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By the Light of the Moon by Queenie Shacklebolt
Chapter 1: A Dangerous Secret
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A Dangerous Secret
A young boy was stretched out at the base of a tree, his eyes closed against the bright sun, a light breeze playing against his face as he listened to the sounds of birds chirping and fellow students chattering around him. It was a beautiful day outside, and the boy felt relieved to be able to just lay here and relax, with no demands on his time. His breathing became even as he began to doze off; he was very tired, and he had been all week. His professors seemed to have given him more homework than he had ever had in his life, and he had been too tired to get even half of it finished. He’d not gotten so much as a wink of sleep for the past 3 nights. The boy let a massive yawn escape his mouth and adjusted his schoolbag behind his head to make him more comfortable. The sound of the softly lapping water of the nearby lake was extremely soothing, and before he knew it he was fast asleep. An indeterminate amount of time later, a particularly loud burst of raucous laughter caused the boy to crack one eye open. Three boys were walking towards him, clapping each other on the back and laughing uproariously at something one of them had said.
“Remus!” a boy with shaggy, dark hair shouted at him. “Hey Remus, we’ve been looking all over for you!”
The boy named Remus grinned. The three boys who were now beginning to flop down next to him at the base of the tree were his very best friends. They were all in the third year at their school, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and they were members of the same school House, Gryffindor. Sirius Black, the boy with the shaggy dark hair, Peter Pettigrew, a short and rather stout blonde boy, James Potter, who wore glasses, had very untidy jet-black hair, and was a Seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and Remus himself were practically inseparable.
“So, how many classes have you skived off today so you could lay about on the grounds and nap?” Sirius asked with a playful smile.
“I haven’t skived off any classes. I came out here after Potions. I haven’t even been sleeping for that long.”
Remus glanced down at his watch. Seven ‘o’ clock. He had fallen asleep sometime around three. Around him, long shadows had begun to creep across the grounds, and the chattering students of earlier had disappeared. “Blimey, did I miss dinner” I guess I have been sleeping a while.” He gave a half-hearted laugh. “Oops.”
“No matter,” said Sirius heartily,” We’ll just sneak down to the kitchens later and nick some leftovers for you. Won’t we Peter, James?”
“I can’t, I’ve got detention with McGonagall tonight, remember?” said Peter.“And I’ve got to go or she’ll give me detention for the rest of the week.”
“Oh Peter, just tell her you got sick or something and had to stay in”, said Sirius.
“I can’t do that!” said Peter anxiously. “She’ll know I’m lying! And she hates when students lie to her. Then she’d give me detention for a year.” He shuddered.
“Aw, it’s alright, I knew you would never stand up to her, mate”, said Sirius. “James and I will just have to go on our own. We’ll make an adventure out of it- annoy some house-elves.” He laughed. “How about it, Potter? Don’t tell me you have something to do too. No Quidditch practice tonight, right?”
“What?” James had finally looked up from the little Golden Snitch he had been repeatedly releasing and then catching. “Oh, yeah, no practice ‘til Thursday. Hey, Remus”, he said, cutting Sirius off as he opened his mouth to speak again,” Why were you so tired today, anyway? You practically slept all day yesterday too. Exhausted from too much homework or something?”
“Er, yeah, that’s it,” said Remus. “I told you were taking on too many classes this year, Remus,” said Sirius. “You still have two more years until you’ll qualify for prefect, and we all know you’ll be made one, so stop trying to look like the perfect student all the time.”
He was smiling as he said it, and Remus knew there was no insult in his words. Peter then chimed in with the statement that he was sure he’d be made a prefect too, and they all started joking about fellow students in their year, and whether or not some of them would be made prefects.
“Severus would never be made a prefect, Dumbledore knows anyone who’d even bump into him in a corridor would be cursed into oblivion,” Peter said, and Remus laughed loudly along with Peter and Sirius.
James merely gave a half-smile, however, and Remus noticed out of the corner of this eye that James was watching him closely. The Snitch was still buzzing excitedly in his hand, and James kept turning it over absentmindedly. He wore an odd expression, and Remus thought it looked like a mixture of suspicion and concern. His face was slightly screwed up as though he was trying to penetrate Remus’ thoughts. Remus continued to talk with the others, and when James continued to stare at him Remus finally turned and blurted, a bit more defensively than he had meant to,” James, why are you looking at me like that?”
James, who seemed startled that Remus had spoken to him so suddenly, said,” I wasn’t looking at you!” a little too quickly.
Sirius and Peter snickered; apparently they too had noticed James’ staring. “Yes you were”, said Peter“, “It looked like you were trying to read his mind or something.” He did an impression of James, eyes narrowed, staring at Remus.
“Oh, well I wasn’t”, James said hastily. “Trying to read his mind, I mean. Or looking at him weird. Why would I?"
James’ cheeks were flushing slightly, and he wouldn’t meet Remus’ eye as he said, “C’mon then, let’s go back up to the castle, it’s getting dark.” The boys gathered up their schoolbooks and bags and made their way across the grounds towards the oak front doors.
Remus awoke the next morning feeling rested and refreshed. He had finally gotten a full night’s sleep, and he hummed quietly to himself as he buttered his toast during breakfast in the Great Hall. “Dunno what you’re so cheery about”, mumbled Sirius who was sitting beside him. “Did you forget we have double potions with the Slytherins first thing? I don’t think I can take much more of my dear cousin Narcissa smirking at me every time I enter the classroom and giggling to her Slytherin pals about what a blood traitor I am. I think I just won’t go. James, want to meet at the Quidditch pitch instead? I’ll play Beater while you look for the Snitch.”
“Sounds great Sirius, but I’ve got a Charms test I can’t miss,” replied James. “But I’m thinking about missing History of Magic, Binns’ll never notice.”
James leaned across the table, presumably to ask whether Remus and Peter were planning to miss any lessons too, but he was distracted by the arrival of hundreds of hooting owls, which were swooping and diving towards specific students, delivering the morning mail. A copy of the latest Which Broomstick landed in front of James who immediately began to flip through it eagerly. Remus moved his bowl of cereal out of the way just in time as a brown screech owl landed right where the bowl had been. Two packages were tied to its’ leg. Remus untied the packages, gave the owl a pat on the head, and watched it soar off. He then rifled through his mail. The first package was, as expected, that day’s Daily Prophet. The second piece of mail was a letter addressed to him in emerald green ink. It had no return address. He opened it curiously.
In the same green ink, words in slanting handwriting read: “Remus, would you be kind enough to please come to my office at six o clock this evening. I have a matter I’d like to discuss with you. I do hope this won’t be a bother. Sincerely, Professor Dumbledore. P.S. I rather enjoy Chocolate Frogs.” Remus stared down at the message for a moment, then folded it up and put it in the pocket of his robes. He was not surprised to read the rather random anecdote about the Headmaster enjoying Chocolate Frogs; he had received this kind of message before, but never had it been delivered by owl. Professor McGonagall usually forwarded Dumbledore’s notes on to Remus.
