Call you that backing of your friends?
A plague upon such backing!
Give me them that will face me.
—William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1
“Dawn?” Buffy’s voice was desperate and high as she looked around the ritual room, her blonde hair swinging as she wiped her head from side to side. Her eyes took in every nook and cranny, examining behind her friends, only to come up empty. Tears rushed forward, but she rapidly blinked them away. Turing to the redheaded witch, she demanded, “Willow, what did you do?”
“Nothing,” the witch denied, looking extremely confused. “It was a healing spell, Buffy, not a transmogrification one. It shouldn’t have done anything to Dawn.”
“Let’s all just calm down,” Giles said, stepping near to Buffy. “Now, what do we all remember last? Willow, you probably were awake to the end of the spell, correct?” When Willow nodded, he continued, “Then what did you see?”
“I don’t really see when I’m like that,” Willow explained. “I sort of get in the magic zone, and don’t see much.”
“I can’t believe this,” Buffy said, stepping forward and sweeping Harry up into her arms, who was still sleeping easily and now rested against her chest. She brushed his hair away from his head, kissing his now faded pink scar.
“Relax, Buff,” Xander said, still poking at his new eye. “One of Willow’s spells hasn’t gone wrong since...well, since she turned herself into Warren earlier this year.”
“Hey,” Willow protested. “That was Amy, not me.”
“Look,” Giles cut in. “Let’s not be too hasty. There is a small possibility that Dawn was transported somewhere else, or turned invisible. I have a map of the building in my office. Let’s go back there and perform a locator spell or several if we have to. Buffy,” he said, reaching out and clasping his Slayer’s shoulder. “We’ll find Dawn, I promise.”
Buffy shot him a grateful smile, and quickly exited the room. It wasn’t as if one of them hadn’t disappeared before, like that time with Willow and the flesh eating demon, but something felt different now. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she knew something had changed. Her thought process was disrupted though, when she saw Violet in the hallway.
“Vi!” she called out, hurrying up to the younger slayer. “Have you seen Dawn? She’s gone missing.”
“Hi, Buffy,” Vi said, before tilting her head to the side. “Um, who’s Dawn? Is she a new Slayer?”
Buffy’s whole world seemed to slow down, and she stared at the redheaded pixie before her with horror twisting her beautiful face. “Vi, this is very important. Please tell me, what do you know about my family?”
“Um, is this a test?” Vi asked. At Buffy’s determined look, she squeaked out, “Oh, well, you have a dad who lives in...Spain, I want to say? And your mom died when you were twenty. Oh, and didn’t you say you had an aunt who lives in Chicago?”
“That’s it,” Buffy demanded. “You don’t know of anyone else?”
“No, like who? Buffy, what’s going—”
“Yes, thank you, Violet,” Giles said, stepping forward. “You should go now.” The Englishman turned to his Slayer after Vi was gone, reaching out to her, only to have Buffy pull away. “Buffy, this doesn’t...just because...we shall figure this out, I promise you.”
She looked up at him, pleading tears in her eyes. “We have to.”*~*
Remus used the floo in the Three Broomsticks to get from Hogsmeade to St. Mungo’s. The questions he had for Dumbledore could wait. The most important thing to his mind was getting to London to see if James was all right. Had he been thinking, it would have occurred to him that security for the Man Who Lived would be tight, but as it was, Remus was reacting. Still, even if he had thought about security, it wouldn’t have crossed his mind to be shut down at the Inquiries Counter, which was exactly what happened.
“I am sorry, sir, visiting hours are over,” the greeting witch said, not sounding the least bit apologetic. “You’ll have to come back in the morning, if you’re on the list.”
“Look, I just got back from a long trip and I didn’t hear about James until an hour ago,” Remus said, slowly losing grasp of his legendary patience. “I am tired and hungry, but I know I won’t be able to eat or sleep until I know that Prongs is all right. So, why don’t you do your job and see about getting me in to see my friend?”
The werewolf turned his head to see Alice Longbottom standing there, looking surprised to see him. He stepped out of the queue and over to her side.
“Next!” the witch behind the Inquiries Counter called.
“Alice,” he said with some relief. “I just got back from the Orkney’s and heard about James and Lily...”
