"Hurry up, Prongs," Sirius said impatiently. "We haven't got all night."
"I'm coming, Padfoot. Just give me a sec," James replied.
The two friends were making their way through the Forbidden Forest. They had been exploring, but it was getting late and they both agreed they should get back before anyone noticed they were missing. It was called the Forbidden Forest for a good reason - the students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry were forbidden to enter it. Not as if a trifling thing like it being against the rules had ever stopped Sirius Black and James Potter before.
"Hang up," Sirius said, bending over. "My foot's caught on a root."
James waited while Sirius worked to free his leg. As he waited, his eyes roamed the forest and caught sight of something unusual. "What's that?" he asked, frowning slightly.
"What's what?" Sirius asked, looking up. He had managed to work his foot loose and was now rubbing his ankle.
"That thing over there," James said, pointing. "I'm going to investigate."
"Wait for me," Sirius called. He followed James over to a clearing then stopped short when he saw what had attracted James' attention. Or, rather, who.
On the ground, pale as death, lay a girl around their age, possibly a few years older. She was sprawled in an unnatural position with her honey-coloured hair spread out in a tangled mess around her head. Her eyes were closed and it was hard to tell if she was breathing.
After a minute of pure silence, Sirius whispered, "Is she - is she dead?" His eyes were wide and his face was a few shades paler than usual.
"I don't know," James replied, just as softly. He couldn't tear his eyes off of the still form. "I'm going to go and see."
Before Sirius could say anything, James marched up to the girl and knelt down beside her. Squeezing his eyes closed, he took her slender wrist in his hand and felt for a pulse.
"She's alive," he said at last. His features were washed with relief and his whole body relaxed. He let out the breath he hadn't known he was holding.
"What are we going to do with her?" asked Sirius, still a bit too shaken by coming across the apparent corpse to think clearly and come up with anything himself. Luckily, James was able to keep his head during the crisis.
"We'll have to bring her back to the castle," James decided. "We can't very well leave her out here. She'll be killed."
Sirius nodded. "But how're we going to get her back to the castle?" he questioned.
"That's easy," James said. He stood up and pulled his wand out from beneath his robes. Waving it, he said, "Wingardium Leviosa." In response, the girl rose off the ground and hovered about four feet up.
"Give me a hand here," James ordered. Sirius obliged and together they made their way back to the castle with the girl.
It had been a quiet night in the hospital wing, for which Madam Pomfrey was grateful. A couple of students had come in, but with only mild ailments. Madam Pomfrey was able to fix them up in seconds.
When the door opened and James Potter came in, she groaned. Potter and his friends were in the hospital wing all the time for some reason or another and rarely was that reason a minor one.
Not at all to her surprise, Sirius Black followed him in. However, the third person in their party did shock her. It wasn't one of their friends, as Madam Pomfrey had expected, but rather a girl - and one she didn't recognize at that. The girl was also floating. Madam Pomfrey noticed belatedly that both of the boys' wands were pointed at her.
She bustled over to them. "What happened?" she asked briskly, all business once more.
"We don't know," James said respectfully. "When we found her she was unconscious."
"Well, don't just stand there, bring her over to the bed." The two boys obeyed and Madam Pomfrey started to examine the girl. "I don't recognize her," she said with a frown. She thought she knew all of the students in the school - at one point or another they all came down to the hospital wing. "Who is she?"
Sirius shrugged. "We don't know either," James said.
"That's odd. Perhaps you had better go and inform the Headmaster."
The boys nodded and set off to find Professor Dumbledore. Madam Pomfrey barely noticed them leave. She was too busy trying to see what was wrong with the girl.
About twenty minutes later the door opened again and Professor Dumbledore came in, followed closely by James Potter and Sirius Black.
"Poppy, what is it?" Professor Dumbledore demanded without preamble.
"The boys found her like this," Madam Pomfrey said. "I can't find anything wrong with her. She seems to simply be unconscious."
"Found her?" Professor Dumbledore asked. "Where?"
Both Sirius and James looked sheepish. "In the forest," James mumbled.
Professor Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "The forest. I see. I assume you heard something and went to investigate."
"Of course, Professor," Sirius said before James could open his mouth. "We wouldn't dream of breaking the rules otherwise."
"Of course not," Professor Dumbledore answered. "As Head Boy, I'm sure the thought never even crossed James' mind." James had the decency to look ashamed. Professor Dumbledore went on. "But there are more pressing issues at hand." He withdrew his wand and pointed it at the girl. "Enervate."
It took a bit longer than it should have, but the girl's eyes soon began to flutter and she moaned, looking up at the four concerned faces hovering above her head. "Who are you?" she asked as she struggled to sit up. When she looked around the hospital wing, confusion mounted and she began to look a little afraid. "Where am I?"
"Relax, dear," Madam Pomfrey said, trying to sooth the girl. "You're in the hospital wing at Hogwarts."
The words didn't have the intended effect. The girl backed up against the wall. "Who are you?" she demanded again. "Why am I here?"
"I am Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster at this school. This is Madam Pomfrey, the school matron. And these two are James Potter and Sirius Black."
At this point, Sirius took the opportunity to wink cheekily at the girl and blow her a kiss, ignoring James, who elbowed his friend in the stomach for his effort, thinking that the hospital wing was neither the time nor the place. Professor Dumbledore continued as if nothing had happened. Had it been anyone else, the boys would have suspected he hadn't noticed. However, in their years at Hogwarts, they had learned there was very little that went on without Professor Dumbledore noticing.
"They are the ones who found you," the headmaster said. "As to why you are here, you were found unconscious in the forest and brought here. We were rather hoping you would be able to tell us what happened."
The girl, who had relaxed when she heard Dumbledore's name, frowned, as if lost in thought. Suddenly she looked afraid again. "I don't - I don't remember."
"So spill," Lily Evans said, sliding in beside her boyfriend at the breakfast table the next morning.
James blinked slowly, too tired to even try to puzzle out what she was talking about.
Lily frowned, now that she had the chance to get a better look at him. "You look awful," she said.
"Thanks," James said dryly. "I always know I can count on my girlfriend to cheer me up."
"What's wrong?" Lily asked.
"Nothing, just - " he yawned " - tired."
"Maybe if you went to bed at a decent hour you wouldn't feel so tired," Lily said acidly.
"Hey," James protested. "I went to bed at a very decent hour. I just had trouble sleeping."
"Sure," Lily said, sounding like she didn't believe him. But she let it pass, because there were other things she wanted to talk about. "So, rumour has it, there's some girl in the hospital wing who no one knows. I heard the words 'mysterious girl' and 'hospital wing.' Guess who first came to mind?" She took a bite of her toast.
James winced, afraid of the answer. "Er . . . me?" he asked apprehensively.
Lily chewed and swallowed. "Actually, Sirius. But he seems to be having a lie-in, so I figured, who better to ask than you? I mean, you two are always together, so you're bound to know as much as he does. So, tell me."
"Not much to tell," James told her, relieved that Lily hadn't come to yell at him for being involved with the girl and putting her in the hospital wing like he originally feared she would. "Sirius and I were in the Forbidden Forest last night and we came across her. She was unconscious. We brought her back, she woke up, she couldn't remember who she was. Then Madam Pomfrey seemed to remember it was past our bedtime, as she put it, and despite Sirius' protests, wouldn't relent. So we had to leave."
"That's it?" Lily asked. "That's what all this fuss is about?"
"Sorry to disappoint you," James said sarcastically.
Lily decided to ignore the sarcasm and take his words at face value, instead. "It's okay," she said sweetly. "I forgive you." Then, so he wouldn't get annoyed, she kissed his cheek.
"Actually," James said, finishing up the remainder of his breakfast, "I was just about to go visit her, see how she's doing."
"That's great. I'll go with you," Lily said, wolfing down the last of her toast.
"But what about breakfast?" James asked.
"I'm not that hungry," Lily explained. "I don't feel like a big breakfast this morning. Toast was good."
"Are you sure?" James asked. "There's no need for you to go. You should have something to eat instead."
