Maitri sat in the Great Hall, in the edge of th Slytherin table, and looked at her housemates warily. None of them seemed to vindicate her, which puzzled her. None of them were interested in sneering, smirking or swearing at her, either, which was more intriguing than she cared to admit.
Was Slytherin house actually accepting her presence in their midst? Were they beginning to count her in as their Resident Muggleborn, the first in as many years as Hogwarts had been standing?
Maitri lowered her eyes to the thick tomato soup Phyllis the house-elf had sent up for her. Interesting.
She glanced up at the staff table. Dumbledore, as promised, wasn’t there. There was, however, the new Defence Against Dark Arts teacher – the one who replaced Byrne upon the professor’s return to the MLE department – a stringy witch called Elizabeth Scott. The new Professor Scott looked around the Great Hall and smiled at anyone who caught her eyes. Professor McGonagall shot her a quizzical look every now and then.
Alex Messiers was sitting in the Ravenclaw table, deeply immersed in his dark coffee and a copy of the Daily Prophet he’d snitched from his sister. His fork kept missing his mouth, but he didn’t mind. More importantly, none of the girls who were staring at him seemed to mind.
“Hogsmeade next weekend,” Regulus whispered, following Maitris gaze as she glanced at the Alex-watching girls.
“Twelve out of twenty battle victims enter the Great Hall today morning, and all they worry about is a date to a village visit?” Maitri asked her friend incredulously.
“Wow, Harys, you’re not one to be around when people are trying to cheer up,” Whit Langley commented from across them.
“Try being kidnapped by the Dark Lord, nitwit,” Maitri bantered right back. “And then you can comment on my mood.”
“But still, he couldn’t keep you away from coming back, could he?” Langley pointed out, his words slightly muffled by the toast he was ingesting. “You got kidnapped, you got injured, you probably got into a lot of healing, too. Yet, you’re back. What’s worse, you’re not scared, either.”
Maitri frowned at his ‘making light of terrible things’. “People died going through something like this, you know,” she hissed. “If you noticed, our own class has a few missing students.”
“Touche,” Langley agreed. “But the point is, you got back. I read the ministry reports, you know,” he added, titling his head at her. “My elder brother works in the MLE. I saw the statistics. You’re strong, Harys. I’d like to think the Dark Lord found it a handful to stop you from coming to Hogwarts.”
Maitri pursed her lips, staring at the boy across her. Langley hadn’t spoken to her in over 3 years, and had never opined a stance on the ongoing racial feud. In fact, Maitri was quite sure he had never spoken out before unless it were to side his friend, Mark Higgins. And here he was, telling Maitri – an outcast, mind you – that he thought she was strong and brave, without the hint of a sneer or a smirk. He had already turned his attention back to food when Maitri realized he hadn’t been mocking or teasing her.
This was interesting.
Maitri wasn’t the only one to think so, though. The entire Slytherin table glanced at her, sent across an odd whisper, stared at Langley, stared at Regulus Black, whipped heads back and forth between Maitri and Narcissa, who was sitting on another end, with a smile on her face and nodding towards the Indian girl as Melissa Carter chatted her up.
Severus Snape, however, was nowhere to be seen.
“Where is Sev?” Maitri asked Regulus, craning her neck at the Gryffindor table to see if he was sitting with Lily Evans. He wasn’t.
Regulus mumbled something under his breath and looked down at his food.
“He’s with Avery and Mulciber,” Regulus repeated, his voice only a little higher. “They always help him with his pre-class hour rounds.”
“His prefect rounds?” Maitri asked, aghast. “But I’m the other prefect – other students are not permitted to monitor such rounds -!”
“Does not say so anywhere in the rules,” Mark Higgins muttered. When Maitri turned her attention to him, waiting for him to continue, the boy flushed darkly before explaining. “That’s what Avery told me when I asked about it. Any student can accompany or assist a Prefect in his or her duties.”
Maitri frowned. Evan Mulciber’s brother’s name was on the list of Death Eaters she had handed over to Holmes the detective. There were numerous rumors that Evan was going to follow into his brother’s footsteps after Hogwarts, not to mention his penchant for the Dark Arts. She knew Severus was intending to support Voldemort’s ideals – for the sake of his safety; but in the wake of the last attack, and the ones over the months, with all the muggles and muggleborns getting killed, she never once thought Severus might continue to nurture the same ideals. After all, Lily Evans had been in very high danger of being one of the victims at the Alley.
