Chapter 3 - Hello Again
Come Thursday evening, four days since their first day of the year. The Marauders were at the dinner table, eating and chatting away. Their current subject: the newcomer, and Sirius's Potions partner. They had yet to see, much less meet, the mysterious girl. It was as if she was there only in name.
When asked, the Potions teacher just told Sirius that his partner was still sick and should be out by, latest, the following week. He had gone to check the Hospital Wing but was found no one there. Lily seemed worried, but she always was when a fellow student was in trouble, so they figured she knew about the new student's sickness and was just concerned.
Another thing was that they had twice run into the first-year that had interrupted Sirius and Tiffany's goodnight biddings on Monday night. He still seemed to be looking around for something, or rather, someone. They had spotted him talking animatedly to Lily the day before and with an equally worried look he nodded and stopped his search altogether. After trying to piece two and two together, Remus had suggested a theory that the boy and the new student might be siblings and they all settled to agree with it.
Remus, the rest of the Marauders have noticed, was now looking quite sick. They didn't look very concerned, however. They all knew what was going on. Remus was always in this state once every month. Then he would go down to the Hospital Wing next and stay there for the rest of the day, saving his remaining energy for what was to come. The other three had known since their second year. They've discovered and kept the biggest secret of all among them: Remus was a werewolf.
Once every month, the day before the full moon, Remus would turn sickly pale. They all brush it off by simply stating that he was sick to anyone who asked. Then, he would be in the Hospital wing for the whole of the next day. When night fell, Madame Pomfrey would lead the sick student down to the Whomping Willow, a magical tree which lashed its branches at anything that moves near it, and let him into a burrow under it after petrifying the violent tree. After being left to himself under the tree, Remus would stumble his way through the secret pathway towards a supposedly haunted house situated in Hogsmeade, the magical village next to Hogwarts. It was called the Shrieking Shack, known for the haunting screams that were really Remus's painful cries during transformation.
For four years, this went on. He would transform and then claw and bite himself in his werewolf form inside a single room in the Shrieking Shack. Once the other three boys found out, instead of revoking their friendship (to Remus's relief) they offered to find a way to help him though it was useless as there was no cure for Lycanthropy. But when fifth year came, the three boys' hard work was paid off when they secretly mastered Animagi, able to fully transform themselves into animals. While this could not solve Remus's problem, they could keep him company in animal forms, for werewolves only bit and turned humans. Though Remus did not approve of them being illegal Animagi, he was overjoyed at their efforts, accomplishment, and most of all their care for him.
Now that they could help him in this way, every full moon, while Remus rested in the Hospital wing to reserve strength for his transformation, the other three boys would sneak naps during the day, even in classes, to keep themselves awake during the night. Once the transformation began, they would secretly slip away from their dorm room and head down to the Shrieking Shack and, in their Animagus forms, they would keep Remus company.
"Excuse me?" a timid voice asked the four boys. They turned to find the same first-year who they had been previously talking about.
"Can I help you?" James was quick to reply, though there was an air of excessive pride around him as usual.
The timid boy looked at the Marauders, seemingly surprised that they answered at all. "Uh, well, I, uh, was wondering if y-you've seen Lily Evans."
James raised an eyebrow. "No. Why?" He crossed his arms at his chest, sitting up straight.
The first-year boy looked intimidated. "I-I was s-supposed to return a b-book to her. I b-borrowed it yesterday. S-sorry to bother you then. T-thanks. Bye." The boy said speedily and scuttled away.
"Oh." James relaxed.
Sirius chuckled. "The moment a bloke seems to have something to do with Evans, your guard's up. Come on, Prongs, he's just a little kid."
Remus nodded with a weak smile on his pale lips. James blushed.
Remus walked into the Great Hall. It was Saturday morning and the hall was empty, empty besides one other person sitting at the Gryffindor table. He made his way over to the other person. From afar, he could see it was a girl with extremely long black hair that, even in a loose French braid, still lightly brushed against the bench seat. From what he could see, she had on a pair of black shorts and a large, red, long-sleeved, sweater which almost completely covered her shorts. This made him wonder how she could stand the chilly early-autumn winds. He didn't remember seeing the girl ever before in school... unless some Gryffindor girl had used a hair growth spell.