Lily looked at her boyfriend, mystified. "James, is there some reason you don't want me going with you?"
James was taken aback for a second, then he said, "No, of course not." He meant it, too.
"Then why were you trying so hard to get me to stay here and eat breakfast?" she asked.
"I don't know." It was a bit scary, actually. He had no idea why he had been so adamant she not go. He frowned, then shook the thought out of his mind. "Let's go," he said.
Madam Pomfrey had been expecting them. "I was wondering when you'd get here," she said. "Your friend's already inside with the patient." She stood to the side of the door to let them enter.
James and Lily exchanged a puzzled look. "Sirius is here?" Lily said. "He skipped breakfast? That doesn't sound like the Sirius I know."
"I know," James said tightly, going in.
Sirius was sitting by the girl's bedside, and they were laughing and chatting. She looked up when James and Lily came up to the bed. "James, right?" she asked, smiling brightly at him.
"Yeah," Lily answered for him. "And my name's Lily."
"I'm Kali," the girl said. "Well, Kalista, but please, call me Kali."
Lily looked over at James, surprised. He seemed to be mildly startled by this revelation, too. "I was under the impression you couldn't remember who you were," Lily said slowly and carefully.
"I can't," Kali said, looking down at her hands. "Not really. I've still got a lot of holes in my memory, but I was talking to Sirius, here, and my name suddenly came back. Well," she added shyly, "at least my first name."
"That's great!" Lily exclaimed, taking a seat next to the bed. James pulled up a chair and sat down beside her so that he was opposite Sirius at the head of the bed. "At this rate, you'll have your memory back in no time flat."
"I certainly hope so," Kali said demurely. "You have no idea what it's like . . . " she trailed off, looking miserable.
Lily smiled encouragingly at the girl. "It'll be okay," she promised. "Hogwarts is a first rate school. They'll figure out what's wrong with you and how to fix it in no time flat."
"Lily's right," James said, speaking for the first time since they had entered the infirmary. "You'll be as good as new before you know it."
"As soon as Pomfrey gives you the word, we can get out of here," Sirius told her.
Lily laughed. "Trust me," she said to Kali, leaning in conspiratorially, "Sirius knows more than his fair share about the workings of the hospital wing. He's in here at least twice a week."
"Hey," Sirius protested good-naturedly.
"I'm only speaking the truth," Lily told him sweetly, causing James to laugh. "Oh, and who can forget James?" she added, throwing an arm around him and leaning her head on his shoulder. "He's in here at least as often as Sirius. They're both veterans."
"She's right about that," Madam Pomfrey said as she came over to check up on her patient. Both Lily and James, whose backs had been to the matron, jumped at the sound of her voice. They hadn't been expecting her. "We have four beds reserved specially for them. It's their home away from home."
"Four?" Lily saw Kali mouth, her eyes darting from Sirius to James to Lily.
The Head Girl explained. "The other two are for Remus and Peter. You haven't met them yet, but you will soon enough. The four of them are inseparable."
"There's absolutely nothing wrong with you, so far as I can tell," Madam Pomfrey announced, oblivious to their conversation.
"So Kali's free to go?" Sirius asked, his eyes lighting up.
Lily smothered a grin. She should have guessed when she saw Kali. It was obvious why the boy had skipped breakfast to come down to the hospital wing. Leaning over, she whispered into James' ear, "A Galleon says he asks her out before night-fall and another one to say they break up before the week's over."
"What?" James asked, distracted.
"Hello? James?" Lily had to wave her hand in front of his face before he finally looked over at her.
"I'm sorry, Lil," he said. "What were you saying?"
"Falling asleep again?" she asked.
"I guess so."
"Well, get to bed early tonight so you'll feel better tomorrow," Lily advised him.
Meanwhile, Madam Pomfrey was telling Sirius and Kali that the latter was free to go.
"Perfect," Sirius said, rubbing his hands together. "I'll just go get Professor Dumbledore so you can figure out where you're staying."
"You won't find Professor Dumbledore here," Madam Pomfrey told him.
"He was called off to London unexpectedly. He will be gone for a couple of days."
"When did he go?"
"Early this morning."
"What's Kali going to do, then?" James asked, voicing his concerns about the girl he had found.
"It's been arranged with Professor O'Hogan," Madam Pomfrey said smoothly. Professor O'Hogan was the assistant Headmaster and the Hufflepuff Head so it only stood to reason that she would be the one to take care of things in Dumbledore's absence. "Miss Kali will be staying in the guest quarters until Professor Dumbledore comes back and figures out what to do with her."
"Couldn't she stay with us in Gryffindor?" James asked.
Sirius seemed keen on the idea, but Madam Pomfrey chided the two, saying, "Now, boys, you know very well no one that isn't in Gryffindor can stay in the Gryffindor rooms during the school year. Besides, Miss Kali will be perfectly comfortable in one of the guestrooms. I'll go get Professor O'Hogan right now." She left to fetch the assistant headmaster.
"Besides," Lily said, getting to her feet, "those things are like palaces. I know you've seen 'em. C'mon, you guys, let's go back up to the common room and see what the others are up to."
"But I promised Kali I'd give her a tour of the school," Sirius protested, rising from his chair in alarm.
"Why don't you go get Remus and Peter instead," James suggested. "Meet us back at Kali's room."
Lily glanced at Kali, then back at the boys. She cleared her throat. "I don't think that's such a good idea," she began.
"Don't you guys think maybe you should give Kali a little time to settle in first?" Lily asked pointedly.
"She's already settled in, aren't you Kali?" Sirius asked.
With a sardonic smile, Lily said, "I know it's your dream to be with a half-dressed girl, Sirius, but I'm sure Kali would prefer to have some clothes on for her tour of the grounds."
James laughed. "She's got you there, Padfoot." Sirius shot his friend a glare, which James ignored.
Turning to Kali, Lily said, "How 'bout we meet you down in the Great Hall in an hour, give you a chance to clean up. Professor O'Hogan will make sure you don't get lost. We'll go up to Gryffindor and I'll make sure these guys," she jerked her head and Sirius and James, "get cleaned up as well." She paused, suddenly thinking of something, then asked, worriedly, "You do have something to wear, don't you? I can lend you some of my robes. I'm not sure how well they'll fit, and they're not exactly fashionable, but - "
Kali cut her off. "Madam Pomfrey has provided me with some things to wear. I'll be fine, thank you."
"Okay, then, we'll see you in an hour." She started to leave, but stopped when she realized the boys weren't following. "Come on," she said, exasperated. They reluctantly got up.
"Where are they?" Lily complained, frustrated, as she looked around the common room for Sirius and James. "You'd think after how anxious they were to show Kali around the school, they'd be here on time."
Remus, one of the only students in the common room right then, looked up from his book. "Where are who?" he queried.
"Who else? Sirius and James. I don't suppose they're up in your room."
"I don't think so, but I'll go check if you want," Remus volunteered.
"Thanks," Lily said. She ended up following him up to his room anyway, not particularly caring about the rules disallowing members of the opposite sex into the dorm rooms. It wasn't as if she was going up there alone with James. Besides, there wasn't anyone around.
It turned out only Peter was left up there. "Sirius and James went to see the new girl," he told them when they asked.
"Already?" Lily asked. "They were supposed to wait for me."
Peter shrugged. Looking in the mirror, he tried to straighten up his hair. "You've met the new girl, haven't you Lily?" he asked. "What's she like? Is she pretty?"
Trying to hide a grin, Lily answered him. "She's pretty. She seems nice enough, but I didn't really get the chance to talk with her. Why don't you come down and meet her? You, too, Remus," she said, turning to the other boy.
"Are you sure?" Remus asked politely, not wanting to impose.
"Of course," she reassured him. "You'll meet her soon enough, anyway. Sirius seems to have taken a liking to her. I'm betting he'll ask her out before the end of the day."
