He was avoiding me. Not in an obvious way; we still went to breakfast together, we still teased Remus on his squeaking voice and we still plotted against the Slytherins. But that was the point; ‘we’. It was all four of us.
Obviously there was nothing wrong with us acting as a group of four, rather than two sets of two. But I missed James. If we were forced to split into tables of two, then James would immediately choose Peter or Remus to pair with. If we were searching for secret passageways, then he’d suggest I explore the top floors, whilst he examined the corridor under the Great Hall. If I went to bed early, then he’d wait in the common room for Remus or Peter to come upstairs. If he’d gone to bed early, and I went up shortly afterwards, then he’d roll over and pretend to sleep. He was with me all day, but not with me at all.
I gritted my teeth and prepared for the tension. My hair was stuck to my forehead and water dribbled down the side of my face in swirled patterns. I reached out to turn the doorknob, the dark red Quidditch robes sticking to my arm like a damp cloth.
They were laughing when I entered, which slowly died down to a quiet chuckle. I saw James glance at me for a moment before he dove under his bed in search of something. Peter looked between the two of us awkwardly and Remus simply grimaced.
“Here,” James reappeared holding a tatty piece of parchment. “Told you I hadn’t lost it.”
Remus rolled his eyes and turned towards me. “James reckons he’s found another passage.”
“Really?” I replied immediately, my eyes jumping towards James in excitement.
His hazel eyes were scanning the piece of parchment; he paused for a moment and looked up at me. He nodded, and then returned to the paper. I followed his gaze to what looked to be a list of place, several of which had been crossed out. “Where’s it go?” I tried again.
There was a beat of silence, before Peter jumped in to break the growing awkwardness. “He doesn’t know, yet.”
“Oh.” I paused. “Well, where is it?”
Remus coughed uncertainly. “He hasn’t figured that out either.”
I frowned. “Well, how do you know there’s a passageway?”
James looked up again and glared at me angrily. “Because I do.” he snapped.
“Yeah, but I was just askin-“
“Yeah, well don’t. Alright?” James clamoured off his bed, grabbed the parchment and stormed out of the room; his arm barely touching mine as he passed.
I looked at Remus in confusion. “What the hell did I do?”
Remus’ mouth opened, and then closed. He was sitting cross-legged on the edge of his bed, a small Muggle ball was held within one of his hands – a sign they’d been playing catch before I ruined the game. “You didn’t do anything.” Remus said eventually. “He’s just… you know.”
“Yeah.” I grinded my teeth. “I do.” The floorboards creaked as I slowly padded over to the furthest bed; my drenched socks leaving wet footprints behind me. I pulled off my top robe, to find my clothes underneath as sodden as the top layer.
“Sirius,” Peter said quietly, “he’ll get over it. It’s James – you know what he’s like. He’s not used to being rejected.”
“Yeah, I do know.” I fumed: why was I in the wrong for him acting like a- “He’s just a spoilt brat.”
“Sirius.” Remus cut in sharply, climbing off his bed and taking a step closer to mine. “That’s out of order.”
“Why?” I spat, pulling off another layer. “Why am I always the one out of order? He’s just bloody stormed out like a three year old because I got on the Quidditch team, and he didn’t.”
“Don’t act like a brat, Sirius.” Remus spoke with the rare authority he occasionally showed. “It’s hard for him. You know how much he wanted to be on the team.”
“Yeah, and it’s not my bloody fault he didn’t get in.”
Remus sighed heavily. He turned towards the door and strode across the room. I threw the last layer on my bed, barely sparing a thought for the dry sheets now becoming damp under the mound of clothing. “Let me guess, you’re going to go find James.” I muttered, anger and some emotion I couldn’t detect, rushing around my body.
“No.” Remus said neutrally. “I’m going to find Lily; the Herbology homework is due tomorrow and she’s the best in our class.” He paused to look at the bed after mine. “You and James can sort yourselves out – it’s been a month. This is getting ridiculous.” He shook his head and reached out towards the doorknob. “You coming, Peter?”
Peter bit his lip and looked at me. For some reason, I could tell he thought I was in the right. And I suddenly felt slightly better; like someone believed I’d done well by joining the Quidditch team.
“It’s alright, Peter. I’m just going to get a shower – I’ll see you at dinner.”
Peter’s blonde hair flopped over his eyes as he nodded eagerly and hastened to follow Remus. I sighed as the door slammed shut and collapsed onto the edge of my bed.
Was it so wrong to want someone to be happy for me, for a change? I’d beaten all the older competitors. I was the only Second Year in school on the Quidditch team. And nobody cared.
I couldn’t celebrate with James; he disappeared after Clark was given Chaser. Jack had gone looking for him but had given up after a couple hours; I knew it was useless to search – James had his invisibility cloak. Remus and Peter had cheered and clapped me on the back, but turned solemn when they found out James hadn’t got in. Lily had made a snarky comment that James should learn to not get everything he wants, which drew Mary and Amelia into a discussion whether James really did get everything he wanted. It was all about James.
Regulus had smiled at me from the Slytherin table before being drawn into conversation with his new friends. Cissy had wasted no time in informing my family I was now a ‘Gryffindor Mascot’; she was still furious that I aimed a bludger at her during the trials.
In my defence, she deserved it. All I could hear whilst I watching James dive for the quaffle was her spiteful comments. That associating with Muggles made wizard blood weaker; that James was an example of this. That he was nothing but a diseased pureblood. I acted on instinct. The bludger was coming towards me, it was almost too easy to pull back my bat and hit it in her direction with all the force I could muster. Of course, Professor Flitwick and stopped it before the bludger could meet its target, but still late enough for her to scream and dive for cover – in front of her beloved Malfoy.
I’d gotten a howler from my mother the following day; I can only thank God that the owl was delayed in some way – only delivering the steaming red letter when I was by myself in our room. There were no congratulations within.
A week later, another parcel arrived. A long, thin one with a small note attached. Peter had eagerly helped me unravel the parcel to see a smooth black broomstick with curved bristles. It was the MoonLight 100. One of the best brooms on the market. My jaw had hung open and I was vaguely aware of the older students glancing towards me in interest. James had stood up and left the table.
