Chapter 48 : Revelations
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That morning I dressed with great care and attention. Doing much with my hair was useless, as the harsh March wind would demolish anything I tried within seconds of going outside, but I experimented with a bit of makeup and found some earrings that went rather nicely with the bracelet Sirius had given me for Christmas.
By the time we left Hogwarts, it was already eleven o’clock: Filch had held everyone up in the Entrance Hall while he tried to find the list of students who had permission to go, and then scanned us all for anything illegal before we could leave. I’d never properly understood that – why would we be taking contraband out of the school? – but it was a ritual we had to succumb to nonetheless.
Sirius put his arm around my waist as we walked down the driveway towards the gates. “Are you okay?” he asked, looking at me. “I’ve been looking forward to this for ages.”
“I was just thinking about how things can change,” I told him. “Bertram used to say the same sort of thing to me as you do, and after a couple of months he was going around with someone else behind my back.”
He frowned. “I’ve been thinking about that,” he said, “trying to get my head around it, and I can’t . I can’t work out why he would have done it. He must have known how it would turn out.”
“Sick of me, most probably,” I said.
He looked at me incredulously. “You’re joking,” he said. “You must be. How could anyone get sick of you?”
“Bertram must have,” I said. “And it had been about as long as we’ve been together. So part of me wonders whether you might do it too.”
“Now you are joking,” he said, giving me a bit of a squeeze as we made our way through the front gates of the school. “You can’t seriously think I’d do that, not after everything we’ve been through.”
“I’m doing my best,” I admitted. “And I do trust you, I know that.” I snuggled into him. “It’s just that sometimes my brain goes off and thinks things like that before I can stop it.”
He pulled me to one side of the road, and then stopped and turned me to face him. “Laura Cauldwell,” he said earnestly, “you are the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and if you think I’m going to ruin that by screwing around you don’t know me half as well as I thought you did.” His grey eyes were full of sincerity and his face had lost that haughty look, a sure sign he was telling the truth.
“All right,” I said. “I believe you. I guess I just can’t believe my luck.” And I went up on tip toes and kissed his cheek. He held me tightly in a half-romantic, half-reassuring way.
“And I can’t believe mine,” he said lightly. “And now, I thought you might like to go to Madam Puddifoot’s …” He laughed, ducking as I swung a playful fist towards his head.
I did see a few people heading towards the tea-shop, among them Bernie Carmichael and a girl who I thought might be in sixth year. I smiled to myself, hoping that it might work out for them, and congratulating myself for not being that girl – if he liked Madam Puddifoot’s, then we most probably weren’t a very good match anyway.
Instead Sirius and I spent a leisurely hour or so wandering the high street, scoffing quietly at the shabby stalls that seemed to have multiplied exponentially since our last visit, and dropping into places like Dervish & Banges and checking out their Sneakoscope range, and Scrivenshaft’s where I picked up a new eagle feather quill. Just before midday Sirius looked at his watch.
“You hungry?” he asked. “Let’s go to the Three Broomsticks. I fancy an early lunch.”
I hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast so the idea of food was definitely appealing. We made our way into the busy pub, the lunchtime traffic just starting to build up, and had a hearty and warming lunch, something I thought necessary considering the weather outside.
On our way out we passed Lily and James, who had just arrived with Martha, Charlotte, Remus and Peter. We waved and Sirius smiled conspiratorially. “We’re just on our way to the hideout,” he said to James, who nodded and looked at me with a barely suppressed grin.
“What hideout?” I asked as we made our way onto the crowded street, using my free hand to pull my cloak closer around me in a vain attempt to block out the cold March wind.
“You’ll see,” he said smugly.
I hesitated. “Do I really want to know?”
He looked at me, his expression serious all of a sudden. “Laura, you still trust me, don’t you?”
“Completely,” I replied, realising it was true. My doubts of the morning, if they had even been doubts at all, had totally evaporated.
“Well, then,” he said, pulling me by the hand, “come on.”
I had no answer to that, but stopped dead in my tracks when I saw where he was leading me. “The Shrieking Shack? You’re taking me there?” I wasn’t sure if I was thrilled or horrified.
“Of course,” he said. “Why not?”
“Because it’s haunted,” I said, stating the obvious. “There are supposed to be all sorts of malevolent spirits in there.”
“Rubbish,” he said confidently, grinning at me. “It’s not haunted . I’ve been in there loads of times. Not with girls,” he added, correctly interpreting my look. “Come on.” Accepting defeat, I allowed myself to be pulled towards the silent building.
