It was a busy day on Platform nine and three quarters as loads of luggage and students
boarded Hogwarts Express. Amidst all of the commotion, no one noticed two twelve year
old boys sitting on their trunks. James Potter quietly contemplated a strange light brown
Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Bean while his best friend, Sirius Black, stood and craned his neck to see over the crowd. He nudged Sirius with his elbow.

"What'd you say? Vomit? Caramel Creme?" Sirius eyed the candy suspiciously before
picking it up and nibbling a piece off of the end.

"Gravy." James hit his hand away as Sirius reached into the box for another. "James, I've
eaten every bean you've pulled out of there for twenty minutes now! You minus well just
give them to me."

"That's not true!" James pulled a white bean out of the box, pausing just before it entered
his mouth. "What'd you say this one is?" Sirius rolled his eyes before searching the crowd
once more.

"Honestly, how could you be in Gryffindor if you're not brave enough to eat an Every
Flavour Bean?"

"You'd be cautious too if you had a dung flavoured one!" James gathered his courage and
slipped the bean onto his tongue. "Blech. . . salt. . . " Sirius laughed loudly, waving his
hand wildly in the air as their other two best friends stepped onto Platform nine and three
quarters.

"Wait, wait, hold that face! Remus and Peter are almost here!"

James slipped the box into his pocket and stood up to greet his friends. Sirius, Remus
Lupin, Peter Pettigrew and himself were now entering their second year at Hogwarts
School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Their first year had been more than a little
interesting; their little group seemed to have a talent for trouble -- not that any of them
worked to avoid it. James grinned as Sirius not so subtly hinted about the present James'
father had given him just before leaving the house that morning.

"Show'em Jamie-boy, show'em the ithing,!"/i James shook his head.

"Later. On the train." Peter hopped from one foot to another excitedly.

"Come on, show us now! It's not fair that Sirius gets to see it and we don't."

"Not now. It wouldn't be half so much fun if all of King's Cross knew I have an. . . "
James looked around conspiratorially, ". . .i invisibility cloak."/i James grinned in
delight, watching as two identical looks of shock wore off and the full weight of possibility
set in. Sirius glanced at his trunk in longing, his dark blue eyes sparkling as he spoke.

"Just think of the possibilities. . . Filch will never catch us out of bed again, Hagrid won't
be able to keep us out of the forest, and we could go to Hogsmeade whenever we want!"

"We have to be careful when to use it," Remus said, trying his best to be reasonable while
wringing his hands together in anticipation. "Only for our best, most daring plans."

Sirius groaned. "Don't be a prude! How can you think of rules at a time like this?"

"Because if I don't, you'll have it confiscated before Halloween!"

James made note a small patch of grayish hair behind Remus' left ear as they began to pull
their trunks onto the train. Although he was rather thin and often sickly, Remus seemed
to have the least amount of trouble pulling his trunk. James glanced at Sirius, easily the
most muscular of the group, struggle along beside him.

The four of them were often viewed as unlikely friends. James was often considered the
leader, although this was mainly because he was the most visible of the group. He was the
charmer, the people pleaser, the one with the plan. Sirius was the most outgoing; he was
wild and reckless, and if Remus Lupin wasn't one of his best friends, would be in trouble
every minute of his life. Remus, on the other hand, was quiet, controlled, and extremely
secretive. While Sirius and James came up with the ideas for adventure, it was Remus
who figured out how to pull them off with minimal risk of detention. The three of them
got top marks in their classes. Peter was the odd one out in that respect. He had little
talent and relied on his friends to help him through his courses. He was a nervous,
worrisome boy who was ever ready to please his friends and teachers -- especially James,
whom Peter viewed as some sort of hero.

James held his hand out to stop his friends. Congregating a few feet ahead of them, a group of particularly nasty Slytherins lead by a sixth year student named Lucius Malfoy was employed in making a show of knocking over the trunk a Hufflepuff fourth year.

"Move aside, Mudblood. This train isn't for parasites."

"Leave him alone, Malfoy." James pulled out his wand, Sirius and Remus quickly
following suit. Peter held his wand half out of his pocket, his pudgy hands trembling as he hid behind Remus.

"What, do you think you little children are going to stop us?" Malfoy kicked a bottle of
ink aside as the boy tried to refill her trunk. He grinned as his friends Crabbe and Goyle
stood on either side of him like two oversized gorillas, as if to dare the young Gryffindors
into action. The Slytherins laughed as they tread over the boy's clothing to board the train. James glared at them as he and the other three bent down to help pick up the boy's belongings. A first year girl picked up his cauldron and placed it carefully inside the trunk.

"What was that about?"

"Just a bunch of gits who don't like Muggle-borns," Sirius glowered.

"You mean they do that to everyone who's got norm -- iMuggle/i parents?" The girl brushed her red hair behind her ears, staring behind her with wide green eyes.

The Hufflepuff nodded, the tips of his ears red with anger. "It's best to avoid people like
that, when you can. It's not a good time for Muggle borns these days. Especially with the
Slytherins."

It was true that the wizarding world was changing for the worse. An influential wizard
who called himself Lord Voldemort was gaining power rapidly, gathering more and more supporters as time went by, and carrying an enormous distaste for Muggles and anyone who was connected with them. People who crave power and and had ambition seemed especially drawn the wizard, who was already beginning to display cruel, dictatorial tendencies. It was becoming dangerous to have a relation to Muggles, and those who did tried to hide it the best they could as Voldemort's presence began to loom ever closer.

The girl stared at them with shock before bolting upright and scampering onto the train
mumbling something that sounded suspiciously like, "They shouldn't be inviting Muggles
to Hogwarts," over her shoulder. Remus patted the Hufflepuff on the shoulder.

"Don't listen to her. When Voldemort is gone, everything is going to change."

***

"Lilitha Evans."

James watched as the redhead from King's Cross was sorted into Slytherin. She
approached the table cautiously, cowering slightly as a second year named Severus Snape
thumped her unceremoniously on the back. "Looks like they've thrown another one to the
werewolves."

Remus twitched abruptly, knocking over the house Peter was building with Exploding
Snap cards. Professor Figg's hand stopped mid-air, the Sorting Hat hovering above
another first year.

"Mr. Pettigrew, if you don't mind, this is a very important ceremony! Five points from
Gryffindor!" The Slytherin table erupted into laughter as Peter sunk down low in his
chair, wiping soot from his chin. Remus glanced down the table guiltily, apologizing to
Peter and coaxing the chubby boy from under the table. Sirius shot a significant look at
James. The term hadn't officially started and already their friend had that familiar,
secretive look about him. To most people, Remus appeared calm and controlled, but
James and Sirius could recognize the signs when their friend was hiding something.

It was the same look that Remus got when he disappeared for a day or two every few
weeks. Whenever any of the others questioned him about his absences, the boy would
make excuses about being sick or having to visit relatives. Remus was normally very good
in the face of exposure, but could easily be reduced to vaguely fumbled explanations when asked about it. James could tell that they were touching on something bigger than even Sirius could imagine.

It was unnatural for someone to keep so many secrets from people who are supposed to
be their best friends. It was very useful for Remus to be so composed, even when faced
with Old McGonagall herself, but James and Sirius promised each other that this year they
would find out what he was hiding.

***

"For Merlin's sake," Sirius groaned as he slid past a group of first year students, "It's like
Slytherin Central in here! This is the last time I let you convince me to come to potions
early, Remus." The other boy brushed his shaggy hair out of his deep brown eyes.

"It's not so bad. We see them every day anyhow." Peter fell forward as Severus Snape
pushed passed him. Remus dropped his bag, catching the smaller boy before he could fall
to the stone floor.

"I see that you Mudblood lovers are still fawning over your pet Squib." James pulled out
his wand as the usual chatter shifted into a roar of laughter.

"I wouldn't say that again if I were you, Snape. Everyone knows that you're useless with a
wand."

"I have no use for silly wand waving and incantations," Snape sneered, glowering down
the bridge of his hooked nose. "Just as I have no use for silly Gryffindors who think
themselves better than anyone else. Now go teach your Squib a new trick. iSome/i
of us have more important things to do with our time."

James let out a low growl as Snape stepped into the Potions lab. "Don't listen to him,
Pete. He knows that he's not half the man you are." He looked over his shoulder just in
time to see his friend scurry around the corner back towards Gryffindor Tower. Sirius
shifted his weight uncomfortably.

"Maybe we should let him blow off some steam. We could bring him some of those plum
cakes he likes from the kitchens before Charms." Remus shook his head sadly.

"Is everything about food with you?"

"No, but it is with Peter." James grinned slightly at the remark.

"Yeah, but put a bag of dung bombs in front of you and see how far you get without
setting one off. We know all of your quirks too, mate."

"Speaking of quirks. . . " Remus exchanged a glance with Sirius before they both replied,
"Quidditch!" James laughed heartily, looking back for Peter once more before walking
towards the classroom. Remus stopped just short of the door as a small hand grabbed the
sleeve of his robe. Sirius glared at Lily Evans as she shifted nervously from foot to foot.

"What do you want?"

She flinched at the harsh tone of his voice, her lower lip quivering as she thrust a text book into Remus' hands and quickly mumbled, "You dropped this." Remus opened his mouth as if to say something, but the young Slytherin dashed down the corridor before he could make a sound. He sighed deeply as they stepped up to their usual seats.

"You didn't have to be so mean to her. She hasn't done anything to anybody." Sirius tried
unsuccessfully to hide a look of guilt as he shrugged nonchalantly.

"She's a Slytherin. Who knew that she could be decent at the same time?"

***

The following Saturday, James, Peter, and Sirius sat around Remus' trunk. It was early,
almost too early to be awake on the week end, and Remus had yet to be seen since dinner
the day before. James reached towards the latch, only to pull his hand away at the last
second before contact.

"I don't know, Sirius. It just feels wrong. How would you feel if someone went through
your things?"

"We aren't just anyone, James. We're his best friends. What if Remus is in trouble? How
can we help him if he won't tell us what's wrong?" Sirius raised his arm slightly, his
fingers hovering in front of the bronze clasp. He glanced at Peter out of the corner of his
eye. "You would want us to find out if something was wrong, wouldn't you?" Peter bit
his lower lip, looking at James with pleading eyes.

"I don't know. What if we get caught?" All debates flew out the window as the door of
the dormitory opened and they all leapt away from the trunk guiltily. James breathed a
sigh of relief when two third year students, Rowan Clark and Elie Goldberg, clambered
into the room.

"Oi, there you are! Breakfast is nearly over. Remus was getting worried."

"Remus?!? Where is he?"

"He went to the library to do a Herbology assignment." James ran over to his trunk and
removed a bulky paper package, motioning for Sirius and Peter to follow. When the dorm
door shut closed behind them, James ripped open the paper and pulled out his invisibility
cloak for the first time. Peter gaped at the silvery material.

"Wow, James. . . Do we really need to wear the invisibility cloak to breakfast?" Sirius
rolled his eyes.

"iNo/i, Peter, don't be daft! We're going to find Remus."

"But what about breakfast?" James threw the cloak around Sirius and himself.

"You can go if you want. We'll be in the library." They barely went three steps before
Peter bolted past them.

"James! James, wait for me! Let me in, I'm coming!" Sirius placed a restraining hand on
James' shoulder.

