Chapter 31 : The Moonlit Knight
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We stopped by the lake, the icy surface of which was bright and shiny with the reflection of the full moon in the sky above. The clouds drifted lazily, and a light breeze played with my hair.
Mandy grabbed a fistful of snow, making it a compact snowball, and threw it onto the ice. Upon impact, the snowball turned to powder and scattered like a splash of paint.
“I remember when we used to come out here and skim stones on the surface of the lake,” I said. “You would always win. I only did it better than you one time.”
“I still maintain that you used magic that time,” said Mandy with a grin.
“Come on, give me my one victory. It’s all I’ve got.”
A wolf howled somewhere in the distance.
“At least you’re better at hitting Bludgers than you are at skimming stones,” Mandy laughed.
I rolled my eyes. “That’s not much of a testament to my Quidditch skills, is it? I’m even better at Potions than I am at skimming stones. And you’ve seen me in Potions…”
We heard the wolf howl again, but this time it seemed closer.
“That’s not a werewolf, is it?” I asked Mandy suddenly. “I heard there are some in the Forbidden Forest.”
“No. Besides, we’re not anywhere near there.”
“Right,” I said. “I do wonder why the Gryffindors think it’s fun to wander about in the forest.”
“Sirius won’t tell you yet?” she asked, laughing.
“No. It’s fine though – any group of friends has their own secrets, just like us.”
“That’s true, I suppose.” She began tracing some lines into the snow with the tip of her boot. “You and Sirius have been together a while now.”
“Hmm,” I agreed absently. It had been three months, and recently I’d begun to realise just how much our relationship meant to me. I couldn’t really put my feelings about it into words.
“Hello?” said Mandy, waving her hand at me.
“Sorry. I was… what were you saying?”
“Just asking about you and Sirius – nothing important though, if you don’t want to talk.” She drew an X in the middle of the noughts and crosses grid she’d just etched into the snow.
I reached my foot out and added an O in the corner nearest me. “I think I love him,” I admitted.
“Really?” asked Mandy. “Have you said anything to him?”
“Well, no. I don’t know if it’s love. I’ve never been in love, so how do I know?”
She let out a short, knowing laugh. “Well, it’s hard to describe,” she explained. “You just sort of… realise it, you know, feeling amazing whenever they’re around, or little things reminding you of them.” She shrugged. “I wish I could help you, but it’s something you have to figure out yourself. But you know whatever you do, I’m behind you 100 per cent.”
I heard the rustle of something running on the snow, and turned to face the noise. That was when I saw it. Far off to my right, near the forest, was the wolf. I tried to recall the distinguishing features of werewolves from Defence Against the Dark Arts in third year. Something about the pupils of the eyes, which wouldn’t really help from this far away. And a tufted tail… I tried to get a good look at its tail.
“Are you sure it’s a regular wolf we heard, Mandy?” I whispered, pointing. “I don’t think it is…”
“I can’t tell, not unless we get close to it, and I don’t think I want to do that. We should keep an eye on it though… let’s get back to the castle. We’ve been out here long enough.”
We began walking back up to the castle. Even as we watched, two more dark shapes came into view. There was a stag, with magnificent antlers, and running playfully beside it was a large black dog.
“Those other animals don’t look dangerous,” said Mandy, “so I’d say that one is not a werewolf. I told you.”
“But what are they doing in a group like that? That’s really strange.”
“I don’t know,” she said. “Look, they’re coming this way.”
The animals seemed to be just running around, regardless of direction, but were indeed steadily making their way up to the copse of trees to our left.
Mandy faced me suddenly. “I think I dropped one of my gloves at the shore,” she said, holding up one wet glove.
I frowned. “Well, why did you take them off?”
“They were wet. I’ll be right back.”
“You can’t go back and get it!” I protested. “Look how close they are!”
“Why not? They haven’t seen us. It’ll take only a minute.” She started to walk back towards the lake. But another howl came from a spot not three hundred feet away and my head shot up again. I watched the group of animals, hoping they wouldn’t see us. But then the wolf stared straight at us – there was no doubt it had seen us. And now that it was this close, I could identify the tail as being a werewolf tail. I panicked.