“Who was the letter from?" Peter asked as he began to slice a large stack of pancakes. “Oh, uh, Mum”, Remus lied.
His friends were not aware that Remus sometimes had to have private meetings with the Headmaster. As the meetings happened only rarely, Remus felt no need to inform them of them. Besides, he didn’t want them asking him why he and Dumbledore met privately. Of course they would ask him what he and Dumbledore talked about, and Remus did not want them to know the answer to that question. At that moment, the bell rang dismissing the students from breakfast and alerting them that they had five minutes to get to their first class.
Remus whiled away the hours until his evening meeting with Dumbledore, going to his classes, and afterwards helping Peter compose a difficult (but fairly easy for Remus) essay for Defense Against the Dark Arts on the correct way to ward off a boggart. At five to six, Remus excused himself by saying he’d promised to help tutor another classmate in the library, and headed in the direction of Dumbledore’s office. He stopped in front of a stone gargoyle, and said quietly but firmly “Chocolate Frogs.” The gargoyle jumped aside to reveal a slowly revolving spiral staircase. Remus mounted the staircase and waited until it brought him to a handsome set of large, shiny oak doors. He knocked timidly.
“You may enter”, said a serene voice that belonged to the Headmaster. Remus pushed open the doors and entered the circular office. Albus Dumbledore was sitting behind his desk smiling at him, his blue eyes twinkling over his half-moon spectacles.
“Please Remus, sit.’ Remus sat down in the chair opposite Dumbledore. “Chocolate Frog?” he asked, gesturing to a bowl on his desk that was full of them.
“Er, no thanks”, said Remus in a slightly nervous voice. He wondered what Dumbledore needed to tell him.
“Well, if you’re sure”, said Dumbledore kindly.
He leaned forward on his desk and put his fingertips together in a thoughtful sort of way. “So Remus, I apologize for tearing you away from your studies and your friends, but this shall not take long. However, what I have to say is a serious matter, and I expect you to pay close attention.”
Remus nodded, and wondered again what was coming. Dumbledore continued on,” It has come to my attention that several students have had successful attempts at, ah, incapacitating the Whomping Willow using a very strong Freezing Charm. Don’t worry,” he said, pausing at the look of shock on Remus’ face, “I believe they know nothing of the tunnel underneath. They are merely doing it to annoy the Willow. Freezing Charms have never been successful against the Willow before, but Professor Flitwick has informed me that a sort of upgraded version has recently been invented and it is much stronger than its’ predecessor. Professor Flitwick, along with myself, are working hard to ensure that the Willow will be able to repel these charms if students attempt to Freeze it again. We are working quickly, and I’m quite sure the problem will be solved by the next full moon.”
Remus didn’t quite know what to say to this; he opened and closed his mouth a few times before deciding on “Er- well that’s good.”
Dumbledore said nothing, but merely peered at him intently for a moment over his spectacles. Then he let out a soft sigh. “I do now wish to frighten you, Remus”, he said. “I know you don’t like to talk about these things if you can help it. And although what I’ve just explained to you is an urgent matter, you should not worry. The students of this school will always be well-protected.”
Remus looked down at his knees so that Dumbledore wouldn’t notice his cheeks flushing; he could feel the familiar prickling of shame beginning to make his whole face feel hot. Dumbledore bent his head so that he was able to meet Remus’ eye.
“And you’re one of those students”, he reminded him gently.
“Thanks Professor”, Remus mumbled. He forced himself to look up. “If that’s all, may I- ?”
“Yes, you may go”, said Dumbledore, answering Remus’ unfinished question. “If that is indeed all you want to discuss?”
Remus looked into the Headmaster’s kind face with its’ knowing expression. For a second, Remus hesitated. He thought about how he hadn’t slept for the past 3 days, how his body ached all over from having his muscles contorted and stretched, how James had been looking at him in that strange way earlier…”Yes”, he said as he got to his feet. “Yes, that’s all Professor.”
Remus did not allow himself to breathe freely until he had descended the moving spiral staircase and the stone gargoyle had jumped back into place, concealing the entryway to Dumbledore’s office.
Once Remus turned a corner and was out of sight of the gargoyle, he broke into a run, and his breath came in fast, shallow gasps. He had no idea where he was going or why he was running; he just knew he had to get as far away from Dumbledore’s office as possible. It was as if he were literally trying to put the conversation he’d just had behind him. Down several corridors, thorough a tapestry, down a staircase (being careful to skip the vanishing step), Remus didn’t stop until he saw a door to a boys’ bathroom on the second floor. Skidding to a halt, Remus threw the door open and ran inside. Once in, Remus took a quick glance around and was greatly relieved to find that he was alone in the bathroom. He leaned against the cold stone bathroom wall and clutched the stitch in his side. He was still panting heavily and he’d broken out in a cold sweat. He felt weak and shaky.
Cursing himself silently for not accepting Dumbledore’s offer of a Chocolate Frog, Remus walked over to the nearest sink and gulped some water from the faucet. The ice-cold water felt so good that he splashed some all over his face, and then wiped himself dry with the sleeve of his robes. Remus’ gaze lingered on his own reflection in the mirror above the sink.
He looked as he always did: his hair was sandy blonde and he had light brown eyes. He was thin, but not overly so, and he was of medium height, not too short, not too tall. He appeared to be a perfectly normal 13-year-old boy. Remus leaned closer in towards the mirror; he placed his hands on either side of the sink so he could study his reflection more carefully. Remus thought that if someone were to look closer at his face, they would notice the deep purple shadows under his eyes and the pale grayish tinge to his skin. While his cheeks had been flushed with embarrassment in Dumbledore’s office, there was no color at all in them now. Remus realized that he looked a bit ill.
Was this why James had been looking at him funny earlier? He’d asked Remus why he had been so tired lately…did he think him merely ill, or did he suspect that maybe everything wasn’t as it seemed? Remus gave a little groan of frustration and gave the sink a pound with one fist. James had always been so clever. Remus figured it was only a matter of time before he realized that one of his best friends was hiding something. Remus sank slowly to the stone floor and put his head on his arms. He was hiding something.
And no matter how many clandestine meetings with Dumbledore he had, no matter how often he insisted to his friends that his mother was sick, and that he had to go visit her once every month, Remus was sure that one day they would discover his secret. And if they were smart enough to find him out, no doubt other people would be too, and then the whole school would know, and Dumbledore would have no choice but to send him on the train straight back home, where he would have no friends, and only parents who feared him. Remus shut his eyes tight, as if this might stop his thoughts from snowballing horribly. Dumbledore had said he was one of many Hogwarts students who would always be well-protected…but Remus doubted that any of the other Hogwarts students needed to be protected from themselves. He knew that Dumbledore had been trying to make him feel better when he’d acted like all of the students, including himself, were to be protected against some unseen evil. But Remus wasn’t fooled. They were at school for crying out loud, what dangerous thing did students need to be protected from while at school? The giant squid? No matter what Dumbledore said, Remus knew the truth. The only dangerous thing at Hogwarts was him. That’s because Remus was hiding something. Remus Lupin was a werewolf.
