Turning Time

Five Moments

29 March, 1976 23:54

It was the third night in a row that Remus lingered at the foot of my bed. Fed up, I whispered, "Get in."

Remus started. "You saw—are you sure? What if someone sees?"

I sighed and rolled on my side to face him. "C'mon. Don't be such a pussy."

Remus glared at me. I thought he'd turn around, go back to his bed, but instead, he lifted up the duvet. He sidled in, then pulled the cover back up over him. He lay on his back at the extreme edge of the bed, wide eyes locked on the ceiling.

He looked afraid. If Remus was uncomfortable with this level of intimacy, was it because of me, or because I was a bloke?

We lay like this for a bit, him determined not to look at me, me willing him to show a sign that he wouldn't rather be back in his own bed, alone. Growing restless, I turned onto my back, same as him. I closed my eyes and slowly inched my hand under the covers closer to him until I grazed his skin. Remus started, but didn't move away. I entwined our fingers together, then rubbed my thumb along his. After a minute of this, he pulled away. I opened my eyes and turned—he was on his side, curled up, studying me.

I moved closer and said, voice low, "If you're not interested, now would be a good time to tell me."

Remus averted his eyes, giving an almost imperceptible nod. His hair had fallen over his eyes a bit, so I reached out from under the covers and brushed it out of his face.

Remus looked back at me, and as I continued to stroke his hair, I could see his features relax. "Do you really fancy me, Sirius?"

I studied him. His soft features were always thrown off—in a good way—by the harsh scars on his face. "It's true, I would've kissed you just for your looks."

Remus shifted away from my hand. "Sirius, you've got to be honest with me. Please."

I lifted my head to check for any movement in James or Peter's beds, then took out my wand and cast a Muffling Charm. "What would've been the point in telling you? You couldn't—didn't feel the same way."

Remus searched me. "How long have you fancied me, exactly?"

I stopped stroking his hair and propped my head up with my hand. "That's like asking how long I've known I was—I was…gay."

"So a while, then." Remus wasn't looking away, now.

"And you—?"

"I'm not gay. I like girls." He trembled a bit as he reached to tuck a lock of hair behind my ear. "But I—but I dunno, I think I also—"

Heart pounding, I leaned in and kissed him for the third time. After we broke apart, I asked, "You like blokes, too, then?"

Remus' eyes were on my lips. Was he truly attracted to me, or just repressed, desperate for affection?

We kissed again, slowly. And again. I reached into Remus' hair, and we pressed closer together.

After a minute, Remus broke away, teary-eyed.

I didn't want to push him further, so I opened my arms. "C'mere."

Without much hesitation, Remus wrapped his arms around me, burying his face in my chest. I realized he would be able to hear my heart, which was beating rapidly. I took a deep breath to steady myself, then rested one hand on his back, the other in his hair.

"Look, Remus, If we do this, we're gonna have to sneak around."

I thought he was asleep, but he fidgeted a bit at the touch of my hand running through his hair.

"I know," he said. "I know. Good night."

I continued to stroke his hair, thinking. I couldn't get my hopes up. James had seemed to want me, too, but in the end it was purely physical. I hadn't thought I wanted Remus to mean something more, but now I wasn't sure.

18 April, 1976 3:08

When I got back from the loo, the lights were on and everyone was on their respective beds.

James crossed his arms. "Can we talk?"

"Er..." I tried to make eye contact with Remus, but he kept his eyes locked on James. Peter, however, glanced between all of us, anxious. He could sense, like me, that James was about to boil over with anger.

"Moony was in your bed."

I nodded slowly, stomach sinking, unsure of how he felt about it.

"Did you think I wouldn't notice?"

I was frozen. James had reacted…unusually to my coming out, so I could only expect the unexpected.

James stood. "I waited for you to say something. It's been weeks since I saw you the first time, and I thought you'd tell me, I thought you'd stop feeling like you needed to hide it. You tell me everything."

I swallowed. "I'm sorry. Remus and I, we—"

"It's not just physical," Remus said suddenly.

James and I exchanged a look. "It's…what is it, then?"

"I don't know." Remus didn't have to look at me to know I didn't know, either.

"Are you gay, Moony?"

"No, I'm attracted to boys and girls."

James furrowed his brow. "You like both? I thought…are you sure? I mean, I just didn't know you could—I thought you could only be attracted to one or the other."

Remus shook his head, glancing behind him to see the crumpled clothing behind us.

