The Sugar Quill
Author: LuthAn  Story: Of Cauldrons and Comrades  Chapter: Chapter 1: Beginnings
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Chapter One- Invitations

 

Author’s Note: Special thanks to my wonderful SQ Beta Heather, aka Felina Black, for her excellent beta!  And thanks to my friend Nielawen.  Without her, this story would be entirely different, and probably very bad.  Enjoy the first real chapter!

 

***

 

Chapter One: Beginnings

 

The early morning sun filtered brightly through the curtained windows in the small town of West Camford.  All up and down Hanover Road men and women were rolling out of bed to greet the already stifling July morning.  Teapots and ceiling fans hummed to life as morning routines began along the road, and the daily post flopped unceremoniously through its appointed metal slot in each door of the tree-lined street.

 

At number 17 Hanover, however, this ritual was met with great anticipation.  Petunia Evans sat with bated breath right behind the door in the front hall, for today—July 20—was the day; the day that Veronica Grant’s invitation would arrive.  As Petunia sat nervously smoothing her purple nightdress, her mother and father chuckled.  The Evans family had heard nothing but party rumors for the past two weeks from Petunia’s thin-lipped mouth.  Never had Violet and Spencer Evans seen their daughter more excited!  But on this morning, a much more exciting and much more important letter would drop into Petunia’s outstretched hands.  A letter that would greatly outshine the gold embossing of Veronica’s invitation.  A letter that would begin a chain reaction, and that would eventually take Petunia’s life in a most unwanted direction.  However, this letter was addressed not to her, but to her little sister, Lily…

 

As the clock struck eight, Petunia heard the familiar creak of the mail slot, and a jumble of envelopes came tumbling onto her lap.  Glancing desperately at the pile of standard-size white envelopes, her hopes faltered, and she feared the worst.  Then suddenly, an enormous sapphire-blue envelope with gold calligraphy was wedged through.  Petunia shouted with glee at the coveted invite, and hardly noticed a second large letter that shot through the slot a few seconds later.  If it had not been for the wild beating of her heart, Petunia would have heard a distinct ruffle of wings outside the door.  If the blue envelope had not been the sole focus of her attention, she would have noticed the oddities of the second letter.  Its envelope was of a thick, creamy parchment.  It was addressed most bizarrely to “Miss Lily Evans, the Third Bedroom, West Camford, Kent.”  There was no postcode.  No, Petunia noticed none of this, not even the archaic crest in the upper corner, nor the thick red seal on the back of the envelope.  She merely scooped it up along with the other mail and proceeded in a daze to the kitchen.

 

Upstairs in the very third bedroom mentioned on the strange envelope, Lily Evans had been awoken by her sister’s delighted yell.  She grumbled, turned over, and tried to fall back asleep, but the sun blazed too brightly through her soft white curtains.  Sighing, she slowly sat up and swung her legs over the bed.  Undoing her ponytail was somewhat of a challenge, as her thick red hair had a knack for tangling.  As she yanked and pulled, Lily cursed the nascent morning, not knowing that this day would change her life.  She stumbled blindly down the stairs, still rubbing sleep out of her eyes, and groaned at the familiar voice in the kitchen.

 

“…and Jennifer said there was going to be a live band and that we were having lobster as one of our main courses!  And here on the invitation, it says to bring a bathing suit, so we must be going for a dip somewhere!  Oh, if only I could have thrown such a party when I turned thirteen, I—”

 

“Petunia, dear,” her mother interrupted in a strained voice, “you had a fabulous thirteenth.  We had thirty people over for Heaven’s sake!”

 

“Well I know that mother, but we didn’t have lobster now, did we?”

 

Violet knowingly ignored this remark and let her eldest daughter continue with her ramblings.  She smiled as she saw Lily roll her eyes and walk into the kitchen to grab some toast.  Violet picked up the stack of mail that Petunia had carelessly discarded, and shuffled through it.  “Oh Spence, dear, your subscription to Stamp Collector’s Weekly is almost up!  Will you renew it?  Spence?  Spencer!”  Mr. Evans finally looked up from his paper. 