She glanced sideways at Regulus, who had gone extremely quiet. She could easily hear his mind as it argued in two voices: to follow his friends & cousins, or to follow his brother? Fear dissolved into Maitri’s thoughts as she heard him thinking; Regulus was contemplating whether it was safe to leave the Dark side or be as his family had denominated him for: a stand-in Death Eater, in case Sirius ever flipped out.
Maitri’s breathing hitched as she realized that her friend’s parents planned to sacrifice one son to Voldemort, as an offering of good faith. After the recent events, however, she was crystal clear that it won’t be Sirius Orion Black joining the dark side willingly.
The snow leopard was the biggest Hagrid had ever seen. And, by holy snowbells, it was nowhere close to its natural habitat. It also showed signs of tremendous intelligence as it stared the half-giant down.
Being a half-giant, Hagrid was pre-disposed to many things of magi-zoological nature. Recognizing signs of magical creatures was one, two and three of them. The rather large, rather sharp-eyed creature in front of him was not a normal snow-leopard, Rubeus could swear.
The creature growled, it’s hazel-brown eyes glinting a deep blue for a second. The claws in its paws were half out, threatening and gleaming in the shallow clearing.
Hagrid tightened his grip on his crossbow with his right hand as he slowly stretched out his left hand to the creature. It was surely something more – his senses had never betrayed him before. His senses also told him that the creature was not a harmful one, just too proud and private.
The leopard snarled as the gamekeeper’s fingers inched closer, the large jaws snapping shut and then bared with lazy ferocity. The eyes flickered between golden and purple and blue as Hagrid’s hand came closer. But the leopard didn’t move, still as a statue, rearing his great head almost as tall as a man, sitting on his haunches.
The moment Hagrid’s fingers reached within three feet of the animal, it let out a long screech that sound rather like a jumble of foreign words.
“Eh, what?” Hagrid mused, freezing in action.
“Do not come closer, dwarf-giant,” the creature growled, a fearful, throaty voice rumbling from its leopardine chest. “If you fear for your own good. I am not one of the senile creatures that this forest is infested with for you to try to tame me.”
“Eh, really?” Hagrid asked, quite confused by this huge, talking cat. “What are you, then?”
The leopard stood up, stretching his hind legs as he did so, amounting to a good 8 feet of height – almost as tall as Hagrid himself. But it didn’t stoop or drop back down to a position normal for an animal that size or species, and instead, continued growing, elongating its sleek body ten feet, fifteen, twenty feet long before turning its huge face back to Hagrid, who was gaping at it.
Gone was the huge snow-leopard. In its place now stood the most massive creature that Hagrid had ever seen. In fact, he had only heard of these creatures, and hunted for them on the grounds and the Forbidden forest.
A pure white Artic-Griffin stared at him out of the leopard’s golden-purple eyes. The face of the lion, which occupied the frontal half of the animal, was surrounded by a yard of bushy mane, strikingly white against the rainy October weather. The hind parts were equally white and bulky, covered in thick white fur, not unlike the hide of a polar bear. The lion roared.
Hagrid took a step back. In all his life, he had never seen or known a creature that could be a talking leopard one moment, and just transform into a near-extinct creature in the next.
“Something you have never come across, biped,” the lion remarked, the voice deep and strong enough to rumble the earth under Hagrid’s feet. “You will do good to not bother me in the future.”
Hagrid nodded gruffly, humbled. He lowered his crossbow and slung it across his back and made his way out of the clearing, carrying the sacks of dead meat for the Thestrals in the south-west corner of the forest.
He supposed he could leave now and walk past the clearing later to figure out if the creature left any tufts of fur or hair behind. He had all the time in the world to catch up on the creature analysis when the grounds were tended to.
The weird eyes of the creature followed Rubeus Hagrid as he made his way out. And then, it crouched back down, turning into the snow leopard it had been, and turned in the direction of the castle, wondering if it should go any closer. The target he sought had disappeared under the surface of the lake, thereby cutting away the view. It had an option to either sit it out till the girl resurfaced, or transform into a water creature and continue the surveillance. The last time it did that, the Giant Squid had chased the pallid, deathly white kelpie out of the waters.
