Chapter 7 : ... Chapter 7 ...
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Three hours, mysterious somebody, just standing there, letting memories wash over me.
That time, so many years ago now, she had stood in exactly the same place, her fingers touching just there, a delicate frown on her face. "I still don't understand," she said slowly, "why you bothered. It caused you and your family so much pain."
I had smiled sadly, "you should understand," I had said, "you of all people should understand."
But, ah, such memories are not conducive to sanity, and I was trying my best to appear sane.
Kreacher, you may be interested to know, came in while I was reminiscing.
"Master is not right in the mind. Master has finally cracked. Master knows that Mistress did right to send him away,"
Snapped rudely out of my reverie, I felt I had to respond. "She didn't send me away; I left." I corrected him. "And, to be frank, I don't really need to hear my life's events recounted back to me by a filthy piece of refuse, who for some reason has not yet died."
"Master's wish is my command." Kreacher had told me, smiling maliciously.
"If only," I sighed, but then my voice turned icy with resentment. "Now get out. I don't need you here. I don't want you here. And besides, scum, there's nothing in here for you to steal."
Kreacher scraped his way back out of the room, but paused in the doorway. "Kreacher knows why Master stands there," he said knowingly, and I felt myself stiffen in shock. "Kreacher knows, oh yes. Kreacher remembers the girl; Kreacher couldn't forget a girl with such blood. Mistress would have liked a marriage there, oh yes."
"What are you talking about, you raving piece of shite?" I asked casually, as though I didn't know. As though I hadn't been thinking the very same thing.
"But Master won't be feeling her presence there," Kreacher told me smugly, "because she was not the last one to stand as such. Mistress was." Here he clutched his heart, "poor Mistress. Bad Master broke Mistress' heart."
"She didn't have a heart." I told him brutally.
He gave no sign of having heard. "She would stand as such for hours, just staring at the place where Bad Master's name had been. But when Bad Master hurt Master Regulus, she never came to stare at it again. She tried to burn it more away."
Suddenly the spot was tainted for me. My mother had missed me, had she? Felt regret? Stood here regularly.
You may think I should feel touched, but in truth I felt tainted. The person had thought I was connecting with was no longer there; replaced by my spiteful shrew of a mother. "Out," I told Kreacher, seething, "get out. Now. I don't want you anywhere near me, is that clear? I don't want you in my house."
Kreacher seemed to fume, "Master should remember, Kreacher is a part of the house. Kreacher is more a Black than Master."
My laugh was hollow and forced. "Not quite, friend. I am the only black. And, ah, what is that noise?" I cocked my head to one side, "it is the sound of Kreacher being told that he is not wanted by the last of the Black's."
"Not the last," he'd muttered as he shuffled away, "not the last."
"Hey, hey wait a second!"
I frowned at the voice, looking over my shoulder at the figure gliding toward me, "Dahlquist?" I asked, confused.
She came to a stop in front of me, smiling, "I need to talk to you," she said, "didn't I tell you to wait for me?"
It had been so long- for her to approach me was so unexpected, but to my surprise, not unwelcome. I made to answer, smiling despite myself, but suddenly, I became aware of a presence at my elbow.
"Well, I didn't want to disturb you in front of the Slytherins," Remus was smiling at her, eyes a warm shade of light gold, "I know how they can be."
Dahlquist smiled, tossing her hair, "I would have talked to you anyway." She told him with a mock frown, "In any case, that just adds to the fun of it. You've seen Crabbe's face when I speak to Gryffindors- most amusing." Remus grinned at her, and she winked. "I wanted to thank you for helping me in potions. That day I….wasn't myself. I would have failed if you hadn't….."
Remus smiled, "don't worry, Lee." He said, "I understand. But why were you so upset?"
I couldn't believe it. Remus Lupin, the nerd of the school, engaging in a D&M with its most popular revolutionary. How had they become so close?
Dahlquist smiled, "I shall tell you in a moment," she said with a bored glance in my direction. Although perhaps I am being far too generous when I say it was a look in my direction; James and Peter were standing by my side. But somehow I felt that they weren't - as though this exchange was between Remus, Dahlquist and myself, no matter that she hadn't acknowledged me at all.
Remus turned to us and raised an eyebrow, "meet up with you in class?" he asked, and when I opened my mouth to object, James grinned and said, "yeah, sure, Moony. Why the hell not? See you there."
Dahlquist with typical nonchalance waved a hand in farewell. Peter, obviously unimpressed, glowered a little, and so she shot him a sly wink, making him flush. She gave a low, smooth laugh, then grabbed Remus arm, drawing him over to a nearby wall.
I felt mildly unwell.
James was chuckling as we walked along, arms swinging by his sides and eyes cast skyward as he contemplated the idea of bookish Remus and bitchy Dahlquist. "Imagine, Sirius," he chortled, "imagine if they had children...”
We had made up, after our fight.
It hadn't been instantaneous, and it hadn't been overly easy, but it had happened. I suppose you don't understand, mysterious somebody. Girls so rarely do. Girls will stew about things for months on end; they will bear a grudge for close to forever.
For boys, one punch up and you're ready to move on. We'd had our fight, James and I, and now with a strict, though unspoken, agreement never to refer to the incident again we were ready to forget it all.
It helped, I suppose, that my callous dumping of Lily had made her furious enough to engage in a long, deep bitching session about me in the Gryffindor common room with none other than the equally pissed James.
Lily, I had since realized, had not been dismissing my friendship with James, or claiming that we were in love. She had been referring entirely to the Andromeda scandal, which had been related to her by Dahlquist only moments before our little 'discussion'.
I was in the wrong there, but my faux pas had left James with a brilliant opportunity, which he had grasped eagerly with both hands. They were going to the next Hogsmeade weekend together. James had offered to show Lily the Shrieking Shack, which he told her he knew very well, and the thought of what he had tentatively termed 'a date' with Evans, had kept him in the happiest of moods for the past week.
Still feeling horribly guilty about the whole business, I managed to put up with his incessant cheeriness with little to no complaint, but it was difficult. However, as time passed, I was getting used to this horribly sunny James, which was why I knew something was going on the second that the happy whistling which he'd kept up the entire walk to Transfiguration stopped.
"What?" I asked, turning to him, but he was gazing in front of us with a wicked grin.
"Snivellus," he said, and there was longing in his voice.
I have a confession, mysterious somebody. In my quest to show you the important moments of my schooling life, I may have, shall we say 'edited out' certain unsavory aspects of my boyhood.
Snivellus is one such.
I must now admit that, in my careful retelling, I have perhaps neglected to communicate to you just how cruel I was to the poor freak. He is cruel to you, is he? Dislikes you for no particular reason? I do not doubt it, and while that is his general personality, I think it can be attributed at least in part to me. You see, mysterious someone, though you obviously look nothing like me, I feel sure that you look like your mother, and that would be enough of a sin for Snape. That bastard never needed much encouragement to hate someone who was even minutely connected to me. Your mother was connected to me, so whether you are considered my child or not, you still carry the weight of Snape's hate on your shoulders.
