Chapter 34 : Chapter 34: Under the Full Moon
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I collapsed onto the grass as the sun set to the west. My legs burned, and it did not have to do with how I banged both of my knees under a library table at some point or another within the last half hour. No, I don’t think I had ever run as fast before in my life.
I rolled onto my back, staring up at the sky. In just a few hours, the full moon will rise. I will transform into a- a- a creature, and probably not remember anything after snogging Remus in the library. Merlin, Remus was willing to be with me, even knowing what I was?
But even after running as hard and as fast as I could, I had to keep moving. I pushed myself off the grass. I was still too close to the school. So I circled the Black Lake, my eyes adjusting to the gradually dimming light. I nearly tripped on a few stones that I thought were just lumps of dirt, but otherwise I was fine.
I stopped, just at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. The surface of the lake rippled with every gentle breeze that came across its surface. I heard the water hit the rocks. Some birds were still chirping in the trees behind me. Animals scurried across the forest floor. And I realized that this was the spot where that mysterious girl appeared on my birthday, taunting me.
“Is that what she knew?” I whispered into the wind. “She knew I was a werewolf?” The word sounded strange coming from my mouth. Foreign. Like I had never spoken the word before with so much meaning behind it.
I looked across to the castle. I knew that when I change, it won’t take me long to run back to the castle. Will it be locked at night? Do any of the teachers know that there might be a werewolf sitting in their classes?
I took a seat against a tree at the forest’s edge. I continued to think about the school. Let’s see, it took me twenty minutes to slowly get around the lake. It wouldn’t even take three minutes for a werewolf to round the bend. I knew, mostly from Muggle legends, that werewolf bites transmit the condition from victim to victim.
Merlin, please let my friends and fellow classmates be safe.
The sky turned from navy blue to practically black. Countless stars dotted the sky. Fires and torches within the school lit all available windows in a yellow-golden light. More nocturnal animals awoke and began their nightly excursions. The lake continued to slosh lazily against the shore. The lake’s surface distorted the school’s reflection of those flickering lights.
I rested my head against the tree as the full moon began to rise. At any time now, I may feel myself start to go through a massive physical change. And then by morning, I may not remember these thoughts. But how did I become a werewolf? How was I bitten? Did it happen here at school in September? More questions flooded my mind, all so similar but all without answers.
My eyes closed in an effort to keep from conjuring more questions. I needed to focus on something else. Something different than what caused me to be a werewolf. My ears picked up on the sloshing water. Back and forth the lake came. Drops slowly washed over the rocks, retreated, and came back to repeat the process.
That slow, rhythmic beat. It kept those pointless, unanswerable questions away. I took deeper and deeper breaths.
I didn’t fight it. I let myself slip into unconsciousness. It was best this way. . .
I felt something tickle my cheek. I tried swatting the object away. My fingers came across something with an exoskeleton. It cracked under the pressure of my fingers. My cheek felt the residue settle.
I opened my eyes and looked at the remains of a lone ant that had tried to cross my face. My fingers were illuminated by the bright full moon. I could clearly see that five of the six legs were still on the carcass. The sixth was probably still on my face.
Wait. Those were my fingers. I looked up. That was the full moon. As I sat up, I took inventory: two human legs, a human torso, human arms, and a seemingly human face with a smeared bug on the left cheek.
“I’m still human,” I breathed, actually smiling. I looked up at the full moon again. “I’m not a werewolf. Thank Merlin!”
I stood up, realizing that my limbs were stiff after sleeping against a tree for- four hours?! It was practically midnight as I read my watch by the moonlight. In fact, it was so bright on the grounds, I could make out well-defined shadows and some colors not normally seen in the dark.
I walked away from the lake and the Forbidden Forest, towards a wide opening of a grassy field. The stars were exceptionally bright. Not having astronomy lessons anymore made the sight ten times more enjoyable. I didn’t have to, but I could name every star and constellation in the black sky. Some stars, fainter than others, were blocked out of sight by the incredible full moon.
I must have been wandering the grounds for fifteen minutes, my head arched back to look at the sky. It was magnificent. It was glorious. And it was all the more impressive when I kept reminding myself that I was seeing this with my human eyes.
A wolf howled. Long and low.
I stopped. I’ve heard normal wolves howl. I’ve seen a few packs when home for the summer (don’t let my mum know). But the howl I just heard, that was no normal wolf howl. And it came from the direction of the Whomping Willow around the next bend of trees.
I swallowed a lump in my throat. It didn’t go away. Took a few steps forward. My heartbeat pounded in my ears, but I don’t think that’s what caused all the nocturnal creatures of the Forbidden Forest to go silent.
