Author's Note: Originally written for the Tales of Whiskey and Regret Challenge at Redandthewolf's LJ community. I have my hands up to apologise to any passing Ancient Rune Casting Experts - my version is based roughly 5 per cent on something I read and 95 per cent make-it-up-as-you-go-along to fit the fic. My prompts were Silver Bullet and the lyrics from Strawberry Fields Forever, by the Beatles: "Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see. It's getting hard to be someone, but it all works out. It doesn't matter much to me." Feedback is always much appreciated, especially as writing this from Peter's POV was a very interesting experience...

The Outcast.

I'd like to chuck the entire bag on the floor right now. I suppose they did at least all stay on the table this time, but there's no hiding the fact that my latest attempt at a Three Rune Cast has gone the way of all the others and I still haven't got a clue why. Although I do now finally have a chance at a school record with the name of Peter Pettigrew alongside it – I doubt many people can claim to have cast mental anguish five times in a row.

It seems like there's only one course of action left (and I'm pretty sure it's not transformation, whatever the rune in front of me says to the contrary), so I sit back in the hard leather chair and wait for the slight figure opposite to sort it all out for me.

Only Remus, it seems, is suddenly a lot more interested in staring at the heavy June rain which is hitting the Gryffindor common room window with considerable force. As well as the tatty piece of parchment that he's just bent down to retrieve from the floor.

I crane my neck to try and see what's on it, but he scrunches it up in his hand and gazes at the window again with an odd, set expression on his pale face. The sky's so grey and dark outside that we've even got the lamps burning in here in the middle of the afternoon.

"What do you think then?" I'm hoping the question will remind him that he was busy thumbing hopefully through James' sticky copy of Spellman's Syllabary in search of the answer, having already abandoned Ancient Runes Made Easy. Its owner had chucked it helpfully at us as he and Sirius went off somewhere to do something which only they could do. I'm pretty sure that's quote unquote.

The room's so quiet and still without them. Dull. I know I need to get this sorted but I hate it when they leave me behind.

Presumably the fascinating piece of parchment has dropped out of the book? It'll be a good laugh if we've caught James practising writing girly variations on Lily and James Forever yet again – Merlin, he's got it bad – but I keep thinking they've gone off on the sly to do something to Snape. It's true there was only one person who could have left those abalone roots in James' cauldron yesterday, and it was just as well I picked them up first, as it turned out, but the turquoise stains and smell of sweaty socks did come off a bit easier than I made out. Perhaps I shouldn't have got them so worked up.

Oh, so what? Snivellus had it coming after what he's been up to lately. It's just I want to be there when it does.

Anyway, James is probably trying to impress Lily again. He'd have been better off taking Remus with him because everyone likes Remus, especially Lily, but he knows Remus wants to swot so he's excused. I wasn't asked either, but I could tell him something useful if I wanted to. Like how it will pan out, which is the same way it always does. Lily will be revising in the library, like everyone apart from us, but they'll go and interrupt her and her giggly pals all the same, and she'll start off mildly irritated before getting annoyed. How can she do anything else when everyone's watching her? Sirius will say something sarky, James will be torn between the pair of them, and they'll both end up coming back here in a sulk. Then we won't get anything done, either, because they'll want to muck around as loudly as possible to make up for it.

Normally, I'd like watching nothing better, but this isn't normal, is it? When you can memorize a page at a glance you can afford to crack jokes about those who can't, instead of worrying about exams, and what your parents will say if you don't come up to scratch and start on the career path they've foreseen for you from age eleven.

Talking of which… "What is it?" I say again, much louder this time. Deciding I'll have to ask about this bit of parchment that has him transfixed.

"Hmm?" Remus shifts awkwardly in his chair as though uncomfortable and then belatedly focuses on me. "Oh - sorry. When you swirl them round in the bag, are you letting one fall naturally into your hand? Only some of these meanings you're getting just plain contradict each other. It's very odd."

