Chapter 3 : The Trunk and the Tricksters
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He followed Lupin almost blindly up the stairs, and into a room leading off the landing. In the corner was a large, battered old trunk. Harry risked a glance at Lupin, and was surprised to see a slow smile spreading over his face.
"Of course," said Lupin, waving a wand to light the lamps, before kneeling down in front of the trunk. "I knew it would be."
Covered in dust as it was, Harry could just make out a gold inscription on the top of the trunk: MWPP
Harry caught his breath. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs.
Lupin tapped the lock of the trunk with his wand and muttered, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
The trunk fell open with a soft click. Lupin smiled, and beckoned to Harry. "Come and have a look. There are some things in here that might interest you."
Harry knelt down next to Lupin, and looked into the trunk. It contained everything from scrappy pieces of parchment to photographs.
"What...who's is all this stuff?" His voice was almost as hoarse a Lupin's.
"It's ours," said Lupin. "The Marauders'." He reached a hand into the trunk and pulled out one of the photographs. "Look. This is us in sixth year."
He handed it to Harry. The picture showed four sixteen-year-old boys, grinning and waving at him from the picture. They were all very familiar. There was his Dad, long-nosed and hazel-eyed, his hair messed up at the back. He was leaning against Sirius and triumphantly waving what appeared to be a stolen snitch. Harry's heart gave a jolt as he looked at Sirius- handsome, arms folded, his dark hair falling into his eyes as he grinned mischeviously. Wormtail was looking up at the two of them, blinking rather stupidly and tugging at James' sleeve. And there was Lupin at the back of the group, clearly unhappy about being photographed but smiling shyly nevertheless. He looked tired and pale, and was clutching a book.
Harry reached out and touched Sirius' face. He knew that smile so well. But that grinning sixteen- year-old had no idea, Harry realised, feeling the lump in his throat again, no idea what kind of life he was facing. Framed for Wormtail's betrayal, spending thirteen years in Azkaban, on the run for two years then murdered by his own cousin. None of them knew, thought Harry, looking at the four grinning faces. None of them could have guessed what was going to become of them. He thrust the photograph back at Lupin, an odd plunging sensation in his stomach. Lupin looked at him shrewdly, but said nothing, putting the photograph carefully back in the trunk.
Harry clenched his fists, wondering suddenly how Lupin could bear it, bear to remember the Marauders at all. He was reminded strongly of how, the previous summer, Moody had shown him a photograph of the original Order. It had struck Harry then how unaware they all were, how death could be just around the corner for them all and they wouldn't know it until the time came. Sirius' time was coming then, whispered a small voice inside his head. And you'd never have guessed that, would you?
Lupin reached into the trunk and pulled out another photo. He smiled and shook his head, before handing it to Harry.
"That was taken on our last day at Hogwarts. Wormtail's not in it, he was taking the picture..."
Harry looked. His father, Sirius and Lupin grinned back at him, slightly older this time but little changed. Lupin stood in the centre, wearing the same shy smile along with an expression of mingled embarresment and amusement. On either side of him were James and Sirius, both crossing their eyes and waggling their tongues, their faces pulled into hideous expressions.
Harry couldn't help but smile, even as the sight of Sirius' face pulled his insides into another tight knot.
"Did they ever take anything seriously?" he asked Lupin.
Lupin had pulled something else out of the trunk- a battered piece of parchment covered in someone's scrawled handwriting. An odd expression appeared on Lupin's face as he looked at it- he was still smiling, but it looked slightly pained, as though he were remembering something.
"Now you come to mention it," he said, holding the parchment out to Harry, "I don't think they did."
The parchment read:
An Agreement between R. Lupin, S. Black and J. Potter
R. Lupin agrees to:
1.Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth
2.Tell it without mumbling
J. Potter and S. Black agree to:
1.Listen to him without making stupid noises
2.Never a) laugh at him b) abandon him or c) feed him to the giant squid, however beastly his affliction.
Sirius Black James Potter
"What's this?" asked Harry.
Lupin didn't answer. He was staring into the distance, frowning slightly, as though lost in memory...
* * *
"Sit down, Remus."
Remus sat down awkwardly on the edge of his bed, looking at the floor. The usual wild stories flew around his head- which one to use this time? He'd used the one about his mother last month, they'd say she ought to be getting better by now...how about his Grandfather? Yes, he could be ill this month.
James looked at him shrewdly, folding his arms. Sirius entered the dormitary and closed the door behind him. He too folded his arms, and they both looked expectantly at Remus.
