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Chapter 11 – The Forbidden Forest


A/N: I'm so sorry this took so long! But here it is…I hope you enjoy it. This chapter contains a bit of alcohol consumption. In the wizarding world people come of age at 17 so it is not underage drinking, but I wanted to warn anyone who might be sensitive about this subject! Thanks for reading! :-) Moe


Sirius


Sirius shook his head as he watched Talia leave with George; he wasn't very angry at her for doing it. To be honest he pitied George; not matter what George did, Talia would never feel the same way about him that she felt about Sirius. That is why he only felt a small pang of jealousy when they left.
"Oi Prongsy, don't worry we'll sneak you in some sweets." Sirius assured his friend as the rest of the Marauders left begrudgingly. It just didn't feel like All Hallow's Eve without James and although their Halloween prank had been planned for nearly a month, it wouldn't be a sweet without him.

Remus was awfully quiet and Sirius knew why but he tried his best to lighten the mood; prank time while short a Marauder was one thing, short two Marauders and Sirius was ready to burst. "Listen Moony, we've got to do this for James, if you're in an awful mood it won't help matters. Stop thinking about it."

Remus shook his head quietly and sighed, "No use, I can't help but think about it. And on top of everything, Lily and James are on the outs." Peter nodded his head quietly while Peeves swooped down on them attempting to hit them with ink pellets. As if second nature the boys raised their bags over their heads. Halloween was the worst time of year for Peeves' jokes. The Marauders usually enjoyed them and even cheered Peeves on. This would always cause Peeves to cackle and show off even more.

Surprisingly enough Sirius just shrugged, "So what? He's become a wet blanket ever since he started dating Evans, maybe now he'll get back to the old James."

However, even more surprisingly Remus stopped dead in his tracks, "So what are you saying, Sirius?" His attitude was bordering on confrontational and Sirius was a bit taken aback by this.

"What broomstick flew up your arse, Remus?" Sirius was doing a wonderful job of maintaining his calm to the casual observer, but if one looked close enough they could she his face flush slightly. His normally pronounced jaw was clenched tightly.

What in the bloody hell is Moony's problem?

"Lay off Lily, that's all!" Remus stormed away towards the stairs and disappeared up them, leaving Peter and Sirius standing in an empty corridor completely baffled. With one confused glance at each other, they took off after him; unfortunately the staircase had decided to move before they could reach it. It was almost as if it was taking Moony's side. Sirius and Peter waited patiently.

Peter tried to alleviate Sirius' frustration, "He's not himself; he's always like this after the full moon." Sirius just shook his head, there was something else wrong with Remus, he just couldn't put his finger on it. Peter looked incredulously at Sirius, "You know how he gets!" But Sirius still wasn't convinced. He was so preoccupied with Remus that he didn't even notice the sour look on Peter's face.

They finally made it through the door of the common room. Remus was sitting in front of the common room fire with Alice and they both looked over to see Sirius and Peter enter. Alice rose from her seat and gave Remus a reassuring smile, "You three need to talk." Before leaving the common room she placed a hand on Sirius' shoulder and whispered in his ear, "Hear him out."

Sirius didn't know what to make of what she said; thoroughly confused he and Peter sat down and waited for Remus to speak.

The few minutes of silence were unbearable as Remus appeared to be collecting his thoughts. Finally, when he began to speak the tension seemed to alleviate. "You two and James figured out my condition at the end of our first year here." He turned to face Peter and Sirius. They nodded, not wanting to interrupt him. "Well, did you ever wonder why no one else figured it out?"

Sirius frowned and then shrugged at his question, "No one knew you as well as us, I just figured no one noticed."

Remus gave a small smile at his friend's naiveté. "Well someone did notice Padfoot. In fact it only took Lily four months or so to realize what was going on." Peter and Sirius' jaws dropped as they stared incredulously at Remus.

Peter shook his head vigorously, "No, she couldn't have. We told her in 6th year, together remember!"