The note was simple: Your father has insisted that we give you a new broom. After all, any mudblood could have touched those pathetic brooms the school keeps. You are a pure blood and you would do us a dishonour to ride something suited for the poor. Try not to be a disgrace.
It wasn’t signed off, or addressed. But it was clear that it was my mother. If anything, I was surprised. She’d almost sounded… nice. She wrote in the note like she used to write in our birthday cards; I had pondered for a moment what my father thought. Was he proud? I’d hoped and looked for a letter since, to explain this unexpected gift. But, of course, none ever came.
“Sirius?” An unsure voice came from the doorway. It was one of the First Years; Caradoc Dearborn. He looked slightly surprised to see me perched on the edge of bed in a state of undress, in nothing but my underwear and a thin vest. “I-I can come back later.”
I sighed, “No, Dearborn.” I used my hands to push me away from the bed and strode towards the door. “What do you want?”
“Er – James said this arrived for you.” He handed me an envelope with a smudged Black insigne on the back. I felt a moment of shock and a shoot of warmth when I took the letter from the boy; had my parents written?
“Thanks, Dearborn. I owe you one.”
“No,” the boy shrugged. “It was on my way to my room and, um, Sirius-“
I looked at the First Year who was beginning to look slightly uncomfortable. “What’s up, Caradoc?”
He looked at me for a moment and opened his mouth, as if to say something of importance, before closing it and shaking his head. “Nothing.” He turned and left the room, before pausing and looking over his shoulder. “Well done on getting on the team, by the way.”
I nodded, and he was gone. Strange. I returned to my damp bed with my brows furrowed; what on earth was that about?
I shivered and started to become aware of how cold I was; there were goose bumps coating my arms and legs. Thankfully, the windows had been pulled shut so that the dark sky provided a dramatic background to the red leaves that were stamped across the outside of the glass, the heavy rain pounding against the frame.
I reached for the blanket underneath my clothes, to find it slightly muddy and wet. Shrugging, I walked to Peter’s bed and borrowed his; he wouldn’t mind too much. I pulled the thick material close, and my icy fingers started to tear into the envelope with little grace.
The writing was small and hastily written; I immediately noticed the hand didn’t belong to either of my parents; I couldn’t comprehend the heavy feeling in my stomach and the overwhelming emotion of… sadness at this understanding. It was written in blue ink and was very familiar.
I’m sorry I couldn’t see you much over the summer, but I had an idea of how the school holiday would go and thought it best to persuade Uncle Orion that you should spend some time with the Potters. Just so you know, you can thank me in chocolate and flowers.
I found your card shortly after we returned home. It was awful, Sirius. The LeStrange family are as creepy as they’ve always been and their son was as soft as a blanket – Bella was defiantly not impressed. Cissy spent the entire time drooling after that Malfoy boy, making herself appear more idiotic then she normally does. And the Rosier family. I’ve no idea which son they were trying to pair me off with, but none were an option.
I know I don’t normally speak to you like this; goodness, I spend most my time trying to get you to tone down your opinions! But, something has happened. I’m leaving - in the next couple days, and I can’t go back. I’m sorry I can’t help you out anymore Sirius, but I’m sure you’ll be fine. You’ve always been a fighter.
I can’t give any information, in case this letter somehow gets taken astray. But I’ll be in Hogsmeade next weekend before I move on, and I will be able to answer your letters much more quickly and speak more openly.
I’m sorry, Sirius.
Love your best cousin, Andromeda.
P.S. I was at Grimmauld Place when Cissy’s letter arrived. You made the Gryffindor team? Congratulations, Sirius. That’s an incredible achievement – you’re a great flier and it’s a good outlet to let off steam. I hope you liked the broom; your dad thought it was a very good idea after I suggested it. Once again, chocolate and flowers are appreciated, young man.
I sat for a moment; torn between worry and delight. It was likely that Andy might have sent the letter in the previous night; she could be leaving any moment. Andromeda was the most patient person I had ever known; if she was leaving then something must have happened. Something big.
But to run away, I knew well enough that my mother would never welcome her back into our home, and as an extension, neither would her parents. She was turning away from the world we’d always known and setting out. I was suddenly in awe of my cousin’s courage.
For a moment, I considered what life in Grimmauld Place would be like without my favourite cousin to make the days more bearable. It would be completely up to me to make Regulus listen. To stop him from becoming one of them.
My fingers were curled into my palm; it would be so easy for something to go wrong. For Kreacher to spot something out of place. Why was she leaving? The question rolled round my head, again and again. What happened?
My teeth grounded together as I dropped Peter’s blanket in the laundry, and then proceeded to gather my sodden robes and damp quilt to push them into the basket. I pulled off the rest of my clothes and walked towards the shower in the small bathroom.
For a moment, as I pulled the handle and let the hot water fall, Andy’s words echoed in my head. ’That’s an incredible achievement… you’re a great flier. I stepped into the water and felt the water scald against my icy skin.
I was suddenly overcome with the certainty that, somehow, I would meet her in Hogsmeade next weekend. I needed to see my cousin, to make sure she was okay. We’d found many passageways around the school; there had to be a way out. There had to be. Remus
I was tired of it. James was constantly subdued from not getting on the team; he looked glum when he thought nobody was looking and then acted overly cheery when we were all together. He only showed any real emotion when Sirius was nearby.
I was tired of Sirius getting angry because we haven’t given him the attention he wanted. Didn’t he realise that it would be unfair on James if we went on and on about his success? We were just trying to be good friends.
I was tired of Peter borrowing James’ cloak in the middle of the night to take the majority of his clothes to the laundry. He acted like I didn’t know; it was made clear to never mention his nightly trips. Did he really think I wouldn’t notice him leaving with a bundle of clothes that had holes or burns in, and returning with them patched up? It was almost like he was ashamed that he needed to fix his clothes, rather than buying new ones.
