloak, not to mention anyone else she wouldn't want her dad to know about--a girlfriend wouldn't be likely--I narrowed it down to you pretty quickly."

"Speaking of my dad not knowing, I'd like James to cover up again, to play it safe."

James did, but he also said, "I think Sam had a good idea, though. I could do with something to drink."

She removed another bottle from the fridge and a disembodied hand reached out and plucked it from her; the hand and the bottle promptly disappeared again.

"So what's going on?" Lily asked, feeling a chill move through her, and not because of her cold drink.

"Everyone's being called out to search for two little girls who've gone missing. They're from a wizarding family, obviously. They also happen to be the only daughters of a Ministry department head--he runs Misuse of Muggle Artifacts, and because of that he's raided a number of Death Eaters' homes and confiscated contraband which has landed them in a lot of trouble--one of those raids led to the trial you saw this afternoon."

"The Murphys? But during the testimony, the man who said he raided their home was--" Her heart leaped into her throat. "Arthur Weasley. And he had bright red hair, and was very tall--"

James saw the appalled look on her face as she put her hand to her heart.

"What's wrong, Lily?" Sam said, mystified by her reaction.

"Oh, James!" she said, turning to where she thought he was and throwing caution to the wind. "He must be Bill and Charlie Weasley's dad! So that means--"

"--that means the missing girls are their sisters," James finished for her, thinking of the boys he had known from school, the boys whose family was now ripped apart...

Lily turned to Sam, trying not to fall apart but retain some semblance of professionalism. "We--we went to school with two Weasley boys. How old were--are--their sisters?"

Sam reached into his pocket and pulled out a small notebook. "The older girl is Annabel Weasley, called Annie. Born the first of September, nineteen-seventy. She stands four feet three inches, weighs about four stone and has blue eyes. When last seen she was wearing her bright orange hair in two braids just past her shoulders, and sported a blue skirt, white blouse and green cardigan, with white socks as high as the ankle and brown brogans. She had blue hair ribbons on the ends of her braids; one hair ribbon is the only trace that's been found of her. The other girl is Margaret Weasley, called Peggy. Born the first of November, nineteen seventy-two. She is three feet eight inches, weighs about three stone, and also has blue eyes. When last seen her chin length bright orange hair was pulled back with a silver-colored hair clip on the right side of her head, to keep it off her face. The clothing she was wearing was a brown gingham dress with short-sleeves, a faun-colored cardigan, ankle-high white socks and dirty beige trainers. She is currently missing her left front tooth. No artifacts have been found from the younger girl."

Lily drank her ginger beer while Sam recited the information, unable to not picture Bill and Charlie Weasley, and also their father, whom she had seen just that afternoon, testifying staunchly about the way he was attacked when he raided the house of the accused, who had tried to put Cruciatus on him. Evidently he received this sort of reception quite a lot, and she had marveled at his nerve. Certainly he was encountering more danger as a Ministry department head than she was as an Auror. She wondered now who had decided to get revenge on him...

"Do they think it was someone getting back at Arthur Weasley? For a raid?"

Sam shook his head. "We don't know. The girls were last seen in a park in the village of Ottery St. Catchpole, in Devon. It's near Exeter. We're to scour every inch of the village for signs of what happened to the girls, or of the girls themselves."

"Do you--do you have a picture of them?"

He nodded and took out a copy that had been made of a picture the Weasleys had provided to the Ministry. Lily stared down at the girls, kneeling on the floor next to a Christmas tree with presents under it; they were excitedly holding up their presents for the photographer to see; the older girl was shaking the box she was holding and sometimes putting her ear to it, to listen to what it sounded like when she shook it. They looked happy and innocent, an excited light in their sparkling blue eyes. They were still in their dressing gowns, their red hair standing up on their heads as though they had just tumbled out of bed and run downstairs to see what Father Christmas had brought them...

Lily handed it back to Sam, trying very hard not to cry. "I'm ready to go," she said, hoping her voice sounded hard, rather than like she was about to break down.

"So am I," James said from under his cloak.

Sam shook his head in the direction of James' voice. "You don't have to do this; it's not your job."

"You need everyone you can get looking for those girls. I can do it in my cloak and stick with Lily, if you like. I didn't have to tell you I was coming; I could have just done it..."

Sam grimaced. "All right, all right. Because of what it is--you can come. If someone's made off with them, we need to find the trail before it grows cold. But you're going to have to get used to the idea that most of the time, you won't be able to follow Lily around while she's working. She won't always be standing guard at Ministry trials. You're going to have to get used to her being an Auror."

"It's not that I don't want to leave Lily alone, although I reckon I won't need to worry about her as much if I'm nearby. I like Bill and Charlie Weasley. They're good lads. I'm sure they get it from their dad. If there's anything I can do to find their sisters, I'll do it. Weasley was only doing his job, raiding Death Eaters' houses. He doesn't deserve this..."

"And their mother!" Lily cried, wiping an errant tear from her cheek. "She must be going mad!"

Sam nodded. "You could say that. All right. Now, we can't Apparate right into the village; it's already very crowded with witches and wizards looking for the girls. We're going to Apparate to the garden of the Weasley house and then walk into the village. It's called the Burrow, and it's on a road about a twenty-minute walk out of Ottery St. Catchpole in a southwesterly direction. Got all that?"

Lily closed her eyes and concentrated. She opened her eyes again and nodded at Sam. "Got it. I'm ready."

"Ready," came James' voice from under his cloak.

Lily closed her eyes and took her wand out of the holster she wore strapped to her left forearm. She thought about the Burrow, and about it being a mile southwest of Ottery St. Catchpole. She thought about the village being in Devon. She pictured Devon on a map of England, imagined herself flying high over the landscape, the rolling hills and trees passing too quickly to be really seen....Taking a deep breath, she waved her wand and thought all of these things very strongly, feeling the tingling all over her body. She knew she was traveling along some indescribably fluid dimension where she was thought, all thought, and then as her thoughts turned to her own body and clothes, and again, the location that was her destination, she felt the tingling again, more strongly, as she appeared with a pop! in the garden outside the Burrow, where Arthur Weasley lived, and where his daughters should be now, but were not.

After Lily had her bearings, she looked around at the rickety house, at the homely vegetable garden, and thought what a lovely place it looked like to grow up. She turned to Sam. "Should we keep our wands out, do you think?"

Sam shook his head, replacing his in the holster. "No; we'll be searching a Muggle village. If you need to do some magic, make it as subtle as possible, and wandless if you can manage it. So, nothing fancy, obviously. You there, James?"

"I'm here," came the disembodied voice.

Without another word, the three of them set off for the village to join in the search for the missing Annie and Peggy Weasley.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Can I sit down?" Annie whined; her brogans were very sturdy and probably would have lasted long enough to hand down to Peggy, but they weren't necessarily designed to be comfortable when walking mile after mile on the road to Exeter from Ottery St. Catchpole.

Peter Pettigrew looked at the girl, wondering for a moment why he was doing this instead of just killing them, as he'd been told. It's because I'm not a murderer, he reminded himself. Annie Weasley, however, was making it more and more difficult to resist temptation...

Peggy Weasley was another story. She had an easier time with the walking, no doubt, because she was wearing trainers. They looked like they'd already been owned by other Weasleys and were quite worn, but still more appropriate to a long walk than her sister's shoes. "My sister's tired," the little girl said to Peter, who nodded and led them to a low wall bordering a cottage's front garden. Annie sighed as she sat, and Peggy sat next to her, looking up uncertainly at the man who had brought them thus far.

Peter drew his mouth into a line and sat on the low wall a few feet away from them. His heart seemed to be pounding very loudly in his chest and he wished he knew how long they'd been walking, but he didn't own a watch--which he wasn't even sure would help--and there was no one in the world he could ask. He looked at the cars sitting in the street, the people behind the wheels frozen in a moment of time, talking to other people in the car, drinking something from a paper cup with a plastic lid, glancing to the left to see if a safe turn was possible...

He and the two Weasley girls were the only people in the entire world moving at this moment in time. He hadn't really been sure what was going to happen when he cast the spell; all he knew was that it would allow him and anyone else he included in the spell to move very fast, move between milliseconds, really. The Death Eater who'd given him his task had taught it to him. Peter had never heard of it.

He wished for the millionth time that he hadn't left Hogwarts after following Bill Weasley into the forest. But he needed a drink; he just couldn't cope with what he'd learned without something. Although his first thought, upon realizing that he was probably the first Moonchild, was that he had a duty to uphold if You-Know-Who was ever going to be defeated, his second thought, when he returned to the castle was No. I can't. I just can't....

