- Chapter Seven -
Dawn arrived much sooner than any of the Gryffindor boys expected.
Sirius was the first to wake and, as soon as he'd registered it was morning, he sat up.
The rest of the dormitory was still silent. Sunlight streamed in through the arched window, illuminating the wooden floorboards and the strange, metal heater in the centre of the room.
Sirius slid the duvet aside and climbed out of bed, yawning widely. His bare feet felt cold on the dormitory floor.
The other boys were still asleep, or so Sirius thought. He crept over to the window on the opposite side of the room and peered out, helping himself to a glass of water as he did so.
The Hogwarts grounds were huge, stretching into forest on his right, into lake on his left and into castle everywhere else. Directly in front of him, there was a reasonably-sized tree, clearly newly-planted. It shivered in the morning breeze, unnaturally, as though it could move its branches.
The Whomping Willow.
Sirius stared at it for a long time. It looked different from all the other trees, as if it was there for a reason.
But what was the reason? Why would Dumbledore plant a vicious tree in the middle of the grounds?
Was it supposed to be decorative? Did it have magical properties? Was it even guarding something?
Sirius sipped his water, feeling the icy liquid slide down his throat, still staring at the tree. Something creaked behind him, the sound of a foot on a floorboard.
Remus Lupin stood in his pyjamas, awkwardly clutching a pile of clothes to his chest. "Oh, hi," he said nervously. "I didn't realise anyone else was awake."
Sirius finished the last of his water and placed the empty glass on the table. "Nor did I. I woke up early and thought I'd take a look at the view."
Remus hugged his robes even more tightly to his chest. "Oh, really?" He took a couple of interested steps forwards. "What's it like out there?"
Sirius turned back to the window and shuffled over so there was space for Remus. "Come and see."
Sirius waved him over. "What are you waiting for? Come on!"
Shyly, Remus crossed the dormitory to stand next to Sirius. He looked out at the landscape. It was prettier than he could've imagined, in an odd, wild sort of way. "Wow."
"I know, right? The lake is massive. So's the forest - I wouldn't fancy getting lost in there. And you see that tree?"
Sirius pointed and Remus' stomach lurched.
The Whomping Willow. It was right there, looking out of place in the middle of the grass. It didn't look particularly vicious as it sat there on its own. But it did keep shivering slightly...
Remus turned away and found Sirius looking at him.
"See?" prompted the boy, clearly not noticing the slightly queasy expression on Remus' face.
Remus tore his eyes from the Whomping Willow. "Uh, yeah," he said quietly. "Yeah, it's great." He took a tiny step away from Sirius, wrapping his arms more securely around him, hugging his bundle of clothes tighter.
Sirius looked at him in surprise. "What?"
Remus bit his lip. "Oh, nothing," he said, as airily as he could manage. "I was just... I should probably be getting dressed."
"Getting dressed?" Sirius' surprise deepened as he took in the clothes clutched to Remus' chest. "What, already? You know it's only six O'clock, right? We don't need to go down to breakfast for at least another hour."
Remus took another step backwards. "Yes, I- I- I know. I just wanted to... erm... to use the bathroom."
Avoiding awkward questions was precisely the reason he had wanted to get up early. He'd decided last night that the best way to avoid revealing his secret was to get dressed in the bathroom. At all times.
Sirius blinked, but he said nothing.
Remus fled gratefully in the direction of the bathroom and locked the door behind him. He stood in front of the wide mirror and stared at his own reflection.
The scars stood out more than usual against his pale, tired face.
As happy as he was to be at Hogwarts, he couldn't help feeling dirty and out of place. Remus placed his robes carefully on a chair beside the door, then began to pull his pyjamas over his head, wincing as he took in the scars that ran over his torso.
He didn't know how he was going to keep his secret from these boys, these people that were clearly too curious for their own good, these people that seemed so wild and confident and... and...
It hardly made a difference. He was going to have to hide it from them, no matter what.
Outside the bathroom, he could hear Sirius moving around. There came the sounds of a trunk opening, then several thuds as things were tossed to the floor.
Without anyone to talk to, Sirius had decided to sort through his trunk.
Brand-new spell books and potion ingredients were dumped around him as he searched through the piles of socks, underwear and robes...