James uncrossed his arms and said, "Do you fancy each other?" Before I could reply, James added, "I want you to be honest. If you do, I won't be cross, or anything."

I sat on my bed. "If I weren't honest, I'd say this just started. That it's just hormones, or since the kiss, Remus has been confused, and there was nothing between us before. But I am gonna be honest, and—well, I've fancied him probably since the first night here."

"That long?" Remus and James said at the same time.

I nodded. "I didn't know I fancied blokes right away, but I…I've never told any of you this, but I've had this feeling since I was eight or so. My mother had told me that shite about men and women your parents probably told you all, that anything else was against nature, except instead of accepting this, I—I had this sense she was talking about me. And that was when, I suppose, I started to disagree with my parents."

Everyone was silent. I understood; it wasn't often I talked about things that personal to me, especially when it meant admitting I'd hidden something from the others.

"What about you, Remus?" James asked, and we turned to him.

"I told Sirius this, but I thought it was normal, you know, that sometimes feeling the same way toward boys that I usually did toward girls was normal. You two always seemed much more gay than me, and if you were straight, well, then I certainly had to be straight. As we got older, I could see the signs that I was wrong, but I chose to ignore them. Suppress them, even. There were moments with Sirius that nearly took those barriers down, but I learned to become numb to those, as well. In the Shrieking Shack, though, that was too unexpected to—to hide from myself. I knew what I felt, what I was."

After a pause, Remus said, "And you, James?"

"Me?" James looked between us. "What makes you think I'm not straight?"

"You're always touching us," Peter said, then turned red.

"I'm always…? But that's not—I don't mean for it to be like that." He inhaled slowly, then exhaled. "How do you two know for sure you're not straight?"

"You just know," I said.

"But more specifically."

Remus fidgeted. "You'd only enjoy kissing the opposite sex. If someone of the same sex snogged you, you'd be repulsed, or feel nothing. And, to be honest, if you have to ask, it's likely you're not completely…heterosexual."

I studied James. He told me he was straight, but what if—

"Can we test it?" James met my gaze.

Before I could reply, James had gotten up, crossed to me, and kissed me. Once I got over my embarrassment, I tried to be as intense as I could, as though this would be the kiss that would convince him.

James broke away. He kept his hands on my face for another moment, then said, "It was hot. But I don't want to go farther."

Remus' expression was serious, but he hadn't protested when James had kissed me. "You ever had a sexual dream involving someone of the same sex?"

James thought for a moment. "I think so, but I didn't wake up aroused, if you know what I mean."

Remus nodded and bit his lip. "And we know you're attracted to girls, obviously. Are there any similarities between how you feel about girls and how you feel about boys?"

"I don't really care about girls or boys in general. It's mainly—it's mainly Lily and Padfoot."

Remus clenched his jaw. I wanted to tell him not to worry, but it wouldn't have changed how James saw our relationship.

4 June, 1976 13:54

I glanced at Snivellus. He was bent over his paper as though he were courting it, so close he could've been in love. How was anyone supposed to concentrate on the test when Snivellus was so irritating?

"Five more minutes!"

I had already turned in my exam. My answers were, per usual, short and sweet; there was no other way to write. I leaned back in my chair, watching as James turned in his paper, then gave him a thumbs-up. Remus, who I could see out of the corner of my eye, reread his answers, then scratched his chin with the end of his quill, frowning slightly.

"Quills down, please!" squeaked Professor Flitwick. "That means you, too, Stebbins! Please remain seated while I collect your parchment! Accio!"

Over a hundred rolls of parchment zoomed into the air and into Professor Flitwick's outstretched arms, knocking him backwards off his feet. Several people laughed. A couple of students at the front desks got up, took hold of Professor Flitwick beneath the elbows and lifted him back on to his feet.

We joined James before leaving class.

"Fucking hell, I'm glad it's all over." James stretched until his back cracked.

"Did you like question ten, Moony?" I asked as we emerged into the Entrance Hall.

Remus' mouth twitched. "Loved it. 'Give five signs that identify the werewolf.' Excellent question."

"D'you think you managed to get all the signs?" James was the picture of concern.

"Think I did," Remus said as we joined the crowd thronging around the front doors, eager to get out into the sunlit grounds. "One: he's sitting on my chair. Two: he's wearing my clothes. Three: his name's Remus Lupin."

Peter was the only one who didn't laugh. "I got the snout shape, the pupils of the eyes and the tufted tail, but I couldn't think what else—"

James sighed. "How thick are you, Wormtail? You run round with a werewolf once a month—"

I elbowed James as Remus told him to keep his voice down.