Remus smiled again, "I asked her to keep quiet about it. I didn't want you three to know that she knew before you. I thought that maybe…well I thought you would think I was keeping secrets from you." Something clicked inside Sirius, Remus had always been friendly with Lily and when they were younger he noticed that they would sometimes talk in secret. Naturally he always thought Remus was trying to tell her to give James a chance, but now it all made sense. Remus watched as his friend pieced together the puzzle.

"She kept my secret and for a while she was the only one I could confide in about my being a…a werewolf."

Peter stood up from his seat and walked over to the fire, stroking it gently. "But we barely pieced it together, how did she—"

"Lily is the smartest witch I ever met." Sirius cut him off as he stood decisively. Peter just nodded as Sirius looked down at Remus. "Moony, I'm sorry." He held out his hand, which Remus took eagerly, "Padfoot, there's no need."

They both smiled and turned to Peter; Remus, although it was unlike him to take command, gave a large grin, "Come on Wormtail, we have some pranks to pull." With a bark-like laugh from Sirius and an excited squeak from Peter, they were off to the kitchen.

"I have to make one detour, I'll meet you down there." Sirius said as he left his friends.


Talia


Talia was staring avidly at the ground as she walked along the bank of the lake with George. He was a quiet person, often contemplative. Talia was always wondering what was going on in his mind. He had an unusual quietness about him, as if he was always thinking about something really important. That was a quality that Talia found endearing; the nuns at Cromwell used to say that about her.

George must have noticed her staring because he started to laugh. "Anything on your mind, Talia?" She smiled sheepishly.

"Mmm Hmm, James…" she answered absentmindedly. Her friend was in pretty bad shape and she was worried about him. Mind you, physically he was doing much better, but since Lily broke up with him, he was an emotional mess. Even Sirius wasn't able to cheer him up.

"You friends mean a lot to you, don't they?" George asked as he picked up a nearby rock, tossing it in the lake. Friday afternoon was winding to a close and the sun was sinking ever lower in the sky.

"Of course," Talia answered, "don't you care about your friends?"

George stammered, afraid that somehow he had offended Talia. "N—No of course they do. I just—I meant that you are pretty close." At this Talia shook her head.

"No, not really, I mean Lily, Alice and I are pretty close. Lily's a muggle born, like I am," Talia added. Not really sure whether or not that was true, "we just have a lot in common. Alice has been a wonderful friend, loves Potions just like me."

George seemed to lower his voice a bit as he asked, "What about Sirius, James, Peter and Remus?"

Talia just shrugged, "To be honest, we really don't know much about each other. More like friends by association." They walked in silence for a few moments and George turned to her as she continued, "I would honestly love to get to know them, but…"

"But what?" he asked.

"Well, it's complicated." Talia shrugged, thinking about Remus and not really wanting to continue the conversation.

"Friendship shouldn't be complicated. You are a really smart person Talia, and you chose your friends for a reason. Maybe if you all made more of an effort, you wouldn't feel this way." George spoke with a great deal of wisdom that Talia only half expected. He was a Ravenclaw after all.

Talia smiled at George and looked down once more at her flowers. Bringing them to her nose they reminded her of something, but she couldn't quite place it. "Thanks for the flowers George, they're beautiful."

He blushed as he looked into her eyes, "I wasn't sure what to get but someone recommended them." He took one from the bunch and broke off the stem, putting it in her hair. As he leaned in close Talia felt his breath on her neck, it was a warm sensation, not altogether unpleasant. He turned his face towards hers and their eyes locked for a brief moment before he kissed her. Talia knew that it was coming and she hadn't stopped it. But now that it had happened for some reason she didn't want to kiss him. She pulled away quickly, gasping a bit.

She noticed the panic in his eyes as he began to apologize, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to—"

"No, it's okay, I just wasn't expecting it," she lied to him.

George turned a bit red and smiled at her, "You don't have to explain. I know how you feel about me. If you want to go to Hogsmeade with someone else I understand."

