Chapter 1 : Little White Lies
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And so we stand here faced with each other, faced with the truth and finally knowing the name of the traitor, the cause of our misery and our loss. And the joy I feel, that has been so rare in recent years is tainted as it occurs to me that there is another truth to be found that is infinitely more painful.
‘I assume that’s why you didn’t tell me, Sirius?’
‘Forgive me, Remus.’
‘Not at all, Padfoot, old friend. And will you, in turn, forgive me.’
The truth that we did not trust each other any more than we did the cowering excuse for the person who had once been our friend; that we had believed of each other the worst. And I do not know what gave us cause to doubt each other so completely, to view each other with distrust no matter how fleeting, for it had been enough to allow the belief that I could have killed all those who were innocent, could have caused the death of those I held dearest. But it is not in his nature to mistrust without reason, and so I must look for that reason, must look for the words or actions, however small they may have been, that led to this outcome.
‘I don’t know why you’re moaning so much,’ Remus commented from where he was lounged in front of the fire, legs swung carelessly over the arm as his feet dangled over the warm flames. There was a small smile on his face as he looked at his friend with a mixture of amusement and exasperation. ‘It’s not like you’re doing it right either.’
‘That’s not the point,’ James muttered, eyes fixed doggedly on the small piece of brightly coloured plastic lying on the tattered carpet next to him, garish in comparison to the faded colours. Peter was wearing a similar expression, tongue bitten firmly between his teeth as he approached it cautiously.
‘They don’t explode you know,’ Remus sighed as he flicked through the magazine he’d been trying to read throughout the mammoth game.
‘So you said,’ James replied disbelievingly through clenched teeth as Peter tightened his grip on the small object in his hand, leaning forward slowly with held breath. He pressed the shape to the small circle, tentatively at first before pushing down with all his weight, jumping when the small disc leapt into the air. James reached out and caught it before it could reach the floor. ‘But I see no reason to believe you. After all, if they don’t explode then what’s the point?’
‘It’s a muggle game,’ Remus tried to explain again, his tone more tense than the first time he had tried, which now seemed an age ago. ‘And they don’t tend to explode.’
‘They have exploding snap, don’t they?’
‘It’s just snap,’ Remus sighed.
‘What, so the cards try to bite you instead?’
‘The cards don’t do anything,’ Remus all but shouted, shifting position with exasperation. ‘And neither do they.’ He gestured to what passed for a game, but looked more like a mess.
‘So basically what you’re saying,’ James started slowly. ‘Is that these tiddlywinks are as useless as that stupid tellvey thing you showed us the other day.’
‘What,’ Peter piped up, momentarily distracted. ‘You mean that big box thing that looked like it was full of snow.’
‘It’s called a telly, or a television,’ Remus sighed. ‘And how was I to know you couldn’t get any signal up here.’ Peter giggled, straightening himself up seriously when Remus glared at him. Neither noticed the portrait that was flung open behind them, slowly becoming aware of the angry mutterings as Sirius stomped heavily across the room.
‘Sirius, what’s wrong,’ James sounded worried as he stormed across the common room and wrenched Remus from his chair.
‘Why didn’t you tell us,’ he yelled into his face, watching as Remus expression passed through confusion to understanding and fear.
‘Calm down Sirius,’ James said gently, hands held in front of him as he tried to placate his irate friend.
‘No,’ Sirius stated definitively. ‘I don’t suppose he told you either, did he.’ James looked from Sirius’ fury to Remus’ panicked face.
‘Told me what?’
‘I know,’ Peter said quietly from behind them as all three faces turned to look at him, expression strained as he gave Remus a pained smile and held up his astronomy project by way of explanation. ‘I noticed the full moon thing.’ James’ forehead creased as what Peter was saying registered.
‘You’re a…’ He was cut of as Sirius threw Remus bodily against the wall, his head hitting with a loud crack. Jumping forward he seized his shoulders and dragged him backwards. ‘Leave him alone.’
‘Oh come on James,’ Sirius shouted. ‘It’s not like he messed up in Tranfiguration or something…he’s a bloody werew….’ His final words were muffled as James clamped a hand over his mouth.