“Mandy!” I cried. The wolf began bounding towards us. The stag and the black dog turned and shared a look, which also seemed to be very abnormal animal activity, but at that point I only cared about getting away from the werewolf. Mandy and I left the glove behind as we turned around again and sprinted towards the castle. She could get the lost glove in the morning when there was no danger of being attacked by vicious animals.
There was no way we could outrun the werewolf, so I leapt behind the copse of trees, still watching the scene from behind the branches. The werewolf shot around the dog and came straight towards us, and I reached for some branches on the nearest tree and hoisted myself up into it. Mandy remained on the ground like a statue, frozen in fear as she watched the werewolf and the dog chasing each other. I reached my hand down to her but she didn’t take it, even when I screamed at her.
The animals were not fifteen feet from the tree when she finally tore her eyes away from them and grabbed my hand. She leapt off the ground just as the werewolf lunged at her. But the black dog leaped out from somewhere beside us and ran into the side of the werewolf; they both landed on the ground in a tussle. The dog thankfully chased the werewolf off in a different direction. I couldn’t see the stag anymore.
“Melanie!” cried a voice. “Mandy!”
I looked around, completely shocked, to find James Potter. Mandy was still shaking uncontrollably, but when she saw James, she let go of the tree to drop back down onto the ground, where she slumped against the tree trunk. “James, where did you come from?” she asked. “Look out, there’s a werewolf over there!”
“I know. You have to get inside now!” he said urgently. He looked terrified. “Are you all right?”
“A little scared, but yes, we’re fine,” I said.
“Come down,” James said to me, as I was still clinging to the tree. So I let go of the branch and clumsily climbed back down, ready to get back inside and into the safety of the castle. My eyes were on the werewolf the whole time.
“We don’t have much time,” said James. He grabbed Mandy’s arm in one hand and my arm in the other and started sprinting towards the castle. I don’t think I’d ever run so quickly in my life. Everything was happening so fast. And how had James shown up here out of nowhere? As far as I was concerned, he had just appeared out of thin air like a knight in shining armour to bring us back to the castle when we were too scared to move.
Only when we got back up to the castle did we slow down; we opened the doors and all three of us rushed inside. I leaned against the door and wiped the sweat off my face with my sleeve. My heart was pounding so loudly I was sure it would wake the entire castle.
“What were you doing out there, James?” I finally asked when I had caught my breath.
“I might ask you the same question,” he said.
“We were just out for a walk,” I said. “We do that sometimes, but there’s never been a werewolf out there… How did you know we were in trouble?”
“Because I saw you,” he said.
“But—” Mandy began, but stopped when she noticed Filch’s mangy grey cat skulking around a corner. “Uh-oh, look,” she said. “Filch is going to show up any minute now.” James, Mandy and I all looked at each other for half a second and then bolted so as to not be caught by Filch. Mandy and I sprinted yet again, back down to the dungeons where the Slytherin common room was.
Back in the safety of our common room, Mandy and I had the ability to breathe properly without fear of being mauled by a werewolf or caught sneaking around the castle. A few fifth-years were still awake, working on their homework in the common room, so rather than sitting down to talk about what had just happened, we walked up the stairs and into our dormitory.
When we tiptoed back into our room, we found Charlotte still awake. “What happened?” she hissed, upon seeing Mandy and I, our robes torn and dirt-stained.
“We saw a werewolf,” said Mandy. “Up close.”
“Were you in the forest?” asked Charlotte, her eyes wide.
“No, we were just by the lake,” I said. “I think the werewolf would have attacked us, but James, er, found us and saved us.” That was the only way I could explain it – I had no idea what had actually happened.
“It was lucky he was there,” said Mandy. “Although,” she added, turning to me, “what in Merlin’s name was he doing out there? I didn’t see any of the other boys.”
“I’ve been trying to figure that out too,” I said. “Let’s go visit James first thing tomorrow.”
“I’m glad you’re all right,” said Charlotte, pulling her duvet up to her chin. “Hope you can sleep tonight, too.”
She was right; it took me ages to get to sleep. The past hour kept replaying itself over and over in my head. But eventually I dropped off to sleep, only to dream fitfully of various animals chasing me through a dark forest.
