Chapter 1 : vicious circle
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It is your fifth birthday. The floor is covered with wrapping paper, and the way the sunlight hits it through the window makes it sparkle like white fire.†You are wearing a paper hat that is covered with stars and balloons. Your mouth is smeared with cake.
The sparkling floor crackles under the wheels, and your mother calls out for you to stop so she can snap another picture, but you don't. You just keep pedaling, faster and faster and faster, and the wheels go round and round and round. You narrowly avoid crushing your cat and zoom outside, where the wind presses cold kisses to your cheeks and runs its fingers through your hair.†
You are full of freedom and happiness and chocolate cake. You think it is your best birthday ever.
And, because it is the last one you have before you become a werewolf, it is.
It is the thirty-sixth time you've met a new doctor. This one has a curling mustache and a shiny, bald head that reminds you of the smooth eggs your mother cracks for breakfast every morning. He listens to your heartbeat, he peers inside your mouth, and he sticks a needle into your arm. He comes to your house to watch you throw yourself against the walls of your basement.
You hear them talking about him when they think you're not paying attention - about how he studies people like you, about how he knows what's he doing. They think that he will find a cure for you; they think that he is different than the thirty-five other doctors.
He isn't. He tells them there is no cure, and your thirty-sixth doctor becomes your last.
It is your mother's first real smile since you were bitten. It creeps across her lips slowly, shyly - like the first reluctant rays of sunshine at dawn. And, when it emerges completely, it is dazzling.
She splays her fingers across her face as if she's going to cry, and every few seconds she peeks through them at the letter that lays unfolded on your kitchen table, like she's afraid she'll forget what it says. Your father hasn't let go of his cup of coffee since the owl first swept into your kitchen.
You are a mess of emotions - happiness, fear, hope, uncertainty, longing. You put down your fork and stare at the letter, half-expecting it to disappear.
You've forgotten about your pancakes, and your parents have forgotten about you. They start talking as if you're not there, the way they used to with the doctors. Your father is scared. Your mother is scared too; the smile melts off of her face. It's nighttime again.
They are scared of what life will be like for you at Hogwarts. They are scared that you might hurt someone.
You're scared too. But you're more scared that you will never have another opportunity like this, and so you allow yourself to be selfish.
It is the fourth time you've gotten lost on your way to class. You've been running for what feels like ages - up and down staircases, through identical corridors, past jeering portraits. You're out of breath, and you would give up and go back to bed if you only knew how to get to the tower again.†
You are about to cry when he shows up. It's one of the boys from your dormitory - the one with the glasses and the unruly hair that would make your mother cringe. His eyes are bleary and red; he overslept.†
But he knows where he's going.
The next day, you wake him up in time for breakfast and he walks with you to all of your classes. You sit next to each other and eat your meals together. Gradually, you get to know this boy with the glasses and unruly hair and decent sense of direction. His name is James, and he is the first real friend you ever have.
It is the second time you've told someone your secret. Your parents have always taken care of telling the people that absolutely need to know - the Ministry, the doctors, Professor Dumbledore. There was only one time that you thought someone else needed to know and, when you told him, he stopped coming over to your house to play.
But the three of them aren't like Billy Thompson. At first, they are scared - just like he was - but the fear wears off. They smile. They laugh. They joke. James calls it your furry little problem, Sirius wants to know how sharp your teeth are, and Peter begs you to howl.
For the first time in your life, your problem does something good; it makes the four of you inseparable.
It is your first kiss. Your first girlfriend. Your first experience with love - a concept which had seemed so foreign to you before.
Her name is Emily. She has blond hair, blue eyes, and more freckles than you can possibly count in a lifetime. She has a smile and a greeting for everybody, but she saves the nicest ones for you.
You sit in the library together every night, holding hands under the table and working on your assignments. When you run out of Potions essays and Divination charts, you tell each other secrets.
She tells you she can't sleep without a light on; you tell her you're terrified of drowning. She tells you about her father stumbling home in the middle of the night, reeking of alcohol; you tell her about how you can hear your parents arguing through the thin walls of your house.
And, finally, one night, you tell her the secret you've been bursting to let out since you first met her. If James, Sirius, and Peter can accept you as a werewolf, you know she will be able to; she's the nicest person you've ever met.
So it hurts even more when she hexes you and starts calling for help. When you tell Professor Dumbledore what happened, he doesn't ask you why you did it, and you don't need to promise not to do it again.
It is your forty-third full moon at Hogwarts, and something is wrong. When you wake up in the Hospital Wing, Professor Dumbledore is sitting in the chair next to your bed. There is no twinkle in his eyes.
Fear clogs your throat; you can only stare at him, a thousand possibilities running through your mind, as you wait for him to tell you what you've done. You must've escaped from the Shrieking Shack somehow. You've killed someone, or - or, worse: you've bitten someone.
But when the Headmaster finally tells you what happened, it's not death, or disease; it's a betrayal of trust. It's a story of a selfish fifteen year old boy who endangered the life of his enemy and the happiness of his so-called best friend all in one reckless moment. And, somehow, that's worse than anything else.
It is the twelfth visit you've made to Godric's Hollow since their death.
Sometimes, you kneel at their gravestones, press your face into the soil, and let the tears overwhelm you. Other times, you walk over to where their house used to be and just stare at it. There is nothing there now but wreckage - the crumbled remains of a house, a family, a life that used to be.
It is not the first time life has been unfair to you, but that doesn't stop you from being angry at whatever God is up there in the sky. He has made you suffer since you were five years old and, now, to punish you even more, he has done the one thing that could make that suffering pale in comparison; he has taken away your four best friends - three to death, one to Azkaban. He has left you alive, and alone.
No, it's not the first time that life has been unfair to you, but it is the one that hurts the most.
It is the last thing you see before you die - her dark eyes, watching you. She has left Teddy at home. She weaves through the dueling pairs that crowd the corridor to try to reach you.
You see Bellatrix before she does. You open your mouth to cry out to her, to warn her, but Dolohov's Avada Kedavra†hits you in the chest before you have a chance. And as you fall to the floor, all you can see are her eyes - her beautiful dark brown eyes - and all you can think is that you will never get to see them again, never get to hold your son again, never get to laugh or smile or cry ever again.
And you know that God has managed to punish you one last time.†
A/N: Thank you, Sarah (DemetersChild) for betaing this, even though it was quite a long time ago. Please feel free to tell me what you think!