We set off toward the lake with most of the other fifth years. I blinked in the sunlight, then said, "Well, I thought that paper was a piece of cake. I'll be surprised if I don't get 'Outstanding' on it at least."

"Me too," said James. He put his hand in his pocket and took out a Golden Snitch.

Remus raised an eyebrow. "Where'd you get that?"

James, who had forged ahead, glanced back. "Nicked it." He released the Snitch, allowed it to fly as much as a foot away before he seized it again. Peter watched him in awe.

We stopped in the shade and threw ourselves down on the grass. The sunlight was dazzling on the smooth surface of the lake.

Remus, I realized, had already began to read his book. I frowned, annoyed and bored. Was Remus avoiding me? Did he not want it to be obvious we were a thing? I stared around at the students milling over the grass. James continued to play with the Snitch, letting it zoom further and further away. Peter watched him with his mouth open, and every time James made a particularly difficult catch, Peter gasped and applauded.

After several minutes of this, I finally said, "Put that away, will you, before Wormtail wets himself with excitement."

Peter turned slightly pink, but James grinned.

"If it bothers you," he said, stuffing the Snitch back in his pocket.

"I'm bored." I glanced at Remus. "Wish it was full moon."

"You might," said Remus from behind his book. I realized it sounded like I wanted to see him naked, but before I could clarify, Remus said, "We've still got Transfiguration, if you're bored you could test me. Here…" He held out his book.

I snorted, glad he let it go. "I don't need to look at that rubbish, I know it all."

"This'll liven you up, Padfoot," said James quietly. "Look who it is…"

I turned, then became very still. "Excellent. Snivellus."

Snivellus stuffed some papers in his bag. As soon as he left the shadows of the bushes and set off across the grass, James and I stood.

Remus and Peter stayed behind. I didn't care; James and I were enough.

"All right, Snivellus?" said James loudly.

Snivellus dropped his bag and reached for his wand, but before he turned around, James disarmed him. "Expelliarmus!"

Snape's wand flew twelve feet into the air and fell with a little thud in the grass behind him.

I laughed. "Impedimenta!" I knocked Snape off his feet before he could dive for his wand. I glanced around, assessing our audience, which was growing.

Snivellus lay on the ground, panting. We advanced on him, wands raised. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Peter and Remus had joined the crowd.

"How'd the exam go, Snivelly?" said James.

"I was watching him, his nose was touching the parchment," I said, smirking. "There'll be great grease marks all over it, they won't be able to read a word."

Laughter.

Snape struggled to get up. "You—wait," he panted, staring up at James with an expression of purest loathing, "You—wait!"

"Wait for what? What're you going to do, Snivelly, wipe your nose on us?"

Snape let out a stream of mixed swear words and hexes, but with his wand ten feet away, nothing happened.

James didn't glance at me. We were a dual force, separate, but the same. "Wash out your mouth. Scourgify!"

Pink soap bubbles streamed from Snape's mouth at once; the froth was covering his lips, making him gag, choking him—

"Leave him ALONE!" came Lily's voice from behind us.

James and I looked round.

James's free hand immediately jumped to his hair. "All right, Evans?" said James, the tone of his voice different, somehow.

"Leave him alone," Lily repeated. She glared at James. "What's he done to you?"

"Well, it's more the fact that he exists, if you know what I mean…"

The crowd laughed along with us, but Lily didn't so much as smile. "You think you're funny. But you're just an arrogant, bullying toerag, Potter. Leave him alone."

"I will if you go out with me, Evans," said James quickly.

For Christ's sake. I glanced sideways at Lily.

"Go on…go out with me and I'll never lay a wand on old Snivelly again."

"I wouldn't go out with you if it was a choice between you and the giant squid," said Lily. The people in the crowd oohed and laughed.

"Bad luck, Prongs." I sensed movement behind us and turned back to Snape. "Oy!"

But it was too late; Snape had directed his wand straight at James. There was a flash of light and a gash appeared on the side of James's face, spattering his robes with blood.

James whirled about. A second flash of light later, Snape was hanging upside-down in the air. His white legs dangled in the air, revealing his dirty pants, which were too small—the outline of his crotch was visible.

Amidst the cheers, we roared with laughter.

After a moment's hesitation, Lily's voice cut through the celebration. "Let him down!"

"Certainly," said James and he jerked his wand upwards; Snape fell into a crumpled heap on the ground. Disentangling himself from his robes he got quickly to his feet, wand up.