But I was not thinking about you, on that morning all those years ago. I was not even aware of your future existence, and would have laughed raucously at any man who had tried to tell me of you. The only thing I cared about was Snivellus- and making him feel like shit.
My nostrils flared; I was a bloodhound on the scent, "James," I said quietly, just this once."
He shook his head, "Lily would never forgive me," he said softly, and I snorted, but asked no more. How he managed to be so completely under her thumb before they had even begun to date was beyond me, but I knew he was terribly nervous of ruining his chance, and tried to respect just how whipped he was. I would not touch Snape.
What I did do, however, was waiting until we were standing not two feet in front of our prey, and then pounce. "So, do you think you'll kiss her, then?" I asked him, and James, sensing my motive, smiled at me.
"Evans?" He asked casually, "I'm not sure. I mean, that she's agreeing to go on a date with me is a good sign, but I don't know…"
"She waited til the second date with me," I confided, breaching our carefully constructed wall with James' full approval- anything to get back at Snivellus. "But man was it worth it."
Snape looked ready to explode.
He was an ugly teenager, all long limbs, twiggy arms and sallow skin.
He had somehow managed to retain the awkward look of a prepubescent boy, sporting hugely knobby knees and the beginnings of acne. His hair hung lankly down along his cheekbones, leaving trails of grease which on hot days were fully visible and on cold days were the barest suggestion along his face. His long, eyes darted side to side like a snake's.
I was revolted, but that just spurred me on.
"She's a good kisser?" James asked innocently.
"Pretty damn," I told him with a grin, "and she's good at other stuff besides….."
In a flurry of parchment and bat-like robes, Snape made his retreat, head tucked against his chest and books thrust up in front of his face.
I slapped James a high five. "Not overly entertaining," I said honestly, "but still satisfying enough."
"I concur," James said, and then we walked to class.
That night, Remus was oddly subdued. While James and I experimented with how long it took girls to notice that we'd spelled their skirts to flip into the air, he stared morosely at the fire- not even noticing when Amanda Fletchly (known as 'the legs') bent over mid spell. He didn't try and stop us, or admire our skillfulness. He didn't even notice when the girls figured it out and pelted us with their textbooks. We just couldn't encourage him into high spirits, not with all our efforts combined.
Finally, James pulled his last card, sick of our friend's pensive eyes and downturned mouth. "So, what's going on with you and Dahlquist," he asked nonchalantly, but with a suggestive waggle of his eyebrows.
As though spiting us on purpose, Remus' eyes flashed once, and then he looked away. "Nothing."
"She's very pretty." James said in a singsong voice.
I plastered a smile on my face, shocked by my own inability to contribute to the conversation. I was the king of teasing- mocking people's burgeoning relationships was practically my hobby. What was I worried about?
I was jolted from my reverie by the sound of Remus slamming his book shut, "she's smart, and too, you know. Not just pretty." He said tetchily.
James blinked in shock. Remus was never tetchy, "didn't say she wasn't." he said easily, "I know she's smart."
"And." I heard myself say, "She’s a marvelous kisser. A real tiger."
Three pairs of eyes turned on me as James, Remus and Peter considered my words. James looked like he was going to throttle me, "what happened to 'I don't kiss and tell'." He asked, "Even when the damn thing happened you wouldn't tell us what she was like."
So very true. I never talked about what girls were like. It just seemed so crass. I wasn't sure why I'd done it. To hide my discomfort, I picked up a copy of the prophet, turning quickly to the crossword and frowning in concentration.
"Oh, you know," I said, realizing they were waiting for an answer, "I was just thinking aloud. You know, seeing as I kissed her and all." They were still watching me. With I sigh, I mustered a cheerful grin, "help me out. 11 letters; 'Possessive; behaving in a way so as to assert a claim to an area or object'."
"Territorial" James said a knowing tone in his voice, "weirdly appropriate considering. Why are you bringing up Dahlquist?"
I rolled me eyes, "I'm not." I said, "I was just saying that I kissed her."
"You kiss a lot of girls," Remus said darkly, and I raised my hands in supplication.
"Okay, okay." I said, "it isn't like I like her or anything- she's all yours."
Remus opened his mouth to argue, but James jumped in first, "because there is definitely some chemistry there. Reckon there's something going on, you sly old dog." He nudged Remus playfully.
"There is nothing going on between us," Remus snapped, and James gave up, holding his hands in front of him in a gesture of surrender. Embarrassed at his outburst, Remus looked away, muttering quietly, "How can there be?"
"Alright, alright." James leant back in his chair, and then glanced sidelong at Remus for a moment, "full moon tomorrow," he said with a smile, and Remus looked up, his eyes turning a kind of dark brown I didn't like; he had just made up his mind about something.
"Yeah," he said quietly, "a full moon."
I was the only one to actually hear it, the light press of shoes into a creaky floor. I gave a low whine and pricked my ears up.
There it was again; a long creak as someone who didn't know the shack attempted to navigate their way through the debris of the front room.
If I could hear it, it wouldn't be long before Remus did as well. And then he would wake up.
I turned to look at my friend.
Curled up whimpering in the corner of the room, Remus was a far cry from his bookish self. His upper torso was heavily muscled, his arms rippling with cords of the stuff, and his legs were also heavily roped with it. He had fallen asleep not ten minutes before, which meant that he would be awake pretty soon; werewolves sleep in short bursts.
As I considered this, he snorted, and his elongated nose twitched.
I should mention, of course, that dear Remus was covered all in thick grey hair.
I padded over to his side, checking if he was asleep. James had left half an hour before, and Peter had had late night detention.
Remus probably thought I had left too- I usually did- but I'd needed the solitude, and so had stayed with him in the shack. Now, however, I loped toward the exit, ready to curse James or Peter for not transforming before they approached. Of course, part of me was certain that it could be neither one of them- they knew their way around better than the idiot who'd been clomping around in there.
I considered. Perhaps Madam Pomfrey- it was possible. Though admittedly, she didn't seem foolish enough to venture back on a fool moon. Filled with a deep sense of foreboding, I padded into the foyer.
She was standing somewhat bemusedly in the center of the foyer, hands clasped behind her back as her keen eyes ran over each and every aspect of our hideaway. As I watched from the shadows, she crossed to the wall, running her fingers along the gashes and scratches, frowning as she traced the patterns of gouged out wood and plaster.
Elegantly and without looking, she stepped over the broken chair which blocked one of the doorways, pulled it up, and sat on it with a sigh, leaning it against the wall to compensate for its lack of back legs.
What was Aureliee Dahlquist doing in the Shrieking Shack?
