Chapter 21 : Chapter 20
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When the door opened we parted and I passed a ‘sleeping’ Sirius on my way to my room. I looked over my shoulder back at Remus before opening the door concealing the entrance to my room and smiled as Remus gave a small wave before closing his door. Then I thanked the heavens for the darkness when I felt myself blush from the exaggerated wink Sirius sent from his couch. I pulled open my door and dashed over to my bed. As I touched my face, feeling the slight irritation left from Remus’ stubble, I realized that my cheeks were pulled into a grin that even Sirius must have seen through the dark. I snuggled into my comforter and when I woke up the next morning, I was still smiling.
A quick glance out the window let me know that it was still very early. I wandered towards the kitchen and could hear that Sirius and Remus were still in deep sleep. Grabbing ingredients out of the pantry, I lost myself in baking breakfast. Whisking, kneading I stared out the window hoping to spot a finch or robin amongst the trees. As I set the dough near the warming oven to rise, I hoisted myself onto the counter to stare outside.
It was nice to walk with Remus last night. Mostly because I was with Remus, but I couldn’t deny that a major part was the fact that I was outside. I enjoyed my time in the garden, but moving freely, wandering aimlessly - that was something I missed. The sun, the breeze, and mainly just the smell of the air were what I missed.
I checked the clock and went to punch down the dough. But before sliding off of the countertop, I pushed open the window, relishing the incoming fresh air. The autumnal chill hardly bothered me as I focused on my task. After rolling some cinnamon and brown sugar into the dough, I put it in the oven and set to work on cleaning my mess.
As is typical, Sirius woke up as the aroma of baking cinnamon rolls wafted towards the couch and Remus remained fast asleep. Stretching and yawning loudly, Sirius strolled in, still wrapped in the blanket. “Its nippy in here.”
“Is it?” A glance at the goose pimples on my arms told me it was, but the smell of the leaves told me that the open window was absolutely fine.
Sirius tightened the quilt about him, “Was I wrong to believe that you’ve only got a fur coat once a month?”
I rolled my eyes and pulled the window closed. “Happy now?”
From the kitchen table, he nodded, “Smells good.”
Sirius flicked his hand out quickly to unfold yesterday’s Daily Prophet then retracted it back into his blanket cocoon and lent forward to read. I rolled my eyes and checked on breakfast. While Sirius read, I practised my dance steps, stepping out eight counts about the wooden floor. I worked on closing my eyes and feeling the movements, like Remus had told me to do because I kept looking down at my feet. It also became an exercise in how well I knew the layout of the cabin. So far was so good until I hit an object and flipped over backwards to the floor. My eyes flew open as my tailbone hit and I quickly ignored the pain and pounced forward onto Sirius whose extended leg still poked through his quilt.
“Argh!” He hollered as he hit the ground, having fallen off his chair as I tackled him. I grabbed fistfuls of his blanket and stood up, yanking them off of him. He yelped and I dashed off, holding the quilt above my head, attempting to evade him.
“Sirius Black, it’s practically December! Shouldn’t you be used to the chill by now?” I laughed as I hopped on top of the couch cushions. But my gloating was short-lived as Sirius took the opportunity to tackle me. I fell back and he ripped the quilt from my fingers.
He stood up and made sure to shove me back into the cushion as he did so. “You’re wretched, you know that?” He flung the blanket across his shoulders and wrapped up again, “You get all hyperactive when you’re in a good mood, you goof.”
I laughed, “You get all grumpy when you’re cold.”
Sirius rolled his eyes, “You would too if you weren’t somehow harboring a fur coat on your off days.” Before I could slap him, his face shot up and he rapidly sniffed the air, “Do you smell that?”
I dashed to the kitchen and opened the oven to discover that it wasn’t quite as bad as it smelled. Only the edges were singed. I sighed and took out the pan. I took the topping from the fridge and stirred it up. Before pouring it on I carved off the burnt parts. “You know Sirius, you keep telling me that I must have a fur coat, but can’t you have one any time you want?”