But the couldn’t wait. It had waited for the last 4 years, summoning up the courage to meet the girl. She would soon figure out about herself. She would soon find out about the creature. She would soon know.
She was getting stronger, after all.
Sirius pored over the book James had given him. It was neither interesting, nor intriguing. However, it was very distracting, and, perhaps, the one he and his friends had been searching for for a very long time. Lizzie Scott was dumb enough to buy their lies about defense books in the Retricted Section.
“Find something, mates?” James asked, his wand stuck behind his right ear as he pored over a similar tome, though he flicked his eyes between a piece of parchment where he was listing down spells and enchantments.
“I’m just putting down this new tapestry passage we found the other day,” said their cartographer, Peter. The short, fair-haired, freckled boy was mumbling under his breath as he manually drew lines and curves using his wand as a ruler and compass.
“It’s pretty neat,” Remus Lupin said appreciatively, looking over Peter’s shoulder. “You should seriously consider mapping out St. Mungo’s or the Ministry. I always get confused whenever I walk around those two places.”
Peter pinked up at the compliment and mumbled his thanks. It wasn’t very often that his friends thought he was better than them in anything, if you didn’t count Potions. Sirius was the best in DADA, while James topped Transfiguration and History of Magic. Remus was amazing with Charms, and occasionally beat James and Sirius in other subjects, and scored fairly well in Potions. Peter’s strengths were in different pursuits, softer pursuits.
For example, he could always beat them in a game of Wizarding chess, but never in Exploding Snap. He could remember all sorts of hidden passages for twice as longer as any of his friends. He also had a photographic memory and could recreate on parchment almost anything – word or visual – if it had happened in his presence. Hence, his being the cartographer saved the Marauders much of routing troubles.
“This is…,” Sirius began, as his eyes fell on the map. “Impressive,” he managed to tell his friend.
And, indeed, it was. Peter had spent the last three years meticulously learning to magically measure distances in terms of internally magicked places. In the course of the actual journeys to figure out the secrets of the castle, it had always been Peter who had gotten caught by mean Pureblood maniacs, and the one who had most need for escape routes.
Remus yawned. The pressures of the impending full moon that night was already starting to bug him, even though it was barely mid-morning. A lousy Tuesday at the end of a half-term break was not always a great start to a winter fullmoon, but it was still better than his summer moons.
“I’ve got to find Lily and let her know I can’t patrol tonight,” the lycanthrope informed his friends. “But I don’t know what to say – I already told her I was feeling under the weather last month, that I was still recovering from a summer bug…”
“You can say your pup’s unwell,” James said with raised eyebrows as he stood behind a serious Sirius poring over a book. Remus stifled a laugh as Peter mumbled about how Remus did not own a puppy.
“Your Grandmother?” Sirius suggested, completely oblivious that James ad him pegged down as Remus’ ill puppy.
“I attended her funeral in January,” Remus said in exasperation. “And Lily knows.”
“Tell Evans you ran into the caretaker’s cat and got yourself into detention,” James suggested with a shrug. His interest on Remus lupin’s reasons were already lost; he now indulged himself to a magnificent view of the Hogwarts grounds as can be seen from the room they were currently occupying – the Room of Requirement, as referred to by the house-elves.
Remus grumbled as he shuffled out of the room, his haggard appearance and morose scowl not levited in the slightest.
Sirius snapped his book close the moment the prefect slammed the door behind him. The Black boy stood up, aimed and slapped James at the back of his head.
“I’m a pup, am I?” Sirius asked, aiming again, this time with his rather thick book..
“I wasn’t the one who sprouted the bushy black tail in our last session!” James said defensively, nicking his wand out and aiming it at the book Sirius was holding.
“You – well, you had prongs! Prongs!” Sirius fired back, laughing. The book slipped from his fingers and fell, but the boy continued to laugh, doubled over.
“Haha, Bark-face,” James snapped back, his mouth sliding into a scowl now that the tables were turned on him. But before he could bring up another insult to avenge his honor, Peter grabbed his arm. The little blond boy shook his head vigorously.