"Let him go. He'll get us caught for sure." James nodded in agreement as Peter slipped down the last three stairs and fell into the common room.

***

"Oh, please James, let's curse him a bit! Just this once."

"Leave Snape alone, Sirius. We have more important things to do." Sirius groaned as
they neared Snape and Lily. The former held a piece of parchment over
latter's head, laughing maliciously as she tried to reach it.

"But Jaaames, look at him! He can't even be nice to a iSlytherin/i! He deserves to
get cursed!" James shook his head and elbowed his friend in the ribs.

"No, now hush up!" James steered them to the opposite side of the nearly deserted
hallway as Snape and Lily's voices became audible.

"I think that our house mates have a right to know the truth about you, Evans. I think
they would be very interested to hear what your sister has to say to you." Sirius growled
at the look of superiority on Snape's face as the redhead broke down into tears.

"Oh please, Severus, don't tell! I promise, I'll do anything! Anything you want! Just give
back my letter, please!" Lily reached for the paper again in vain, barely able to keep
her balance as the tall boy pushed her away from himself.

"Maybe I'll just hold onto this. Who knows, it may come in handy someday."

James and Sirius slipped quietly around the corner as the girl slid down to the floor.

"Maybe we should have helped her."

"Maybe. . . Even a Slytherin doesn't deserve to be treated like that." James looked at
Sirius out of the corner of his eye, remembering the desperation in Lily's voice and her
kind gesture outside of Potions.

"Next time, I'll let you curse him." The two boys walked in silence through the school
before pausing as the echo of footsteps sounded themselves from somewhere down the hall. Remus appeared from around a corner, swamped by a stack of thick books. James could feel a smile growing on his best friend's face as Remus nearly lost balance of his unsteady load.

"Want to have a bit of fun?" James nodded as they began to close in on their friend.
When they got within reach, James extended his arm and knocked a book onto the floor.
Remus' head appeared around the rest of the stack.

"Peeves?"

When Remus found the hall to be empty, he heaved the books onto one arm and bend
down to pick up their fallen counterpart. Sirius grinned impishly at James before reaching out and pulling the top few books inside the cloak. Remus looked up in annoyance to find his supply of library material shortened.

"Bloody hell. . . " He looked around the hall again, sniffing audibly before stopping to
squint at the spot where the other two boys stood silently under the cloak. "James?
Sirius?"

Sirius nearly dropped the books in astonishment. "How did you know we were here?" He
threw off the cloak without a thought, the silvery material falling easily around their ankles. James hissed and shoved it under his school robes. Remus rolled his eyes and grinned.

"Be careful, Sirius. You didn't even look for other people!" Sirius waved a hand
nonchalantly.

"Yeah, but how did you know it was us? We were hardly making a sound." The easy
smile fell off of his face as Remus shrugged his shoulder and started down the hall.

"I just figured that. . . I mean, Peeves would've threw the book at my head and. . . Well,
who else is there?"

James fell into step with Remus and tucked some of the books under his arm. Upon closer
inspection, James could see dark bags under his friend's eyes and a slight slump to his
posture that had nothing to do with the books. "You know, that doesn't really explain
anything."

Remus shrugged again, but didn't offer any other explanation.

***

Peter stayed put out with Sirius for the rest of the weekend for leaving him behind,
although the boy couldn't quite bring himself to stay mad at James. After learning Cheering Charms the following week, Sirius cast charms on him for an entire day until Peter forgave him, but not before making him promise to measure all of his potions ingredients for the next week.

Remus seemed to withdraw from his friends slightly, going on nightly visits to the highest
tower of Hogwarts to practice Astronomy. He also seemed to take a liking to Lily Evans,
who he made an effort to smile and greet whenever he past her in the halls. Lily almost
never spoke, preferring to hide behind Snape, as she had started followed between classes
carrying his text books. She seemed to avoid making friends, and barely lifted her head to
acknowledge Remus' presence when he stopped to make the effort. James could scarcely
imagine what it was that made his friend go out of his way to talk to Lily if she seemed so
indifferent to his presence, but it somehow seemed like a natural course of action for the
boy and was oddly comforting to watch. Whatever secrets Remus held, he would
always be a person to love and admire.

In the mean time, James and Sirius took up a new hobby; cataloging things about Remus
that seemed strange in a journal. James spent two days researching the best spells to cast
on the book so that no one would be able to read a word without their permission. Peter
even knew a way to enchant the pages to hurl insults at anyone who tried to break into it,
although he flat out refused to take part in writing the contents. After noting more than a
month of occurrences and one disappearance, Remus Lupin seemed more of a mystery
than ever.

"Lets not forget that Dumbledore pulled Remus aside again today before Transfiguration. He never does that to anyone else unless something bad has happened, and he mostly does it around the time Remus disappears." James nodded in agreement, propping the book up on his pillow as Sirius leaned over his shoulder to watch.

"Whatever is going on, the professors know about it."

"Are you two done yet?" Peter whined from the door, staring at his bed in longing. "It's
late and we're going to get in itrouble/i."

"Just wait a moment, Pete, we're almost done. If James and I get caught, we won't tell
anyone about the spell you gave us."

"What spell?"

Three pairs of eyes stared at Remus as he squeezed past Peter and kicked his shoes off
beside his trunk. James closed the journal as Sirius quickly muttered the locking spell.
Remus' eyes darted from one friend to another before landing on the book.

"What, been caught red handed doing homework, have you?" Sirius puffed out his chest
mockingly, only the slightest tension in his back indicating that something was amiss.

"Never! We have nothing if not our pride!" He raised one black eyebrow as he studied the other boy. "In fact, you could be our first victim." He grabbed the quill out of James' tightly drawn fingers and passed the journal over to Remus. "Write something down. Anything."

Remus examined the empty page with amusement before dipping the quill in ink. 'The
pollination of Mandrakes should take place during early matura --'

'Mr. Black says that you are a freak of nature, memorizing the textbook like that. What's
wrong with you, man?'

'Mr. Potter agrees and says that a life might be required to cure all symptoms of
Knowitallism.'

Remus grinned widely as the words slowly faded from the page. "If you're thinking of
slipping parchment into the professor's lounge, you might not want to use your real
names." James propped himself up on one elbow casually, breathing a sigh of relief.

"Yeah, well, this was just to see if we could do it."

"Yeah," Sirius piped. "And anyway, we haven't found a way to give it that extra personal
touch yet. We've got to find a charm for it to recognize the people writing. It'll be a laugh
to see what it says back to those drips when we slip some parchment into Slytherin's
common room."

"How are you planning on doing that?" Sirius rolled his eyes.

"Jay's iinvisibility cloak/i, of course. Remus, even you have to agree that this is a
good cause." Remus eyed Sirius for a moment, the latter holding his composure
admirably under the other's penetrating stare.

"You're hiding something."

"Would I hide something from one of my best mates?" Remus bit his lip, either unable to
think of a retort or unwilling to appear as a hypocrite. Sirius put on his most charming
grin.

"This will be our best prank yet, just you wait."

***

"Why did you have to do that? Break into Slytherin? What a fine mess this is." James
grimaced as his potion turned blue instead of orange. "Bloody hell."

"Jamesy, this is win iwin/i. One, we didn't get caught, and two, Remus didn't try to talk us out of it. We rule!" Sirius tilted a few drops of dragon's blood into his own cauldron, smirking smugly as the thick liquid took on the proper colour.

"He still suspects something."

"As long as he comes along on this next prank we'll be fine. You know he'll never come if
he's really put out with us."

A small bang erupted from Peter's cauldron as the boy dropped his ink well into the
mixture. Professor Reiner, the potions master, rushed over and cast a concealment charm
over the cauldron to confine the thick black smoke that was emitted into the room.

"Well, it's not as if I'm surprised, Pettigrew. I almost began to believe that we might
survive the term without you fouling up. Fifteen points from Gryffindor."

The Slytherins grinned approvingly as their favourite professor returned to the front of the
room. Peter was forced to share his cauldron with Genevieve Marx for the rest of the
class, who gently insisted on doing all of the work by herself.

By the end of class, Snape had put a charm on Peter so that the word 'squib' appeared in
flashing letters on his forehead and Reiner had taken another five points from Gryffindor
when Remus muttered the counter curse.

"Stupid toss-up. What does he have against Gryffindors anyhow? I bet that Slytherins
wouldn't be half bad if Reiner wasn't the head of their house." Lily glanced at Remus in
confusion as he stormed down the hall without bothering to try and talk with her. James
waved at her, smiling widely as a look of relief flashed across her green eyes before she
ducked her head and turned to take Snape's books.

"I dunno. Slytherins aren't half bad."

They walked in silence towards Care of Magical Creatures. Remus threw the castle doors
open with a bang, nearly hitting Hagrid's new watch dog, who was dubbed 'Fang,' on the
rump. The gray pup barked at Remus, who barked back loudly in return. Fang yelped, scampering down the stairs in astonishment before trotting along beside the boy, trying to nip at his robes. Sirius struggled to keep pace with him.

"Oi, Remus, do you want to calm down just a bit, mate? This isn't the first time you've
lost points."

Remus growled under his breath, but managed to slow down and collect his composure.
"It's not the point. He shouldn't be able to treat people the way he treats people. Nobody
should be able to treat people like they aren't anything at all. Peter is not a squib, and even
squibs aren't worthless. They're just different."

"I almost am a squib." Peter laughed shakily and buried his hands in his pockets. "I i
would/i be useless if it weren't for you guys."

"You're not a squib. Look at that brilliant spell you found. Just you wait until we break
into Slytherin, then you'll see how useless you are." A smile finally broke out on Remus'
face as anger faded into anticipation. James and Sirius shared a look of relief as Sirius
threw a friendly arm around Remus' shoulder.

"So you'll help us pull it off, then?"

"Definitely."

Remus remained in a thoughtful mood for the rest of the class, and was the only student
who didn't complain when finding that class would only consist of de-gnoming Hagrid's
pumpkin patch.

***

After a restless night in the dormitory, Remus continued to be ill-tempered towards Snape the next day. He didn't bother to restrain Sirius from putting an engorgement charm on the boy's hooked nose, and even managed to drop a dung bomb in his robe pocket after dinner and slip away again before it exploded. Neither the victim nor the other students in the Great Hall had seen who had planted the dung bomb. Even James, Sirius, and Peter, who had known of their friend's intentions beforehand, barely had time to see Remus at work before it was over and Snape was waving his robes around to try and rid himself of the rotten smell.

An extra benefit arose from the prank; Snape grabbed his books from Lily and rushed to
change his clothes, leaving the girl free to go and do whatever she desired. James could
see a slight smile hidden beneath a mass of red hair as she practically skipped past them.

"Hi, Lily."

Lily waved to Remus behind her back before running up the stairs two at a time. Remus
grinned at James. "I think she's beginning to like me." Peter struggled too keep a napkin
full of small cakes from spilling onto the floor.

"Why do you want to be friends with a girl who has a crush on Snape?" James gaped in
indignation.

"Lily doesn't fancy Snape!"

"How do you figure? She tails him everywhere."