“Oh,” she said, before her eyes widened and she exclaimed, “Oh! No one sent you a letter, anything? Oh, poor you. I am so sorry; it never even came into my mind that you didn’t know.”
“I came straight here once I heard, but they aren’t letting visitors in unless they’re on some list,” Remus said.
Alice grinned at him. “Lucky for you, you have connections. Come on, I’ll take you up. My mother is in charge of the Spell Damage Ward.”
She led him through the double doors to the narrow corridor beyond, and as they passed by the portraits of famous healers, the pair conversed quietly.
“I can’t believe Dumbledore didn’t contact you,” Alice said. “What was he thinking?”
“I supposed he thought Peter would contact me, but I haven’t heard anything from him. When did you last see him?”
“Peter?” Alice said thoughtfully. “Er, two months ago at Dorcas’s funeral.”
Remus ignored the twinge of hurt the name caused and asked, “You mean you haven’t seen him here?”
“No,” Alice denied. “I have been the only visitor, other than Sirius of course.”
“What?” Remus stopped walking, turning to face her. “Sirius was here?”
Alice shot him an amused glance. “Who did you think brought James in? Sirius sat in the hall for a day and a half waiting for word, and then sat by James’s bedside until he was arrested.”
“I don’t understand,” Remus said softly. “What was he playing at? Why the big show? He had to know we wouldn’t forgive his defection.”
“I beg your pardon?” Alice looked at him as if he had gone mad. “You actually think Sirius is guilty? Sirius worshiped the ground James walked upon and vice versa. Neither of them would ever betray the other.”
“Alice, you don’t understand,” the werewolf replied. “James and Lily cast a charm called the Fidelius around their location. It was to hide them from Voldemort.” She shuddered at the name, but he continued undaunted, “The secret of their location was guarded by the secret keeper: Sirius.”
She shrugged. “So maybe they didn’t use the charm after all, or maybe You-Know-Who broke it, neither would surprise me. You have been gone for two weeks, after all. Maybe they changed their plan and didn’t want to tell you by owl.”
Alice then turned and led him down the hall and up several flights of stairs, until they ended up on the Spell Damage floor. After conversing quietly with one of the healers on duty, Alice led him to see James. Remus’s first glimpse of his friend was a shocking one. He had never in his whole life see James so still. The man was a force of nature, and Remus could still remember when Prongs, then eleven, had roped him into exploring the castle late one night.
It had been in October of their first year, and Sirius was in a detention, so James had sought out one of the other boys his age. He had been friendly to everyone, and all seven other boys in their year had liked him, but James had only been close with Sirius at that point. He had come into the Common Room that night, and plopped down on the couch next to Remus who was hiding behind his book.
“I fancy a walk,” James had announced. “Come on Lupin, you look like a bloke who is up for an adventure. Let’s explore the castle!”
It had been the best night of Remus’s life until then. They walked down corridors, conversed with ghosts, had a run in with Peeves the Poltergeist, and all the while James was asking him questions about his likes and dislikes, and telling him about his own. They had ended up in the kitchens (which James’s father had told him of, but Remus didn’t know that and so thought James was extra cool), got some pasties from the house-elves, and headed back to the tower.
When Sirius had come back from lines with McGonagall, James had grinned at him, tossed him a pasty, and said, “Come meet our new friend Remus. His Quidditch side is the Appleby Arrows, but I plan on converting him to become a United supporter.” And that had been that. He had two new friends, and a week later James added Peter to their group after he caught a Slytherin hexing him in the hallways. And then they were complete.
Remus took a shuddering breath and walked over to the bed, sitting down by James side. “I never imagined him like this,” Remus said softly to Alice, who had followed him.
“He looks better than he did,” Alice said. “You should have seen him when I first visited. He was a wreck.”
“Have you been here much?”
“Constantly, I’ve even brought my son in a time or two, and let him visit with his grandmother while I read to James,” Alice said. “I feel like I practically live here.”
Remus chuckled, and then sobered. “When we were signing up for the war, I never thought of James as being one of the casualties.”
“I know what you mean,” she said. “I wanted to do something more than just working for the DMLE. The Order seemed like the perfect solution. But then You-Know-Who was going to come after us, and that whole mess...”
“But he didn’t,” Remus frowned. “He stopped looking for you both a while ago.”
“I suppose his focus shifted,” Alice softly demurred.