There was no mistaking it. It stood on all fours, its slender limbs covered in a light grey fur. Its body was thin, skinny. But the most notable feature was its eyes. Those golden orbs, glowing in the shadows of the Whomping Willow, were trained on me.
I felt my heart stop. I was exchanging looks with a werewolf.
We both stood motionless for what felt like hours. But as quickly as I saw him, the werewolf leapt forward, barking and snarling its way for me.
I turned and ran. Ordered my legs to run as fast and as hard as they had ever run before. But as my muscles began to burn and my lungs felt desperate for the oxygen I couldn’t deliver fast enough, I knew that there was no way that I could outrun a werewolf.
Its heavy breathing and paws ripping at the group kept getting louder and louder in my already-pounding ears. I was too far from the castle or even Hagrid’s Hut. Nowhere for me to go but onward, outrunning a creature faster than an Olympic athlete.
My eyes scanned the edge of the Forbidden Forest. There was my answer! The trees! Without thinking, I launched myself up at the first tree with a semi-low branch. My arms took the strain as my mind raced to think of what I could do from here. Sure, the werewolf could follow me up here. But I could easily leap to another tree. I don’t think werewolves could stabilize themselves in branches as well as I could. That may buy my some extra seconds as I think of another plan to save myself.
The werewolf reached the tree just as I was about the jump to the neighboring tree. It jumped up. Its front paws raked at the tree, but it did not get onto even the first branch. It slid back down and resorted to circling the trunk, snarling up at me but not making another attempt.
Good thing werewolves can’t climb trees, I thought. I decided to just cling to the tree trunk. I could wait here until morning, when the werewolf would revert back to whatever poor soul it was before.
The werewolf howled again. Long and loud. It backed away. Just when I thought it might be safe for me to relax a little, the werewolf ran forward, bent its head down, and head-butted the tree. Hard.
“Ya!” I clung to the tree tighter as I swayed in the branches.
The werewolf shook its head, backed up, and slammed the top of its head into the tree for a second time. And then a third. A fourth. Fifth. And with each attack on the tree, I started to fear that the werewolf would bring down the tree before the moon went down. I might not last through the night up here after all.
“Think, Artemis, think,” I whispered, cringing as the werewolf slammed the tree again. “What do I have that can take down a werewolf? Merlin, why did I have to be so sick third year?! I don’t think normal defensive spells even work on werewolves. If they did, they wouldn’t be feared as much. C’mon, Artemis, think!”
The tree shook again. I also heard a crack, but I wasn’t sure if that was from wood fracturing or bone cracking. I was willing to bet everything I had that the tree would give before the werewolf.
“Please let this be effective on werewolves,” I prayed, withdrawing my wand. I kept it clenched tightly in my right hand. If I dropped it, I knew that I was dead. Or worse.
“Sternutatio Maxima!” I screamed, my wand aimed at the werewolf below.
I waited. Held my breath. Please, please, please let this work on-
The werewolf stopped. Looked down. Blinked. And then let out a gigantic sneeze.
I had never used Sternutatio at its maximum level before, but if the book I read it from was correct, my target had forty-nine more sneezes before it would recover.
The werewolf sneezed again, this time with enough force to send it backwards by half a meter or so.
“Forty-eight,” I muttered, dropping down to the ground. The werewolf was beside me, almost close enough to touch.
“Forty-seven.” I ran past it. The werewolf opened its golden eyes long enough to see me, but it succumbed to the spell’s effects of compulsive sneezing before it could do anything to me.
I ran, realizing that I would run out of time if I headed straight to the castle. Besides, the doors leading in may be locked. But I knew a secret passage from Hogsmeade that could take me into the castle safely.
I thought the werewolf still had ten more sneezes to go when I heard it start chasing after me again. I didn’t turn my head back for fear of losing my fast pace. Just run. Run for Hogsmeade. And hope that the villagers locked their household doors.
The sound of footsteps kept getting closer. And closer. My legs were on fire. My throat was raw from my heavy breathing. My fingers were turning numb, but I kept a firm grip on my wand-
My shoe tripped over a rock that I had overlooked. My momentum sent me crashing to the ground. My left cheek burned as I slid across the grass.
I. Was. Doomed.
I rolled onto my back, expecting the worst. I could see it now. The werewolf will pounce on me. It will shrug off my hardest curses. Its teeth will rip into me. I will either be killed tonight or live the rest of my life as a werewolf-
In reality, the werewolf did appear. It had caught up with me. But as it was about to pounce, a large beast burst from the Forbidden Forest. Its antlers helped lift the werewolf from the ground and fling it at least twenty meters away from me.