‘You can’t shout it out like that mate, you’ll let the whole tower know.’
‘Don’t you think they have a right,’ Sirius bellowed, pulling himself free and swinging round to confront James, eyes wild and hair a tangled mess rivalling that of his friend. ‘He sleeps in the same room as them…AT NIGHT!’
‘If it were a problem I think we’d have noticed a whopping great wolf prowling round by now, don’t you?’ James tried to reason, but Sirius wouldn’t be abated. ‘Besides, I didn’t think it was like you to be so…’
‘So what?’ Sirius growled menacingly.
‘Prejudiced,’ James finished flatly, fixing Sirius with a meaningful stare. ‘Now, if it had been Snape, well then…’
‘Are you comparing me,’ Sirius’ voice was low and quiet, each word emphasised angrily. ‘To that greasy, slimy, arrogant, pure-blood,’ at this comment Peter cleared his throat meaningfully, ‘slytherin git.’
‘I wouldn’t have necessarily been so descriptive, but yes,’ James said simply.
‘I would never be so, so…closed minded,’ Sirius said with an air of indignant finality.
‘Then it doesn’t matter what Remus is, he’s still our friend,’ Peter added, earning himself a smile of agreement from James as Sirius spluttered to himself.
‘Of course it matters,’ he continued. ‘He lied to you, he never told you. What kind of friend keeps something like that secret?’ At this comment all three pairs of eyes turned to where Remus was watching with a mixture of fear and horror.
‘It’s a fair question Remus,’ James pressed, his eyebrows rising expectantly.
‘Why do you think?’ Remus said quietly with the faintest of gestures to the simmering Sirius.
‘Well, perhaps I would have taken it a bit better if you’d trusted me,’ Sirius looked sullen as he threw himself down onto the chair, arms crossed defiantly as James rounded on him.
‘Oh no you don’t,’ James looked furious as he hauled him from the chair and pushed him across the room. ‘Don’t think I don’t see straight through that. You will not blame your own stupid prejudice on Remus.’
‘Since when did this become about me?’
‘Since you started getting all high and mighty.’
‘Just admit it,’ James demanded. ‘The werewolf thing bothers you.’
‘It does not.’
‘It doesn’t matter if it does, after all your family aren’t exactly known for their kind and generous nature when it comes…’
‘Don’t mention my family,’ Sirius said quietly, jumping when he felt a tentative hand placed lightly on his shoulder.
‘I’m sorry,’ Remus said quietly as Sirius face filled with disgust and he all but spat the words in the face of his friend.
‘Get away from me, werewolf.’
‘Get away from me, werewolf.’
As those very same words come from a boy whose flaming red hair can only make him yet another Weasley, I feel a wave of guilt that leaves me breathless, as I see the pain with which he backs away from the words as though thrown at him for the first time. But it is not the first time, for they have crossed my lips too. I have caused that same anguish and self-loathing he must live with.
And it was yet another little white lie that allowed me to believe Remus was the one in the wrong. That he owed us enough to tell us and to trust us, to trust me. But sometimes a big lie can be forgiven, because a big lie can have a big reason, whereas the only reason for a little white lie is convenience. And it was a little white lie, made to myself so that I could have the convenience of believing I was angry that he never shared his secret; that I could believe this instead of the truth that I feared what he was. And we always said it was what made our friendship, what sealed it and set it apart when really it forced a wedge into the crack that all ready existed.
‘Moony,’ James called across the crowded hallway, bounding through the thick crowds. ‘Where have you been, we haven’t seen you in ages.’
‘Around,’ Remus sounded tired as he greeted him with a worn smile, heavy circles under his eyes.
‘You coming to Hogsmeade this weekend?’ James encouraged as Remus shook his head dolefully.
‘I can’t, Lily and I are meeting in the Library. We still haven’t finished that horrendous essay McGonagall set.’
‘You don’t have to avoid him, Sirius doesn’t care about... you know.’ James blurted out as Remus looked mildly disbelieving, fiddling absently with the strap on his bag. ‘Besides, we have something to show you,’ his face split into the hugest grin Remus had ever seen, one he found it impossible to disappoint as he rolled his eyes and nodded.