 

“I’m sorry love, what did you say?  I was reading this fascinating article…”

 

“Oh yes, always a fascinating article, eh?  I said that your subscription to Stamp Collector’s Weekly is almost up!”  Lily giggled as she saw her father’s eyes go wide in shock, and then snatch the notice from his wife’s outstretched hand.

 

“What!  How can that be?  I signed up for 24 months, not 12!  I’ll have to phone them right away!”

 

“Darling, it’s Saturday.  No one will be in the offices.  Just calm down and go back to your paper.  I’m sure the stamps won’t have gone anywhere by Monday…” she continued to rifle through the stack of mail.  “Oh Lily, look, there’s something here for you!  And what nice handwriting!  Is one of your friends having a party too?  My, they certainly don’t know how to address an envelope, do they?  I wonder how it even got here!”

 

Lily put down her half-eaten toast and stared at the envelope.  It was very large and very thick, and she admired the seal briefly:  Four animals entwined themselves around a large letter “H.”  It was a strange way to mark the return address, but it must have been from her friend Sandra Howard; the only friend she had whose surname began with “H.”  She pried the envelope open and two letters fell out.  The first was written on a fancy letterhead bearing the name “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”  Lily rubbed her eyes, thinking this to be some sort of trick of the light.  Surely there wasn’t really a school for witches!  They didn’t exist!  She read on, muttering under her breath.  “Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, Order of Merlin First Class, Grand blah blah blah, what is this?  Dear Miss Evans, we are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of—what? Mum, will you take a look at this?”

 

Mrs. Evans put down the spatula she was holding, and picked up the letter.  Her eyes widened as she skimmed its contents.  “Lily, is this some sort of joke?  Can you think of anyone that would like to make us all have a good laugh?”

 

“No mum, I can’t!  I think it’s… I think it’s real!”

 

“Oh honestly, are any of you listening to me?”  Petunia chimed in.  “I was just telling you the guest list, but nobody’s paying me any attention at all!”

 

“Not now, Petunia.  Lily’s got a most interesting letter.”

 

“What, Lily Evans?  My sister got a letter?  Let me see!”  The letter once again changed hands, and once again, the reader got a shock.  You, a witch!  Well, that about fits, you freak!”

 

“Petunia!”  Violet shouted, and reprimanded her eldest, while at the same time profusely congratulating her youngest.  “Lily, this is remarkable!  I always knew you were special, but I had no idea you were a witch, did you?  No, of course not, otherwise we would have expected this!  Spencer!  Spencer!  Look up from that confounded newspaper for a moment, would you!  Lily has exciting news!  She got a letter—she’s a witch!”

 

“Oh, smashing good job, Lily,” he said sarcastically.  “Turn my boss into a newt, would you?  I’d love a holiday.”

 

“Spencer!”

 

“Well Vi, darling, you can’t actually think that the letter is real, can you?  It’s probably just a cheap joke!”

 

“Spencer, LOOK at the letter!  This is not cheap!”

 

“Well then it’s an expensive joke,” said Spencer with an exasperated sigh as he took the letter.

 

“Speaking of things that are expensive,” chirped Petunia, “I’ve heard that the Grants are shipping in thirty Andalusian horses from Spain!”

 

“What a load of rubbish, Petunia.  Anybody important enough to do that would have enough sense not to invite you to her party!  Your ugly mug would scare away all those beautiful creatures!”  Lily was still fuming at Petunia’s remark about her letter.  Finally, Lily got some recognition, but Petunia, as usual, demanded all the attention. 