Remus had just been let out of the Hospital wing. After the previous night's transformation, Madame Promfrey had dragged him back there as per usual. This morning, he was up and walking earlier than normal. His best friends and roommates were still sound asleep in their rooms as he got dressed and walked out of the dorm room. His stomach was grumbling, so he had come down early on this weekend morning thinking he was the only one.
When he reached the table he saw that she was reading. The book in her fair hands had in them strange inscriptions he had never seen before. On the table in front of her was an empty plate. There was a glass of pumpkin juice that was half drained. "Looks like you've already finished your breakfast."
She looked up. He was surprised to find himself staring at a pair of mysterious honey coloured eyes. When she saw him, her rosy pink lips stretched in a warm smile. "Good morning."
He immediately broke from his trance. "Ah-, good morning. May I sit here?" She nodded slightly, a smile still charming her pretty face. When he sat down he noticed a small pendant on her chest where the sweater made a v-shape collar, hanging off a silver chain around her neck. It was a silver flower, what he presumed was a chrysanthemum. "Are you Miss Kandraka? I've never seen you before", he voiced the question that had been quietly nagging him since he saw her.
She nodded again and drained the rest of her pumpkin juice. "Don't you want something to eat, Remus?"
He nodded and turned his attention to the abundant and untouched food in the middle of the table. He filled the empty plate in front of him as she silently watched, her book closed and neglected on her lap. Suddenly, he stopped in the middle of bringing a toast over to his plate, something dawning on him. He turned to look at her, his hand and the toast still in mid-air, and asked, "Wait. You know who I am?"
She tilted her head to one side and the warm smile returned. "Of course I do. Don't you recognize me, Remy?"
The confused boy blinked twice. The nickname had hit him. "Rhea?" he asked, calling her by the nickname he had given her years ago. Her smile widened. He sat back down, placing the toast on his plate. "But you look so different!"
"That's exactly what Alice said. Word for word. Personally, I don't think I look that much different apart from the hair."
Remus shook his head a bit. "No you do look completely different. Not just the hair. You're eyes are a lighter colour as well. I remember it being a darker brown. And well... you look more... girl."
"Gee, thanks," she said sarcastically though she smiled and rolled her eyes. "So how've you been?" He watched her as she was refilling her plate with some more omelette and toast.
"So-so. You?" He began eating.
She shrugged. "I've been okay. I really missed you guys, you know? I was always busy though. My grandparents had put me under different teachers and what you'd call, erm, accelerated studies...extensive too..." she mumbled the last bit to herself though he heard clearly.
Her brows wrinkled suddenly as she looked at him intently. "You're really pale. Are you alright?"
In an instant, Remus found himself face to face with the worried girl, their noses almost touching and their foreheads joined, separated only by her warm hand. Remus turned bright red. Though he was initially taken aback, he relaxed, remembering his friend's old habit of checking someone's temperature in this peculiar way. The question itself had taken him by surprise but then he realized it was only because he was pale due to the fact that his transformation was only the previous night. "I'm fine. I was sick yesterday."
She backed away and nodded, though her palm was still resting on his brow. "I was sick too, been sick for a couple of days. I stayed in the dorm room, though. Professor Dumbledore had the house Elves bring food to me there." She soon moved her hand to pat the top of his head for a bit, letting his brown hair fall back to cover his forehead, before letting it rest on the neglected book on her lap.
"Oh, so that's why you were never in class for the past week. We were starting to wonder. Of course we didn't know it was you. Your last name's different. We didn't hear any mention of your first name."
"My last name was changed when I went to my grandparents'. I'm using my mother's family name right now." She picked up a bag from the floor and started searching through it. Remus had not noticed it before. It was no bigger than a quaffle, one of the balls used in the ever popular wizard's sport, Quidditch. The bag was a sort of backpack, pure white in colour with golden embroidery of chrysanthemum flowers and butterflies at one corner and the flap. She lunged her whole arm in, deeper than it was possible for the small bag. Remus immediately suspected that she had charmed it to be much larger on the inside and didn't question. After a short moment, it seemed like she found what she was looking for and pulled her arm right back out; an even smaller white bag came along with it. "Here." She handed it to him. As he took it, he noticed the mouth closed by golden strings, tied in a butterfly knot, its ends in small intricate knots and short thin threads hanging off them. From the feel of the material in his hands, he presumed it was made of silk. It had a small unfamiliar flower embroidered on it with golden thread. When he looked back at her with an enquiry etched on his face, she explained, "It's herbal tea, to help you. It's supposed to help you regain some energy and relax you. Just put it in some hot water and drink."