Every month during the full moon he became a fully-fledged monster. As soon as night fell and the moon came out, Remus’ body would convulse, his muscles would twist painfully, and his bones would reshape themselves until he was no longer a 13-year-old boy, but a vicious, snarling beast. It had been this way since Remus was eight.
He’d lived in the English countryside with his mother and father in the years before he came to Hogwarts. Remus didn’t often think about his life before Hogwarts, but when he did he remembered a carefree and happy boy who played Quidditch with his dad and the other neighborhood boys, and helped his mum degnome their garden while they laughed about who could throw them the farthest over the garden wall. Remus’ parents had told him about Hogwarts since he was a baby, and he remembered how he and the other wizard boys in his neighborhood wrote (usually with the help of someone’s mother) Hogwarts acceptance letters to themselves, and how they would jump around excitedly shouting “We’re going to Hogwarts! We’re going to Hogwarts!” until they would double over from laughing so hard.
Remus’ father even made him a fake wand fashioned out of a stick, so that Remus could stomp around the house and annoy his mother by yelling made-up spells at the top of his lungs. Every night before he want to bed, his mother would come into his room and read him wizard fables like the Tales of Beedle the Bard, and old stories of the Four Founders of Hogwarts. She would leave his window curtains open at night so he could fall asleep under the moon and the stars. Remus used to think the moon, with its’ silvery glow and serene mystery, was the most beautiful thing in the world…Remus remembered the night he begged his parents to let him stay out just a little later so he could wrap up a Quidditch game with his friends. After the game ended, Remus remained alone on the makeshift Quidditch pitch, which was set up on a green hill behind his house. He wanted to have a few more go’s at the Quaffle before he went in for dinner. It had been a nice night, Remus thought. The air had been warm and still, and the moon had shone brightly above the hill. There had been nothing at all unusual or menacing about that night. When Remus kicked the Quaffle into the empty crate that’d been turned into a goal, it never made it in. An enormous wolf had jumped out of the long hill grass and caught the red ball in its’ jaws. Remus stared at it, and it stared back, and then it was leaping, attacking, clawing, biting…
The next thing Remus remembered was waking up in a hospital bed covered head-to-toe in bandages. His mother was crying softly in a chair next to him, and his father seemed to be arguing loudly with a wizard Healer. Then the Healer walked over to his bed, and his father wouldn’t look at him, and his mother’s soft crying turned into racking sobs, and the Healer was telling him he’d been bitten by a werewolf…
That Quidditch game on the hill had been the last he’d ever played. After that fateful night, his parents didn’t allow him to play with the neighborhood children anymore. He stayed in his room day after day, disappearing into books, and trying to pretend he didn’t hear his mother crying. Remus hated hearing his mother cry, but somehow his father’s stony silence was louder than her sobs. Remus knew that his parents still loved him, but they did not know how to deal with the new truth about their only son. Once a month, his parents would pack some things and get a hotel room in the city, leaving Remus alone to transform into a man-eating wolf. Remus’ father used powerful locking charms on all the windows and doors so that there would be no way for Remus to escape the house and harm someone. Every time his parents returned home, Remus would apologize again and again for wreaking havoc on the furniture. They would insist it was all right, and retreat into their bedroom, where they would stay all day until his mother emerged to prepare dinner in the evening. She never read to him anymore; she didn’t ask him t help her degnome the garden.
When Remus turned 11 he got his letter asking him to come to Hogwarts. His mother and father told him that they saw no way he would be able to go because his presence would put the other students in grave danger. Remus was sadder than he’d ever been; he ‘d wanted to go to Hogwarts his whole life, and now he would never get to. But hope had come in the form of Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. He’d shown up at Remus’ house one afternoon, and asked to speak to Remus and his parents. Dumbledore had said that he, as well as some other members of the Hogwarts staff, was aware of Remus’ unique situation, and that he thought it should not prevent him from attending Hogwarts.
Dumbledore explained that he had a plan to protect Remus from harming any other students while at school. Once a month, when it was time for Remus to transform, the school nurse would escort him to an underground passageway that was unknown to all of the students and most of the teachers. The tunnel led to a boarded-up, dilapidated house that stood alone on a hilltop in Hogsmeade Village, just down the road from Hogwarts. Remus was to spend his nights as a werewolf in the house, and he would return through the tunnel to school the next morning with no one having been the wiser. To prevent students from discovering the secret passageway, Dumbledore had had Professor Sprout, the Herbology teacher at Hogwarts, plant a magical tree over its’ entrance that hit and struck anyone or anything that came near it. The tree could be frozen only by pressing a knot on its’ trunk. The school nurse would use a highly advance spell in order to reach through the tree’s slashing branches and press the knot, allowing Remus to slip down the tunnel.
It was a brilliant plan, and Remus’ couldn’t believe that the Headmaster of Hogwarts himself, who was surely a very busy and important wizard, had chosen to spend his time devising a scheme that would allow Remus to come to Hogwarts. Remus’ parents had been predictably shocked as well, but they immediately agreed with Dumbledore that their son ought to be able to attend Hogwarts like any other student. Remus sometimes wondered if his parents had just been eager to see the back of him.
Remus raised his head off his arms and looked around the bathroom. He was surprised no one had come in to use the toilet yet. He supposed he’d look pretty silly if someone came in and saw him sitting on the bathroom floor like this. With a sigh, Remus got to his feet and headed for the bathroom door. He suddenly felt very tired. He was still lacking for sleep after having been up all night biting himself and mutilating furniture during the full moon. Remus left the bathroom and made for Gryffindor Tower, whereupon entering he went straight to his dormitory, collapsed on his bed with his robes still on, and promptly fell asleep.
Several days later, Remus sat in between Peter and Sirius during breakfast, his copy of the morning’s Daily Prophet propped open against the juice jug. “You finish that essay for McGonagall yet?” Sirius asked no one in particular.
Peter stuffed a sausage into his mouth and James stifled a yawn; Remus continued to read an interesting article in the Prophet having to do with the appointment of some new Aurors in the Ministry of Magic. “Oi! Am I talking to myself or what?”, Sirius asked.
“Yeah, I reckon you are, mate,” said Remus without looking up from his paper.
“Yeah, nobody feels like talking about homework this early in the morning,” said James, stifling another yawn with the back of his hand. “And no, I haven’t finished it,” he concluded while shoving a doughnut into his mouth as Sirius grinned.
“That’s what I thought,” he said. “Let me guess: Peter, you haven’t finished it either.”