He'd gone back and forth, and finally decided that he couldn't stand one more day cooped up in Booth's wardrobe, waiting for the boy to bring him scraps of food. He needed to get out and walk as a man again. Not to mention that it was getting increasingly unnerving that owls kept bringing him post in the fourth-year dorm. Luckily, the post came at the same time for him as for the other students: during breakfast. None of the boys were in the dorm at that time, so they didn't see the owls scrabbling at the closed window, trying to get in to deliver their letters. Each time, he'd run to the door to check that no one was still hanging about, then he'd furtively changed back to his human body and opened the window, hurriedly taking the parchment from the owl and tossing out the bird again, as he had no food for it. Most of the letters he'd received were from James, asking him about his intention to participate in his and Lily's wedding as a groomsman. The idea made him sick, but he knew it was expected of him.

After James had sent a half-dozen letters, he'd finally managed to find a moment when he could nick some parchment from one of the boys and scribble out a reply. It was a more complicated maneuver to take it up to the Owlery and mail it. First he had to evade Filch's mangy cat on the way there, which was no mean feat as his secret wall-passages did not reach all the way up to that particular tower. He didn't dare walk about the castle in his human form, so he had no choice but to go there as a rat. Once there, he knew he would have to change quickly and enter the room in his human form, as he didn't dare enter the owls' lair as a rat. He'd have been an owl feast within seconds if he'd done that. In the end, he transfigured back into a human just before he entered the Owlery, after going there very early in the morning. He tried going late at night once and discovered that the birds were all out hunting overnight.

After returning from the forest, Peter knew he had to get out of the castle or go mad. Finally, he left under cover of night, scampering to the village (going from shrub to shrub along the road to Hogsmeade, to evade the many school owls that were out hunting) then furtively changing to his human form before Apparating to a wizarding pub he knew in Norfolk, near his mother's home. He should go to see his mother, he knew. But he needed a drink first, and he needed to ponder his next step. If he was in a Prophecy, was there anything to be done? Or was he just plain stuck?

Maybe the Centaur was wrong, he thought. Maybe I'm not the Moonchild. Just because I'm a Cancer...Just because I've had some dreams...There are loads of other people who are Cancers, too. It might be someone else...

He was on his second pint of stout at the pub, staring into his glass, trying to work out what to do, when it happened. Suddenly the door of the pub burst in and a band of seven Death Eaters entered, all wearing masks and hooded cloaks that hid their hair color. They started shooting curses left and right and Peter scrambled under the bar, putting the stool where he'd been sitting between him and the attackers, although it offered precious little protection. The Death Eater who strode toward him and yanked the stool out of his hands was laughing. Across the room, Peter could hear people howling in agony as they suffered the Cruciatus Curse. Oh god oh god oh god, Peter thought desperately. Why did I leave Hogwarts? If I hadn't I'd be sleeping safe and sound in Booth's wardrobe right now...

He held up his hands in supplication; he didn't want to find out what Cruciatus was like, having heard the cries of the other people in the pub. "Don't curse me, please! I--I can tell you something! I have information You-Know-Who may like to have--about a Prophecy concerning his fall!"

He wasn't sure what made him do it; perhaps it was because the moment he started begging with the Death Eater, he also thought, And why in the world shouldn't he curse me? He's a Death Eater--it's what he does. What could I possibly say to convince him to do otherwise?

And the Prophecy had just popped out.

The Death Eater lowered his wand; Peter could tell he'd said just the right thing. Oh god, he thought. I'm part of the Prophecy. Possibly. What if he just kills me once he finds out?

For even though he'd never felt he had any particular destiny until hearing Peggy Weasley pronounce the words of the Prophecy, he suddenly had an incredible urge to live. A primal survival instinct took hold of his faculties and said Live, Peter. Do whatever you have to do to live.

And so, in the midst of a pub rife with people screaming while being tortured and Death Eaters randomly destroying furniture, shards of glass flying everywhere as the liquor supply was blasted by some destructive Death Eater urge, just because they thought it was fun, Peter found himself being questioned by the faceless Death Eater who had refrained from cursing him when he'd mentioned the Prophecy.

"When was this Prophecy given?" Peter heard him say above the din.

"L-last November. At Hogwarts. The Divination professor did it--Professor Trelawney." There. Blame the old cow, as Bill had wanted to tell him in the letter that kept coming back. Peter knew everything that was in it anyway because Bill had read it aloud to Charlie to ask his opinion of it. Peter described the players in the Prophecy: the Lion, the Moonchild, the Daughter of War. The Death Eater nodded and Peter could see his eyes glittering through the slits in his mask.

"What use is this to me?" the Death Eater spat when Peter was done. "You've told me nothing. Who are the actual people in the Prophecy?" Peter opened his mouth and shut it again. The Death Eater moved closer to him and held his wand to his chest. "You know something else, don't you? Do you need some--gentle persuasion?"

"I--um--that is--" Peter fumbled about, feeling like he was going to spew. Don't say anything about Lily. Don't say anything about Lily...

"Well, um, I went to this Centaur about it, since they're interested in such things, but he couldn't or wouldn't tell me much..."

The Death Eater nodded. "Centaurs are like that...." he agreed, sounding less threatening now. He waved his hand at a stool that had miraculously been left intact by the other Death Eaters, who seemed intent on destroying the pub utterly. Peter ducked as a bottle went flying directly at his head; it flew over the bar and smashed against a mirror on the wall, which was already splintered and crazed, reflecting the wrecked room at irregular angles. The Death Eater put his hand on the bar and lithely leaped over it; he found an unbroken glass and pulled a pint for Peter. Although Peter had been drinking stout, not ale, he took the drink. Another crash behind him caused Peter to whirl, to see what had happened. A table lay splintered against the door to the pub, so no one could leave or enter. He turned back to the Death Eater who was, amazingly enough, still not hexing him. He lifted the ale to drink it just as the Death Eater asked him, "What's your name?"

Peter paused before he drank and considered his answer. He would tell the truth--and yet not. "My friends call me Wormtail," he said, then took a sip of the ale, hoping it would make him drunk enough to not care about the pain if the Death Eater decided to curse him after all.

The Death Eater put both hands on the bar and leaned very close to Peter's face. "All right then, Wormtail, tell me something that the Centaur said about the Daughter of War."

Peter swallowed the ale with some effort, as his throat was very tight. Think, Peter, think. Tell him something, anything, but not the truth. Tell him--

"The Centaur said a Daughter of War would come from the Weasley family."

Damn! Why had he said that? He hadn't meant to. Yes, he was trying to draw off the Death Eater by mentioning the Prophecy, but he hadn't meant to mention the Weasleys. Or Lily. He hoped he managed not to mention Lily. He looked down suddenly at his drink; while he didn't normally request ale, he had drunk it before and knew what it should taste like. There was something odd about this ale. Something off...

Veritaserum.

Peter's throat felt even tighter. Oh god, he had to get out of here before the Death Eater wormed anything else out of him. He really hadn't meant to say anything about the Weasleys. Could he take it back? He didn't think so; the Veritaserum would not enable him to lie while it was in effect. When had the Death Eater put it into his drink? While the glass was still down below the bar or when he'd turned to see the shattered table at the entrance to the pub? He didn't dare change into a rat and have everyone present see that he was an Animagus, and he wasn't sure whether he could Apparate while he was so agitated; he would likely splinch himself.

"Interesting, very interesting..." the Death Eater said. He suddenly turned to a Death Eater nearby who was having fun seeing what happened if he pointed his wand at all of the taps, making them spill all over the floor behind the bar. The pub was stinking like a combination distillery and brewery from all of the broken liquor bottles and spilled beer.

"You, there. Watch this one until I get back. I have something important to tell our Master. Oh, and he hasn't experienced the Cruciatus Curse yet. Can you take care of it for me? I'll be back."

Peter frowned at the way the Death Eater was so casual about this, as though he were some sort of normal businessman having to go see his boss and delegating some responsibility for which he had no time to an underling. Before the first Death Eater had Apparated away, the second one turned to Peter and, without warning, pointed his wand and cried, "Crucio!"

Peter toppled off the stool, knowing now why the people around him in the pub had been screaming so. He felt like his internal organs were set on fire, like a vulture was picking out his liver, like cannibals were feasting on his body....There was no way to process all of the pain, all the many varieties of it. Stabbing, slashing, fiery pain; hitting, crushing, twisting pain. It moved through his body incessantly, never pausing, never giving him any respite. He heard himself screaming and it didn't seem to be him, it seemed to be someone else, some other person crying out from the depths of hell....

After an a few minutes that were an eternity, the Death Eater finally stopped cursing him. Peter stayed where he was on the floor, wondering whether he was dead. That would simplify matters, he thought. And yet--he knew right away that he wasn't dead. The first Death Eater had returned; he stood over Peter, arms akimbo.