Sirius grinned and poked James lightly in the ribs. James shook his head in warning and
muttered, "Don't even," under his breath. James turned back to Peter and Remus as they
used a hidden shortcut to Gryffindor Tower. "Snape has something on Lily. Sirius and I
saw them together that night with the invisibility cloak. No one in their right mind would
be attracted Snape, and Lily is one the top of students in her year."

"What could Snape have against Lily?" Remus knitted his eyebrows together as they
approached the Fat Lady. "She never bothers anyone. She doesn't even have any friends
to bother anyone. Puffapod"

The portrait swung open. James, Sirius, and Peter quickly stepped inside, but Remus
remained where he was, holding his stomach. "I don't feel so well all of a sudden. I'm
going to go down to the hospital wing."

"Do you want us to go with you?" Sirius offered quickly. Remus shook his head just as
readily, beginning to walk backwards down the hall.

"There's no need. It's just a stomach ache. Nothing Madam Pomfrey can't handle. Why
don't you three finish the spell while I'm gone?" Sirius nodded towards the staircase to
their dorm as the thin boy trotted back down the staircase.

"Cloak?" James nodded as Peter's beady eyes lit up.

"Cloak."

***

"Peter, be careful! You have to walk iwith us or you'll fall out"

"I'm trying! I just tripped over my shoelace!"

"Will you keep your voice down! I hear something."

They were only a few feet from the hospital wing door when James stopped in his tracks,
stumbling forward as Peter knocked into him from behind. Professor Dumbledore stepped
out of the room and looked expectantly down the corridor. The headmaster seemed to be able to see through the cloak, only a slight darting of his eyes suggesting that he could not.

"Mr. Potter, Mr. Pettigrew, Mr. Black. This is not the time to be marauding around the
castle." The headmaster's eyes sparkled as James pulled the cloak off and folded it carefully over his arm.

"Sir, we only maraud when marauding is required. We're just here to see how Remus is
feeling."

"Mr. Lupin is fine, although Madam Pomfrey insists that no guests be admitted. Your
fellow marauder will be with you in the morning."

Sirius groaned lightly, but all three boys knew that Dumbledore had left no room for
argument. They bade him good night before walking sullenly back to the tower. James
knew that the journal would be opened tonight to document Remus' uncharacteristic
temperament and the meeting with Dumbledore.

***

When James and Sirius dashed down to the hospital wing the next morning before
breakfast, Madam Pomfrey hastily informed them that Remus had already left before
shooing them away to remove warts and boils from a fifth year Ravenclaw and sixth year
Slytherin. But when they arrived at the Great Hall, Peter was sitting alone before a large
plate of pancakes.

"Did you see Remus?" Peter asked through a mouthful of toast. "They made his favourite
sausages." Sirius dropped down beside him.

"He wasn't there. Sweet Merlin, I ihate/i this! This is daft!" James sat down sullenly and poked absently at a piece of omelet before scooping some onto his plate.

"Maybe he just went back to the tower."

"Maybe he's just pushing us away. Maybe he's not really our friend." James dropped his
fork on the floor, everything in his being rejecting the idea.

"Don't even say that! Of course he's our friend."

"Friends don't lie to each other."

"We'll be even better friends once he realizes that he doesn't ihave/i to lie to us.
We'll be brothers." Sirius piled English muffins and breakfast sausages onto his plate as he
stood to leave.

"I'm going to go find him."

"Don't do anything stupid, Sirius!" James watched his friend walk out of the door with a
familiar brand of determination before turning towards Peter.

"What do you think about this? Remus is still our friend, right?" Peter stared at his plate,
as if concentrating on making himself disappear.

"I think whatever you think, James."

The boy wouldn't offer any other opinion, and James became increasingly nervous when
the other two boys missed all of their morning classes. James rushed up the stairs before
lunch and hurried past the Fat Lady with Peter at his heels.

"Remus? Sirius?" James knocked lightly on the door before opening it and sticking his
head through. The two boys were there, both participating in a stony, determined silence.
Remus was lying on his side, facing away from Sirius, who was sitting beside him on his
bed.

"Are you going to come down to lunch?" Sirius shook his head.

"I'm not going anywhere until he is." Remus sighed deeply, carefully hiding his face from
the others.

"I already told you, Sirius, I just want to sleep."

"Then sleep, see if I care!" James opened his mouth to speak, but was quickly silenced
with a dark glare from Sirius. "We all know that you lied about being sick last night
anyhow."

Remus shot off of the bed and limped towards the door. "You don't know anything about
anything!" James just had time to see tears welling up behind his frustrated eyes before
Remus left the room.

The door closed with a resounding boom. After a moment of silence, Peter shuddered and
sat down on his bed. "Remus is getting kind of scary these days."

"He is not scary!" Sirius stood up and stalked towards the door. "He's a marauder, just
like us, and we're going to help him even if it kills him!"

***

Remus and Sirius had forgotten about their argument by the next evening, both of them
working on the spell tirelessly for the next two days.

"James, Peter, wake up! Remus has done it!"

"Oh, sod off. . . " James groaned as a piece of parchment landed on his face and two
bodies flopped down at the foot of his bed.

"Here, James, read this. Come on, put you're specks on already!" James grabbed his
glasses from off his night table and flattened the paper on his legs.

'Zonko's is the best place on Earth, or any other planet for that matter.'

'Mr. Lupin says that if Mr. Black would stop to think of the important things instead of
only jokes and pranks, he wouldn't have had the longest detention record for his year, the
dumb git.'

Sirius grinned ecstatically, completely unfazed by the insult. "James, isn't it brilliant!?!
Touch it with your wand. Come on, hurry!" James reached for his wand and touched it
to the page.

'Mr. Lupin suggests that Mr. Potter should charm his teeth again, as his breath is making
the paper curl.'

Peter laughed as he read the letters over his shoulder. James passed Remus the
parchment. "Here, you give it a try."

The excitement on his face quickly melted into a blank calm as Remus recoiled from his
hand. He smiled again, only this time, it never reached his eyes. "Maybe later. Give it to
Peter."

Peter took the parchment and walked to a pile of laundry on the floor, pulling his wand
out of an dirty robe. His hand wavered slightly as he poked the page gingerly. Peter's
eyes widened slightly before he folded the parchment twice and placed it in his pocket.

"It works."

"Come on, Petey, give us a look." Sirius' grin turned to something between devilish and
maniacal as he stood up and advanced on the smaller boy. Peter shrieked as Sirius chased
him around the room and out the door.

"Should we go stop them?" Remus asked, chuckling lightly. James shook his head and
sunk down into his pillow.

"They'll be fine as long as they don't wake any prefects."

Once James was sure that Remus had gone to bed, he pulled out the journal and wrote in
the password.

'Remus refuses to write on enchanted parchment. Is he afraid of what it will say?'

***

The four friends whom Sirius insisted on calling 'the Marauders,' a name much owed to
the headmaster himself, skulked silently behind a sixth year Slytherin, Narcissa Blair.
Students from separate houses never shared the location of their dormitories, and James
was positively shaking in anticipation to view the Slytherin Dungeon.

Narcissa was walking slowly, much to her follower's chagrin. Remus had devised a plan
of attack on the Slytherins; they would follow a student to their portrait hole and, when
practically every student from the school was at the Quidditch match between Hufflepuff
and Ravenclaw, they would fill their dormitory with the freshly charmed parchment.
James was absolutely livid about missing the game, but Remus insisted that it would be the
most logical time to break into enemy territory.

Narcissa stopped in front of a portrait of a tall old man with ruffled dress robes. "Pure
bloodline."

Sirius threw off the invisibility cloak once the portrait closed behind her, pretending to gag
in disgust. "Well, doesn't that just figure? Any bonehead would be able to guess that
password." James nodded in agreement, staring at the portrait in a vain attempt to see
past it.

"Why don't we go down? I mean, we've already come all this way." Peter shook his head
nervously, staring down the hall as if Professor Reiner was about to rush towards them
and give them detention for every single night for the rest of their lives.

"We'll get caught. If my mum gets another letter from the school, she'll send me a howler
for sure! She's still mad about the time I melted a hole through the floor of the potions
lab."

"I say we wait until later. They'll be leaving for the match in an hour."

"Don't even mention the match around me, Lupin." James glared at Remus, who grinned
smugly, as if he had chose this day for another reason aside from logic. "If it weren't for
you, we'd be able to watch." Sirius nudged James with his elbow.

"It's not like you're on the team, mate. It's not even Gryffindor playing."

"Well, when I get on the team next year, you had better think of other plans than to miss a
game!"

Remus picked up the cloak, throwing it in the air and letting it float down over them.
"You're not on the team yet, James. Until you are, it won't end the world for you to miss
one match. Now let's go before you get us caught."

James trudged sullenly beside his friends, nearly tripping over Peter's foot as he reached
the stairway. They stopped abruptly as a group of Slytherins came down the stairs and
stopped merely feet from where they were standing as Snape stood up on a chair. Lily
was hanging on the sleeve of his robe, tears cascading down her cheeks as she pleaded
with the greasy haired boy.

"Severus, don't do this! I'm sorry I threw your scrolls into Moaning Myrtle's toilet! I'll be
good, I swear!"

Snape pushed her down onto the floor, and it was all James could do not to hex him into
next week. Judging by the low growls on either side of him, Remus and Sirius' thoughts
were clearly along the same lines as his own. Snape pulled a piece of parchment out of his
robe pocket and cleared his throat with an exaggerated flourish.

"Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please! I will now be reading a letter from Miss
Petunia Evans to her sister, our own dear house mate." Snape ignored the redhead
begging at his feet as he unfolded the page.

"To Miss Lilitha Evans;

I am only writing this because mother and father insisted that I should. Personally, I
would rather just send all of your belongings and forget that you exist.

You are a freak, a changeling switched for my real sister. Magic is not normal or proper,
and I'm glad it's you and not me. I remember how happy you were when you got your
letter, even though it was proof that you don't belong with us. Try to find someone to
keep you while you are there, because we don't want you to come home. And you're
wrong; I'm not sorry that I never got a letter, because I did get a letter from Dumblum
himself absolutely begging me to come to your stupid school. I just didn't want to be like you.

Your ex-sister,

Petunia Evans."

Snape grinned in satisfaction. "You see, Lily is a imudblood/i!"

Silence filled the corridor. Suddenly, everything about Lily Evans began to make a scary
sort of sense; her reaction at Platform nine and three quarters, her reluctance to make
friends, the way she followed Snape around like a puppy. James shuddered to think of the
terror Lily must have been living in since arriving at Hogwarts. The threat of exposure
constantly looming over her head. . . and placing her in Slytherin! What was wrong with
that blasted hat? James' fingers curled around his wand, the incantations to his best curses
already grumbling low in his throat as the crowd burst into laughter and jeers.

Lily grabbed her belongings from the floor and dashed up the stairs. Before anyone could
react, Remus dove out of the cloak and followed her, putting jelly leg curses on any
Slytherins who tried to do the same. In his haste, he nearly cursed Sirius, who followed
close at his heels. Peter grabbed the ends of the cloak to make sure they were secure. No
one seemed to notice that their friends had quite literally appeared out of thin air.

James, and Peter stepped carefully around the group of students as they began to head
out of the dungeons. Once the others were out of sight, they threw off the cloak and
ran to find their friends and Lily.