Peter looked up from the sausage he had been about to pick up with a panicked look. “Essay for McGonagall? What essay? Was it due today? I- oh no,” he finished desperately. James and Sirius laughed.
“So I guess that means he hasn’t gotten it done yet,” said James, still chuckling. “What about you, Remus?”
Remus had been expecting this. He had finished his essay. He’d finished it almost a week ago, actually. He sighed and put a finger in place in the Prophet to hold his page. “Yes, I have, and no, none of you can copy it. Peter, I’ve been tutoring you in almost every subject, why can’t you remember your homework? I told you to write it all down so you can keep track of it!”
“Oh, come on, Remus,” said James. “We’re all just not as good as students as you.” He clasped his hands together and stuck his lower lip out, batting his eyelashes, and putting on a simpering voice. “Pretty please let us copy? We promise we’ll never ask you again.”
When Remus said nothing, he added “Pretty please with a Chocolate Cauldron on top?” Sirius and Peter roared with laughter, and Remus couldn’t help but break into a grin.
His friends could be so hard to resist; he knew he shouldn’t let them copy the hard work he’d done, but they were his best friends so he didn’t really mind.
“Oh all right,” he said as Peter, James, and Sirius slapped hands. “But you’d better get it written up quickly because I’m handing it right in once we get to Transfiguration. And change up the words a little because there’s no getting a straight-copied essay past McGonagall.” “And”, he added as they all began to gather their bags as the bell dismissed them for the day’s first class, “do your own work next time because this is the last time I’m letting you see mine.”
“Oh, absolutely,” said James earnestly, but Remus saw him wink at Sirius and Peter as Remus bent down to pick up his books.
Remus had a free period after History of Magic, and he decided to spend it in his favorite squashy armchair catching up on homework in the Gryffindor common room. He wrote a few lines on his parchment to start an essay for Professor Binns on ancient sorcerer councils, then, deciding it to be too boring, traded it for his astronomy homework.
He was beginning to analyze star patterns when a voice in his ear said cheerily, “Hey Remus! Mind if I sit next to you? I’ve got some work to do too.”
Remus looked up to see a girl with vivid re hair settling in an armchair beside his and pulling books, quill, and parchment out of her bag. She had a kind, round face and plump cheeks.
“Of course you can sit here, Molly,” Remus said moving some books out of the way at his feet to make room for her. “This chair hasn’t got anyone’s name on it as far as I can tell,” he said as he pretended to look the chair over, searching for a name written upon it.
Molly laughed, and her cheeks pushed up so that her eyes became slits. Remus thought she resembled a chipmunk, but in a good way. He wasn’t so sure Molly would be glad to hear this opinion, though. “So,” he said hastily,” What kind of homework have you got?”
“Well, I’m supposed to be practicing a hovering charm for Flitwick, but I don’t feel like it.” She gave another cheery laugh. “So I’m just getting started on my lunar chart for Astronomy. I’m falling behind in Sinistra’s class, I’m not too good at interpreting charts and things.”
She pulled a piece of parchment in front of her, dipped her quill in some ink and began to scribble some notations on the parchment. Remus went back to his own star chart, occasionally glancing up to watch Molly chew on the end or her quill, a little frown on her face as she tried to decipher the complicated-looking chart.
“Having trouble?” Remus asked.
“Could you tell?” Molly smiled and pushed her parchment in his direction. “Do you think you could take a look and see if I’m doing it right?” “I’m not asking you to do it for me”, she added quickly,” but I know you’re good at Astronomy so maybe you can just look over my chart, see if I’ve got all the moons in the right places?”
Remus nodded and reached for her parchment. “Yeah, sure, I’ll have a look.” Remus studied the chart. Molly had most of the moons in the right places, but she had written down the wrong cycle for Earth’s moon. “See, here,” he said, leaning towards her and pointing to the mistakes. “You’ve got some things mixed up for our moon. There’s a first quarter, then it’s full, then there’s a third quarter. And the cycle takes place over a month, not two weeks,” he said pointing to another mistake she’d written. He smiled and leaned back in his chair, handing Molly back the chart. “And everything else was right.”
“Oh good, thanks Remus. Y’know, you’re probably the only reason I’m still scraping by with and Acceptable in Astronomy. You’re so good at it, especially with all this lunar stuff.” Remus nodded slightly. “I always get so confused,” she continued. “How am I supposed to know how many days the moon is a half, and how many days it’s full? And let’s face it, who really cares?”
She laughed merrily, and bent back over her parchment again. Remus laughed with her, and then picked up his Potions book and pretended to be absorbed in it. He didn’t want Molly to notice what was surely his pained facial expression. What must it be like, Remus wondered, to have no idea when the moon became full or not? To really not care less about how many days it stayed in each phase?
Remus knew that Molly could never imagine that the reason Remus was so adept at analyzing lunar charts was because the details of the moon’s cycle were permanently ingrained into his brain. It was hard to forget when the next full moon was coming, when its arrival meant that he would morph into a terrifying, bloodthirsty werewolf. No, I don’t think that’s something anyone could forget about too easily, Remus thought bitterly. Forcing all thoughts of the moon from his mind, he began to read the chapter on Sleeping Draughts in his Potions book, concentrating hard on every word.
At five to eleven, Remus bade Molly goodbye, packed up his star chart and books, and headed out the portrait hole towards the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. A tough old wizard named Professor Barnaeus taught Defense Against the Dark Arts. Well, this year anyway. It’d been taught by someone else last year, and by someone else the year before that. Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers at Hogwarts never lasted for more than a year. There were rumors that the job was jinxed. Remus entered the classroom and hurried to find a seat in the back next to James, Sirius, and Peter. The class chatted amongst themselves until Professor Barnaeus cleared his throat and called for quiet.
“All right everyone, settle down,” he said in his gravelly voice. “We’ve got a lot of work to do today, we’ll be practicing on boggarts again.”
There was some excited murmuring from the class at this; last class Barnaeus had shown the students the proper way to get rid of a boggart and had taught them the Riddikulus spell. He’d brought a real boggart to class that had been hiding in a cardboard box. However, many of the students hadn’t gotten a chance to tackle the boggart as the class period had ended before it was their turn.
“Ok,” said Barnaeus,” the boggart’s still here in this box,” he said, gesturing to the cardboard box in the front of the room. “And we’re going to start with the students in the back this time, as they didn’t get a chance with it last class. Remember, it’s going to become what you most rear. ‘Spell’s Riddikulus. You know the drill. Ok, let’s go. Jenkins, you’re up.”
Remus noticed that the students seated in the back, his friends included, were all looking at each other rather nervously. Now that it was their turn to face the boggart and confront their supposed greatest fear, they weren’t sure what to expect. The boy named Jenkins rose from his desk and approached the box cautiously, his wand held aloft. Barnaeus gave him the thumbs-up, and removed the lid of the box. A corpse with rotting flesh and bloodshot eyes advanced toward Jenkins, its’ arms outstretched. Several people shrieked.