It certainly looked foreboding, a feeling that increased the closer we got . The windows were all boarded up and what was once a garden was overgrown and dank. Sirius, however, was unperturbed and seemed to know what he was doing, looking briefly around to make sure no one could see us before leading me to a back entrance.
“Everyone’s probably having lunch so we shouldn’t get too many third-years wandering up to have a look at the place,” he said, “so it’s about as private as we’ll get.” He indicated the door with his thumb. “This is supposed to be sealed up,” he went on, getting his wand out and tapping what looked like random spots on the door frame. “We – the guys and I – unsealed it, but you have to know the code to get in.”
“So this is a Marauder hangout,” I said slowly. “It figures. Why did you bring me here though? I thought your hangouts were like sacred sites.”
“Because this is the only place I could think of,” he said, smiling wickedly as the door opened, “where I was sure we wouldn’t be disturbed.”
We slipped inside. The place looked just as bad on the inside as it did on the outside. There were bits of furniture scattered around the room, looking like they had been torn apart rather than any other explanation. The wallpaper was ripped and there was no glass in the boarded-up windows, allowing an icy draught to penetrate the house.
Sirius took me by the hand and led me upstairs to a dusty bedroom. “This won’t do at all,” he said as if to himself, frowning slightly as he looked around the murky room. “I thought I’d left it in better condition than this.” Again, broken furniture littered the floor, the wallpaper was torn, and the whole place had an odd smell, like a farm or something. Sirius walked around the room briskly, tidying up what he could.
“Right,” he was saying. “Reparo!” The broken furniture dutifully reassembled itself, and some of the wallpaper reattached itself to the wall.
“Incendio! Moliorobex!” A fire started burning happily in the grate, giving the room a more cheerful feeling, and the icy draught coming from the boarded-up window disappeared, immediately making the room warmer. “Scourgify! Tergeo!” The remaining mess on the floor disappeared and the air felt cleaner, less musty. “Renovo!” Fresh linen appeared on the newly-repaired bed.
“That’s more like it,” Sirius said, apparently still to himself. Another wave of his wand and a vase of daffodils was sitting on the dressing table.
I looked at him with admiration. “I didn’t know you were so good at housekeeping spells,” I said, unable to keep the surprise from my voice. Somehow Sirius and housekeeping didn’t seem to mix.
He shrugged. “Got my own place, no house elves, I pretty much had to learn them,” he said unconcernedly. “Now,” he added, that wicked grin back on his face, “we have –” he checked his watch – “three hours or so before we’re due back at school. The guys know we’re here, and no one else can get in, so we’re not going to be interrupted.”
“No interruptions?” I repeated quietly. It was like a dream come true. Without even bothering to answer, he pulled me towards him and kissed me deeply. My hands found their way under his cloak and shirt to his bare skin, and I could feel his muscles tensing as he held me. As I eased his cloak off his shoulders and dropped it to the floor, I knew that I had never wanted anything so badly in my life as I wanted him, right there, right now. There was no hesitation or uncertainty, just the knowledge that this was the right time. Everything we had done to that point had been leading up to this moment.
I pulled away from him just long enough to whisper the words, even though I felt somewhat awkward and more than a little self-conscious to even say them. I knew it was important, though, that there were no misunderstandings.
“Make love to me.”
He smiled softly. “Are you sure?”
“More than anything,” I responded.
“Well, if you change your mind, make sure you tell me,” he warned.
I just smiled. “Fine. If I get uncomfortable, I’ll tickle you.” I’d discovered that he was extremely ticklish if you got him in the right place.
He groaned. “Well, if that’s what it takes,” he complained, then smiled again as we fell together onto the bed, a jumble of limbs meshed together as we fought to get out of our clothes.
We lay on the bed, still intertwined, my head on his shoulder and my hand resting on his chest. “I’m not even going to ask if that was your first time,” I said with a sly grin, greedily breathing in the heady musky aroma that was unmistakably Sirius.
He smiled back. “Of course not. If you hand me that quill you just bought, I’ll write you out a list.” He paused, miming writing in the air. “Elvira Vablatsky. Greta Catchlove. Carol Jones. Primrose McLeod. Wendy Savage. Leda Madley …”
“Okay,” I said. “I asked for that.”
“Yep, you did,” he agreed with a grin. “Seriously, though, Dione, yes, a couple of times. Not that I’m especially proud of that, knowing now what she’s like. And a Muggle girl in London last summer who looked a bit like you. Not Clio, though, she had this idea that you had to be in love to do it, and that we definitely weren’t. I wasn’t all that fussed. That is to say, pretty girl, but nothing on you.”
I laughed. “You barely knew me when you were with her!”