She pretended not to notice Peter's crestfallen face, more to keep him from feeling embarrassed than from any other reason. On more than one occasion, Peter had made a fool of himself going after the girl Sirius had set his eyes on. He usually got teased mercilessly afterwards. Lily thought it best that Peter have advance warning this time, seeing as he rarely took notice of Sirius trying to impress a girl.
Remus also said nothing, which was hardly surprising. He was the quietest of the four friends, quieter and kinder. As much as Lily loved them, James and Sirius could be rather thoughtless in their mockery, sometimes almost cruel. It was fine for people such as herself, who had a sister and was used to being made fun of. She knew it was all in jest, that they weren't serious, and had learnt early on how to laugh at herself.
Peter had not. Whenever James or Sirius, more often than not the latter, started on him, he turned bright red and often ran off at the first chance. Even though they were rarely cruel, Peter simply could not take being ridiculed, no matter how trivial the matter.
The three of them made their way to the Great Hall, where they found Sirius and James already there with Kali. She had gotten changed and was now looking much better than she had when Lily saw her in the hospital wing. The blonde was leaning again the wall, laughing at something one of the boys said. Her laughter rang out across the room, reaching the other three on the other side.
"I thought you were going to wait for me?" Lily asked James, a bit hurt.
"Was I?" he asked. "I thought we were meeting down here."
"We were meeting Kali down here, yes," Lily said, "but I assumed you'd wait for me to come down."
James shrugged. "Sorry," he said.
"And who are these two?" Kali asked, turning her eyes onto Remus and Peter and giving them a dazzling smile.
Peter was too awed to reply, so Remus covered for him by saying, "I'm Remus Lupin and this is Peter Pettigrew."
The new girl got a good look at Remus. For a second it seemed as if her smile flickered, but before the others were even sure of what they had seen, it was pasted firmly on again. "I'm Kali," she said, but it was obvious the words were meant for Peter alone. "It's nice to meet you."
All of them, save Peter, who was too busy ogling the blonde, looked at each other, frowning. They had no idea what would cause Kali to slight Remus like that.
Turning back to the others, Kali said, "Now that you're all here, can we go? I've been dying to see the school. I've been told I have to the two best guides here." She smiled impishly at Sirius and James, who had no choice but to return the grin. All thoughts of her seemingly dislike of Remus were soon forgotten as, arms linked through hers, the two boys started to give the grand tour of Hogwarts as only they could give it, the others following behind.
It was almost an hour later when Remus and Lily found themselves lagging behind as the six of them explored the dungeons. A few metres ahead of them, the three other boys were crowding around crowding around Kali, and from the sounds of it, were all having a great time.
"Ever get the feeling like you're not wanted?" Lily asked Remus, staring at James as he took Kali's arm and helped her through a hidden doorway that led down a secret passage.
"Often," she thought she heard him murmur.
Although she whipped around to face him, nothing in Remus' expression was amiss, leading Lily to believe she had imagined the response. He looked at her quizzically, asking, "Is something wrong?"
"No," she said, looking away. "It's nothing."
Remus didn't comment, but instead answered her previous comment. "James and Sirius enjoy showing off. They're my best friends, but it's the truth. There's a new girl here, for a little while at least. It's only natural that they'd want to show off."
By now, the objects of their conversation, along with Kali and Peter, had disappeared into the tunnel. Lily and Remus were forced to stop short when the doorway leading to it slammed shut in their face.
Lily turned to Remus. She didn't know whether to be furious or depressed. Neither emotion won in the end and the Head Girl laboured to stay calm as she asked, "How does a game of chess sound?"
Remus' eyes flickered between the closed door and Lily. It only took him a few seconds to decide. "Sounds good," he said, forcing a feeble smile that fooled neither of them.
"Hey," James said when he entered the common room with Sirius and Peter after dinner. "There you guys are. We were wondering where you were." He plopped down next to Remus and Lily, who were sitting in a corner, talking.
"We've been here all afternoon," Lily said stiffly.
"Why'd you disappear like that?" Sirius asked, sprawling into the chair beside James so that his head was hanging over the armrest.
"You three looked so cozy up there with Kali that we didn't want to interrupt," Lily said.
James completely missed the danger in his girlfriend's voice. "Yeah, Kali's great," he agreed. "We're going to Hogsmeade tonight. She's never been there before."
Lily stared at him in disbelief. "You're unbelievable, James Potter," she said.
Sirius snickered. "Usually I'm the one being told that by the girls. You're unbelievable, Sirius Black," he said in a dreamy voice that was supposed to sound like a girl's. "You're amazing. You're oh so manly."
"'Oh so manly?'" James laughed. "In your dreams, maybe, Padfoot."
"You're just jealous," Sirius said loftily.
Having had enough of their bantering, Lily said, "I have homework to do. I'll see you later, Remus." She went up to her room.
"It's Saturday," Sirius said, confused. "Since when does she do homework on a Saturday?"
"What did I do?" James asked, baffled.
Remus stared at the Head Boy. Like Lily, he was astounded that James was acting so clueless. "You're not serious," he said.
Sirius' reaction was automatic. "No, I'm - "
"Shut up, Sirius," Remus said. "We get it. You've said it before; we've heard it before. The entire school's heard it before.
Sirius actually lifted his head up to get a good look at Remus. "What's wrong with you, Moony? Did the Slytherins hit you and Lily with an Iratus Charm or something?"
"I thought you two were supposed to be the smartest in our year," said Remus.
"You're not making sense, Moony, buddy," Sirius said. "Why are you and Lily mad at us?"
"Lily was right. You two are unbelievable. Do I have to spell it out for you?"
Before he could say any more, however, Peter proved that he had been ignoring them, too lost in his own daydreams to follow the conversation. "I think Kali likes me," he said in a lovesick voice.
"Don't be a prat, Peter," Sirius said. "At least pretend to listen to what we're saying. Besides," he added off-handedly, "I saw her first."
"That doesn't matter," Peter argued.
"Sure it does. It's the first rule of friendship. You don't go after the girls your friends like. And if more than one person likes her, he who saw her first has dibs on her."
"You made that up," accused Peter.
"Nope. Tell him, Prongs."
"Padfoot's right," James told a disappointed Peter. "Of course, I'm the one who actually saw Kali first."
"Did too. I'm the one who noticed her in the forest. If I hadn't been there, she'd still be lying there, probably dead by now."
"But you don't count, Prongs," Sirius said.
"Because you have a girlfriend." It was Remus who answered James' question and his voice sounded cold. "Or have you forgotten? Does the name Lily Evans ring a bell? Pretty red-head witch who is furious at you right now, and for good reason?"
Remus' words stopped the argument, just like they had been intended to. There was a moment of uneasy silence when Remus looked at the three other boys in disgust. Finally he broke the silence, saying, "I hope you have a good time in Hogsmeade."
Remus' reproach had sobered James up at least, even if it hadn't penetrated Peter's nor Sirius' brains. "Remus was right," he told Sirius later on when the two were alone in their room.
"About what?" Sirius asked, going through his wardrobe, trying to find something to wear to go to Hogsmeade later on.
"We've been acting like gits. Did you see the way we treated them earlier on?" he asked while pacing.
"You mean the way you treated Lily?" Sirius asked. "Yeah, he was right. It's no wonder she's ready to kill you."
"Not just Lily," James snapped. "Remus too. We ignored him and her when we shouldn't have."
"It wasn't that bad," Sirius said, pulling out a clean robe. "He was sure in a temper, though, wasn't he?"
"You can hardly blame him. I should go apologize. To both of them." James stopped to look out the window.
"Does that mean you aren't coming tonight?" Sirius asked, pulling on the new set of robes.
James turned around. "No, I'm not. Tell Kali, please." Then he changed his mind. "Actually, I'll go down and tell her myself." He felt he owed her that much.
"Hurry up, then," Sirius said as he stood in front of a mirror and ran his fingers through his hair to make it look good. Finally deeming himself presentable, he started down the stairs.
James started to fix his hair, too, but gave it up as hopeless. His hair, no matter how much or how little time he spent on it, always ended up looking the same: messy. "I'm coming," he called after Sirius.