It didn’t take James long to see why. Sirius Black was laughing for the first time in many weeks, his face totally devoid of the haunted look that had been hanging around since the death of Ms. Emily MacArthur.
Sirius was healing. Slowly, in insignificant leaps of faith, he was learning to live again.
Maitri sat in trepidation outside the Head Prefect rooms. Severus had informed her earlier that Lily had pulled in a slot with him for that week’s patrol, which meant that Maitri was paired with some other prefect. Despite the fact that the Slytherins were behaving civilly to her, she couldn’t shake off the built-up paranoia she had been carrying around since first year, and brush away the fact that it was not long ago that she had been in a magical hospital, recovering form the brink of death.
“Knut for your thought?” a voice interrupted Maitri’s serious doubting trance.
The girl looked up to see Remus Lupin, pale and bloodless, leaning against the stone wall, as though in need of support. In fact, he looked sickly enough to warrant a bed at the Hospital Wing, and as though he was ready to spew his guts out of –
“Is Lily Evans in there?” he asked, nodding his head weakly in the direction of the Heads dormitory. The painting of Morpheus glanced at him suspiciously, the images in it forming and reforming various creatures of the night (werewolf, banshee, vampire, etc.). Lupin became rather sickly as the images kept changing, each more gruesome than the previous.
“She left,” Maitri answered. It was only then that she noticed Lupin’s prefect badge, and realized why he came asking for the other girl.
“Lily’s patrolling with Severus, so I don’t have a partner,” Maitri explained. “Professor Slughorn asked me to confirm with the Head Boy as to whom I should patrol with.”
At that moment, the portrait of Morpheus dissolved and three Seventh Years, two girls and a boy came out. Head Boy Aloysius Martin was fairly tall, but the Quintin twins, Clara and Sarah towered a good five inches over him, making the triad a comical one to behold.
“I’ll see you girls later at the Quidditch practice, then,” the Hufflepuff Head Boy nodded the girls off and turned to Maitri and Lupin.
“Ah, you’re the new Slytherin prefect, I suppose?” he asked Maitri, an under expression of distaste running across his eyes. “You were unable to join us last month?”
Maitri nodded. “I was at St. Mungo’s.”
“She was one of those muggleborns in the Diagon Alley kidnapping,” Lupin provided helpfully. Not that it made a great change in Martin’s suspicions, except, there was now less distrust than earlier.
“I see,” he replied icily. Then, turning to Lupin, he continued. “Ms. Evans had requested to partner Mr. Snape for tonight’s patrol –”
“I was told,” Lupin informed him, clearly unwell to the point of not being able to patiently listen to the Headboy himself.
“Right, er,” Martin stopped himself, confused. “There is no one to show Ms. Harys the patrol routines – a - are you well, Lupin?”
Lupin’s face had turned rather green at this point of time, but he managed to keep it savoury and pleasant enough.
“Right, I’ll partner Harys, then,” he said, smiling weakly at Maitri. “Thank you, Martin. Come on, Harys.”
Maitri glanced at the Headboy, who looked confused, and followed after Lupin, who sprinted fast enough to win an athletic race.
“Go on,” she told him the moment she caught up. “You don’t look well, at all. Is tonight…?”
Lupin stopped, sighed and nodded. Unable to even stand up straight, he leaned uncomfortable on the stone wall, shivering and pale.
“It’s getting worse,” he muttered as he struggled to stay on his feet.
Lupin nodded. “And everything else; the sensory overloads, the fever… everything.”
Maitri hesitated for a moment before walking close to Lupin and slowly rubbed his back. The boy stared at her, unused to the soothing gesture anywhere outside his house.
After a while, Lupin eased, letting himself relax. It was only minutes later that he remembered he had something to tell Maitri.
“Our patrol routine starts at the North Tower and down to the Hufflepuff corridors,” he told her. “And we have to write a report to Filch’s office and for Professor Sinistra, who is the Prefect Advisory.”
“I’ll do that,” Maitri assured him. “First, let’s get you to the Hospital Wing. You look like you need some rest before the sun sets.”
Lupin did not protest as she supported him to the Hospital Wing and helped him settle onto a bed before fetching Madam Pomfrey from the Greenhouses. By the time the matron came for the boy, Maitri had to go down for dinner, and then make sure all the students from the four years below her had left the great Hall by the 9 o’clock curfew. Only students from the last 3 years could loiter around the castle for the last one hour, in which many scuttled to the library to finish homework.