“Ah, but you were the reason we broke up,” he said cheerfully, stroking my hair. “That rotten mood I was in? That was because you’d gotten together with Aubrey, and I was insanely jealous.”
I lifted my head and looked at him in surprise. “Really?”
He nodded. “Yes, really. Took me a while to work it out, though, so of course I had the frustration of not knowing why I was so pissed off that compounded it a bit.” He grinned. “Or maybe a lot. But yes, that’s what it was all about. In the end it was Moony who pointed it out. Said I was behaving just as badly as Prongs was with Lily. Suddenly I realised he was right.”
“Goodness,” I said, leaning over so our faces were only inches apart. “You have been patient.”
“You’re not wrong,” he said wryly, moving even closer. “Good thing you were worth it.”
“So were you.” I leaned in that last inch to kiss him and we again gave in to the moment, revelling in the fact that we were absolutely alone, that no one was going to suddenly open the door and catch us.
“You never told me why this is a hangout,” I said a little while later.
“I guess not,” he said quietly, running his hand through my hair again. “It’s not really my story to tell.”
I looked at him sympathetically. “Another one of those secrets?”
He sighed. “Actually, I’ve got permission to tell you now,” he said, suddenly becoming very solemn. “You have to promise not to breathe a word of this to anyone.”
“I promise.” I rolled onto my stomach and propped myself up with my elbows, wondering what on earth could possibly be so secret that he was treating it so seriously.
He took a deep breath. “This all starts with Remus,” he said finally, pulling himself up and leaning against the headboard. “I don’t know if you heard any of the rumours about him that went round a couple of years ago …”
Something stirred in the back of my mind. “Do you mean Snape’s theory?”
He nodded grimly. “Yes, that’s the one.” He paused, watching me, before taking another breath and continuing. “Well, as much as it kills me to admit it, Snivellus actually got it right for once.”
I was staring at him, horrified. “Do you mean that Remus is a – a werewolf?” It seemed too bizarre to credit.
Sirius nodded again. “Yes, he is. He got bitten as a two year old. He’s had a rough life.” He paused. “Prongs and I worked it out in second year – he would say he was going to see his ill mother, but he always looked like the one who was ill. And when he said he was ill, we’d sneak into the hospital wing to see him and he wouldn’t be there. He’d be there the next day, looking more like he’d been in a brawl than anything else, but not overnight. Even Peter was seeing the clues.” He paused again, looking at me searchingly. “Listen, does this change anything? Are you okay with it?”
“Once I get over the shock,” I said wanly . “No, of course it doesn’t change anything. I guess it makes sense, now I come to think of it. But – poor Remus!! What a horrible thing to have to go through!”
“Yeah,” he said dryly. “You can understand why he’s not keen for it to be common knowledge. Most people aren’t as open minded as we are.” He paused again. “It’s funny, looking back,” he said. “Here was me, so worried about how people would treat me for being a Black, when one of my best mates was becoming a monster every month and having to deal with that. When he realised we knew he even assumed we wouldn’t want to be friends with him any more. Which just shows how people had reacted in the past, like what Viridian was talking about last year.” His fist clenched. “Stupid, ignorant idiots …”
“Calm down,” I said, grabbing his hand and kissing it. “So, one of your best friends is a werewolf. What does that have to do with this place?”
He grinned suddenly. “This place was built specifically for Moony. It’s only been here seven years. You know that tunnel underneath the Whomping Willow? It leads here – there’s a trapdoor in one of the rooms downstairs. Each month at the full moon, Madam Pomfrey takes him down to the Willow, which can be frozen if you know how, and he comes in here to transform.”
I nodded thoughtfully. “And that explains the condition of everything,” I guessed, my eyes flicking around the room as I remembered what it had been like when we’d walked in. “He rips things apart. And now I understand why he’s never had a girlfriend. I mean, Charlotte’s been pretty much throwing herself at him for ages. But he’s not game, is he? He’s scared of getting too close to someone in case he hurts them.”
Sirius was looking at me shrewdly. “That’s right,” he agreed. “We’ve tried to convince him that any girl worth her salt wouldn’t care, but he’s too chicken to find out. Seems to think he doesn’t deserve it, or something.”
“Poor boy,” I murmured. “It must be awful for him.” My heart almost broke at the thought of his self-imposed lonely and loveless existence, but then something occurred to me and I giggled suddenly. “Is that what the furry little problem is? There’s no rabbit at all, is there?”
He laughed. “Yes, you guessed it,” he said. “We needed something to call it in public, so that was what James came up with. I think it was in third year that someone came to the conclusion that we were talking about a badly behaved rabbit, and we just never bothered to correct them. That poor animal must have the worst reputation of any creature known to man.”