***

After searching all of their favourite hide outs without success, James and Peter gave the
password to the Fat Lady. It was a shock to see the common room packed with students
so soon before the Quidditch match.

"What do you want to do then? Just leave her to the Slytherins?" Sirius glared around the
room while Lily huddled behind Remus. "You all know what they do to Muggle-borns.
They'll eat her alive!" Remus, who was normally reserved with people other than his
friends, nodded with conviction.

"She's more one of us than she is one of them. If we do nothing, we'll be no better than
they are. Arthur, I know you're on our side." Every head turned towards Arthur Weasley,
a seventh year obsessed with everything Muggle. He shrugged nervously and smiled
sheepishly around the crowd.

"It won't hurt anyone to ask Dumbledore for a transfer. It wouldn't be right to let a
Muggle live with wankers like that."

More and more students began voicing their opinions and, although some were still wary
of letting a Slytherin into the tower, most came to accept the idea after the commotion of
the situation wore off. A group of first year girls took Lily upstairs to their dormitory to
get cleaned up while the other students began to filter quickly out of the room and
towards the Quidditch pitch, the Gryffindor team rushing to get there on time and watch
the two other team's every move. James made eye contact with Sirius and Remus and
pointed towards the portrait. The two boys nodded in understanding and walked through
the opening, grabbing two bookbags by the door on their way out. James and Peter caught up with them, the four Marauders turning away from their peers simultaneously and covered themselves with the cloak once they had rounded a corner.

***

The hallways were deserted all the way down to the dungeon. James grimaced when the
faint cheers of students and professors alike filtered through the window of an open
classroom, wishing with all his might that the game would last long after they finished with
the Slytherin dorms. They stopped in front of the Slytherin's portrait and whispered the
password. The Old Man seemed to be hard of hearing, and it took four tried before he looked around at the empty corridor in confusion, but opened up all the same.

The common room was thankfully empty when the boys stepped into the room. James led
the way to the boy's dormitories, determined to find Snape and Malfoy's beds before
anyone arrived. He handed a stack of parchment to Peter.

"Here, you and Remus plant this in the girl's dormitories. Sirius and I will take the boys."

Sirius winked at Remus before following James into the first room. Instead of switching
the enchanted parchment with those in the student's bags, he took out his wand and
started casting spells on the pillows of those students whom he particularly despised.

"Siri, what are you doing?" He grinned like it was Christmas and the Quidditch World
Cup all in one day as he found his way to Snape's bed.

"Instant scalping. How'd you like to see Snape tomorrow without that greasy slop he calls hair on his head?" He whispered the incantation, his wand sparking slightly. "Thought of it myself. Remus decided it'd be cruel to do it to every Slytherin, but we thought of a few that would deserve it. He also made me promise not to do it to the girls."

James laughed gleefully, careful not to let his voice get too loud. "That's Remus for you.
Very chivalrous."

"No, not very. He's casting delayed shrinking spells on their socks. By lunch tomorrow,
it'll be damn near impossible to get them off their feet." Sirius sighed glumly, a wistful
look cast over his mischievous eyes. "I wanted to do their robes. . . "

It took less than half an hour to switch all the parchment, and it was very good at that.
The Quidditch match had been quite short, Hufflepuff quickly losing to Ravenclaw after
their best beater, Ludo Bagman, was rendered unconscious by two bludgers at once. By
the time the Marauders made it back to Gryffindor tower, the first students were starting
to wander back into the common room. James quickly stashed his cloak away in his trunk
and rushed downstairs in hopes of hearing a play by play account of the game. It was easy
to trick Gryffindor's Quidditch captain, Frank Longbottom, into giving said account
without the boy realizing that James hadn't been there at all. Although, it proved to do
more harm than good. James found himself biting back a groan at every descriptive hand
motion or sound effect, cursing Remus at every inflection of the other's voice.

"I hear you're good with a quaffle, Potter," Frank said, breaking away at an excruciatingly
exciting moment. "A lot of people thought you'd try out for the house team."

James shrugged uncomfortably. "Maybe next year." It was true that before Hogwarts had
let out for the summer, James had announced his intentions of playing Quidditch for the
team to his year mates. It wasn't until he and Sirius started discussing Remus one
afternoon in July that James realized how much more his friend's happiness meant to him
than a sport. They promised each other that day not to lose focus on their goal; to find
out why Remus keeps himself so secluded, to find out why he refused to let himself open
up even to his best friends.

James looked around for his friend. Remus sat in the corner closest to the fireplace with
Lily, neither of them speaking, but each looking completely at ease with the other.
Watching them sit together in a comfortable silence, James wondered if Lily was the only
one who truely understood what it was like to be Remus Lupin.

***

The Slytherin students were much more quiet and subdued than usual the next day in
Hogwarts as a portion of their students flocked in and out of the hospital wing to re-grow
hair and remove socks. The loudest sounds anyone heard from any Slytherin until dinner
were shouts of indignation while attempting to take class notes on the enchanted
parchment.

Sirius was in a perfectly jolly mood all day, not even scowling when Professor Figg
assigned two feet of parchment on kelpies to be handed in at the end of the week for
Defense Against Dark Arts or when Professor Reiner took extra points from him for being
too happy to work.

It seemed like the Marauders were not going to be caught until Professor Dumbledore
called them into a spare classroom on their way to the library. James exchanged a look
with his friends before following the headmaster inside. Dumbledore gave each of them a
penetrating look as they sat down at the front row of desks.

"It seems to me that Slytherin house has been having a collective bad day."

James racked his brain for a way to get out of trouble, but with no avail. Dumbledore had
a quality about him that made it seem like he could read your very thoughts. Lying to him
would be as useless as it would be unthinkable.

"A dormitory should be a place where the residing students feel safe from the persecution
of others, wouldn't you agree, Mr. Pettigrew?"

"Yes, sir."

"A place that should be respected by those who live there. A place, Mr. Black, that one
could expect other students to respect as well."

"Yes, sir."

"A dormitory should also be a place where a student feels that he has a certain amount of
privacy and security, isn't that right, Mr. Lupin."

"Yes, sir."

"A student's ipersonal/i belongings, especially, should receive the proper amount of
care by others as well, isn't that right, Mr. Potter?"

Something about the way Dumbledore looked at him made James feel as if he knew about
the private journal he and Sirius kept. The professor's blue eyes twinkled merrily as he
alternated his gaze from one boy to the next.

"I think it would be fascinating to hear more about this subject. Perhaps three feet worth
each?"

James swallowed a cry of protest while Peter whined lowly beside him.

"Yes, Professor."

After knowing Sirius since they were in nappies, James knew that his best mate was just
now considering the breach of morality that was involved with last night's excursion.
Sure, he would complain about the essay, but deep down Sirius would feel that it was well
deserved. Remus looked positively ashamed and seemed very close to tears for the
briefest of seconds. Dumbledore smiled kindly as he lead the boys out of the classroom.

"And perhaps ten points to Gryffindor, for the compassion shown to Miss Evans. I think
that you would be pleased to know that she has been resorted into Gryffindor."

***

The weeks went by quickly and, when Christmas break started to near, the students began
to feel restless as they set their plans for the holidays. More students than ever chose to
stay at Hogwarts, their parents feeling it better to keep them under the protection of
Dumbledore for as long as possible while Voldemort was still a threat.

The Marauders never visited the Slytherin Dungeon again, although gits like Snape and
Malfoy made it very tempting. They still managed to get into their fair share of trouble
without going back to the dormitory, never going a week without at least one of their
number spending all night in detention.

Lily seemed to fit in well with the other first year Gryffindors who, after a few days of
initial distrust and suspicion, came to accept her as if she had been sorted into their house
at the beginning of the year. She seemed to take to one girl especially, a curly haired
brunette named Ellis Aitkins. But even with her newfound friendships, Lily still seemed to
bear the emotional scars she acquired while living in Slytherin. James often found her
sitting off by herself in the library or staring out into the frozen lake. There were many
times when the girl seemed ready to leave the wizarding world altogether, but Lily seemed
determined to prove herself to even the most hateful Slytherin.

Remus spent time with Lily almost every moment he wasn't playing Exploding Snap with
Sirius or helping Peter with his homework. They nearly never spoke, preferring to read
compatibly with each other for hours on end. Being from different years and with Lily
being so timid, the girl didn't form any tangible relationship with the other three boys; a
fact that had James feeling increasingly jealous every time he went to find Remus only to
find him sitting comfortably with her by the fire.

Peter was among the students who left Hogwarts for Christmas, leaving just short of half
of the entire student body behind. To everyone's surprise, Lily stayed behind, not wanting
to miss any good experience the wizarding world had to offer.

After two days without classes, Remus insisted that James and Sirius accompany him to
the library and gather all of the material they would need to finish their holiday homework.

"We've only just begun the holidays, Remus. Can't you leave off for a few more days?
Everyone else is outside. Having fun. In the isnow/i." Sirius whined pitifully as
Remus passed him a large book from the musty shelf.

"If we wait until you are ready to start, we'll never be able to finish everything before
Easter." Remus gave him a glare as he stepped off of the ladder. "And besides, the snow
will still be there tomorrow."

"You'll be too busy reading these blasted things to make use of it. You remember having
fun outside, don't you?" The dark haired boy batted his eyelashes hopefully, his arms
straining under the weight of the thick tomes.

"You remember the six feet of parchment we have to write before break is over, don't
you?" Remus shot back, taking the books easily and walking down the row. "It will be
more fun if we don't have to worry about getting it all finished."

"No, fun is fun. You don't need to be free from responsibility to do to have it."

James walked into the next isle to find a good book on vampires as his two friends
bickered back and forth. He stopped in his tracks when he saw Lily peering through the
space between the shelves, a frayed book held up close to her face. One hand went to his
hair seemingly on its on accord, trying fruitlessly to smooth down the ruffled black
strands. A smile graced her lips momentarily as Remus and Sirius began hitting each other
playfully with their bags. Lily slid with them down the shelves before skimming a page of
her book. Her forehead wrinkled slightly as she turned the page, not noticing as James
crept up behind her to sneak a peak over her shoulder. He was only able to read the title
'Dark Curses and Ailments from Past to Present' at the top of the page before Lily yelped,
sensing his presence behind her.

"What are you doing here?" She demanded, turning in full to face him. Lily shoved the
book behind her back guiltily, the tips of her ears burning red. It was quite fetching,
really. James pulled a random book from above her head, smirking as her blush began to
creep down over her cheeks and neck.

"Just looking for a bit of reading." He quickly glanced at the cover. "The mating habits of
grindylows are quite fascinating, really. What book have you got?"

"None! I haven't any book." Lily's entire face turned as red as her hair as she began to
walk backwards towards the librarian's desk.

"Then what is that behind you're back?"

"Nothing." James tilted his head and stepped closer to her. Lily jumped nervously, her
eyes darting from side to side. Chewing on her lip, Lily's eyes landed directly on his own.
"It's a diary. My diary. I. . . keep a diary for. . . things."

"Thought of that too late, you liar." James reached behind her back. He grabbed the
book, trying to pry it from Lily's fingers without hurting her when Remus and Sirius
appeared from around the corner.

"What do you got there, Jamie-boy?"

Lily pulled the volume with all of her might, thrusting it behind her back as it slipped from
James' fingers.