Before he could do anything, I said, "Locomotor mortis!" and Snape keeled over again at once, rigid as a board.

"LEAVE HIM ALONE!" Lily shouted. She had her own wand out now. James and I eyed it warily.

James tried more charm. "Ah, Evans, don't make me hex you."

"Take the curse off him, then!"

James sighed, then turned to Snivellus and muttered the counter-curse.

"There you go," he said, as Snape struggled to his feet. "You're lucky Evans was here, Snivellus—"

"I don't need help from filthy little Mudbloods like her!"

I looked instinctually at James. He only seemed angry, he didn't share my twisted sense of glee that Snape had fucked up.

"Fine," Lily said. "I won't bother in future. And I'd wash your pants if I were you, Snivellus."

"Apologize to Evans!" James roared at Snape, his wand pointed threateningly at him.

"I don't want you to make him apologize," Lily shouted, rounding on James. "You're as bad as he is."

"What? I'd never call you a—you-know-what!"

"Messing up your hair because you think it looks cool to look like you've just got off your broomstick, showing off with that stupid Snitch, walking down corridors and hexing anyone who annoys you just because you can—I'm surprised your broomstick can get off the ground with that fat head on it. You make me sick." She turned on her heel and hurried away.

"Evans!" James shouted after her. "Hey, EVANS!"

But she didn't look back.

"What is it with her?" said James, trying and failing to look as though this was a throwaway question of no real importance to him.

"Reading between the lines, I'd say she thinks you're a bit conceited, mate," I said.

"Right," said James, who looked furious now, "right—" There was another flash of light, and Snape was once again hanging upside-down in the air. James surveyed his audience, who had broken out into murmurs. "Who wants to see me take off Snivelly's pants?"

Cries of encouragement. If Snivellus hadn't deserved the humiliation before, he certainly deserved it now.

James, eyes wild, brandished his wand again, and off went Snivelly's pants.

The few girls in the audience squealed and shrieked, but they still stared. The boys' eyes were also glued, and they jeered with comments on his size, laughing as he struggled—

Snape fell to the ground, and before James could strike again, Remus stepped in front of him. His wand was out—so he had been the one to free Snape.

"C'mon, Moony, it was just a bit of fun."

"You could get in trouble. More trouble, I mean. And as a prefect, I have to draw the line somewhere."

James seemed blinded, forgetting it was Remus he was talking to. "Lighten the bloody hell up. Snivellus deserves it, and we don't need a fucking babysitter."

Remus flinched, and glanced at me.

I avoided his gaze to see Snape, now fully clothed, run away, with a couple rowdy members of the crowd in pursuit.

What did Remus expect me to say? Why did he always have to make us feel guilty?

1 July, 1976 22:19

I leaned against the brick wall of the building and waited. Two blokes, clearly pissed, walked by, giggling.

I was about to give up and return home when a man stopped a couple meters away from me. He glanced in my direction, then brushed past as he went farther down the alley, where the light couldn't reach.

I followed him, feeling a hot sort of rush at the spontaneity of it all. He was taller than me, fit, but I hadn't seen his face.

He turned around and pushed me against the wall.

I laughed a little in response. "Like it rough, do we?"

He leaned in as though to kiss me, but instead clocked me in the jaw.

Stunned, I fell onto the cement. Before I could get to my feet, he kicked me in the side.

Winded, I was unable to shout, or even curse at him. If I used magic, the Ministry would know, but then at least I'd be safe. Any other course of action was deafened by the sharp shocks of pain as the Muggle proceeded to kick me in the side, the stomach, the face.

"Hey, fucker!" A distant voice called, and the man stopped. Multiple pairs of feet scuffled, and he was pulled off me.

"Go inside and call the police," someone said nearby. "Hey, you alright? You bleeding?"

I could only groan in response.

"Fuck, this is getting out of control…" She rested a hand on my shoulder. "Hey, you got anyone we can call?"

They were Muggles, probably. "No." I coughed—blood came up, no doubt—then sat up. I remembered the mirror. Thank god. "I have—I have a friend close by."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. Thanks."

"The police'll want a report. If you can stay until then—"

"Yeah, sure."

The bloke she'd been with returned, incensed. "I've had it to here with these knobs, callin' us names, luring young blokes who don't know better where they won't be found…and the police, they act like they give a shit, but they'd rather pretend we're not here." He paused long enough to remember me. "Sorry, what's your name?"

I finally could get to my feet. "Sirius. Shouldn't give you my last name, no one knows about me, and it's easier to keep it that way."