“Well, it’s a good cover,” I admitted. “None of us ever realised there was anything more to it than that.” I paused, giggling to myself over James’ idea of a good code name, when I remembered a bit of the earlier conversation. “But I thought you said you would come down here? You can’t do that if there’s a werewolf … Merlin’s beard!” I suddenly exclaimed, realising something. “That time James saved Snape’s life! He was going down that tunnel! He would have found …”
“Yep, he would have found a fully-fledged werewolf if he’d made it all the way,” Sirius said stonily, not looking at me. “He should never have done what I said in the first place. Honestly, if Snivellus told me to go down an unknown passageway after dark because I might be interested in what I found there, there’s no way known I’d go without some serious backup and a heap of precautions.” He paused. “I’m not proud of what I did,” he said eventually, his eyes finding mine again. “I was just so sick of him following us around all the time, trying to get us expelled, I thought I’d give him something to really think about. And he was being such a prat about that whole Imperius Curse thing. It seemed like a good idea at the time … I don’t always think things through very well,” he went on, looking somewhat sheepish.
I decided to let it slide. He’d improved on that matter since fifth year. “So, this place as a hangout,” I prompted.
“Right,” he smiled, obviously glad for the change of subject. “Well, we could see how badly the transformations were affecting Moony, he was always zonked afterwards and generally in a pretty bad way. There was no one for him to attack so he’d attack himself.” I shuddered involuntarily, and he gave my hand a comforting squeeze. “So James, Peter and I tried to figure out a way that we could make it easier for him. Make it a time that he didn’t dread so much. And eventually we came up with the idea of becoming Animagi.”
My jaw dropped in astonishment. “Animagi?”
He nodded. “Yep. It was James’ idea initially, I think. A werewolf is only dangerous to people. So, we thought, if we could become animals, we could hang out with him when he’s transformed and not be in any danger.”
I couldn’t fault his logic but what he was saying was beyond belief. “You’re not telling me you’re an Animagus,” I said. “That’s – that’s really advanced, you can’t do that when you’re still at school!”
“Try me,” he said lightly. “We worked it out during fifth year. James, Peter and I can become animals at will.”
I had sat up by now, stunned and amazed by what he was telling me. “You – and James – and Peter – are all Animagi? That’s unbelievable. And what a fantastic thing to do for Remus!”
He shrugged, as he always did when someone complimented him. “It took a long time, the best part of three years, but we managed it. Peter needed a bit of help,” he added, grinning. “But the upshot is that every month when Remus comes down here, we follow him with James’ Invisibility Cloak and transform into animals so we can keep him company. James and I are pretty big, so we can handle a werewolf, and Pete is small enough to freeze the Willow and to keep a lookout for us.”
“So what do you turn into?” I asked breathlessly.
Wordlessly he got up and, suddenly, an enormous shaggy black dog was sitting on the rug next to the bed. Wondering why it looked so familiar, I reached over to stroke its snout and he changed back to Sirius, laughing.
“We weren’t surprised, of course,” he said, getting back onto the bed. “Sirius is the dog star, so as a Black I had to be a black dog. James is a stag, and Pete’s a rat. Same as our Patronuses, you might notice.”
Well, that was probably why it was familiar – it was just like his Patronus. In any case I just stared at him, amazed. Then something else occurred to me and I giggled unexpectedly. “Well, that explains the amortentia.”
“Amortentia,” I repeated. “When we did it in Potions, one of the things I could smell was wet dog. I couldn’t for the life of me work out why.”
He smiled broadly. “That potion never lies, does it?”
I looked at him curiously. “So what did you smell?”
He hesitated. “Well, when you’re an Animagus things like amortentia can get a bit warped. And because I’m a dog my sense of smell is heightened as well, so there’s that to take into account. So the dog part of me could smell dog biscuits and rabbits and other dog things, all intermingled with human stuff like hot cross buns and treacle tart and that smell you get outside when it’s just been raining.” He leaned over and put his face in my hair, inhaling deeply. “And that.”
I smiled. “Right answer.” Then I realised something abruptly and stared at him. “But … the dog … you did follow me!” That was why it looked familiar, I understood suddenly – not just because of the Patronus, but because I had seen it before.
He looked confused. “Follow you?”
“When I left James’ place in January,” I explained, a little shamefacedly. We didn’t talk about that time very much, the break-up – things had moved on so far from that now that it seemed pointless, as well as painful.