 

I’m no freak thought Lily as her temper flared up inside.  I’ll show you a freak, Petunia.  Lily imagined great tufts of purple hair sprouting out of Petunia’s perfectly coiffed head.  The thought made her laugh.  The sight that greeted her when she opened her eyes made her laugh even harder.  The vision was actually happening!  Petunia screamed as coils of outrageous purple cascaded their way down her back.  Great jets of pink hair followed, and stood up straight on top of Petunia’s head.  Blue fuzzy strands came out of her ears next, and Lily was doubled over on the floor.  Petunia was wailing something awful, but Violet and Spencer were staring transfixed.  The bacon on the stove was burning, and the Hogwarts letter hung loosely from Spencer’s hand as he looked at his daughters, then at his wife.

 

“Great Scot,” he said in an amazed whisper.  “You are a witch!”  He and Violet swooped down and embraced their grinning daughter in a giant hug, while a sobbing Petunia ran hurriedly out of the kitchen.

 

“So can I go Mum?  Dad?  Can I?”  Lily was giddy with excitement.  A few strange things had happened to her before, but nothing like this.  Thoughts reeled through her head, and she imagined a grand manor filled with tall, robed people running around with pointy hats and magic wands, pulling rabbits and doves out of top hats.

 

“Well, I don’t know, what do you think, Spence?”  But Spencer was now staring open-mouthed at the second piece of paper.

 

“Look at this list of supplies!  Robes, cauldron, potion supplies, a magic wand!  It’s all here!  Where are we going to get this?  In London?”

 

“So that’s a yes, Dad?  I can go?”

 

“I should say so!  I can’t wait to see the stores that we’ll go into!  Do you think that witches and wizards have their own stamps?”

 

“Oh, always you and your stamps!” Violet teased.  “Lily, of course you may go.  Your father and I are thrilled!  Now, how do we RSVP?  It said something about an owl… Yes, here: ‘we await your owl by no later than July 31.’  Well that’s something, isn’t it!  We haven’t got an owl!  Do you suppose they mean Petunia’s parakeet?  I daresay that even if we could fit a letter onto those scrawny legs, Petunia would never let us use him!  Maybe we need to go buy an owl!  But then again, how would it know where to send the letter?  I suppose—”

 

“Mum.  Mum!  MUM!” Lily tried in vain to get her mother’s attention.  “Mother!  Stop the rambling!  There’s an owl right there!”  She pointed at the window above the sink, where a great barn owl was perched on the sill, hooting impatiently.  Lily pushed back the curtains and flew open the window, and the owl hopped in and landed on her arm.  Violet hurried to the junk drawer and grabbed a pen and paper.

 

“Let’s see… what do we say?  ‘Dear Mr. Dumbledore and Ms. Mc’—what was her name?  Oh yes, ‘Ms. McGonagall….’”

 

Lily beamed with joy as the letter was finished and the owl flew away.  Violet beamed and fussed with her daughter’s hair, then yelped as the fire alarm alerted the family to the presence of the burning bacon.  Spencer stared in wonder at his daughter, then smiled and resumed his newspaper reading.  Petunia’s moans could still be heard from upstairs, and there was no doubt she was imagining the horror of attending Veronica’s party now…

 

***

 

Meanwhile, in a wealthy neighborhood in Wiltshire, another young wizard was about to receive a very similar letter…

 

“James, boy, what’s the date?”

 

“Er… 20 July I think.”

 

“Wonderful!  Today’s the day then!”

 

James Potter, a bright-eyed, messy-haired boy of eleven was just sitting down to breakfast in the spacious dining room at 423 Lancaster Crescent.  His father, Charles Potter, was a well-dressed elderly gentleman with slightly knobby knees who worked as a barrister for Gringott’s, the Wizard Bank.  He took great pride in defending the bank’s claims to the jewels they found overseas, and took even more immense pride in his only child, James.  Today was the day that James would undoubtedly get his Hogwarts Letter.

 

“What day is it, Charles?”  James’ mother was Grace Divine Potter, a kindly, warm woman who worked in the Department of International Magical Cooperation at the Ministry of Magic.  She, too, was proud of her bright young boy, but was forever frustrated with his unruly hair.  She was fiddling with this very hair when James looked up, an eager look upon his face.