“Come on now, Jenkins, say the spell, you can do it,” Barnaeus urged. “Ri-ri-riddikulus!” Jenkins yelled, and the zombie turned into a fluffy teddy bear. “Good!”, Barnaeus said briskly. “Come on, who’s next-“ He looked towards the back of the room. “Marquet, you’re up!”
Remus tore his eyes away from the bat that Marquet’s boggart had transformed into to join in his friends’ whispered conversation. “I don’t want to do it,” Peter was saying in a high voice.
“Oh, yours’ will probably just turn into McGonagall or something,” said Sirius impatiently. “I want to face it, I know mine will turn into a huge cockroach, it’s what I’m most afraid of. But I want my chance with it,” he said eagerly. “I want to watch it turn into the Easter Bunny or something.”
Remus and James laughed, but Peter still looked nervous. Remus was about to tell him there was nothing to be afraid of when- “Pettigrew! Your turn, let’s go!”
Peter’s face went white, and his knees shook as he walked to the front of the room. “You can do it, Peter!”, James yelled.
“Yeah, give it hell!”, Remus chimed in. Barnaeus put a finger to his lips to signal them to be quiet, but James was still muttering “Come on, peter” under his breath.
With a loud pop the boggart morphed from a smiling baby (the last student’s creation) to a giant hand that was unattached to any arm or body. It scuttled creepily up the rows of desks, causing students to jump onto their desks to avoid its’ grasping fingers. It made its way towards Peter, and began crawling up his pant leg…”Riddikulus!”, he shouted, and the hand fell to the floor and became a fat rat that sat looking up at Peter.
“Excellent, Pettigrew!” said Barnaeus. “Potter, you’re up!”
As James approached the rat on the floor, his wand raised, Remus began to feel slightly panicky. He had feeling he knew what his boggart would turn into…or did he? What was the thing he feared most in the world? His train of thought was interrupted by a loud cracking sound. The fat rat had turned into a bolt of lightning that sizzled and sparked.
Remus could feel the burning heat from it; James said “Riddikulus” firmly, and with a flick of his wand, the lightning bolt flashed green once, and turned into a brilliant sun. “Lupin, up front!” Barnaeus jerked a thumb towards the sun.
With a deep breath, Remus rose from his chair and made his way slowly towards the sun. The light from it was blinding; Remus put a hand over his eyes to shield them. His throat felt very dry, and he realized his wand hand was trembling. Was a real live snarling, snapping, howling werewolf about to appear in front of him? He did not want to see it, didn't want to look into its awful face and know that he was seeing his own reflection. Heart pounding like mad, Remus raised his wand and squinted so he could barely make out the sun in front of him; he didn’t want to see the wolf, let alone have his entire Defense Against the Dark Arts class see it…but all that appeared there after the loud popping noise of the boggart transforming was silvery orb that hung in the air in front of him. It looked like a crystal ball…but just as Remus aimed his wand and said “Riddikulus!” he realized what the silvery orb was. It was the full moon.
The popping noise sounded again, and the moon was replaced by a tiny, fluttering golden Snitch. “Ok, Black, you’re the last one! Let’s go!”, called Barnaeus.
Remus looked at James and Peter; both wore puzzled expressions. He knew they were probably wondering why Remus was afraid of crystal balls.
He avoided meeting their eyes, and turned his attention to Sirius, who was now swaggering confidently to the front of the class. He had a lazy grin on his face as he approached the Snitch; it transformed with yet another loud pop. Expecting to see and over overly large cockroach like Sirius had predicted, Remus was surprised to see a man he recognized, if only from pictures, standing in front of Sirius. The man had sculpted cheekbones, shiny dark hair, and a square jaw. He was very handsome. He looked just like Sirius, except he was older, more distinguished. Remus knew this was Sirius’ father. Sirius had shown Remus a few photos of him in Black family portraits before, but Remus couldn’t fathom why Sirius’ boggart had decided to become him. He looked at Peter and James; Peter looked dumbfounded, but James was staring determinedly at the floor. The class had gone very quiet. None of their boggarts had ever turned into an actual person. Sirius was staring at his father open-mouthed. He seemed incapable of speech. His eyes looked oddly bright. Remus looked from Sirius’ face to his father’s , and when he looked into Mr. Black’s cold, lifeless, black eyes and saw the harsh frown lines etched on his face Remus instantly understood why Sirius would be afraid of him. Professor Barnaeus was jibing Sirius to say the spell, but Sirius just stood there frozen, as if he’d been petrified.
“Riddikulus!”a voice roared. Remus turned; it wasn’t Barnaeus who’d shouted the spell- it was James. The boggart gave a loud pop once more, and Sirius’ father disappeared into a wisp of smoke.
“Blimey, it’s nearly three in the morning. Where do you reckon he is?”
“Dunno. Think he’ll be back by morning?”
“Of course he’ll be back by morning, what do you think he’s done, run off home to London or something?”
“I don’t know…maybe.”
“Oh, come off it Peter, you know as well as I do that’s the last place he’d go. And how would he get there? Broomstick? He’ probably asleep in an empty classroom.”
Remus cracked an eye open. The whispering voices of James and Peter had roused him from an uneasy sleep. He had gone to bed worrying about Sirius, who hadn’t been seen since Defense Against the Dark Arts and hadn’t shown up for dinner. The dormitory was completely dark; Remus squinted and he could make out the images of James and Peter sitting up in their beds. “Hey,” he whispered, pushing back his covers and sitting up as well.
A loud snore suddenly sounded from one of the neighboring beds, causing Remus to jump. He didn’t wish to wake the other boys in their dormitory, so he pointed to the door and signaled for James and Peter to follow him down the spiral staircase and into the deserted common room. “So what’s up?”, he asked once they were all seated in armchairs by the unlit fire.
When Peter and James said nothing, but merely exchanged dark looks, Remus said “Come on then, you woke me up with your whispering, I know something’s up. Is it Sirius? Has he been back to the dormitory at all since I went to bed?”
“No,” James said quietly.
“James reckons he’s really upset about what happened in Defense Against the Dark Arts,” said Peter. “You know,” he lowered his voice ominously,” with his dad showing up and everything.”
James nodded his agreement. “Yeah, I think that really rattled him. I mean, I’ve met his dad, and he’s no cheery bloke. He really seems to loathe Sirius from what I’ve seen of him.”
Remus frowned in concern; he’d never met any of Sirius’ family members, but from what he’d heard from Sirius, and oftentimes James’, descriptions of them they sounded like the type of wizards who didn’t like anyone if they weren’t completely pureblood and didn’t think a wizard was worth so much as an owl pellet if they hadn’t been in Slytherin. Wonder what they’d think of me, Remus suddenly thought glumly. Sirius had told him how much his parents hated Muggles and Muggleborns; what would they think if they knew that one of their son’s best friends was a werewolf, a “half-breed”? Although Remus knew that Sirius was nothing like his prejudiced family, (Sirius was the only member of his family to be sorted into a House that wasn’t Slytherin) he wondered briefly what Sirius himself would think if he knew the truth about Remus.