He laughed. “Of course I followed you,” he said. “I was trying to get you to come back! Why would you think –” His voice broke off as comprehension dawned on his face. “You thought I didn’t! Oh, crap, I was the dog, wasn’t I? Mother of Merlin, what was I thinking? I just transformed because it’s the fastest way to run on snow, but I couldn’t catch the car, so I went back and wrote to you instead. But you thought I didn’t …” He trailed off, shaking his head.
I smiled tersely. “That was exactly what I thought. I was looking for the bike and all I saw was what I thought was a stray dog chasing the car. I thought you didn’t even care enough to chase after me.”
He clapped a hand to his face. “The bike! Why didn’t I think of that?”
“Probably because you had the option of turning into a dog,” I said wryly. “But yeah, I was convinced you couldn’t be bothered.”
“And that was why you sent that stuff back,” he muttered, his hand moving to where the bracelet sat on my arm. “That makes more sense now. Geez, Laura, I’m sorry.”
I grabbed his hand and kissed it again. “Well, we sorted it out eventually, didn’t we? But yeah, it might have been different if I’d realised. ” Then suddenly something else made sense and I changed the subject. “And now I get what you’ve been doing.” He looked at me quizzically. “Those nights you disappeared with James and Peter and told me not to ask questions,” I explained. “There was a full moon, wasn’t there? You were going to see Remus.”
He looked a little uncomfortable. “I hated not telling you,” he admitted. “And you were right, it did look like I didn’t trust you. But it wasn’t my secret, and, well, we were a bit rocky for while there so I wanted that to settle down before I would even consider asking Moony if I could tell you.”
I nodded. “That’s fair enough. I mean, knowing about it now, it’s fair enough, but I wasn’t too thrilled at the time.”
“I noticed,” he said, making a face. “But I couldn’t say anything, and I didn’t want to lie to you.”
I decided to let it slide: it wasn’t his fault, after all. Then yet another thing clicked – so much that had puzzled me in the past was starting to add up now. “Of course,” I said quietly. “Those bloody nicknames. That’s where they come from.”
“Right again,” he agreed with a smile, looking relieved that I’d changed the subject yet again. “Prongs is the stag, Padfoot – me – is the dog, and Wormtail is the rat. And, of course, Moony, which now should need no explanation. And,” he went on, “that’s how we got into your dorm. The stairs only change for people, animals can get up there whether they’re male or female.”
I groaned. That made sense. “But Remus couldn’t get up, then, could he?”
“He can if he rides Prongs,” Sirius said, a broad smile once again adorning his face. “It was a good plan, though, wasn’t it?”
“That scared the hell out of us,” I admitted. “Realising you lot could get in. It shattered our illusions of privacy.”
He laughed. “You should be glad none of you keeps a diary. We could have learned all sorts of things.”
“I’ll pretend you didn’t say that,” I said with a grin. “So, no one else knows about this?”
“Well, obviously, most of the teachers know about Moony. They had to be told so they wouldn’t be too hard on him if he missed a lot of school because of it. Not Slughorn, though, he’d have put him straight in the Slug Club and made a curiosity of him, and that’s the last thing Dumbledore wanted. Or Remus, for that matter.” He paused. “And Lily knows too,” he added as an afterthought.
“Yes, I imagine she would,” I said wryly. “James would have told her.”
“Oh, she knew about Moony before that,” Sirius said. “They were both prefects, and he wasn’t able to do all his duties at certain times so, with his permission, Dumbledore told her and asked her to cover for him if anyone said anything. That is, he got through fifth year okay, as by chance the full moon was always at a convenient time, but sixth year was more of a problem for him. Being Lily, of course, she never told anyone.”
“No, she never did,” I mused. Charlotte had been quietly wondering about Remus’ frequent illnesses for ages and Lily had never breathed a word.
“And I expect she knows about the rest of us by now,” he went on. “We gave permission ages ago, and Prongs can never keep anything from her for very long. But that’s it, no one else.”
“Well,” I said, “I’m amazed. But you have my promise, I won’t tell a soul.”
“Thanks,” said Sirius, leaning forwards and kissing my forehead. “I knew you wouldn’t. Otherwise I’d never have told you.” He lifted my chin so I was facing him again and kissed me gently. “Anyway,” he went on a moment later, and throwing a t-shirt at me, “I’d say this one’s yours. We’d better think about getting back to school.”
Author’s note: Well, it is rated Mature! I admit that I didn’t originally intend the full disclosure of Marauder secrets to come out as pillow talk, but I started writing and this is how it evolved. It’s undergone a few revisions since it was first written but I think I’ve included everything. I must say I like the line “and Pete’s a rat” – it is nice to have a bit of foreshadowing in there.
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