Remus had hoped that James at least would take his admonishment to heart, for Lily's sake if nothing else. But when the crowd eventually petered out from the common room and lights out was officially declared, he realized he had been expecting too much. James, Sirius and Peter had gone to Hogsmeade with Kali after all.
Instead of going up to bed himself, Remus stayed down in the common room, doing homework. The full moon was in less than a week and he didn't want to fall behind. It was easier to concentrate when nobody was around, plus he was working ahead. If someone saw him do that, they might question why. It was hard to explain that you knew what days you were going to fall sick upon ahead of time.
He was halfway through his Arithmancy assignment when he heard someone come down the stairs. For a second he panicked. There was no way he could gather his things up quickly enough to escape upstairs to his room before the person saw him. Then he realized that if someone else was wandering around the common room after hours, it was unlikely that he or she would rat him out for not being in bed.
"Remus?" Lily squinted in the sudden light to make out if the figure in the common room was indeed her friend.
"Lily? What are you doing up?"
She yawned. "I could ask you the same. I couldn't sleep."
Remus moved his books so Lily could sit down. "Thanks," she said, peering at his work. "What are you working on?"
He closed his books as quickly as possible without attracting attention and tucked the assignment away where she couldn't see it. "Just some Arithmancy stuff," he told her.
"Do you always stay up till three a.m. on a Saturday night so that you can work ahead of the class?" Lily asked, resting her head against the back of the chair.
Remus ducked his head. Despite his efforts, she had seen and recognized what he was doing. "No, not always," he said.
"So are you waiting up for James and Sirius too?" she asked.
There was no use lying to her. "Yeah," he admitted.
"I didn't want to," Lily confessed, playing with her sleeves.. "I tried to tell myself that they weren't worth my time, but I couldn't fall asleep. My roommates are all asleep, so I decided that instead of tossing and turning up in my room, I'd come downstairs where I could at least have a light on." She looked around the deserted common room. "Do you have any idea when they'll be back?
"No." Then, feeling he ought to tell Lily more, he added, "To be honest, I thought they'd be back by now."
Lily wrapped her robe around her tighter. "I thought so too, then I remembered that you guys are always out at all hours of the night, and maybe it wasn't so unusual for them not to be back yet."
"Nothing in Hogsmeade is open at this hour," Remus pointed out. "Even the Three Broomsticks is closed by now."
Instead of becoming upset, like he had been afraid of, Lily grew angry. "Bastard."
Remus assumed she was referring to James.
"Not only does he have to make a spectacle of himself, fawning over that tramp, but now they've gone off, God knows where, to do who knows what."
"They aren't alone," Remus reminded her. "Sirius and Peter are there, too."
"I'm not going to take it," Lily said resolutely, ignoring Remus. "I won't let anyone, not even James Potter, treat me like this." She marched upstairs, not to her own room, but up the boys' side.
"Wait! Lily!" Remus called after her, as loudly as he dared without waking anyone up. Quickly he threw his books in his bag and dashed up the stairs after her.
She had gone into his room and was sitting down on the floor next to James' trunk. It had been opened and she was tearing through its contents when Remus entered the room.
"What are you doing?" he demanded.
"I'm going to figure out where they are," Lily said.
"Lily, this is the boys' dorm. You aren't supposed to be up there." Then, he added curiously, "What are you looking for, anyway?"
"It's not like I've never been up here, Remus," Lily said. "I've been here plenty of times."
"But never at three in the morning, when I'm the only other person here," Remus said, alarmed. "Do you know how much trouble we could get into?"
"Then we just won't get caught," Lily said. "Unlike James and Sirius, I don't take some perverse pleasure in getting a detention every second day. I'm perfectly happy to get away with breaking the rules, thank you very much." She cried out in frustration. "Where's that stupid map?"
"The Marauder's Map?" Remus went over to the desk and grabbed a blank piece of parchment that was hidden between two books. "Here."
"Thank you," Lily said, taking it. "I suppose it's too much to ask for that James didn't bring his Invisibility Cloak with him." Even as she spoke, she took her wand out and tapped the map, saying, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
"Actually, James wouldn't have taken it because he doesn't like people to know about it. He wouldn't use it in front of Kali. He just doesn’t keep it in his trunk . . . " Remus trailed off and looked over at Lily in askance.
"Oh, right," Lily said, looking up from the map. "The Cloak's one of those things I'm not supposed to know about, isn't it."
"James told you then?"
Lily shook her head. "No. I just figured it out. You four aren't nearly as clever as you think you are." She grinned at him to let him know she was teasing. "Found them," she said triumphantly. Then her smile faded.
Remus became anxious. "What's wrong."
"They aren't moving. They're in the middle of one of the passageways from Hogsmeade, but they aren't moving."
"Maybe they're taking a rest?" Remus suggested. He didn't really believe that. None of the passageways between Hogwarts and Hogsmeade were so long that the four of them should have needed a break, not unless something had happened to one of them. Secretly, he was afraid someone had gotten hurt.
"That's not it, though," Lily said. "Look at Peter." She held the map out for him.
It took Remus awhile to locate them. He quickly saw what Lily was talking about. The dot labelled Peter Pettigrew was fainter than usual and flickering slightly.
"Something's wrong," Lily said.
Without wasting any time, Remus grabbed James' Invisibility Cloak from its hiding place and threw it over himself and Lily. She had picked up the map, in case they needed it later on.
"You have to stay quiet," Remus warned her. "We may be invisible, but people can still hear us."
"I know," Lily said.
Something in her voice made Remus look sharply in her direction. He wondered exactly how she had learned of James' prized possession. That was something he would have to ask her later. "Come on," he said.
James Potter was having a miserable evening. He, along with Sirius and Peter, had brought Kali to the Three Broomsticks for drinks. His two friends were too busy entertaining the new girl to even notice that James was having a lousy time.
Sirius was trying to impress a girl. He was in his prime. Joking, telling stories - Kali was charmed all around. The girl hadn't gone for five minutes without laughing all night. Even Peter was acting more sophisticated than usual, and Kali paid almost as much attention to him as she did to Sirius. If it had been anyone but Sirius, Peter would have been earnest competition.
Meanwhile, James sat sullenly at the table, brooding. He didn't know why he had come in the first place. When he had gone down to meet Kali, it had been his intentions only to give excuses for not joining others to take her to Hogsmeade. Yet somehow, when he met her, he had changed his mind. Now he was sitting in the tavern, being ignored by his friends, and having an awful time.
At last he had had enough. Shoving his chair back from the table, he said abruptly, "I'm going to go get drinks."
"That's nice," Sirius said. James got the distinct feeling his friend had no idea what he had just said. In fact, he was willing to bet his Invisibility Cloak on it.
"Does anyone else want one? Peter?" The blond boy was too busy staring in adoration at Kali. He didn't even acknowledge James' question. Growing more and more frustrated, James asked, "Sirius?"
At least he had the sense to recognize when his name was being called, unlike Peter. "What?" Sirius asked, finally looking in James' direction.
James just pursed his lips angrily and stormed away. As he left, he heard Sirius ask, "What's up with him?"
He found Rosmerta, the owner's niece and his favourite barmaid, by the counter. "James," she said pleasantly, serving a tumbler full of straight vodka to a hag leaning against the counter. "What can I get for you?"
Shrugging, he sat down on a stool. "Whatever."
Rosmerta raised her eyebrows, but didn't comment. "Four Butterbeers, coming up," she said. It didn't take her long to return with the drinks. Giving her a handful of Knuts, James carefully took them from her and turned around, only to find that his table had been deserted.
"Perfect," he said sarcastically, slamming the glasses onto the counter, spilling some of the liquid. "That's just great."
"Where'd Sirius and the others go?" Rosmerta asked, looking around for his missing friends.
"How should I know?" James asked with bitterness in his voice.
Rosmerta gave him a long, hard look before asking, "Are you going to tell me what's wrong?"
James sighed and slumped his shoulders. "Nothing, really. I just don't feel like being here tonight."