"Well, well, well. Now you know what will happen if you do not obey the order you are about to receive. Not very nice, is it? For giving the Dark Lord such useful information, I am authorized to extend to you an invitation to join us, the glorious ranks of those who serve the Dark Lord, the Death Eaters. But we do not invite just anyone; you must first prove yourself loyal to our Master."

Peter trembled. "How can I be a Death Eater?"

"What do you mean how can you be a Death Eater?"

Oh, god, thought Peter. Did I say that out loud?

"I mean," Peter said quickly, "with all due respect, I wasn't the most brilliant student in my year or anything like that. Many times I barely scraped by. I just mean--I would think the Dark Lord would want someone more talented than me..."

The Death Eater laughed. "Oh, good try! Now tell me how you have an appointment to have your teeth cleaned next week, so you're unable to meet with him and accept a position as a Death Eater...."

Without warning, he pointed his wand and uttered the curse and pain shot through Peter again. He howled at the top of his lungs, wishing he were dead. Abruptly, the pain left him once more and he remained on the pub's tile floor; suddenly he couldn't stop himself and he turned and spewed onto the dirty tiles until he had nothing else he could heave out of his body.

"Hmph," the Death Eater said scornfully. "Lying there in a puddle of your own sick when you could be a servant of the Dark Lord. You may not think you are a very talented wizard, but how much talent do you need to get rid of two little girls?"

Peter whipped his head around and stared at the mask, wishing he could see the face behind it.

"Get rid of--"

"Yes. That is the task you must perform. When you have done that successfully, you will have shown your loyalty to our Master and will be deemed a good servant. And don't get any ideas about not doing it, thinking they'll be safe. If you don't do it, someone else will. And if you don't do it--you will be tracked down....And you will think that what you have experienced today is a holiday," he said ominously.

Peter tried to swallow. "All--all right," he stuttered out, just so the pain would stop coming and coming. He would figure out some way of protecting the girls later, some way to warn their parents.... "As--as I said," he reminded the Death Eater, "I wasn't the best student in school....Do you have any suggestions for how I might do it? How I might get to them without being caught?"

And the Death Eater had puffed himself up importantly and told Peter about the Tempus Fugit spell....

Finally, the "festivities" were winding down and the Death Eaters were leaving. Peter's companion put his wand to Peter's chest before he left.

"I'll be in touch," he said simply before Disapparating. Peter slumped against the bar, heaving a sigh of relief. The pub around him was something to behold; it looked like there had been a war, which there had been, Peter reckoned. He stood up shakily and walked around the bar; no one took any notice of him, as no one had evidently taken any notice of his conversation with the Death Eater. He pulled a pint for himself from a tap that hadn't been emptied and drank it in one gulp. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he tried to concentrate on Apparating to his mother's house....

"Where are we?" Peggy Weasley asked him.

"Exeter," he said shortly.

She nodded, then said, "Why?"

Why indeed? Peter thought. He'd returned to Hogwarts after a brief visit with his mother and then went back to living in the Gryffindor dorms--this time with the second-year boys, and he avoided being seen this time, even though not being someone's pet meant he had to scrounge for his own food. He listened carefully to everything Charlie Weasley said about his family, but no useful information seemed to be forthcoming from him. He didn't want to risk Booth making him a pet again, so he didn't return to the fourth years' dorm. Then, not long before the Easter holiday, Charlie provided him with the idea...

"I don't know how I'm going to stand my little sister for a whole week," he said to an Asian-looking boy who had the bed next to his. "Annie, that is. A little more than a week, actually. She's such a brat these days. Drove me mad during the Christmas holiday. I wish one of our cousins would ask her to visit or something, or just make off with her...My Aunt Meg likes her. Too bad she doesn't just go off to live with her..."

That's it, Peter thought from his hiding place under the bed. I was told to get rid of them. Not to kill them....

He remembered the Tempus Fugit spell the Death Eater had shown him; if he ever wanted to live as anything other than a rat again, he would have to do this, or risk being tracked down and killed--probably after a fair amount of torture. The girls wouldn't be with their family any more, but it didn't sound like the second-year boy would consider the one named Annie to be any great loss anyway. He vaguely remembered her from the day her younger sister had pronounced the Prophecy. He could take them away to a new home... A memory charm on each of them would take care of their remembering their old lives, and he'd heard there was a spell for owl-proofing people, so they could no longer receive owl post. He didn't know what it was, but he could sneak into the library and look it up.

He wasn't sure where the Weasleys lived, so he decided to stow away in Charlie's trunk when he went home for the holiday, after discreetly chewing a small hole in one corner of the dilapidated old piece of luggage, so he would be able to breathe. This won't be so bad, he thought. I'll find some place nearby, with some Muggles, where no one would think to look for them...They'll begin new lives instead of being killed by Death Eaters....They'll be fine....

He had to reassure himself about his plan frequently, and very nearly changed his mind up to the very moment when he'd cast the Tempus Fugit spell in the park and gently lifted the girls from the swings; he deposited each of them on a bench and then included them in the spell. They blinked, obviously surprised to be on a park bench instead of on the swings, but he tried to alleviate their fears right away by saying that their father had sent him to get them, to take them away because they were in danger and they needed to be somewhere safe...

The older girl had not believed him at first. She nodded at her brothers, frozen while playing football with some village boys, and said, "But they'll be worried when they've found that we're gone. And Mum will go mad, too!"

Peter shook his head. "Your father told me that that couldn't be helped. He doesn't want anyone else to know so that they can't tell what happened to you if they are given Veritaserum."

Peggy looked up at him, swallowing. "Is this because of that Prophecy?"

Peter looked at her, shocked. "How--how did you know?" He felt flustered, and he'd let his guard down for a moment. He was unaccustomed to being around children.

The small girl shrugged. "It makes sense." She turned to her sister. "I'm sorry, Annie," she said, sniffling a little. "This is all my fault..."

Annie was belligerent. "It's not your fault Dad is hiding us. It's his fault. He's probably worried that if you stay, we'll all be attacked. If just you disappear, someone who thinks you're me could still attack the family, so he has to pack off all of the girls." She looked very cross and yet also like she might cry any minute. "Where are we going?" she asked Peter thickly.

"To Exeter. I found a lovely place run by some very nice ladies. They're nuns, and they'll take good care of you and keep you safe until it's all right for you to come home again. No one will find you there."

"What about school?" Peggy asked suddenly.

"Erm," Peter hesitated. "You'll go to school with Muggle children. It's just temporary."

Peggy nodded; she should have known that her mother would never do anything dreadful to her; her mother didn't even know her father had arranged for them to be sent off to a safe place. She thought sadly of her mother for a minute; her mother would miss them, she knew. But hopefully they would soon be reunited. A sixth sense prickled at the back of her brain. Somehow she knew this would happen, but she didn't know why...

"We're in Exeter," Peter told Peggy, "because this is where you'll be living for a while."

They walked past people frozen in mid-step, down street after street, until they finally reached the hospital and orphanage complex where Peter had watched the kindly nuns, day after day, finally determining that they would take good care of the girls and keep them safe. He'd then returned to the Burrow, where he'd lain in wait until the perfect opportunity presented itself. And then--that morning he'd nearly been killed. It was bad enough trying to get to the owlery at Hogwarts in his rat form without Filch's mangy cat chasing after him; but at the Burrow he had to live in garden gnome holes, and then when he poked his nose out of a hole early in the morning because of a loud noise, he'd seen a very determined barn owl battering itself against one of the upper windows of the house until Bill Weasley had opened the casement to retrieve his post. As soon as the bird flew away from the window, it turned and dove at the garden, and Peter had fled into the depths of the warren of tunnels. He was starting to wonder how he was going to get out to execute his plan; in a few days the older boys would be going back to Hogwarts and the younger girls would be going back to the Hogsmeade school for most of every day. The time to do this was during the holiday. And then, when he'd seen the four older children leaving the house and walking toward the village, he knew that this was his lucky day....

It had felt like they'd been traveling for at least five hours--perhaps it was even an entire day--whereas the world around them had not even advanced a single second since the moment he had removed the girls from the swings. Peter took them into the building and to the children's ward. "Now then; we need to give you a reason to be here...."

He took the Tempus Fugit spell off them and then put spells on them to make them look like they'd been in terrible accidents. He also performed the spell he had researched that would make it impossible for them to receive post owls. Then he ducked behind a screen and took the Tempus Fugit spell off himself and magically cut a small hole in the bottom of the wall. He immediately changed into his rat form, hoping the nuns wouldn't see him and scream. He scampered into the hole to watch and wait.