‘I’ll see you in the common room later,’ he promised as a red haired girl placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.
‘Better make it the charms classroom,’ James winked conspiratorially, flashing Lily a bright smile before turning and pelting down the corridor.
I never meant to isolate him, to push him away not only from myself but from James and Peter. And I must find solace that he found someone who could be there for him, for it is the only solace there is to be found.
‘You haven’t actually tried it yet, have you?’ Remus sounded aghast.
‘No,’ Sirius sounded put out that his plan hadn’t been better received. ‘But we spent ages reading all the theory. Even Peter’s up for it,’ the smallest of the four nodded enthusiastically, if somewhat apprehensively.
‘You do know what happens if you get it wrong, don’t you,’ James dismissed his concern with a wave of his hand, ignorant to the sharp intake of breath next to him.
‘What happens,’ Peter squeaked, his face a mask of barely concealed terror, emphasised by the wand light by which they were reading in the dark classroom.
‘You didn’t tell him,’ Remus almost shouted as Peter closed the book he was holding with a snap, his hands shaking slightly.
‘It would only have worried him,’ Sirius explained. ‘Besides, we taught him everything we know, nothing could possibly go wrong.’ Peter squeaked again, higher as he almost dropped his wand and fumbled to maintain his grip.
‘So,’ he quivered as he tried to sound calm. ‘What does happen?’
‘Think splinching,’ James answered distractedly. ‘Except you’re all in the same place, just not quite the same species. Bits of you can get, well, stuck.’ He smiled casually as Peter forced a grimace in return, pushing himself slowly to his feet.
‘Okay, well, I have to go….um, go finish that essay…’
‘You did it at lunch,’ James offered helpfully.
‘…Feed my owl...’
‘The elves’ll do it,’ Sirius threw in.
‘…Remember that I like my body just the way it is,’ he trailed off dejectedly, sinking morosely back into the chair where he slumped miserably.
‘Oh come on Peter, it’ll be fine,’ Sirius said comfortingly, throwing an arm across his chubby shoulder. ‘Besides, we need you. Moony needs you.’ He ignored Remus’ snort of disapproval.
‘I’ve been fine up till now, haven’t I,’ he challenged, tone more aggressive and condemning than he had intended as he checked himself before continuing. ‘Besides, you could get in a lot of trouble over this.’ Sirius shrugged.
‘So, you shouldn’t jeopardise you’re whole career over this. You’ve got your OWL’s coming up; you should be concentrating on them.’
‘Yeah, but you need us. We read all about it, we know what its like when you….change. We thought if you had your friends there it would make it easier for you.’
‘Are you stupid,’ Remus’ voice rose again. ‘I could bite you…I could kill you,’ he looked genuinely panicked as James put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
‘Which is why,’ he said gently. ‘We’ve decided to become something that can keep you in line.’
‘After all, it can’t be healthy cooped up in that tiny shack all night,’ Sirius smiled, nudging Peter in the ribs and drawing a nervous grin of agreement. ‘We’re doing this to help you.’
And he always accepted that I meant well, which was why he let us. But he knew as well as I did that my reasons were not completely selfless, for it was not his suffering I was solely concerned with relieving, it was my own. My own guilt that I had not accepted him, that I had given him cause to feel less than welcome, less than human. So I made a place to welcome him back, and he took it gratefully not once mentioning that which we both knew, that I acted at least in part for my own peace of mind, which was hinged on his forgiveness.
‘Typical of you Black,’ Snape hissed despite his pallid complexion, all the more pronounced beneath the dark hair that was now flying free.
‘Excuse me Snivellus,’ Black commented casually, stressing the last word carefully with a bright smile. ‘But I do not believe you can blame me for your own wayward curiosity.’ Dumbledore raised a tired hand between the two, bringing their argument to a stunted halt even as they continued attempting commit grievous bodily harm by glaring.