"Not with Sirius on a date, eh? Then why'd you come? You could have at least brought Lily."
"No, I couldn't, actually. Lil's mad at me," he admitted.
"Why?" Rosmerta asked.
"I don't know."
"So you decided, instead of staying back at Hogwarts to try and make up with her, to tag along on Sirius' date and be utterly miserable?"
"It's not a date," James protested. "And it seemed like a good idea at the time." The last part came out as a mumble.
"Yes, well most things do." While not overly harsh, her voice did not come across as kind.
James deserved the criticism, and he knew it. Looking guiltily at the barmaid, he was about to reply when Peter showed up. "Hey," the smaller boy said, not caring that he was interrupting. "Where's Kali gone?"
"With Sirius, I suppose," James said.
"Where's Sirius, then?" Peter demanded, not accepting the previous answer.
"How should I know?" James asked, annoyed. "Off with Kali somewhere. They disappeared when I came to get drinks."
"Where could they be? I can't believe Sirius would go off with Kali like that."
"I can," James said abruptly. "He likes her, remember? As he said, he saw her first."
"No, you saw her first," Peter corrected.
"I have Lily, remember?" James said coldly.
Silence stretched out for a few minutes, Rosmerta had left to deal with her other customers, until Sirius and Kali showed up again.
Sirius' face was flushed, his walk had a distinct swagger to it and he had a smug/self-satisfied smile. Kali looked as cool and collected as always, but her eyes had a twinkle that wasn't there before. It wasn't difficult to figure out what the two had been up to.
"There you are," Sirius said cheerfully, coming up to James and Peter.
"You sound surprised to find us here. Where else would we be? We weren't the ones who ran off, after all." James said.
"You all right, Prongs?" Sirius asked. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong," James snapped. "It's late. Let's go." He stood up, prepared to leave.
Sirius didn't move. "Why?" he asked. "The night's still young. Let's live a little. They won't miss us back there, anyway."
"Remus will be worried," James said.
"Moony'll be fine. He's probably sleeping by now."
"I'm going back, Sirius." His decision was final and everyone there could tell. "I don't care if you come with me or not, but I'm going back."
"You can't go back," Sirius said stubbornly.
"Why not?" James asked, staring his friend in the eyes.
"I think James is right," Kali said, placing her hand on Sirius' arm to calm him down. He looked over at her. "Perhaps we should be going back."
"Okay," Sirius said, relenting. "Fine. You win. We'll go back to Hogwarts."
Peter, who had been watching the argument anxiously, looked relieved that he would not have to choose whom to follow - Sirius or James. James, on the other hand, was not terribly pleased about winning the argument. Far from it, he only felt more resentful that Kali had forced Sirius to agree with him, then angry with himself for feeling resentful.
"Let's go, then," he said gruffly.
Not a word was spoken on their way, at least not to James. He was walking at a brisk pace and the others were straggling a couple of yards behind him. He could hear them whispering to each other, but tried to block out the sound.
During their adventures at Hogwarts, the four marauders had found any number of tunnels and secret passages around the castle. They knew of seven that led to Hogsmeade. One of them connected the Whomping Willow to the Shrieking Shack. The only time that one was ever used was during the full moons for Remus. Another brought them to the basement of Honeyduke's, a sweets store that was closed at that time of night. Of the five that remained, they were trying not to use two, because they had been caught too close to them and had the feeling Filch, the caretaker, was suspicious. The one they used now was the one that not only brought them back out the closest to Gryffindor Tower, but was also the most interesting to look at.
It had most probably been at one time an official passage that linked Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. Unlike the others passageways, which were tunnels in all respects, this one was more than a mere dug out trail through dirt. It was composed of a series of hallways and rooms, with mosaic floors and panelled walls.
They had reached a particularly large room, completely with spider web covered chandeliers hanging from the ceiling when Sirius stopped. "This is perfect," he said, looking around. "Hold up, James."
Unwillingly, James turned around. "What are you talking about, Sirius?"
"A break. We're going to take a break."
"Why? It's not that far now. Surely you aren’t tired." They hadn't been walking far; there was no way James could believe Sirius was worn out already. They regularly walked twice that distance without his friend complaining.
"I am," Kali said softly. "You don't mind, much, do you, James? Just a short rest, that's all."
"Fine," James grudgingly gave in. He took a seat on the floor a little away from the others.
Kali was practically sitting in Sirius' lap and James was trying his hardest not to look in their direction. He was a little surprised Peter wasn't sitting closer to him. He had to be put out about the way things had turned out with Kali. He really seemed to have liked her and it was obvious which one of them she had chosen.
But no, although Peter looked disappointed, he wasn't sulking. He was sitting not far away from Sirius and Kali, staring off in space and, like James, ignoring the kissing couple.
James himself was staring at the walls. They were a lot more interesting, and infinitely preferable, to watching Sirius and Kali, who were practically rolling on the floor. The passageway was very Romanesque in nature, and as such, had murals covering the walls. The section James was staring at had scenes from the myth of Orpheus and Euridice. He was very busy admiring the paintings when Peter, very pale, started to sway slightly, finally toppling over.
An instant later James was on his feet and he rushed over to his fallen friend. "Peter," he yelled. "What happened?" It was stupid to ask an unconscious person a question - it obviously couldn't be answered - but James did it anyway. Kneeling beside him, James put his fingers to the boy's neck, relieved to find a faint pulse. Looking up at Sirius and Kali, who had finally stopped kissing and were standing beside him and Peter, James said, "We've got to get him to Madam Pomfrey's now."
"There's no need to. Peter'll be fine," Sirius said.
"What are you talking about?" James demanded. "He collapsed. Something's wrong with him. We have to get him to the hospital wing, maybe even bring Madam Pomfrey here. I'm not sure it's safe to move him."
"You can't do that," Sirius declared.
"What? Don't be stupid, Sirius. We have to. If this is about them finding out about this passage, then you're being a prat. Peter's life is worth more than keeping this way to Hogsmeade a secret."
"It's not about that, James."
James stood up. He finally realized what was wrong with Sirius' speech. The prankster had been thrilled by the nicknames they had given each other in fifth year and used them at every opportunity. Now he was calling James by his given name, something he hadn't done in years, unless there was a teacher around. Even then, Sirius sometimes slipped around the teachers and used their nicknames instead of their real names.
Licking his lips, which had suddenly become dry, James said, "I'm going to go get help for Peter."
He started to push past Kali and Sirius, but the latter held out his arm to physically block James. Moving in front of him, he said, "I'm afraid I can't let you do that." He smiled apologetically, but his expression was cold. None of the impish qualities that others had come to associate with Sirius were present in his face or his stance.
James stared his friend in the eyes. "What's going on, Padfoot?"
"What do you mean, Prongs?"
James did not like the malicious glint in his eye, nor the sarcastic tone he used to pronounce his nickname. Going as cold as Sirius' smile was, he said, "Let me pass."
"He's not going to do that," Kali said, speaking up for the first time since Peter had collapsed. James turned to her.
She was as lovely as ever, but there was something subtly different about the beauty. All James could think was her features seemed harsher, even deadlier, and not nearly as amiable as before. Much less pleasant. There was also a flush across her cheeks, more pronounced than could be explained by her recent make-out session with Sirius. She looked like she had just gotten a taste of something forbidden that set off an insatiable desire for more, especially the way she was licking her lips and staring at Sirius and James greedily.
An inkling of fear invaded James. "Goodbye," he said, his voice staying steady. "I'm going now. I'm going to get help for Peter."
"I don't think you've been listening, James," Kali said disapprovingly, walking up to him. "You're not going. Peter does not need any help."
"Why do you say that?" James asked, afraid of the answer.
She leaned in closer until her lips were practically touching his ears. He could feel her warm breath on his skin. "Because," she whispered, "you can't help the dead."
"Peter's not dead." Try as he might, James could not keep his voice from quivering. Hoping that she was distracted by the conversation, he slowly reached into his pocket for his wand.
