Chapter 21: Motorcycles, Marauders, and Magus

The two riders jumped nimbly off the motorcycle and walked towards them but they hadn't gone far before they were surrounded by the other teenagers, eager to see Sirius' new flying motorcycle. Lily followed more reluctantly.

'It's amazing, Sirius!' Jenny enthused 'It looks just like my Uncle's old Triumph Bonville. His couldn't fly though...'

'Yeah, well, it's an old model,' Sirius said, looking slightly crestfallen 'I can't afford anything more modern, under present circumstances. But look –' he took his wand out of his jeans pocket, shook back his long black hair, and bent over the sidecar, poking the clamping mechanism a few times with his wand. With a clunk, the Sidecar separated from the motorcycle.

'For greater aerodynamic speed and manoeuvrability' James Potter continued, climbing onto of the motorcycle 'This way it's as fast as a broomstick.'

'Can travel in dual mode, unlike a broomstick,' Sirius grinned 'So it'll pass unnoticed in Muggle traffic and yet soar like the best Cleansweeps or Nimbus, when you want it to. Oh - hello, Mr Walker.'

'Hello, Sirius. Your bike just crashed through all my protective enchantments. What in Merlin's name have you done to that thing?'

'A few modifications...'

'Speed enhancement spells; Levitation and Flying Spells; a nifty little Hovering Charm; –' James Potter offered.

'Okay, okay – I see I'll have to add flying Muggle motorcycles to my list of repelling spells!' Mr Walker shook his head in amused disbelief.

'Well we were kind of hoping to take everyone for a spin before you do that – it's a completely different sensation to riding a broom!' Potter interjected, getting off the bike.

Mr Walker found himself the object of some very pleading looks from everyone present, especially Mary and Jenny.

He sighed resignedly and turned to go. 'Alright then, but don't go beyond the treeline - I don't want to have my intruder alarm blazing every few minutes!'

There were squeals of delight from the girls as everyone wanted first turn on the bike. Lily thought that the real attraction for Jenny and Mary was riding pillion with the handsome Sirius Black!

Riding pillion was something she, Lily, had only done once – and it was on a broomstick with Severus. She frowned, her mind automatically shying away from those thoughts. She was becoming better at it. The two Crups were nosing the strange metallic beast curiously, wondering whether it would roar into life again. One of them lifted its leg up against the wheel but was sent yelping away by some sparks from Frank Longbottom's wand as the teenagers crowded once more round the motorcycle.

'A penny for your thoughts?'

James Potter had come up to where she was still standing a bit apart from the rest and his hazel eyes looked concerned behind his round spectacles.

'Oh – I –I wasn't thinking about anything,' she stammered 'Er...nice bike. Really.'

'That motorcycle –' James said, grinning as he watched Mary MacDonald sit down in the seat behind Sirius and wrap her arms tightly about his chest as the machine revved into life ' – is Sirius Black's true love. Girls take second place. For now at least.'

Lily smiled as she heard Mary's excited squeals and Sirius' barking laughter overhead 'Are you sure?'

'Well, okay, girls come a very close second to the bike...'

She shook her head with a wry smile. 'For the love of a metallic beast, so many broken hearts are left behind in its exhaust-laden wake….'

'Well, yeah – but Sirius is having a rough time this summer. Some fun'll do him good.'

'Is it true then? I heard he's severed ties with his family.'

'I heard he ran away from home,' Frank came up and had been listening in, looking serious.

'Sirius'll be fine,' James said, emphatically 'He's living at my house now – makes it easier to get up to mischief together,' he grinned, but then his smile faded. 'But yeah, life hasn't been easy for old Padfoot.'

'Is there no hope for reconciliation then?' Lily asked.

James shook his head. 'Nope. The whole family are close-minded, pure-blood supporters of you-know-who, and the mother, especially, is a rabid elitist. She called Sirius some pretty obscene things a mother should never call her son, and now he wants nothing more to do with her or the rest of them.'

'That's tough, mate.' Frank said, frowning.

James shrugged. 'Sirius seems happier. Anyway, an uncle of his - you know old Alphard, the eccentric? He's promised him some gold, so Padfoot will get his own place soon.'

The motorcycle roared into a stop and Mary got off looking excited and windswept. Sirius held out his hand with a gallant gesture to Jenny, who took it eagerly and hopped on behind him.