I prowled into the room, keeping to the shadows, and watched her for a moment.
Her hair was up in a messy ponytail, she had mud smudged across her nose, and she was wearing her quidditch robes. I considered the time; it had to be quite late by now, and even the Slytherins didn't practice after dark. Watching her pluck some grass from her ponytail I wondered if she had perhaps been hanging around one of the quidditch boys for some sort of 'extra practice'. The thought made me sneer.
As I watched, she sighed and stretched her arms out, arching her back like a cat. She leant her head back against the ruined wall with a small, tired smile. It looked like she was going to fall asleep, and the thought of that made my sneer turn into a smile.
And then I felt it; slight shifts in Remus’ position in the room upstairs- just the smallest creak of a floorboard- the scrape of claws against wood. He was waking up. Knowing I couldn't put it off any longer, I stepped into the dim light of the shack.
Dahlquist had closed her eyes, but she opened them as a floorboard creaked. "Mon Dieu!" she hissed, standing very slowly.
I admired her for that; most people would have jumped at the sight of me, still shrouded in shadows, a huge, snarling shape barely visible in the limited light from Dahlquist's wand.
I gave her my fiercest growl and she kept her eyes averted, not meeting my gaze. She was playing the scene like a textbook.
Moves slowly, don’t make any sudden gestures. Avoid looking the dog in the eye…..
Did I mention, mysterious somebody, that I was a dog for the duration of this memory?
Every full moon we would do this, all of us in Animagus form would accompany Remus and stay by him while he transformed. I had always liked dogs. Huge, great, wolf-like dogs that people couldn't help but be a little afraid of. The sort of dogs that instinctively made people a little on edge.
So of course, I had been elated when I'd discovered my own form was a huge, shaggy dog.
In dog guise, I would come up to about your waist, measuring from my back. I had huge, grey eyes (my own eyes, in fact) and a rather majestic head, which, when my mouth was open, sported a rather large, gleaming set of sharp teeth. My fur was thick and black, and slightly shaggy. Like my hair, I think. My paws were easily the size of your hands.
Again I growled and Dahlquist couldn't help but chance a look in my direction. I waited for her to break and run; that would be the normal human reaction. I watched her eyes flash as she thought about her position, probably searching her mind for a way out. Then, to my surprise, she slowly crouched down until she was at my level.
"Tiens, chien" she said soothingly, and I was equal parts taken aback and amused, "du calme, du calme."
Only an idiot would greet a rabid dog, and then tell it to keep calm.
She stretched out a hand, "come on, don't be frightened," she said encouragingly.
I growled at her, my most menacing and guttural growl. The sort of growl that would make a grown man weeps with terror.
To my disappointment, Dahlquist did not weep with terror. Instead, she did a strange thing. She glanced up and frowned, not at me, but at something behind me.
"Merde," she hissed, and then, watching me the whole time, she shouted, "Remus? Are you there?"
I froze. Remus? I felt him stir, and knew that he would be awake soon. I had to get her out. Quickly.
But how? How to force the apparently fearless idiot out? The solution, of course, presented itself to me, and I had to admire its simplicity. Her hand was still outstretched, so it was even relatively easy.
I lunged across and bit her, sinking my teeth into her hand. She cried out in shock and yanked her hand back. I let her do so, wishing I could spit out the taste of her blood. Naturally, my tender sentiments were lost on Dahlquist. Panting, she jumped back against the wall, blood pooling at her feet from her hand, her eyes wide with what should have been fear.
But I suspected it was outrage. In any case, she watched me for a moment, on edge, but then her gaze flicked back to the doorway leading to Remus, and something in it hardened.
She turned back to me, drawing her wand.
Shit, I thought.
"Move." She told me in French, "move now."
I growled and crouched. You move, stupid. I wanted to say, stubborn little French bitch.
But dogs aren't particularly good at speaking, and Dahlquist's eyes were flashing with fiery resolution as she raised her wand.
And so then, purely out of necessity, I jumped on her.
You're probably looking skeptical.
I can see you now, playing with a strand of your hair as you read. Your mother used to do that. And as you read that last line, you paused and raised an eyebrow, as though saying, 'what? You expect me to believe that?'
Please, don't take it out on the paper, it didn't choose to be written on.
I had to attack Dahlquist because, had she cursed me into immobility, I would have been unable to protect her when Remus woke up. And that couldn't be too far off.
But why should I explain myself? Why must I justify my actions to every person I speak to about this? What was the alternative, pray tell. Do I back away and let her pass, bow before her, yet still block the door? Act so adorably that she no longer considered me a threat and instead wanted to adopt me? Transform back, stark naked I might add, and explain why she had to be quiet, leaving us both at Remus' mercy?
I had to attack her, you understand? I had to.
My jaws clamped down on the wrist of her wand hand and she yelped. But of course, I little nip would never convince Dahlquist that she ought to back the hell off, and so I sank my teeth deeper and shook her hand so hard in my mouth that her wand spun wildly across the room, lodging itself under a chair, between a loose skirting board and half a cupboard.
She glanced towards it in shock, and I dragged my claws as lightly as I could across her face, herding her slowly toward the door, while she attempted (like an idiot) to fend me off with her bare hands.
Her hair wasn't in a ponytail now; our scuffle had rendered her bloody and a complete mess. Her hair fell in straggly curls around her face, and blood streaked her cheek. She looked insane.
She was insane. I mean, she was facing down a wild dog.
"Remus!" she called out frantically, and the desperation in her voice made me think that perhaps I had won. But no, pride goeth before the fall, and while I felt my heart soar in triumph, she barreled into my, knocking me aside as she ran up the stairs. Her feet pounded on the creaky steps, as she dragged herself up to the second story, clinging to the rail and staring hard at the doorway.
I felt a stab of fear. If she walked through that door, she would come face to face with an angry werewolf who was waking up as we spoke. Who knew how much longer he'd be asleep?
As though in answer to my question, a howl sounded from the next room. Had I the ability to speak at that moment, my language would have been pretty colorful.
What happened next seemed to last a lifetime, but was in fact took place probably over about three seconds.
First, I lunged, flinging myself through the air.
Second, or simultaneously, Dahlquist pulled open the door.
Third, I latched onto her ankle, sinking my teeth deep into her skin.
Fourth, and fifth, Remus bounded out the room as I flung Dahlquist into the far wall, next to the door, and lunged at Remus, muscles groaning.
It was close. As I dragged her back, Remus' claws sprung out, and as it was, he still caught on to the front of her robes, ripping long gashes in them.
If I'd been just millisecond later, his claws would have been embedded in her chest, but luck and strength had her flying across the room and hitting the wall with a resounding thump before he could so much as scratch her.
I knew this only from what I could hear, because by then I was distracted; Remus was tearing into me in his effort to get to Dahlquist, and I had to fight him off, without seriously hurting him and without allowing him to bite me.