And yet, at the same time I could understand it. We all had things to hide; I just wished I could help them. They didn’t have to befriend me, or put up with me lying to them every month. But they did. And now we all seemed to be on edge; everyone holding something back which was causing, however small, a crack in our friendship. And I hated it.
I was sick of everyone having their secrets; we were friends. Best friends. Yet nobody was completely honest with the other. But, of course, I couldn’t say anything. I was the biggest hypocrite. If I wanted them to share their secrets, then I would have to share mine. And then none of this would matter, because we wouldn’t be friends anymore. I would be forced to leave Hogwarts – and then who cares about a petty argument in the first place.
“You alright there, Remus?” Lily asked softly, looking uncertainly at where my quill was digging into the parchment.
I sighed and placed the quill on the table. “Yeah, fine.” I rubbed my eyes tiredly.
“Are you sure?” Lily asked carefully, her vivid green eyes watching me in concern. “You haven’t been yourself recently.”
“Ah, has my mass murdering, identical twin got loose again?” I said in an attempt at humour.
“He’s been spotted twice.” Lily replied dryly. I chuckled and rolled my eyes. “But seriously, Remus, I’m here if you want to talk.”
I smiled half-heartedly and went to return to my work. Yet no matter how hard I tried to focus on the uses of belladonna and which healing ingredients it worked best with - Lily’s words played on my mind. Would it hurt to tell her? Not the full truth, obviously. But… just get her opinion. It couldn’t do any harm, right?
I opened my mouth for a moment, struggling to form the words I wanted to say. My fingers tapped the edge of the quill absent-mindedly. “Remus?” Lily asked delicately.
“It’s- right- well- if you-” I sighed in annoyance. “It’s James, and Sirius, and Peter. They’re – look, we all have secrets. I’d think it strange if someone didn’t. But, I have a secret. A rather big secret. And I don’t think I can help them, or understand why they’re all acting the way they are, without having to ask what they’re hiding.” I rambled. “But that would be hypocritical, wouldn’t it? To ask them to confide in me, but keep my secret to myself. It would be wrong, right?”
Lily stared at me, slightly bemused. “Right, calm down and take a breath.” She placed the quill down on the table and rested her chin on her knuckles. “In my experience,” she started carefully, “if people have secrets then its because they’re ashamed, or embarrassed, or worried what their friends would think of them.” I nodded, I’d thought as much – after all, didn’t I share the same feelings? “But,” Lily continued, “I’ve also found that confiding in a close friend can make all the difference.”
I looked up and became frozen under her green gaze. “So,” I started, “it would help them if I got everybody to talk about things. But… then they’d expect me to talk about myself.”
“That might not be a bad thing.” Lily spoke softly. “As many bad things I could say about those boys, I can also say that they care for you. They’re good friends. Is your secret really that bad?”
“Yes.” I replied without hesitation. “If they knew… they wouldn’t want to be friends with me, at all.”
Lily frowned. “Remus, listen to me.” I looked at her reluctantly. “There is very little that would stop any of those boys wanting to be friends with you. I’m talking murder bad. Do you honestly think James Potter would want to stop being your friend because of a secret? It’s coming up to a full year after his comments on my birthday, and he’s still trying to ‘make it up’ to me.”
I smiled slightly. James constantly managed to mess up every time he attempted to help Lily – putting himself more and more in her debt. I opened my mouth to respond, but at that moment a small girl with curly, brown hair ran through the common room and up the girls’ staircase.
Lily sighed and started to gather her parchment and books. “I’m sorry, Remus.” She gestured to where the young girl had disappeared. “That’s Joyce; she’s having a few issues settling in so I offered to help her… but I could stay here, if you want?”
“No, no.” I replied immediately, waving off her offer with my hand. “Go help her, honestly. I’m nearly finished anyway.”
Lily bit her lip and nodded cautiously. “Okay, but I’ll find you tomorrow, alright?” I nodded and smiled in thanks. “Remus? I mean it.” I looked at her again; her voice had changed to sound much more authoritative than before. “There’s very little that you could say, which would make them stop wanting to be friends with you.”
I sat in the armchair, completely lost in my own thoughts, and only interrupted when Peter collapsed in the chair next to mine. “Where’d Lily go?” he asked, his eyes scanning the common room for her fiery red hair.
“She’s looking after one of the First Years.” I nodded towards the girls’ staircase.
“Oh.” Peter paused, slightly putout. “I haven’t finished this essay yet, do you reckon I can get her to help me later on?”
“No need.” I smiled, gesturing to my own parchment. “I’ve nearly finished, you can look at mine when I’m done.”
“Can’t I just copy?” Peter whined.
“No way.” I laughed, jokingly pulling my parchment away from Peter’s eyes. “How will you learn anything if you just copy off me?”
“Yeah yeah.” Peter rolled his eyes, “Just tell me when you start teaching, yeah?”
I shook my head slowly. “I couldn’t be a professor.”
“Why not?” Peter frowned. “You’re good at teaching us all the work we didn’t learn, and always make us do our homework – and you’re always trying to stop us doing anything too bad. You’re practically a professor already. Why wouldn’t you want to teach?”
Because they’d never let me. I shrugged. “Dunno, it’s just not for me.”
Peter rolled his eyes, as if I was being silly, and dug his hands into his deep pockets. “Here,” he passed me a small wrapped package, “they hadn’t cooked any treacle tart so I reckoned you’d prefer chocolate cake instead.”
“Cheers, Peter.” I replied, immediately opening the package to see a large chunk of chocolate cake with thick chocolate icing. “Looks good.”
We’d used the kitchens often since Peter’s discovery. It was easier to grab some breakfast from the kitchens when we’d slept in, rather than rushing down to the Great Hall and scraping the bowls for whatever was left. Or if we’d had a detention. Or if Sirius had missed dinner due to Qudditch. Or if we wanted a midnight snack. It had fast become one of our favourite spots, and since the majority of the older students were visiting Hogsmeade today, including the Slytherins, Peter volunteered to get some food whilst we were working.