I look at him. He really is mulling over those bloody runes again. It's funny how he's the only person I know whose first impulse isn't to talk about himself. I suppose that's why everyone likes him, though it's also funny to think how many wouldn't if they knew what he really was. How many of them would run screaming if they thought they sat down to dinner right next to a werewolf? Sometimes I just sit and look round at all the oblivious little faces and wonder how the room would divide.

For and against. Who'd condemn and who'd pity? It's the people who could go either way that it's the most interesting to wonder about.

But I don't mean funny at all. I mean sad. It is; it's horrendous for him. It's just I sometimes think about how powerful he is, though it's quite hard to think about Remus like that, because he's, well … Remus. Our clever, skinny friend with the thick brown hair I envy, the clothes that never quite seem to fit him properly, and the astonishing ability to cram six Chocolate Frogs into his mouth all at once and eat them without throwing up all over everyone else. Then there's the cocky grin that always follows, right after he's done it.

I never understand how he doesn't have chocolate all over his mouth and teeth. Some kind of Charm? He'd have to be really quick though, when we're all watching him.

Right now, he looks about as powerful as that feathered quill he's resting against the side of his face. And that's even though I see him every month and it would be absolutely terrifying if the others weren't with me, though I know I could run away if it came to it. (I've also read in the library copy of Waging War Against Werewolves that they don't eat rats, unless they're starving and desperate. I buy him lots of Chocolate Frogs). Anyway, somehow I forget all about this incredibly powerful Dark Creature the minute we leave the Shrieking Shack. It's just Remus again, then, and we're supporting him between us. Usually ashen-faced, barely able to put one leg in front of the other, but insisting that he's fine and we'd better not miss scrambled eggs for breakfast on his account or he'll get really mad.

Occasionally he keels over while threatening us with dire recriminations. It's really awful. James hates that; he goes very red in the face and tries to carry Remus back to the castle all by himself, while Sirius gets irate with me and tells James not to be a bleeding idiot. He's as bad, though – he was the one who went out and searched for two hours once when one of Remus' shoes had fallen off somewhere and we didn't notice. He had a furious row with McGonagall for missing lessons, got one of her worst ever detentions, but he brought the shoe back.

And we've got it off to a fine art now. One of us goes off to get a load of food, while the other two smuggle him upstairs and start getting warm drinks into him. Beginning with tea but nips of whiskey help. Sirius found out there's one called a Silver Bullet, of all things, which is with gin, and I couldn't believe it when he actually produced one, but Remus laughed more than any of us and drank the lot. Swore it did him good, too, and it was hysterical when he suddenly started singing All You Need Is Love to himself in the middle of History of Magic.

Sometimes I think Remus must always feel a bit of an outsider, even amongst the four of us. But I'm sure we all try not to think that about him and it's easy to forget things. The others always forget that if it wasn't for me being able to reach the knot on the Whomping Willow then we wouldn't even be able to get to him each month in the first place.

I don't think he forgets, though. He's always saying nice things about rats and how useful and intelligent they are.

"Only if you're in two minds," he's continuing thoughtfully, now apparently back on track with my embarrassing little rune problem, "forcing things, as it were, it might explain why the course of action rune doesn't make much sense with the situation one. And as for the outcome—"

"No!" I roll my eyes at him and pull a face. I'm always relaxed with Remus because you know he never takes offence. Pull a face at Sirius on the wrong day and you're liable to get hexed in return. "What's up? You look like Peeves has put lime marmalade in your stew again."

"Actually that was quite nice." He grins but it doesn't reach his eyes. "Oh… it's nothing really. Just this." He nods casually sideways at the parchment lying on the table, curling at the edges where he clasped it in his hand. "Do you remember when we heard last week that they were changing the day of the Potions exam? Slughorn's got to testify at that hearing at the Ministry, and James said he'd find out what was happening before they announced it officially?"