“Is Harry with you?” Remus asked after a moment.
“With me? Why would he be with me?” Alice asked.
“You and Lily were friends,” Remus shrugged, “and he must have gone to someone within the Order.”
“Lily and I were friends, but we weren’t close,” Alice said. “I am five years older than her after all. It was Marlene who was her best friend.”
The weary man sighed. “I suppose I’ll head up to Hogwarts tomorrow and find out about Harry from Dumbledore. I’ll head over to Peter’s tonight. I bet he’s three sheets to the wind over James.”
She turned her blue eyes away from James’s form, and looked at the other man. “He is getting better, Remus. Even just today, my mother said his vitals are getting stronger all the time, and now that his bones are all mended, he seems to be more alert and responsive. Those are all good signs.”
“I suppose,” Remus agreed. “But will he ever be like he was?”*~*
He led her into his office, Willow and Xander trailing silently behind. Buffy went over to one of the couches and sat, cuddling Harry’s warm body to her. Taking a deep breath, she inhaled his baby smell and tried desperately not to cry. It was true, they didn’t know anything yet, but Buffy just had a feeling she was never going to get Dawn back the way she was.
“Um, not to pile on the doom and gloom,” Xander said quietly, “but I can’t remember the Dawnster until just after Dracula.”
“Neither can I,” Giles admitted.
“Me either,” Willow said.
Buffy nodded. It was the same for her. She was trying to grasp those memories where she knew they should be, but it was like trying to hold air in her hands. The first memory she had of Dawn now was when she was standing in Buffy’s room, right after the Slayer had asked Giles to be her Watcher again. It was strange, because she could remember things like the memory she had when she was trapped inside her own mind, the one of Dawn coming home from the hospital. And she could remember things like complaining about how Dawn got to be their mother’s pumpkin belly, but there was no memory attached to that, like when it started or why it upset Buffy so much. It was as if she could finally see the truth, that one day Dawn wasn’t there, and then suddenly she was.
“I don’t get it,” Xander said. “How come we lost the memories of her younger than that, and how come Vi doesn’t remember her at all?”
“The spell was broken,” Giles said at last, leaning against his desk. The clipped tones of his voice only made Buffy more anxious, rather than their usual soothing quality. “What the monks did, the spell they cast, its broken now. I suspect that we still remember her in Sunnydale because we were in the ritual room and connected to her through Willow’s spell. For everyone else, Dawn only existed because of that spell. Now that the spell is over, it is as if it never happened for other people. It erased all memories of Dawn until this moment.”
“Wait, no,” Willow denied, crossing her arms. “It was a healing spell. This should not have happened. There is no way that a healing spell could magic Dawn out of being. The memory wammy the monks put on us, I can buy that breaking, but I don’t believe for one second that Dawn is gone.”
“Then why doesn’t Vi remember her?” Xander asked.
Willow looked stumped for a moment, but then mutinously said, “One of the things Brighid is famous for is mourning the death of her son Ruadán. There is no way that she would harm the daughter of one of her warriors.” Willow nodded to Buffy. “If anything, she would want to help Buffy and Dawn, not hurt them.”
“It’s just as possible that she saw the spell that created Dawn as an abomination, and tried to heal Buffy that way,” Giles countered.
“Dawn wasn’t created by a spell,” Buffy cut in, causing all gazes in the room to switch to her. “You’re going on the old assumption, Giles. Dawn wasn’t created from a spell, or my blood, or anything else. She is my daughter.”
“Yes, that may be—” Giles said, before pausing. His face suddenly seemed devoid of color, and he whipped his head around and looked at Willow. “You need to do that locating spell now. I think I know where Dawn is,” he said, Buffy suddenly perking up. He looked at his Slayer with a sigh. “You might not be happy about this, Buffy.”
It took only a few minutes to get all the ingredients assembled—the tumbleweed, eggs, chrysalises, rose thorns, butterfly transformer pods, and snakeskin were all things the council had on hand—and all the while Buffy hovered anxiously, waiting for Willow to start the spell. The Slayer had retrieved the playpen from her office so that Harry could be put down, but he had been grounding her somewhat, and once she wasn’t holding him Buffy was even more upset about Dawn.
Willow set up a little fire pit out of a sacred bowl, and was preparing all the ingredients when Xander asked, “Do you have to use this spell again? It was so foul the first time, why can’t you just use one of those handy map spells?”