We both ate our treat whilst writingg on our parchment. After a while, Peter looked up from his work, with ink smudged on his nose, and looked confused. “Remus?” Peter queried slowly. “It’s Saturday… weren’t you supposed to be completing your detentions with Hagrid today?”
My eyes grew wide, and my heartbeat seemed to beat increasingly louder. “Oh god!” I slammed my quill on the table. “I am – oh god I’m so late.” I started to gather my things in a rush; bundling everything into my arms.
“Remus,” Peter grabbed my arm. “It’s fine – I’ll get it. Just go.”
I smiled at my friend. “Thanks, Peter.” I pulled on my shoes, which I’d kicked off whilst studying. “I’ll see you at dinner, alright?”
I didn’t wait for his reply, and instead sped through the common room and scrambled out the portrait hole. The fat lady called out, but she was behind me before I could pause to make-out what she’d said.
I was sprinting through the hallways and leaping down the staircases, three steps at a time, and still seemed to be taking forever. I leant forward slightly and stretched my legs with each stride, feeling my joints burn with a familiar pain. If it wasn’t the day of a Hogsmeade trip, I wouldn’t dare risk running like this; faster than a normal person should be able to run and bent over in such an animalistic way. But Hagrid had been good to me, and Dumbledore had let me off easily with my detentions. I didn’t want to let either of them down. I didn’t want to be that late; I didn’t want it to look like I wasn’t grateful for everything they were doing. Even if I didn’t understand why they were bothering.
I slowed to a normal pace as a group of girls rounded the corner, yet still sprinting at such a speed that I wasn’t able to decipher who the people were. The large doors in the Main Entrance were open and I bounded down the last of the stone steps.
It was still raining, and the wind was picking up. I absent-mindedly gave a thought to my warm coat lying over the trunk at the end of my bed. Instead, I pulled the cuffs of my long-sleeved top over my knuckles, and continued to sprint down the hill to Hagrid’s hut.
The grass was slippery and I skidded a few times; my trouser bottoms soon became caked under thick mud and my feet started to grow numb within my shoes. Spike was standing against the window; his wrinkled face visible through the glass. I knocked quickly against the wooden door and heard heavy footsteps approach from the other side.
“Remus,” the familiar rough voice greeted me, sweat and rain running down my cheek. “Wha’ yer done?”
“Done?” I gasped, my breath coming back much quicker then it would to most. “No – I just ran. I-I’m sorry I’m late.”
Hagrid moved to the side and gestured for me to enter. “Le’ me gues’ – James stole yer shoes, ‘gain?”
“No,” I rolled his eyes and accepted the rock cake being shoved into my hands, “he’s too busy moping that he didn’t get on the team.”
“Ah,” Hagrid nodded knowingly. The small hut had become a spot, other than the kitchen, that they had started to visit frequently. The hut was always warm; a welcome escape from the growing winterly breeze. And Hagrid always provided food, though that wasn’t always as welcome as the warmth. James saw it as a great benefit that they were allowed to talk about teachers and moan about work, and Hagrid would just pretend he hadn’t heard – and, on the odd occasion, he had even added his own comments about a particular teacher he disliked.
My detentions had been simple in comparison to my friends’. Hagrid had decided to share some of his knowledge about magical creatures and places that were relatively safe in the Forbidden Forest – though it had taken a while to eventually persuade Hagrid that he really didn’t need to show these places to my friends. Just the thought of James, Sirius or Peter exploring the forest on a full moon, brought shivers to my back and goosebumps to my arms.
What amazed me the most was Hagrid’s pride in every creature. Even the Slobberwugs and the Kicking Brews. Hagird talked of every creature with a certain pride; as if they were all magnificent.
The giant of a man left the corner where he’d set up a kitchen and started towards me. “James’ taken it alo’ harder then I thought.”
“Tell me about it,” I muttered. “I keep trying to speak to him about it, but he just clams up! How am I supposed to help him, if he won’t speak to any of us?”
“Ah,” Hagrid nodded, “well you migh’ jus’ have to wait ‘til he tells yeh.”
“Afte’ all, ever’one has secrets.” Hagrid continued, his black beetle eyes looking at me meaningfully. My hair fell into my eyes as I bowed my head, and my fingers fiddled with the edge of a rock cake. Hagrid endlessly confused me; he knew about my condition. And it was almost like he didn’t care. He seemed interested, but for the most part, just treated me like a normal student. I just couldn’t understand why. “Tha’ reminds me.”
Hagrid pulled himself up, and stomped across the wooden hut; causing the plates to chime against the wall and making Spike move from her comfy sitting position beside the fire. “Professor Dumbledore asked me t’ give yer this.”
It was an old book; the kind that sits on forgotten shelves and is primarily used to hold the others upright. The cover was slightly torn and it smelt of decaying paper. It appeared to be a deep green book, with faded gold lettering. ’Brothers by day.’ shone under the candlelight on Hagrid’s table; the author’s name wasn’t written.
“What is it?” I asked unsurely, not used to accepting gifts from people who knew of my lycanthropy.
“It’s an ol’ book.” Hagrid nodded, returning to his seat and pushing Spike out of it. “’Bout twin brothers; one of ‘em got bitten, see.” I looked up sharply, my heart suddenly beating oddly. “The one who din’t ge’ bitten wrote ‘bout growin’ up with his twin. Migh’ explain some things.”
I swallowed thickly, my fingers drifting gently over the title. “Like what?”
Hagrid coughed. “All things.” I looked at Hagrid with a brow raised, Hagrid sighed. “Yer got out the Shriekin’ Shack las’ time, din’t yer?”
I swallowed again, my fingers began to tap the cover nervously. I wasn’t used to talking about my affliction; and certainly not in such a calm, non-judging tone. “Yeah, I-I did, I think.”
I felt my cheeks warm. “I remember… a rabbit. But that’s all. I just woke up in the forest. And… the rabbit lived.” This fact still bemused me; on the rare occasion that an animal had strayed past my parents’ magically made cage at full moon, I’d awoken to blood.
