“Are you sure we shouldn’t take her to the hospital wing?” This voice sounded worried.
“CERTAIN!” Whispered two voices in unison.
“Look, Peter,” one of them began again, softly. “I know you’re not comfortable with this. There’s nothing wrong with that. Why not head downstairs, try and get some sleep, ok?” Remus, I thought, my mind only half conscious. Just like Remus to think about everyone else.
Not Remus. Not Remus’ voice. James? Not like him to sound so…compassionate. A scuffling on the floor, the sound of a door opening and closing, light footsteps on the stairs. I swear my senses are always more highly tuned when I come out of being wolf…
Wolf. Running from a werewolf. Running from my best friends…except, what had Marissa said? Taking bets on me? The anger that had almost died inside of me flared up again, but I didn’t move. Not yet.
“We almost lost her.” Sirius. His voice was deep, and the fear in it shook me to the core. Actual fear. For me? Or for his place in this school if someone found out what had happened?
“I know, Padfoot. It was too close…”
“Too close? We could have lost her! I could have lost her…”
“I know.” I frowned inwardly, trying to understand the meaning behind those words. Of course, it could be all part of their bet. He might be saying he’d almost lost the chance to win on me. That made sense.
In the twisted, cynical, bitter part of my heart, that made sense.
I reached a decision. I pushed myself up from the bed, opening my eyes to glare at the shadowy figures before me.
Then I fell back again, my eyes alight with pain, my back seething. I heard them gasp, and felt a rough hand grasp mine almost tenderly.
“Roe? Can you hear me?” James speaking, from the other side of me. Sirius’ hand, then. I winced, shifting until I could find a position that did not involve searing pain.
“I hear you, James Potter,” I muttered. Sirius’ hand tightened on mine.
“Does it hurt to speak?” Still James.
“Not so much as it hurts lying here, not being able to beat the living daylights out of you,” I growled. I couldn’t help myself. Sirius’ grip on my hand, rather to my surprise, tightened.
“Just rest yourself, Roe,” he said, his voice gentle.
“What were you doing out there?” James intervened. I glowered up at him as best I could, but refused to answer. He sighed, and stretched. “Pad, I need to get a drink. Want anything?” Sirius must have shaken his head. “Roe?”
“Suit yourself,” he said with what was probably a shrug. I heard the door swing shut behind him, and relaxed slightly.
“Is Remus ok?” I was surprised that I asked. Then again, he was a werewolf. They couldn’t help what they did – at least, not while they were in that shape.
Sirius seemed surprised as well – I had just been snapping at one of his best friends, after all.
“He never remembers stuff from the nights he’s changed,” came his soft response. “He’s in the hospital wing. The change back is always painful.”
“I’m glad,” I said, then realised what it sounded like. “Not that he’s in pain, just that he won’t remember. I don’t want him to.” I felt his hand tighten on mine again.
“You’re a good friend, Roe.” There was a pause. “Why were you running away?”
Now he had my full attention. I shuffled up so that I was sitting up against the headboard. Sirius leant around me, moving pillows so that I was supported. I seemed to have the pillows from every bed in the dorm behind me.
“Why do you say that?” I asked at last, when I was as comfortable as I was going to get. He reached out to the chest by the bed, and held out something for me to see. My diary.
“You dropped this when you changed back into a human, after you fell down into that pit and got caught in the bear trap. We’d got Remus off your scent by then – Prongs had decoyed him away.” I nodded, then looked up at him.
”Read it? No. Though I admit I was tempted. I know you'd never carry it on you, though, unless you weren't going to be able to come back for it.” He put it back on the chest, then looked down at me, his grey eyes more serious than I had ever seen them.
“The truth, please, Roe. You know I could just open that book and find it, but I’d rather hear it from you.”
This was new. This was strange. I was used to Sirius being the joker, the troublemaker. I’d heard James as the voice of authority, Remus being kind…but Sirius being so…gentle yet commanding, was totally new to me. Sirius being serious.
“I heard something…” It all seemed so foolish now. Sirius was not that type of guy. I knew now, looking at him. He saw me as a friend – really, as a friend. I was ashamed now to tell him what I’d believed.
“What?” He asked, curious. He was still holding my hand. A tear streaked down my cheek. I scarcely even noticed. I didn’t want to tell him – or maybe I did…what would he think? I looked up into his silvery eyes, and my resolve strengthened.
“M- one of the girls told me that you and the other Marauders were taking bets on who would get me to fall for them first.” I said it quickly, in a rush to get it out. “She said Lily was in on it too, that it was just a big game to you-“ Sirius was on his feet, his eyes flashing.