Not wanting to ponder the answer to this uncomfortable question, he instead said quickly “So what do we do? Go looking for him? I don’t think we should just wait until he shows up because one, we have no idea when that would be, and two, I think he should know that his friends don’t think he’s soft because his father turned out to be the thing he fears most above all others. I mean”, he looked meaningfully at Peter and James, “that’s why you think he’s hiding isn’t it? Because he ‘s ashamed?”
“Yeah,” said James slowly. He as silent for a moment, and when he spoke he looked as though he were choosing his words carefully. “I think he’s really embarrassed. I mean, the boggart didn’t transform into anyone else’s parents. There were some gits in the front who were snickering about it right after Sirius ran out of class.”
James’ eyebrows furrowed as he said this, and he looked angry. “We shouldn’t even be doing boggarts yet anyway, I thought they were O.W.L. level.”
Peter nodded fervently. “I thought so too,” he said. “I don’t think I was ready for all the creepy stuff that boggart turned into. Sirius is lucky he just go his dad in my opinion. At least he didn’t get a bodiless hand with a life of its own.” He shuddered.
This statement about what other people’s boggarts had turned into reminded Remus of a question he’d been wanting to ask James. “Hey, James, that reminds me, why are you so afraid of lightning? I didn’t even know you were.”
James shrugged and looked unconcerned as he answered “I guess because of the whole flying thing. I’m always afraid I’ll get struck into smithereens when I have to play Quidditch in the rain. Oh,” he said suddenly with a note of renewed interest in his voice,” now that reminds me. Why are you so afraid of crystal balls?”
“Crystal balls?”, Remus asked confusedly. “Wha-“, but then he remembered. The silvery orb that his boggart had taken the shape of, which Remus knew to be the full moon, could most easily be mistaken for a silvery crystal ball. “Oh, er.”
Remus wasn’t sure how he was supposed to explain this; James and Peter were both looking at him curiously. “I guess I’m just afraid to know what the future has in store for me,” he said, somewhat surprised at himself for pulling this thorough sentence out of this air. Peter and James looked rather impressed.
“Well that makes one of us who’s been paying attention in Divination,” said James, and they all laughed.
Remus still felt slightly uneasy though; he didn’t want his friends asking too many questions about why he was afraid of something that resembled the full moon. “So anyway,” he said in a hurried effort to change the subject, “what are we doing about Sirius? James, I say we get your cloak and go find him.”
He expected James and Peter to immediately agree with him, and was surprised when they didn’t. “Look,” said James, and he looked again as if he was taking great care with his choice of words,” If there’s anyone that’s there for Sirius, it’s me. I mean, no offense to you two, but I’m his best mate.”
Remus and Peter nodded; they knew that while the four of them were all best friends, James and Sirius were particularly close. They were really more like brothers than friends. Seemingly encouraged by Remus and Peter’s nods, James continued “But I’ve realized that sometimes the best way to be there for Sirius is to not be there for him. Let him have time to blow off all the steam he’s built up. Just let him come back when he’s ready. And he wants to talk about it, fine. If he doesn’t, fine. Sirius, he just…” James paused, searching for the right words,” he’s got so much pride in him that it’s better to not push him about anything.”
This little speech was greeted with vigorous nodding from Peter and silence from Remus. He bit his lower lip, thinking. “So, you’re saying that we just wait it out and do nothing? When he does come back, IF he comes back, won’t it look like we didn’t even notice he was missing? And do you think he’ll even be back in the morning? What if he doesn’t show up for his classes, and the teachers find out he’s been wandering around when he’s not supposed to? It’s not just YOU who knows ho reckless he can be, James,” Remus said, and there was something accusatory in his voice. “We all know it’d be Sirius’s idea of a great laugh if he camped out in the Forbidden Forest for a week.”
“Yeah, he’d probably think it was hilarious if we were sitting in class worrying about him, and he was deep in the forest having it out with a bunch of trolls. He’d say we should be jealous of his adventure.” James laughed, and so did Peter, but Remus didn’t think it was very funny.
This was just like Sirius and James; they were so casual about everything, always turning something that ought to be taken seriously into some light-hearted, madcap adventure. In many ways, Remus envied them. He wished he had the same ability to act like nothing was ever a big deal, to act like a person’s actions never had consequences, but he couldn’t. Perhaps because he had so much experience in mulling over dark and unpleasant matters, Remus just couldn’t understand how James and Sirius could be so carefree all the time.
“Ok then,” he said turning to Peter, “do you agree with me, that we should go look for Sirius and maybe stop him before he does something stupid, or do you agree with James, and think we should let Sirius have his little adventure, go missing for a week, and then come back and have the rest of the year’s worth in detentions from McGonagall?”
James gave an exasperated sigh. “Remus, I told you, Sirius will be fine. He’ll just get annoyed if we go looking for him. If he’s not here right now, then he doesn’t want to be. Believe me, he wants to be left alone. He doesn’t want his friends seeing him when he’s down. He’s just like his little snot-nosed brother in that respect. Those Blacks have got too much pride for their own good.”
Remus was starting to feel very annoyed now. “Oh, like you don’t? Don’t bother denying it,” he said cutting James off before he could open his mouth to retort. “Why am I the only one that doesn’t want Sirius to get in trouble?”
James rose from his armchair. “Remus, you’re not a prefect yet, and you won’t be until fifth year, so stop acting like one”, he said irritably. He rolled his eyes at Remus’ outraged expression. “I’m going back to be. Peter, you coming?”
Peter looked nervously from Remus to James. Remus knew he was trying to decide whose idea sounded like the easiest. “Sorry Remus,” he said, rising from his armchair too and emitting a big yawn. “I agree with James. Sirius will be fine. I’m going back to bed too.”
Remus threw him a disgusted look. “That’s so typical, Peter! Just agree with whatever James says. Can’t you have a real opinion of your own for once in your life?”
James was already making his way towards the spiral staircase; Peter gave Remus a hurt look and quickly followed James. Remus watched them go without regret. So what if he had hurt Peter’s feelings. It was true that Peter never did anything unless James approved of it first. And James was probably right about Sirius wanting to be left alone, but Remus didn’t care. He was going to go find him and let him know that his friends cared about him. It’s the least I can do, Remus thought grimly as he clambered through the portrait hole. If he didn’t abandon his friends when they needed him now, he could only hope that they would remember what he’d done, and one day, when he was very certain he would need it, they’d do the same for him.