 

“Mum, today’s the day I get my Hogwarts letter!  That is, if I get in and all.”

 

“Of course you’ll get in!” Charles boomed.  “Every Potter for six generations has gone to Hogwarts, and probably before that too, but no one could keep decent records, the prats.  You’re Hogwarts bound, and likely to be in Gryffindor, too!  Fancy a try for the House Quidditch Team?”

 

“Do you really think I could make it, Dad?  I mean, I have been practicing a lot with Sirius, whenever he’s at the summer house.”  Sirius Black was James’ extremely fun-loving, extremely wealthy best friend, whose family had a summer house—well, more of a summer mansion—a little ways away from the Potters.  But before Charles could elaborate on James’ sure skills with a broomstick, Grace interjected.

 

“Oh, I don’t know James.  It’s so dangerous, flying around on those brooms so high!  You and Sirius give me a fright every time you practice!  And they don’t take first years anyway, right Charles?”

 

“But they might make an exception for you, eh James?  I reckon you’d make a fine Seeker!”

 

James reckoned that too, but didn’t say anything.  It would be silly to get his hopes up when he hadn’t even technically been accepted at Hogwarts.  Oh, come off it, he thought to himself.  Of course you’ll get in.  You’re a Potter!  This thought put a smile on his face. 

 

Sure enough, James had just started into his second round of sausage and eggs when the Potter’s mail owl rapped on the window.  Mrs. Potter stood up, opened the window, and took the mail along with the Daily Prophet that the owl clutched in its beak.  She casually shuffled through the letters and bills, pretending not to notice the identical looks of anticipation on her husband and son’s faces.  It was when she started nonchalantly reading the newspaper that Charles cleared his throat.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry!” Grace said sweetly.  “Were you expecting something?”

 

James grinned as she handed him the traditional cream-colored envelope bearing the Hogwarts crest and seal.  He ripped it open, and a look of delight came over his face.  After he skimmed the acceptance letter, he handed it to his father.  Charles grunted approvingly and said, “You’re lucky you won’t have Professor Dippet as Headmaster.  If you ask me, it was more like Professor Dipshi—”

 

“CHARLES!  Not in front of James!”  But Grace’s scolding was merely a formality—it seemed that she also was relieved that Hogwarts was under different management.

 

“Yes sir, James, you’re in for a real treat.  Professor Dumbledore was always my favorite teacher at Hogwarts—he taught Transfiguration, you know.  He’s a fine man, though.  A fair headmaster.  An honest man, and a right powerful wizard if I ever did see one.  Now let’s see that supply list…”

 

James handed it over, and silently contemplated what Hogwarts would be like.  He always heard tales of the amazing castle, with its trick staircases and alleged hidden passages.  A smile crept onto his face as he imagined being the first to find all of them.  Charles and Grace beamed at their happy son, and began scheduling the trip to Diagon Alley.

 

“I say we go right away, don’t you think, Grace?  Get a jump on it?”

 

“Well, I’m absolutely swamped at the office this week.  We have a council on Wednesday with the Albanian minister, and Transylvania will no doubt pop in on Thursday.  There have been awfully strange reports from Eastern Europe… Dark reports, and it’s giving me gray hairs!”

 

A look of concern came over Charles’ face.  He pulled Grace onto his lap and said soothingly, “You know, you don’t have to work anymore, dear.  We certainly don’t need the money, and the job gives you so much stress!”

 

“Of course I know that, Charles, but I want to work.  Uniting the magical world has become so much more important recently.  You know, when Albus Dumbledore, bless his soul, got rid of Grindelwald back in ’45, I thought everything was going to be on the upswing, but it seems to be steadily getting worse.  I just think that—oh, sorry James dear,” she stopped abruptly at James’ expectant look.  “I shouldn’t be complaining about work when we’ve got such an important thing to plan!  What say we go into London around the thirty-first, and get your supplies before August rolls around, okay?” 