“Who said that?” He demanded. Seeing the look on my face, he sunk down beside me again, and cupped my chin softly in his hand. His eyes bored into mine. “We would never do that to you, Roe. I would never do that to you. You’re one of us.” He stopped, and looked hard at my face. I met his eyes, not afraid - for once. “But someone’s done it before?” He asked, voice suddenly cold. “Someone’s used you for fun…” His voice trailed off, and I was startled at the anger in his eyes. “How dare they…” He seemed to forget I was there, as he stared into the distance. Then he snapped back, and looked at me again.
“Never again, Roe. I swear it to you. No one is ever going to use you again.”
I was awake before dawn, the habits of a lifetime fighting against my body’s desire to sleep, to recover. I pulled myself upright, already feeling stronger than I had in the night. The pale pre-dawn light was creeping through the window, and I took advantage of it to glance around me.
The room was a tip, but I guessed there was nothing weird about that. Even in the complex, Madam couldn’t make the boys be tidy. There were only four beds – fewer than in the girls’ dorm on the next staircase. Only one of them was occupied besides mine. I could just about make out James’ tousled head above the covers, his glasses glinting on the bedside table. Remus would be in the hospital wing, of course, and they’d sent Peter downstairs. Sirius…
…was still sitting there next to me, his hand resting on the covers. I smiled slightly, remembering his promise last night. He sounded so sincere.
I was going to believe him.
Ok, so tricking me twice is meant to be shame on me, but what if I gave up everything just because I was afraid? Wouldn’t that be shame on me even more?
It’s not as if I have a heart to break, anyway.
The light at the window was calling at my instincts, begging for me to get up and run through the ritual of every morning. I obeyed. Slipping silently from the bed, I stepped over to the window and began. The boys were apparently heavy sleepers – they often came late to breakfast. And I was practised in the art of stealth. No way they’d wake up because of me.
I was about half-way through the exercises when a hand rested gently on my shoulder. I froze, then allowed my muscles to relax into a fighting stance as I turned. It may have been stupidly defensive, but I felt it was necessary after last night. I’d checked, and the cuts all over my body would take some explaining.
It was James.
“Still want to kill me?” He asked softly, his eyes never leaving mine. I grimaced.
“You talk to Sirius last night?” He nodded.
“Yeah.” He didn’t seem to want to elaborate."
“What did he tell you?”
“That you had a good reason to kill me. He wouldn’t tell me what.” I smiled. I knew I could trust him. “He seemed pretty angry about it though. And he said you knew about Remus’ furry little secret.” I grinned. I couldn’t help it – trust a Marauder to describe it that way.
”Yeah, I…guessed, a while back now.”
”And you kept it to yourself?” I scowled. Was he implying I’m not trustworthy? Problem child I may have been, but I do not break my word.
“He did the same for me.” James stared.
“-unregistered animagus,” I supplied, guessing what he’d thought. After all, he’d seen me turn into a wolf, and at full moon – it was an understandable mistake to make, and I covered over for him nicely.
”Not a werewolf then?” So much for being sensitive about it.
“No. Just a kind of animagus, like you and Sirius. You go out there to protect him?”
”And to keep him company, yeah.” He looked at me thoughtfully. “Who else knows about you?”
“Just the three of you. And Dumbledore.” He nodded.
“Same as know about us. And Peter.” I raised my eyebrows.
Admittedly, Peter is technically a Marauder, and he’s a Gryffindor, and so he’s supposed to be noble, and loyal, and brave…but he’s always reminded me of a small rodent…
”Yeah. He can turn into a rat.”
…which would explain that. Must take care to repress any pouncing urges when in cat form.
“So what are you doing up at this unearthly hour?” James asked. I raised my eyebrows at the abrupt change of subject.
“Could ask you the same question. What does it look like I’m doing?”
”Is it so weird that your exercising should have woken me?” He asked, curious. I nodded.
“I’ve been doing it for years in dorms across most of the apparently civilised world, and the only person to catch me at it so far has been Lily.” I grinned at him. “You two are made for each other.”
He laughed. “Now we’ve only got to get her to see it.” His laugh caused a moan to emanate (this place is having an effect on my vocab, I’m sure of it) from the other end of the room. Sirius unfolded himself, blinking in the now-broken dawn, and stretched like a cat. Then he looked up at me, eyes full of sleep.
“Shouldn’t you be in bed, Roe?” He managed. I smiled.
“Look who’s talking. And no, I shouldn’t.”