I woke up the next day hoping everything had been just a bad dream. But the minute I opened my eyes and saw my dirty and torn robes lying across the foot of my bed, I gave in to the fact that it had happened. I dressed quickly and then paced back and forth wondering if I should wake Mandy up or let her sleep, but she woke up on her own rather soon anyway and we decided to visit the Gryffindor common room before breakfast.
“What if they’ve already gone to breakfast?” asked Mandy as we climbed the stairs.
“Then we’ll find him there. Let’s look upstairs first.”
We had perfect timing, too. No more than two minutes after we entered the Gryffindor Tower common room, James, Sirius, and Peter came traipsing down the stairs, yawning. I noticed that all three of them were covered with scratches and looked as if they had gotten no sleep.
“Hello,” said James resignedly, looking entirely unsurprised to see us.
Sirius hurried over to me and wrapped his arms tightly around me. “I’m so glad you’re all right.”
“Will you please tell us what happened now?” Mandy pleaded.
“You know what happened,” said James. “You and I just happened to be in the same place at the same time as a werewolf.”
“But… it still doesn’t make sense,” I said, disentangling myself from Sirius’s arms. “You weren’t all out there, were you? The four of you are always covered in scratches after you go into the Forbidden Forest. What happened to you?” I eyed a long gash on Sirius’s arm.
“Where’s Remus, anyway?” asked Mandy.
“He’s visiting his mum, remember?” I told her. “She’s ill again.”
Sirius sighed heavily. “Maybe it’s time we told you.” Peter nodded in agreement.
“It isn’t really our secret to tell,” said James, “but after yesterday I think we have to, he’ll understand. You have to promise to not tell this to anyone. I mean it.”
“Of course,” Mandy and I agreed. I was getting slightly worried. It seemed we’d stumbled upon a much more serious secret than I’d thought.
“Let’s go back upstairs where we won’t be overheard,” suggested Peter. So we all went upstairs into the seventh-year boys’ dorm – the trip upstairs only prolonging the suspense of whatever James had been about to tell us.
The room was empty, and now that we finally had the privacy they needed in order to tell us, James glanced at his friends for support, and then told us, “Remus isn’t visiting his mum. He’s… a werewolf.”
The three of them were frozen in place, waiting for us to react. A few tense seconds passed. I was utterly speechless for once, and just stood there with my mouth hanging open.
“No,” said Mandy indignantly. “No way. He can’t be.”
I felt like my stomach had just been filled with ice. “Not… the werewolf from yesterday?” I asked, dreading the answer, which I somehow knew before James said it.
Mandy sat down on the nearest bed, putting her head in her hands. “Oh, Merlin,” she muttered.
The boys looked back at me. I was still at a loss for words. More than that, I just felt awful for Remus. Did he even remember attacking us? What I’d been through last night now seemed trivial in comparison to what Remus had had to go through for his whole life, being unable to control what he did as a werewolf. I felt a rush of affection for the other three boys – many others would turn their back on a werewolf’s friendship, but not them.
“Thank you for telling us,” I finally said. “I can understand why you’ve been keeping it a secret, I don’t blame you for that. Poor Remus… Does anyone else know?”
James nodded. “Dumbledore, most of the professors… Lily knows, because the two of them were prefects together and he told her.”
“And Snivellus knows,” Peter added.
“You told Snape?” I was incredulous. Snape was the last person I’d think of who they’d tell a secret to. “Why?” There had been a brief period during fifth year, however, when he’d had a theory about how Remus was only ever ill at the full moon and must be a werewolf, but no one believed it.
“Well, he… found out,” said James uneasily. Peter looked shiftily at Sirius, who had a rather wary expression on his face as he watched Mandy and me.
“The same way we found out?” I asked. “Did Remus attack him?”
“Snivellus shouldn’t have been sticking his nose into other people’s business,” Sirius said to no one in particular. “He was always asking us where we went, following us around to see what we were up to… he just wanted to get us expelled.”
Something dawned on me. “That’s why you wouldn’t talk to us for a while last year after Mandy and I followed you once when you were sneaking outside? Because you thought we were doing what Snape did?”
James nodded. “Yeah, that’s what that was. We weren’t sure if we could trust you. But that was then – we trust you now.”