Seeing those strong jaws snapping at me, strings of saliva hanging from his teeth and knowing that one of my dearest friends was, in some small degree, behind those eyes, was one of the most petrifying moments of my life.
You see, mysterious somebody, I can fight wizards and creatures and all manner of things that are opposing me with very little fear at all. Adrenaline kicks in and I feel nothing but exhilaration. But fighting someone you love in order to protect someone you love? It is impossible- taxing in every way. The adrenaline rush just doesn't come, and all you feel is overwhelming fear, for yourself, but mostly for the one you are protecting and the one you are protecting them from.
And to think I would feel it all again not 20years later. To think that such an experience would be repeated- that Remus would transform again in the presence of humans, and again they would be humans I cared about. I fought him off then, too, without Dahlquist to back me up and with everything to lose.
But back to the story.
Dahlquist sat for a few moments, shocked, bruised and afraid, but she was strong and sensible enough to think of leaving while I held off Remus.
I say 'think' because she did not, of course, leave.
Instead, demonstrating the stupidly dramatic tendencies her race is famed for; she scrambled onto her hands and knees, yanked her wand out of the wall, pointed it at Remus and cried out a binding curse.
In seconds he was completely tied up in invisible ropes, unable to move. He howled pitifully, especially when Dahlquist came near, limping and bleeding, to see if I was ok.
She was probably surprised when I didn't growl.
"Chien?" she said, tentatively reaching out and touching the jagged claw marks down my forepaw. And then she smiled, "silly of me, you are an English dog, yes? I will speak only English."
Finally I thought to myself.
Dahlquist sighed, absently stroking my fur. She shaking, whether out of shock or the remnants of fear, and I could easily sense that she needed something to comfort her, something to do to calm her nerves. Not once did she look over at Remus, who struggled still on the floor, tied tight in his invisible bonds and whining. Those bonds were strong, but truly nothing compared to the bodily prison which held his mind captive. I wondered whether or not he was aware of what he was doing. If he had seen himself trying to rip into Dahlquist; seen himself ripping into me.
Dahlquist seemed to have left during my philosophical brooding, and I was insanely grateful for that. Too many questions to ask- too many that couldn't be answered.
I began to pull myself up, turning to Remus with a doggy sigh. I loped awkwardly (favoring my left front leg) into the other room, picking up my robes in my teeth and preparing to transform.
"Chien? I mean- dog?" I paused. Apparently, Dahlquist had not left.
The French are a stubborn race.
That meant that she was standing alone in a room with an incapacitated werewolf. Waiting for me. Why?
"Chien? I have some water?"
Oh, that's why. Because it would be stupid to not wait for a rabid dog in the same room as an angry werewolf because you wanted to give it a refreshment.
With a dog-like snort, I left.
As I ran out of the second exit, I thought regretfully of that water. I could really have used a drink. Then I thought happily that Dahlquist had realized I was only trying to protect her when I bit her and scratched her. I'd been worried that she would hold that against me. But no, she seemed to have figured it all out.
But of course, I reminded myself, it would be best if she hadn't figured it out, because that would mean that she knew Remus' secret. So whether she thought the dog was crazy or thought it was a hero, she could absolutely not know the truth- that it was me.
That realization made me irrationally annoyed, and I wanted nothing more than to be in my warm, snuggly bed- half asleep and dreaming of pretty girls.
Unfortunately, leaving by the second exit meant that I was in Hogsmeade- which considering the wards around the school meant I was literal worlds away from that wonderful bed. With another doggy sigh, I loped to a nearby tree and, by the light of the moon, transformed.
As I pulled on my robes, I felt my arm twinge in protest, and gingerly touched my fingers to it. My hand came up wet; blood.
Swearing loudly, I dug into my pocket and pulled out a small, rectangular mirror, cupping it in my hands and whispering into it.
"Mmmpph." He was sleeping. Reflected in the mirror, all I could see was the corner of Murphey's bed, and also part of a shoe.
"WHAT?" now he was holding the mirror in his palm, staring angrily down into it. I cast lumos so that he could see my face.
"Holy shit," he swore, "what the hell happened to you?"
I related the story briefly back to him while he rubbed his eyes and pulled at his face sleepily.
As I finished, he frowned, his eyes half closed and said, "whaddya mean Dahlquist was in the shack?"
James was not at his brightest just after being woken up. I gritted my teeth and repeated myself slowly. "I mean she was in the shack, James. I don't know how or why, but she was in there, looking for Remus."
James frowned, rubbing at his bleary eyes. "You think she followed him in?" he asked, slurring his words.
I shook my head curtly. "Not her style. I mean, can you imagine her actually stalking someone." I considered, "Besides, why would she follow him down to the shack in the evening, but only actually go inside now?"
James yawned, covering his mouth with a huge hand, "well, if she followed him in, she would have gotten quite a shock, hey?"
And then he froze- hand on his cheek, hair a mess- and his eyes widened just slightly as his mouth went slack.
"Shit." He wore quietly.
I slapped myself in the face, "now he gets it," I exclaimed exasperatedly to an invisible audience.
"Oh, damn," James said again, his voice blank with shock. "Oh bloody hell. She could have- she could have-"
"Died." I filled in, suddenly impatient. "Or become a werewolf. And she's intimidating enough as is."
James' shocked exclamations were beginning to annoy me; I'd dealt with the problem already. Stewing over what could have happened was not constructive behavior, and I was bleeding and sore and ready for bed. "Ok, James. I know. It could've sucked." He blanched at my understatement. "Now, we really do have to think about how I'm going to get back into the school."
It was only second term, and so it wasn't all that cold just yet, but the winter was setting in and I wasn't wearing all that much at all. In dog form, this cold would be nothing, but as a human…..
"You're not in the school?" James asked. I sighed. Apparently he was still not awake. Sure, maybe the early hour made his sleepy sluggishness understandable, but I couldn't help but be resentful. Of course he was falling asleep. He had a bed!
"Had to exit via the Hogsmeade entrance," I told him sulkily. "Dahlquist was intent on nursing me back to health, so I had to avoid her. And now. Well. Now I'm in the village at 12 in the morning, and I want my bed! I need to get home."
It wasn't common for me to whine. James, sensing I was at the end of my tether, snapped to attention, straightening his glasses and clearing his throat, "the obvious choice is the Honeydukes passage, right? That comes up right inside the school, if you remember?" I nodded in agreement, but then James frowned slightly, "nah," he said shaking his head- apparently dismissing his own idea, "nah, that won't work."
"Why not?" I asked, confused.
"Honeydukes," he said, peering at me, now fully conscious, "will be locked."
I shrugged slightly, pulling a small, ordinary penknife out of my robe pocket.
James' worried expression was wiped away at the sight of it; he grinned.