'D'you think Sirius'll let me take Alice for a spin?' Frank asked James. 'Is it difficult to learn to ride that thing?'

'Not once it's airborne. But it takes some getting used to on the ground. Don't worry – Sirius'll teach you. He'd love nothing better than putting that beast through its paces!'

'Really? Great! Oh - here they come now. I'll ask him!' And Frank moved off to wait until the motorcycle landed.

'So – do you know how to ride that bike?' Lily asked, feeling suddenly awkward, for James Potter was looking at her appraisingly.

'I do, now – with Padfoot's obsession, we've been practically living on that thing! But I'm more of a broomstick man, if you know what I mean.'

'I had no doubt.' Lily made as if to join the others.

'It's ok – I'm not going to bore you with Quidditch talk!' James said hastily, moving as though to stop her.

'I wasn't ... I mean, I didn't-' Lily flushed in confusion. James had probably realised she was trying to avoid him. 'Why should Quidditch talk bore me?'

'Many girls don't like it. They just pretend to like it when they're going out with you,' James said with a rueful smile, 'It's very flattering, but it does tend to give you a fat head – you know, the one that makes it difficult for your broomstick to get off the ground!'

Lily looked at him sharply, but he wasn't angry or being sarcastic. He was smiling, and there was a twinkle in his eyes as he echoed her words from over a year ago.

'Many girls pretend lots of other stuff too, for one reason or another. Makes you think you're the bee's knees,' James continued, turning to face her, with a quizzical look on his face, 'You're very different, Lily.'

'Is that a compliment, or an insult?'

'Definitely a compliment. Listen, there's something I want to ask you –'

'Look, James, I –' she started, shifting uncomfortably.

'No – listen: what I wanted to ask you was whether you received the Owl from Hogwarts.'

'The one with the exam results? Yes, I did – no spectacular results, but I passed in all my subjects.'

'Not that owl. The one that came a few hours ago. You must have just missed it.'

'This morning? How d'you know I had an owl?'

'Because I received a letter from Hogwarts too, and it mentioned the fact that you should be getting a similar one.'

She looked at him blankly.

'It must be on its way here, but I can tell you what's in the letter it's carrying, if you want.' James spoke with a boyish eagerness that suited him much better than his usual overconfident boastfulness.

'Why, what's in it?'

'You've been made Headgirl!' James said with a broad grin. 'I thought you would've guessed,' he added, seeing her astounded look.

She shook her head mutely. Her mind had been on other things for months.

'Hang on- when you said you had a similar letter, did you mean...?' she started.

He nodded meaningfully.

'Oh ...uh… great, James! Congratulations are in order, I guess. But I thought ... well, are you pleased about it? You weren't, about being a Prefect.'

'Goes to show you know me better than I know myself. Turns out I have a natural talent for ordering people around... but well, seriously - they must've dithered for ages over picking me as Headboy with my detention-riddled track record, and very short spell as Prefect. That's why the owls came so late.'

'They could've been dithering over me.'

'Nah – they've had your name down as Headgirl since you became Prefect! In fact, I'm pretty sure even Slughorn would've put in a good word for you, even over his own Slytherin Prefects.'

'I'm not quite sure I appreciate that. I didn't know.'

'Well, you do seem a bit out of things recently, ever since -'

'I'm fine,' she replied hastily, steering the conversation away from herself and what happened a few months ago on a Scottish mountain, 'I just never bothered about Prefects, or being a Head Girl, because Alice had been Prefect before she resigned.'

'Like Remus.'

Lily glanced at him sharply. He looked uncomfortable, almost guilty. Well, perhaps, he should be. Remus had told her he'd resigned because he couldn't fulfil his duties properly with his incapacitating lycanthropy taking over his life every month. But Lily suspected that there was something else. When the Marauders' wilder antics had ended up with people getting hurt, Remus had borne the brunt of the responsibility on himself for not stopping their excesses (though he had managed to curb them sometimes). She knew this had been long troubling him.

'How's Remus?' she asked.

'Would've been here, if it wasn't for his furry little problem. But that means he'll be fine for the start of school term. Peter's on holiday with his Mum and some distant cousins, or he would've been here too. I guess the Marauders will have to wait till September to re-unite. ' James grinned, and Lily thought that his upbeat attitude to his friend's Lycanthropy was, in a way, exactly what Remus needed. Without it, she felt sure Remus would beat himself over the head with it far more than he did already.