“You were doing what Snape did,” said Sirius quietly, scowling at the floor. “Bloody Slytherins, you’re all the same.”
Mandy had come out of her shock enough to hear that. She drew in her breath sharply through her teeth, looking uneasily between Sirius and me.
I bristled with anger. “How can you say that?” I demanded of Sirius. “Of course we weren’t trying to get you expelled! What is going on? What aren’t you telling us?”
Peter coughed uncomfortably and said, “I’m going to go visit Moony in the hospital wing.”
“Great idea,” Mandy agreed immediately, and they both ran off down the stairs, leaving me, Sirius, and James alone. Somehow, it only heightened the tension in the room. I felt like Mandy and I had inadvertently uncovered some old wound and whatever it was, it had made Sirius angry with me, when moments before he’d been glad to see me unscathed after a near miss with a werewolf.
I walked over to Sirius and took his hands in my own. “Please, Sirius,” I said calmly, “I’m not angry with you, and I’m certainly not going to tell anyone about Remus because he’s still my friend, even though he’s a werewolf. That doesn’t bother me. Why are you acting like this?”
James gave Sirius a brief pat on the shoulder for encouragement and then headed out of the room as well.
Sirius sighed and sat on the bed. He wouldn’t look at me, but he finally said, “In fifth year, I… played a trick on Snape. He’d been trying to find out where we went all the time, so I told him how to find out for himself. So he went out looking for Remus in the tunnel under the Whomping Willow, and when I told James about it, he went off and chased after Snape into the tunnel to get him out before Remus got to him.”
“You… told him to go looking for a werewolf?” I clarified, perplexed. “That’s how he found out about Remus?”
Finally he met my eyes. “Snape was winding me up. He followed me all day, saying horrible stuff about my friends, and I just couldn’t take it anymore, I snapped. Look, I’m sorry, okay? If you suppose I don’t regret it whenever I think about it, you’re wrong. I felt like Moony would never trust me again, and I don’t blame him.”
So when Mandy and I had been out there and then rescued by James, it had affected Sirius by bringing back the memory of what he’d done to Remus two years ago, so it was understandable that he would be in such a bad mood. I knew Sirius often acted without really considering the consequences, but I wouldn’t have expected him to be so thoughtless as to not realise that his idea of a prank could have killed someone.
“What’s that look for?” he asked defensively, and I realised I’d been scowling. I stopped.
“I’m sorry, it’s just a bit hard for me to hear that my boyfriend almost killed someone. I know you didn’t mean to, but… Remus could have killed James or Snape.”
“I should have expected this,” he said nastily. “Of course you’d side with Snape, you’re a Slytherin.”
“I’m not siding with him!” I said, incensed at his insinuation that any Slytherin was by definition deceitful. “Why does it matter that I’m a Slytherin? That has nothing to do with this! Don’t get so angry about it, I know it was years ago and you’ve changed since then.”
“But you haven’t.” He had that closed off look again, the look he always got when he didn’t want to talk anymore. “I trusted you! But you’re exactly what I’ve been trying my whole life to get away from. I don’t know why I ever bothered with you.”
I was crushed. My world came crashing down around me as he said those words. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – after three months together, that was what he thought? We had both left our families and were unlikely to ever speak to our brothers again. We had so much in common, and I’d thought our relationship meant something. But apparently all he saw in me was Slytherin. And Slytherins were people he didn’t trust, people who lied, people who, in his opinion, were not worth knowing. I had thought he had changed… I was wrong.
I was determined not to cry, but all the same I felt tears welling up in my eyes. “You’re giving up on me because of a label, given to me by a hat?” I asked, willing my voice to stop shaking. “I have never heard of anything more ridiculous.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that,” said Sirius immediately. “Any of it.”
“Then why did you say it?”
“I don’t know.”
I couldn’t say anything else; all that came out was a sob. I covered my face with my hands, hoping I could just wipe the tears away and act like I was fine, but the tears kept streaming down my face. When I looked up between my fingers for a split second I saw Sirius stand up and take a step towards me, but I turned around and ran down the stairs.
You probably feel like throwing something at me now, right? Feel free to throw anything you want in the review box!
Disclaimer: The title of this chapter is taken from the song “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight” by Genesis.
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