"Sirius, we'll stay with you until your friend gets here. If the police get here before, it would help for you to talk to them. They're mostly dickheads, but we're even more invisible if we don't go for them for help."

"I understand if you don't want to. They're fuckers."

I nodded, and, sensing there was no excuse that would get them to leave me alone, said, "Can you help me over to the payphone?"

They helped me up and half guided, half carried me over to the payphone. Once they were a distance away, I pretended to know what I was doing, picking up the phone and holding it to my ear, no doubt incorrectly. I turned my back to them and pulled out the two-way mirror. "Prongs!" I waited, peering into the glass. "James!"

His face appeared in the glass, first smiling, then concerned as he studied me. "What happened to you?"

"Long story, but I need you and your father to pick me up. I'll give you my address." I looked over at the street sign. "I'm at Compton and Fifth. The cops are about to show up, so as fast as you can get here…"

"We'll be there soon." And he was gone.

I pocketed the mirror and hung up the phone. The woman came over first. "They coming?"

"Yeah. They live close by, it'll only be a minute or two."

Ninety seconds later, James and his father appeared around the corner. They helped me up, thanked the two people who had rescued me, then hurried to a spot secluded enough to Apparate.

Back at the Potter estate, the Potters healed me within minutes.

"We've plenty of practice with this sort of thing. James has a tendency to fall off his broom."

James had just sat down next to me. "Mum, not anymore! Sirius, I swear, I haven't for at least a year, and that was because I was practicing this dive—"

"Sirius, if you don't mind; what were you doing in Soho?"

I replied to Mr. Potter but looked at James. "I…needed to get out of the house. I didn't know where to go specifically, so I wandered around London."

They believed me. "We're just glad you weren't more seriously injured." Then they left to prepare tea.

Once I was sure his parents were out of earshot, I told James, "I wasn't running away. There are a lot of gay clubs in Soho. I went there to hook up."

"With a stranger?"

I nodded. "Anyone. This bloke, though—he was pretending to be gay. He was looking for a target."

James stared at me, shocked. Then the events seemed to finally process. "Do you like being gay?"

I blinked. "Do you like being straight?"

"I mean—you have to go through a lot of shite for being gay. But I think the world would be a lot better, at least more fun, if everyone was bi. If everyone could be sexually attracted to anyone."

"Yeah, I suppose."

"Do you think if everyone were bisexual, more people would choose their same sex, or opposite?"

"I might be biased to say same."

"Yeah, me too."James rested his hand on my shoulder, gaze distant, then we stood. "Well, do you have to get back home, or do you want to stay?"

I yawned, glancing up as Mrs. Potter entered the room with the tea. "Of course I'd like to stay, but my parents'll use any excuse to ground me, and I'd rather it be one week rather than the rest of the summer."

Mrs. Potter hugged me. "You know can come by whenever you like. Don't feel you have to stay if they mistreat you, okay?"

"Thank you, Mrs. Potter."

"Of course. Now, after you have your tea, I'll Apparate you home—do you want me to say James had a family emergency?"

"I'll be alright." As much as I didn't want to give them the satisfaction of punishing me, I wanted to prove a point. What that point was, I wasn't sure.

8 July, 1976 9:02

"Sirius, can we speak with you in the dining room?"

I closed the book James had sent me, The Art of Hilarity: The 100 Funniest Charms, Potions, and Hexes from 1886 to 1972, and trudged out of my room. "What? I was in the middle of—"

My parents were sitting together on the couch, looking grim, matter-of-fact, and gestured for me to sit across from them. "We need to talk about your responsibilities in this family."

"We need to?" I sat on the armrest of the chair across from them.

"Sirius," my dad warned, then paused to collect himself. "You remember the Faralyns, don't you?"

"Yeah…"

"Their daughter, Raven, has followed the Dark Lord despite being sorted into Hufflepuff house. Saved her family from a great deal of embarrassment."

I picked at my fingernails, staring into my lap.

"There is still time for you to turn your life around. Your sorting does not have to dictate your place at school or in the wizarding world…"

"Yeah, yeah."

"Which is why this new school year, you're going to either spend time with Regulus and his friends in Slytherin, or we're sending you to Durmstrang."

My stomach dropped. "Neither. No, fuck that."

My mothers' eyes blazed. "Sirius!"

"You've got to pissed out of your heads right now!" I stood up, my father did the same. "Did you expect I'd agree?"

"Well, we wanted to give you the choice. So now, it's settled…"

Regulus passed by us on his way to the kitchen, casual and arrogant.