"Yeah." I turn the parchment round towards me and recognise the hand writing. Lily Evans' distinctive, slanting style. Exam at 9.00 now on Friday the 13th. Keep your mouth shut, Potter, till common knowledge! Which is interesting, because if she's doing him favours in her role as teacher's pet, then perhaps the PLC, or Potter's Libido Crisis, as Sirius has christened it, isn't as hopeless as I thought it was.

And if James does start going out with her, it'll probably be quite good. Won't Sirius have to spend more time with us then? Sirius is lots of fun at the moment; tell him he can't do something and he does it all the more. That Howler he had from his parents about him doing Muggle Studies just to spite them was an absolute classic, and he's determined to get an Outstanding in it now. It was a real shame Remus missed all that.

It clicks then. No wonder he's a shade green about the gills. Bloody hell. "That's—" I start but he cuts me off and glances round the room, even though he knows there's only us in here.

Must be weird to live your life continually looking over your shoulder, almost waiting to be found out. I wonder what toll it takes on him, holding all that fear in, not letting it show. Does he sort of become another person - almost not the real him any more? But I can't ask him that and I hate that he's doing this now as I haven't seen him so cautious for such a long time. I thought we'd got him out of that; shown him that it's okay. James even jokes about his furry little problem in front of everyone nowadays and he laughs his head off with us. After solemnly assuring us all that Flopsy is now over that chronic ear infection.

It's not much of a laugh, though, when your problem falls on the night before an exam. A subject you're rubbish at, too. Why couldn't it be Ancient Runes for him? It's a pity I can't swap him some of his ability to translate and interpret hidden meanings, in return for being able to make an Everlasting Elixir last longer than the odd half hour his usually manages.

"Yes. It is. The night before." Remus sounds very calm. "Oh, well."

It's not just calm, it's resigned calm. James and Sirius would jump on that immediately, so I do too.

"You could go and see Dumbledore. He'll give you special dispensation to sit it a few days later and—"

"No." Now he's shaking his head. "I'm not doing that."

"But… You know he'll understand." Thinking that I don't. "It's not as if you'll have to explain, or anyone will query it, if Dumbledore says. You can say you've got to stay with your Mum for a bit and no one will know any different."

"I will." The words come out quite forcefully for Remus and I can feel myself blink at him. He smiles crookedly. Apologetically. "I don't want any favours. No special treatment."

Now I'm not at all sure what to say. I want to ask why. Embarrassment? Surely he doesn't think any of us will think less of him? Why would he want to put himself through hell, just to fail, when there's an easy way out?

It doesn't make sense and he isn't explaining either, which means I'm in trouble. Remus doing his Clam Act, as James calls it. No information forthcoming and the subject is about to be closed.

"Right. I get that." I try to look as if I do and he gives a little polite, dismissive smile and picks up Spellman's Syllabary once more. Any minute now, we'll be talking about stupid runes again, and once you do start talking about yourself with Remus it is very difficult to stop. It makes it worse that I'm normally the one listening to the others, and though that's mostly okay, sometimes it gets a bit much. So we probably all take advantage of Remus a bit and he lets us do it. Gratitude makes you such a pushover.

I know I'm as bad as he is but I love being friends with them so much. It makes me feel safe, not small, and other people want to know me. The only downside is that everything revolves around them and what they want. It never seems to be my turn.

Thinking that makes me realise I'd like to solve this on my own. Not only to see if I could, just for once, but to impress them. It would really make them sit up and take notice of me, and maybe I won't be left behind next time they go off to hex Snivellus.

Of course, it would be nice to help Remus, as well. If it wasn't for him, I'd never have learnt how to be an Animagus, and while sometimes I think I'd like to be something a lot more flashy and impressive than a rat, how many wizards can actually transform into an Animagus at all, let alone at my age? I can get into all these places James and Sirius can't, do all these things they can't because of their size, and though it suits them to overlook all this, I know it's true.