Yet, Hagrid nodded in understanding. “If yer weren’t hungry, then yeh wouldn’t attack.” I tilted my head to the side in confusion. “Werewolves are lonely creatures; if they don’t need feedin’ then they’d be plenty fine with playin’. Humans are differen’, of course. Werewolves know their place in the hie’achy, but humans, they’re the only creatures that don’t fit. They’d be attacked on site.”
I noticed my jaw was hung open slightly; in this short moment I’d learnt more about the wolf inside me, then I’d ever learnt before. “Bu’ yer escaped. Tha’s in there, too. Yer’ve started to grow; the wolf grows at the same time. Dumbledore didn’t realise that wolves are ahead; there’s not many books, see. Bu’ he’s stren’thened the door now, yer won’t escape ‘gain.”
I stroked the book in my hand, suddenly feeling a lot lighter then I could ever remember feeling. It was like someone cared or at least understood; like I wasn’t alone anymore. Peter:
It was like watching a practice game, where the quaffle just got passed between two players, and you sat in the crowd, watching the ball move from one player to the other, in complete silence.
“I just do.” Sirius said for the countless time, kicking his trunk in agitation.
“You said that before, but why?” Remus replied with growing annoyance.
Sirius sighed and collapsed onto the edge of his bed, his hands rubbed his eyes tiredly. We’d all noticed a change in Sirius over the last couple days; he had gone from muttering and snarky comments, to moody and ready to lash out. In a way, it reminded me heavily of my father when he’d been fired from another job.
Remus and I had decided not to mention it, hoping that Sirius would eventually come clean. I was unsure when it started to happen, but there was a tenseness within the group that hadn’t been there before. James had thrown himself into pranking the First Years and older Slytherins, but no longer seemed to care for the consequences; I was sure he had detention for the rest of the year at this point.
Remus seemed as lost as I was, but instead of talking to me about it, he now threw himself into an old book that he had started carrying around with him. Reading it like it would provide some answers to this mess.
“It’s… personal.” Sirius said at last, pulling his hands away from his face and revealing the deep bruises under each eye; he hadn’t slept properly in several nights – making it much harder to sneak to the laundry room.
So far, no one had noticed. I could only thank my luck stars – which rarely made an appearance – that nobody had seen me sneaking out the room with a pile of robes. I always borrowed James’ cloak, sure that he wouldn’t mind.
My dad had been as true to his word as I’d expected. He hadn’t contacted me once in the last month, and I’d known better then to ask him for a couple knuts for a new quill. Rosier had thought it hilarious to levitate my bag in the hallway and then drop it with a crash. My inkpot had smashed, spraying blue ink all over my belongings, making my previously best quill a dried lumpy mess. But I still used it, nevertheless.
“For God’s sake, Sirius.” Remus snapped, slamming his book on the bed beside him. “You can’t just tell us to find you a way into Hogsmeade without telling us anything.”
“Urgent.” Remus sighed, grinding his teeth together. “Yeah, you already mentioned that.”
James, who had been lying in bed and badly pretending to be asleep, now muttered to himself. I felt my chest tighten as I caught a few of the words. No good could come of this, surely.
Sirius seemed to feel the same way, and his narrowed eyes focussed on James’ bad. “Want to say that a bit louder?”
“I said,” James pushed his covers to his hips as he sat up in bed; his unruly hair messier then usual, “that you probably just want to get some stuff for your precious broom.”
“Shut up, James.” Sirius snapped, digging his nails into the mattress below him. “I got into the Quidditch team. You didn’t. Get over it.”
I gasped, locking anxious glances with Remus. “Yeah?” James spat angrily, kicking off his sheets and clamouring out of his bed. “Well the only reason they chose you, was to piss off the Slytherins that a Black was on the Gryffindor team.”
Sirius physically recoiled, almost as if he had been hit. He became unnaturally still, just stared at James, stunned.
I’d had very little sympathy for James over the last month. He was behaving like Sirius had betrayed him, like being refused entry to the Quidditch team was the worst thing in the world. I knew that it wasn’t. But I’d stayed quiet; there was no point in upsetting the applecart. But now, I felt a sudden pang of loyalty towards Sirius; it was clear that he had a lot on his mind. “That was completely out of order.” I said softly to James.
James, in turn, looked shocked that I’d spoken up. “But-“ James began before trailing off, almost like his words were catching up with him. They probably were, I noticed that James had a tendency to speak without thinking in the slightest when he was riled. His eyes slowly grew wider, and his lips parted. Sirius was still motionless.
“Oh God, Sirius, I didn’t – I didn’t mean that.” James stuttered, walking over to Sirius cautiously. “I didn’t, honest. I spoke without thinking, I swear.”
There was a long silence, only interrupted by James calling Sirius’ name. Eventually, Sirius looked up from the edge of his bed, his eyes holding more fury than I’d ever seen before. “I’m not just a Black.” he spat. “Why does every thing I do, get measured against my fucking name?”
I winced as Sirius swore; I’d never heard him swear before. The older students, sure. But not him. Sirius stood up, so that he was eye level with James. “You have no bloody idea what you’re talking about, alright?” He chuckled humourlessly. “It’s a school team, why the hell does it matter that much? You can always try again next year – but instead you’ve been acting like a fucking prat all month. Why? What on earth could be worth it?”
James’ mouth gaped. I looked at Remus, stunned. He exchanged the same look. None of us had been expecting this reaction. Not for the first time, I began to think that perhaps my friends had as much a secret as I had.
“M-My Dad.” James stuttered, his cheeks growing red as he looked to the ground. After a short pause, he looked up at us self-consciously. “I-I know it’s stupid. B-but my Dad was the best at Quidditch in the school – he got offered to play in the leagues after Hogwarts. He was Head Boy, and top of his class in, like, everything. He went into the Auror program instead, and – and he became head of that too.” I noticed James spoke about his dad in both a prideful and resentful tone. He fiddled with the edge of Sirius’ bedcover. “I guess he’s just left pretty big boots to fill. It’s hard.” James looked at us desperately, willing us to understand. “I’m sorry. I’ve been acting like a prat. I know, like a six year old. I’m sorry. Sirius, I’m really sorry.” I swallowed thickly, watching for Sirius’ reaction. James didn’t often apologise. Sirius’ gaze seemed to soften somewhat, but otherwise he stayed silent. James looked at him helplessly. “I guess you wouldn’t understand, then.”