I glared at him. "I would rather die than be like any of you." I paused, making up my mind. "You're horrible people, awful—siding with that murderer, thinking Muggles and Mudbloods are animals—I'm tired of hearing you shit-talk people when you're full of shit yourselves. So I'm out." I stormed to my room, ears ringing, face hot. I surveyed my room, then began to throw my things into my suitcase.

Regulus appeared in my doorway. "You're leaving, then?"

"Why the fuck do you care?"

Regulus didn't reply. "Where're you going?"

"The Potters." I forced the lid to my suitcase down and started a second one. "They've been more of a family than any of you have."

"Bye, then," Regulus snapped, then lingered a bit before leaving my room and slamming the door behind him.

I was too caught up in the adrenaline rushing through me to consider if Regulus actually cared.

I found my two-way mirror and looked into it for a minute. James didn't show, so I folded it in one of my shirts and closed the suitcase. I grabbed my owl Fugly's cage and the two suitcases, tucked my wand into my pocket, and headed out of my room.

"You can throw out anything of mine you like," I told my parents.

"You smug little bastard—" my father began.

"Oh, shut the fuck up, dad." I passed my mother without saying a word, knowing that would cut deeper than anything I could say, then opened the door. "If I see any of you again, it'll be at your funeral." Before I closed the door behind me, I added, "And I'll be laughing."

The light outside was just disappearing behind the city buildings. I hurried down the stone steps and held out my wand, then sat down on the curb to wait. A few minutes later, the Knight Bus appeared, doors already open.

"Come on, come on!" the conductor yelled at me, then summoned my things onto the bus. Just after I hopped inside, the doors snapped behind me, and we were off.

"Where're you off to?"

"The Potter house. St. Albans."

The bloke didn't look at me as he motioned a device in front of me. "Dark object detector. Sorry for the inconvenience."

"S'alright. Have I got to pay now, or…?"

The conductor looked up for the first time, gaze softening a little as he studied me. "You can pay now. Four sickles."

I searched my jacket and reached out to hand him the money. My fingers brushed his as I dropped the change into his palm.

He pocketed the coin, smirking a bit. "I'm Dius Souri."

I considered telling him my name, then said, "Sirius. Best if I didn't give you my last name."

"On the run from the law, then, Sirius?"

"Not yet, but I've got time."

Dius laughed, then had to break eye contact as some of the passengers shuffled out. Once the doors closed again, he said, "Hang on, we're about to get on the country roads."

Before I could find support, the bus lurched and I fell forward onto Dius.

He helped me regain my balance, laughing. We met each others eyes. After a moment, he said, "You know my name now. If you ever want to send me a letter…"

I grinned, then recovered and said, "Actually, I have a boyf—I'm with someone."

Dius raised an eyebrow. "Uh huh. And what's the lucky lad's name?"

"Can't tell you. Maybe I would, but no one knows—neither of are…"

Dius seemed about to ask what I meant when the bus stopped abruptly. He blinked and realized where we were. "This is your stop. Have a nice day, love. Say hello to the mystery boy for me."

"Pick up the bloody pace, Dius!" the driver called.

"Thank you, I will." I grabbed my things and got off the bus. By the time I turned around, it was already out of sight.

The Potter house (or mansion, rather) brought a rush of familiar excitement through me. Now I felt like I was home.

I spotted James in the distance and understood why he hadn't seen me in the mirror; he was flying around on his broom in the field beyond his house. Before I had walked the length of their driveway, he also spotted me and flew in my direction. Once he recognized me, he waved madly.

I set Fugly and my suitcases down and copied him, jumping up and down.

James landed, threw his broom to the side, and sprinted to me. "What the hell are doing here?" He hugged me, smelling of sweat and sun.

"I ran away."

"What? For good, or?"

"I dunno. I think so." I was a bit out of breath. "Can I stay with you? I know it's sudden, and a lot to ask of your parents, but you all have always been so good to me—like a second family…"

"Hm…you'll do all my chores?"

I blinked. "What chores?"

James grinned. "You're right. House-elves." He kissed my cheek, then helped carry my things. "C'mon, let's see what my parents say. I know they won't send you back to that hell hole. You know that old witches' saying…blood of the covenant is thicker than water of the womb."

"I don't, actually. My parents have always told me the ancient proverb, 'If you don't kill people for your dark overlord we'll disown you.'" As James led me inside, I added, "I'm glad I could leave them before they kicked me out."

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