"Just a book." The redhead smiled weakly as she sprinted out of the library. Remus'
eyebrows knitted together as he watched Lily go.

"What did you do to her?"

James shot a significant look at Sirius before shrugging in a bewildered gesture to Remus.

"Nothing, really. She's a strange one."

***

"There's something not quite right about the way she was acting, Siri. That book was
from the restricted section. I think she knows something."

"Something?" Sirius looked up from the flobberworms he was placing inside Professor
Reiner's desk. "What, you mean something about Remus?"

"Exactly." James placed a particularly slimy flobberworm into a pair of slippers that the
professor liked to change into during class.

"Why would Remus tell Lily something that he hasn't told us?"

"I don't think he's told her a thing. She was ispying/i on him."

"If Lily has read something important in one of those books, then we need to find out
what it was." Sirius glanced at James. "Do you think she'll tell us what it is?"

"No. I think our best bet is to get that book."

"Well, then, I suppose a visit to the girl's dormitories is in order." Sirius wiped his hands
on the front of his robes before stepping away from the desk, grinning widely. "There,
that should do it. I'd like to see the look on Old Reiner's face when he opens this up."

***

That night, James used the invisibility cloak to sneak into the first year girl's dormitory.
Trying his hardest to avoid looking at the girls sleeping in their four poster beds, he rifled
through Lily's book bag. When he didn't find the text in the neatly organized contents, he
searched under her bed and even in her trunk, but with no avail. Sirius and James
searched the tower and the library for days, but 'Dark Curses and Ailments from Past to
Present' was no where to be found. They even looked thorough books of a similar nature,
but without finding anything of particular interest.

The disappearance of the book, however, didn't stop the boys from enjoying Christmas.
Sirius tore into his presents at the crack of dawn as usual, just barely waiting long enough
for the other two to wake before doing so. Remus opened his gifts carefully and precisely,
forming a neat pile of presents beside him. James himself wasted no time at all to open his
presents, letting his gifts mingle with Sirius' all across the rug in his hurry to open, enjoy,
and move on to the next present in turn.

After breakfast, while Remus went to go find Lily and thank her for the Muggle
microscope she gave him, his friends went to Gryffindor Tower to gather the pile of
chocolate frogs Peter had sent them from home. Sirius eyed the corner of a book wedged
in the crack of Lily's favourite chair and swiftly pulled out his wand.

"We already tried there," James said as Sirius levitated the cushions for what seemed to
be the thousandth time in days. 'Quidditch Through The Ages' fell onto the floor.

"Well, it has to be somewhere. Why don't we just ask her for it?"

"She'll never give it to us."

"Why don't we ask Madam Cavell for it? We could say that we need it for an assignment,
and then she'll have to ask for it back from Lily."

"No librarian would trust us with a book from the restricted section without a letter from
the Minister of Magic." James sighed in annoyance. "She had to have put it somewhere.
We just have to ifind/i it."

"How are we going to find it in a castle where every day stairways change where they
lead, rooms change where they are positioned, statues and portraits need passwords to
open, and Filch is at our heels every moment he can spare?" A wide smile spreads across
the taller boy's face. "This is going to be fun." James nodded in agreement, smiling
himself.

"Yeah, it is."

"What are you two still doing here?" Remus' head appeared through the portrait hole,
snow caked in his shaggy brown hair. Cushions and notebooks fell to the ground instantly
as two wand hands dropped in surprise. "You're going to miss all the fun. Outside. In
the snow." He smirked at Sirius cheekily. "They've started enchanting snowballs without
you!"

Sirius' eyes brightened at that, nearly dragging James out the portrait hole while pushing
his way through the portrait hole. "Why didn't you say something before? Really, what
kind of friend are yo-"

Sirius paused mid-sentence as a large chunk of snow fell from above the door frame,
covering him completely before melting away into nothingness. Remus laughed gleefully
as his wand disappeared inside his robes. Sirius stood in shock for a moment before a
wicked grin etched itself across his face. "LUPIN! I'm going to slaughter you!"

"In your dreams, Black!" With that, the two boys dashed down the corridor, James
following close behind him. Later, much later, it would seem strange to the three friends
that Professor McGonagall didn't say a word as they shot past her and two seventh years.

In fact, it wasn't until the Christmas Feast that they noticed anything amiss at all. Arthur
Weasley and a Ravenclaw named Molly Jones sat together away from the rest of the
room, both decidedly pale and withdrawn. Even though they hadn't been good friends
before hand, Arthur had one arm wrapped around the girl's trembling shoulders. Before
the start of the meal, Professor Dumbledore stood up to speak to the students. For the
first time in James' recollection, there was no undertone of happiness in his movements, no
twinkle of humour in his eyes.

"My friends, this day is traditionally a day of joy. Of peace and love." The headmaster
paused as Molly sobbed loudly, Arthur pulled her closer against him as she wept. "Lord
Voldemort has made his move. This afternoon, he and his group of colleagues attacked
and murdered the fine and upstanding wizarding families of two of our own peers, as well
as the families of five Muggle-born wizards. It seems that there is a war approaching, but
I would ask that we do not discuss that today. For today, all I ask is that we bow our
heads in prayer for those who have lost their lives, and the loved ones they left behind."

James lowered his eyes to the table, a million thoughts rushing through his mind. To think
that anyone, even Lord Voldemort, could be capable of such inhumanity. . . Glancing
down at the rows of faces down the tables, some shocked and appalled, others
disturbingly calm, it seemed that Dumbledore didn't have to ask for silence after all.
Whether each individual's loyalty resided with the Ministry of Magic or Voldemort, the
events of that day would always stand out in their minds for years to come. For better or
worse, a war has come.

***

Students flocked back into Hogwarts even before Christmas break had ended. Terrified
parents rushed their children inside the protection of the school grounds, and some took
their younger children to other well protected places. The wizarding community was in
uproar and the Ministry in a state of complete disarray. The world seemed to shift in an
instant, and even the most familiar things became foreign to frightened eyes.

More Muggle born students quickly decided leave Slytherin once they viewed how well a
great number of their peers took the attacks. Andrew Val Jean became a Hufflepuff,
Phillipe Young was resorted into Gryffindor, both Ilsa Weston and Anya Offred became
Ravenclaws, and Ulysseus Jones left Hogwarts altogether. Molly Jones was the only other student who decided to leave Hogwarts as well.

Even the relationships between the Marauders seemed to darken slightly. Peter became
more determined than ever to cling to James, as if doing so would protect him from harm.
Remus seemed to become quieter, more disturbed and introspective than before. Sirius
became protective of his friends, and of Remus especially. He often gave up an evening of
mischief to sit in the Astronomy Tower with his friend, staring silently at the sky until near
morning. It seemed that Sirius was determined not to let Remus distance himself from the
other Marauders. James could feel his dislike for the Slytherins grow as more and more of
their number walked the halls with satisfied smirks. Their pranks on the other house took
a slightly vindictive quality, and although they tried to keep it all in the name of fun, it was
nearly spring before the Marauders didn't gain a detention for dueling Slytherins in the
hallways at least every three days.

Lily, never forgetting the fright and uneasiness she experienced while living in the
Slytherin dungeons, threw herself into her schoolwork. Indeed, it seemed to be no less
than an attack against ignorance as she spent every spare moment ravaging through
ancient volumes, quickly becoming the cleverest witch in her year. Her old house mates
noticed her new tendency to haunt the library and often stopped inside to bully her. James
took it upon himself to make sure at least one of the Marauders were there with her in
case there might be trouble, although Peter only agreed as long as he could call for James
as opposed to helping her himself.

James went down to the Great Hall for breakfast one Sunday morning completely alone.
Remus was absent yet again the night before, this time to visit his sick mother. James and
Sirius had nearly abandoned their quest to find out the secret their friend so preciously hid.
After the attacks at Christmas and the turmoil that followed, Remus' disappearances
seemed trivial. All that mattered was that he was alive and still their friend.

Peter was in the hospital wing covered in boils Snape cursed on him, and Sirius had a full
day of detention with Filch for pushing the aforementioned Slytherin's head through a trick
stair and banishing his book bag into the Forbidden Forest. James smiled at the thought of
Snape tugging frantically at his head, desperately trying to release himself from his
confinement. Unfortunately, it was Professor Reiner who found him and awarded Sirius
his detention. Although there wasn't any proof as to who planted the flobberworms inside his desk, Reiner had been much more willing to take points off of the Marauders since Christmas.

James was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn't notice Lily Evans approaching until
she sat down beside him. Quickly trying in vain to flatten his tousled black hair, James
opened his mouth to say something. The redhead silenced him quickly with a hard look.

"I'm going to the library now. You're not going to follow me again, are you?" James put
on his most convincing face, admiring the way Lily's face flushed lightly when she was
annoyed.

"I don't follow you." Lily rolled her eyes.

"Yes, I'm sure that you go there to study." James shrugged sheepishly, trying to get and
maintain a look of complete innocence. The green eyed girl beside him wasn't making it
easy with the way she was staring impatiently at him.

"You're not the only one with exams coming up."

"I wasn't aware that you needed to be an expert of 'Martin Miggs the Mad Muggle' for
transfiguration. Honestly, James, I can take care of myself. You don't have to baby me."

"I'm not babying you. I just want to keep you from getting hurt," James said, giving up
on all pretenses and trying to use logic. "A lot of those Slytherins are much more
advanced than you."

"Well, a lot are more advanced than iyou/i, James Potter. Everyone knows that it
was you who put the leg locker curse on Lucius Malfoy when he was playing Quidditch,
and he could curse you under the rug!"

"He could not!"

"He's four years ahead of you!"

"He needs Crabbe and Goyle to hold his hand!"

"It doesn't matter!" Lily waved her hands, either in submission or exasperation, it was yet
to be seen. "The point is that I don't need you to hold imy/i hand! iI/i can take
care of myself!"

Before James could reply, a tawny school owl flew overhead, dropping a red envelope on
Lily's lap. James cringed in sympathy as Lily picked up the envelope.

"Oh no. . ." Lily glanced up at him as she began to open the flap.

"What?"

"It's a howler. Cover your ears." James vaguely wondered who could be sending Lily a
howler, with her parents being Muggles, and clamped his hands over his own ears. A
magically enhanced voice boomed across the great hall.

"GO HOME, LILY, NOBODY WANTS YOU HERE! HOGWARTS IS FOR
iREAL/i WIZARDS, NOT MUDBLOOD FREAKS LIKE YOU! YOUR GOING
TO BE NEXT! YOU CAN'T HIDE FROM VOLDEMORT!"

Lily dropped the envelope in surprise as it burst into flames. Students from every table
stared at her, every other Muggle-born with equal shock and dismay as the receiver, and
nearly every Wizard-born with similar looks on their faces. Only a group of Slytherin first
years seemed completely unaffected, trying to hold back snickers as they concentrated on
their porridge. Professor McGonagall stood up from her seat and started towards the
Gryffindor table.

After the initial shock wore off, Lily took one look at the multitude of eyes concentrated
on her and ran out of the hall as quickly as physically possible. It was only a heartbeat
before James followed her.