There's also some places I can get into that they don't even know about. I keep thinking I'll tell them one day, see the surprise and admiration on their faces, but I'm saving it up for the right time. In the meantime, I like knowing that when I'm in trouble they'll be there for me straight away. Sometimes I think it's funny that we're all such good friends when we're all so different. Nothing ever seems to scare them and Remus is so scared of one thing that nothing else matters much in comparison.

What scares me, is that one day they won't want to be my friends any more, and then what will happen to me?

I'm losing track of what I was supposed to be thinking about here. Which is that I've finally worked out what that odd expression on Remus' face was at the beginning when he read about the exam. It's so strange to see him miserable. I've seen him frightened; very frightened when we first found out about him. I've seen him angry, too, beneath that calm face I always envy so much. But never miserable. Because that's something you feel for yourself, which isn't Remus. He doesn't do that.

Not until now, anyway.

"You'll never make it," I say, just as he's opening his mouth to tell me that keeping Trickly Treacle Toffees in amongst the bag of runes – and forgetting they were there on a very hot day – might be having an adverse effect on my casting at present.

His turn to blink. I do like surprising people.

I fight back a smile, almost a laugh, and rush on. "Sunrise is about – what – four thirtyish? You need at least five or six hours sleep after that and—" I hold my hand up as he tries to speak, "—it's no good. You'll need drink, food, the muscle restorative, and even if it's a good transformation there's always some, um, patching up to be done. Plus you know you're always very dizzy afterwards, and if you think you can get on your own from the Shack to an exam room, well … then you'd just better hope the first task is a Wit-Sharpening Potion."

He's looking at me with a very still face. One that says it's his burden to bear alone. Reminds me of the time he got what we thought was a splinter of wood in his thigh from the Shack and he walked around with it for three days until we forced him to go to the hospital. When Madam Pomfrey finally got the thing out, it was about eight inches long. How many times have we heard him say—

"It's fine. I'll manage." The jaw is set firm.

I fold my arms. Remus is one of the few people I ever get to boss around, even though he doesn't usually take much notice. "You'll go head first into the cauldron."

Amazingly he laughs at this. "Slughorn's always telling me I lack enthusiasm for the subject. He'll have to give me a good grade if I suddenly throw myself into it, don't you think?" Then he sobers. "Don't worry, Peter. It's not as though I was going to pass anyway. At least this way—"

"—you'll fail on your own terms?"

"… Exactly." A slight pause. He's looking at me. Warmly. Any minute now he'll tell me how much he appreciates what I've said and change the subject again.

Think, Peter.

Doing things on your own terms is something I can understand, though my view's a bit different to his. If going to Dumbledore would get me out of a mess, then that's what I'd do and think no more about it. Anything else is just pride, though that doesn't make much sense as I can't think of anyone who suffers less from that than Remus.

Wanting to be like everyone else … now that I do get. I've got a list of things I'd like to be, starting with cleverer, taller, and better looking. I'd like more hair as well, not to have to worry about going bald while really young like my Dad did, and I'd like to be able to talk to girls without them thinking I'm sweet or weird. Or sweetly weird. I'd love to be just like Sirius and James, with everyone wanting to be in with them, because that's real power, but they've got their blind spots. Like they'd stay up till one or two each morning, trying to achieve the Animagus transformation, and we all kept saying we'd never give up till we got it. But I overheard Sirius bet James that I'd give up within a couple of months and that made me even more determined not to be left behind. So I stayed up till three each night and watched and copied every movement they made. That extra hour was what probably got me there in the end.

Extra hours are what Remus needs now.

"I can wake you early," I say firmly. "We only let you sleep because it reduces the dizziness and sickness and I can look things up to combat that. I heard Madam Pomfrey talking the other day about confiscating some Energy Potion off a Slytherin. It was banned a few years ago because everyone was taking it during the exams to give them an edge. I'm due to see her about my hay fever again and I can get into her cupboard quite easily if you come with me and distract her for a minute. Plus we can take a load of stuff over to the Shack beforehand and hide it. If we start getting ready that much earlier, we can get you there in time."