 

“Thanks Mum, that sounds great!  I can’t wait to talk to Sirius!”  His wishes were answered, though, as a handsome young face popped into view of the window.  Sirius Black stood outside, clutching his Hogwarts letter, a triumphant grin on his face.  James beckoned him in, and Sirius slipped swiftly through the open window.  Grace fussed half-heartedly that he could have fallen and hurt himself, but James and Sirius didn’t hear.  They were too busy catching up.

 

“I didn’t know you were back at the summer house from London, Sirius!”

 

“Yeah, we Flooed in this morning.  Mother kept complaining that I couldn’t Apparate yet, said a proper wizard my age would know how.  Guess she doesn’t really care that it’d be illegal, eh?”  James laughed, along with his father.  The Blacks were a notoriously haughty upper-class family whose distinguished tastes often clashed with those of their roguish son.  “Anyway, we’ll be here until the thirtieth, then back to Grimmauld Place, and next day to Diagon Alley, I think.”

 

“Smashing!  That’s perfect!  We’re going into town then, too.  Wonder if Quality Quidditch Supplies would let us have a go on the new Cleansweeps!”

 

“Oh boys!  I hear there’s a new line of Nimbus broomsticks coming out.”  Charles couldn’t help but join in.  He fondly remembered his own Quidditch days… “Aritcle in yesterday’s Prophet called ‘em the Nimbus 1001 line.  Said the broomstick would still have all the handling of a Cleansweep, but it fixed the braking problems of the Nimbus 1000 and added a Drafting Charm!”

 

“Blimey!” chimed the boys in unison, and the rest of the morning was filled with delusions of grandeur atop a shining new Nimbus 1001.

 

***

 

Around midday, Grace Divine Potter received a most unpleasant scare as she went about her business in the kitchen.  A burst of emerald green flames and a screeching voice made her jump and she turned around to see the head of Algea Black—Sirius’s mother—in the middle of her kitchen fireplace.

 

“Oh, good morning, Algea,” she said cordially.  “You gave me quite a fright!”

 

“I did?  Well, my apologies, Grace,” said Mrs. Black, not sounding apologetic in the least.  “I suppose my ungrateful son is causing trouble at your house right now?”

 

“Oh, Algea, you know Sirius is no trouble for us!  We love having him ‘round!”  Grace struggled to keep her tone even, though the wretched woman’s words made her blood boil.  How a woman like that is fit to be a mother...

 

“Hmm...” said Mrs. Black, her lips pursed into a thin line.  “Well, I’d rather him be home right now.  His Uncle Arcturus is coming by the house later today and you can no doubt see he looks a fright; we’ve got to get him cleaned up somehow.  Best if we could scourgify his filthy mouth, but apparently that child-rearing technique is frowned upon these days.”

 

All Grace could manage was a laugh she hoped didn’t sound too false.  “Well Algea,” she said, hoping to end the conversation before smoke started spouting from her ears, “I’ll certainly go track him down and send him right home.  Not to worry.  Tell Nigellus we said ‘hello.’”

 

“My husband is not home—he’s gone to meet his brother.”

 

“Right, well, I’ll just go get Sirius, then.”

 

“Thank you,” responded Algea, but her head had disappeared from the flames before the words were fully out of her mouth.

 

Grace slowly unclenched the fists she had been making and cringed at the lines where her fingernails had cut into the flesh of her palms.  “That woman!” she screamed to no one in particular.

 

“I gather my dear mother has just popped in for a visit, Mrs. Potter?” Sirius said with a forlorn smile from the kitchen doorway.  James stood behind him, and both boys were flushed in the face, their brooms slung over their shoulders.

 

“Nothing says ‘good afternoon’ like a chat with Mrs. Black,” James said gaily.