“He’s got a point though,” commented James. “You’re a state, Roe, and if you go down to breakfast looking like that then rumour will get around that the Marauders don’t take good care of their guests.
I groaned, then shrugged. It was painful to do so, but movement was gradually returning.
“Fine, hand me a fresh towel. Then James, go up to my dorm. Lily will be awake and worried. Get her to bring me a clean uniform. I’ll be in the shower. Sirius,” I looked over at the boy whose bed I’d stolen. “Get some rest, there’s still an hour till breakfast, and you should be sleeping in a proper bed.”
Grabbing the proffered towel, I strode into the shower room, taking care to double lock the door behind me.
Ten minutes later I heard a knock on the door, and I emerged reluctantly from the jet of hot water that immersed my sore limbs.
“Roe? It’s Lily. I’ve got your stuff.” Leaning over, I opened the door a crack so that she could slide in without the boys being able to see. She handed me the clothes and looked away as I slid them over my tired body, glad to be clean.
“Safe to look,” I reassured her, and she turned. I was glad to see that my appearance elicited no reaction from her but a slightly worried smile, and we walked out of the shower room without a word.
I didn’t get that from the boys, of course.
“Gryffindor, what happened to your face?” Sirius asked in amazement. I shrugged.
I’d taken a lot of beatings in my time. Was it any surprise that I’d learned how to heal myself? Admittedly, it took a lot out of me, so I’d only bothered with the visible wounds for now, but it was worth it.
“What do you mean?” Lily asked, glancing up at my perfectly normal – for me, obviously – appearance.
”Well,” said Sirius hotly, “She was covered in cuts when she went in, and now…” he trailed off. James had raised one eyebrow (slightly jauntily) at him, and Lily was looking alarmed. I sighed, and flopped down on the bed next to him, my soaking pony tail spraying him as it passed.
“What happened last night?” Lily asked, her eyes flicking between me and Sirius, and then lighting on James.
“I could ask the same question.” We all looked up. Remus had come in through the doorway. He looked tired and pale, but his eyes were bright. “And I want the truth. Peter’s been burbling away at me in the hospital wing about something happening – I slipped him some of my sedatives in the end. Now, what was he on about?”
He was asking for the truth, and he was asking with Lily there. Sirius and I both looked at James, who shrugged.
“You’re aware that Evans is here, right?” He asked, slowly, allowing the information to sink in. Remus just glared at him.
“Prongs, Peter said I did something terrible last night. I can’t remember it. I don’t care who’s in the room, I want the TRUTH!”
I’d never heard Remus yell before – it was scary. I got to my feet.
“It was my fault, Rems,” I said softly. “I was trying to get out of Hogwarts – trying to run away, actually. Please don’t ask why, I was being stupid. But I didn’t realise it was full moon. I ran into you, and James and Sirius managed to steer you away. I was frightened, and I ran. I fell into a pit trap in the forest. That’s all.”
He stared at me.
“So you finding out I’m a werewolf, and me almost attacking you, and you trying to run away from Hogwarts, is all that happened last night?” He looked like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“In fairness, I already knew. And it was my fault for getting in your way. And yes, I was being stupid, like I said.” He was still gaping, when James intervened.
“So Roe’s ok with everything, Moony. Nothing to worry about. Lily…”
He paused, looking over at the auburn haired beauty. She hesitated, then shrugged.
“I guessed about you a long time ago, Remus. It doesn’t bother me. And Roe’s safe, so there’s nothing to worry about, like James says.”
“And Lily just agreed on something with Prongs, which has got to overshadow last night’s incident,” interrupted Sirius with a grin. I laughed, then looked across at Remus.
“I used my secret to get away, Remus. It really was my fault that I got hurt – I panicked.” I glanced at Lily, who was watching me in renewed confusion. “You should probably know, since these guys do…” I concentrated, then switched.
Wolf shape had felt too good last night, and there was always the risk, especially after that time in the Alps, that coming back would be too hard. Kitten was always much safer.
Lily was staring at me, but I ignored her. Instead I clawed my way up onto Sirius’ bed, and from there leapt onto his head, where I balanced precariously. He stayed absolutely still, just as he had last time, and James burst out laughing.
”Aha, the mysterious kitten returns!” he chuckled. Remus grinned wanly, and Lily stared in amazement. Smiling inwardly, I jumped down and switched again, back into my normal form.
“So you see,” I said, turning to Lily again. “We’re all freaks here.”
A/N And this chapter is definitely dedicated to my amazing reviewers! It was originally two chapters, but it was kind of short and they fitted together pretty well...think of it as a kind of thank you present to all who have reviewed and who...will? Please? You make my day!