'I still wish Remus was Prefect,' James continued, in a low voice.

Lily glanced at him, surprised.

'You did a good job last term, once you put your mind to it.'

'Yeah, well... Prefect, perhaps, but I don't know about this Head Boy lark... After all, you are the reason why they've had to pick me.'

'What?! How come?'

'As I said, you've been targeted for the post long ago, but as for me... You see, traditionally the Headboy and Head girl come from the same House, so they've had to choose me, though apparently, they've dithered a lot about it.'

'Are you sure? When we were in second year, we had a Hufflepuff and a Gryffindor as Head Boy and girl.'

'Yeah, well … there are some exceptions, but usually they come from the same house. I suppose the idea behind it is that they would be a couple who worked best together.' James glanced sideways at her. Something about his unusually serious expression made her feel suddenly uncomfortable.

'I'm – I'm sure they've picked you on your own merits, James,' she said, not quite wanting to meet his steady gaze 'I think you did very well in the end as a Prefect. Dumbledore must've been impressed, otherwise he wouldn't have chosen you. In the end, it's his decision on who is Head Boy or Girl, isn't it?'

James nodded slowly, his eyes never leaving her face. 'Perhaps it is. Last time I was in trouble and hauled to his office, Dumbledore told me he believes in giving people second chances... and well, perhaps... so should you.'

She looked up quickly when he said this. He was still looking at her steadily but there was no mistaking the faintly-pleading look in his eyes. And Lily suspected he wasn't talking about his eligibility for the post of Prefect or Headboy. She froze to the spot, not sure what to say – she didn't want to hurt his feelings, especially now that he was making some effort not to be his usual arrogant self ... especially now, after Magus' revelation ...

Look OOOOOut!' A sudden cry made them both look round in time to see Sirius' motorcycle hurtle towards them. Frank Longbottom wobbled precariously on its seat before swerving violently to one side. James, quick as a flash, cast a Cushioning Charm before the unfortunate Frank hit the gravel. Lily reacted a second later, and sent a Freezing Charm over the motorcycle, stopping its spinning wheels and roaring engine dead.

'You ok?' Lily asked, offering her hand. Frank took it and got to his feet.

'I'm fine – but that Muggle contraption is wild! Hey – I didn't break it, did I?'

James was examining the bike. He shook his head. 'Not as much as a scratch to the paintwork, thanks to Lily. Where's everybody? And what in Merlin's name possessed you to ride it alone, Frank?'

'It's Muggle – how hard can it be?' Frank was still looking at it as though he couldn't believe his eyes.

'You, Frank Longbottom , are a Pureblood and make the same mistake all Purebloods do: you underestimate Muggles and their inventions,' James told him with a grim smile, as he wheeled the motorcycle back to the path 'I spent half this summer on my arse being thrown off by this brute, before I realised that. I don't even know how to ride a bicy-cycle! All Muggle children by the age of seven, know how to ride that!'

'Uh... yeah, well, I'll keep that in mind. Alice dragged Sirius in to look at the Duelling Rooms so I thought I'd have a go while they're busy. I thought it couldn't be harder than riding a broom.'

'It isn't. It's just ...different.' James was looking at her and for one panicked moment she thought he would ask her to go for a ride with him.

She didn't want to. Not with James. And truthfully – not with anyone, right now. But James' attention had been suddenly drawn to a small speck high in the sky. Lily followed his gaze and recognised the smooth gliding flight of an owl.

'Well, I guess the owl finally found you', James said, turning towards her.

At that moment, the others came back out of the house chattering and laughing noisily.

'I think it's time to tell the rest the good news,' James said, wheeling the motorcycle near the sidecar. 'For better or for worse, might as well celebrate while we can.'

The owl banked and dived towards her, settling with a silent flapping of wings on the motorcycle handles. In its beak was a letter with the Hogwarts Crest.

His breath smelt of stale beer and vomit. He had his unshaven face pushed up close to his, and bleary eyes glared at him belligerently, their once-sharp blue clouded, red-veined and tinged with the first signs of jaundice. Severus resisted the urge to turn his face away, for he couldn't stand offensive smells, but instead, he gazed at his father levelly, becoming calmer just as his father grew more angry. He knew this would infuriate him even more.