I pause for breath. It's not ideal, I know there are more holes in it than my last Herbology essay, but we can work on the finer details. And it gives him a chance. To fail on his own terms.

"You can't." Here comes the typical Remus standard reply. "You need to sleep before an exam, not be up half the night. I can get myself there."

"I can have early nights all week beforehand," I counter. "I'll start tonight if you like when we've sorted this. All it means is doing the preparation beforehand. I'm good at Potions so I don't have to revise much for it. And if you get yourself there in a right old state, have you thought how you'd explain it to Slughorn for a start?"

He frowns, not looking at all happy, and I add quickly, "And Snivellus will just absolutely love it. A wonderful Lupin mystery under his great big nose for him to ferret out and solve."

"Yes, but…" He stops, the frown still very evident. I want to smile because I can see underneath it how touched he is and that makes me feel great. I should do this more often.

"The others…?" He stops again, ducking his head down so that the thick hair hides his expression from me. Embarrassed. So am I, to the degree that I can feel the blood rushing up my face, because of course he'd want the others involved. I couldn't possibly be trusted to do this all on my own, could I? Okay, I know the plan's very rough, but he could wait before pouring cold water on it.

Couldn't he?

I try and laugh but it comes out as the one that goes all high-pitched at the end, so that I sound really nervous. Probably a bit weird. Remus lifts his head up immediately to stare at me, so I say casually, "Well, we'll bring them in on it, don't worry. I didn't mean just you and me sorting all this out. That would be daft."

"Actually," he swallows, pushing his hair back out of his eyes. "I would prefer – I mean, if you're really sure you don't mind – obviously, they'll have to know but the less people I put out on that day so much the better." He swallows again. "It's just that I owe you all so much already and feel so guil—"

I've just started to smile, a proper one this time, as that new feeling is released in me again, when the common room door suddenly flies open and the room is full of people.

Just three of them, as it turns out, but the room is full to bursting with light and colour and sound. No longer dull. My heart gives that familiar skip of recognition.

They're back.

Without warning, James' long, grinning face, hair sticking out every which way, glasses slightly awry as they always are when he's stressed or excited, is right in my line of vision. He grabs a chair, fumbles with it, before turning it round back to front and flinging himself down upon it at our table.

I can almost see the chair wince as those long legs clasp it.

Next to him, scowling furiously, and looking as though she doesn't quite know whether to stand by him or not, is Lily Evans, her dark red hair gleaming against her pale, oval face. Wearing a gold t-shirt with a square, embroidered pattern on the front, dark blue jeans, and looking, like beautiful girls sometimes do, as though she's not quite real. Or the room isn't real because it's so drab behind her.

Merlin. He hasn't…?

An arm snakes around my shoulders before I have time to think it through. A rough, friendly shake and hug. The familiar deep voice says, "You're not still ruing those bleeding runes, Wormtail!"

I'm laughing nervously up at him as he cuffs me affectionately about the head like an errant child and settles on the edge of the table in one fluid movement, a heavy black boot planted on the table, his leg propped up for his elbow to rest on, and his chin resting on his hand. The other long leg starts to swing casually, lightly scuffing the floor.

"We've got news." James' smile is literally from ear to ear. Lily scowls even more, digging her hands into the pockets of her jeans. Sirius opens his mouth and eyes very wide in an exact copy of my own bewildered expression. James laughs, both at him and me. "You'll never guess."

I'm pretty sure I already have and I'm trying to work out what it will mean to me. It's all good, isn't it? Shouldn't she look happy though?

"Hello, Lily," says Remus quietly, filling the silence, while I'm scrabbling around for something to say. Do I congratulate people when they start going out?