Instead, they screamed over finding the two girls who appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Peter managed to find his way through the walls to the room where they took Peggy, by following the voices. Once there, he found a loose knothold in the wooden skirting at the bottom of the wall; he final emerged under a bed, seeing feet in sturdy black shoes moving about purposefully. When the shoes left, Peter emerged, and after determining that no one else was around, he returned to his human form and then transfigured his clothes so that they looked like the things he had seen the doctors wearing. Peggy was sleeping peacefully, no doubt exhausted by her long walk to Exeter, although it was only ten minutes since he'd removed her from the park. Her brothers might not have noticed they were missing yet, and she was safe and sound, miles away in a place they would never think to look. He still had some things to do, though, before he left.

"Obliviate!" he said, pointing his wand at her. She convulsed in her bed momentarily, as he put a very strong spell on her, designed to wipe out memories of most of her six-and-a-half years. He worried that she might wake, but she did not. He pocketed his wand and took one more look at her before leaving her room. Now he only needed to wipe Annie's memory clean and give some of the nuns false memories, so they would think the girls showed up when they did because they were in a car accident.

He wandered the halls of the hospital, unquestioned in his doctor's garb, receiving deferential nods from the nuns who passed him. He surreptitiously checked in this room and that until he found where they'd taken Annie; She was also fast asleep, not a hair on her head showing. It was still light out and evidently she'd pulled the covers over her to sleep in utter darkness. He closed the door and pointed at her sleeping form, again saying, "Obliviate!"

He let himself out quietly and went to find the nuns. He had done his job; he was told to get rid of the girls, and he'd done just that--but not in the way the Death Eater had probably meant. Still--a hue and cry would go up about the missing girls and it would seem that he had killed them. He would let You-Know-Who believe that. Maybe then nothing would happen to Lily...

He just had one more thing to do; he had to go to Leicestershire, to the house where Lily used to live. He remembered her talking about the nice people her parents had found to rent their old house, the people who had lost their only daughter to cancer. I know it's an Unforgivable Curse, he thought, but putting Imperius on them to make them want to give two little girls a home is hardly in the same class with making people do horrid things... He was rather proud of himself for thinking of this last detail. He was going to see to it that the girls had a good home, and even that they were together. He wasn't a bad person, he thought. It was all for the best. The Weasleys would only have gone through something similar but worse had the girls been killed, and if he hadn't done it, someone else would have. It was all for the best, really...

After the door to Annie's room closed, she crept out from the screen in the corner where she'd been putting her clothes on again, planning to run away from the nuns. She had no intention of being kept in a hospital when there was nothing wrong with her. She would take her sister and go somewhere, anywhere, far away.

And then she heard the wizard who had brought them to Exeter cast the memory charm; she had seen him around the corner of the screen. He wasn't looking in her direction. He was looking at the mound of blankets she'd put in the bed to fool the nuns. Why should someone working for my dad put memory charms on us if this is being done to protect us?

She swallowed. She knew why. Her father had no intention of their ever coming home. He was just getting rid of them--forever. Annie felt tears start rolling down her cheeks despite her best efforts not to cry. She remembered the fit Peggy had had that morning. She knew. She knew what was going to happen. And Mum sent us away, probably also knowing. I don't believe that wizard who brought us here; Dad wouldn't have done this without talking to her....

Our parents don't want us. We're a danger to the rest of the family, so we're not a part of it any more...

She waited a little while after the wizard left to creep out from behind the screen; she moved the mounded blankets out of the way and climbed back into the bed. Well, Dad, she thought bitterly, tears filling her eyes again; nice try. But I still have my memories. I will always remember that you didn't want me.

She threw herself back on her pillow and stared up at the ceiling, having changed her mind about leaving. Where would she have gone, anyway? She was eight years old; she would be nine in September. She turned on her side, looking around the clinical room, wondering when the nuns would bring food. A tear trailed down the end of her nose and she wiped her nose on her sleeve.

There are probably worse things than living in a place like this, with Muggles, she tried to convince herself. Like being in a family that doesn't want you....

The walk had exhausted her and she could no longer resist the urge her eyelids had to close, glad that she still had her memories, and vowing that she would get her father back for this some day...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Friday, Saturday, 21 June, 1979

James Potter had never been so petrified in his life. The trumpeter started blaring Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary, the harpsichord twinkling under the strident tones of the brass and the bows gliding over the strings of the violins and cello and bass. Beside him stood Sirius, dressed, as James was, in immaculate formal clothes; Remus stood next to him identically attired, and Peter brought up the rear, looking uncharacteristically neat and dignified in his groomsman clothes and making James wonder whether he'd ever considered working in a Muggle bank; he looked like he'd be right at home turning down people who were asking to borrow money. Like he'd quite enjoy it.

Why did I think that? He frowned. His mind was wandering. He was nervous, incredibly nervous. He'd never been so nervous before in his life. He looked up the aisle from his position under the canopy of flowers at the front of the large white tent on the lawn of the Willows, the inn where Lily's parents had been married. Cecilia Ratkowski was walking with a very slow, stately gait, as she'd been told to do during the rehearsal. A circle of flowers crowned her head and her shimmering golden gown clung tightly to her; she looked rather as though she might be holding her breath. Lily had said she was worried about fitting into her gown as she'd broken up with her boyfriend and gone on a bit of an eating binge.

James saw that Sirius was gazing appreciatively at Cecilia. "Put your eyes back in your head, you," he whispered to Sirius. "Lily said she just broke up with her boyfriend."

Sirius straightened his tie and smirked at Cecilia, who saw and blushed, wobbling a little on the next step, as though Sirius had distracted her. "Then she'll be wanting a rebound bloke, nothing she could possibly consider long-term. It's perfect," he whispered out of the corner of his mouth to James.

"If you like her so much, why didn't you go out with her when we were in school?" James probed softly.

Sirius shrugged; he barely moved his lips when he spoke. "I dated a lot of girls, but I couldn't manage to get to every one. Besides, she was in Gryffindor. It would have been a bit tricky after breaking up with her, having to hang about in the same common room, being in all of the same classes. I mean, look how awkward it was after I tried to kiss Lily once."

James grimaced. "You know, this really isn't the best time to remind me that you made a pass at my bride..."

Sirius smiled and continued to watch Cecilia. "Just reminding you of what you're getting into. Don't cross that little wife of yours if you don't want to be eating all of your food through the back of your head."

This made James recall the 'Picasso' incident and he had a difficult time stifling his laughter. He was glad that the trumpet was rather loud. "Stop saying things like that," he whispered to Sirius. "This is no time to make me laugh."

"Don't be stupid," Sirius said softly. "You're too tense. This is the perfect time to make you laugh." He grinned mischievously.

Cecilia had reached the front and now Lily's sister Petunia was walking down the aisle, looking like she'd rather be eating raw lemons. Or like she already had--it was hard to tell the difference. She held her head high, as though determined to take the high road and not reveal how distasteful this all was for her. She failed miserably, in James' opinion.

He had a sudden thought. "Oh, god, Sirius. What if I forget what to say?" he hissed to his best man. "What if I bollix it up completely? I don't think I remember. Bloody hell, I've forgotten everything from the rehearsal..."

"I know what you're supposed to say. I'll feed you your lines. And the minister will help you, too. Don't worry."

Sirius' soft assurance was not completely reassuring to James. "What if I--what if I faint?" he choked out softly, starting to feel somewhat lightheaded as soon as he suggested it.

"Then breathing might help somewhat, to get some oxygen to your brain. Just breathe, James. Come on, you can do this...." He gave a lopsided smile to Cecilia, across the aisle from them. Now Lily's mother was starting down the aisle, wearing a more matronly version of the dress Cecilia wore, as had Petunia. Lily had chosen her own mother to be her matron of honor. "I'm going to sweep that girl off her feet at the reception, just you wait," Sirius whispered.

James snorted softly. "You? Sweeping? How?"

Sirius gave him a secret smile. "I've got a surprise for you at the reception. For everyone, really..."

Lily's mother was drawing nearer. James gave his best man a small frown. "All right, all right. It worked. You've succeeded in distracting me. Now, what's this surprise?"

"If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise. And actually, now that I think of it, I've got two surprises..." Sirius wore his most mischievous expression, and from what James could see, Cecilia was finding it very appealing; she was giving him sly looks, then gazing down into her flowers, as though she hadn't been making eyes at the best man.