The tip of the black ebony wand hovered menacingly between them.

'Yer muther isn't 'ere to interfere 'n save yer foockin, useless arse! An I'll give yer what fer, if ye wave that bloody stick in my face! Yer not s'posed ta use it outa tha' freak school o yourn!'

His father knew some wizarding rules, but not all.

'I can now. I'm seventeen and that means I'm of age. And I go out whenever I want.'

'Why, you –!' His father lunged forward, raising his fist, but tripped over a footstool he was too drunk to see, and flew sprawling across the living room floor.

Severus backed out towards the kitchen, looking with disgust at his father's wasted frame struggling helplessly to get up off the floor. It would take him ages, in his state. Better not risk hexing him – he would probably drink himself into a greater stupor afterwards, and his mum would have to bear the brunt of it. It had been like this all summer. Exactly like the previous summer. Nothing seemed to have changed in the Snape household – it seemed as though it was frozen for all time in hate-riddled squalor.

He had practically always been allowed to come and go as he pleased from Spinner's End. (Actually, rather than 'allowed', as a child, he had been ignored and neglected enough to be able to escape to other quieter, but just as squalid, places). When Lily had walked into his life, he had had another option, and previously unpretentious locations had been rendered suddenly beautiful - like their spot by the river.

That was all gone now. However, there was a small silver lining in all this. Now, for the first time in his life at Spinner's End, he could escape to better places anytime he wanted, far away from Cokeworth. He was no longer confined to his bedroom in a haze of bored hatred for everything around him, resorting to shooting down flies in frustration...

Sometimes, he would take the old broom he had stolen from Hogwarts, but mostly he preferred the neat, clean efficiency of apparition. His continuous disappearances worried his mother, for he refused to say where he was going, and they angered his father, who thought he should stay home and find a summer job, but he felt restless anywhere in Cokeworth, where every familiar street, building and park reminded him of her and what summer had once meant for both of them.

His rebelliousness caused his father to rant and rave that no freak son of his was going to flout his authority, even though it should have been abundantly clear, even to his drink-addled mind, that he could do nothing about it now. But Tobias Snape had a mule-headed pride, a remnant characteristic of his upbringing, that would not allow him to back down, or bow down to who was clearly his superior. He had stood up to dark wizards, the Karkaroffs, one day, and the resulting Cruciatus torture had broken him. It had driven him over the edge and from that point, it had been a fast downhill spiral for Tobias Snape.

He pushed those thoughts from his mind, for they were guilt-ridden, and it was easier pitying his father, rather than feeling guilty over what happened.

He walked into the kitchen, noting the disarray of dirty dishes, empty bottles and a greasy cauldron in a corner. His mother, never a proud housewife, had lapsed into increasingly desperate slovenliness these past couple of years, her mind occupied by her husband's health. She was secretly slipping magic potion into his food now, because Tobias Snape didn't trust it anymore. Severus could never understand why she was trying to keep him alive – sometimes he thought it was just to have someone to fight with – or else perhaps it was a way of assuring herself that she was still alive.

With a sigh, Severus waved his wand, tidying up as much as he could and even set the plates to washing themselves, before the sound of expletives and moving chairs told him his father had finally found his feet and was heading for the kitchen.

He calmly walked out of the kitchen back door into the small yard behind the house, where his mother's protective spells were not active, and dissapparated into the cool, dusk air.

He welcomed the squeezing sensation of disapparition because it forcefully cleared the rancid smell and air out of his lungs, and when he finally was able to breathe again, it was the chilly but clean smell of woodland.

He looked at a large oak tree nearby. It was called, incongruously enough, the Trysting Tree by the Rosier family: an ancient oak, at the edge of the sprawling Rosier estates. It had a huge, thick trunk with rune-signs carved into its bark, and its arthritic branches were twisted and gnarled. Some of them were actually leaning downwards to rest on the ground again, with the weight of their years. A shadow detached itself from behind the tree-trunk.

He clasped his wand tightly, for the Rosier clan were notoriously trigger-happy with their wands.

'I thought you weren't coming,' Evan Rosier moved out of the shadow of the tree and Severus could see the faint outline of his face beneath the hooded cloak he wore.

'I'm actually early, Evan,' Severus answered, laconically.

'D'you get the potion?'

