Chapter 34 : Loyalty
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“I wasn’t being loud!”
“Sirius, you’re naturally loud.”
“I resent that.”
“Will the both of you just shut up?” Peter glared between James and Sirius. They had to be as quiet as possible and Sirius was snickering so loud that their plan would be ruined. James wasn’t helping matters by shushing his best friend, he simply added to the noise. James was clutching a shaking bucket of cold water and he was poised above a slumbering, clueless, Remus. They had had this planned since before they ended the school year, but had decided to hold their plans off until Remus had recovered from the full moon. They did not want to anger him then; they decided to wait until he was well enough to chase them around. The prank wouldn’t be nearly as fun without the chase that would indefinitely follow.
“Do it, James.” Sirius held his fingers up, counting off to three. With a wicked grin, James tipped the bucket forward and the icy water fell into a flood on Remus’s face. The three boys jumped backwards, to avoid getting splashed and coincidentally putting a larger space between themselves and Remus. Remus bolted up with a yell. Hair sopping wet, his shirt sticking unpleasantly to his chest, he leapt out of his bed and slipped to the floor. He narrowed his eyes when he heard the explosion of laughter from his three houseguests.
“You’re dead!” he shouted. “All three of you! Death! Painful death!”
“You can’t kill us, Remus!” James told him happily. “You love us too much.”
“DEATH!” Remus emerged from the other side of the bed and was holding what appeared to be a cricket bat. James, Sirius and Peter took a cautionary step backwards.
“What is that?” Sirius asked, eyeing the bat.
“Didn’t I ever tell you my mum played cricket?”
“Put it down, Remus,” James instructed.
Remus looked a little reluctant, but heeded James’s instructions. “What, in Merlin’s name, possessed you to dump water on me?”
“A little owl told us,” Peter answered offhandedly.
Remus raised an eyebrow. “Was the owl’s name James? Or was it Sirius?”
“Actually it was named Peter,” Sirius said brightly.
Remus’s jaw dropped open in disbelief. “Peter, I thought you were on my side!”
“We were bored.”
“It’s seven in the morning, of course you’re bored!”
“No, we were bored when we planned this.”
“When did you plan this?”
“June thirteenth!” Remus’s hand slapped against his forehead. “Ladies and gentlemen, these are the people I call friends.”
“You know you love us,” James reminded him.
“I doubt that sometimes.” Remus folded his arms across his chest and narrowed his eyes. “Where did you find water that cold?”
“Outside,” Sirius said simply. “The lake.”
“The lake is three miles away!”
“We’ve been keeping it cold.”
Remus chose to drop the subject. He wasn’t going to get anywhere. Besides, he was far too used to the behaviour of his friends, he knew better than to press the matter. “If you three are finished torturing me for the day, can I get changed?”
Sirius looked surprised. “You don’t want to spend all day in wet clothes?”
“I’m not a freak like you.”
“Fine, let’s let Mr. I-Hate-Water get dressed.” Sirius led the way upstairs.
Since Remus’s room was rather small, only big enough for one extra bed, the four boys camped out in the sitting room. Remus had helped his father set up four beds that seemed to fit perfectly, though under any other circumstances they wouldn’t have fit at all. The couch was pushed all the way back against the wall, though they could not move the piano very far. It wasn’t in the way very much initially. Remus gathered up the clothes he found on the floor beside his bed, which looked to have been unceremoniously thrown there by his friends. Rolling his eyes and resisting the urge to grin or question his choice of friends, Remus disappeared into the bathroom.
When he arrived in his room, he found James, Sirius and Peter observing the pictures on the wall behind his bed. James and Sirius had seen most of them, although he had added more since their last visits. Peter, however, had never seen any of them, as he had never before been to Remus’s house. Peter, like James and Sirius, had been forced into taking and being in some of them. There were many scenery shots that Remus had taken when he and his father had gone camping. He would usually try to get pictures of the sunrises and the sunsets. Sometimes he would see an animal in an interesting pose and take a picture before the creature could notice the flash. There were photos of his dog and many of his friends at school. However, the one that the three were looking at was not one of themselves.
“What is that?” Sirius asked, pointing to the confusing picture.
“The inside of the Christmas tree,” Remus told him upon closer inspection. The photo was a mass of green bristles and colourful lights.
“When did you take that?”
Sirius looked confused. “Why did you…?”
Remus shrugged. “I was bored.” A small grin appeared as the corners of his lips upturned. “See I, unlike you three, decided not to dump water on someone else to solve my boredom.”
“Ah, but the water was a lot more interesting,” James pointed out.
“I beg to differ.” Remus sat down on his bed. “What do you guys want to do?”
“The lake?” Peter suggested.
“Wonderful, more cold water.”
“Come on, it’s hot outside.”
“Fine, just let me push one of you in?”