Finally, the trumpeter took the fanfare up a notch and James looked to the open flap of the tent, where Lily had appeared on her father's arm. James thought again that he was going to faint, and then realized that Sirius was right--he had to take a breath. He did so rather self-consciously as the guests rose to watch Lily draw nearer to the front. Her gown was the same color as the lilies-of-the-valley she carried; it clung almost indecently to her, revealing her shoulders, dipping daringly low, shrinking in to her impossibly small waist, then flaring out in a grand skirt that trailed behind her along the white runner. James couldn't look at her enough. Her hair was caught up on her head in some complicated style he didn't know the name of, stray red tendrils artfully trailing across the nape of her neck and on her cheeks and brow. A wreath of more lilies of the valley sat on her bright hair. Her brilliant green eyes sparkled, meeting his, and he felt his chest hitch. I'm marrying Lily Evans. How could this be? Was there any luckier man anywhere in the world? No, he didn't think so.

She and her father reached the front and he leaned in to kiss his daughter on the cheek, mindful of not smudging her make-up. She also kissed his cheek and beamed at him. James heard her whisper to him, "You look very much the elder statesman, Daddy."

It was true; Lily's father had a bit of a round belly and a dark beard streaked with white, plus the green eyes he'd given his daughter. The words Lord Mayor of London suggested themselves to James.

"And you look like the loveliest bride I've seen since your own mum," he told her, looking proud and sad at the same time. He kissed her again and then grasped James' hand unexpectedly; James nodded at him and received a grim nod in return before the older man turned to take his seat in the front row of folding chairs. Lily stepped forward to take James' arm instead of her father's and James swallowed, his nervousness returning, hoping Sirius had been right that he and the minister could help him if he forgot what to do and say...

But it was all right. He did everything he was supposed to. Sirius gave him the rings at the right time and he looked in Lily's eyes, slowly putting the ring on her finger, and then she put his ring on his finger. The minister was beaming at them, and the next thing he knew they were kissing, kissing deeply before everyone they knew, practically, but it was all right, it was expected, and when they surfaced, the musicians had struck up the recessional and they were marching up the aisle arm in arm, grinning uncontrollably at each other. Lily leaned in to him as they reached the end of the aisle, saying, "We did it!" as though she had been as nervous as him. Perhaps she had been.

On the lawn, he pulled her into a hug and twirled her around, her skirt belling outward. She threw her arms around his neck and when he stopped spinning her, she pulled him down into a kiss that started a fire somewhere around his toes and started working its way quickly up his body...

After all of the planning and anxiety, the day of their wedding passed in something of a blur for the two of them. They were very grateful to the photographer, a wizard who was taking photos of them with a Muggle camera. He would develop some rolls with a special potion so that the pictures would move, like all wizard photos, while he would develop others in the Muggle way, so that the Evanses could have pictures in their home that did not move and confound Muggle visitors.

They had hours of daylight ahead of them still, since it was the longest day of the year, so Sirius, Remus and Peter could stay as long as possible. An hour before sunset they were going to slip away so they could accompany Remus during the full moon, for once. Just the night before, when they were at an incredibly seedy Muggle club in the East End of London, it had occurred to James to wonder how Remus had been coping for the previous year. He felt rather ashamed that he hadn't bothered to ask before.

When Remus had told them all, rather bashfully, that he'd been going to the Ministry lock-up during the full moon, James was appalled. "You sould have shed shomethin'! No, Remush. I'm shorry. We sould have shed shomethin'. God! What kind of mates are we?" He'd put his arm around Remus' shoulders and pulled him into an awkward hug. "How could we det you loo that? How we could not you be there for?" He'd tightened his hold on Remus and started to sob.

Remus had looked alarmed. "Erm, how much has James had, Sirius?"

"I'm ferpeckly sober," James reassured him, raising his glass of beer.

A scantily-clad dancer gyrated before them; she had a long blonde wig and what little clothing covered her body left absolutely nothing to the imagination. James looked up at her blearily. "What would you thick," he asked her, "if you were a werewolf and your mates adanboned you?" He pulled Remus close again with his right arm and pointed at him with his left. Remus was appalled, and saw that Sirius and Peter were also.

"Er," Remus said awkwardly to the largely-naked woman thrusting various body parts under their noses. "My mate's had a few too many. He's getting married tomorrow."

She laughed and continued dancing. "Congratulations," she said to James as she moved closer to him. At this range, it was clear that she was probably about twenty-five years older than they were. She ran her finger down his cheek. "Would the groom like a little extra-special treat?"

Sirius stepped between her and James. "The best man might," he said, grinning.

James pushed between them; he put his hand next to his mouth, as though he was whispering very confidentially to the woman, but instead he spoke in a sort of whispered shout.

"He knows things," James declared loudly. "He's a wizard, you see. We all are."

"And that's it," Sirius said, rolling his eyes. "Time for us to go." He took one of James' arms while Remus took the other; Sirius reached into his pocket and handed some money to Peter to pay the bill. Soon they were on the pavement outside, where Sirius hoped the cool night air would clear James' head.

"I'd hex you good if you weren't getting married tomorrow," Sirius said when they were outside.

"Wha? Why?" James said, breathing odiferously into Sirius' face. Sirius frowned at him.

"Because you have a big mouth. How many times have you been drunk, James?"

"Counting tonight?"

"Yeah."

"Once."

"Are you all right?"

James turned suddenly. Lily was standing next to him, looking a little concerned. She held out a glass of champagne for him. He grimaced at it, vowing to only drink a little.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

She smiled. "Well, I see you survived last night. Sirius was telling me a little about it." She nodded at their best man; he was chatting up Cecilia, standing very close to her. The band was playing something sort of soft and mushy-sounding, no discernible beat. James sipped his champagne briefly, then put it down on a nearby table.

"When do I get to dance with you?" he asked, wanting an excuse to hold her in his arms. She grinned and looked up at the conductor, giving him a nod.

"How's right now? Remember the song we picked?"

He swung her out onto the dance floor, her skirt whirling in a perfect arc. "The most perfect song..." he said, his face against her neck, loving the feeling of holding her close to him, feeling her heart beat against his as the young woman began to sing in a sultry contralto...

I'm wild again, beguiled again
A simpering, whimpering child again
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I . . .

James stepped away from her and twirled her, making her smile in pleasure before he captured her in his arms again. The singer continued...

Could not sleep, would not sleep
Till love came and told me I should not sleep
Bothered and bewildered am I . . .
Lost my heart, so what of it?
He was cold, I agree,
He can laugh and I love it
Although the laugh's on me.

"Well," Lily whispered, "not completely perfect. You were never cold to me...And we laugh together, not at each other..."

"Ah, but this is the part I like best..." James said directly into her ear, making her shiver with pleasure...

I'll sing to him, each spring to him
And long for the day when I'll cling to him,
Bewitched, bothered so bewildered am I . . .

When they were done, he gathered her to him and captured her lips with his, putting his hand on the back of her head, wondering whether it would make her hair fall down, and then hoping he would make it fall down....

It was unclear whether the applause was for their dancing or the orchestra and singer. James and Lily turned and applauded in the singer's direction, though, to show their appreciation, and she bowed, smiling with pleasure. Lily's father appeared at her elbow now to dance with her, and James sought out Lily's mother to ask her to dance.

After a while it seemed that they were dancing non-stop, but then the orchestra took a break and dinner was served, and James thought he'd never been at a party when he'd had more fun. It was odd to think that technically, he was the host. (When he and Lily had gone to her parents to say they were going to marry, her father had sighed and said there was no money for a wedding, but James had said he'd pay for it all, as he had a sizable inheritance.) Sirius was being his wittiest, Remus was chiming in with his sardonic asides, even Peter's sometimes too-sarcastic comments hit just the right note on this day, and, to James' relief, Lily's sister had departed soon after the reception had started, so they didn't have to continue to see her sour expression for hours on end.

As they ate, James leaned toward Sirius and asked him, "So, when do we get the surprises you promised? Or were you just saying that to keep me from falling apart during the ceremony?"

"No, no," Sirius said as soon as he'd swallowed the bite of steak he'd been chewing. "I can tell you all the first surprise: I am now--and have been for the last two months--gainfully employed." James, Lily, Remus and Peter all dropped their jaws in a rather unflattering manner. Sirius grimaced. "Well don't look that shocked. I wasn't a total lie-about at school, after all. I did get ten O.W.L.s and respectable marks on my N.E.W.T.s, even if they weren't up to yours and Lily's," he reminded James.

"But--what--where--" Lily sputtered.

Sirius laughed. "Can't imagine who'd have me, eh? Thank goodness you weren't the one doing the hiring," he said, his eyes twinkling at her. On this day, though, his antics could only make her laugh.

"I'm sorry, Sirius," she smiled. "I'm not trying to insult you, really. Well, don't keep us waiting any longer! Tell us what the job is."

"Well, I may not be an Auror, and I may not be a Chaser for the illustrious Montrose Magpies and playing Quidditch for England, but--I am now the assistant to the department head in Research and Development at Comet Brooms, Limited. I am personally in charge of testing the experimental charms we're developing for faster acceleration and pinpoint braking."