Although she was not in the habit of running as was James, Lily overtook him with ease.
She was outside of the castle and sitting beside the lake before James managed to catch up
with her. He fell down beside her with a thump, and, before he could catch his breath, the
redhead threw her arms around him. James patted her back awkwardly as Lily cried
against his shoulder, pulling his robes in bunches between her tightly drawn fingers. James
let out a breath he didn't even know he was holding as she pulled away, either of relief or
disappointment. It was hard to keep track of anything he was feeling around her.

"I'm going to get him, James! I'm going to beat Voldemort if it's the last thing I do, and
then we'll see what they think of me!"

And with a look of ambitious determination, Lily walked calmly back to the castle. James
watched her retreating form until it was out of sight before he picked up her discarded
book bag and followed after.

***

Although Lily had left the lake directly before him, James had quite a time finding her. He
asked many a student in the corridors if they had seen her, but every tip seemed to lead to
a dead end.

James began to wonder if she had gone back to the tower, when he glanced over the
railing of the staircase just in time to see Lily's head appear from behind a tapestry on the
floor below. James began to call out to her, but something about the look on the
redhead's face made him stop as Lily glanced around evasively before slipping through
to another staircase.

James glanced around himself, checking to make sure the girl was out of sight, and walked
quickly to the tapestry. A woven dragon in the scenery eyed him sleepily before rolling
over and falling back asleep. Slipping behind the cloth, James felt the wall for a loose
brick or trick button, but with no prevail. Neither did any charms or spells affect the wall
in the slightest. He was on the verge of giving up when footsteps began to echo around
the corner and Reiner loudly scolded a student for loitering in the hallway. Not wanting to
face being scolded himself, James flattened his back against the wall and willed the
professor to pass on by without noticing the rather large lump in the tapestry.

It took a moment to realize that his straining ears could hear no sounds from the hallways.
James opened his eyes to find himself facing a stone wall. He had passed through to the
other side into a room about half the size of a regular classroom. It was furnished with
musty antique furniture, much older and more worn than any other in the school.
Although there was a sorry looking bed and wardrobe, a desk against the wall looked like
it had been recently cleaned, with new parchment and quills piled neatly on the corner.
James absently wondered what the trick to the doorway was, but any thought was quickly
banished as he noticed a pile of large books on the floor. The top one read 'Dark Curses
and Ailments from Past to Present' on the cover. 'The Curse of the Bite; A Examination
of Lycanthropy,' 'Two Faced - Lycanthropes and How to Deal with Them,' and
'Werewolves, the Transformation of Men to Monsters' were stacked among the books
underneath it.

So this was Lily's secret project.

James stared at the faded volumes in horror. It was impossible. It ihad/i to be!
Sweet, shy Remus Lupin, a werewolf? The very thought of it was absolutely absurd!
James forced himself to laugh at the very thought. It came out empty and hollow to his
ears. Lily was probably doing an extra credit essay. She was the type to do that.
Somewhere in his subconscious, events and facts about Remus began to fall into place
with Professor Figg's lesson on werewolves, but James refused to acknowledge them. Not
Remus. Anyone was more likely to be a dark creature than the brown haired boy was.

A large astrological chart was posted on the wall, magically charmed to change constantly.
Last night was the full moon.

***

James practically fell through the portrait hole, gasping for air as he quickly abandoned
Lily's bag, which contained scrolls and scrolls of facts about werewolves that pertained to
his secretive friend. "SIRIUS! PETER! Where are you?!?"

"They're not back yet." Remus glanced up from the large scroll of parchment he was
writing on, more than half of which fell over the end of the table. "Peter went to the
kitchens, and Sirius is still polishing the silver in the trophy room."

James stared at the other boy blankly while he flipped the page of a book by his side.
Dark circles lay under Remus' eyes and his lip had clearly been split open at the side.
Fading bruises could be seen on his jaw and around his wrist as Remus re-inked his quill.
His fingers were scratched and slightly swollen at the tips. Madam Pomfrey had obviously
done some work on the boy before he came back.

"Did you need something?"

James shook his head dumbly at the words and backed up through the portrait hole.
Remus stood up to follow him, his eyebrows knitted in concern over his dark eyes. "James, are you all right, mate? You look like you're going to wretch."

"I'm fine." James smiled half-heartedly. "Sorry I interrupted you.

"Ja -- "

James shut the portrait hole quickly and ran down the corridor towards the trophy room.
He nearly tripped over Filch's cat, Mrs. Norris, as he rounded a corner, but was in too
much of a panic to check his behaviour. Remus couldn't be a werewolf. He just couldn't!
Sirius would never let him live it down when he told him the idea.

"Siri!"

James skidded to a halt in front of dark haired boy as he leaned over a large plaque resting
on the floor. The latter looked up with startled blue eyes.

"What are you doing here, James? Filch will catch you for sure!"

"Sirius, this is important!" James glanced towards the door, making sure it had shut tight
behind him. "Sirius, I found the book!"

"You what?" A slow smile grew over his face as Sirius threw the polishing rag to the
floor. "That's iFANTASTIC/i! Where was it? What was in it? You have to tell me
ieverything/i!"

James took a deep breath and quickly explained the events of the morning. "And then, I
found a room I've never been to before, and there it was. Along with a pile of books
about lycanthropy." Sirius' eyes widened in shock.

"You mean werewolves?"

"Yes."

"Lily thinks Remus is a werewolf?"

"I think so." His friend's face broke out into a grin again as he stooped down to pick up
the cloth again.

"Don't be daft, James. Remus isn't a werewolf. Werewolves are evil, and blood thirsty,
and crazy, and. . . He's just not like that." Sirius chewed his lower lip for a second, folding
and unfolding the rag.

"Although he idoes/i move faster than anyone else we know." James nodded in
agreement.

"He's stronger too."

"Even though he's so thin and always sick."

"He's sick about every month."

"And he's always moody before he disappears."

"And tired afterwards."

James could practically see the thoughts swarming through the taller boy's mind. Sirius
shook his head and began to attack the plaque with new vigor.

"No, you're wrong. Remus couldn't be a werewolf." He looked at James with pleading
eyes. "Could he?"

"I think he could." The two Marauders sat in silence until Filch opened the door, Mrs.
Norris scuttling in past him.

"What are you doing here?" He shook his fist at James. "Be off with you, and leave the
other one to his work."

***

If Sirius had been shocked by the idea of one of his best friends being a werewolf, Peter
was positively horrified. It took a while for James to calm the chubby boy down, but
nothing would calm him enough to even approach Gryffindor tower. Although James was
interested in finding Remus and proving the theory wrong, at Peter's insistence, they
wandered through the corridors together until dinner.

Sirius waited for the two outside the Great Hall, peering in through the door as they came
up behind him. He glanced over his shoulder, eyes wide with uncertainty as he worried at
his lower lip.

"He's in there. iEating/i."

"iEating/i?" James rolled his eyes as Peter trembled beside him.

"Well, of course he's eating! What else is he supposed to be doing?" Sirius made a face at
James before looking back into the hall. Remus looked up from his plate at the same time,
his face brightening at the sight of his friend. Sirius smiled in return before turning back
out of the doorway.

"What are we going to do? Should we pretend we never found anything?"

"Siri, he's a iwerewolf/i!" Peter shuddered again, wrapping his arms around his chest
as if to protect himself. "We should tell Professor Dumbledore."

"But Dumbledore already knows." James tilted his head thoughtfully. "In fact, I'd wager
that all of the professors know. Things can't be as bad as they seem." Sirius nodded in
agreement.

"Dumbledore would never put anyone of us in danger." Sirius gave Peter a pointed look.
"We always said that Remus didn't have to hide secrets from us."

"But that was before we knew what the secret iwas/i. We didn't know he was
dangerous before."

"He's not dangerous! Remus wouldn't hurt a fly and you know it, Peter!" James
motioned for the other two boys to back away from the doorway as a group of
Ravenclaws approached down the corridor. He opened the door of an empty closet and
slipped inside, waiting until the door closed behind them before starting again.

"Let's think about this rationally. Neither of us have ever felt threatened by Remus before,
he's always been there to help us, no matter what, and none of the professors are worried
enough about him to tell anyone that he's a werewolf."

"So you want us to ignore the fact that he's a dark creature?" Peter shook his head in
panic. "No. I won't do it! Not for anyone!"

"Werewolf or no, he's still one of our best friends. I trust him with my life." Sirius
folded his arms, his jaw protruding in stubborn determination. "You two can do what you
like, but I'm going to dinner." James stopped him before he could open the door.

"I'm coming too. I say we talk to him. Tonight, after curfew. We owe it to Remus to let
him explain himself." The two black haired boys looked at their smaller friend, each with
identical looks of expectation on their faces. Peter sighed loudly.

"Fine."

***

Although each of the four Marauders did their best to keep up an appearance of normalcy,
each knew in their own way that something was amiss between their small group. Peter
was clearly still frightened of Remus, jumping whenever the brown haired boy ventured to
talk to him. Sirius barely spoke a word, unconsciously staring at Remus for minutes on
end with an unreadable expression on his face while James tried to keep the mood light by
being overly peppy. For his part, Remus studied each of his friends in turn and became
more and more uneasy until the meal ended.

Remus stood abruptly, dropping his cutlery on his plate as he grabbed his bags. Peter fell
back into Sirius and threw his arms over his head, startled by the suddenness of the other's
movements.

"Don't eat me!"

A few students nearby turned towards the commotion as Remus stared at his friend in
horror. A look of comprehension flashed across his eyes as he glanced at Sirius and James
before sprinting out of the Great Hall. Sirius angrily shoved Peter off of him, struggling
to get up off the bench.

"Get up, you sod! We have to follow him!"

James helped pull the blond boy to his feet before running out of the room for the second
time that day. The three boys followed the sound of Remus' fading footsteps through the
hallways until they reached the main entrance. Their friend was already half way to the
Forbidden Forest once they stepped outside. Remus ignored James and Sirius as they
called for him to stop, leaning down under the Whomping Willow. To their surprise,
Remus had done something to make the branches stop swinging and disappeared from
sight into a small space between the roots. By the time they reached the tree, it had
resumed it's usual motion, giving each Peter and James nasty blows before the boys gave
up trying to open the hole.

"What are we going to do?" James kicked the ground in frustration. "He's getting away!"
Sirius knelt down, examining the spot where Remus had disappeared.

"There's got be a tunnel or something through here. It must lead into the forest." Sirius
met James' eyes. "Remus has to come out somewhere. We have to look for him."

"We can't go in the forest! There's all sorts of monsters in there!" Peter shivered as the
other two boys stepped into the shadows.

"Then don't come! We'll find him on our own."

Although terrified at the thought of being left alone, Peter, for once, showed no indication
of following James anywhere. With a grunt of disapproval, Sirius broke into a run, James
pausing only long enough to light the end of his wand.

James struggled to keep pace with Sirius, who's long legs helped maintain a larger step.
Sirius, for his part, managed to trip and stumble over dozens of stones and roots before
even thinking of lighting his own wand. Both boys were so preoccupied with their
thoughts that neither noticed the creatures following them in the shadows.

Yelling in fright, Sirius slipped on a patch of moss as a massive black monster stepped out
of the trees directly in front of him. James promptly fell down beside him when his foot
made contact with the taller boy's shoulder, a strong surge of panic preventing him from
doing more than stare as eight beady eyes glinted in the fading sunlight that filtered
thorough the branches.