Remus looked back at the small bag in his hands. "Thank you. But I can't take this."
"I just can't."
She smiled at him again. "Remy, I want you to take it. It'll help, I promise. I use it all the time. Think of it as a souvenir from me."
Remus was still hesitant. "But what about you? What are you going to use if you give it to me?"
She shook her head. "Don't worry. I have plenty more. I can get plenty more, so if you run out, just ask. Besides, I was just handing some of them to Dumbledore anyway, though different ones since he needed different ones." Her hands inconspicuously moved the book from her atop her lap to the bench.
"Yeah. He told me he hadn’t been able to sleep for the past few weeks, so I gave him some camomile and lavender tea among others." She shrugged.
Remus smiled at her. "Thank you, Rhea."
"No problem. Oh! Do you remember what i told you about chocolate?"
"Yeah, that I should keep a stash at hand in case I run out of energy," he recited her words to him nearly six years ago.
She nodded. "Do you still do that?"
"I still do."
"Good! That should help, too," she told him cheerily.
They continued their breakfast in comfortable silence for a moment before Remus started conversation again. "Do you know who your Potions partner is yet?" She shook her head. "It's Pad-, I mean Sirius."
"Blackie boy?" She stilled used the old nickname. "How's he at Potions?"
Remus smiled again. "The same as ever."
"I'm doomed!" they both laughed. "You were calling him 'Pad'?"
"Padfoot. It's a nickname we gave him. I'm Moony. James's Prongs and Peter's Wormtail. We came up with them in our fifth year."
She gave him another warm smile. To him, she seemed to be smiling a lot that morning, but as he remembered, she did smile a lot too when they were younger, though they were more often than not, mischievous. "Just like the Marauders to come up with weird names." Remus laughed. "Fitting though."
He looked at her curiously. "What makes you say that?" she merely shrugged.
"Moony!" a male voice boomed across the hall.
Remus looked at the two figures entering the Great Hall behind Réatra.
"How reminiscent." Her previous smile had turned into a knowing smirk. "I'm guessing Blackie and Potter. Possibly Pettigrew trotting behind them."
Remus noted that she hadn’t called the latter pair by her nicknames of them. He simply nodded. "Who else? Peter's not here though, most likely still in bed." He took a brief look at his watch. "After all, it's only eight in the morning."
"Hey Moony! Who's your girlfriend?" a deep male voice asked them from behind Réatra.
She still had not turned yet. "I'm also supposing their heads are as big and empty as they used to be?"
Remus shook his head, a small smile forming at his lips. "Bigger, if you could ever believe it. I didn't think they could get any bigger, but they did. And they're still inflating!" he said in a somewhat dramatic way.
James eyed his friend and the stranger suspiciously. "What are you two on about? And who is this anyway." The mysterious girl still had not turned to face them.
"Nothing much." Remus gave them a small smile.
The girl finally turned, looking at both newcomers in turn. She looked towards James, his black hair still as untamed and his eyes were still as hazel as she had remembered, though more handsome now that he was no longer a scrawny twelve-year-old. He had high cheekbones and an air of confidence about him. He was much taller now too, though he was still quite on the lean side in her opinion. The boy was wearing plain jeans and a simple, blue, long-sleeved wool sweater.
Sirius on the other hand, was also tall but he was slightly more robust, she could tell from his wider shoulders and larger frame showing through his fitting black long-sleeved sweater that covered a maroon shirt. He was wearing plain black pants to match the sweater. His black hair was cropped in a longish style, falling gracefully into his eyes, which were the same stormy gray, further gracing his handsome face. High cheekbones, a straight nose, and firm jaws graced his features along with full lips. He had on his face a playful smile, which further widened when he saw her face.
"Well hello there, love. I don't think we've met."