‘That will be enough,’ his voice was quiet yet demanded immediate obedience as Snape simmered silently despite the smile that remained plastered to Sirius’ face. ‘I do not think you understand the seriousness of what you have done.’
‘He almost killed me,’ Snape couldn’t keep his indignation silent, his finger pointing accusingly at Sirius who looked less than caring.
‘Serves you right, sticking that abnormally sized nose of yours where it doesn’t belong.’
‘SILENCE,’ the voice bellowed through the room, reverberating slightly as a number of portraits awoke with a shock and Dumbledore stood imperiously over the two. ‘I will not tolerate such reckless behaviour in my school.’ He stared imperiously at each of them in turn, his eyes cold and icy. ‘However it is late, and I will not have further disruption to the other students,’ he turned to Sirius. ‘Mr. Black, you will return to your common room immediately. I will speak to you again tomorrow,’ he dismissed Sirius with a wave of his hand.
‘I will hear no more,’ Sirius opened his mouth to reply, but thought better of it. There was no trace of Dumbledores usual twinkle, his small smile that seemed to say ‘boys will be boys’ or something equally meaningless yet understanding. Grabbing his bag from next to his seat he turned towards the door without a second glance, pulling it open with righteous indignation.
The staircase seemed colder than normal as he trudged slowly down them, brightening slightly when he reached the bottom and James appeared in the dark corridor with a swish of his invisibility cloak.
‘What did Dumbledore say,’ his voice was strangely clipped, but Sirius assumed he was just mad that he had to save the backside of a Slytherin. He shrugged in response, his bag slipping slightly as James clicked his tongue impatiently.
‘Nothing much, said it was late and that he’d talk to me tomorrow. He’s talking to Snivellus now, probably making sure he keeps his big mouth shut.’ Sirius chuckled to himself, his mood lifting.
‘Hmmm,’ was all James would contribute as they fell into step down the corridor, the grin returning to Sirius’ lips.
‘Ha, you should have seen the look on his face,’ he continued triumphantly, punching the air and missing the warning signs as James rounded on him.
‘And if Peter hadn't let slip your plan, if I hadn’t gone to stop him what do you think would have happened?' Sirius paused, looking deep in thought before he shrugged again and laughed carelessly.
'Nothing he didn't deserve.'
'And if he’d gotten to Remus and Remus had killed him, exactly how do you think our friend would have felt when he remembered.' James stopped dead to stare challengingly at his friend, watching as Sirius’ expression froze with horror, his eyes widening as his mouth formed incoherently around words he could not find.’ But you didn’t think of that, did you.’ James shook his head pityingly as he pulled the cloak round his shoulders, his head disappearing back underneath as Sirius heard his footsteps echoing briskly away as he managed to choke out.
‘Don’t tell him.'
And it is the last of the little white lies to which I must admit, that I was truly sorry for what I had done. For even now I can hear myself, hear the truth in the very words I speak even now.
‘It served him right. Sneaking around, trying to find out what we were up to.’
And we both know that no timeturner could change what had happened as even now I do not regret my actions, would do them again.
Our friendship should have been strong enough to survive the days of the Dark Lord and the inherent mistrust he spread. We should have known each other well enough to know that our fears could not be true, but we did not. And so I must regretfully admit that the fault lies with me, for it has no other home. It is the fault of each of them, all those little white lies. They are the reason I am standing here now face to face with the friend who does not trust me, who does not believe me. But I cannot forget the same doubt that crossed my mind and question the reasons for my own mistrust. And whilst I could once again blame it on the fact that he never told, to do so would be to add yet another to the list that is growing ever longer. So instead I must look at myself and finally admit that it is because of what he is that I cannot believe his every word. And in finally admitting this I must also stop blaming my prejudice on my family and my upbringing, for they are not the cause of it. If the same words can leave the lips of someone raised as what my mother would call a 'blood traitor' then they must be born from something other than family. They are born from a fear of the unknown, a fear that we all posses. But not all of us listen to it, as the words of friendship are stronger for some.
‘Not at all, Padfoot, old friend. And will you, in turn, forgive me.’
And of course I can, for it is how our friendship works and what has made it old. We are bound by all the little white lies.
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