“Yeah I wouldn’t.” Sirius said quietly, his hand flexing into a fist and then stretching it out nervously. “Because my dad’s a pathetic drunk who doesn’t know what day of the week it is.”
Remus breathed in sharply. It was known that Sirius didn’t talk about his home life. It was a topic we’d all stayed clear of, yet James had said something to force Sirius to give us a certain amount of trust that he didn’t seem to have with anyone else.
“The only thing he’s capable of doing is proving that you’re worthless, or punishing you for not being the pure-blood prince they were all hoping for.” Sirius spat vehemently. “So no, I don’t know what it’s like to want to be like your dad.”
My mouth hung open. His father seemed to be similar to my own, but at least my dad was trying. And before the accident, I’d always wanted to be like my dad. Even now, I admired him for always looking for work, always fighting to continue. But, it was almost like Sirius had never had that. Like he’d grown up hating his own father.
“But,” James glanced in my direction, almost as if wanting to ask if it was acceptable to say, “your mum-”
“If you didn’t get enough of an impression of my mother at Kings Cross, then your welcome to try again at Christmas.” Sirius replied nastily, his fist still curling and un-curling with venom. “Pure-Blood maniacs – the lot of them. I was supposed to be in Slytherin. I’m the first one to not be. You don’t understand, they hate me.”
James opened his mouth, as if to say Sirius was over-reacting. I stayed silent; there was a truth in Sirius’ eyes that I didn’t want to question. “I’m the Black heir.” Sirius continued. “So they keep me away, locked in my room all holidays so I can’t ‘contaminate’ Regulus.” Sirius paused. “He’s their ‘heir’ now. And he shouldn’t be. Because he’s good, I swear. But he won’t speak to me, and he’s changing.” Sirius took a deep breath, becoming aware that he’d spoken fast, like he’d started and couldn’t stop himself from continuing. “I can see it.” Sirius added miserably.
“I need to get to Hogsmeade, because my cousin’s there. She’s run away, and she wouldn’t, unless something big happened. I don’t even know if she made it away safely.” Sirius looked lost.
“What do you mean ‘safely’?” Remus asked in concern. Sirius just looked at him.
“Andy is Bella’s sister.” Sirius paused, looking unsure. “Bella favours darker spells. If something has happened, then I’ve a feeling Bella wouldn’t have reacted nicely.”
“Andy’s different?” I questioned, recalling the Head Girl from last year in green-rimmed robes.
Sirius nodded, a small smile creeping along his lips. “She is. She’s always been my favourite. Andy’s the one who persuaded my parents to get me the broom.” He added softly.
James looked up sharply. “Your broom?”
Sirius nodded, biting his lip nervously. “I-It was my birthday a couple weeks ago. They don’t usually get me presents since I got sorted… but Andy convinced them that I should have one.”
The room was silent. “Y-your birthday?” James gasped. Remus looked appalled and I frantically pushed my mind back to last year. We’d had a small celebration at this time last year, hadn’t we? I bit my thumb nail nervously. How had we forgotten his birthday?
Sirius looked uncomfortable. “It’s not a big deal-”
“Of course it’s a big deal!” James said loudly, his face was the picture of alarm. “Sirius – God – I’m so sorry. I-“
James seemed at lost for words, a first. We all were. I recalled how Sirius had even remembered my birthday in summer, and had taken the time to send me a letter and a present. And I’d forgotten his.
At last, James spoke determinedly. “We’ll get you to Hogsmeade, I swear. And then, we’re going to celebrate your birthday.”
Sirius looked at James for a moment, as if he daren’t believe what he was saying, before stepping closer, and pausing. “I’m sorry.” James said quietly.
“Me too.” Sirius said even quieter.
They both looked at each other, and pulled the other into an embrace. Before parting quickly, and coughing uncomfortably.
“Has anyone any idea where to start?” I said after a moment.
The others shook their heads unsurely, except Remus. He just sat on his bed, looking at the book in his hands pensively. The gold lettering, ‘Brothers by Day’ shone in the candlelight. James:
Sirius and Peter were at breakfast. Remus was at Hagrid’s; he said he needed to ask him about something. I said I’d meet them in the Great Hall. I was late. And sat on my bed.
It wasn’t that I was avoiding them, really. It wasn’t them that needed avoiding. Especially today; Sirius’ cousin was supposed to be in Hogsmeade at this very moment, and we still hadn’t found a way out. I’d offered by cloak, but as Remus pointed out, the gates were magically locked. I also suggested we use our brooms to fly over, but then Peter had suggested that if there wasn’t at least a ward to stop brooms, there’d be one at least to inform the headmaster of students trying to escape. And that would get us nowhere.
Sirius had sent letters to his cousin, as she’d suggested, but had nothing in reply so far – making him more agitated and impatient to leave. I’d received three more detentions, starting Monday, when I’d taken the blame for his pranks that he’s done to distract himself. Sirius had major issue with this; I’d had to physically restrain him. But, as I’d pointed out, Sirius had Quidditch practice and needed to see his cousin. The only reason I hadn’t been given a weekend detention was because most teachers assumed I’d already have one. If Sirius claimed it was him, he would get detention over the weekend, and would miss Quidditch practice. Then I’d still get detention for lying. It was pointless, in my mind at least. Besides, I needed to make it up to him for acting like a prat.
So, really, there were two reasons I was sat on my bed rather than go to breakfast. The first, that if the teachers saw me then they’d realise I haven’t got a detention and would swap them from weekday to weekend detentions. And secondly, it was a Saturday, and over the last month Jack had deemed Saturday the perfect day for a ‘talk’. I’d managed to get away from him every week, so far.