Réatra turned back to Remus, giving him a knowing look. "He never changes does he?"
Sirius's smile disappeared, now replaced with a confused look. Remus shook his head lightly, returning the grin. "Well, what did you expect? But you will have to deal with him of course. He is your Potions partner after all, and he'll have to deal with you as well."
James looked from his seated friend to the new girl. "You mean this is the new student?"
The girl turned back to the other two boys with a smile and nodded once. "I'm not sure 'new' is quite the right word though, don't you think so, Remy?" Remus merely smiled back at her. "Anywho, I better head back to the dormitory. My lovely little lady Lily-flower should be panicking by now. Ciao!"
Before the two puzzled boys could utter a word she was up and off already, her shadow disappearing as she turned at the great doors.
"Uh... what was that about?" James asked his two friends in a stunned manner. Remus gave a one-shoulder shrug and returned to his forgotten breakfast. James shrugged after a moment of thought and joined his seated friend.
Sirius remained wondering. "Something's odd here. Moony, is there something you're not telling us?" Remus gave another silent shrug and ignored his friend. "Moony! Com'on, mate! What's going on here? I know you're up to something!"
"I'm not. Really. But I won't say anything. It'd be more interesting to watch how long this is going to go on." Remus stated as-a-matter-of-factly with a small smile playing at his lips.
Sirius eyed his friend suspiciously as he sat down next to him. "For some reason this feels very nostalgic."
Remus look up with a smirk. "Like a déjà vu?"
"Well, it is."
Sirius looked surprised. "What?"
"Nothing...," Remus chuckled and continued eating.
Sirius no longer questioned, knowing well that he wouldn't be able to get anything out of his normally serious friend. He looked at James who was gobbling his food at an alarming rate with no worry in the world, other than an issue with a certain Lily Evans. He shook the confusing thoughts out of his head as he bent to eat, but as he did so his eye was caught by a small black book on the bench beside him. Noticing that the other two were busy with their meals, he quickly pocketed the book and followed suit without another word, keeping in mind to look into the intriguing matter later.
The day went quite uneventfully after that morning, well, if one didn't count the pranks they played on a few Slytherins and Hogwarts' resident janitor, Filch, and another one of James and Lily's ritual quarrel.
Once they were all settled down in the Gryffindor common room, Remus and Peter occupied themselves with a game of Wizard's Chess as James left in search of his beloved lady, who rejected him every single time without fail. Sirius stationed himself on a couch by the fireplace comfortably and took out the book he had picked up earlier that morning. Lifting his legs up onto the couch he began to observe the black book.
The little leather-bound book felt rough in his hands, just slighter bigger than his palm and weighing as light as a feather. He cautiously opened it and found on its thin yellowing pages unfamiliar symbols. They didn't look like the ancient runes he had studied in class. He slowly turned the pages and found more of them scrawled in a meticulously neat way. They were beautiful to look at and their mystery so drawing. He couldn't take his eyes off them as he turned from page to page, his mind with rushing thoughts, though they were an incomprehensible blur. Once he got to the middle of the little book, he stopped. His fingers reached out to touch the strange symbols inscribed on the thin creamy paper.
To his surprise and shock, as his fingertips were about to touch them, the symbols suddenly scattered away in all directions, some toppling others as if avoiding his touch. As he moved his hand away they guardedly peeked back to the original spot. He repeated the same action and the same incident happened again. He did it once more though this time his stayed his fingers on the paper. The symbols did not return. They moved slightly among each other as if they were shy spectators to some startling sight... or so it seemed to him.
"You're frightening them."
Sirius jumped at the whisper so close to his ear. His head jolted up to look at the speaker who inches away from him a few seconds ago. It was his Potions partner. She was leaning against his couch from behind with both her arms resting on top of its backrest, her extremely long dark hair spilling off one side of her shoulder to cover his bent knees.
"What?" he stated dumbly once he got out of the shock at her proximity.
"I see you have my book. I've been looking for it," she told him frankly. "I forgot it at breakfast this morning when I was talking to Remy." When Sirius didn't move, she pursed her lips momentarily and looked at him questioningly. "Um... Can I have it back now please?"