Finally, the ancient pendulum clock outside the Great Hall wheezed its way through 10 o’clock, and the rest of the students, too, disappeared into their commonrooms. Maitri’s first patrol began in a castle quiet and empty.
It was quite nice, actually, roaming around the castle in the dead of the night, with enough authority to stay outside her commonroom till the crack of dawn.
Maitri liked the North Tower especially, since Nostradamus, the Divination professor, had his office there, and was up all night looking through his telescope and coding something. And he always had a tin of cookies ready for any prefect who passed by that corridor, which was sprinkled with rejuvenating powder to keep the eater alert and fresh.
With the first part of her patrol fully satisfying, Maitri traced her steps down the floors, occasionally checking the tapestries (she was sure one or two of them fluttered when there was no breeze). She strained her ears to the farthest extent, and once she heard another pair of prefects squabbling over something. Sometime around midnight, she heard the howl of a lone wolf at a distance, and, with a pang, realized how horrible it must be for Lupin to be all alone, and dangerous, even to himself.
Almost towards the end of her patrol, she found a lost-looking first year wandering about near the Kitchens. Though he claimed he was lost, Maitri didn’t believe him. She warned him, escorted him the rest of the way to the Hufflepuff commonroom and waited till he whispered a password and thanked her as part of the wall turned into a tapestry: the entrance to the Hufflepuff quarters.
Maitri waited there until the tapestry shimmered away back into a wall, and then, left with a smile. Not too long ago, she had been a child like the one she had just dropped off at his commonroom. She remembered how much fun it used to be then, finding her own ways around the castle, joking and making projects with Severus and Lily, exploring corners with Alex…
Thunder and lightning crackled across the sky as she made her way to the Slytherin Dormitories, loud enough to heard in the common room that was under the lake. A couple of third years were up, finishing up on their homework and a seventh-year girl was practicing something weird that kept changing her hand-kerchief into a piece of jewelry, and then, back to a piece of cloth. All of them studiously ignored Maitri as she crossed them. It was strange, after all the hullaboo raised for when everyone had discovered that she was a muggleborn. If Maitri knew any better, she wasn’t going to believe that they all accepted her being Slytherin all by themselves, out of the blue.
There was a catch; there had
to be one.
As she stared at the lightning patterns refracted through the thick swirling waters of the Black Lake, she decided to find out what exactly was motivating her house mates to get along with her instead of berating her lineage – which they had been doing for more than a year.
Sirius was the first to transform. He didn’t tell James, Remus or Wormtail when the transformation did happen, because, for a moment, the world had become incredibly confusing. He wasn’t much shorter than his normal height, but the sensation of falling forward – of having to rest his fore-limbs on the ground seemed to be a fair paradox he suffered from.
He knew what kind of animal he was to transform into – partial transformations had already revealed what he and James were going to be; Sirius was to be a huge, black canine of sorts – he wasn’t sure if he were a dog or a hound, but the paw markings and a Transfiguration guide had tod him that it was definitely of the dog family.
Sirius smiled – or, rather, tried to; in this new form of his, his lips slid far more to the left than it ever had in humane proportions. The tips of his new upper teeth pressed into the bottom lip, which felt loose and elastic. He was very curious to know how much different he now looked, but the Gryffindor boy was far, far away from any mirror. The nearest reflective surface was, unfortunately, a suit of armor that was charmed to always state the truth to one Minerva McGonagall, and Sirius wasn’t prone to letting her know about a big, black dog in Hogwarts that had never been seen by others before.
Also, it wasn’t his fault that the transformation had happened almost subconsciously, as a reflex action involved in an escapade from Argus Filch’s nosy cat; he had come to hate it more than the abominable man himself. He had only started sprinting away from the third floor corridor, berating himself for not “borrowing” James’ Invisibility cloak and desparately wanting to blend with the darkness of the hallways, when, all of a sudden, he had begun running on all four limbs – and it hadn’t struck him particularly odd until he was out of the castle and into the rain.
And now, there was no reflective surface he could peruse in order ascertain the exact breed of canine he was. Considering his family, he was in no doubt that it was going to be grossly huge and inbred.