Sirius was leaning over me as I worked and he took the opportunity to swipe a finger and steal the sweet. My comment didn’t seem to bother him. I separated off two rolls and we sat down at the table. “When do you think Remus will wake up?”
Sirius shrugged in a way that meant, not that he didn’t know when but that he knew better than to expect Remus to wake up before noon, ever. His demeanor had gotten quiet and I wasn’t sure how to ask him what was up. We continued to eat in the quiet kitchen and when I cleared off the table, Sirius waved me away. “You made breakfast, Holly, let me clean up.”
I sat back down and scanned the headlines on the newspaper. Strangely, it seemed as if everything was normal, as if there was not such a conflict in their world. The headlines were mainly concerning the shuffling of positions in their government, new appointments and a few resignations. I held up the paper to Sirius who was walking back to the table after magicking the kitchen clean, “Is this...?”
I could not quite find the descriptor I wanted and Sirius thankfully filled in my blank. “Really the news? Yes and no.” He sat down and unfolded the paper, “look at the articles and read into them like a conspiracy theorist.” I reglanced at the resignation notices that he pointed at. “Have you ever seen that much turnover in a government all at once?”
I shook my head and looked back at the newspaper with new eyes. I didn’t notice but Sirius had moved himself to the other couch in the sitting area while I read. I moved to be more comfortable and continued perusing the paper while laying on my couch. Sirius interrupted my paragraph with a thought that I and many other people have surely had in their lifetime.
“I think I could be a dog for the rest of my life.”
Before I could answer, he kept speaking his train of thought, “and I could, because I can.” I laughed. “But really, very, very few people have the luxury of doing so. So why shouldn’t I take advantage?”
He let out a long sigh and I searched for a reason as to why he should not. “Well, your friends, first of all, they’d probably be pretty annoyed.”
Sirius sat up and shrugged, “I think Prongs would understand. You know he used to just go on runs for hours as Prongs? Just disappear into the Forbidden Forest and come back soaked with sweat, a grin plastered to his face and not a care in the world?
“This Animagus thing is great. Its a blessing, because the animal, it doesn’t let me overthink anything. When I’m Padfoot, it really frees up my mind. Untangles it.”
I nodded, “Probably not a worry to be had except who will give you your next belly rub?”
He chuckled a bit, “Exactly.” Then lapsed into silence.
I went back to my newspaper. If Sirius could feel so freed as an animal, why could Remus and I not? I could not deny my envy. The wolf was a monster that overtook me. I couldn’t even remember anything about the nights spent in the forest.
“What was that for?”
I turned to look at Sirius, “Hmm?”
“You know, that sighing you’re doing over there.”
I realized I had made that emotion audible. I waved my hand, “It’s silly, don’t worry about it.”
“You thinking about Moony?” He sang at me.
“What? No!” I sat up and hugged my legs, “Honestly?” Sirius nodded. “I’m thinking about how much you remember from your time as a dog.”
“Everything.” Sirius replied.
With a nod, “Figured.”
“We used to think Moony was exaggerating about his lack of memory of the full moons. Thought maybe he blocked out the horror of it all. But then after we became animagi and had all this fun on those nights, and Remus still did not recall a minute, we realized.”
When I didn’t respond, Sirius continued, “It’s not fair. I have a suspicion that if you could recall anything, you two wouldn’t hate it so much.”
I turned his words over in my head. Debating whether I would prefer to remember my bloodthirsty exploits. I wanted to change the subject but Remus’ voice cut me off.
“Thats unfounded.” He was still in his room but it sounded as if he had just woken up. Sirius rolled his eyes in response and we both awaited Remus’ emergence from his room.
When the door opened and a stretching Remus appeared, he spoke through his yawn, “I don’t ever want to have those memories. We’re better off.”
Sirius shut his eyes and I knew it was to cover up the second eye roll he was most likely doing. “Moony, I was just saying -”
Remus cut him off, “Sure, you lapdog.” It came off as an endearment, but cut just enough to remind Sirius of the vast difference between his animagus and our wolves. “Breakfast smells nice, Holly.”