A footnote; that knife was amazing. It seemed to everybody to be nothing more than a penknife, but there were some wonderful little attachments, invisible to the untrained or even overly trusting eye, which could in fact pick just about any lock placed before it. I had bought it perhaps two years before, when I'd spent my holidays on an unauthorized trip to Romania. My parents had not been pleased.
I should have told you about that, I suppose, but I'm sure you'll get by. This is, after all, an abridged version of my life (what a depressing statement to have to make) and so I cannot include every interesting thing I ever did. We'd be here forever.
In any case, I only mentioned the knife because Harry has it now.
Poor Harry. I always seem to be giving him second hand gifts. Perhaps I shouldn't say this to you- you who have never received a single present from me. I suppose that I just always felt that I needed to take care of Harry- to lavish on him the attention that he could never have from his parents. I gave him my old mirrors recently, and of course, when he was 14 I bequeathed to him my knife. I suppose because I was 14 when I got it. I don't think that he's ever broken in anywhere, though. He just doesn't have that rebellious streak. Unless his situation is truly terrible, he is content to soldier on through, whereas I could never follow rules, not even if I had the greatest respect for those who made them.
I hated to be contained in any way.
But this knife was truly special. The only person who had ever guessed its worth was Albus Dumbledore. I dropped it once while picking the lock on Filch's 'CONFISCATED' drawer, and he picked it up for me. I hadn't realized he had come into the room, and he didn't say anything about what I was doing, simply looked reprovingly at me, examined it once, and then said.
"What a handy little knife, Mr. Black. Do take better care of it in future." Then he smiled at me, his eyes twinkling as they do, and walked away.
Afterwards, when I tried to open the drawer, I found it had already been unlocked. Later, I cursed James, who was supposed to have been the look-out on our mission to recover our contraband belongings. Later, I was furious about all the things which could have happened, had the teacher been anyone but Dumbledore. But Dumbledore it had been, and so I was safe.
Dumbledore is good like that. He loves to help the underdogs. Not that I could truly be counted in their number. Unless you were thinking literally…...
I do have a rather chronic habit of digressing, don't I? What was I saying?
Nothing overly interesting, I am afraid. I have always hated pointless stories, especially when they lack wit, and though I do not lack wit in any way, I am aware that I have not been using it too frequently in my retelling. But, I swear to you that this story has a point. It is like a long, winding road leading up to that golden palace of 'point'. Boring and tedious, perhaps, but necessary. I couldn't just have launched into it; you would not have understood properly.
So, rather predictably, I broke into Honeydukes without so much as batting an eyelid, and loped down the passageway all the way to Hogwarts, where, after hurriedly conferring with James, I carefully made my way out of the statue of the old hag. Of course, James had assured me that there was no one coming, but for once in my life, I had decided to be cautious.
But he was right, the marauders map was right and I was wrong. My journey to the Gryffindor common room was nothing more strenuous than a midday stroll in the park. I was there in no time.
The fat lady was snoring rather loudly when I arrived.
I had, naturally, forgotten all about her.
"Shit," James said, obviously catching sight of her via the mirror, "now what do you do? Think you can charm her into not telling the professors?"
I smiled patronizingly, "James," I said with a dramatic sigh, "James, James, James. You forget who you are talking to."
James chuckled, but his laugh turned into a yawn and I was suddenly aware of the time. It really was getting late- I wondered what sort of state I'd be in tomorrow. Sensing my unasked question with his usual perception, James rifled through a few papers to tell me,
"Slughorn first up tomorrow. Should be fine."
"Do I look like I care?" I asked, but in reality I cared very much. My arm was starting to sting badly, and I wished I'd had the foresight to heal it. I knew I had bruises all over my face, and cuts as well. I was a mess, and while I'd been confident to James' face, I wasn't sure how I could convince the fat lady not to tell Dumbledore of my condition. I mean, it wasn't as though I looked like I'd come from a midnight tryst or something.
I looked like I'd been attacked. Which I had.
James yawned again, jolting me out of my reverie. He looked impatient, "get up here so we can fix you and then I can sleep." He ordered.
I felt myself frown, "oh, I'm sorry. Am I keeping you awake?" James grinned sheepishly, "Are you in some sort of discomfort, James?"
The fat lady's painting was from back from the 1700s or some such time, but despite her age, she was just like every other middle-aged woman I'd ever known. So when I came across her, though she was not sleeping with her hair in rollers and a facial mask plastered across her features, she was in the midst of her own beauty regime. Her hair was tied in wet rages, to produce the elaborate ringlets which she wore so proudly, despite their having gone out of fashion over a hundred years before, and there was a peg on her nose. She always looked like this after midnight- I was used to it. However, despite my many assurances (late at night while attempting to re-enter the Gryffindor common room without being caught breaking curfew) that I had seen many, many women looking far more terrible than she, the bloody portrait still cringed and blushed coyly whenever I saw her at less than her mediocre best.
This is what I would be facing in a matter of seconds. This ringletted medusa and her airy giggles.
I woke her now.
"Good morning," I said quietly. I had smoothed my hair down over my black eye and rubbed the dirt off my face as best I could. I had put my wand away. As suspicious as it looked to be trawling the corridors without a lumos spell to light my way, I felt that my less than pristine appearance would probably raise more questions. She couldn't see me in the dark.
The fat lady started violently, giving a ridiculous little shriek of surprise upon noting the dark figure standing before her.
She peered at me for a moment before whispering quietly, "Sirius Black." In a voice which suggested awe. And fear.
Much later in my life, standing in that same spot, I would experience a feeling of déjà vu which I would not be able to banish. But then, as a 16year old boy, I could not be aware that many years into the future, I would stand before her again, gaunt and old before my time, coated in dirt and sweat and clutching a great long knife.
And she would greet me just the same. Waking with that little shriek, saying my name like it was some kind of swear word, eyes round with fear.
Perhaps a lot of trouble would have been saved if, on that night, I could have been my old self for just a few minutes. Young Sirius would have charmed his way into the common room even if he looked like death warmed up, (or in my case, left cold). But I was new, hardened Sirius then, and could not charm her; the best I could were threats.
Still, on this night when I was just 16, I merely thought that her greeting was unusual, and out of character.
The fat lady recovered soon enough, "what are you doing, foolish boy?" she snapped, hands fluttering over her heart in consternation. "You ought to be in bed." Her multiple chins quivered with rage, colored with embarrassment.
"I know, I know." I told her smoothly, "and I'm relying on you to help me here. You see," I ducked my head as though embarrassed, "I was sort of meeting... with a girl." I could almost feel the fat lady's romantic heart melt. Hamming it up, I looked earnestly up at her. "Oh, she's the most wonderful girl! I could've stayed out all night, but I didn't want to disappoint you. I'm here to make myself a better man; I am prostrate with guilt here at your beautiful feet." I let my teeth flash white in the darkness, grinning wolfishly at her.
