Chapter 6 : vi.
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Iris blinked, not really sure of what she was seeing. The dog bowed its head, eyes closing, and it almost looked apologetic. And then a wolf memory flickered past her blue green eyes, seeing this dog playing and wrestling with her.
“Sirius,” she barely whispered, and, right before her eyes, the dog had transformed, and there stood Sirius Black, his naked skin tan against the pale morning light and his soft curls hanging around a face of sorrow. Tied to his right wrist was a vial; tied to his left was a tiny bag charmed to fit many items.
There seemed to be so many things he wanted to say, but, at the same time, no way to say them, and so he simply held out his arm, straightened so that the vial dangled precariously from the string. Iris stepped forward, untying it, leaving him to dress. She stared at the pastel yellow liquid inside, and Sirius touched it with a finger.
“Gold. Gold, and it’s permanent. I’m getting there.”
“Sirius,” she said again, and, before she knew it, she was wrapping her arms around him and holding onto him tightly, and he was grasping for her, begging for a grip on her before she disappeared forever.
Iris sat curled at the foot of Sirius’ bed, her back pressed against one of the four posters while she bent over her parchment, scribbling furiously. The room was filled with similar sounds, as all of the boys were working on homework. It was nearing midnight, and Lily had screamed so loud at James that he’d just stomped off upstairs, quickly followed by Remus and Peter. When Sirius stood, Iris had, too, and Lily had just stared at her in shock, but Iris hadn’t bothered to say anything as she followed the boys upstairs. Over the past few weeks, she couldn’t compare her friendship with them to any she’d had before. Even Emily, her best friend, had faded from her mind again, though Iris attributed that to her sudden disappearance the second-to-last week in October for some raid.
Iris looked up as Sirius’ toe nudged her, and she smiled at him when she found him still writing away. She poked his toe while he kept nudging her until he pulled back, ran a hand through his curls, and packed away his things. “I’m going to sleep,” he announced, finally looking over at Iris. She was already putting her things away in her pile that she’d brought along before crawling up to slip under the blankets next to Sirius.
The window in the seventh year girl’s room was horrible and broken, and she always felt so afraid sleeping in there. Quite opposite that, she loved spending any free time with Sirius that she could, though she’d never admit that out loud. After some grumbling from Sirius, the other boys finally tucked in, and they were all sleeping by the time midnight rolled around.
When Iris awoke, it was still early, and the boys were still asleep. She detached herself from Sirius carefully before climbing out of bed. She found it strange sometimes, how they slept, how she would perch on the edge of the bed while he rested comfortably, how she would drift off into sleep, and how she would wake curled in his arms. The first few times, they’d turned red and embarrassed when they woke to each other, but now it had become routine, something Iris wasn’t sure she could live without.
With these thoughts, she headed off toward the bathroom, a small vial curled in her hand. She wanted to test how effective Sirius’ potion was, even in its early stages of just yellow. It had progressed from pastel to a little darker, though, and she was excited. Hogsmeade had been easy enough. They’d flitted from store to store, always staying in the warmth, and the little bouts outside didn’t bother her at all until the carriage ride where she shook so violently, Sirius actually transfigured and sat on her lap, his heat radiating through her.
And so now she locked the door and started the tap for the bath, letting it get as cold as possible before she undressed and tipped the vial back down her throat. She immediately felt like her skin was on fire before it surpassed, all in just a second, and then she felt firmly Iris. So she stepped into the water, to test it, slid all the way down until she was sitting, hands gripping the edges. She lost herself almost immediately.
Sirius awoke with a startle, head full of the sounds of yelping and scratching and growling. He frowned, pushing himself up onto his elbows the same time that James did. “Do you hear that, too?” James asked groggily, rubbing his face. Sirius turned to shake Iris, but she wasn’t there. His head snapped to the bathroom door where something heavy thudded once, twice, and a third time before he vaulted out of bed and threw his pillow at Remus’ head. Remus groaned and started to turn around until a howl ripped from their bathroom. Now Peter was awake, too.
“Is that Iris?” Peter asked cautiously, sitting up.
“You guys need to be alert when I open this door.” They nodded, and so Sirius turned the knob and Iris the wolf shot out of the bathroom before skidding to a halt and swiveling her head. Immediately, she took notice of the boys and her ears flattened.
“What happened?” Sirius asked softly, and she turned at the sound of his voice. Then she was shaking, shaking so much that her limbs bent and she sunk to the ground, whimpering in pain. As suddenly as the shaking had started, it stopped, and Iris ripped out of her fur coat and into the skin of her human body.
The three boys’ eyes were wide as Sirius sighed and knelt down beside her. “What happened?” he asked again as she trembled.
“I was trying to test it,” she gasped out, closing her still-wolf eyes. “It was stupid, I know. I drank the potion and got in a cold bath and—” but Iris couldn’t finish. Her voice slipped away into a shaking gasp, and she slipped back out of her skin and into her fur.
“What were you thinking?” Sirius sighed, shaking his head.
“What’s going on?” James asked slowly.
“I think she’s unstable. The potion isn’t ready for direct testing like that. She’s—” And Iris was human again.
“I’m going to be sick,” she gasped, and Sirius jumped forward, scooping her up in his arms and dashing into the bathroom. He held her hair back as she groaned and her face disappeared into the toilet bowl. When she finished, Sirius helped her into the clothes she’d left on the floor before carrying her back into the room and onto the bed.