The stag snorted before chasing after the tossed werewolf.
“Oh my-” I gasped. Where did that stag come-?
I felt a wet snout nudge my right hand. Looking back down, a large black dog was at my side.
The black dog gave a single bark, then nodded its head up once. I think it was trying to tell me to go back to the castle, or the village. Anywhere but towards the werewolf.
A dog? And a stag? Sacred animals to that goddess Artemis? What are the odds I would get protection from those two creatures? Whatever, I need to get out of here!
I pushed myself back onto my feet. Every muscle protested, but survival instincts won out. But as I tried to run again for Hogsmeade, my feet were still resisting the movement. A few times, I stumbled over more rocks, twigs, and even a clump of dirt.
But every time I stumbled, the large black dog was by my side, nudging me to keep moving, to get myself to safety.
Just at the edge of the Forbidden Forest and Hogsmeade Village, I heard an animal cry. I recognized it instantly as the stag. People think of deer as quiet and gentle. But when threatened or in pain, they can cry out so loud, it’s enough to make one mad.
I turned back, slowing in my jog to stand still. The stag and werewolf were still fighting, with the stag facing away from me. But I saw the scratches on the stag’s body, glittering red in the moonlight. Oh no, what if the stag get hurt because it was protecting me-
The black dog was at my side again, trying to nudge me to keep moving. It barked. It tried pulling at the hem of my skirt with its teeth. When that didn’t work, when I was still mesmerized by the stag and werewolf fight, the dog circled around to my front. It hopped onto its hind legs and put its front paws on my stomach. I had to stumble back from the impressive weight, but I didn’t run. The dog’s right paw slipped from my blouse, its rough pads brushing against the back of my hand like sandpaper.
Wait. The dog’s pads. I stumbled backwards again. The dog lost its balance against me and fell onto all fours. Before it turned around to face the battle before us, the left paw rubbed against my skin again. The rough pads.
Pads on a dog . . . “Pads” . . . Padfoot . . . a nickname . . .
“Sirius?” I whispered, hardly believing this crazy thought that just came to me.
The dog stiffened. Its ears, already perked up, seemed to go even straighter. It looked back over its right shoulder to me. I stared down into those unique blue-grey eyes that could only belong to one person.
Sirius Black, somehow, was the dog standing here protecting me.
Another cry came out from the fight in front of us. I looked up in time to see the werewolf get shaken from the stag’s back. While still unbalanced, the stag lowered its antlers. The werewolf went flying backwards into a tree. Leaves fell from said tree. Both creatures were covered in blood and cuts. As the werewolf stumbled to its feet, the stag got its antlers back into position. As I watched, I remembered that antlers are sometimes called prongs.
“Prongs,” I whispered. “James, your nicknames are more than just nonsense.”
And then what of Remus? Remus’s nickname was Moony. I had always just assumed. . . But what if Moony referred to the moon? And tonight, the moon was full. So that meant-
“Oh my god. Remus? He’s the werewolf?” Okay, I now feel like a complete and total idiot for thinking I was a werewolf earlier. And- Merlin! Those notes in the library that Remus showed me, that was his way of telling me his secret! It was my fault that I sucked at putting the clues together correctly. I still can’t put together jigsaw puzzles right without breaking a few pieces.
Ugh, what did I read in Remus’s notes? Symptoms? Yeah, Remus had always been a bit irritable before full moons, but I thought he was just annoyed with me. And Remus loves chocolate almost as much as I love blueberry muffins. How could I miss that?!
The dog barked at me numerous times by now, but my mind was still swirling with this revelation. I only noticed it when it stopped barking. A moment later, the dog was gone, replaced with a very serious-looking Sirius Black.
“How many times do I have to tell you?!” Sirius yelled, putting his hands on my shoulders. “Run! That’s not hard to understand in dog-speak, is it?!”
“Sirius, what’s going on here?!” I demanded.
“As much as I want to dance for you using my first name again, now’s not the time. Moony got away from us and obviously picked up your scent. Remus told you he was a werewolf! Common sense does not tell you to venture outdoors during a full moon when you very well know-”
“Hold on! Remus didn’t tell me he was a werewolf! He just showed me his werewolf notes. I thought I was the werewolf!”
Sirius’s eyes widened. He then let out a single laugh. “This gives a brand new meaning to the word ‘oblivious.’ Trust me, you would know if you’re a werewolf.”
Another howl echoed from the werewolf, from Remus, as he was once again thrown against a tree. The stag, James, nearly buckled over. His front legs looked like he was about ready to collapse.