I've never done it with Sirius but then his succession of girls never individually last long enough for me to ask about them or get their names right. Remus always ends up agonising over whether he's being fair or not to his infrequent dates, so any congratulations seem a bit tactless, and James seems to be a one Lily man.

I'm the short one who girls find either sweet or weird.

"Remus." A hint of colour appears in Lily's face as she meets his eyes for an instant before looking away. He's almost looking at her in return, the polite smile appearing, and I remember that last year I was pretty sure there was something between them. They got on so well and spent so much time as prefects together. One evening I saw her coming out of the gardens, and bumped into him a minute later, and I could just tell something had been going on. She was all … flushed. And bouncy.

I couldn't get anything out of Remus about it afterwards. Not surprisingly.

Then lots of things seemed to happen all at once, a few weeks later. James got obsessed with her and she found out about Remus. Put two and two together, as in days absence per month. There was a mad panic wondering if she'd tell – Sirius was prepared to threaten all sorts - but she didn't even consider it, or if she did she never showed it, which made James even more devoted to her. But it changed things between her and Remus somehow. She became very kind, always looking out for little ways to help him, and he … well, I suppose it's a bit of a passionkiller,isn't it? Having a girl you fancy the pants off feeling sorry for you?

There'd have to be something a bit odd about a girl who wanted to get all cosy with a Dark Creature as well.

"You see, there's good news and there's bad news." Sirius rotates his head round slowly to give Remus the wide-eyed, innocent look. "Which do you want first?"

"The bad," I say loudly, before Remus has chance to say anything, because it's not fair that they always tell him things first.

"The bad, eh?" Sirius' eyes flick back to me. He's enjoying himself hugely, I can tell. He doesn't seem put out that James and Lily have got together so I can relax.

"Well, if you insist…" Sirius picks up a rune, flicks it up in the air like a tossed coin and catches it again expertly. "Mental anguish, Wormtail?" He blows his cheeks out, his face very brown against the black hair and grey eyes. "Merlin, no wonder you're struggling. But, getting back to the point, don't you two worry. The bad only sounds bad to start with and we've sort—"

"He knows." Lily interrupts him sharply.

A fleeting expression of annoyance crosses Sirius' face. "What?"

Lily nods at the piece of parchment lying on the table between us all, her arms folded, matron style. "Unless that's Remus' idea of a bookmark… He knows."

Silence for a second. Remus nods, glancing from one to the other. "Yes. I know about the Potions exam. It's all right."

"Oh, bloody hell." James groans, burying his head in his hands. "I forgot it was in the book." His hands slide through his hair to the back of his neck. "I am such an idiot. How did I forget? Unless-" One eyes peers sheepishly, almost shyly, through the glasses and up at the red-haired girl next to him. "I got distracted by certain distracting things around me?"

She gives him a look which by rights should turn him to stone.

"Oh, for God's sake, Potter." Sirius slaps the side of the table in what looks like several kinds of disgust, making me jump. "It's a simple task you were given and you've completely blown it. Am I working with a bunch of amateurs here or what?"

"No. You're not." Lily again, this time cool as silk. Her green eyes look at him steadily and I can almost see the silent message: Don't be a drama queen. This isn't about you. Remus needs to know.

Sirius looks away first. That doesn't happen often and I rather enjoy it, although I'm not sure now what's going on. Why's Lily involved?

"Moony, I'm really sorry." James has straightened up and turned to him now. "I never meant you to find that until we'd sorted it all out for you. I didn't want you to worry."

Until we'd sorted it all out for you?

Remus is looking at me, frowning slightly. "Actually Peter and I have been talking about it—"

"I know." James brushes that aside. "Don't worry."

"—and Peter's come up with a very good suggestion." To give Remus his due, he's trying to make himself heard.

He's looking at me and he's doing it for my sake. Not his. He already knows their idea will be far superior to anything I've come up with, and he's trying to spare my feelings.

I want to scream at him, tell him to shut the hell up. Tell him this is all his fault and it's just not fair. Rant and rail and say all the things I can't say to them.