She squinted at me, her old painted eyes not strong enough to make out my face. "Why aren't you lighting your way?" she asked, suspiciously.
"The darkness is so much more romantic, I find," I said easily, leaning against the wall near her portrait.
"Oh, you!" she said with a reluctant giggle, "but you must show me your face, or I cannot let you in."
What a flirt.
"The password is 'Gregorian subversialism.'" I told her, and she giggled again.
"Yes, but I cannot just let you in. You could be a criminal. You might've tortured the password out of someone. I cannot let you in until I see your face."
I should have remembered this, you know, mysterious somebody, but at the time I thought she was just flirting. She meant what she said, however, which I learnt in later years. She would only let students and teachers into the common room and she needed to see their faces.
Reluctantly, I drew my wand. "Lumos." I said sulkily, and she gasped.
"Merlin's Pantaloons, child." She breathed, one pudgy hand covering her mouth. "You look like you were attacked by wild dogs!"
I couldn't help but laugh at that.
"Can I come in?" Luckily, she was shocked enough to swing open for me.
I blew her a kiss, forgetting that I'd split my lip, and then I was inside. Inside and safe.
James was waiting for me by the stairs, nodding off to sleep against the banister. I woke him rather roughly and he fell over instantly.
The noise brought Peter running down the stairs like a feral thing, although he stopped when he saw me, covered his mouth in horror, pointed shakily and cried "Werewolf?"
I place that question mark there deliberately because Peter's voice had actually soared a few octaves higher when his eyes had passed across me. The end of the word had ended in a question. This is important; it shows you that Peter could never quite commit to anything. Until he was sure I was a werewolf, he would not openly call me one. So his accusation sounded more like a terrified query.
"No," I answered, shrugging off my cloak, "he didn't bite me. They're just scratches."
James kindly took my robe from me, before flinging it unceremoniously on a nearby couch, "big scratches," he yawned, pulling out his wand, "let’s get this going."
But none of us could actually focus well enough on the bloody healing to fix me up properly. By the time we retreated, tired and fed up, to bed, we had done nothing more than change the livid red slashes on my arms into pale, white scars, and reduce the swelling of my black eye.
So I wouldn't be a beauty queen that day. None of us cared. We were all tired, had about four hours of sleep until class started, and were dreading tomorrow.
Not because we had been lax without assignments and essays (although we had, of course, been lax) or because we didn't want to be punished (we were so accustomed to punishment that we felt concerned when we went through a day without it) but because not one of us relished having to tell Remus that the night before, he'd almost killed me. And Dahlquist.
We considered Dahlquist a problem.
The only thing which made it possible for Remus to live a normal life as a werewolf was simply that no one knew he was a werewolf. James, Peter and I were the only students who were aware of the fact, except perhaps for Severus, for reasons I will not go into.
Dahlquist was a loose cannon- could she truly be trusted not to tell?
We thought not.
It would all have been so simple, if only she were stupid. A stupid girl would assume that she'd been attacked by wild dogs.
A coward would have left when I'd attacked, rather than hand around until Remus turned up.
But she was intelligent and brave. She wouldn't think it was a normal wolf who was holed up in the shack, she would recognize the symptoms and see Remus for what he was; a werewolf.
Yet the next day was quiet.
We descended into the great hall with matching expressions of foreboding- prepared for the worst, ready to do some serious damage control.
But there was no need.
There were no whispers, nor even murmurs of werewolves in the school. Or of werewolves in the forest, or of werewolves at all. Or of wolves at all, or of dogs at all. Or of animal attacks, although a first year Hufflepuff claimed he'd been attacked by a thestral.
"Why is she not saying anything?" James asked nervously, eying her as she sank gracefully into a chair toward the back of our transfiguration class.
I couldn't tell him; I didn't know.
She looked just as she always did, so far as I could tell. After smiling briefly at a rather unfortunate looking Slytherin boy, her gaze had wandered until she was staring off into space, toying with her quill. Her hair was plaited in a long rope down her back, and she had a cigarette tucked behind her ear. Her robes were predictably in the kind of state you imagined a homeless person would think acceptable, with a tattered hem which barely brushed the top of her thighs and a huge green satin bow around her waist. Other than that she favored one leg over the other and kept her long sleeves pulled over her wrists, she seemed fine.
Of course, when she turned her head, scanning the classroom, I saw that a large portion of her fringe had been dedicated to disguising the claw marks on her face. Her gaze raked the classroom with its normal imperiousness, and she seemed typically oblivious to the Slytherin boy from before, who was gradually mustering the courage to approach her.
I assumed she was looking for her friends, but to my surprise it was me that she called over with a flick of her wrist.
I sauntered toward her, nonchalant and bored.
There was a short silence, during which the Slytherin boy buggered off, obviously sensing that he was not wanted.
"Where's Remus?" Dahlquist asked eventually, voice carefully even, "I would have thought he would be here by now."
I smiled slightly to myself. She had never truly lost that French accent. Her English was flawless; you'd think she were a native but for that lilting accent.
"Remus is unwell." I told her. You'd think that this lie would be easy, after all, I'd been telling it every month since I'd arrived at the school, had I not?
But today it was hard.
I don't want you to get the wrong idea; it wasn't difficult to lie for the reasons you're probably imagining. It wasn't like a romantic novel, where the character (usually a terrible person indeed) finds himself face to face with the love of his life and is suddenly unable to lie to her about some great important truth.
I was not like that. I may have killed myself if I'd lost the ability to lie to girls I found attractive.
No, the lie was merely difficult to tell, and not because of my great love for Dahlquist, but because she was so damn perceptive.
In fact, she did not look convinced.
"Unwell?" she asked, face deadpan.
"Unwell." I confirmed.
"With what?" she asked liltingly, "period pains?" She'd been stroking the feathers of her quill with one elegant hand, but as she said this, her eyes shot up to meet mine, a challenge implicit in them.
I smiled at her; that was Dahlquist, perceptive and a bit. She'd previously picked up Remus' regular absences, then. Without realizing it, she had given me an opening.
"Damn," I swore, turning away, "the secret's out." I turned back around to her averting my gaze, as though embarrassed, "so now you know. Now you know the secret shame of men. We also get our periods. It's just that we're so damn scared of pain that we pretend we don't, in case our girls want us to be the pregnant ones."
Dahlquist smiled, despite herself it seemed, and ran an elegant hand through her hair.
She was looking at me strangely, and I knew I wasn't dismissed. She was giving me a chance to walk away, but I didn't leave. Instead, I scooted out the chair next to her and sat myself down.
She leant back, stretching like a cat in her seat, "you know," she told me, "I remember when I first saw you; you were in a duel, with my cousin."
I had not thought about that in years. I tend to forget my failures reasonably quickly.
"Ah, I forgot you were Lestrange's cousin. I don't know if I should still be talking to you now….."