Before he could get a clear look at the creature looming over them, something grabbed
James from behind. He screamed as he was carried away from the monster, the sound of
hooves meeting the ground behind him. James struggled weakly for a bit, only to have a
muscular arm encircle his waist to hold him still.

"Jay, are you all right?" Sirius' voice barely registered as the blood pounded in his ears.
James made a mental check of his body before answering.

"I'm fine. You?"

"Peachy."

His saviour halted suddenly and quickly placed James on the ground in a heap. Fang
leaped onto him, licking his face, neck, ears, and anything else he could reach as the boy
rolled over.

"Gerroff, you."

Hagrid pulled the puppy off by the collar, a smile hidden behind a large, bushy beard.
"Good of yer to find them." He nodded his head in greeting. "Polyta. Corbin."

James turned behind him. Two centaurs stood over him and Sirius, who sat only a few
feet away. A female with long brown hair nodded back as a peppered gray male extended
his hand.

"Greetings Hagrid."

"We were happy to be of some help. Weren't we, Father?" Corbin rolled his eyes at this,
but agreed all the same, mumbling something about being ridden like a common horse.

"It's much appreciated, be assured." Hagrid motioned for James and Sirius to follow him.
"Good day ter ya all."

The centaurs were barely out of sight before the two friends began rambling on about the
creature in the woods.

"It was as tall as a house!"

"And had dozens of eyes!"

"And legs, too! Scores of them!"

"And it was covered with fur!"

"And had pinchers!"

"Hagrid, what iwas/i it?"

Hagrid laughed loudly as the reached his cabin. "Yer lucky to have made it back alive, ye
were. Almost became supper, I imagine."

Sirius' face momentarily brightened at the thought of the danger they avoided before
sobering. "Hagrid, Remus is still out there! He opened a hole under the Whomping
Willow. What if that ithing/i finds him too?"

"Not to worry, Master Black. Young Lupin has already been brought back to the castle."
Dumbledore appeared from behind them, his eyes twinkling in humour. "Mr. Pettigrew
informed us of your disappearances the moment you left."

"So he's all right?" James breathed a sigh of relief at Dumbledore's smile of assurance.

"He's waiting for the three of you in my office as we speak."

***

Peter was waiting with Professor McGonagall when they reached the stairway to
Dumbledore's office. He glanced apologetically at them as the headmaster gave the
password. The Marauders followed him up the staircase, completely silent as each step brought them closer to their missing counterpart. Dumbledore stopped at the door of the office and smiled kindly.

"I'll leave the four of you to settle your matters together." He patted Peter on the
shoulder, who visibly relaxed at the gesture. "And remember that, amongst other things,
Mr. Lupin is still just a boy. As you all are."

With that, the headmaster made his way down the stairs. Sirius glared at Peter, who
was smiling hopefully from one boy to the other.

"You itold/i on us??? How could you?" James nodded in agreement as the blond
boy's face fell.

"iUn/iforgivable!"

"Abominable!"

"Disgusting!"

"Sickening, really, saving our life like that."

"The ultimate betrayal."

Sirius and James paused their banter for a moment, waiting for the words to register to
their friend. When Peter looked up in confusion, James laughed and thumped his back.

"We owe you one, Pete. We wouldn't have made it out if it weren't for you."

Sirius smirked as Peter sighed a breath of relief. "It seems like you're not rid of us yet, ol'
chap."

"Remus either." Peter glanced at the door. "They said he tried to run away tonight. He
made it all the way past Hogsmeade before they caught up with him."

"Past Hogsmeade?" Sirius whistled, clearly impressed with his friend. "Bugger all, how
did he manage that?"

James steeled himself to enter Dumbledore's office. "Want to go ask him?" Sirius
nodded.

"Pete?" Peter shifted on his feet a moment before raising his head decidedly.

"It iis/i awfully impressive of him. Imagine making it all that way. I'd need a
broomstick to go that quickly!"

Crossing both his fingers and toes for luck, James pushed the door open. Dumbledore's
office was large and round, with pictures of Hogwart's previous headmasters hanging on
the wall. Remus sat in a chair next to Dumbledore's desk, a small scarlet and gold bird
resting on his lap. All of the wounds that were there this afternoon had now faded away
completely, leaving Remus looking like any other person who had a bad night's sleep.
Before James could think of anything to say, Sirius pushed past him and ran across the
room.

"Remus!"

Sirius threw his arms around his friend neck, drawing him up into a tight hug. The latter
stood rigidly, looking very much overwhelmed and astonished, before returning the
embrace in full. Remus closed his eyes tightly as tears of relief began to trail slowly down
his cheeks. Sirius suddenly pushed the other boy away, pouting angrily.

"So, that time in first year I beat you at arm wrestling, you just let me win, didn't you?"
Remus open and closed his mouth soundlessly, the expression on his face closely
resembling a deer in the headlights.

"Well, maybe just a ilittle/i." Peter stepped forward with his hands on his hips.

"And when we brought up all those cakes for you're birthday, you heard us before we
could surprise you, didn't you?"

"I iwas/i surprised, really. . . Just a little before I was supposed to be."

"And when Sirius and I were under the cloak when you were coming from the library, you
could smell us, couldn't you." James gave Remus a hard look as the latter struggled to
hold back a smile.

"Well, if you would just ibathe/i once in a while. . ."

The four Marauders burst into laughter, unable to keep back the relief each felt at finding
that their friendship remained no worse for wear. Later, much later, there would be
explanations to be had. But for now, the resolute acceptance of best friends was all that
anybody needed.

***

Dumbledore excused the boys from their classes the next day. Although Remus was
horrified at the idea of missing so many lectures, he quickly submitted to his friends, who
were all determined to know everything about his lycanthropy. Sirius was absolutely
fascinated with every detail of the werewolf's life story, from the time he was bitten at the
age of five to his secret house just outside of Hogsmeade where he went every full moon
to transform. Peter was becoming increasingly more at ease with the idea, even venturing
to ask a few questions about lycanthrope while they lounged about their dorm, sharing a
stash of candy spread across James' bed.

"The wolf wouldn't harm us, would it Remus? I mean, you'd recognize us, wouldn't you?"
Remus looked away uncomfortably, poking at an imaginary piece of lint on the blanket.

"The wolf doesn't recognize anybody. It's a monster. It thirsts for blood, wants it so
desperately that it cannot think of anything else, and nobody is safe from that." He lifted
the sleeve of his robe then, revealing the faint impression of teeth marks along his flesh.
"Not even me."

"The wolf attacks itself?" Sirius' fingers grazed along the indentations, an expression of
morbid curiosity on his face. Remus nodded sadly.

"It hungers so much, it becomes crazed, and any flesh is better than none at all. Anything
to keep it from thinking about it's need for the hunt." He laughed bitterly, in a half-hearted
attempt to disguise his misery and self-loathing. "Although, one time, my pet puffskein
was accidentally locked in the room with the wolf, and it rolled Jerry around the room all
night."

James smiled lightly and patted the other boy's shoulder. "I suppose even the wolf needs a
friend."

Remus pulled away suddenly and stood up over the bed. "No, it doesn't!" He looked
pleadingly from one boy to another. "You have to promise me that you won't try to
approach the wolf. That you won't ever try to open the willow during the full moon."

"I promise." James nudged Peter and Sirius, who were both to startled at their friend's
outburst to do anything but stare open-mouthed at him. "We won't ever open the willow
when your transformed."

"We won't go near the willow when the wolf is out." Peter said with conviction. Three
Marauders looked expectantly at their silent fourth. Sirius' brow was knit together in
concentration; an expression that, given the circumstances, was a very unsettling thing.

"Sirius?" His name came out as little more than a whine as Remus stared desperately into
the boy's dark blue eyes. "Please, promise me you won't do anything. I couldn't bear it if the wolf attacked any one. I don't want to hurt anybody, iever/i."

"Do you think I'd ever put anyone at risk like that?"

Remus balled his hands into white knuckled fists at Sirius' slightly wounded look.
"iSiri/i, don't change the subject!" The latter nodded in submission, easing the
tension slightly with a charming grin.

"I promise I'll never give the wolf a chance to hurt anybody."

Remus apparently decided that this was an acceptable answer, and didn't say another word
about it. Later, when James asked him why he didn't press the subject, Remus simply
answered, "Sirius doesn't make promises he can't keep."

***

It was a silent knowledge between the Marauders that they would have to approach Lily
about Remus' lycanthropy, but neither boy wanted to bring the subject into the open.
Remus, especially, needed some time to come to terms with having his condition being
common knowledge amongst his closest friends after spending so much time and energy
striving to conceal it. Even though he knew that he could speak openly about the wolf,
Remus couldn't quite help but avoid the subject as often as he could.

James watched his friend closely, determining how the moon's progression affected him.
As the full moon drew near, Remus slowly became more restless and temperamental,
which the other Marauders now knew to be a side effect of lycanthropy. Peter seemed to
become more edgy as well, counting down the days before his friend and dorm mate
turned into the object of many childhood nightmares, and Sirius became more withdrawn,
spending more time in the library than he had all year. Lily's behaviour was seen in a new light, and James couldn't help but notice every stray eye glance and sporadic disappearances when the redhead could not be found.

On the day of the full moon, the four friends sat quietly together in the hospital wing.
Remus' impending fate loomed above them all as they waited for Madam Pomfrey to lead
him down to the Whomping Willow.

When the nurse could be heard coming towards the door, Remus turned to the others.

"Remember, you promised me. Don't risk approaching the wolf."

"We won't forget." Peter smiled and hugged the taller boy. "Good luck." Remus looked
expectantly at James as he returned the gesture. James nodded his assurance and clapped
his hand on one thin shoulder.

"We'll see you in the morning, mate."

Remus raised an eyebrow at Sirius as he smiled mysteriously, leaning back in his chair and
crossing his arms behind his head. "What?" Remus narrowed his eyes in a calculating
glare, only to let up as Madam Pomfrey came through the door.

"Don't I at least get a hug?" Sirius grinned wider and embraced his friend.

"I'll be seeing you, Remmie."

Madam Pomfrey cleared her throat and gestured towards the door. Remus smiled weakly
at her and straightened his robes. As he passed James, he whispered, "Hog tie him if you
have to." Before the black-haired boy could answer, the werewolf was gone. And so was
Sirius. James groaned in exasperation and looked at Peter, who was staring intently at the
door.

"Remind me to lock up that cloak."

***

James spent the rest of the night tossing and turning, torn between worrying about Remus'
transformation and wanting to find Sirius and throttle him for putting him though extra
anxiety.

Finally, just as the sun began to make an appearance, James decided to do both. He called
out to Peter, who made a series of grunts before falling back asleep again. James rolled
his eyes before slipping into his dressing robe and slippers. Deciding against risking going
through the hallways and being caught by Filch, James tiptoed into the sixth year boy's
dormitories and slipped Frank Longbottom's new Clean Sweep out from under his bed.
Whispering a quick apology, he slipped onto the broom and flew out of the window.
Once clear from the tower, James leaned forward and raced towards the Whomping
Willow as fast as he could go. Two small figures were visible in the rising sunlight, curled
up on the ground a stone's throw from the flailing branches.