“It has to be this one,” Giles said, preventing Willow from answering. “The map spell will only give us a general idea of Dawn’s location, this one will be exact.
“Yeah, but it will also put us off food for a week,” Xander muttered.
“Okay, I’m ready,” Willow said, sitting in front of the fire. “To light the aura of the new, skin of snake and chrysalis too. To indicate the fresh reborn, tumbleweed and rosebush thorn. An egg that means the life to come. Take this, oh spirit, and my spell is done.” As she said the words, she tossed the supplies one by one onto the fire. The moment the spell was finished, a gold cloud began to form, and a putrid smell filled the room.
“Ah, that’s the stinky-ness I remember,” Xander said, tucking his nose into his elbow.
“Yeah, that doesn’t get any less yuck with time,” Willow muttered.
The golden cloud was growing in size, right in the middle of where Giles, Willow, Xander, and Buffy were standing. The Slayer turned her face away from the smell, but her Watcher kept staring at the Slayer steadily. After a moment, Willow looked at Giles with some curiosity in her gaze.
“It takes a moment to think if I remember correctly,” Xander said, his voice muffled. As he said the words, the golden light began to dance around before shooting forward and smacking straight into Buffy’s midriff. It was only her natural balance as a Slayer that kept her on her feet.
A glow then could be seen coming from the flat space between Buffy’s hips, just under her belly button. *~*
Something was terribly wrong.
Standing in the middle of Peter’s flat, Remus looked around in confusion. There was a fine layer of dust that had settled on the tables and photographs, which seemed to say that no one had been in the rooms for a week, if not longer. On the far wall, Remus could see the safe had been opened and cleaned of its contents. Two picture frames were missing from one of the corner tables in the front room as well.
His steps echoed in the flat as he walked out of the hearth and around the couch, heading towards the kitchen. “Peter?” he called. “Peter!”
Dread filled his stomach, rising in the back of his throat. Had he been taken? Had the Death Eaters gotten to Wormtail before the war ended? A suddenly sinister reason seemed to take shape as Remus reconsidered the reason that Peter hadn’t written to him. He walked forward, intent on searching the bedroom, when he trod on something soft. Looking down, Remus saw a glove lying haphazardly on the floor.
Leaning over, he picked it up, and when he did he felt as though he had taken a fist to the stomach. It was Sirius’s; he would have recognized it anywhere. The canine Animagus had always worn them when he rode his motorbike in the autumn and winter.
He had been at Peter’s then.
Remus tried to make sense of what he knew, Alice’s scolding still ringing in his ears. After his master fell, why would Sirius have waited in the hospital for James? He had to have known that the Ministry, if not the Order, would be coming for him. And yet, rather than run, he had stayed by James’s side. Had he been waiting for a moment to finish James off? It did seem unlikely, Remus thought. He could contemplate Sirius having told Voldemort where the Potters were, but he was convinced that Sirius could not have done the deed himself. There was simply too much history between him and James for that. They had been so close, like brothers. Closer than brothers, Remus amended, thinking of Sirius’s troubled relationship with Regulus.
It had to be guilt then. Some part of Sirius, the part that wasn’t completely subsumed in darkness, had felt a lingering sense of affection for James. And it had been that human weakness that had condemned him. But that still didn’t answer the question of what had happened to Peter? Had Sirius killed him? Again, it seemed unlikely that Sirius would harm Peter unless he was confronted by him. But the chance of that happening was slim to none.
Besides, a voice in his mind insidiously whispered, he was willing to risk the life of his friends once...a long ago full moon came to mind, along with a shaken Slytherin, and a penitent Sirius.
Pushing those bitter memories aside, Remus suddenly remembered how Peter had been so concerned about Sirius’s activities and how he had been convinced of his betrayal. Perhaps the rat Animagus had simply run away, and was now in hiding, not knowing that the war was over, like Remus hadn’t.
Remus slapped the glove down on his open palm, the leather making a snapping sound as it met flesh. There was one thing the werewolf knew for certain. If he found out that Sirius had killed Peter, he would storm Azkaban itself for revenge. If Sirius had done that, there was no goodness left in him. Fury filled Remus at the thought that perhaps Peter had not met his end at the hand of just any Death Eater, but also at the hand of a friend.*~*
“Well that’s, wait, huh?” Willow said, looking confused, as she took in Buffy’s stomach which was still glowing.