Usually, here was where I pretended to stand and leave, giving the girl I was with an opportunity to pull me, laughing, back down into my seat. But with Dahlquist, I couldn't really be sure if she would pull me back. To be honest, I was reasonably sure that she would let me go.
And so my remark lapsed us into silence, not a particularly awkward silence, I should tell you, but certainly not comfortable.
Eventually, Dahlquist spoke, "you know, when I saw you first, I thought you an insufferable pig. You think I didn't see the way you looked me over? Seeing if I were worth your time? I hate that. Who said I would be interested in you? Who gave you permission to treat me like I was already in love with you? I was very…..irritated."
I was rather confused as to her train of thought, actually. Obviously not about to answer her rhetorical questions, I simply stared at her. What were we even talking about?
But, looking straight ahead, she continued, "you seemed, arrogant. I don't know, perhaps more than that. You were fighting Lestrange, which I respected, but you seemed so, I'm not sure, self-obsessed, so…." Her elegant hands sketched patterns in the air, as she struggled to express herself. Finally, she dropped them to her side with a sigh, "so….Black."
I smiled slightly, I couldn't help it.
"Good choice of adjective." I told her, mock serious.
But then my smiled faded as she dismissed my comment with a flick of her wrist. While that would usually be nothing to aggravate, today, when her wrist twisted slightly in the air, her long sleeve fell back, and her pale white wrist was exposed. Pale, white and marred with deep red bite marks. The marks of my teeth.
She noticed the direction of my rather blank gaze, frowned and then shook her sleeve down to cover her injury. But she didn't mention it. Instead, she gave a radiant smile, and then folded her arms on the desk, hiding the ugly bite.
"You know, later, while you dueled, I did think that perhaps I had been too harsh in my judgment. I can be cruel, myself," this was said as an aside. I nodded vaguely, still bewildered by the turn of conversation, "because you were good in that duel, even when it was so obvious that you couldn't win."
This was news to me, "it was obvious?"
"Oh, very. So obvious I ended up leaving before the end, with Lily Potter you know. I was quite irritated with Lestrange, you see. The whole thing was such a- a fiasco. I left."
That explained rather a lot, I thought. In my adolescent self-obsession, I wondered if perhaps I had gathered all of her disdainful looks to myself. It was entirely possible I'd assigned all of her scorn to myself, rightly or no. And she had left simply because she did not want to see me thrashed, no other reason.
Really, I ought to have been happy and relieved at that point in time, having had several of the 'Dahlquist Mysteries' sorted out for me, but I wasn't.
Because, despite our mutual dislike, we understood each other, and I knew that she would never explain something simply to make me feel better. This was leading to something I didn't want to hear. It seemed too much like a corny movie to be my life.
"And then I saw you at school and you were so entirely full of yourself. I could barely stand it. And so pretentious. It seemed more than ridiculous to me that you would pretend that you had nothing of your family in you. Really. If you wanted admiration for breaking away, you should have admitted the truth that you were Black through and through, but that you could fight them tooth and nail to be a good person."
Now I began to see a kind of red haze that was familiar to me.
"Just what are you trying to say?" I asked, my voice inevitably rising.
Dahlquist lifted her chin in defiance, "I am saying," she told me slowly, "that you are a Black. You have the looks, the personality, the wit, even the humor of a Black. Yet you don't admit it. You are exactly like Bellatrix, except" she held up a hand, "except that you know that you have prejudices, and you try to control them."
But it was too late; I was back in front of Snape, back in my early years, back having my happy little illusion of normalcy being ripped and slashed before my eyes, showing me the truth I did not want to see.
I hated her. I hated her. I hated her.
"What the hell?" I demanded voice low but dangerous, "you think you of all people have the right to analyze me?" I laughed almost crazily and leant back in my chair, "god. You don't even know me, did you think about that? You don't know my family, or me. You don't know anything about me. You know what, you should just piss off. Now who's the snob? Now who thinks they're better than the world? You're so full of it."
Dahlquist's eyes were flashing, "oh really?" she asked, French accent suddenly doubled in strength, "really? You think this? You really want me to believe that you don't act like a Black, think like a Black….."
"Shut the hell up." I hissed at her, "you stupid French snob. Shut up."
Dahlquist scoffed at me, but her eyes were blazing, "I'm a French snob? A French snob? What now? Is my family below you, Black? Is my blood not good enough for you now? Am I just not pure enough for your tastes…."
"How about, you're way too stupid for my tastes? How about too slutty, or too bitchy? HOW ABOUT TO BLOODY HYPOCRYTICAL?"
"HYPOCRYTICAL?" Dahlquist cried, "You are calling me hypocritical? That is interesting, just fascinating coming from the man who preaches EQUALITY between muggles and wizards and then condemns his own cousin for falling in love with one!"
"Just SHUT UP!" I roared at her. It was now silent in the classroom, as everyone stared at Dahlquist and me. Some small part of me was wondering how I managed to get myself into these situations, but it was only a very small part. The rest of me simply wanted to rip off Dahlquist's head.
God, even now, decades later, my fingers are clenching around my quill as I think about that day. It wasn't so much what she was saying that had me so furious. It was the fact that it was all true. I was trying to pretend I had left my blood behind, but even if I bled myself dry, I would still by Black. I hated that knowledge, and even now I hate it.
Dahlquist looked furious, more furious than I had even seen her.
At some stage during the fight, I had kicked my chair over and jumped to my feet. Now Dahlquist had mirrored my action, and was standing before me in all of her glorious anger.
"OR WHAT?" she demanded, "Or what? Going to start a family feud, are we?"
I turned away, flinging a nearby desk over with a resounding crash.
But what she said next sobered me completely.
"Or better yet," she hissed, "why not just bite me again?"
"Never again," Professor McGonagall intoned, hands clenching the edge of the desk, "will you be involved in such a ridiculously uncouth screaming match with another student of this school. It is unseemly, and below you."
"What is that supposed to mean?" I snapped at her, still feeling angry.
"Now, now, Mr. Black," Slughorn cleared his throat, "do calm down a little."
"Thank you, but I can handle this, Horace."
"Of course, Minerva. That was never in doubt."
Slughorn now glanced anxiously over at Dahlquist, who paced around in the back of the room, arms folded, emanating anger.
"Uh, Miss Dahlquist," he called. She halted, looking at him over her shoulder, hostility coming off her in visible waves, "perhaps you should come and sit down."
"And perhaps not." Dahlquist answered voice husky and accent rendering her words difficult to understand. She resumed pacing.
"Now, really." Professor McGonagall hissed in exasperation.
Professor Slughorn tried again, "why not, Miss Dahlquist?"
"Because I am far too beneath Black to be so close to him. Who knows, maybe Frenchness is contagious?"
"I was more worried about catching your immaturity," I shot at her.