Severus pulled at a thin silver chain round his neck and drew a small crystal phial from around his neck.

'Good,' Rosier answered 'Now let's get going. We need to be back by midnight or mother will smell a rat. I don't want my whole family tracking us.'

'I'm ready.'

'Wait a sec –'' Evan darted under the Trysting Tree once more and pointed his wand at its thick grey bark.

'Flagrate!' he whispered, and a thin pencil of fire from his wand drew a strange symbol on its trunk.

Severus made a mental note to ask him what he had magically graffitied, for Rosier came running out from beneath the tree, nodded a signal to him, and dissapparated, his pale face beneath the hood disappearing into the gathering darkness.

Severus put his hand on the wand in his belt and turned round on the spot, making sure he never took his hand off his wand. He might need it where he was going.

She was running wildly in and out of a whole forest of Standing Stones but she couldn't get away - His eyes were following her : white, glowing, pupil-less orbs with bloody tears leaking out of them to trail down the wrinkles of his old face.

'You have been touched by the Spirit of the Forest,' Mendrick's dry, scratchy voice said 'You have the same golden aura, and only through you can the world be saved from a never-ending war!'

Her heart was hammering in her chest, but she didn't want Mendrick near her – she didn't want to go through that hellish experience again! She hid behind a Standing Stone and threw her arms over her head as though that would prevent her from being Possessed or whatever the voices in her head had meant!

'It's your destiny to save us all...' Mendrick had reappeared in front of her, gnarled and twisted with age like the old bone-dry tree he had turned into when she first met him. His eyes were no longer oozing blood, or glowing, but they were still looking at her fixedly, accusingly.

This was all wrong - Mendrick was dead!

'What the hell am I supposed to do?!' she shouted at Mendrick.

But the old wizard was transforming – the ragged robes and animal skins were gone, and someone very tall stood in his place: a dark-robed wizard, with a hood that threw his face into ominous shadow. Lily cringed and moved backwards as the tall, dark wizard took a silent step towards her, but at her back was the unyielding Menhir... the tall wizard came closer...the darkness beneath the hood turned towards her ... she knew that gliding walk, and she knew the evil menace that was beneath the hood...her heart pounding in her chest, she felt strangely helpless, almost paralysed... she could see the strange red eyes beneath the hood as Voldemort's thin lips twisted into a cruel smile ...and then there was a flash of green light.

She woke up suddenly, sitting up in bed – her heart still beating wildly and her breathing ragged. It was a dream – just a dream!

A nightmare! She struggled to untangle herself from her bedclothes and then lay back in bed, passing a shaky hand across her forehead.

It wasn't the first time.

Ever since she had got back from Ben Cόrhveinn, Mendrick haunted her dreams in confusing ways. Not only Mendrick, but Voldemort too. The first urging her to fulfil her destiny, and the latter menacing the far reaches of her mind.

The strange thing was that although Voldemort's recurring presence in her dreams was quite frightening, yet she did not find it so upsetting as Mendrick's words about 'saving' the wizarding world.

These words had haunted both her nights and her waking hours in the months that followed her adventure on the mountain. She felt she ought to do something about it, but didn't quite know what. But the longer she remained idle, the more people's lives were affected by the war.

It made her feel both uneasy and guilty. Her previous nonchalance and disbelief about the mysterious forces that could shape one's destiny had completely disappeared, to be replaced by a firm belief that such magic could, and did, exist. And if there was even the slimmest chance she could somehow turn the tides of war, then she had to find out how. The sense of urgency grew over the last two months at Hogwarts till finally she had hit upon the idea of asking Professor Magus.

Lily got up and walked to the window. The room Alice had given her was very small and it felt stuffy. All the rooms were small and Spartan in this wing of the sprawling Bungalow, for they were usually occupied by the students of the Walkers Duelling Academy during the school months, and there was none of the cosseted decor that she was used to at Hogwarts. A cool breeze blew in from the garden outside and a waxing moon peered fitfully from behind the clouds. She leaned her head against the open window, thankful for the cool wind against her forehead.

She was still in the dark about what she had to do. Professor Magus' words had left her as confused as ever, though his promise of help had given her some hope.

He had been very surprised to see her.

'Ms Evans, is it?' he said as she climbed into the dark circular room at the top of the North tower. 'How may I help you?'