It must be in here somewhere.
He rummaged in his cauldron and found something metallic and hard. His heart skipped a beat: Aha! He'd found it!
But upon closer inspection, he found it was just his telescope.
Shifting position on the hard wooden floor, Sirius searched more vigorously. More spell books, more potion ingredients and more socks found their way into his hands...
Then, at last, he found it. The small Black family heirloom that his father had pressed on him before he'd left the house. A heavy, golden watch.
Sirius stared at it for a long time. The watch was expensive, ornate and therefore hideous. There was also the added repulsion that it had belonged to his father. And his grandfather. And his great-great-grandfather...
It was a symbol of purity and wealth, a symbol of everything the Blacks stood for. In other words, it was a representation of Sirius differences from the rest of his family.
He could practically hear his mother waving it in his face and saying, "This is what you should be wearing, Sirius. This is what you should be thinking".
Because, according to Walburga Black, following anything other than the traditional family values was wrong, utterly wrong, and nothing short of disgraceful when it came to preserving blood-status.
He glared at the watch in his hand, noticing with distaste that it had the Black family crest embellished on the back.
There was no way he was wearing that watch.
Absolutely no way.
He didn't have another, but he didn't need to know the time. He could make do without, for now. And he couldn't exactly write to his parents and ask for a new one.
The bathroom door opened and Remus emerged, his brown hair combed and with his pyjamas folded neatly under one arm. He was fully-dressed.
"Hi, Remus," said Sirius, glancing up from where he sat on the floor.
"Hello," Remus replied, dropping his pyjamas on his four-poster bed and turning to his own trunk. He pulled out a heavy-looking book.
Sirius looked up again, interested. "Hey, what's that?"
Remus blinked, but sat down on his bed and opened the book to a page near the end. He began to read. "Oh, just a book," he said vaguely, not looking up.
"What's the title?"
"'Great Expectations'. It's a muggle book. I was reading it on the train when Peter came in. I've nearly finished."
Sirius leaned against his trunk and yawned. "It sounds very... educational."
Remus smiled. "It's fictional, actually," he said, turning a page and reading on. "Set in the nineteenth century. It was written by a man called Charles Dickens."
"Never heard of him," said Sirius, failing to hide his disinterest.
Remus looked amused. "You've never heard of Charles Dickens?"
"Nope. Why? Is he, like, famous or something?"
This time, Remus' amusement was even more apparent. "He's about as famous as you can get in the muggle world."
"Really?" The split between wizards and muggles had always intrigued Sirius Black.
There was a silence while Remus continued reading, utterly immersed in the book.
In the bed along from Sirius, meanwhile, James was beginning to stir.
So was Frank Longbottom.
"Wassgoingon?" muttered James groggily, opening his eyes and groping around for his glasses. Clumsily, he placed them on his nose and sat up. "Is it morning yet?"
Sirius grinned from the floor. "It is indeed, James Potter."
"What're you doing?" James scrambled out of bed and leaned over to look at Sirius.
"Not much. Remus is reading and I was sorting through my trunk."
"What's the time?"
Shaking his head in distaste, Sirius checked his watch, which he'd abandoned on his bedside table. "Around half-past six," he said. He got to his feet and closed the lid of his trunk with a bang.
Frank groaned from the other side of the room. "Oi, don't do that! Close it gently, for Merlin's sake!"
Sirius smirked and began to unbutton his pyjamas. "Sorry, mate. Just getting dressed." He shrugged the pyjama top off his shoulders and let it slide to the floor. Then he pulled on his school robes.
"What time's breakfast?" James asked, standing up. He stretched and looked around for his own robes, which he had laid on top of his trunk the night before.
"Any time from six 'til half-past eight," Sirius replied, now pulling off his pyjama bottoms and replacing them with grey trousers. "We've got ages."
James began undressing, kicking aside his pyjamas with the same confidence as Sirius. "Ah, well," he said. "Might as well get dressed now." He turned to Remus. "How d'you get dressed so quickly?"
"Sorry?" Remus, who clearly hadn't been listening, looked up from his book.
James repeated the question.