Talia was shocked at his forthcoming nature, "No George, I want to go with you!" He just smiled and gave her a disbelieving look. She gave him a threatening stare, "Don't you dare say his name, George!"

He laughed and shrugged his shoulders, feigning innocence, "Who's name?"

She let out a hearty laugh and slapped him on the shoulder, "You are too bad, you could give Sir—" She clamped her hand over her mouth before bursting out into laughter.

He pointed at her laughing, "You said it, I didn't!"

~~~~~~~~~~


Gryffindor tower was bustling with students, who were up unusually early, preparing for the trip to Hogsmeade.

Lily was shuffling through her trunk, "Where is my blue jumper?!" While Lily was usually very neat, she had a mound of clothes on her bed; the pile was growing at a startling rate as she threw the contents of her trunk on top of them.

"Why don't you wear the red one?" Alice asked in a bored tone. She was dressed and completely ready to set off.

"Because, red clashes with my awful hair!" She said as she gestured toward her beautiful auburn hair.

"I like your hair." Talia answered as she waited patiently for her friend to finish her meltdown.

Alice just shook her head disbelievingly, "Then why do you have a red jumper?!"

"Christmas present." Lily answered as she pulled out a green jumper and settled on that one. "Talia, you don't have to wait for me. Shouldn't you find George?"

Talia just shrugged, although Alice had carefully curled her hair, using some spell Talia had never heard before and Lily had gone through every article of clothing Talia owned, searching for the perfect outfit, she still didn't think of this as a date. She and George had agreed on friendship the day before, Talia didn't want him to think she saw this as anything more than two friends spending time together.

After many assurances from Alice and Talia, Lily finally deemed herself ready. The three girls made their way down the stairs and into their common room. Alice looked around, expecting the Marauders, minus James, to be waiting for them, but they were no where to be seen. On his way out, Amos informed them that the guys had already left.

Alice looked a bit put out and made a face, "Well that's bad form, they knew we were coming. Sirius is just too impatient to wait for anyone."

Lily just sighed and asked Alice not to be so hard on Sirius.

George was waiting for Talia in front of the Hogwart statue in the front hall. He looked comfortable in a green jumper, a pair of jeans and his trainers. Talia was happy that she had let Lily choose a very casual outfit for her, instead of wearing the heeled boots and black skirt that Alice had shoved under her nose.

They strolled along merrily with Lily, Alice and Frank to Hogsmeade. It was a pleasantly mild Halloween and they didn’t even need jackets as there was no chill in the air. Talia didn't know Frank all that well but he seemed pleasant enough and terribly bright.

When they reached Hogsmeade Lily announced that she would meet them later in The Three Broomsticks.

"Where are you going?" Alice asked.

"Oh just to Honeydukes, I figure James could do with a few sweets." Lily answered nonchalantly.

Talia and Alice stopped dead in their tracks, pausing to look at each other and then at their friend.

"James?" They asked in unison, giggling at that fact. Lily just blushed and turned away from them.

"Let's just say I've had a change of heart. I may have been a bit rash, telling him that we were through."

Alice punched the air in triumph, "Well, it's about time! It's been almost a week of you blabbering on about him!"

Talia just shook her head and laughed at her two friends. George had a look of utter confusion on his face. She leaned in a whispered, "I'll tell you later."

Spending the afternoon with George was quite pleasant. They stopped in at Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop, which amongst its many different quills, also sold a number of books. Talia found an interesting book that contained a page about her mother, Which Wizard: Who's Who in the Wizarding World by Steven Vander Ark. They also stopped in Honeyduke's, briefly helping Lily pick out some sweets for James. Finally when they felt as if they were all shopped out they stopped at The Three Broomsticks to meet Alice and Frank for a butterbeer.

It was quite crowded and more than once Talia was knocked into by some student having too good a time. George tried to put his arm around her protectively when Alice rushed over to her, grabbing her by the arm, "Talia, I think we should leave."

Talia didn't understand why Alice would want to leave, they had just got there, but when she saw the table sitting in the middle of the floor she understood. Sirius, Remus and Peter were sitting with an empty bottle firewhiskey, all of them looking completely bollixed. Sirius looked as if he had consumed most of the bottle and was teetering in his chair. "ROSIE MY LOVE, BRING US ANOTHER BOTTLE!"

With a disgusted look Talia turned to Alice and Frank. "How long have they been up to this?"

Alice just shook her head and shot a disgusted look at the three Marauders. "Since noon, it started with them having a drink to James' health and then it turned into them getting pissed."

George tried to convince Talia that she shouldn't get involved, "they'll be alright, they're just having a good time."