Sirius smiled. “Can’t guarantee we’ll let you.”
The boys gathered their necessary swimming belongings and set out for the three mile trek through the woods surrounding Remus’s house. Peter was correct when he said it was hot out. The warm air was stifling, making it somewhat difficult to breathe. Remus vaguely wondered how his friends could have made the trip that morning, before realising that it must have been cooler in the earlier hours. The sun was still low in the sky, though that did not lessen its intensity. They knew it would be worse later and, therefore, were grateful for Peter’s suggestion of going for a swim.
“You two are lucky,” Sirius lamented, pointing at James and Remus.
“Why is that?” Remus questioned, raising an eyebrow.
“Living in London means that you can’t have lakes or anything around.”
“The lake’s pretty far from my house.”
“James’s is closer.”
“It is,” James agreed. “But I don’t go there, only when you lot are over.”
Sirius didn’t look convinced, however he dropped the subject. They continued on, shifting the conversation to their Animagus training. They would have to work on procuring the necessary ingredients for the potions. Sirius didn’t have time yet to get rat hairs for Peter, and Remus had completely forgotten to rip some hairs off his dog. They were still baffled as to how they would obtain stag hairs for James. None of them knew where stags would dwell. Peter was adamant that they could find one in the Forbidden Forest, but his friends weren’t as certain. Besides, they were not too eager on running into Lucius Malfoy and his masked friends again in the forest.
They had refrained from mentioning anything about Lucius Malfoy’s exploits in the depths of the Forbidden Forest, as it brought about the unpleasant inquires about what Sirius’s father had meant at the platform. This man – Lord Voldemort, his name was – was going to go after people like the Lupins and Potters first. Who was he going to go after next? Who else was there besides blood traitors, half-bloods, half-breeds and Muggleborns? Who was this man, anyway? What gave him the right to decide who was worthy and who was not worthy to practise magic? Did he fancy himself as an ultimate ruler? They had not brought up the subject around Remus’s parents either, knowing that it would be a sore subject. Anna Lupin was a Muggle and Harry was a half-blood, and Charles and Hannah Potter were blood traitors.
They came upon a large clearing in which a sparkling blue lake rested. They were so far into the forest that they could hear almost nothing of the world around them. The animals did not venture to this area and neither did people. It resembled a secret haven, displaced from all civilization. It was the perfect place to come for the ultimate form of privacy. There was no way to be disturbed unless someone knew of the person’s whereabouts.
“Do you ever come here?” James asked Remus as he removed his shoes and socks.
“Sometimes,” Remus replied, sitting down and doing the same. “Whenever things at home get loud.”
“Somehow I can’t imagine things being loud in your house,” Sirius said, leaning against a tree trunk and folding his arms across his chest. The Lupins always seemed to get along well; there would be no reason for shouting.
“When I was younger they were.”
“How come?” Peter asked, though he had a very good idea of the reason.
“The first few years after I was bitten my parents argued about it a lot. I would get frustrated and leave, sometimes they never even noticed I was gone.”
“Sounds like my house. My parents never had any idea if I left. Now, if it’d been Regulus…” Sirius sank to the ground.
“My parents had no idea I left sometimes, but if they did they’d be sorry about arguing so much to make me leave.” Now barefoot, Remus stood up. He walked over to the edge of the lake and dipped the toes of his right foot into the water. He hissed as he registered the icy temperature. “Merlin, that’s cold.” Remus noticed the lack of response from his friends and stepped quickly to his left. He laughed loudly as three splashes and yells broke through the silence of the clearing. “That’s what you get!”
“He knows us too well,” James muttered as he pulled himself out of the water.
“Tried pushing me in?” Remus asked, bending forward so he was eye level with Sirius and Peter. “Yes, I do know you too well.” His head moved up and down as he looked at his friends. “That must be uncomfortable,” he added with mock sympathy. “Those wet clothes.” He sighed and gazed up at the treetops. “I wonder how that feels. I probably have no idea. Wait… yes, I do.”
“Do you enjoy the sound of your own voice, Remus?”
“Not as much as you do, Sirius.”
Quickly, Sirius shot out his hand, wrapped it around Remus’s ankle, and pulled him down into the water. With a shout of surprise, Remus’s arms shot out the ease the fall. He rolled his eyes as Sirius, James and Peter burst into laughter above him. He stood up, picking at his wet shirt, already dreaming up ways to get them back. However, he didn’t have time to think of that before Peter was shouting out that they should play Marco Polo.
At noon the sun was overhead and so fierce that not even the cool water of the lake could completely erase the heat. Sirius, in order to counteract the weather, suggested they see who could stay under the water long enough, thinking that maybe this would keep the warmth away. It worked until he and James got into so brutal a competition that both of them nearly drowned and had to be pulled out by Remus and Peter. After this not so brilliant idea, the boys sat around the edge of the lake, letting the sun dry them before they headed back to Remus’s house.