Unfortunately, Sirius saw him. His own hand snaked out and grabbed James, twisting his friend's arm away so painfully that James cried out.
"Trying to use your wand on me?" Kali asked. "That wasn't very nice, now was it, James?" She reached into his pocket and pulled out the hidden wand.
Ignoring her, James looked at Sirius beseechingly. "Sirius, listen to me. You have to stop this. Listen to what Kali's saying. You have to stop co-operating with her. Help Peter. He's going to die if you don't." He tried to twist his arm from Sirius' grasp, but the other boy was holding on too tightly.
"You're not going to convince him like that," Kali said, amused. "He won't listen to you. He's in love. People will do anything for love."
"I don't know what you've done to him," James said boldly, "but it isn't love."
Kali shrugged. "Love, lust - is there really a difference?"
It was unnerving for James to see Sirius stay quiet for so long. His friend was normally very outgoing and the James only knew of two other times when Sirius had let the conversation go for that long with jumping in. Once was when was sick with the flu and had lost his voice, the other when someone had hexed his voice to alternate between sounding like a chipmunk and a sheep. Sirius still hadn't figured out who had done that to him and although he placed the blame on the Slytherins, James had a suspicion it was someone else entirely.
Now, yanking his arm away from Sirius' grip, he said, "Yes there is." He lunged at Kali, going for his wand. Unluckily, although he had the element of surprise, he was only able to knock it out of her hand before Sirius tackled him.
Kali scrambled to her feet and went for the wand. Picking it up, she pointed it at the brawling boys. They were too busy with their scuffle to notice her.
James had fought with Sirius before, but it had always been in jest, and even when it wasn't, they weren't seriously trying to hurt each other. It was hard, James thought, being up against an opponent whom he didn't want to hurt, but who had no such restraints on hurting him.
Ultimately it was James who lost the fight. He was momentarily distracted when the door blew open and Sirius, too busy concentrating on beating up James to notice anything else around him, pinned him down onto the floor. James tried to squirm away, but couldn't. Sirius blocked his view of who had come in.
At least so he thought until he heard Kali cry out, "Who's there?" She was waving his wand around wildly and James noticed for the first time that she held it in a peculiar fashion, as if she had never used a wand before.
"Expelliarmus!" James' Invisibility Cloak slipped off of Remus and Lily, the latter who had her wand pointed at Kali. James' wand went flying from Kali's hand and she dived after it.
"What is going on here?" Remus demanded. He had his wand trained on Sirius and James.
Sirius got off of James. "I don't think she's human," he said. "She did something to Peter and James. Peter collapsed and James gave her his wand. She seems to have him under a spell, or something."
James stared at Sirius in disbelief from his place on the floor. "You lying bastard," he said, shocked. "Don't believe a word he said. I didn't give her my wand; she took it. And Sirius is the one under her spell, not me."
Kali made one last desperate attempt to crawl to the fallen wand, but Lily stepped in between the girl and the object, her own wand at the ready, pointed down at the prostrate form. "Which one do we believe?" she asked Remus, hoping that he could spot the liar more readily than she could.
Remus' gaze flickered from James, who had slowly gotten to his feet, to Sirius then to Kali. "You're a Lempa." It wasn't a question.
She looked up at him, terrified that her secret had been revealed, but she was the only one the words had an effect on. "A what?" Lily asked.
"A Lempa. Distantly related to Veelas, only more malevolent. Similar to succubae. They charm men, playing on their desires, then steal their strength, ultimately killing them. They prefer wizards because the magic makes them more powerful, but have been known to attack Muggles as well. They aren't discriminating."
Remus looked over at the prone body of his friend. "He'll be fine, just as long as we get him to Madam Pomfrey as quickly as possible."
"Come on, James, Sirius," Lily said. "You guys help Peter, I'll make sure Kali doesn't escape."
James, a bit sickened to realize he had been played for the fool, but willing to wait until he and his friends were out of danger to think about it, started for the unconscious boy. However, he was stopped when Remus raised his wand again. It really wasn't his night for being threatened by his friends. Lily, however, spoke before he could. "What are you doing, Remus?" There was a slightly hysterical edge to her voice.
"She's enchanted them, Lily," Remus explained. "It's part of a Lempa's magic. Even now, knowing that Kali plans to kill them, they'll still try to help her. They're bewitched."
"I'm not bewitched," James said. "Lily, you got to believe me." He looked at her beseechingly.
She turned her head and James felt his heart drop. "Why don't we stun them, then? Sort it out when we get back to Hogwarts."
Remus shook his head. "If they're unconscious, they can't find Kali. It will just make things worse."
"What can we do, then?" Remus was the resident Dark creatures expert. He, if anyone, would know how to handle a Lempa.
Unfortunately, he looked at her grimly. "Nothing. The best bet is to get everyone back to Hogwarts. If Professor Dumbledore's back, he can break the connection between Kali and the others, but the two of us, alone, don't stand a chance."
Lily bit her lip. "When we came in," she said carefully thinking over the matter, "they were fighting. They wouldn't be doing that if they were both under her spell, would they?"
Remus considered her words. "No. They wouldn't."
Lily looked over at James and Sirius. "So who's speaking the truth?"
"I don't know."
"Sirius is the armed one," James said.
"Only because James gave Kali his wand," Sirius answered naturally.
"No, Kali took my wand. There's a difference."
"It doesn't make sense that she would let Sirius remain armed unless he was under her control," Lily said to Remus.
"Not if she hadn't gotten the chance to get his wand yet," Remus replied.
"Look," Sirius said, "if it's my wand you're worried about, you can have it." He took it out slowly so they wouldn't mistake his actions. Keeping it by the tip, he held it out towards Remus.
The other boy hesitated, wary of a possible trap. Sirius, noticing Remus' reluctance to come closer to him, rolled his eyes and said, "Oh, for the love of -" He gently tossed the wand over at Remus.
Instinct made Remus try to catch it, and the second he lowered his wand, Sirius knocked his hands out of the way and brought his elbow down on Remus' neck, knocking him to the ground.
James lunged at him and they both fell to the floor. They rolled around, neither one gaining the upper hand.
Having waited for the distraction, Kali took full advantage of it now that it had come and grabbed Lily's leg and yanked as hard as she could. Lily lost her balance and fell. She held on tightly to her wand, but Kali finally reached James' and by the time Lily had hers pointed at the Lempa, it was an impasse between the two girls.
James finally rolled on top of Sirius and he would have knocked him out with a well-aimed blow to the head, but he remembered at the last second that Remus thought it would be a bad idea for someone under Kali's spell to be unconscious.
A detached part of his brain noticed the position they were in. Both panting, they were not too far away from Remus, who was still stunned from when Sirius had knocked him down. The mosaic on the floor underneath them showed a three-headed dog, the mythical Cerberus. Two words were spelled out - caveat canem. James translated it automatically. Beware the dog.
Caveat canem was all the warning James received. Sirius noticed what James had not - that beside Remus' oustretched, yet limp, arm were the two wands Remus had lost hold of. Desperately, he reached over and grabbed one, bringing it up to James' face, almost knocking his glasses off, and shouting with all his might, "Expelliarmus!" There was enough force in the spell to send James flying back. He cracked his head against the wall.
Slowly Sirius got to his feet, still breathing heavily. He pointed his wand at James, but James wasn't a danger anymore. All the strength James had left was going into trying to keep himself awake. Dizziness invaded his senses and pain throbbed through his head, threatening to overwhelm him.
"James." It was Lily's voice, and if he concentrated enough, James could almost make out the red hair of his girlfriend, except the face that accompanied it was too white. It was a minute before an analysis of the situation filtered into his brain. Lily was concerned about him. More than concerned, she was wildly distressed. The too-white face was because she was pale and anxiety had laced her voice when she spoke. Yet still, James noted, she had her wand drawn on Kali.
His brain started to become clearer, and James discovered that as long as he only concentrate on one thing, he could follow along with what was going on. Unfortunately, seeing and hearing were two separate things, so James closed his eyes to shut out the visions swimming in front of his eyes.