Talia starred incredulously at George, "Good time? You call this a good time?!"

He didn't know quite how to answer her, "No…I just…"

Talia didn't give him time to answer her rhetorical question as she marched over to the offending table with her hands resolutely on her hips. By the time she reached them Madam Rosmerta had already placed a new bottle in front of Sirius with a warning, "Sirius Black, this is your last bottle you hear me."

He swooped her up and placed her on his lap in one quick motion, "Oh Rosie, don't play with me. You know I love you."

Madam Rosmerta swatted Sirius with her dishrag and jumped up off his lap, "Be that as it may, it is still your last bottle!" She walked away with more of a sway in her hips than anyone had ever seen before.

Talia was a bit hurt witnessing this scene but she tried to push it out of her head. Unfortunately Sirius noticed this and in his drunken state reached in for the kill. "What? Are you jealous?"

Talia just shook her head resolutely and grabbed the bottle from Sirius' hands. It wasn't that difficult to snatch it away from him due to his inebriated state. "I think you've had enough Sirius, and that goes for you two as well," she stated turning to Peter and Remus. "Remus, I thought at least you would know better than this."

This comment, in addition to the loss of his whiskey, was too much for Sirius to bear. "LEAVE MOONY ALONE! What do you care anyway, it's not as if we're your friends!" Talia was taken aback from his harsh words and stood there amidst the eerily silent patrons, tears threatening to spill from her eyes. "What are you going to cry? Go cry to your boyfriend, Georgie over there."

There was nothing she could do to stop them, the tears spilt over onto her cheeks and the more she tried to stop the harder she cried. "Why would you say that, Sirius?" She asked in between her sobs.

"I am only repeating what you said, I heard you tell him we weren't your friends!" Although his speech was marred by the alcohol, it was perfectly clear that he had mistaken heard her conversation, but before she could explain George interrupted.

"That's enough Sirius! Leave her alone," he said as he stepped in front of Talia.

Sirius' anger seemed to increase as George challenged him. "Shove off! I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to your girlfriend here."

While Remus had been drinking, he did have his wits about him and he rose from his seat grabbing Sirius by the arm. "Padfoot, let's go." Sirius looked as if he were just drunk enough to take a swing at George but luckily he saw reason and left with Remus and Peter.

It was obvious that Alice and George wanted to comfort Talia but she wouldn't have any of it. Shrugging off Alice's hand on her shoulder she ran out of The Three Broomsticks. Running through Hogsmeade proved difficult as the tears blurred her vision. She couldn't understand why Sirius wouldn't listen to her and let her explain. Normally she would have run straight to the Astronomy tower but for some reason the Forbidden Forest seemed as if it would provide more comfort.


Sirius


Drunken numbness had given way to a horrendous headache and feelings of utter guilt. Sirius opened up one eye, surveying his surroundings. His eye lid felt as thought it weighed a ton, his eyes stung from the setting sun that peeked in through his dorm room window. It felt as though his mouth was full of cotton dipped in stale firewhiskey. Sitting up was probably the hardest part as his pulse hammered away at his temples.

If it were possible the common room was even less friendly than his hangover. By then everyone knew what had happened in The Three Broomsticks. The boys of Gryffindor tower eyed him warily as he made his way downstairs. The girls, who normally swooned and giggled when they saw him, turned their backs coldly towards him. They couldn't believe how insensitive and nasty he was. Of course, the validity of events that made their way through Hogwarts was usually questionable, but they were uncannily accurate this time. Sirius thought he heard a 3rd year mutter "Stupid git," under her breath as he passed.

Lily and Alice made quite a production of leaving their seats in front of the fire when Sirius sat down next to Remus. Remus' headache was now completely gone having taken a potion to cure his hangover much earlier. He raised his eyebrow at Sirius, as he plopped down next to him. "How are you feeling?"

Sirius mumbled something about never drinking again and put his head in his hands. Luckily for him Peter came over with the smoking potion to cure his malady. Taking it down in one gulp, Sirius then placed the glass on the table. The potion took effect immediately but that didn't make him feel any better. There was only one thing on his mind. "Where's Talia?" he asked quietly.

Remus just shook his head, "I saw her heading towards Hagrid's hut, but when I stopped by earlier Hagrid said he hadn't seen her."

While he was nursing a hangover, nothing bad could be said about Sirius' memory. He remembered that look that Dumbledore gave Talia when he warned the school about the Forbidden Forest; he also remembered seeing her come out of the Forest the night he asked her to Hogsmeade. With a tired sigh he stood and walked out of the common room without a word. Peter made to follow him but Remus held him back, "I think it would be better if we leave him alone for a while."