James laughed. "Which means you get to ride brooms all day. What a perfect job for you!"

Sirius looked genuinely offended. "I'm not just 'riding brooms all day.' I'm actually working on developing the charms. And--I'll tell you a secret..."

"Another one?" Remus said, rolling his eyes.

He motioned for them to lean in to hear him, so they were huddled together conspiratorially, creating an odd sight for the other guests when they glanced at the head table. "I'm not just planning to use the charms on brooms."

Lily immediately sat up and covered her ears with her hands and started humming a tune. Sirius raised an eyebrow and asked James, "What's she doing?"

"Well," James explained, "it sounds like you're planning to do something illegal. Those charms are only to be used by authorized employees of licensed broom manufacturers and only on brooms. Remember, I married a cop."

Sirius grinned. "Yeah," he whispered; "a cop whose husband is an illegal Animagus..."

"Ssssh!" James hissed at him. "Are you mad? And you said last night that I had a big mouth!"

"Oh, I'm being quiet enough. And you did have a big mouth. You were mouthing off to a Muggle."

"She just assumed it was because I was drunk."

"It was because you were drunk," Remus said, grinning.

James glanced at Lily. "While she's busy distracting herself, tell me: what else are you going to put the charms on?" he asked Sirius.

Sirius looked almost unbearably smug. "A motorcycle."

"A motorcycle?" James didn't know whether he was outraged or deeply envious. The two emotions were warring within him. "Why?" he asked Sirius.

"Well, I already have this motorcycle, see, that I bought from this old bloke in Wemyss Bay. You're off so much of the time playing Quidditch or staying at Lily's that I had a lot of spare time, and I've put it in the cottage back at Ascog in lieu of a garage. I've been working on it constantly, and now it runs like a dream. The birds all love it," he added, winking slyly at Cecilia. "And once I, er, 'alter' it a wee bit, it'll be every bit as useful as a broom. After all, there are times when Apparition isn't really practical..."

James shook his head, smiling. "You're going to be a life-long bachelor, aren't you? With always another scheme for getting girls."

"Women, mate, women. We're out of school now, remember."

James shook his head over Sirius, wondering how he could just walk up to a strange woman and ask her out. Lily was the first girl he'd ever asked out, technically. The first time he and Bonnie had gone to Hogsmeade together, she'd been the one who'd asked him, when they were working together during Herbology. He'd been so surprised that a girl was asking him out that he'd said yes without thinking Do I actually want to go out with Bonnie Manetti? He just looked at how stunningly pretty Bonnie was and knew that if Sirius had found out she'd asked him on a date and he'd refused Sirius would never let him hear the end of it.

After dinner, there was still more dancing. Remus helped Lily to stand and said, "I don't believe I've had a chance to dance with the bride yet, and soon circumstances will force me to leave..."

Lily smiled at him and let him lead her to the dance floor. When she heard the song, she grinned at him. "Did you tell them to play that?"

"How'd you guess? As songs about the moon go, it's not bad...." He held his hand lightly against her lower back and grasped her hand with his other hand as they listened to the singer croon to them and moved languidly around the dance floor...

Blue Moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Blue Moon
You know just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for

"How've you been?" she asked him, suddenly feeling rather guilty, as though he had asked her to marry him and she'd chosen James instead, even though she'd loved him first.

"All right," he said calmly. She had to admit; he looked better than she'd ever seen him. His white lock of hair flopped over his brow rakishly, and as the light-filled early evening progressed, his cheeks became more and more hirsute. He appeared to have a light brown beard now. "I'm seeing someone," he said suddenly, needing to reassure her, remembering when she had confessed to him that she was in love with him, on the Hogwarts Express.

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will hold
I heard somebody whisper please adore me
And when I looked to the Moon it turned to gold

"That's good," Lily smiled, her guilt assuaged somewhat. She would always be terribly fond of Remus and felt the injustice of what he had to suffer very keenly. It just isn't fair, she thought, not for the first--or last--time. He's so sweet; he deserves to be happy... "Tell me about her?" she asked him. He grimaced and drew his lips into a line.

"There isn't much to tell. It's someone from school, but not someone I knew well...and not someone from Gryffindor..." he said truthfully, consciously not using a pronoun to refer to his lover.

Blue Moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will ever hold
I heard somebody whisper please adore me
And when I looked the Moon had turned to gold

Blue moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Blue moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

They clapped when the song was over, and then Lily leaned toward Remus and kissed his scrubby cheek. "I'm glad you're happy, Remus. You look happy."

He smiled gently at her, taking her hands. "I am. You make a beautiful bride, Lily. I'm so glad you and James are together."

Her new husband suddenly appeared at her elbow and put his arm around her shoulders possessively, grinning broadly. "So am I," he said to Remus.

Remus nodded to him and made a sweeping gesture with his hand. "She's all yours, Prongs..."

"Thank you, Moony old boy," James said, taking his bride in his arms again as Lily laughed.

"Are the four of you going to use those old nicknames until you're a hundred years old?"

James pulled her close to him as the pianist's introduction ended and the singer began to sing; he grinned even more broadly. "Probably. That isn't a problem is it? A deal breaker? Should I have told you that before the ceremony--?"

She hit his shoulder lightly. "Oh, you. Don't be silly--"

You must remember this
A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by
And when two lovers woo
They still say, "I love you"
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by
Moonlight and love songs
Never out of date
Hearts full of passion
Jealousy and hate
Woman needs man
And man must have his mate
That no one can deny
Well, it's still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by
Oh yes, the world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by

"May I cut in?"

Lily looked up in surprise. Sirius stood grinning at her elbow. He'd removed his tie and unbuttoned the top two shirt buttons, spreading the collar of his shirt over his jacket collar and revealing a small gold medallion with the scales of justice on it (the symbol of his birth sign of Libra) resting on a chest with a light dusting of dark, wiry hairs.

"Erm, it didn't take you long to get comfortable, did it, Sirius?" she said wryly.

"And no, you cannot cut in," James informed him, "because the song is over. You can, however, have the next dance. If it's all right with Lily."

She laughed with her hand over her mouth, trying not to let on that she was laughing at how ridiculous Sirius looked. She had to bite her tongue to keep from saying, You know what you look like...

"Yes, fine with me," she said, barely containing her merriment.

As the music started up, Sirius surprised Lily by steering her masterfully across the floor, twirling her and dipping her and making her feel like she didn't need to do much more than let herself be manipulated by Sirius like a marionette, as the orchestra played and the singer sang...

Understand the Night.
When she flashes her sparkling eyes at dusk, she flirts with Twilight.
When the noise of day dies away, the Night and Twilight stay and stay, making quiet love up high over the town.
And the gentle Twilight gives his light, making a queen of Night.

If I could, I would write a sonnet of the night as a remembrance of your eyes.

And, if you'd promise not to tell, I could whisper the words in the dark, like a lover.
We could count the stars - the shooting stars - and talk of lovers through the ages who had lived out of their dreams.
Such will and courage they needed to live in a dream; to burn, with every breath so serene - as if they had been the first to find love at all - like Night and Twilight.
(They were the first of lovers ever.)
Could we be like them - hold on to one another until dawn comes?
Then, we'll fly off and dream until Night and Twilight kiss again....

Lily swallowed, trying not to think about the words of the song. She looked with concern at Sirius, who seemed to be thoroughly consumed by concentrating on the dance steps. And then this made her frown. "When did you learn to dance?" she asked suddenly; she'd been planning to ask him whether he was all right, as she'd wanted to make sure Remus was all right, but somehow she had a feeling he would brush off her concern with a flippant remark. Which he probably would have. It was his way.

"That's my other surprise, besides having joined the ranks of the gainfully employed," he grinned. The song ended and suddenly the same song was being played again--but with a pounding four-four beat, and suddenly, he was whirling her around the floor even more vigorously, and as she struggled to keep pace, Lily dropped her jaw, realizing who he was trying to resemble.

"Oh, my god! I get it now! You're--you've been seduced by disco!" she proclaimed, shocked. Sirius just grinned and spun her round expertly, looking remarkably like the actor who had appeared in that disco film, who even also had a small chin dimple...

He laughed as he moved effortlessly. "It's where all of the birds are right now, you know. The clubs, the discos. I'm a big hit with them..."

She laughed as she moved in tandem with him, catching on to some of the moves he was doing now. Her training had helped her lose some of her physical awkwardness, although she knew she would never be mistaken for a ballerina. But she found that she was having fun dancing with Sirius, and she reckoned it was good exercise, too.

"I understand going to the clubs and dancing," she said, growing breathless as they moved, "but why the medallion with the scales? Afraid you'll forget when you were born?" she grinned.