 

Grace attempted another laugh, this one just as false as the last.  Her eyes softened, though, as she looked at Sirius.  The poor boy. But the universe had ways of righting itself...  “Well, Sirius, she wants you home as soon as possible.  Apparently your Uncle Arcturus is coming into town.”

 

“Bloody brilliant,” he scowled.  “I probably won’t bee seeing you all again until London, then.  Uncle Arcturus usually likes to take a full week to explain to me how much I’m shaming the family name.”

 

“Well, you could always try one of Viridian’s new hexes!  I thought the Cross-Eyed Confundum one looked good!” James added hopefully.

 

“Right, well if I pull that, I won’t be seeing you all ever again.  It’d be straight to Azkaban for me.”

 

“Oh tosh, Sirius.  The day a boy like you goes to Azkaban... Well anyway, do you want to use the fire?  We have more than enough Floo Powder...” Grace trailed off, the proffered jar of Powder in her outstretched hands. 

 

“No thanks, Mrs. Potter.  I think I’d rather walk.  But thanks anyway, and thanks for having me over today,” he said as he headed for the door.

 

“Not a problem at all, Sirius.  And you know you’re welcome here any time you want.  Any time at all.”

 

“Thanks again, really.  Bye, James.”

 

“Later, mate.”

 

Sirius walked across the Potters’ perfectly manicured lawn, cut across a few fields and through a garden or two, and was soon in sight of the Black summer home.  He sighed.  What wonders awaited him this time?  Well, at least the summer home was better than Number Twelve in London.  The summer home meant proximity to the Potters, and a great deal more freedom—relatively speaking, of course. 

 

But at Number Twelve... Well, Algea and Nigellus Black were unlikely to let their least favorite son have any sort of fun in London if they had anything to say about it.  So his daily routine proceeded unaltered, as it had for the last eleven and a half years.  Every morning he would be awoken by the violent arguments between his mother and father, by the distraught grumbles of the hated house-elf Kreacher, by the snide remarks of his great-great-grandfather Phineas Nigellus, whose portrait unfortunately hung in his dank and dark bedroom.  And every morning he longed to get away from this house and from his family.  From his maniacal parents, from his simpering younger brother, from the relics of the Black family that greeted him at every waking moment as he walked around the house. 

 

What exactly had he done to displease them?  It didn’t really matter.  Ever since he had let slip the barest hint that he did not, in fact, hate Muggles.  Ever since he had occasionally helped Mrs. Hagemeyer from next door, or talked to the Lupins two doors down, or had any sort of contact with any Muggle… His parents were just determined to hate him.  Everyone in the family seemed determine to hate him.  Yes, there were exceptions, and he relished trips to Uncle Alphard’s house, or clandestine rants with his cousin Andromeda.  But they were few and far between, and becoming more rare with every passing year.

 

But what he loved most were his family’s frequent trips to the country.  And though the Blacks’ summer house was visited often by the dreaded Malfoys, it was only a few minutes away from the Potters.  And therefore, Sirius could see his second family—his real family—as often as he liked.

 

But there was always the inevitable return to the Realm of the Blacks.  And now, that time was imminent.  Lord, thought Sirius as he approached their house, even our summer house looks like something out of Grindelwald’s imagination...  Who puts gargoyles on a summer house in Wiltshire?

 

As he stared up at the ugly, twisted beasts glaring back down at him, Sirius was apprehended by his mother.  Apparently mistaking his happenstance gaze at their décor for a severe offense against the family, she harangued him with her millionth lecture about the disgrace of the blood traitors in the family.  And as soon as she had stopped ranting about her accursed brother-in-law, she set in on scolding him for taking so long to return from the Potters’ house.  And so continued just another day in the life of Sirius Black.  How he longed to be free from it all...

 

***

 

Nigellus Black emerged out of nowhere in the middle of Grimmauld Place in London.  He had no need to conceal himself from ordinary Muggles—they were too stupid to notice an Apparating Wizard, even if he popped up right in front of their noses.  Muttering to himself about the sorry state of the world, he crossed the street and entered his family’s imposing brownstone, Number Twelve.