A part of my brain, a very small part, rationalised that I would have to speak to him eventually. But, I just really didn’t want to listen to him explain why I didn’t get in the team. It was pathetic. I know. But at the same time, it mattered.
My mum seemed to have known that I didn’t get in, probably due to my lack of news. She sent me one of those mushy letters that you hide from your friends, and stuff to the bottom of your trunk – but keep nevertheless. Dad took longer, apparently he was busy at work, but it came by the end of the week.
I know he didn’t mean to sound patronising, but the more he said that there would be other times I could try-out, I became more and more aware that he hadn’t needed those chances. It was the final line that got me the most; ‘…next time tell me, we shouldn’t have had to wait for Jack to write.’
It had been Jack.
Now, I was sat on my bed, prolonging the time until I had to go downstairs with every second. Sirius probably thought I was ignoring him again, even though that was the last thing I wanted to do. My anger and embarrassment… and possibly a slight but of jealousy, was now fully directed at the Seventh Year who I’d often considered to be a brother.
It hadn’t taken until Sirius’ wake-up call, to realise that he’d done nothing wrong. He wasn’t bringing his broom everywhere to gloat, well, not all the time at least. And when he walked into our room wearing his Qudditch robes, he wasn’t doing it to rub in my face that I didn’t own any, he just hadn’t had the opportunity to change yet – even though there were some perfectly fine changing rooms beside the Quidditch pitch. And when he talked to the older years about upcoming plays, and changes to practice time, it wasn’t to boast that he was on talking terms with older students, it was essential information – though he could have waited until I’d left, rather than talking over me at mealtimes, just saying.
But it was fine. Great, in fact.
Sirius needed the team more than I did, and that was the truth of it. I felt guilty when I thought about how I’d treated him over the last month; I was pathetic. I acted like a child. And children don’t get on Quidditch teams.
Sirius had mentioned his relationship with his family a couple times since the start of First Year, but I’d always just shrugged it off – assumed he was overreacting. Then, this week, he’d suddenly decided to share what his home life was really like. And in comparison, not getting on the Quidditch team really wasn’t important.
But as Sirius was speaking, the others were watching him. It seemed that none of them were conscious of their own actions. Remus kept looking at the book in his hand and Peter watched Sirius so intently; it was like he also understood what Sirius had gone through. All of them were hiding something. I knew it with a certainty that I sometimes got.
I’d been aware for some time that Remus had a secret for a while; Sirius and I had often discussed his ‘tragic family’ that meant he’d had to leave the school. Peter often pointed out that it was a monthly thing; someone always got injured in his family once a month. At first, we’d thought of the possibility that he was just sneaking off – perhaps he knew a way into Hogsmeade? Perhaps he had a girlfriend?
The thought made my nose scrunch, and made Sirius chuckle nervously. Peter had gone bright red. Who’d want a girlfriend? My mind unconsciously scanned over the girls’ in our house; Mary, with her fits of giggles and strange taste in music. Amelia, with her blonde plaits and strict demeanour. And Lily, with her angry green eyes and her snappy comments. Why would anyone want to date them? Or date them, but then have to spend time with them? No, thanks.
This idea had been dismissed pretty quickly, though. After all, both Madam Pomfrey, who Peter so had a crush on, and Professor McGonagall, we were still looking, both seemed to know of his secret. They wouldn’t have let him sneak out to see his girlfriend, surely.
And, Peter. Did he really think I didn’t notice that my invisibility cloak was in a slightly different place to where I’d left it the night before?
I kicked one of the bedposts in agitation and leaped off the bed. It wasn’t that I minded, though it would have been nice to be asked. It was that Peter also felt the need to keep things hidden; I had no secrets, at least no important ones, from them, but they all had secrets from me. Was it trust? Did they not trust me?
I looked around the room, to check that I was alone. I was. Peter’s trunk opened easily; the lock was old and very weak – it just took a small shove for the thing to spring open. Inside was a jumble, of too big clothes, of clothes with patches and some with just holes. Some had ink smears, whilst others had missing buttons.
We weren’t stupid; it was obvious that Peter’s family wasn’t the wealthiest in the wizarding world. From his too small pyjamas, to his too large shoes. His fourth or fifth hand school robes to his ripped school bag. How he stayed silent when we discussed new items that we planned to buy, or how he looked at me when I wore my thick, winter robes that my parents sent via owl post. It wasn’t until I noticed he was still using the sticky quill, covered in ink, that I began to realise just how little he had.
A quill was a couple of knuts. That was nothing. Surely, his parents would buy him a new one. They couldn’t be that poor. I mean, look at the size of him – if they stopped spending on extra food, then they’d be able to buy him proper clothes, right?
I closed the lid quickly at the sound of feet on the stairs outside; I just made it back to my bed when the door opened.
Remus paused, his eyes scanning the room before coming to a stop on me. “Come on.”
I stood up cautiously. “Where?”
“Just come on.” Remus spoke determinedly, his hands holding the faded green book tightly, so that his white knuckles stood out against his pale skin.
I frowned, but stooped to pull on my shoes. “But, where are we going?”
“James.” Remus snapped.
“Alright, alright.” I tied the last knot in my laces and went to grab a thicker robe. Remus sighed impatiently behind me. “What? It’s cold.”
“Just hurry up.” Remus said through gritted teeth. “And bring your cloak.”
I stood up, completely confused. Remus had always had a slight issue with my invisibility cloak; both for stealing it off my dad, and also because when we used it, it was often to create mischief. If Remus was suggesting to bring it, then there was something seriously wrong.
“James,” Remus sighed heavily, “please, hurry up. I might- I won’t – just hurry.”
He spoke as if convincing himself out of something; never a good sign. “I’m ready.” I spoke quickly, grabbing the cloak out of my trunk and walking towards the door. “I best wear it if we’re going near teachers; I don’t want them to think I’ve got free time.”
Remus just rolled his eyes and strode out the door. “Well,” I muttered, pulling the cloak over my body and following him from the room.