The last image he had seen finally registered. Sirius was standing in front of him, threatening him with his wand. It made the next words make sense.
"Put your wand down, Lily," Sirius said harshly.
"No." Lily's voice was surprisingly clear.
James was roughly hauled to his feet. Something hard dug into his neck. He opened his eyes for a second, but Sirius was looking over at Lily. "Put your wand down, Lily," Sirius said again. "Do it!"
"I said, no." Even James, in all of his confusion, could tell that it was mostly bravado. Lily was about to cave in.
"Don't do it, Lily." Remus' voice was annoyingly calm. Again, James opened his eyes. His friend had finally recovered and had gotten to his feet. Sirius, however, had been smart enough to grab both wands, not just his own, so Remus was unarmed.
"But, James . . ." Lily protested.
"He won't hurt James," Remus told her confidently. "He can't. Kali needs James alive and unharmed."
"But I don't need you," Kali said fiercely. "Kill him, Sirius."
Sirius dropped James and the injured boy, unable to support himself, fell to the ground in an ungraceful heap.
"It's not going to work," Lily said. The desperation had left her voice. "If you can't hurt James, you can't hurt Remus."
Kali let out a peal of laughter. "I don't want Remus."
"Sure you don't," Lily said sarcastically. "Why would I believe that? You want any male you can get your hands on."
"Not a filthy werewolf, I don't," Kali sneered. "I would never lower myself to that."
There was something wrong with that, James could tell. It took him a minute, but he finally realized that Remus tried to keep his lycanthropy a secret. Lily didn't know.
James opened his eyes. Remus looked very pale and he was looking at Lily apprehensively, but Lily showed no surprise. "Is that why you didn't try to enchant him earlier when you did the others?" she asked.
"Enough!" Kali snapped, her eyes blazing. "Kill him!"
James eyes sank shut as Sirius took a step forward.
"Stupefy!" Remus' advice be damned, Lily had obviously decided an unconscious Sirius was preferable to a dead Remus.
Or so James thought until he heard Sirius shout, "Nooo!"
It was harder than ever, but James forced his eyes open. Lily had stunned Kali, not Sirius. "I think we discounted the simplest solution," she said, exhilarated.
Sirius started for her, forgetting all about Remus, but Lily ignored him. Squeezing her eyes shut for concentration, she flicked her wand at Kali and said, "Separo!"
Sirius staggered, and then collapsed, while James suddenly felt a huge burden ease off of him. Pressure dissolved from his head, unfortunately leaving behind pain. It was too much for him to handle. Now that it was safe for him to do so, he lost the fight to stay awake.
Remus and Lily were the only ones left. The three boys and the Lempa were all on the floor in various states of unconsciousness.
"Help me get them back to the castle," Lily ordered.
Remus didn't move, but cleared his throat uncomfortably. He still looked unnaturally white, even for him, and was he was rather pale to begin with. "Lily," he started, but then he lost the nerve to continue.
"What, Remus?" Lily asked,
"About, what Kali said," he said, flustered. It was strange to see him anything less than cool and collected.
"What about it?"
"About me, er, being a, umm," his voice dropped until he was scarcely audible, "werewolf."
"Oh, that." Lily had almost forgotten about Kali's 'revelation' in light of everything else that had happened. "Don't worry about it. I already knew."
"What? James?" Remus' eyes sought out Lily's unconscious boyfriend.
"No," she assured him. "James didn't tell me. He wouldn't do that, not without your permission."
She shrugged and said, "I figured it out on my own."
Lily smiled enigmatically. "I told you, you boys aren't nearly as clever as you think you are. Now, are you going to help me get them back to the school, or do I have to do it all by myself?"
Remus went over to Sirius and picked up his wand. "Can you handle Peter and James if I get Kali and Sirius?" he asked.
Lily nodded, raising her wand and saying the spell that summoned four stretchers for the boys. Remus joined her to bring the boys and Kali onto to stretchers, and together they headed back to the school.
"Lily," Remus said after awhile. "Are you - you're not going to tell anyone, are you?"
"Of course not," she reassured him. "If I were going to do that, I would have done it when I first found out."
"Then you're okay with it?"
"Honestly? When I first found out, I was a little disturbed, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that you're still Remus. I mean, when were you bitten?"
"When I was little," he said uncomfortably. He didn't like talking about being a werewolf, even with his close friends.
"Exactly," Lily said, sounding satisfied, even if Remus wasn't quite sure what she was getting at. "You're still the same person. I just know more about you, now."
"Such as once a month I'm a horrible monster," Remus said bitterly.
Lily shrugged. "Everyone has their faults." She paused, then smiled wryly. "If Sirius was awake, this is where he'd jump in and say once a month I become a horrible monster, too."
"Not if he valued his life, he wouldn't," Remus said, with a hint of teasing in his voice.
"He does take his life into his hands often, doesn't he?" mused Lily.
They reached the end of the passage and, by mutual consent, stopped talking. It didn't take them long to reach the hospital wing. Although they had to wake Madam Pomfrey, she was alert when she took one look at the six teens and said, "What have you done to yourselves now?"
Not waiting for an answer, she took control of the unconscious and sent Lily and Remus straight to bed. Lily and Remus protested, insisting that they were fine – it was the others who were hurt – but Madam Pomfrey was having none of it, and insisted they spend the night there while she went to work on the other three boys.
"It's about time you woke up." Lily's voice was entirely too cheerful.
James didn't know how she could be so bright so early in the morning. Or why she was in his room. Then he realized he was in the hospital wing, not his dorm room. "Lily?" he said, abruptly sitting up. "What happened? How'd I get here?"
"Well, after Kali was stunned, you and Sirius blacked out. Remus and I brought you, and Peter, of course, back to the school. Kali's been sent to the Ministry and they're going to deal with her there."
"What? Why? What happened?" James demanded.
Lily frowned. "James," she said slowly, "what exactly do you remember of the other night?
Remus walked over and joined them as James answered, "The other night?" How long have I been out?"
"Two days," Remus said, startling Lily. Standing behind her, she hadn't noticed him come up. "But that doesn't matter. Neither Sirius nor Peter remember anything, either."
"They don't?" Lily asked.
"Remember what?" questioned James, frustrated.
Remus and Lily looked at each other. "Why don't we wait for Sirius and Peter?" Remus suggested. "That way we only have to go through it once. I'll go wake Peter."
He left, and Lily explained, "Peter actually woke up last night, but Madam Pomfrey insisted on keeping him here longer. She's fussing over Sirius now. He woke up about two hours ago."
As it turned out, the school matron wasn't still occupied with Sirius. She had caught Remus trying to wake up one of her patients and was scolding him for it. "Good, James, you're awake." She turned to Remus and Lily and made shooing motions. "It's time for you to go."
"But - "
"Madam Pomfrey - "
The matron wouldn't listen to their objections. "Get," she said firmly. "I need to look at my patients. Besides, lunch is almost over, and you have class to get to. You can come back during dinner."
"Sorry, James," Lily said, getting up. "I'll see you in a couple of hours." She kissed him goodbye on the cheek - Remus settled for a simple wave - and they left.
As Remus had said, Sirius and Peter were as much in the dark about what had happened as James was. Once Madam Pomfrey had been satisfied that none of them were going to keel over and die under her watchful eye, she let them sit on their beds and talk.
Comparing stories, they found that they all remembered meeting Kali and going to Hogsmeade. Sirius didn't remember going off alone with the girl, although Peter and James did, and James was the only one who remembered leaving The Three Broomsticks. Unfortunately, that's where his memory started to get fuzzy and he couldn't tell his friends any more.
It seemed to take forever before Remus and Lily returned, but that was probably because they were impatient to find out what had happened. At last, only about twenty minutes into the dinner hour, the door to the ward opened.
"About time," Sirius grumbled when Lily and Remus came in.
"We skipped lunch to see you," Lily told him. "We didn't think Pomfrey would take kindly to us fainting in the hospital wing."
"Ignore him," James said, grinning. "It's the only way to deal with him."