 

Merely two doors down, however, existed a family who would indeed have noticed an Apparating Wizard, especially if he popped up right in front of their noses.  But the Lupins were not formally acquainted with the Blacks even though their son Remus was about the same age as the two Black boys.  No, the Blacks had not cared to stoop so low as to introduce themselves to the “commoners” of Grimmauld Place.  And the Lupins could never be bothered to introduce themselves to a family who seemed so supercilious, so above everything and everyone on the street.  So two Wizard families remained blissfully ignorant of each other.  At least for the time being...

 

Earlier that morning, at Number Ten, Remus Lupin had awoken with a start.  How many days left?  Heart beating like a drum against his chest, he glanced at the lunar calendar taped next to his bed.  He breathed a small sigh of relief, however, when he noticed that the full moon was still two full weeks away.

 

He was a werewolf.  Every twenty-eight days as the moon approached full, Remus was staunchly reminded of this fact.  Every twenty-eight days he dreaded what happened to him as the moon waxed, and then rejoiced gleefully as the terror passed and the moon began to wane.  But the glee was only temporary, for as sure as Merlin’s beard was white, the lunar cycle would happen again.

 

Sometimes the transformation was worse than usual.  Sometimes he roared and raged and thought of a face—the face of the werewolf that had bitten him.  He never fully recalled his thoughts as a werewolf, but that face would come back to haunt him in his human dreams.  He could not escape it, just as he could not escape what he was.  What he had become. 

 

His parents had dealt with it the best they had been able to.  A fully qualified witch and an intelligent Muggle man, they could nevertheless neither prevent their son’s transformation, nor aide him while he was transformed.  So they left the country home where Remus had been bitten, moved into an old brownstone in a forgotten corner of London, and shut their son away behind iron doors every twenty-eight days.  They shut him away and attempted to shut away the howls and memories that came from behind those doors.

 

The iron doors led to an iron-and-magic-reinforced basement, which in turn led to the sewers deep under London.  The Werewolf had free reign of his own section of sewer, nothing to keep him company but the rats and his inhuman thoughts.

 

It was no surprise Remus looked weak and tired before every full moon.  And it was no surprise that sometimes people took notice of his appearance as the full moon approached.  With four or five days left until the full moon his hair usually started to grow a bit, and get a little wild.  His canine teeth would lengthen slightly—not really noticeable to anyone but Remus, but just a sad reminder for him.  Two days left brought a definite downturn in his character, both emotionally and physically.  His skin paled, his hair would sometimes fall out.  And the day of the full moon?  It was best to just not be around him...  But today was solidly in the middle of the cycle.  These were the best days, the happiest days.  And today specifically was even better and happier than normal, for he had just received his Hogwarts letter.

 

Finally, some sense of normalcy.  Remus, thanks to the grace and foresight of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, would be able to attend Hogwarts.  Hogwarts.  His mother’s alma mater, the best school for witches and wizards in the world, and what he had been dreaming about since he was a little boy. 

 

And yet, as his eleventh birthday had come and gone in March, Remus had become extremely apprehensive that Hogwarts, realizing his disability, would not admit him into the school.  His parents had done some research and found out that Hogwarts had never admitted a werewolf.  But then Professor Dumbledore had contacted the Lupins and told them of his plan for Remus.  He could go to Hogwarts.  He would go to Hogwarts.  He would be normal, or as normal as he could be.

 

He had had more than an eleven-year-old’s share of disappointments.  But this was a fresh start.  This was a new beginning.  Albus Dumbledore had some excellent and intelligent plans for his unique pupil, and Remus was looking forward to Hogwarts more than he had looked forward to anything in his life. 

 

But he still had his doubts.  Oh yes, he had doubts.  Would other students find out?  Would he be shunned?  Humiliated?  Rejected?  Would they shy away from him because of what he was, just like so many before?