Chapter 2: Midnight Murmurs
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Remus crept stealthily along the dark corridors of the castle, avoiding ones where he knew teachers offices to be. This was going to be difficult without the protection of James' invisibility cloak. He was surprised he hadn't run into Mrs. Norris or Peeves yet; if he was lucky he could make it to the entrance hall without encountering anyone or anything. After about ten minutes more of sneaking quietly through the halls, Remus finally began to descend the marble staircase that led to the entrance hall. He paused at the bottom of the steps, hiding behind a suit of armor to keep an eye out for Filch. When he was sure the coast was clear he tiptoed over to the oak front doors and pulled one open. He felt a rush of invitingly cool air spill over him, and he stepped out into the clear, dark night.
The hardest part was over, but he still had to make sure he wasn't seen by anyone. Filch was unlikely to be prowling the grounds this late at night, but there was always the chance that Rubeus Hagrid, the gamekeeper, might be out doing some gamekeeper duties around the lake or in the forest. Remus looked towards the dark edges of the forest and shivered. He wished he had thought to put on a cloak or at least change out of his pajamas. It was late September, and there was a definite chill to the air now.
Remus felt slightly foolish as he looked down at his feet in their scarlet and gold slippers. Maybe this hadn't been such a good idea after all. He had no guarantee that Sirius would even be outside. But this was something Sirius had done before, and Remus had a hunch that he would find Sirius sitting by the lake or laying under one of the great oak trees that littered the grounds.
Deciding to start by searching around the borders of the lake, Remus wandered across the grass in that direction. His slippers felt sodden as dew from the grass soaked through them. He had a feeling it would be extremely cumbersome to have to tramp through the Forbidden Forest in nothing but bed slippers. Wishing fervently that he would find Sirius before it came to that, Remus continued to plod around the lake. He didn't see Sirius anywhere; he squinted hard in order to try and see as far into the darkness as he could.
“C'mon, Sirius, where are you?” he muttered to himself as he scanned the trees surrounding the lake yet again.
And then- Remus thought he saw a flash of movement under a large, drooping willow tree not far from the edge of the lake closest to the Quidditch pitch. Remus broke into a run, and, slowing only when he approached the tree, sincerely hoped it was Sirius under the tree, rather than a foreboding intruder creeping around the grounds.
Remus stopped to catch his breath when he reached the tree, and when he pushed aside its long, hanging leaves, found himself face to face with Sirius.
“Oi!” he said, more loudly than he'd intended to. “What do you think you're doing out here?”
Sirius looked up at him from where he was stretched out on the ground, his feet propped comfortably atop a log.
“Aw, mate, lay off.”
He brushed his dark hair out of his eyes and stared up at the sky, as if stargazing.
“It's a nice night, isn't it?” Bit chilly though, pity you have to be out in your pajamas.”
For the first time, he grinned.
'They are nice pajamas, though. Love the Gryffindor color scheme.”
Remus rolled his eyes, but felt his frustration at Sirius fading as he plopped down next to him in the grass.
“Let me guess,” said Sirius grinning again.”James isn't out here with you because he said if it was obvious that I wanted to be left alone, then I ought to be left alone.”
“”Yep” said Remus, though he didn't return Sirius' grin.
“Smart one, that James. And I'm guessing Peter isn't out here because he pretended to agree with James just so he could get back to bed?”
“Right again” said Remus. And I'll save you the trouble of asking why I'm out here by saying it's because it's because I don't want you to be sitting out here all alone, even if that's what you want.”
Sirius looked as though he hadn't quite expected this answer, so Remus mumbled quickly “And I didn't want you to get caught and get put in detention for the next three weeks.”
“Now that's what I thought you were going to say” laughed Sirius.
Remus didn't laugh, and instead turned to Sirius and said, “Well look, I'm glad I found you here. We all reckoned you'd camp out in the forest, and Peter thought you'd somehow run home for a couple of days.” He glanced at Sirius. “I didn't think you'd be too keen to do that, though.”
“No, I don't suppose I would” said Sirius heavily.
“How would I even get to London, hijack the Hogwarts Express? And by the way”, he said cutting Remus off before he could speak, “I know what you all must think about my dad showing up in class. But I've figured out that that boggart must've made a mistake, I'm NOT afraid of my father, and he's certainly not the thing I fear most. You know that I don't care a rap about my family, they're a bunch of racist prats. And my dad's the worst of the lot because he won't even scream pureblood propaganda at you like my mum will, he'll just act like you don't exist. Not that I care” he added hastily.
“I don't even know why I ran out of the class like that, I guess I was just shocked to see him crop up in the middle of DADA, that's all. I'll be Barnaeus thought I was a bit of an idiot.” He glanced sideways at Remus. “I'll bet you do, too.”
“No, Sirius!” said Remus, and he felt himself getting frustrated again. “I don't think you're an idiot, and neither did Barnaeus. Honestly, I don't think that many people in the class really even understood what happened.”
Sirius looked slightly relieved at this, but his voice was agitated when he said “But Iknow you and Peter and James think I'm soft! Sirius Black of Gryffindor House, too much of a coward to face his own father iin a classroom for five seconds. And he wasn't even REALLY my father, he was a boggart! That makes it even more pathetic!”
“Sirius” said Remus firmly, and he looked Sirius right in the eye, “We don't think you're a coward. And if you think thta's what we think, then I suggest you get to know your friends better.”
When Sirius looked hopeful Remus continued, “And it's nothing to be ashamed of if you feel like you can't...like you can't...like you don't want to see your parents” he finished uncertainly. “I feel that way most of the time too.”
Sirius looked at him curioulsy. “You do? But you go to see them every month to visit your mum. I've never heard you complain about them before.”
Remus turned to look at Sirius. There were slight wrinkles of concern on his forehead, and his eyes were wide. Sirius could be so understanding when he wanted to be, Remus thought. It was something that, if you didn't know Sirius, you wouldn't expect of him.
Remus heard a light breeze ripple the lake, and saw the moon reflected in the water. It would be full in another two weeks, and he would have to hide once again in the old house in Hogsmeade and become the wolf. Remus looked at Sirius again, who was still waiting for him to respond, and Remus was seized by a sudden, wild impulse to tell him everything. They were completely alone, and here was Sirius with a ready ear.
Sirius was one of his very best friends, maybe he'd understand, Remus thought, his mind racing. Or maybe, said a small voice in the back of his head, he'd run screaming “Werewolf!” at the top of his lungs. No, Remus said to the voice, he's my best mate, he'll understand and know I' m still just me, Remus. But, argued the other voice, didn't he just say what a bunch of pureblood, racist prats his family are? He says he doesn't agree with them, but could you really blame him for now wanting to be friends with someone that, if he's not careful, could end up EATING him? Remus cringed.
“Remus?” Sirius' voice burst through Rremus' thoughts. “What were you thinking about? You looked like you were trying to make up your mind about something.”
“What? Yeah, I-“ Remus shoved the small voice to the back of his mind. “I was going to...I think I want to tell you something.”