~~~~~~~~~~


It had been easier to get to the Forest than he anticipated. Pretty much everyone at Hogwarts was congregated in the Great Hall for the Halloween Feast. He knew that he would miss seeing his prank pulled off but Remus and Peter would be there for it. The Forest was rarely quiet, that was why Sirius felt nervous with anticipation as he walked through the woods in search of some sign of Talia's presence. The silence that surrounded him was suddenly broken by a booming voice.

"What are you doing here human?"

Unnerved by the sudden sound, Sirius' stride faltered and he fell to his knee. "You are right to bow human. What are you doing in our forest?"

Sirius did not stand; his lucky mistake of falling seemed to have calmed the voice. "I—I am looking for my friend. I think she is in the Forest."

Sirius gasped as a large Centaur stepped out into view. He had heard about them in his Care of Magical Creatures class, and he vaguely remembered Hagrid mentioning them, but he had never seen one before. In all his years sneaking in and out of the Forbidden Forest he had never crossed paths with a Centaur; but somehow he knew that they had seen him.

"There are no humans in this forest, except you. We have been lenient of you in the past, as you were a foal. But now you are a man and we cannot continue to allow your presence here."

There were not many times in his life that Sirius could say he had truly been afraid but this definitely made that list. He only allowed his body to relax when a more familiar voice rang out through the trees.

"Yer fores'? You lay one han' on 'em and you'll regret it Bane." Hagrid stepped in front of Sirius with a crossbow slung over his shoulder. Sirius had never been so happy to see Hagrid in all his life.

"Hagrid, we allow you free reign in this forest. Do not make us regret that."

"You 'llow nuttin'…pickin on a kid like that?"

Although Sirius was scared he knew that he couldn't leave Talia alone in the forest like this. "Please, you have to let me find my friend. She could get hurt in here and I need to make sure she is okay!" Bane could sense the desperation in his voice. While he did not condone the human coming into his forest uninvited he knew that there was a great connection between him and his mate. There was no need for Sirius to worry about Talia, and Bane knew that as he could smell her in the air.

"You mate is fine, now take her and go."

Sirius was confused and opened his mouth to protest but then he saw Talia step into the clearing. He ran to her and grabbed her into his arms, "Talia, I'm so—"

But she cut him off, putting her finger to his lips. "I don't know if I can forgive you just yet, but I know why you did what you did and I am not entirely innocent. I need to tell you…"

"You need to tell me what?" Sirius asked through watery eyes.

"Everything." Talia answered.

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