 

“Remus, you cannot change what you are,” Headmaster Dumbledore had said in a visit with Remus and his parents.  How true his words were.  Remus had merely nodded his head and risen from his chair, resigned to face the facts.

 

“But,” Dumbledore continued, drawing him back.  “You can change what you become.”

 

I can.  And I will.

 

***

 

In another forgotten corner of London another boy was reading his Hogwarts letter.  Peter Pettigrew sat at the small breakfast table in the kitchen, his father beaming down at him, his stepmother glancing anxiously at the letter.

 

“It’s a very good school, Frances,” said Douglas Pettigrew.  “I went there myself, and Nora did, too, of course.  That’s how we met.”

 

“But you’re not thinking of sending him there to meet his future wife now, are you, Douglas?” asked Frances Madden-Pettigrew.

 

“Well of course not, but still, Hogwarts really is just the most wonderful place, and I really think Pete could do well there!” replied Douglas, twisting his hands together just as his son was wont to do.

 

“I just think... Douglas, you know how Peter is about making friends.  And now that he has a little group at Sudbury, wouldn’t it be best to keep him there?  His marks will improve and he won’t be so far away from home...”

 

“Well, having him so far away won’t be nice, that’s right, Frances.  I suppose... Well, I suppose I—I mean we—could think the decision through a little bit more, but—”

 

“Yes, I think that’s a good idea, Douglas.”

 

They continued speaking as if Peter wasn’t even there.  Not like it mattered to him.  Though he was usually perfectly aware of and attentive to his father and stepmother’s conversations, on this particular morning he was far too concerned with the hallowed piece of parchment he held in his hands.  And he knew that this time, nothing his stepmother said would keep him away from Hogwarts.

 

Not that Frances had any ill intentions toward her stepson.  She just was not a witch and thus did not understand the importance of the aforementioned letter.  She had, however, raised Peter from the time when he was very young, his mother Nora having died while he was still a toddler.  And she definitely was a persuasive woman, as her husband Douglas could attest.

 

“But, on the other hand, my dear,” said Douglas, casting a nervous glance at his son and lowering his voice, “It is entirely possible that staying at Sudbury will remind him of... Of... Well, of...” He was unable to finish his sentence, and Frances saw that tears were gathering in his already watery eyes.

 

“Of Nora and of Elaine?”  Her husband nodded.  “Yes, that is true, I suppose.  But sending him away will only increase his homesickness and will no doubt trigger unhappy memories, Douglas.”

 

He nodded again and increased the velocity of his twisting hands.  “Why don’t we—”

 

“—ask him?”  His wife finished his sentence.  “Yes, why don’t we.”  She turned to Peter.  “Peter, dear, you don’t want to go to this school, do you?  Hadn’t you rather stay here, close to your father and me and your friends at Sudbury?”

 

Douglas made a small noise of protest at the way his wife had directed the sentence, but his fretting was quelled as Peter shook his head, his sandy-blond hair tossing back and forth.  “Ma’am,” he said, addressing her in his usual way.  He had never been comfortable calling her ‘Mum.’  “I really think I should go to Hogwarts.  I really want to go to Hogwarts.  And I think Dad agrees, right Dad?”

 

Douglas nodded, his eyes again filled to the brim with tears.  Frances gave a little sigh and picked up the Hogwarts letter.  “Well, we’ll think about it, all right boys?  We haven’t made a decision yet, understand?”

 

Father and son agreed but exchanged a glance that Frances missed.  The matter was decided; there was no doubt about that.

 

***

 

And so the pieces were set for a game of such grand scale.  The magical quill of Hogwarts had merely transcribed names into a book, not realizing the scope and magnitude of this task.  And Minerva McGonagall had mailed the letters without the slightest inkling that in just a few short years such a storm would be brewing on account of these children.  Not even Albus Dumbledore could have foreseen the ends of the paths these students would eventually walk.  But they all started at Hogwarts...

//
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