It was always an odd experience, albeit fun, to walk through the common room invisible. With hindsight, I probably should have waited until I’d gone through the common room before slipping on the cloak. That way, I wouldn’t have had to jump on a sofa when a group of fourth year girls stormed towards me, and then I wouldn’t have accidently hit a Fifth Year in the head, and then he wouldn’t have started arguing with his friend. And I wouldn’t have had to crawl the rest of the way when some First Years were practising their aim with purple splats of paint against one of the walls that I was passing. And Remus could just walk straight through. I could see his smirk. Git.
After what felt like hours of dodging people in corridors, jumping over sinking steps – they were always trying to trap me whilst under my cloak – all whilst attempting to keep up with Remus, who was becoming paler by the second. On more than one occasion, he stopped in the hallway and began to turn back around – like he’d changed his mind – before closing his eyes, taking a deep breath and continuing on his path.
Sirius and Peter were beside the main doors. The sculpted patterns within the oak door framed their heads like halos, as they waited for us to arrive. Peter looked completely confused, and Sirius looked agitated and impatient – how he always looked when he was about to distract himself. Remus seemed to notice.
“Sirius, Peter,” Remus called, making our two friends turn in our direction.
“Where’s James?” Peter asked curiously, his eyes searching in the empty space around Remus.
Remus gestured towards me with a jerk of his head, and continued towards the door. “He’s in detention, remember Peter?” Sirius raised his eyebrow and Peter played along.
“Oh yeah,” he paused, watching as Remus continued through the door. “We’re going outside?”
“Looks like it,” Sirius muttered, his brows completely furrowed as he noticed how pale Remus had become, and how tense his shoulders were. “Remus? You alright?”
“Hm?” Remus looked up, pausing from biting his lip. “Yeah, fine. Come on.”
Sirius and Peter exchanged a look, but followed nevertheless. I went afterwards at a slower pace, very aware that the Professors were likely to be lurking at breakfast time. As soon as the wind hit, I was extremely glad for grabbing my warmer robes. Sirius had goosebumps coating his arms, and Peter began to shiver. Remus, though he was wearing considerably less than the rest of us, showed no outward reaction to the late autumnal, and early winter breeze. He just continued walking, muttering to himself quietly.
It looked like we were heading in the direction of Hagrid’s hut; the ground started to slope downwards and the giant man’s hut could clearly be seen under a cloud of thick smoke pumping from his tall, stone chimney. After a minute, or two, I decided I was a safe enough distance from the castle to remove my cloak; I didn’t want it getting spotted with flecks of mud and mildew from the long grass. I hadn’t the slightest idea how to clean it, and it would be pretty hard to explain to the house elves why the cloak kept disappearing every time they attempted to scrub it.
“Remus,” I called loudly, over the wailing wind, “where are we going?”
“You’ll see.” he shouted back, continuing to march downwards. Sirius looked at me and shrugged, Peter grumbled about the mud stains over the bottom of his robes.
I was starting to look forward to Hagrid’s hut; even if it meant a drooling dog and suspicious sandwiches. To my surprise, though, Remus started to turn to the right.
“Er, Remus?” Peter questioned. “Are you sure this is the right wa-?”
We rarely came to this part of the grounds; Remus said it was boggy and except for the moving tree, which grew inches by the day, there was nothing out here. We didn’t mind though, there was too much to find in the castle to be bothered by a bog land.
However, the further we walked, the more I came aware of the solid ground beneath our feet. We were getting closer and closer to the tree. “Remus?” Sirius asked curiously.
He sighed, and came to a stop several metres from the tree. The teachers referred to it as the ‘willow’; apparently it had only been planted the summer before we started, and it had an extremely vicious nature.
“There.” Remus pointed at the tree hesitantly.
“What?” I asked, looking for something worth the trek in the cold.
Remus swallowed thickly. “Sirius, you need to see your cousin, right?”
Sirius’ eyes immediately glued on Remus’ face. “Yeah, of course.” he said eagerly, before hesitating, “but we haven’t found a way yet – even if there is a way and-?”
“That,” Remus pointed again at the whirling tree. I felt my stomach go tight and my heartbeat quicken, as my mind registered with what he was saying, “is the pathway to Hogsmeade.”
My mouth opened as I searched for something to say. Peter gasped beside me and shuffled slightly closer in excitement. Sirius remained still, his eyes focused on the tree that was fighting the wind’s breeze for it’s last few leaves. “But- I mean, how? Where did you find out?” Sirius spat out at last.
Remus opened his mouth, and then closed it just as quickly. His eyes wandered over the three of us that stood before him and seemed to struggle for an answer. “I-I-” he stuttered, his teeth immediately biting his lip and his fingers fiddled with the round buttons on his coat nervously. “I overheard Madam Pomfrey talking about it to McGonagall.” He eventually said, his shoulders relaxing slightly and his eyes on the floor. I knew that look; it was the same one he gave when we asked how his Uncle was recovering.
I was about to question it, but Sirius shook his head in my direction. ’Later.’ he mouthed. “Remus?” Sirius asked quietly. “How do we get in?”
I eyed the swinging branches nervously and took a step back. Peter seemed to also come aware of how close he’d gotten and immediately scurried closer to us. Remus grimaced. “That’s the easy bit.” He paused, his eyes flicking to the castle nervously, looking the picture of regret and confusion. “Follow me.”
A/N: I swear these chapters are getting longer and longer! But, on the bright side, the updates are getting quicker and quicker! :D
Well, what did you think? Secrets are starting to unravel! I would really appreciate it if you were to leave me a review in the box below. I'll always reply :)
Until next time, Keira :)
P.S. The First Year Sorting has been edited slightly to adjust for Andromeda, and I'm editing the Christmas chapter now. The beginning chapters have also been given a slight touch-up, if anyone wanted to re-read extracts to make sense of Andromeda now having left Hogwarts. :)
P.P.S. Also, I'd be extremely grateful if you'd take a look at my newest story, 'Into the Wilderness'. It follows Charlie and Rolf as they fight to help their loved ones after the final battle. :)
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