Chapter 2 : Midnight Murmurs
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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.
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