"Nah. All the Muggles are wearing things like this. Helps me blend in."

She nodded and they continued dancing to the driving beat, although she could see that James was looking rather anxious as he stood at the edge of the dance floor.

Remus also watched them, twirling a glass of champagne between taking sips from it. He'd meant to be honest with Lily, of all people, and he hadn't been able to. He felt like kicking himself. He should be able to tell her, at least, about Emil. Telling his mates about seeing a man was no easy thing; he dreaded the inevitable questions about whether he'd ever been attracted to them. If the answer had been 'no' he wouldn't have feared the question quite so much, but if he said that he'd have been lying. He remembered very vividly the many times he'd been closer than was wise to one of them prior to the full moon, especially when they were waiting for moonrise, which he felt couldn't happen soon enough, so that he'd be in his wolf form and they in their Animagi forms...

But now he thought about why he hadn't told Lily. She was the first girl he'd ever been with. Correction, he thought. The first person I was ever with. She would wonder whether his having a boyfriend now, instead of a girlfriend, had anything to do with her, whether it was her fault (as though there was any "blame" about it). He didn't want to deal with that any more than he wanted to deal with the lads wondering whether, every time he'd seen them undressed, he was imagining touching them....

He sighed and took another sip of champagne as Sirius and Lily continued to dance. No, he just wasn't ready to come clean about seeing Emil. To anyone. Any more than he wanted to shout from the rooftops that he was a werewolf....

Suddenly, he noticed the time and nudged Peter, standing near him, with his elbow. "We have to go soon," he told him. "You haven't danced with Lily yet. You should pry her away from Sirius before it's time."

Peter looked up at him, surprised. Remus looked back at him guilelessly, not realizing that Peter had been thinking about what was going to happen at the new moon, in a fortnight.

He was going to get the Mark.

The thought made him weak, and yet when the faceless Death Eater who'd ordered him to get rid of the Weasley girls congratulated him on a job well done, he'd also felt a swell of pride. The Cruciatus Curse hadn't been used on him; instead, he'd received an unexpected payment: two hundred Galleons. He was shocked, not having expected anything. Afterward, he was uncertain whether he should keep it. Even though he hadn't really killed the girls, it was blood money. But then, somehow, the money started spending itself. Some new clothes, a nice meal out here and there...Before long, he found himself wondering what he could do next to merit another similar windfall. Surely it wouldn't be too bad, he thought. After all, he'd managed to earn this by giving two girls whose lives were in danger new homes and safety. Any time any guilt crept into his mind for what he'd done, he quashed it firmly. They'd be dead if it wasn't for me, he reminded himself. I saved their bloody lives and found them a new home.

He nodded to Remus, feeling more confident about approaching Lily. He tried not to think about her being an Auror, a person who hunted down Death Eaters, which was what he was about to become. She was still his Lily. Somehow, his mind managed to separate these things into neat little boxes that had nothing to do with each other. So I'm going to be initiated as a Death Eater, he thought. It doesn't mean I'm a bad person. Whatever I'm told to do--if it's very bad, I'll just find another way to make it seem that I've done it, like with the Weasley girls...

He went to the conductor and whispered instructions to him, then approached Sirius and Lily as the song ended.

"M-may I have this dance?" he said nervously, damning himself for stuttering. God, she looks so beautiful! he thought, in awe of her, even though she would have been appalled if she had a handy mirror; dancing with Sirius had caused half her hair to fall down and her upper lip was perspiring. Her chest was heaving with each breath, and Peter tried very hard not to watch as her breasts rose and fell, rose and fell. As the song Peter had requested started, she smiled at him and held out her arms.

"Of course, Peter. After that, I reckon I need something a little slower. That was great fun, Sirius!" she said over her shoulder, grinning, as he smiled back at her and just happened to capture Cecilia in his arms; Sirius was never long without a partner.

Only you can make this world seem right
Only you can make the darkness bright
Only you and you alone
Can thrill me like you do
And fill my heart with love for only you
Only you can make this change in me
For it's true you are my destiny....

Peter closed his eyes as he held her and they swayed together, wondering if she suspected that the words of the song expressed his feelings for her. He could almost imagine, for a brief moment in time, that he was the one who had married her, that this was their wedding reception, that she was going to be in his bed that night, and every night thereafter...

When you hold my hand I understand
The magic that you do
You're my dream come true
My one and only you
Only you can make this world seem right
Only you can make the darkness bright
Only you and you alone
Can thrill me like you do
And fill my heart with love for only you
Only you can make this change in me
For it's true you are my destiny
When you hold my hand I understand
The magic that you do
You're my dream come true
My one and only you

"Peter? Peter!"

"Hmm?" he said, opening his eyes slowly.

"The song is over. Thank you for the dance. I think Sirius and Remus are trying to get your attention. It seems to be time for the three of you to go," she said, nodding at where the two of them were waving their arms at the edge of the dance floor.

Then, unexpectedly, she leant toward him and brushed her lips lightly across his cheek. "Thank you for everything, Peter. And also, thank you for being with Remus tonight. I'm glad he won't be alone again in that dreadful Ministry cell. I've seen them. You're such a good friend," she added, putting her hand on his cheek fondly. Peter turned bright red and leant toward her to kiss her quickly.

"Congratulations, Lily," he said hoarsely. "I know you and James will be very happy." The words had almost stuck in his throat, but he managed to get them out. She smiled at him and took his hands in hers.

"Thank you, Peter," she said again. "Have a good night. And we'll see you all here tomorrow morning, for the wedding breakfast, right? Before seeing us off on our trip?"

He nodded, trying not to think about seeing her after she'd spent her first night with James Potter as his wife (even though he knew it wasn't the first time they'd spent the night together) and finally tore himself away from her. James was standing with Remus and Sirius now, at the edge of the dance floor. They were discussing Sirius' dancing prowess.

"I thought I was hallucinating..." James said incredulously, shaking his head.

Remus guffawed. "That's because at all other times in the past he always seemed to have two left feet. How much practicing did that take?"

Sirius looked offended. "It's rather simple, really. And you'll note that I wasn't the only one out there. A load of Muggles guests were dancing as well. It's everywhere these days."

James grinned at the three of them. "Well, I can't thank you blokes enough. You're the best mates anyone's ever had," he said slapping Remus and Peter on the arm and wrapping his arm around Sirius' neck and pretending to try to strangle him good-naturedly. "I almost wish I could be out running with the three of you tonight, under the moon...haven't done that for ages..."

Remus laughed again. "Don't let Lily hear you say that. This is your wedding night. Speaking of which, if you decide to bow out, it looks like there's someone who wouldn't mind stepping in for you..." He'd meant to sound lighthearted about it, but he wasn't sure that came across; even to his own ears, there was an edge of resentment in his voice.

"What on earth are you talking about?" James whirled, looking in the direction where Remus had nodded.

Someone else was dancing with Lily now.

It was Severus Snape.

"What that bastard doing here?" Peter demanded indignantly.

"Want me to deal with him, James?" Sirius asked. "Let him know what we do with gate-crashers?"

James put a restraining hand on his arm, but reluctantly. "He's not a gate-crasher. He was invited." His three friends could tell it cost him a great effort to say this.

"What?" they said in unison.

"You must be barking," Sirius said, ever the non-judgmental one.

"It was Lily's idea. According to her, we have Snape to thank for us. She reckons that if he didn't have the self-respect to refuse to be mistreated by her any more, they'd still be together, making each other miserable, and we wouldn't have found each other..."

"You're damn right he'd be making her miserable," Sirius agreed. "Mistreated! When did she--"

"It's none of your business," James said suddenly. Sirius took note of the dangerous tone in his voice suddenly. James was usually smiling and laughing, but when he looked like that, you didn't go on joking and laughing. You took it seriously.

"Erm, right. Well okay, then. We'll be off. We'll see you back here at breakfast. Have a good night," Sirius added, winking and nudging James in the ribs, making him wince and then grin. He sent them off with slaps on the back, then turned back to watch his bride dance with Severus Snape.

She was looking down and away as they danced, not meeting his eyes as the singer crooned the sad, sad words...

Darling, I'm so blue without you
I think about you the live-long day
When you ask me if I'm lonely
Then I only have this to say

You'll never know just how much I miss you
You'll never know just how much I care
And if I tried, I still couldn't hide my love for you
You ought to know, for haven't I told you so
A million or more times?