Sirius laughed at the thought, but it came out as a great bark. Startled, he yelled – again, it came out as a bark. Everything that resounded from this new form of his was a great bark. He laughed in incredulity; it came out as a bark.
Bark. Bark, bark. Bark.
It was so exhilarating and amazing that Sirius barked again and again, running around the rain-drenched grounds. His new body was so wonderful that he was faster than ever, sleek and astonishingly nimble. His ears were keen and sharp, and his mind was so quick to process and focus the senses his eyes and ears were picking up at an alarmingly increased rate by the minute.
It was so innately different from being human, Sirius surmised. Despite him retaining his memories and mentalities, the boy did not feel the residual pain that had been haunting him for the past few weeks; the regret, the loss and the devastating absence of Emily Rose… it had become a thing of past. For all that he tried, he couldn’t remember how painful it was to see her die, nor the twisting joy that used to accompany his memories of their days together.
It was most liberating! Sirius couldn’t describe the endless happiness that he was experiencing as he barked and howled in the rain, running wildly. He did not feel sad, he did not feel the pain, he, most of all, accepted that se wouldn’t come back.
Sirius stopped barking abruptly as the thought of her not coming back struck him. If Emily Rose was never coming back, what would he do with his love? If she wasn’t coming back, from whatever heaven she had ascended into, what would he do? She died, unable to bear separation from her family – was it possible that she didn’t love him enough to want to live with him?
The rain and the thunder was making the Hogwarts grounds much brighter and louder than Sirius wanted, and what he wanted was a quiet place to think these new thoughts out. Something in his new canine gut told him that he was heading towards a major psychologic breakthrough – with himself.
And that was how a huge black dog found himself at the base of a large, gnarled tree whose branches where busy fighting with droplets of rain and gusts of wind. The dog slipped through the branches, searched for the knot his werewolf friend had taken the liberty to describe in detail to him and, upon its hearty discovery, pressed a paw on it, instantly immobilizing the rather huge, rather violent Whomping Willow. In the ensuing silence, the dog chanced a glance upon an odd depression – so odd that it met the standards of a certain tunnel opening his werewolf friend might have mentioned…
Sirius fell through the hole, rolled over and was back on his haunches in a record time. Above him, rain lashed at the tree which had begun to show signs of movement again, with twigs cracking their joints most threateningly violent. The dog who was a boy turned around in the little depression he had fallen into and found that he was at the mouth of what seemed to be a tunnel. The boy, or rather, the dog, grinned at his accomplishment and made a mental note to notify a rather short, rather blond, rather rat-like, rather artistically talented friend upon his return to the Gryffindor Boys dormitories about a new tunnel. In fact, if it were alright with Remus, Sirius would have Peter down at the tunnel, squeaking his odd measurement and cartographic charms as he mapped the tunnel in his little head, bless him.
Sirius walked down the tunnel, marveling at how he could easily make logical decisions as well as brood simultaneously in his new form. As a human boy, it had been practically impossible to isolate his mourning for a dead girl and still focus on tasks at hand. James and Peter had the audacity to think that he was alright if he concentrated on things rather than when he was idle, but Emily had always been on his mind; the loss of Emily, the imminent loss of his mind, the estrangement of his brother, the resentment towards Dumbledore, Harys and most of the “noble” gang in general, the fear and loathing he held for Voldemort, the crushing disappointment he was to his parents, Minerva McGonagall’s pity sermons – oh, they were always there, running like Wizarding Wireless at the back of his human mind.
Oh, but the canine mind – it was wonderful. It was so focused that it practically threw everything into the right place, rubbing the emotions away and presenting it to his foremind with some weird shade of clarity that Sirius was forced to admit was much more useful to him. HE could concentrate properly in this form.
And so, he sat down, in the middle the tunnel, which had taken pity on him and widened enough for him to lounge in luxury upon the soft earth, while the storm, the Willow and the school took a place far far away from his current occupation of contemplating.
Sirius could still vividly remember the way Emily’s golden hair flew about her face when they ran around in the Rose Gardens. He could hear the echoes of her laughter and the comforting smell of her in his arms. The resulting canine reaction came out something akin to a whine, but his mind persisted on going through all the good and bad memories of this young lady who was no more in his life.