James clenched his jaw, a slightly sick feeling wrenching in his stomach as Sirius and Lily
began to come into vision, the latter huddled under the former's robe as he lay his head on
her shoulder. Sirius was shivering slightly in the cool morning breeze, drops of dew
glittering from his cheeks and the ends of his eyelashes. James growled slightly, still
wanting to throttle his best friend yet throwing his robe over him all the same.

"James?"

The boy turned towards the willow, just in time to see a familiar brown and gray mop of
hair appear through a hole in the roots of the now stationary tree. Remus ducked quickly,
cursing as a flock of school owls flew out of the tunnel behind him, hooting in indignation
all the way to the owlery.

"Remus!" He quickly rushed to help his friend out into the open and away from the
Whomping Willow. Remus waved his hands away as he stood up straight and stretched
painfully. "How are you? How do you feel?" The lycanthrope smirked slightly as his
knees buckled and he sank to the ground.

"I'm fine." He grinned wider at James' doubting look. "Really I am. I hardly hurt myself
at all." Remus opened the tattered robe slightly to expose a patch his chest. There were many reasons why James wouldn't consider his friend "hardly hurt," but he didn't say anything as he helped Remus to his feet again.

"Remus?"

James turned to both slumbering students, who were now waking in the early morning
light. Sirius propped himself up on his elbows as Lily rubbed the sleep out of her eyes.
"You're back." Remus clenched his fists at the other boy's easy greeting and quickly
proceeded to do what James had been itching to do all night. He leaped on Sirius' chest,
knocking him to the ground and shaking him by the shoulders.

"You bugger! I told you to keep away from the wolf! You promised!" Sirius caught his
assailant, who quickly spent all the energy in his weakened body and began to collapse.
Remus smiled, his eyes glittering affectionately as he was lowered onto the damp grass.
"Crazy git." Sirius beamed back.

"For one, you only made us promise not to go near the willow. For another, I didn't even
promise that. And lastly, I wasn't in any danger. You couldn't get out of the Shrieking
Shack even if you wanted to, werewolf or no."

"Besides," Lily piped up, smiling sweetly, "You had the owls with you."

"What is going on?" James' brow wrinkled in confusion. "What happened last night?"

Sirius lay back down, letting Remus use him as a pillow as he looked up at his friend. "I
read in the library that werewolves are only a threat to humans. They rather enjoy the
company of other animals, in fact." Lily nodded in agreement, and James couldn't avoid
noticing how her red hair flashed gold in dawn's light.

"The human side is able to maintain more control over the wolf when other animals are
present. So we filled the Shrieking Shack with barn owls -- "

"Which was my idea, by the way."

Lily shoot Sirius a look as he grinned triumphantly. " -- to see if it would help Remus
during the full moon."

"Course, we had to go see if it was working -- "

"Which was his idea, by the way."

Sirius glared at Lily, who looked on innocently before sticking her tongue out at him. " --
so we slipped out to Hogsmeade and stole a peek through the window of the shack."

"The wolf attacked the window when it smelled us, but it couldn't get past the
enchantments. We didn't want to keep him angry, so we came back here to wait for
Remus." Lily concluded with a flourish, a self-satisfied glint in her eyes, full with the
knowledge that her research had been correct. "It worked, didn't it, Remus? It helped to
have those owls there."

Remus nodded contentedly, groaning as Sirius stood up and lifted him up like a child. It
seemed like the boy would sleep at last, until two chocolate eyes opened and pinned
themselves onto the dark blue eyes above him.

"But don't you ever come near the wolf again! I don't care how many spells they placed
on that shack, I don't want to risk cursing anyone." Sirius laughed heartily.

"You worry too much, Remmie."

The four friends began to walk back to the castle, meeting the headmaster and nurse along
the way.

***

James and Sirius waited in Madam Pomfrey's office for Remus. The nurse promised them
that he would be ready to join them by lunch, although both were sure that they could
charm her into letting them in before breakfast. James shifted uncomfortably against the
hard stone wall.

"So, what did you do with my cloak?"

"It's safe." James gave his friend a wary look. Sirius smiled back.

"Don't worry. A house elf brought it up to the tower for me. I made her promise not to
put it anywhere but in your trunk." James nodded in satisfaction before asking the
question that was on his mind since he first reached the willow that morning.

"How did Lily get mixed up with this? We never talked about telling her."

"She's as smart as they come, that one. I reckon Lily knew that we knew before we knew
that we knew." Sirius scratched his head in bewilderment, before shrugging it off. "When
Lily saw me studying lycanthropy in the library, she approached me about it. Gave me all
these great notes that she took and everything. Said she knew all that she needed to know
about Remus."

"And she won't tell anyone?"

"Not a soul."

James sighed in relief. "I still wish we could be there for Remus during the
transformation."

"Maybe we can." Sirius looked around slyly before leaning towards his friend. "I was
thinking that maybe we could become animagus."

"iAnimagus/i? Siri, that's practically impossible! Most people can't become
animagus even if they try for a hundred years! Elie Goldberg told me that the first
centaurs were animagus that got stuck as half human and half horses."

"That's what Lily said. Well, not that rubbish about centaurs, but about it being
impossible."

"Well, we're both right."

"No, your not! Jamie, hundreds of wizards and witches have managed it, and the only
reason more haven't is that they've been scared off of it." Sirius grinned at the prospect of
becoming an animagus. "Just imagine, we'd be able to turn into animals and Remus
couldn't hurt us like that. We could be with every full moon."

James closed his eyes in contemplation, imagining himself as a fox or an eagle, completely
and utterly able to visit the wolf without fear. "We'll have to research this before we even
try. I want to know everything I can before I try it." He opened his eyes and looked at
Sirius. "And we can't tell Remus. Not until we know if we can do it."

Sirius nodded in agreement and threw his arm around the other boy's shoulder. "Just you
wait, Potter. This has igot/i to be my best idea yet."

Something in taller boy's smile nearly caused James to reconsider.

***

"But what if I turn into a goldfish? What then?"

James laughed at the idea and leaned closer to his friend. "Then we'll get you a nice bowl with a castle in it, Pete. Come on, it's for iRemus/i. We can at least give it a shot, can't we?"

Peter pouted slightly, brushing his pale hair out of his eyes. "I'm terrible at transfiguration. And you know what Elie Goldberg says about centaurs!" Sirius buried his head in his arms before leaning back in his chair.

"How can you both be so daft! We've studied them in Care of Magical Creatures, and there wasn't one word about that!" James flushed slightly before turning back to Peter.

"I'll make you a deal. If you pass your transfiguration exam, we'll give it a shot. If you don't, we'll reconsider."

Peter cocked his head to the side, weighing his options before nodding in agreement. James smiled winningly at the unsuspecting boy, who was completely oblivious to the drillings he would receive for the next few weeks. His smile only widened as Professor Reiner sat on a piece of dragon liver he had lovingly placed on his chair before class started.

***

The days before exams went by slowly for James and Sirius, who spent every free moment desperately coaching Peter in his courses. Although Remus couldn't understand why there was such a need to focus on transfiguration, he contributed in full on helping his friend get a grasp on everything from the theory to the practical. Lily wasn't told of their plans to become animagi. She had been so determined against it when Sirius had first mentioned it that he couldn't be convinced that she should be acquainted to the decision.

"She'll turn us in to Dumbledore for sure!" James shook his head, unable to associate the girl with any sort of betrayal.

"Lily is keeping Remus' secret. Why wouldn't she keep ours?"

"The professors already iknow/i Remus' secret. If they knew ours, they'd stop us in a heartbeat. She knows that." Sirius shuddered, and for all the years he lived two houses away from the boy, James couldn't tell if it was real or in jest. "You don't know her as well as I do. She's scary. Plays by the rules and everything. Thinks too much about what could go wrong, I 'spect."

No matter now many times James brought up the subject, Sirius couldn't be swayed. It bothered him slightly to keep secrets from Lily, but in the end, he knew that Sirius was probably right. And aside from the occasional game of Wizard's Chess or Exploding Snap, there wasn't much time to reconsider with exams quickly approaching. She did, however, manage to help Peter along with his studies. Lily had an exceptional way of helping the boy through topics that even Remus' careful explanations, James' detailed diagrams, and Sirius' embellished demonstrations couldn't make understood.

It was a mixed blessing for Peter when he received the highest grades he had ever managed to pull off on his final examinations. All of his professors were impressed by his improvement. Professor McGonagall was especially satisfied with Peter, who had never earned enough points for Gryffindor to even begin to equal the ones he had lost.

For Peter, a wonderful bout of faith in his abilities began to emerge as his marks rose above hopeless; Which was unfortunately dampened by the knowledge that he was now obligated to try harder in his classes to maintain a fair grade and to keep his promise to his Sirius and James. His only request, when implored by his friends, was that they only attempted to try and transform while they returned to Hogwarts and, more to the point, Madam Pomfrey.

All four of the Marauders were uncharacteristically silent as they waited to board Hogwarts Express at the end of the term. James smiled sadly at his friends, trying his best to look optimistic to Peter, who would be visiting and aunt in Estonia for the entire vacation.

"We'll owl each other every day, Pete. You'll hardly have time to miss us with all of the owls landing at your window." Peter sighed heavily and returned his smile.

"That's easy for you to say. You'll be three feet from Sirius all summer. I'll be three billion feet from anyone our age who can speak English."

"You could always cast a translation charm." Sirius smirked as Peter rolled his eyes.

"Oh, come off it. The last time I tried that one, that Hufflepuff only spoke Mermish for three days! Flitwick took ten points for that!" James laughed at the memory.

"You know Amos Diggory forgave you for that! Anyhow, he was glad to be excused from that Astronomy paper. He owes you a favour, really."

Remus glanced wistfully from one friend to another. "Still, it will be awfully lonely without you three around." He shook his head mournfully. "What will I do with my time now that I have no one to keep out of trouble?"

"You could always try reading. You never got a chance to do that with Siri around." James ducked the aforementioned boy's arm as he swung it at his head. Sirius grinned widely and hefted a small green bag over his shoulder.

"Who says I won't be around? Me and Jamie-boy are coming to visit every chance we get, you know that don't you?" Remus sobered quickly and began to thoroughly examine his shoes. Sirius frowned slightly.

"What is it?" Remus' eyes darted up briefly before looking back to his feet.

"I, uh. . . " He cleared his throat in embarrassment, the tips of his ears turning slightly pink. "I'm not allowed to have visitors." He looked into his friend's faces then and smiled weakly. "They're nervous about people knowing about. . . ithat/i."

"Ohhh. . . " Sirius and James shared a look. James smiled at Remus and threw an arm around his shoulder. "Then we'll just have to bring you to us." The werewolf looked at the grinning faces of his two best friends.

"How are you going to do that?"

"Dunno, really." Sirius checked his watch and nodded to James. "Well, times a-wasting. Guess we should be going." Both boys grabbed onto their luggage. Peter narrowed his eyes as James opened the bag on Sirius' shoulder and pulled out one of his favourite slippers.

"What are you doing with that?"

He didn't get an answer as Sirius grabbed the other end. Two black haired boys and one fresh new portkey suddenly disappeared from sight. Remus and Peter stared at the spot in shock, too astonished at what they had seen to even speak. Even when the contents of Severus Snape's trunk exploded through the window of Hogwarts Express.

The End