Giles nodded, and said, “Just as I suspected.”
“Okay, something you want to share with the class?” Xander asked.
Crossing to his desk, Giles lifted the phone of the receiver and pressed the button that connected him to his assistant. “Moira, could you please run out and get a pregnancy test? No,” he said dryly, “it’s not for me. Yes, thank you. Ta.”
“Pregnant? I can’t be pregnant. You need to have sex to get pregnant, and I am coming up on a two year dry spell here, Giles,” Buffy stated, partially following Giles’s train of thought now. Her Watcher hung up the phone and came around the desk, moving forward with his hands on Buffy’s shoulders and easing her back to the couch.
“Yes, well, sidestepping that awkward information that I definitely did not need to know,” Giles said, sounding very stuffy. “I don’t think this is a pregnancy that you created by your own actions.”
“Dawn,” Willow gasped.
“Yes,” Giles nodded, his eyes bright. “Dawn.”
“Wait, huh?” Xander said. “Dawn caused Buffy’s pregnancy?”
Giles looked at Xander with some minor frustration on his face. “Dawn did not cause Buffy’s pregnancy, Dawn is Buffy’s pregnancy.”
“How is this possible, Giles?” Buffy asked quietly, her hand automatically going to her stomach.
“It was the healing spell, Buffy,” Giles said. “I told you how what the monks did to Dawn was wrong, well, the Goddess Brighid obviously agreed with me. She basically erased the spell from our memories, including any of the after effects. We four retained our memories of Dawn after the monks placed her in our lives, I think, because the Goddess wants us to learn from what happened last time.” Her Watcher looked at her seriously, his voice thick with excitement laced with reverence. “While magic has many properties that don’t work with science, one that does is that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another. What the monks did was blasphemous, but once Dawn was here, her existence couldn’t be unmade except by death. So the Goddess changed Dawn back into what she should have been from the beginning: an innocent unspoiled life.”
“Okay,” Xander put in. “I get the breaking the spell, and I get the healing of Dawn and all that, but isn’t making her start over kind of mean? She’s going to have to repeat everything.”
“Xander, you’re thinking too narrowly,” Giles said. “Dawn isn’t simply going to relive her life the exact same way; in fact, I would be very surprised if she is anything like the girl we knew.” At the blank looks of the others, he explained, “We are all made up of our experiences. Dawn might have the same inherent likes and dislikes, but her life would have been very different. She won’t have fake memories of a sister and parents who were fighting. And she won’t have a contentious relationship with Buffy due to her sister dying. She will never have a crisis in learning she is a Mystical Key, because she isn’t one. It will all be new. Buffy will be her mother, and she will never know anything else.”
“So she won’t remember us?” Xander asked.
“No,” Giles stated. “The memories were an abomination, the Goddess healed them.”
“So turning her back to our size Dawn would be—”
“And act of evil,” Giles said flatly. “You would have to do exactly what the monks did, steal years from her life.”
“Okay, so we’re not doing that,” Willow agreed. “But why isn’t Dawn about three or something? I mean she has lived for three years already.”
“Well, I don’t really know—”
“Because this is what she wanted,” Buffy said, causing all the others to all look at her. Standing from the couch, Buffy kept a hand on her stomach and looked at Giles, Willow, and Xander calmly. “When we were talking, the other night in the park, Dawn said that she wondered what it would have been like if I gave birth to her. She said she wanted that more than anything.”
“So then, this is a good?” Willow asked tentatively.
Buffy smiled at her. “It's a good.” The Slayer crossed to the playpen and picked up the toddler their who was opening and closing his fist at her. Lifting him into her arms, she kissed Harry's hair and smiled at the baby. Althenea's prophetic words filled her mind. I’ve seen visions of him with his little sister, your daughter. They adore each other, which is understandable with them being so close in age.
Buffy grinned. "Guess what?" she whispered to the baby. "You're going to be a big brother."*~*
He could hear voices now through the fog. They were twisting and dancing all around him. There was no comprehension yet, but it would come, soon. When Sirius came through the portrait hole, he was laughing. It wasn’t his usual bark-like laughter; instead, he was snickering under his breath. The moment he looked up and saw James, who was sitting on one of the couches performing maintenance on his broomstick, Sirius made a beeline for him.