“Thanks, just reheat it and dig in! Sirius, you want seconds?”
The topic of discussion which Remus had woken up to was now entirely ignored and our attentions were focused on breakfast and second breakfast. A message from Peter let the boys know that they were late for an assignment and they dashed off, breakfast partially eaten. Once again, I was alone in the cabin, debating how terrible it was that I enjoyed Remus’ injury because it meant that he stuck around.
As I thought back, I remembered my argument with Lily. I wonder if she’ll drop by again, and how that conversation would go. I busied myself cleaning up the kitchen from breakfast.
It was back to how it was before. Back to me seeing another human being once a day for five minutes at a time. Remus only came home to sleep, bags of exhaustion under his eyes. Peter was juggling a full time job and his tailing assignment so I did not expect to see him. James and Sirius would show up to check on me as well, occasionally bringing groceries to restock the pantry. It was unspoken that that was what Lily used to do. I’d thank them and usually send them off with snacks.
I became sick of the books on the wall. I found Remus’ old school texts and attempted to decipher them. A battered text titled A History of Magic had the improbably property of fitting eons of information onto pages that seemed to keep going and going despite the book being no bigger than a typical hardback novel. Mystified, I flipped the pages and stopped it at random to read. Finding that a great destruction of civilizations by Ogres occurred “coincidentally” at the same time as the fall of the Roman Empire. Rewriting what I knew of history, I chuckled my way through many of the sections I stumbled upon. I continually pictured my stocky history instructor attempting to understand this. I made a note for whoever dropped in next and folded it in the page and to the top of the book.
The next morning, I entered the kitchen to find a carton of eggs in the refrigerator and a reply beneath my note.
So, are my history books wrong or yours? Or is the truth a combination of the two? - H
Congratulations, Holly! You are the first person besides Moony to actually open this book!! - James
I’m choosing to ignore that. I think it would be a combination. After the statute I’m sure that wizards claimed more magic to be involved in history and muggles obviously ignored it entirely. - Remus
I smiled and grabbed a glass of juice and perched at the window with the history text. It had been almost four weeks since I had last seen Lily. And that was weird. She normally would pop in, complaining about James and his inability to properly propose or fussing over whether or not I had healed properly from the last moon. She was the one who prepared all the healing potions for us after the full moon. It was coming in three days time and I couldn’t help but worry how recovery would go if she was not there. Usually she would drop by and brew something to help the nausea or other symptoms for before.
I reached and held onto the bottoms of my feet. Stretching my legs out straight and laying with my forehead on my knees. Would the boys be able to do all the pain remedies? Lily had mentioned on several occasions they were fine with wandwork but were too impatient for potions. I couldn’t help but worry and spent most of my day staring out the window wondering and worrying.
The morning of November’s full moon was different than any of the past moons. I awoke by myself and the motion of standing was enough to send me at full speed towards the commode. After the initial purge, I slowly made my way to the sink for water. A note on the floor by my room called my attention and I detoured.
4:10 pm. Outside. Whether we are back or not. Sorry - Remus.
I glanced at the clock, 10:03. See you in six hours, moon.
I had left the windows open and the chill was unignorable. I wrapped myself in a blanket and ignored my aches and illness as best as I could.
I woke up on the tile floor in the bathroom to a shooting pain in my back. I crawled to the counter and hoisted myself into a standing position. Wincing with each step I exited the bathroom, a glance at the clock set me into panic mode. 4:08. Damnit.
I gritted my teeth and rushed to the door. It flung open just as I reached for it.
James shouted something at me before lifting me like a sack of potatoes and running deeper into the woods. He set me down in the dirt and I could see Remus’ figure through my blurred eyes. A CRACK! shattered the silence and a blur of red hair entered my vision. The only word I could decipher was Lily repeating sorry over and over. I just wanted to black out, everything hurt so much. There wasn’t much time, they had to get out of here.
James was trying to pull my shirt over my head so I wouldn’t destroy it. As soon as my head was free I tilted to the side and retched on the dirt. It provided me with a moment of clarity in which a rush of shouted words ambushed me.