"Oh," said Remus, not meeting anybody's gaze. "I got up early to... to..." He thought rapidly. He could hardly say 'get dressed in the bathroom'. "To read my book," he finished. "I've been in my robes for around thirty minutes."
"I'm not really a morning person," said Frank, who was also getting dressed. "I can't just ping up at the crack of dawn, like some people can."
"Same," said James, now trying to find some socks.
Please say he'd remembered to pack them... Please say that he hadn't left them at home...
He moved aside his copy of 'A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration' and looked under his set of brass scales. He found a pile of socks and relief flooded through him. Grabbing a pair, he pulled them on, then stuffed his feet into his shoes.
Sirius finished dressing and sat down on his unmade bed. "Is Peter awake yet?" he asked, peering over Remus' head at the lump that was Peter beneath the duvet.
Frank fastened his tie and looked at Peter. "Nope."
Sirius rolled his eyes. "Give him a poke."
But Frank pulled a face. "I would, but I can't reach from here. Tell Remus to poke him."
Sirius looked at Remus, seemed to decide that Remus wouldn't do it hard enough and leant over Peter himself. "Oh, all right. I'll do it, then." He gave the sleeping boy a hard jab in the stomach.
"Ow!" moaned the sleepy-eyed Peter Pettigrew. His blonde head emerged from under the covers, his fists rubbing the grit from his small, watery eyes. "That hurt, you idiots! I was trying to sleep!"
"Sorry, Pete," said Sirius, shrugging unapologetically. "But we had to wake you. It's almost time to go."
"It's okay," said Peter, massaging the spot where Sirius' finger had been. "I'm awake now, aren't I?"
"Good point, Peter," said James lightly, putting on his watch. "Now, you might want to get dressed. We'll leave without you if you don't hurry up."
Peter squeaked and tumbled out of bed, landing with a muffled thump at Remus' feet. Apparently, the fear of being left behind was too much to bear.
Remus helped him up. "Don't worry, Peter," he said kindly, as the smaller boy threw his clothes on in a panic. "They won't leave without you." Then, stowing his book neatly on his bedside cabinets, he hurried out of the dormitory and closed the door behind him.
James and Sirius both made to go after him.
"Why didn't he wait for us?" asked James to Sirius a few minutes later, as they hurried down from Gryffindor Tower, with Peter scrambling along behind them.
Frank had waited in the common room for his friend, a girl who was apparently called Alice.
"I don't know," said Sirius, frowning. "But he moves fast. He was gone before any of us could even stop him and I can't see him anywhere. He must be in the Great Hall already."
"Do you think we offended him?"
Sirius shook his head. "How could we have done? You haven't even spoken to him much, this morning, and I'm pretty sure that all I spoke about was Charles Dickens and scenery."
There was a small commotion from behind them and they both turned. Peter had tripped over one of the stone steps.
"Are you all right?" asked James, helping him regain his balance.
Peter nodded. "Yes, thanks. I just tripped. Have you seen Remus, yet?"
"No," said both James and Sirius together.
Peter's brow furrowed. "Why did he leave?"
Sirius sighed. "We were just trying to work that out, Peter," he said. He glanced at James. "We'll look for him in the Great Hall and, if he's there, we'll go and sit with him. Right?"
"And what if he's not there?" asked James.
"Then we'll... Oh, I don't know. I guess we'll just have to look for him somewhere else."
"And what," added Peter, "do we do if we see Remus at breakfast, but there's no room for us where he's sitting?"
Sirius groaned. "Look, I don't know, do I? Let's just improvise. We'll know what to do if we find him."
They had arrived in the Entrance Hall, where several other students were walking through into the Great Hall.
James, Sirius and Peter followed a pack of third-year Gryffindor girls to their table, scanning the benches for Remus all the while.
At last, James spotted him sitting at the very end of the table. "Look, there he is! He's right there, next to... Hey, it's that red-haired girl called Lily Evans!"
"How d'you remember her name?" asked Peter, squinting in Remus' direction.
Remus had his back to them, but they were pretty sure it was him. How many other tall, brown-haired first-years would sit at the Gryffindor table?
Shaking his head at Peter, James sighed and began to stride in Remus' direction. "I listen, Peter," he said. "Now, come on."
Sirius and Peter both hurried after him.
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