“James,” he said breathlessly, “You won’t believe what just happened with Snivellus.” Sirius puffed out his chest and looked incredibly proud of himself, but there was something off about him. His eyes were darting side to side, looking all around the room, as if he was searching for exits, and his shoulders were slumped in a way that James had never seen before. He was also moving his fingers on his left hand nervously, and every so often his nose twitched.
James Potter frowned, not being able to account for what he was seeing. It was Sirius, and yet it wasn’t. He knew his best friend better than any other person alive, and this person before him seemed so at odds with the persona of casual elegance Sirius always portrayed to the world. “Hey mate, ready for the full moon?”
James had been the only one with Remus the previous full moon. He had been the first to make the Animagus transformation, but Sirius had been quick to follow, accomplishing it two days afterwards earlier in the month. Ever since, he had been eager to join James and Remus on their next excursion. Hopefully Peter would manage soon as well, so they all might be together and run mad.
“Oh, um, yes,” Sirius said. “It’ll be lots of fun, I guess.”
“You guess?” James put aside his Nimbus 1001, and looked at Sirius as if he was crazy. “It’s all you’ve been taking about for weeks, and now it’ll be fun, you guess? All right, who are you and what have you done with Sirius?”
James had meant it as a joke, but all the sudden Sirius looked nervous and sweat began to bead on his brow. “Wait a tick, who are you?” And suddenly the twitchiness suddenly made sense. “Peter?”
Peter-as-Sirius suddenly laughed nervously. “Oh good show, you figured it out quickly.”
James smirked and leaned back against the couch negligently. “Why are you Polyjuiced?”
“Oh, I was, um, in the restricted section and I needed an alibi. With Sirius being in Care of Magical Creatures...” he trailed off.
There was something about his story which didn’t quite make sense to James, but he shrugged it off and went back to his broom. “Wasn’t there something you wanted to tell me?”
“There was?” Peter-as-Sirius asked, and then brightened. “There was! I’ve played the best prank, and you’ll really like this one. It’s on Snivellus, James.”
The Animagus grinned. “Excellent,” he said. “I do enjoy those so much.”
“He came up to me as I was coming back to the tower,” Peter said. “He said a lot of things, talking about Remus, and talking about how he saw him go out of bounds tonight and such, and you know what I told him?”
“I said, ‘If you want to know what Remus is up to, all you have to do is prod the knot at the base of the Whomping Willow with a long stick tonight.’ I bet he’ll be surprised when he meets a werewolf.”
“You did what?” James roared, jumping to his feet.
“What? It was a joke,” Peter-as-Sirius said defensively, crossing his arms.
“Do you know what will happen if Snape takes your advice, you idiot?” James snarled. “If Remus kills him, the Ministry will execute our friend. Is that what you want?”
Not waiting for an answer, he grabbed his broom and raced through the tower. Once he was out the portrait hole, he hopped on his Nimbus and went flying down the corridors. He could hear some of the students cheer as he passed, and one irate Scotswoman yell, “Mr. Potter!” but he paid them no mind. He had to get to Snape before Remus changed. If he didn’t, the consequences could be disastrous.
Once he flew out the front door, James leaned down tight to the broom, pressing his body against the handle for more acceleration, and leaning to the side to get around to the back of the school. He took in the gathering darkness and the rising moon, feeling fear, knowing that he had to get there in time. Once the willow was in sight, James landed twenty feet away, jumping from the broom and skidding to a stop. He screamed out, “Immobilus!” and it was only the adrenaline and fear pumping that powered his spell enough to freeze the whole tree. He grabbed his broom again and dove into the large gap between the roots, falling down the slope into the bottom of a low tunnel. He hopped on the Nimbus, leaning down against the handle and moved as quickly as he could, but not able to fly as fast as he wanted due to the low ceiling. Eventually, the floor began to rise, and then twisted upwards. James could see the light, and when he jumped off his broom, he heard voices.
“...leave now! You have to go; it’s not safe!” Remus was yelling.
“What’s the matter, Lupin?” Snape’s sneering voice came through loud and clear. “Afraid I will learn your precious secret? I’ve seen you disappear, and Potter too. Now I will find out what you’re up to. And thanks to your friend Black, I knew just how to do it. He was so forthcoming with how to get into this charming place.”