You went away and my heart went with you
I speak your name in my ev'ry prayer
If there is some other way to prove that I love you
I swear I don't know how
You'll never know if you don't know now

You'll never know just how much I miss you
You'll never know just how much I care
You said good-bye, no stars in the sky refuse to shine
Take it from me, it's no fun to be alone
With moonlight and memories

When the song was over, she looked up at him; she'd forgotten how tall he was. She had to tip her head back to see his face--and she was almost as tall as James. He looked like a stranger in Muggle formal clothes; a sad, forlorn stranger. "Thank you for coming, Severus. I--I wanted you to know--"

"That's all right, Lily," he said, interrupting her. "You don't need to say anything." They'd otherwise been silent while dancing. He just wanted the one dance with her; that was enough. When he heard what the singer was pronouncing, he wished he'd gone to the conductor with a request, like other people, but he didn't know any Muggle songs and wouldn't know what to ask for. He'd managed not to wince at the words of the song, hoping she didn't think he was still pining after her, but unsure whether he really was over her at the same time....

"Severus," she started to say into the silence between songs; she was unsure of what else she might say. Inviting him had seemed like a good idea at the time...

"Snape."

They both turned at the same time, finding James standing at Lily's elbow. The tall Slytherin nodded at the groom.

"Potter. Congratulations," he managed to choke out, feeling bile rise in his throat.

"Thank you," James answered, just as stiffly. "I came to retrieve my bride," he said then, wishing he could take back the words as soon as he said them; he sounded insufferably possessive and he'd be lucky if Lily didn't give him a piece of her mind.

Snape gave a slight bow and said, "Good evening," turning to go. Lily put her hand on his arm.

"You haven't kissed the bride," she said softly, looking up at him with those incredible eyes.

He swallowed, then leaned down to brush his lips across her soft cheek. Pulling back, he recalled all of those times when they were together and he dreamt of marrying her some day. He knew that on the day he looked down at her, attired as a bride, she would look as beautiful and radiant as this. He just didn't know that his heart was going to be aching so badly, and that he would be filled with remorse...

"Goodbye, Lily," he said, not acknowledging James this time. He turned and retreated to the small tent that had been set up especially for witches and wizards to use as a safe Apparition point. A burly wizard with auburn hair was standing outside the tent, smoking a cigarette absentmindedly, keeping Muggles from wandering into the off-limits space. Severus didn't recognize him and wondered whether he was one of Potter's teammates on the Magpies. Trust Potter to land a spot on the single most successful Quidditch team in League history...

"Leaving?" the wizard asked him. Severus tried not to breathe in the smoke the other man was exhaling.

"Yes. I'm Apparating to London, if it's all the same to you."

The wizard nodded at him and Severus stepped into the tent, preparing to go directly to Platform Nine and Three Quarters to meet Crouch's train. He'd succeeded in befriending Barty Crouch, Junior the previous summer, before the end of the term, as per Lucius Malfoy's instructions. It had been surprisingly easy, as the boy was rather starved for friendship. He was one of the most sarcastic people Severus Snape had ever met--apart from himself. From what he could tell, this caused most of the Ravenclaws to rather distance themselves from him and his caustic remarks. Standing about making snide comments about other people was something that Severus Snape did very well, and the two were soon doing this together quite a lot, and then meeting up during the holiday.

His uncle was gratified that he actually seemed to have a friend now and didn't work him too hard when Crouch was visiting. He was also pleasantly surprised that his friend was a Ravenclaw, as that was Duncan MacDermid's school house, and that his dad was a respected Ministry official. "Now that's the sort of fraind ye shood-a bin makin' fer the last saiven years, Saiverus..." his uncle had said approvingly.

The three of them had gone sailing on the Firth of Clyde, on the Patricia. Crouch was sometimes resistant to pulling his weight, but when a rope wrapped itself around his ankle and he was pulled overboard, or a boom swung into him, sending him flying, he soon learned to pay attention, and was even learning to trim the sails and do some complicated sailor's knots.

Now Crouch was done sixth year and he was going to be spending the entire summer with Severus and his uncle. His father evidently didn't care that he hadn't seen his son in a while; he was far too busy with work to fret over that, and had told his wife that it was good that "young Barty" finally had a friend. Severus sighed, pausing before Apparating to King's Cross. One year down, one to go. Hopefully, he wouldn't need to associate much with Crouch after the younger boy was out of school. Malfoy had said he had two years to "cultivate" him. Well, he was doing his best to get Crouch to trust him....

James looked at Lily with concern; she was still looking at where Snape had gone, to the Apparition tent. "Lily?" he whispered. "Dance?"

She turned to him suddenly, looking like she'd just woken up. "Oh, yes, James. Of course..."

The orchestra had started playing one of her favorite songs, and she smiled at James as they held each other closely.

"I know this one, too," he said to her softly. "Mum and Dad liked it. I didn't hear much Muggle music at home, but Dad was always singing this one to Mum." He sang softly in her ear, along with the singer on the dais...

It had to be you, it had to be you,
I wandered around an' finally found
Somebody who
Could make me be true
Could make me be blue
And even be glad, just to be sad, thinkin' of you,
Some others I've seen
Might never be mean
Might never be cross, or try to be boss,
But they wouldn't do
For nobody else gave me a thrill,
With all your faults, I love you still,
It had to be you, wonderful you, it had to be you!

"What faults?" Lily laughed, grinning up at him.

"Oh, I don't know," he said, feeling the melancholy from the Snape-encounter lift. "Not kissing me enough while we're dancing, perhaps," he breathed softly against her mouth, before pressing his lips tightly against hers and gently opening his mouth. The singer went on without him:

Some others I've seen
Might never be mean
Might never be cross, or try to be boss,
But they wouldn't do
Nobody else gave me a thrill,
With all your faults, I love you still,
It had to be you, wonderful you, it had to be you!
It just had to be you!

The rest of the reception seemed to go very fast. Lily threw her bouquet from the steps of the inn before they two of them went inside and up to their room. James opened the door and picked her up to carry her inside, and the moment the door was closed it seemed that they were hungrily ripping off each other's clothes...

Afterward, lying together on the cool sheets wearing nothing at all, feeling a breeze wafting in the open window and watching the full moon drift in and out through the clouds, James looked down into Lily's face and marveled that they were here, on their wedding night, that they were married and need never again fear her father finding them in her bed in the morning, or sneaking around the house in his Invisibility Cloak...They were husband and wife and together forever.

"What are you thinking?" he whispered to her.

She looked surprised, then pensive. "Oh, just--maybe we should have invited Bill Weasley. Even though we don't know him all that well, and we'd have had to invite his parents, whom we don't know at all, because they probably wouldn't have let their fifteen-year-old son travel all by himself in the current climate..."

"You're thinking of those girls again, aren't you?" James said softly, brushing her hair out of her face. She mentioned the Weasley girls often; it haunted her that they hadn't been able to find the two little girls, with all of the resources of the Ministry of Magic. She nodded sadly.

"I'm sorry. I just--it's so sad...I don't know what I'd ever do if we had children and something like that happened--" He saw a tear roll down her cheek and he kissed it away.

"Now, now, Lily. You've got it all out of order, as Sirius would say. Have the children first, then start worrying about them..." He gave her a small smile, trying to gently coax her from her little mood.

She sat up and stroked his chest thoughtfully. "Are you saying--" She let her hand trail further down and slowly closed her hand around him, making him gasp.

"Um, no, I'm not saying that. I mean--we just got married--"

She moved her hand some more. "Thank you for reminding me. This is our wedding night, after all. I believe there are certain things we should be attending to..."

James gasped again, then sighed. Suddenly, she let out a yelp as he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her up for a long, leisurely kiss. "I believe you're right, Mrs. Potter. There are certain approved activities for a wedding night, and getting maudlin or doing too much planning for the future are not on the list of approved activities."

She grinned down at him. "I am Mrs. Potter now, aren't I? How funny. It works very well, actually, doesn't it? Lily Potter. I like it."

"I don't," he answered promptly, very adamantly.

She frowned. "What?" Suddenly, he turned them over, so that she was lying under him and he was propped up on his arms above her.

"I love it," he whispered huskily to her before lowering his mouth to hers again, and soon they were engaged in the chief approved activity for wedding nights everywhere...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Notes: The music referenced in this chapter included--

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (from the musical "Pal Joey"), music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Lorenz Hart
Blue Moon, also by Rodgers and Hart
As Time Goes By, lyrics and music by Herman Hupfeld
It Had to Be You (from the 1944 Hollywood musical "Show Business"), music by Isham Jones and lyrics by Gus Kahn, 1924, 1944
Moonlight Serenade, music by Glenn Miller and lyric by Kurt Elling
Only You by The Platters
You'll Never Know (From the 20th Century-Fox Picture "Hello, Frisco, Hello"), by Dick Haymes with The Song Spinners (Mack Gordon & Harry Warren)

Thanks to George Hobbes and SadieSue for beta reading. Thanks also to everyone who commented on Chapter Eleven!


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