“Oh Holly I’m so sorry. I was such a wretched -”
“Lily, would you get out of here?”
“I’m sure it can wait, Lily, go!”
Remus’ hand grabbed mine and I squeezed it hard. But no matter how hard I held on, I was losing myself. Trying not to scream out because I didn’t know whether James or Lily or anyone else for that matter was nearby I shoved my knuckles between my teeth and bit down as my bones broke and rearranged. I hadn’t stayed conscious for any of my transformations so far and I was wishing I would pass into oblivion again. My back arched and I tasted blood as I broke skin on my own hand. Along with the blood I could feel hair on my hands and I wrenched my eyes shut, refusing to witness this in any other way. I lost grip of Remus hand and my heart pounded faster and faster in my chest. I stretched my neck and finally stopped biting my hand as I felt my teeth digging in further- not because I was biting down more, but because they were elongating.
This realization made me scream and midway through it turned to a howl. My thoughts were racing but were being overtaken by other more foreign thoughts and urges. A rush of scents flooded me but this other being inside focused on only one and took off running in the direction of the human. I tried to stay, but was pushed into the abyss and everything was gone. I was no longer me. I was the wolf.
I was conscious during the transformation back into my human form. The pain was bearable only because of my relief at the end. My only memory of the night had been the hunt. I panted trying to regain my breath. Cautiously, I opened my eyes and looked at my hands, flexing my fingers and marveling at just how happy I was to be back. I pulled myself up to standing and ignored the soreness of my muscles. It felt like I had foolishly exercised way beyond my limits - well, I guess I had.
I stretched out and realized that no one was near me, I surveyed the air and could tell that Remus was not far away. It was weird how okay I felt. A little tired, yes. A little sore as well. But oddly okay. I surveyed the trees around me and found a pair of ripped up trousers tucked at the node of a branch. I climbed a bit and pulled down my haul then dressed. It was odd how putting on clothes made me realize just how cold I was. I trudged in the direction of Remus’ scent, wrapping my arms around myself for warmth and what decency I could attain.
Another scent put me off track en route to Remus. I looked about and spotted something something that may explain my lack of hunger. A recently killed rabbit whose flesh was almost entirely eaten. I stared at it in disgust until a wave of guilt led me to digging a shallow grave for the little guy. I felt detached as I covered the animal with dirt and was sharply brought back to reality when I heard the tell tale sounds of someone else walking nearby.
I stood quickly and darted behind the nearest oak. The flash of black fur from the corner of my eye let me know if was safe and I emerged to see Sirius sniffing about in his dog form. When he saw me his tail wagged rapidly and he bounded towards me, turning back into himself midway. He wrapped me in a hug. “Holly! Oh thank Circe. We had no idea where you had gone off.”
I shrugged. “Good to see you, too.” I mumbled into his shoulder.
“How are you?” He let go of the hug and held me at arms length. The second he realized my state of dress his eyes darted up to my face only to quickly go back down again. I crossed my arms again, covering myself, glaring at him as he tried to cover his smile.
“Sorry, Holly, I blame you for being so exposed. Its not like theres much to loo-” He taunted in retort.
“Don’t even finish that sentence, Sirius.”
He barked out a laugh. “Glad to see you’re doing okay. I don’t think we’ve ever been so worried about you. Even on that first moon when we couldn’t be there.”
“Thanks.” I started to walk again towards where Remus was. Sirius wrapped a friendly arm around my shoulder as we walked. “Is he awake yet?”
“I think so, he hasn’t moved yet though. Reckons he broke a bone in his leg.” He waved me off before I could express concern. “Shush. We were more worried about you so we left him there. Oh speaking of which,” He raised his fingers to his mouth and let out a shrill whistle, “Got to let James know to come back.”