Sirius stuck his tongue out at his best friend, while Peter, deciding to follow James' advice, ignored both of them. "Pull up a chair," he said. "We want to know what happened."
They complied and as soon as Sirius and James had settled down, started their story.
"Kali was a Lempa," Remus began.
Once again, the title failed to bring any recognition. Peter shrugged, Sirius looked confused and James asked, "Kali was a what?"
"We all aren't Defence geniuses, Remus, you know," added Sirius.
Remus sighed, a little impatiently. "I was getting to that. If you aren't going to interrupt me further, perhaps I can explain." He waited, but they were quiet. Satisfied, he continued, "As I was saying, Kali is a Lempa. Lempas are similar to succubae. They attract males, bewitch them and steal all of their life energy."
"How?" Peter asked, forgetting that he wasn't supposed to interrupt. "How did she bewitch us?"
"Have you ever heard of pheromones?" Lily asked. This time four blank stares greeted her; not even Remus knew what she was talking about. "It's a Muggle science term. In nature, certain animals give off a . . . " she scrunched up her nose, trying to remember the right word, "scent, I think. Only, it's not really a scent, because you can't really smell it, at least not consciously. So this scent attracts members of the opposite sex. I was reading up on Lempas in the library, and they seem to work on the same principle."
"We were attracted to the way she smelled?" Sirius said doubtfully.
"If you're going to be thick, then yes," Lily said crossly.
Taking up the narrative, mostly to ward off a fight between Lily and Sirius, Remus said, "Even by the time you went to Hogsmeade, she had you so deeply under her spell you probably would have done anything for her. Lempa magic is similar to the Imperius curse, only stronger because it's natural magic. However, it's hard to maintain control over more than one person at a time, so when James started having doubts about Kali, he started to break free."
"How come James could break the spell and we couldn't?" Peter wanted to know.
James was able to answer that one. "Because Lily and Remus pointed out that I already had a girlfriend," he said. "I started to wonder why I was so attracted to Kali when it's Lily I love."
"Even that wasn't enough to break her spell completely," Remus informed them. "A Lempa can only drain one person at a time. At first, she was concentrating on Peter, but once he was unconscious, James started to make trouble, so she retracted her attention from him and focussed on James."
"That's about when we showed up," Lily said.
"How'd you know where to find us?" James asked.
"Remus quickly figured out what was going on and what Kali was, but we couldn't figure out which one of you was lying. We couldn't stun you both and figure it out later - "
Remus interrupted by saying, "Even under her spell, you were fighting her attempts to drain you. Unconscious, however, your brain has no defence against it."
Lily nodded. "It was I, naturally, who came up with the brilliant idea to stun Kali."
"Not that you're bragging, or anything," Sirius added.
"Of course not," Lily said, flashing him a grin. "Anyway, once she was out, the two of you," she indicated Sirius and James, "collapsed. Sirius, I guess was too much under her spell, and James had a minor concussions from hitting his head against the wall."
"How did I do that?"
Lily and Remus exchanged an uneasy glance. "You and Sirius were fighting," the latter said vaguely.
Sirius and James exchanged a look of their own. There was more to the story than they were letting on.
"We brought you back to school and Professor O'Hogan was brought in. Dumbledore was still away. She heard our story and sent Kali to the Ministry. She's up before the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures Board."
"What's going to happen to her?"
"She tried to kill you," Remus said gravely.
There was silence as his words sunk in. The Ministry wasn't known to be understanding towards non-humans, even the harmless ones.
At last, Sirius said, "There's something you're not telling us. Why were James and I fighting?"
"It doesn't really matter," Remus said.
"Yes it does." Sirius was unnaturally sombre. "I need to know if I owe any of you an apology." As frivolous as he took life generally, when the occasion required it, there was no one who could be more earnest than Sirius Black.
"It wasn't you, Sirius, not really," Lily said. "You don't own anyone an apology."
"What I can't understand," James said after a bit, "is why did we find her unconscious in the forest?"
"Oh, that. Kali explained it to the Board. She actually had had a close call in Wales and was forced to Apparate wildly to escape them there. She ended up in the forest, completely drained," said Lily.
"That's why she was so careless with the three of you," Remus said. "The reason so few people have heard of Lempas is not because they're rare, but rather because they're usually very subtle. Normally, they drain their victims very slowly. It makes the death seem more natural."
"Then why -?"
"She was desperate and she got greedy," Lily said without any compassion. "The Apparation had taken so much out of her that she needed more energy quickly. When you came along, you were too tempting to pass. She didn't have any time to waste on subtlety."
"So if it hadn't been for that," Peter said, more than a little white when he was contemplating his near miss with death, "we'd all be dead?"
"Perhaps not," Remus said. "She was, after all, trying to do this under Dumbledore's nose. That's not an easy task. There's no guarantee things would have gone her way."
Again the six teens were quiet as they thought that over. At last, Sirius philosophically said, "As Dumbledore would probably say, or more likely imply, at least it taught us a lesson. I, for one, am swearing off of girls from now on."
Predictably enough, the others found this hilarious. Everyone except for Sirius burst out laughing. "What?" Sirius asked, looking wounded. "You don’t think I could do it?"
"Sure you could, Padfoot," James said, trying to put on a serious face. He couldn't hold it very long and a huge grin broke across his face. "If you were living as a hermit off on some deserted mountain, maybe. Your resolve will break the first time something in a skirt walked by."
"Prongs, I'm disappointed. Do you really think I have so little willpower?"
"Do you really want us to answer that?" Lily giggled.
Sirius suddenly smiled and the others realized it had just been a ploy to lighten the mood. "How 'bout I just swear off of mysterious girls who show up in the middle of the night for no apparent rhyme or reason and who have no discernable past that they're willing to speak of?" Sirius compromised amiably.
"Deal," James said, sticking out his right hand.
They shook on it.
Tuesday, July 17, 2001
Wow. I'm finally finished. It's hard to believe. Over 13,000 words - my second longest story ever. This has come a long, long way from the original idea. At first, this was going to be a semi-sequel to my story Moonlight Discoveries, in which Lily discovers Remus is a werewolf. That was posted on ff.n a year ago yesterday (I'm writing these author notes on July 8, even though by the time I do minor revisions and send it off to my beta, it'll be much later). Even after finishing it, I had in mind a scene where someone reveals Remus to be a werewolf, only for him to find out that Lily already knew. The girl turned into Kali and the scene moved from the hospital wing to one of the passages from Hogsmeade to Hogswart, but other than that, very little changed.
I actually started this story on July 18, 2000. I wrote the first two scenes, then sort of fell out of the HP fandom. Consequently, I did not work on this for the better part of a year. Then back in May, I started to read and write HP fanfic again and dragged this out of the dregs of my computer. (Good thing I never delete anything. *grin*) Then I finished it up.
Let's see, explanations. First off, some of you may recognize Kali's name. She's named for one of the major goddesses in the Hindu religion. Now, let me say, I know horribly little about Hinduism, but, correct me if I'm wrong, I'm about 90% sure that although Kali is the Destroyer, she is not akin to the Christian devil. She's not supposed to be evil. So I'm taking the second meaning of her name, which according to some of the baby name site's I've come across, means "energy." It was just too good to pass up, considering her full name, Kalista, means "beautiful."
Likewise, Lempa is a derivative of Lempo, from Finnish myths. He, however, was supposed to be evil, and the name is also associated with sexual desires, so I thought it appropriate. No, I did not find an entry on Lempas in Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (or J.K. Rowling, if you wish). They're part of my own imagination, much like the Quavits from my story, Confessions to a Yellow Duck (some people were asking).
Thanks, as always, go to my wonderful beta readers, Lissanne Jones and Heather. Without them, I don't know what I would have done.
And, to no one's surprise, these characters do not belong to me. They belong to the great J.K. Rowling. I've only been playing with them, and look! I've returned them not too worse for the wear. I'm not making any money from this, I write purely for pleasure - although feedback is a nice bonus! So be a responsible reader and review!
Well, I think that's it.