“You and James. You’re animagi?”
Sirius nodded. “Illegally. We’re the Marauders, so what do you expect? The three of us did it to be with Moony. After all, werewolves only attack humans.” Sirius glanced over his shoulder to the animals battling behind him. “Of course, standing with you as Sirius Black is not exactly the best way to keep a werewolf calm. I can’t stay human for too long around him.”
“But then why haven’t I heard stories of a werewolf being this close to school before?”
“As animagi, we can normally keep Moony calm and under control,” Sirius said. The last trace of any smile faded from his face. “But when you ran out on Remus after he told you-”
“He didn’t tell me!”
“-he was an emotional wreck right before the transformation! You do not want someone to become a werewolf when their human emotions are all over the place! That just makes the werewolf ten times more agitated than usual!” Another howl of pain echoed from the stag. “Now if you’ll excuse me, Prongs needs some Sirius help in dealing with an overly-aggressive Moony. Don’t make me tell you again- get back to the castle!”
Sirius gave me a final push backwards. He then ran towards the fight. Dashed five paces. Leapt forward, his arms stretched out in front of his body. In mid-jump, he became the large black dog. Landed on his front paws as Padfoot and continued running. Padfoot slammed against Moony just as he was about to go against a collapsed Prongs.
These are my friends. Two of them are animagi. Another, my boyfriend in fact, is the werewolf trying to attack me. I really hope this isn’t what I go through every month!
I turned away just as I saw Padfoot’s teeth sink into Moony’s right shoulder. Moony howled in pain. My boyfriend.
No, not your boyfriend right now, I thought as my legs brought me into the outskirts of Hogsmeade. Remus always worries about hurting me when we snog on the common room couch. This is Moony. My boyfriend’s identity is being repressed by this curse. My boyfriend won’t resurface until the moon has set.
What are the odds that a bloke with a ‘full moon’ condition falls for a girl named after a moon goddess?
The streets were empty as I ran towards the post office. Not even a flickering flame lit up the silent roads. I only had the full moon to light my way.
Behind the post office, I came across the building’s back door. Next to the main door was another door, leading straight down into the cellar. The handle of the cellar door was on the right side.
“Contra Ostium,” I huffed, pointing to the left side of the cellar entry. “Alohomora.”
The spells worked. The cellar door opened, but from the opposite side of how it was supposed to go. The effect in essence allowed access to a second door hidden behind the first. And the basic first year spell granted me access to the other side of the door. Instead of showing me steps into the cellar, there was a hole leading straight down into a black pit.
“Lumos.” Wand lit, I jumped down the four meters into the secret passage. I soon found the narrow passage leading in the direction of Hogwarts. I ran.
My heavy breathing echoed off the walls. Part of my brain wanted to ask if everything that was happening was real, but I just told that part of me to shut up and run faster. I had to work harder as the passage slanted upwards, ascending to meet the castle’s level.
There was a loud thud back at the opening of the passage. My heart sank into my gut when I realized that I forgot to close the door behind me. And I nearly tripped over myself when I heard Moony howl.
I risked looking back over my shoulder. The passage was a straight tunnel between Hogsmeade and Hogwarts. Far off in the distance, two tiny points of light flickered up and down with movement. And even as I jogged to keep ahead of it, those golden eyes were increasingly getting closer and closer. I was trapped.
I’m trapped. No way to get out of this tunnel. Moony’s getting closer! I haven’t even reached the staircase in here yet, so I’m not even under the school right now. Oh no, those eyes are still gaining! I’ve never come across a branch out of this main tunnel before. Think, Artemis, think! Use your smart brain that lead you into this mess! Wait. Mess . . .
Just as my wand was able to detect a dark form racing at me from the shadows, I pointed my wand upward, to the ceiling of the ancient tunnel. Took a deep breath. I didn’t even have to think of this one.
The stone ceiling of the tunnel instantly cracked down the middle. Pebbles trickled down from the gap. More cracks appeared, branching off from the main rip and towards the edges of the ceiling.
Moony was now visible in my wand light. In five seconds, he would reach me, pounce, and-
It only took two seconds for the ceiling to collapse. Rocks and boulders fell between Moony and me. He stopped just before a particularly large rock would have hit his head. And then he was completely cut off, a new wall of rubble separating the two of us.
I turned back to continue my dash for the school. But the ceiling was still collapsing. More rocks fell before me, stopping me in my tracks. I backed up.
Maybe that wasn’t a good spell to use, I thought.
I just barely saw the medium-sized rock fall before I lost consciousness.
A/N: Sternutatio = sneezing. Contra ostium = opposite side of door.
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