We reached Remus at the same time that James arrived. His form as a stag was massive and everything about it seemed to say pride and power. As he walked forward he became the James I knew again. But slightly different, his stature a little straighter and his gait a little more measured and commanding. He rushed forward to give me a hug and the goofy James returned. He didn’t say anything as he squeezed my ribs together waiting until he held me at arms length like Sirius had. “You have no idea how worried we were about you.” He hugged me again then ruffled my hair, “Good to see you’re okay.” I smiled and let my hair stay mussed in front of my face rather than fix it and risk exposing my chest again.
“Good to see you, too, Holly.” Remus gave a mix of a smile and a wince from his seated position. James’ coat was flung on top of him to keep him decent. “So now that that’s sorted... care to help me out here guys?”
James and Sirius quickly went about numbing Remus’ leg before resetting it then conjuring a splint to bind it. Sirius let Remus use him as a crutch on our walk back to the cabin. I was greeted by an overly emotional Lily, who held me in a tight hug and sobbed sorrys at me.
“It’s okay, Lily. I understand. Lily, Lily, you can let go now.”
She shook her head, “Why aren’t you hugging me, too?”
“If you’d let go you’d see.”
She released me immediately, probably expecting some catastrophic injury then laughing when she saw my situation. “Come on, lets get you some clothes.” She held me tight as we walked into the boundary of the charm and through the front door. “And some breakfast.” She gestured towards the overladen kitchen table, “I stress cooked a little last night.”
James grabbed some medicine for Remus’ leg, who choked it down and shook his head with his eyes screwed up at the taste. James laughed and explained, “Skele-gro, does the trick, but tastes like shit.”
I went to clean up and when I emerged from the bathroom, everyone was lounging on the seats eating the breakfast Lily had prepared. “Sit, sit! You must be starved!” Lily called.
James guffawed through his mashed potatoes, a few spraying out to Lily’s disgust. Sirius laughing as well managed to say, “Of course! We nearly forgot! How was that rabbit?”
I blushed in embarrassment and Remus looked back and forth in confusion. “Stop it, I feel bad!”
“Natural born huntress we have here, mates. She took out Remus to get to her late night snack. I take it you caught it?” James asked.
I nodded and Remus jokingly asked, “And this is your fault?” He gestured towards his propped up leg.
“Is it?” I looked towards the other two boys. And they nodded eagerly then burst into laughter.
Wiping his eyes, Sirius finally explained. “You two caught the scent of that poor creature and you tackled Remus to the ground to get to it first.”
I turned to Remus, “I’m SO sorry.”
He laughed and waved it off, “Can’t feel a thing. And it’ll be better in under...” He glanced at the clock, “twenty minutes?” James nodded in agreement. “So was it worth it?” His eyebrow arched.
I laughed and reached for some toast. I tucked in. As I ate, Remus started stretching out his leg and putting weight on it. He hobbled off to the bathroom and upon returning was walking normally again.
I made eye-contact with Lily and I cut her off before she could apologize again. “Lily, it’s okay. I missed talking to you too much to only hear you saying sorry now.”
She smiled and mumbled, “Fine.”
A patronus from Pete appeared and requested the boys to come help him with the guy he was tailing. They all jumped up, including Remus who insisted he was better and wanted to go. They dashed out the door. Lily stayed behind, “Peter never said my name, probably didn’t think I’d even be here, so I don’t have to go.”
We hung out the rest of the day and I let Lily explain the groups worries about me. She had gotten back to the cottage before I transformed to find the evidence of how sick I had been. Her worries only increased when Sirius and James arrived and said they’d never seen me so bad before a moon, nor had they ever heard me during the transformation. “Holly, you don’t understand, and neither do I, but with each of your screams I felt like it was my fault because I didn’t prepare any calming draughts or pain potions for you this time.”
I tried to reassure her that it was in no way her fault. How I normally go unconscious. But she heard none of it. All apologies told and heard, we agreed not to compare involvements or troubles anymore. Both of us having stayed up all night, I retired to my room to sleep and Lily to the couch.
Exhaustion from the night before and relief from making amends with Lily combined and I fell asleep, hoping that maybe in the coming weeks I would see more of everyone like before.
Sorry for the long delay! If you forgive me, then please review! :) I'm struggling trying to tie this into my next bit of action, any requests? ideas?