“You think you want to, or you want to?” Sirius asked.He chuckled, but he looked a little worried.
Remus said nothing, but liked his lips nervously. His hands closed convulsively in his lap.
“Remus, what is it?” Sirius pressed. “You can tell me anything” he added firmly when Remus still did not answer.
Remus considered this, his heart now thumping loudly against his rib cage. Could he really tell Sirius anything? Remus' insides squirmed at the thought of opening his mouth and hearing the words “I'm a werewolf” come out of it.
But he had to say something; now that he'd even imagined telling someone, it was like he was bursting to say the words he dreaded. It was peculiar, Remus thought, how a secret could eat away at a person until they got to the point where they would sacrifice friendships, careers, marriages, ANYTHING, just so they wouldn't have to be alone with their secret for a moment longer. Even if Sirius recoiled from him, maybe it would be worth it just to be able to say the truth out loud. No, Remus decided, he didn't want to be consumed by his secret anymore; he was going to tell Sirius.
“Sirius” he finally said, and when he spoke his voice was shaky,” if I tell you something, will you promise to remember that it's still just be who's telling you this? I- I'll still be the bloke you know as one of your best mates.”
Remus wished his voice would stop shaking; this was going to be hard enough already without having to worry about keeping his voice steady.
“Yes, of course I promise' Sirius said impatienlty. “Remus, what's going on?”
He looked utterly confused, and a little frightened.
“Well” Remus said slowly. He wasn't sure where to begin. “You know how I go to visit my mum once every month like you said?”
Remus took a deep breath. “Well...it's al little more complicated than that.”
“What do you mean?” asked Sirius.
Remus could tell Sirius had no idea where this was going. “That's...not where I really go.”
Sirius looked bewildered.
“You mean you don't go to visit your mum? Where do you then?”
“I-I... I go somewhere else.”
Sirius laughed. “Oh, yeah, real helpful, Remus. You odn't go visit your mum, but you go somewhere else? Well, where is somewhere else?”
Remus' heart was now pounding so loud he found it impossible to believe that Sirius couldn't hear it.
“I have an arrangement with Dumbledore” Remus said, and his words tumbled out in a rush, “He lets me go tot a place where I can...where I can be myself. Only he and Madame Pomfrey and a few of the teachers know about it.”
“Remus” Sirius interrupted in a loud voice, “WHAT are you talking about? Dumbledore lets you go to a place where you can be yourself? What does that even mean?”
Remus knew he was doing a very lousy job of explaining things, and he knew that his words must sound to Sirius as if they made no sense at all.
“Look” Remus said quickly. “I'm not like the other students here. I'm not like ANYONE here. Unless anyone else has got a dark secret they're hiding, but-”
“Remus” Sirius interrupted again, “what-?”
“Just let me finish” Remus said angrily. He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “I'm not like you, Peter, or James. I'm different. I mean, I'm the same person I've always been, but in some ways I'm different.” He looked straight into Sirius' gray eyes. I'm a were-”
“An' jus' what do yer think yer doin' out here at this hour?” bellowed a gruff voice from behind them.
Remus and Sirius whirled around to see the enormous figure of Rubeus Hagrid looming over them. His boarhound Fang was leaping around at his heels, trying desperately to get at the large and slimy-looking slab of meat that was slung over his shoulder.
“ I jus' left me cabin ter head out ter the Forest ter give some meat ter the thestrals, an' I see two students sittin' out by the lake when they're supposed to be in bed. An' now I know it's you two, I 'spect yer partnesrs in crime Potter and Pettigrew are lurkin' out here as well.” Hagrid looked around at the nearest trees and bushes, as if he expected to see James or Peter hiding behind one of them.
“They're not here, it's just us” said Sirius defensively. “And it's not Remus' fault he's out here, he just came looking for me, should get detention it should be me.”
Remus knew that Hagrid was just doing his job by telling them off, but he couldn't help but feel annoyed. He had been about to tell Sirius the whole truth, and now Hagrid had spoiled the moment. Remus felt sure that he wouldn't find the courage to bring up the subject again, and it was obvious by the way Sirius was looking worriedly at him that he wouldn't soon forget their odd conversation.
“Ar, “I'm not goin' ter punish either one of yer” said Hagrid. “But I don't want ter see yer out after curfew again, understand? Then I'll have no choice but to tell Dumbledore on yer.”
Remus and Sirius exchanged quick glances of relief before Hagrid said “Come on then, I'll walk yer back up ter the castle.”
As the three of them walked back up to the castle entrance, Remus steadfastly avoided Sirius' eye, which was difficult because Sirius kept trying to catch it. When they reached the oak front doors, Hagrid bade them goodnight with a wave and trotted back off into the darkness, Fang barking loudly at his heels. Remus held open one of the doors for Sirius, and they entered the castle and began to climb the marble staircase.
“That was nice of Hagrid, letting us off the hook” Remus muttered, still not looking at Sirius.
“Yeah” Sirius said unconcernedly. “So are you going to finish telling me what you were trying to tell me? And will you please LOOK at me?”
Sirus grabbed Remus by the shoulder and turned him around so that they were face to face on the staircase. But Remus' courage was gone. Now that they wre back in the castle and heading back towards Gryffindor tower, everything seemed much more real. What had he been thinking telling Sirius that he had secret arrangements with Dumbledore, and that he didn't really go visit his mother when he went away each month? Had the words “I'm a werewolf” really almost come out of his mouth? Remus shivered involuntarily and grpped the handrail for support, neither of which went unnoticed by Sirius.
“Remus, whatever it is, you can trust me” he said. “I won't laugh or do whatever you're so afraid I'm going to do. I won't even tell James if you don't want me too. I promise.”
Sirius' face had a hard, determined look on his face, but his voice sounded soft and trusting.
Remus wanted to trust him, he wanted to believe that Sirius would still think of him in the same way after he heard the truth. But he couldn't. He had come so close to revealing everything, and now he just wanted to take it all back.
“Do you really promise not to tell James or Peter what we talked about?” Remus asked Sirius.
Yes, of course I do” said Sirius with a nod so fast that it caused some of his shaggy darkhiar to fall into his eyes.
“Good” said Remus. “Then I want you to forget about what I told you, it was stupid. Just forget I mentioned it, okay? Promise me that, too.”
“What?” said Sirius, and he looked outraged. “No way! Not after you've been acting so weird all night! You've got to tell me! I know something's wrong with you, and I want to know what it is!”
Remus suddenly felt very angry.
“There's nothing WRONG with me!” he shouted. “I'm fine! Just forget I said anything all right? Please just forget it!” There was a note of desperation in his voice.
Sirius glared at him, and said, “No promises.”
Remus scowled, and tore away up the staircase until he finally reached Gryffindor tower. He entered the dormitory, flung himself onto his bed, and wrenched the hangings shut. He lay awake for a long time, but he never heard Sirius come up to bed.