With this sudden clarity, Sirius was forced to admit that his lady love was indeed of a very delicate disposition towards her life. She hardly had the stamina to duel, the courage to fight or the smartness to run. Emily Rose was an exemplary example of a nice person who was not designed to stand in the middle of fights or withstand blows – because that was how good, how dainty a person she was.
The dog pressed his eyes close, not wanting to realize the bitter truth of the weakness of his beloved. It did put some harsher lighting on his own foolish courage, reckless actions and Quidditch-induced dueling stamina. He did not want to admit that it was him who had brought Emily into the forefront of Pureblood mania by imposing his fondness and affection on her and making it possible for her to be attached with him.
He had known – he had always known – that Emily MacArthur wasn’t the kind of person who could undergo the struggles he had undergone; indeed, he hadn’t wanted her to experience them, for he wanted to fulfil the promise of always being there for her when she was faced with them. It was despairingly crushing to know that she had died – her whole family had been slaughtered, because he wasn’t brave enough to go against his family and make good that promise.
As he lay groveling in the middle of the tunnel, Sirius did realize, and seriously enough, that it the fault was his to blame, he was doing a lot of people wrong by pushing the blame onto them. Keith Bradley, the third year in the Gryffindor Quidditch team, had been victimized to Sirius’ constant jabs of being a spineless fool because the thirteen-year old hadn’t been brave enough to put himself in front of the weak, like a true Gryffindor; the boy had been reduced to tears before James had called for a time out and dragged Sirius away. Carla Matthews, a Sixth-year Ravenclaw, had been subjected to his harshest glares, despite the fact that she had lost two fingers from her left hand due to the extreme level of bone fragmentation caused by dark magic that had no remedies. Sirius remembered, again, with shame, how he had wished for Harys to die.
There was also one other memory that flashed before his mind – a memory he hadn’t shared with any of his friends yet; he had been too scared and too humiliated to, not to mention unimaginably angry and helpless whenever he thought of it.
Sirius had been subjected to the family Pensieve not long before the train to Hogwarts, in private capacity with a distraught Narcissa and a smug Bellatrix, who had wanted him to see what was it to be a Death Eater. Sirius and Cissy had gripped eacher other’s hands as they were forced together into the depths of Bella’s memories, where he had, in fact, learned the truth and extent of the torture Emily had gone through. Narcissa had winced at each and every curse, even burying her face in his shoulder when Mr. and Mrs. MacArthur had been Imperiused to kill each other in front of their children, and when little Robert MacArthur had gotten punished for trying to shield his older sister from curses. It had resulted in his becoming motionless, with blood trickling out of his ear.
Sirius had been horrified to hear his own name used in one of the taunts by Voldemort himself. But Emily had steeled herself to brave all the Cruciati curses thrown at her, when she finally lost her mind, watching her brother fall. In the same memory, Sirius and Narcissa watched as two decrepit-looking teenagers burst into the torturing room and, against all odds, try to rescue the tortured from the barbarians.
Sirius recognized Ed Moon, and, with a jolt, when Cissy whimpered, he realized he knew the girl, too, but she was highly unrecognizable due to the grime and blood. Maitri Harys had shielded Emily, even tried to heal her, but both the Black cousins noticed that the Indian girl barely had any energy to stand on her own feet, and the continuous shielding was wearing out her magical core as well. It was painful to watch, Emily losing blood and senses, Moon running to avoid, in a breathless terrified state, and Harys putting up shield when she was clearly pushed beyond her limits. There were other, older muggleborns, too, ragged, wretched creatures who had been tortured beyond recognition, who still bravely fought the Death Eaters off the teenagers.
Narcissa had buried her head in Sirius’ shoulder, trembling, as Voldemort had cast an over bright killing curse, which hurtled straight towards Emily. Sirius’ heart had jumped to his throat, even as he watched as first, Harys and then, Moon had voluntarily thrown themselves in front of Emily to block the curse. An indecipherable yell from Harys and the sudden appearance of a silver wall had bounced the spell back towards Voldemort and his macabre crew, only for the scene to dissolve before the spell hit anyone.