The Divination classroom was just as dark and sepulchral as she remembered, with black curtains and drapes over everything, so that even the afternoon sun was shut out. The only lights were from softly-glowing glass orbs arranged on a shelf that ran round the room.

'I – I was wondering if you could ... help me decipher something, sir'

'Ah - you shouldn't have given up Divination, Miss Evans. Not you. I assume what you want me to decipher has to do with foretelling the future?'

'Sort of, sir'

She had felt the same unease as when she was still 13 years old and those large, protuberant eyes used to fix on her with a doom-laden gaze. She had grown taller than the stooped white-haired wizard since then, but the sense of foreboding that he instilled in her was the same.

'May I ask why the sudden change of heart? I had got the impression that you and your friend, Mr Snape, did not place much faith in Divination in spite of what the cards were clearly telling you.'

'Actually Sir, we never did find out what the Cards were telling us. You ... um... you never explained. '

'Ah yes – well, if you want me to, I will. You are of age now. I don't profess to remember all the spreads my students tell, but yours were ... unusual' The sad watery eyes were fixed on her once more, but suddenly Lily did not want to know – whatever the cards foretold of her future and that of Severus' could not be good. She did not need to hear the truth – she could see it quite plainly in Magus' sad eyes, and feel it in her own heart. And her heart had been bruised enough. She had to focus on what important now.

'Perhaps another time, Professor. What I came to ask you about actually concerns something else. Someone else. You see, a friend of mine was sort of foretold her future in these mysterious words and visions, and she can't understand what they mean...'

'Why doesn't your friend come to me herself, then?'

He didn't believe her. She wasn't too good at lying convincingly. She cast around for an excuse.

'Look Miss Evans, I can only interpret the future directly, and certainly not for third parties... if your friend cannot come -'

'Well, Sir – actually, the words were said to me, but I'd rather not say by whom they were said, or under what circumstances.'

'I hope this isn't about some boyfriend, Miss Evans?'

'No. No, Sir – of course not'

'I'm sorry for doubting you, but I've been bombarded far too often with requests for foretelling love and marriage from my female students. I suppose, you being a Prefect and all...'

'Professor Magus, I would never come for something so frivolous, I – '

'Oh - sometimes love is not frivolous, Miss Evans – if you were to believe your own Cards, love is a tumultuous, powerful force that can sweep everything in its path and endures the ravages of time and mortality... But you said that is not what you came for...'

The pale watery eyes were fixed on her again, and she hesitated, her mind snagging on the meaning of his words about her cards.

'Well…' she said finally 'It has to do with the War and the Spirit of the Forest-'

'The Spirit of the Forest? What's that?'

Magus was looking at her blankly, and she felt her hope sink. If he didn't know what the Spirit of the Forest was, how could he help her?

'It's a doe, Professor. Even Hagrid called her that.'

'Yes, I heard Professor Kettleburn refer to the deer in the Forbidden Forest that way too, but I have always assumed it was a figure of speech.'

'It's more than that. Much more.'

'Really? Hmmm, interesting – neither Kettleburn nor the Gamekeeper ever mentioned anything, and I have spoken to them often enough about both magical and non-magical animals in the forest.' But to her surprise, Magus did not dismiss her words immediately. He seemed intrigued, rather than disbelieving.

'They don't know anything either, Professor. I asked them, but like you, they think it just an expression or something.'

'You know, Miss Evans, deer have seldom appeared either as visions or as symbols during any of my students' various readings of the future, with one notable exception…'


'Well, Miss Evans, I should only discuss and interpret omens with that student about whom they were made… the Headmaster disapproves of it,' Magus frowned and a fleeting look of annoyance crossed his features 'Actually, the Headmaster disapproves of Divination in its entirety…he thinks my students should not know about the bad omens.'

'So this deer was a bad omen then?'

'I don't think so. At least, not this particular one. It was a magnificent Stag –'

'James Potter!'

'Oh – so he told you then? Well, it makes sense – with him being your co-Prefect now, everything is falling into place.'

'What d'you mean? And what does the Stag mean?'

'The Stag's symbolism is the one thing that I cannot interpret well. It has been appearing ever more often for Potter in whatever Divination method we are using – tea leaves, crystal gazing, Pyromancy….' Magus turned his large, sad watery eyes on her 'As for the rest of Mr Potter's readings….' He gave a prolonged sigh 'As you know, those are not good.'