“I wonder who our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher will be this year,” Peter wondered, flicking an ant off his leg.
“Why do you even bother wondering?” James asked, leaning forward so he could see Peter from across Sirius. “We’re just going to get another one fifth year.”
“We shouldn’t get too attached to them,” Sirius chipped in.
“Jones and Handlin prove that,” Remus concurred. “Especially Jones.” He turned to James. “Does your dad know what killed him?”
“Faulty potion, only they don’t know how it could have been ruined. Jones was supposed to be a great potions maker.”
Sirius looked thoughtful. “Maybe it was tampered with.”
“That’s one of the Healers’ ideas.” He picked up a pebble and smoothed the mud off it. He studied it for a moment before skipping it in the lake. “D’you think it could have anything to do with that man your dad was talking about, Sirius? Lord Voldemort or whoever he was?”
Sirius shrugged, he had hoped they would not have to bring this up. “I dunno. I never even heard the name before my dad said it. How should I know?”
The last part came off a bit more defensive than he had planned, but no one said anything about it. The truth was that James was probably right. Sirius had no doubt that Voldemort was behind every single one of the terrible things that had happened since their first year, beginning with the death of Professor Flitwick’s sister. The professors had known, their parents had known, yet they were saying nothing of it. Professor Dumbledore knew more than everyone, yet he was keeping it quiet. The conversation they had overheard at Christmas proved it. The boys weren’t supposed to know something was happening. Yet they did, and they wanted to know why.
Remus woke with a start. He swung his legs over the side of his cot and shivered as his bare feet touched the cold wooden floor. His stomach was gurgling unpleasantly, his dinner doing a number on him. He crept through the space between James’s and Peter’s cots, where they slept with undisturbed stomachs, and hurried through the darkness to the bathroom. He knew he should have thought twice about letting Sirius talk him into eating a fourth helping of dinner. When he emerged a few minutes later, he noticed the light on in the kitchen. Curious, he approached it.
“What are you doing?” Sirius was sitting at the table, an empty glass in his hand. He looked as if he was immersed in his thoughts and, judging from the expression he was wearing, they were not happy ones.
Remus took a seat across from his friend. “I could ask you the same thing.” He glanced at the clock on the wall – it was almost three in the morning. “Your brilliant suggestion of eating four helpings of dinner was giving me a bit of payback.”
Sirius frowned. He actually looked sorry about it. “Sorry about that.”
“It’s okay. So, what are you doing?”
Remus rolled his eyes; trust Sirius to give the most obvious response he could think of. “Clearly. I meant, about what?”
“What about him?”
Sirius’s face contorted until it was indescribably frustrated. “Is he really going to be as bad as my dad’s making him sound?”
The dark cloud that had been hovering over Sirius, no matter how much he tried to hide it, since he arrived was finally bursting. Remus expected as much. “Well, he’s already done some terrible things… Flitwick’s sister, Alice’s dad, those Muggles Dumbledore was talking about…”
Sirius had forgotten all about the death of Mr. Gordon. “What do you think he did to deserve it?”
“I don’t think he deserved it.”
“That’s not what I meant. I meant, why d’you think Voldemort did it?”
“Mr. Gordon probably didn’t agree with whatever Voldemort thinks. He doesn’t believe in that purity of blood nonsense.”
“Neither do we. You, me, James, Peter, all of our parents, except for mine, we don’t believe that.”
“I know we don’t.”
“Does that mean he’s going to come after us too?”
Sirius raised an eyebrow. Remus was taking this far too calmly than was natural. “You don’t sound scared.”
Remus laughed hollowly. “Who says I’m not scared?”
“Sirius, I must be the scum of the Earth to these people – a werewolf and half-blood all in one.”
“But you heard Malfoy - they want werewolves.”
“Which makes me even worse because I’m not following them.”
“Why is this happening?”
Remus sighed and leaned back in his chair. “Because things can’t be perfect.”
“I know that, but why are things turning out so bad?”
“It’s not so bad yet. We haven’t seen the worst of it.”
“When that does come, what are we supposed to do?”
“Sirius, we’re only fourteen. We can’t do much.”
“That’s a pretty bad attitude.”
“It’s not going to happen now, whatever it is. When we’re older, that’s when it’s going to happen. And we’re going to know more, and we’re going to fight it.”
The corners of Sirius’s mouth upturned. “That’s a better attitude.” Sirius glanced up at the clock, it was late. “I just hate that my parents love what’s going to happen so much.”
“It doesn’t mean you have to love it. Their opinions never really mattered much to you anyway, did they?”
Sirius hesitated for a moment. “No, not really.”
Remus jumped up suddenly. “My dinner’s coming back again.” And he ran from the kitchen.