"Oh, don't worry," she answered without missing a beat, I won't be coming anywhere near you in the foreseeable future,"
"Both of you, enough!" McGonagall shouted, slapping a hand on the table, "I've had just about enough of the pair of you. Detention. Weekly. Together." This was stressed within an inch of its life, "Starting Wednesday."
Dahlquist and I daggered each other, hate perfectly synchronized.
"But first," Slughorn injected, obviously eager to play a part, "we shall leave the two of you together for an hour. You will discuss your fight and try to resolve it."
Both of us looked skeptical. McGonagall, too. But Slughorn insisted, ushering us into his office.
I was in there not two minutes before James' voice came calling out of my pocket.
I pulled the mirror out and flicked it around so that I could see James' earnest face staring up at me.
"Hey. We saw Slughorn and McGonagall coming out of the office about five minutes ago. Decided the coast was clear."
"Um, yeah, it is," I said, shooting a look at Dahlquist, who sat nonchalantly in the back corner. She raised her eyebrow at me, before shrugging angrily. She wasn't listening, "what's this 'we'?"
James shot me an almost apologetic wink, before fumblingly passing the mirror on to…
"Evans?" I asked, absolutely at a loss.
Across the room, Dahlquist's head shot up like a rocket.
Lily frowned, "when did you start calling me by my last name again, Sirius?" she asked, and then; "is Lee in there with you?"
I nodded mutely and Lily smiled prettily, "can I speak to her?"
I regained my voice in a rush, "what? No! This is my mirror. Mine. Damn it, Evans, why did James let you take it anyway?"
I probably would have said more, but suddenly cool hands praised my fingers loose and relieved me of my mirror.
"Lily, mon cher," Lee said sardonically, "How are you?"
I could hear Lily's disbelief from a meter away, "how am I? How are you? You're the one who will most likely be spending her every weekend in detention. What was going through you head, Lee?"
'Lee' wasn't listening, "I doubt that I shall actually go to detention," she mused.
"That will just make it worse!"
Dahlquist snorted at her friend's outcry, "What will they do, eh? Give me more detention?"
Lily's voice was tired, as though she'd had this discussion before, "don't get so worked up." She said.
"Vorked oop? 'Ow can you tell eef I am vorked oop?"
(you may notice that Dahlquist's words have turned here into an indecipherable mess. No, I am not insane; I merely wish to display the fact that by this stage, her accent was so thick that you could barely make out individual words. Don't worry, when she calms down, I will return to her usual, understandable speech.)
I could tell Lily was smiling, "your accent, Lee. It always gives it away."
Dahlquist sniffed disdainfully and made to say something else, but Lily's voice started up again, sounding hurried.
"Oh, James wants to talk to Sirius, can you….."
The mirror was thrust back into my hands. I could see James' eyes glittering at me.
"You bastard. I don't want to talk to your girlfriend. Why did you give her the mirror?" James frowned slightly, "geez, Padfoot. I didn't realize it was some big secret. Now, does she know about you?"
His voice had dropped to a whisper, causing Dahlquist, in the corner again, to adopt a look of complete superiority and disdain. Could it be more obvious that we were discussing her?
I myself would rather have discussed what I saw as James' betrayal, but I knew that, in public, that was not a possibility.
"Yeah, yeah," I said, voice at a normal level, "but that's not a problem." I stole a glance in her direction, and she was watching me unabashedly, eyes glinting, "yet."
"Good, good, my man. I'm sure that you can sort it all out, yeah? Just talk to her like you do to all those others, ok?"
I smiled at my friend. James Potter.
God, how I miss him.
"Alright, Prongs," hesitantly, I risked, "but, please, mate, don't share everything with Evans. I mean, she's gorgeous, but, you know, she doesn't have to be involved in everything?"
"Sure thing, sure thing," there was a pause, "Remus is upstairs."
"He, uh, doesn't know what happened last night."
"I'm sure," this presented a problem. Trust James to leave the difficult things to me, "ok, I can talk to him once I get out."
"How long would that be?"
"Oh, about….." I estimated, and glanced at Dahlquist. The look of intense frustration on her face was enough to show that not much time had passed, "fifty minutes, maybe?"
"Ok," James nodded at me, "ok. Um, Peter wants to say hello."
"Sure, I guess, seeing as we're just passing these things around. Any professors who want to see me? Any random students around?"
"Ok, fine. Well, he says 'hi' and that he's sorry you're in trouble."
"Ok. That's all fine."
James grinned at me, "so very gracious…..so noble. Alright, Black. Time to say goodbye." "Goodbye, mein lieber," I said to him, sarcastically. I was not aware that I was copying Dahlquist.
"Bye, Mr. Black."
And Dahlquist and I were left in relative silence, alone in the dungeons.
It was me who broke it.
"You knew it was me." I stated simply, and Dahlquist eyed me for a moment and then sighed tiredly.
"I realized later," she told me, eyes travelling down to my rolled up sleeve.
An observant person would be able to see the faint lines running in perfect parallel down the length of my arm, claw marks that Dahlquist herself had carefully examined the night before.
I tried not to let my discomfort show, instead, flexing my lower arm, watching the play of muscle beneath lightly tanned skin.
"The eyes, as well," she was saying now, "gave you away."
I remembered then; Dahlquist had a thing for my eyes. That was a mistake, because then I was stuck with a loop of her leaning in to kiss me stuck in my mind.
I shook my head, "and so, I suppose you know the rest?"
"I 'ave guessed," was her answer, but her rrrs were rolling and I knew she was irritated.
"About Remus, and …."
"Per'aps," she suggested quietly, "eet is best not to say,"
I closed my mouth.
For a second, anyway, "so why were you there?"
Dahlquist looked up at me in shock, "what?"
"Why were you at the shack?"
She sighed and looked almost nervously into the distance.
I thought that she wouldn't answer, but she did, and when she did, the words she chose to utter chilled me to the bone.
"Remus," she said almost too quietly to hear, "told me to meet 'im zere. 'e told me zat 'e 'ad somezing to show me."
God. Even now I feel sick writing about it.
You know, mysterious somebody, Remus is not a bad man, he never was.
When I think about it, the only flaw he has ever had is being so lonely, and that is hardly a flaw.
Of course, I could hardly believe what she told me, but I knew that it was true.
Even now, I try often to convince myself that he was not trying to bite her, that it was innocent, that it was a mistake.
God knows he regretted his own rash actions enough the next day.
I never told James the reason Dahlquist was there that night, and I never let on to Remus that anything had happened.
That is understandable; that is friendship.
But what really amazed me were Dahlquist's actions.
She never told on Remus, or let on that she knew of his condition. Instead, she went to see him not the next day, apologizing for missing their meeting, saying something had come up.
To this day, he still does not know how close he came to killing her that night. She never told him, you see, and now she never will.
And I never will.
After all, Remus is all I have left in the world.
Remus and Harry.
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