Lily did NOT know , but she felt her face grow pale as she remembered vividly exactly why she had given up Divination in third year.

'But the future can be changed,' she said, with a note of desperation in her voice

'Not insomuch as you believe in it.'

'That's the second time someone told me that,' she retorted, a trifle irritated 'Anyway, James seems to be taking it well.'

Magus shrugged. 'Mr Potter is young and resilient. He also tends to discard and ignore the signs and omens that are unpleasant to him, and focus on the pleasing ones.'

'Oh – so there's some good ... er… Omens, then.'

'Of course, Miss Evans. It is not only doom and gloom, you know.'

Lily's eyebrows rose up, but she tried to keep her face straight, for Magus was continuing:

'It was foretold Mr Potter would pass through a time of great change. He has been my student for many years now and his future is getting clearer: I have seen a tri-partite fiery sword appear in his hands ever more frequently, when we do Pyromancy – readings made in fire or flames – it's a rare sign, but a very unmistakeable one: there are great and brave deeds in his future, for he is to challenge a great evil… Mr Potter likes this particular aspect of his future, of course – better than Quidditch champion, he says …' Magus ended, more prosaically.

But his next words made Lily's heart skip a beat:

'But I have seen other signs – signs Mr Potter is determined to ignore: I have seen the Grimm : not only in his tea leaves, but actually following him, like a black shadow, across the school grounds. Not once, but many times, over these last two years, for I am often out at night observing the signs in the heavens; I have also seen a crossed skull in Mr Potter's future; a single crow and a tear-shaped opal….. Oh, and I have seen a Doe. That is what I wanted to tell you.'

'A Doe?'

'Yes, it has appeared on occasion, together with the Stag, and in Pyromancy the creature always appears in a golden fire. I was wondering whether this deer has anything to do with the vision you saw – this 'Spirit of the Forest'.'

'I am thinking it just might,' Lily said, her voice barely above a whisper.

A hubbub of voices from the trapdoor below indicated that students were gathering for the afternoon lesson.

'I'll tell you what, Miss Evans,' Magus said, 'This summer I was planning a visit to an old friend of mine in Great Bedwyn village in Wiltshire. He lives near one of the oldest forests of England, the Savernake Forest, and is an expert on animal fortunetelling. If there is anyone who would know how to separate magical folklore from fact it would be him. Don't worry, we will get to the bottom of this. Come and see me in September – I will have an answer for you,'

That had been almost four months ago.

In a weeks' time it would be September and the start of her last year at Hogwarts. And Magus would finally shed some light on the meaning of the mysterious Doe. Mendrick had said it was an ancient spirit embodied in a doe, that was passed on from one generation to the next, but that didn't explain everything.

The cool night breeze from the open window fanned her face, but, as on many similar nights this summer, it hadn't calmed her jumbled thoughts, nor lulled her to sleep. She was thinking it must be close to three in the morning when a movement on the lawn outside caught her eye. Under the light of the waxing moon a large, dark, shadow of some animal loped silently across the lawn–but it was too big to be one of the Crups – anyway, the little dogs had been locked in the basement tonight.

Just then, the animal came to a stop and looked back towards the bungalow, its retinas burned brightly for a split second, then it was gone towards the woods at the back of the house. Lily's heat was pounding: it was a black wolf. She had seen it another time, fleetingly, on Ben Cόrhveinn , but had forgotten about it, given the extenuating circumstances then. It had appeared a bit before Potter had removed his Invisibility cloak to face Voldemort.

The Grimm.

Magus' ominous words came back to her. The Grimm followed James Potter like a shadow- at Hogwarts; on Ben Corvheinn; even here in the Dorset countryside. And he knew it!

Magus had made it clear that James Potter knew all this, but shrugged off anyway. He was a true Gryffindor!

She, on the other hand, had always struggled with Magus' gloomy ways. Severus' scepticism had helped, but she had been glad to give up Divination. Her attitude to Divination had remained sceptical until events on Ben Cόrhveinn convinced her otherwise. And now – another ominous sign had appeared right here in front of her!

She didn't know how long she stood in shocked silence. Perhaps only a few minutes, or even seconds, but she was startled out of her thoughts by a soft knock on her door.

'Come in!' she said, without thinking.

The door creaked open and the tousled, bespectacled head of James Potter peered round the door.