“Are you going to be okay?” he asked, and she nodded. Sirius sighed and rubbed his face, sitting on the edge of his bed. “Promise me you won’t do that again.” It wasn’t a question, didn’t even leave room for argument. Sirius was demanding her.
“I just wanted to know if—”
“It doesn’t matter, Iris,” he cut her off, “It doesn’t matter. I’m… Prongs, are you coming?” Sirius made his way toward the door, and the other three boys headed after him, throwing Iris apologetic glances as they went.
After she’d dressed and gone down to breakfast, she headed to Potions alone and was the first one to arrive. Students slowly trickled in, and Lily found her seat next to her before long; Remus and she were Iris’ partners.
“I’m sorry,” was the first thing Lily said, and Iris turned to her, arching an eyebrow, “I was awfully rude to James, and I’ve apologized to him. I don’t know why I exploded.”
“Probably because you like him now, and it’s confusing you.”
“Shut up,” Lily snapped, but she was smiling.
“What did it finally? I mean, I know I wasn’t here the past six years to watch your ongoing feud, as you always put it, but I’ve heard plenty of stories.”
“He badgered me into hanging out once over the summer, and, after the first time, we did again a few more times because he was such a gentleman, and he seems to have carried that attitude into the school year. Then again, he is still sometimes a git, but whatever. It’s rather nice out today. Wanna throw snowballs at the boys after class?”
As Iris nodded, Remus sat down on her other side as Peter walked by him. James and Sirius didn’t show. “Where are they?” Iris asked softly, and Remus frowned.
“You really pushed him this morning, Iris,” he sighed, “He’s trying so hard to do things right with you, and you just push and push, and he’s so afraid he’s going to lose you to the winter. It’s coming, Iris. Winter is coming so fast, and we’re all so goddamn scared.”
Iris lapsed into silence, and she refused to speak for the rest of class. What did Remus mean, Sirius was trying to do things right? What did he hope to gain from that? It struck Iris at the end of class: her as a girlfriend.
Iris added a silver crane to the top of her pile, which was sitting comfortably on the couch cushion next to her. James was on her right, arm resting on the back of the couch, with his feet kicked up and a book in his lap. He flipped the page, groaning. Sirius responded with an identical noise.
“Did you get to the part when he started describing the dead flowers around him, signifying that he knew he was about to be cursed?” Remus laughed, and the two boys groaned again.
“This book is ridiculous. Why are we reading this again?”
“To prove to Lily that you’re both not moronic gits. I don’t know why you accepted the bet that you could finish it.”
“This is literally the most terrible thing I’ve ever read,” James said before letting his head fall back.
“Lily,” Sirius said, which caught their attention. “Oh my God, Lily.” And he was gone. They stared after him, confusion written on their faces, but Sirius just kept going. His book fell to the ground and he scrambled out of the portrait hole. It was nearly curfew, but he knew that didn’t matter for her. She was Head Girl, and so she wouldn’t get in trouble for being caught out late.
“Lily,” he gasped as he reached the dungeons and threw the door open where they were keeping the potion. They’d spoken to Slughorn about it after posing the idea to Dumbledore, and so the room had been sealed off just for them. The redhead looked up at his voice, expression curious.
“I’ve got it. I know what it needs. I didn’t think of it because it’s so rare, but it makes perfect sense. Lily.”
She finally understood, straightening. They needed the nectar of a golden lily. Slughorn had taught them about it not three weeks ago, though they hadn’t given it much thought. Golden lilies were almost impossible to find and even more impossible to extract the nectar from. But they were like little fires. They would sustain Iris in her human form.
“Where would we ever get one, though?” Lily said with a frown, “They’re practically extinct.”
“We have to talk to Slughorn. Right now. Come on,” he almost shouted when she didn’t move, and Lily followed after his quick pace as he rambled on, “He said that they were most common in the mountains of New Zealand, which still doesn’t make sense to me, because it’s so cold, but if we could get there, by apparition or something, we could find them.”
“That would be so dangerous, Sirius,” Lily reminded, turning a corner and almost slamming into him. He’d careened to a halt before McGonagall.
“Professor?” Lily said, coming around Sirius. Her voice dropped away as she noticed the tears glistening in McGonagall’s eyes. She was holding Iris’ wand.
“She’s gone,” she whispered, her voice shaking, “Someone smashed the window in your room, Black, someone outside, and she shifted instantly. Potter and Pettigrew just barely managed to get her out of the tower and the school. We don’t know where she is, and it’s likely she won’t change back until spring.”
Sirius swayed, blinking, and Lily quickly steadied him as she held on to his arm as James came sprinting around the corner. “Professor!” he exclaimed, doubling his pace until he caught sight of the pale Sirius and open-mouthed Lily.
“Is she in the forest?” Sirius asked very quietly, his arm cold in Lily’s grasp. “IS SHE IN THE FOREST?” he thundered when no one answered, and James just nodded. Before they could say or do anything, he’d transfigured, right in front of McGonagall’s eyes, and was gone, bounding off toward the entrance hall.
“Potter, please escort Miss Evans and Pettigrew back to Gryffindor tower. I will inform the headmaster.” And, with that, McGonagall hurried away, leaving the three friends to stand there in shock.
Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to J.K. Rowling. Everything otherwise recognizable belongs to Maggie Stiefvater.
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