"We decided," Sirius takes over again, confidence fully restored because everyone's listening to him, "that what you need, Moony, is extra time."

He and James take it in turns to tell us. Lily chips in with corrections or to calm down exaggerations. It's brilliant, of course. They've noted down the position of every single clock in the school and between the three of them they're going to Charm them all to be an hour slow on the day of the exam. They even think they can fix everyone's watches. The crucial clocks are the ones in Slughorn's office and the exam room, but they've got that all sussed because all they need is someone very small to sneak in the day before and pinch the keys and … we all know who can make himself very small.

I don't get asked if I'll do it; it's just assumed. Of course I will, but it would be nice to be asked. Nice to hear them say they need me.

Lily's arranged with her giggly pals to keep a lookout at the relevant times. She'll watch Slughorn herself and as he all but eats out of her hand, it's a fair bet she can distract him for a couple of weeks if she really wants to. Sirius and James are in charge of getting Remus on his feet earlier than normal, and they've got so much planned for that, which I hadn't even thought of. Remus must have though. He was just too kind to say that my Energy Potion was absolutely pathetic.

He's looking at me now, while James is still talking.

I can't quite meet his sympathetic gaze but he's reading me like he so easily reads those runes. I know what he wants to say to me.

I'll put a stop to this. Stick with what we said.

I shake my head. No. It doesn't matter.

Those kind eyes widen fractionally. But… It was a good idea, Peter. I'm so grateful.

From somewhere I manage to find a smile. Yeah, but their idea is better. You know it is.

"So what do you think?" James and Sirius both lean forward eagerly, waiting for Remus.

"It's…" He hesitates, still looking at me.

I make myself laugh, the one that goes all high pitched at the end, and they all swing round to look at me. "Fantastic," I say loudly.

"Yes." Remus echoes it quickly. "I don't even know how to thank you all, " he adds, holding my eyes for a second, before smiling at James and Sirius and not quite looking at Lily again.

The room explodes then, everyone talking at once. Laughing, suggesting more things. Sirius recounting how the library had descended into chaos when they tried to silently get Lily outside, obviously without telling her what was going on, and Lily got completely the wrong end of the stick – James goes bright red at this point – and a major row nearly broke out between them and eight swotting, highly irritable girls. Apparently it took the word Remus to get her on her feet and moving; a fact which brings deep colour in turn to his face.

I smile and nod and think there's no way she'd have gone with them on hearing my name.

I'm jealous of a werewolf. How weird is that?

They chatter on and it all goes on around me and without me. Sirius ruffles my hair so vigorously that I wince and he winks at me, saying low-voiced that he'll give me a hand with the runes in a bit. The rain's stopped. It's brightening up outside. Lily actually forgets the ice maiden act and smiles for a second at James as though he's not mud beneath her high-heeled shoes. He looks like he's just had his entire week made.

I'm not needed. I try and remember the warm glow I'd felt, that feeling of pride when I was helping Remus, and he was looking to me as his friend to help solve his problem, but it's gone. They're busy protecting him now, worrying about him, not me, and it's always going to be like that. I thought he was the outsider of us, the odd one out who is different, but it's me who is the one who is always fourth out of four.

Which I'm pretty sure is last, by anybody's reckoning.

Something's digging into my elbow and I realise I'm resting it on one of the runes. The one that signifies the likely outcome of events. I look down and it suddenly strikes me as very funny; I can't think why I didn't see it earlier when all I've been thinking about is this for most of the afternoon. As things have turned out, it all makes perfect sense.

For Remus, as well as for me.

So my situation rune is mental anguish, the course of action one is certainly a transformation in my thinking, and the outcome rune signifies realisation, new beginnings and power.

Power. Who has it and who doesn't. I realise now that that's what friendship and life is all about.

Reviewers get to choose which Marauder they get to cast a few runes with, plus my thanks and appreciation. :)