Both the Gryffindor and the Slytherin cousins came out of the memory shaking and horrified, and both of them had become entirely silent about the ordeal. Sirius had wanted to warn Regulus about it; the younger boy was obviously the next viewer of the horrid memory, but his father’s steely gaze had caught his throat before anything else. By the time he was on the Hogwarts Express, Sirius Black was in no doubt as to how many members of his family knew about his relationship with the recently deceased Emily MacArthur, and he had new bruises to prove it.
The canine-Sirius now whined, remembering the violence of it, groaning as he remembered the dull ache and the shock of Emily’s untimely, odd death. This huddle under the earth gave him all the time to come to terms with it, and this new dog-tinted brain of his was very effective in differentiating the black and white of the facts.
A low whimpering echoed through the tunnel. Sirius stopped huddling under his huge, padded paws and lifted his head. His new form urged him to sniff, and he did, catching the scent of something familiar and comforting. His canine throat rumbled back in response, a low keening that was deeper than his human voice by many pitches.
An answering growl came from the end of the tunnel. Sirius’ canine eyes were more than capable of seeing in the dark, and it was with this sight that he first saw the bedraggled, wonderful creature poking his head nervously into the tunnel, as though it were the first time the wolf had ever seen the tunnel. The wolf had a huge, grey head, and his eyes two round, glinting beads of amber.
The wolf howled loudly the moment it first laid eyes on Sirius, and the rest of its huge, misbalanced body came bounding in the constricted space and collided with the immobile dog.
Sirius barked and howled as the werewolf bit into his arm. He snapped his huge, clumsy jaws at the wolf, deperate to get the teeth out of his skin, and wincing as the heavy creature pressed its full weight on him.
The wolf hissed as Sirius’ teeth pierced his back, and retracted his teeth for just a minute. The werewolf back up and crouched warily, eyeing the huge black dog that seemed so familiar. The wolf was, in general, very confused, having been restricted to only once-a-month outing in this weakling body of a human that he had been bitten out of, and the appearance of another creature just outside his prison was intriguing and puzzling.
The wolf had once smelled another wolf and broken out of the prison, briefly, a couple of years ago, but ever since that incident, the Shrieking Shack had been redoubled on protection again penetration, both from outside and inside. The tunnel he had just crawled into had always frightened the wolf; underground made him feel choked and strangled. But, despite all his fears, when he had smelled another creature in the tunnel, the wolf had crawled into the dark hole and had come upon this dog – this huge dog with shocking black fur and glittering grey eyes.
Sirius barked at the wolf. Once he came back to his human-ish tendencies, his min registered the fact that this was Remus. His Remus. The Marauder’s Remus! Sirius’ overjoyed enthusiasm at seeing the werewolf confused the latter a great deal more than the very appearance of the dog.
The wolf bared his teeth, not understanding why the dog was expressing signs of canine happiness upon staring at him. The fear and anger at the bottom of his throat erupted as a howl, questioning the probably-dubious reasons for the dog’s mirth. The dog stopped barking and, instead, to the shock of the wolf, came forward, placed a paw on his shoulder and leaned onto his other shoulder in a semblance of an embrace; something so familiar to the boy who was trapped inside the wolf that the wolf forgot to react to the gesture.
Curious, the boy inside the wolf decided to force himself out of this bodily exile and formulate a truce with the wolf to control his mind and solve this puzzle that was a huge black dog. Remus had never before experienced a state of uniformity and submissiveness with the wolfish part of his self, and, despite it being a risk, he opened up his human consciousness (involuntarily) as he looked at the dog with trepidation.
Sirius barked happily, releasing the shocked werewolf and recognizing the familiar expression of his friend return to the hazel eyes of the wolf. He barked again and again.
Remus! Bark, bark, Remus!
The boy-in-the-wolf was startled to realize that he understood the dog language. And, incredibly, both the boy and the wolf were surprised to recognize the dog.
Remus growled. Sirius?
The wolf became increasingly placated with suspicion as the dog grinned at him, grey eyes with a familiar glint and threw its huge black head to howl. Remus shook his – the wolf’s – head, realizing that his friend was just as insane as a dog as he was a human.
The wolf had joined in with his own howl before the dog completed the first one.
A/N: Hey, everyone... I know it's been a loooong time since my last update, but here it is! As insane as I wanted the chapter to feel like!