He broke out of his trance. "Ah- sure." He handed her the closed book and she took it with a smile.
With that she walked away. What Sirius did not see, as her back was to him, was a small mischievous smile. After watching her back retreat towards that stairs that lead to the dorm, he turned away to gaze into the never-dying fire in deep thought.
Réatra walked on, without even a glance back at her Potions partner. From the corner of her eyes, she noted a mass of messy jet black hair and turned her attention to the person it belonged to. With another small smile she headed towards the leader of the Marauders. He was doing his homework, it seemed to her.
After watching him for a few seconds later from over his shoulder, she commented, "The answer’s wrong."
Like his best friend, James jolted and quickly turned around to look at the commenter. "Uh, yeah, thanks. What are you still doing up this late?"
Straightening herself, she gathered both hands behind her back. "Just frolicking around." When James gave her a confused look she added, "I'm not sleepy and I'm bored."
"Oh." When she didn't show any notion of going away he felt awkward. His eyes darted around and his hand moved to ruffle his already tousled hair as he thought of how to ease the feeling. "Uh..."
She took a seat next to him at the round table. Placing her right arm atop the table, she used it to support her head while her eyes scanned the room idly. "She's not angry anymore, you know."
Her eyes lazily turned to him. "Lily. She's not angry anymore." When he didn't respond she continued, "About earlier."
James was sincerely surprised. "Oh? She's not?" His tone suddenly changed, sounding merrier than he was previously. "Did she say that?"
The girl next to him shook her head with a smirk on her lips. "I just know... and you're so chipper now arn't cha?" James seemed to fluster for a moment making her chuckle softly. "You really haven't changed a bit, Potter. I'm glad."
He looked up, puzzlement written across his blank face. "What do you mean?"
"Exactly what I said."
Réatra smiled. "Nope, haven't changed one bit. That over-inflated head of yours is still as empty as ever. It's no wonder my Silly Willy Lily Flower never fails to scream profanities at you."
It was moments before realization dawned on him. "Williams?"
The girl smiled victoriously. "Well, not anymore. But you can still call me that if you want."
"I-I can't believe it. Bloody hell, you've changed." A welcoming smile spread across the boy's face.
"Really, is there no one here who would recognize me at first glance? Even Lily and Remy." She blew a lock of stay hair out of her face at this.
"Well you have! You look much prettier now that you don't go all boyish!"
"I'll let that pass off as a compliment," she told him with a playful glare. "Don't tell Blackie though."
James tilted his head to one side and asked, "Sirius? Why?"
She smiled sweetly to him at this. "You'll soon see." Looking at the boy before her she added, "And I promise it'll be good, so don't tell him, 'kay?"
James gave a firm nod. "So Remus knows?"
She affirmed with a nod. "Yeah, so does Lily, Dorcas, and Alice." With a little thought she went on, "And let's not forget the professors. Of course they know, Dumbledore's already told them."
James nodded again. "I just can't believe it's really you. That you're really back."
The boy suddenly gave her a sheepish look. "Uh... Williams?"
"About when you were here before... you're not still mad at me for pickin' on you and all that, right? You know, I... well... you know..."
She held her hand up just in time to prevent him from rambling. "Potter, I was never mad at you in the first place. I knew it was killing you to think I was a bloke then, and I was kind'a rubbing it in for fun, really. You know how I am."
He ran his hand through his hair again. "Ah, yeah, I kinda figured that was it, but wasn't really sure."
"So no hard feelings then?"
James smiled with relief at her. "Of course! None whatsoever!" he exclaimed holding his hand out to her before adding, "And you can call me by my first name if you want."
She smiled warmly in return. "Only if you call me Rhea."
"Rhea then. Friends?"
"Friends, James." When she took his offered hand they both gave a single firm shake. James beamed at her, jubilant at not only making amends for previous misunderstandings but also making a new ally who could help with Lily. "Anyway, I think I'll head to bed now," she got up as she said so. "I guess this is a hello again."
"Yeah, hello again." He smiled at his new friend.
"G'night, James. Sweet Lily-dreams!" she said merrily as she headed towards the girl's dorm, waving at him.
James blushed at her words though a smile remained plastered on his lips, "Uh, yeah, g'night, Rhea."