There was a long pause, and then Remus began to scream.
James pulled himself up and out of the hole in the ground, moving down the hallway at a fast clip. Bursting into the room, he saw Remus mid-transformation, and Snape watching him in horror. “Move, you wanker!” James yelled, grabbing Severus by the arm and pulling him bodily from the room. He pushed the Slytherin boy down the hall, and it was only the roar of a fully transformed werewolf that got Snape running of his own accord. The two boys dropped down the hole, and James climbed on his broom and yelled, “Get on!”
“You’re joking!” Snape spat.
“Are you a nutter? Do you want to die? Get on!”
A loud growl prevented any further protest on Snape’s part, and he quickly jumped on the back of the broom and wrapped his arms around James’s torso. Both boys were so filled with fear, albeit for different reasons, that they didn’t even care about being so close. James urged the broom as fast as he dared to go in the tight space, and when they finally got to the end of the tunnel, both of them clambered off of the broom and climbed up the hole between the roots.
When they reached the air above, James looked up and saw McGonagall and Dumbledore standing there, with Sirius and Peter just behind them. James noted that this was the real Sirius, mostly due to the mixture of concern and disappointment on his face. Concern for James and Remus, and disappointment that Snivellus was still alive. Peter, on the other hand, looked like he was about to wet himself.
“Mr. Potter,” the Deputy Headmistress began to bluster, but Dumbledore cut her off.
James nodded at the Headmaster’s question. “Yes, sir. He saw everything, but no one was hurt.”
A look of disappointment and resignation covered Dumbledore’s face, and he turned to Snape, who had still not regained color in his face. “Mr. Snape, I believe we need to have a chat.” He then looked to the three Gryffindors. “I will speak to you three gentlemen in the morning. Be at my office at nine sharp.”
McGonagall escorted them back to the tower, looking annoyed and pinched that she couldn’t discipline them the entire way. Not one of them said a word until they were in the privacy of their dorm room. James had never been so glad that the other five Gryffindor boys in their year had their own room. Once they were inside, Sirius spelled the door shut and turned to James.
“You all right, mate?”
James sighed. “I’m fine. Snivellus saw Remus transform, though.”
“Bugger,” Sirius said, sitting down heavily on his bed.
“Don’t worry,” Peter said. “Dumbledore won’t let him tell.”
“That’s true,” James said brightening. “Maybe he’ll make the berk take an Unbreakable Vow too.”
“So what are we going to tell Dumbledore?” Sirius asked.
“Well, Snape is probably telling him right now that you told him how to get passed the Whomping Willow,” James replied.
Sirius threw a glare in Peter’s direction. “Yeah, thanks for that.”
“It was just a joke,” Peter said defensively.
“Well, we’ll just have to tell the truth,” James said resolutely.
Peter squeaked, but it was Sirius who spoke with a sigh, “We can’t. There is no way Peter brewed Polyjuice. Who did you knick it from?”
“Slughorn,” Peter said with a gulp.
“He’ll be expelled for that,” Sirius declared. “Guaranteed. Whereas it is not as certain that this prank will end in an expulsion. Look, I’ll take the blame. We won’t mention Peter at all. It’s not like people won’t believe it of a Black. Besides, Snivellus deserves it. All his sneaking around, trying to figure out what we’re up to, hoping he can get us expelled. I can be convincing.”
James nodded slowly. “And if you get expelled?”
Sirius shrugged. “You know my Uncle Alphard left me some gold. If the worst occurs, I’ll just hire tutors to help me study for my O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s. Peter’s mum couldn’t afford it.”
Peter looked rather resentful at that comment, but said nothing.
“We can’t tell Remus,” Sirius continued, looking pensive. “After Peter slipping last summer and telling your friend Dorcas about Remus’s furry little problem, he’ll never forgive you for it, Peter.” Peter nodded. Sirius sighed. “Right then, so we keep it between the three of us, yeah? I’ll beg Remus for forgiveness and take the fall with Dumbledore. Hopefully, this will all blow over.”
James nodded, agreeing. Still, as he looked over at Sirius and Peter, he couldn’t help but feel that the decision they had just made would come back to bite them in the arse one day.