Sirius, feeling slightly guilty that he had been the primary cause of Remus’s upset stomach, got up from the kitchen table. He rinsed out his glass in the sink, dried it off, and replaced it inside one of the cabinets. He had never had trouble sleeping before, not even in his own house. His home had an oppressive and forbidding atmosphere about it; the Lupin home was warm and welcoming. If he should have had difficulty sleeping, it should have been at number twelve, Grimmauld Place. But his mind had been foggy with thoughts about Lord Voldemort and those masked figures that were with Malfoy in the Forbidden Forest. They were working together, Sirius knew they were.
He reentered the dark sitting room and saw that James and Peter were still sleeping soundly, unaware of anything around them. He wondered what it was like to have no knowledge of the evils of the world. It must have been peaceful. Ever since they had left Platform Nine and Three Quarters on the first day of the summer holidays, Sirius wished he could have been oblivious. He wished his father had not thought to shout those threatening words to the Lupins, Potters and Pettigrews. If what Mr. Black had said was true, people like them would be the first to go. There was no doubt in Sirius’s mind, his friends and their families would be the first targets. Sirius also knew he would be in some danger, but his family name would shield him a little longer.
The Potters were well known for their acceptance of every blood type – pure, half, Muggleborn and non-magical. They had no problems with half-breeds; the fact that they were not entirely human held no bearings on the Potters. They treated House Elves with respect. Willie was one of the lucky elves. The Potters made her feel as if she was a part of the family. Kreacher was treated as what House Elves were supposed to be – servants. Sirius never liked the creature, so he couldn’t exactly feel any sympathy towards the menace. If there was a picture definition for the term blood traitor, the Potters would have been it.
The Lupins were no better. They were pure up until Harry and his father, who both decided that a Muggle woman better suited them than a witch. For some families, this would have caused an outrage. Harry and John Lupin would have been deemed outcasts, forced to change their surname and adopt a new family history. But his parents had been fine with it; they had loved Anna. John’s parents must have been accepting of it as well. Then, of course, there was the epitome of a terrible Wizarding family in the eyes of every pureblood extremist. The epitome came in the form of Remus – a half-blood and a half-breed wrapped up in one fourteen year old boy. If there was ever a reason to eliminate a family, it was because they did not terminate their child the moment he became a werewolf.
The Pettigrews… Sirius didn’t know very much about them. He knew they were decent people. John Pettigrew had always come to their aid on the platform and they had raised Peter to become a good kid. There was nothing wrong with them, in Sirius’s opinion at least. Even so, they didn’t support Voldemort’s point of view, this much was clear. They would be another family marked. Sirius never realised how much danger the families of his friends were in. The Pettigrews were pureblood, but they were not proud purebloods. They would be on the list with the Potters and Lupins. Sirius’s stomach performed an unpleasant back flip.
Sirius rolled over on his cot when he heard footsteps. He saw the outline of Remus, hunched over with a hand on his stomach, enter the room. As Sirius pretended to be asleep, he could have sworn he heard Remus curse him. Sirius smiled to himself and listened as Remus’s snores began to fill the room. Sirius’s friends were what mattered the most to them; he sometimes wondered if they knew how much. Remus and Peter were his best friends; James was like a brother to him. Their bond was supposed to be unbreakable, the hard times that were about to fall upon them could not change that. He didn’t want their friendship to end. Their loyalty would carry them through.
Sirius swung his legs over the side of his cot and bent forward so that he was level with James’s head. “James?” he whispered.
James muttered some nonsense and swatted his hand around, as if he was trying to hit an imaginary fly. “What?” he muttered sleepily.
“You know you’re like my brother, right?”
“Yeah… leave me alone.”
Sirius fell backwards and stared at the ceiling. Their loyalties were what would carry them through. There was no way their friendship could end… no way.
Excerpt from Chapter Thirty Five: Infirmary Visits and Warnings
“So Dumbledore really did admit a werewolf into the school?” Professor Twikom was saying. There was a faint trace of marvel in her voice. Twikom did not know about Remus’s Lycanthropy, as she had only been a substitute before.
“Yes, he did,” Madam Pomfrey replied distractedly. The boys knew she was probably tending to her patient while carrying out the conversation.
“How long has he been one?”
“Eleven years, I think. I may be wrong.” The boys heard her sigh as Remus groaned audibly. “Here you go, Remus.”
“Those potions help?” Twikom asked inquiringly.
“They ease the pain.”
“I feel as though I should know more about this,” Twikom continued. The boys could hear footsteps, Twikom must have been pacing.
“I have a relative… A cousin removed a couple of times or maybe a nephew. I’m not exactly sure of his relation to me. He was bitten years ago.” There was a pause of silence. “I haven’t heard from him since then. I have no idea what Fenrir is up to lately.”
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