"Er..." began Remus feebly, still staring at the floor. "Well, my Grandfather was ill, you see, and I had to..."
"Stop," said Sirius, unfolding his arms. "Stop right there." He was smirking slightly. Remus suddenly felt very sick.
"What happened to your mother?" asked James with mock sympathy. "I suppose she got better, and passed it on to you Grandfather, and... who was it last month? Your second cousin."
"And didn't your Great-Grandmother die the month before that?" said Sirius, pulling a sorrowful face. "Such an unfortunate family you have, Remus."
Remus looked very hard at the floor, his heart beating fast.
"How about," said James, tapping his head and beaming as though he'd just had a bright idea, "You tell us the truth? I assume you are familiar with the concept?"
"It involves saying what actually happened," said Sirius, "As a pose to making something up."
Wild stories chased each other round Remus' mind. Which of them hadn't he used before? He hadn't used the one about allergies since first year. Or maybe the one about moving house...
"Every month you go away somewhere," continued James, now looking at him shrewdly, "and you come back looking as if you haven't slept for a week."
They were standing on either side of him now, their arms folded. Remus gripped the edge of the bed, feeling sweat on his palms. He couldn't tell them, he just couldn't. If they knew, if anybody knew, he could never hold his head up again. It would be just like it was at home, afraid to meet anyone's eye, always ashamed...He couldn't stand it, he knew. If they abandoned him, he just wouldn't be able to bear it.
And yet...there was a part of him that was just bursting to let the secret out. A part that was sick of lying to them all the time. A part that would rather just tell them and bear whatever came after.
When he finally spoke, his voice was hoarse with nerves.
"All-all right. I'll t-tell you. But..."
"But what?" said Sirius, who was grinning.
Remus gulped. "I want you to sign a piece of paper saying you won't-won't stop being my friends when you know. You won't laugh at me or tease me."
James rolled his eyes, and dug in his bag for a quill and some parchment, which he handed to Sirius. Sirius thought for a moment, then grinned as he dipped the quill into James' ink bottle and started to scribble. Finally, he blew on the ink and handed the parchment to Remus.
"There. What d'you think?"
Remus read it very quickly, feeling a lump form in his throat.
"You're not taking this seriously," he whispered, handing it back to Sirius, who signed it with a flourish.
"Of course we are, dear boy" said James, signing it too and passing it on to Remus. "Deadly serious, as always."
Remus took the quill with shaking hands. Did he really want to do this? James and Sirius were watching him expectantly. Feeling as though everything was spiralling out beyond his control, he signed his name, his fingers still trembling.
"Now," said Sirius, "Tell."
Held by a dream-like feeling, as though it wasn't really him sitting here at all, Remus opened his mouth. His throat was dry, and he could hear his own wild heartbeat. He didn't even look at Sirius and James, instead muttering the dreaded words to the floor, as though it might have more sympathy.
"I'm a...I'm a Werewolf."
He couldn't bring himself to look up. He didn't want to see the horror on their faces, see them backing away, fear in their eyes. He'd seen it too many times before. He felt as though he had just branded himself on the forehead, something painful and obvious which, now it was done, could never be removed. Why had he told them, he wondered wildly, what had posessed him? He'd kept the secret so well for so long...
With huge difficulty, he looked up- and to his astonishment, they were laughing. He felt a rare surge of anger.
"It's not a joke!" he cried, jumping up off the bed. "It's the truth!"
James put a hand on his shoulder, and pushed him down again. "We know it's the truth, you stupid idiot."
"We've known for months," said Sirius. They were both smirking.
"I mean, it was hardly difficult," continued James. "You always dissapear at the full moon. And the look on your face when we had that Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson on Werewolves...well, I've never seen anyone go bright red for a whole hour before..."
Remus stared at them, unable to take it in. "You...you know? Then why..."
"We just wanted to hear it from you," said Sirius, a little more earnestly. "That's all."
Remus pointed at the contract with shaking hands. "Then why all this?"
"You insisted," said James, smirking again. "And we weren't going to stop you. You know your problem, mate? You're so sure that everyone's going to hate you that you never stop to think that maybe, just maybe, Sirius'n me are better friends than that."
For the first time since he had entered the room, a slow smile began to spread across Remus' face.
"I thought it was rather witty, personally," said Sirius, slinging an arm round Remus' shoulders. "However beastly his affliction, get it?"
"Does Peter know?" asked Remus nervously.
"Nah." said James. "We'll tell him soon, though. He'll probably scream and run a mile, but he'll get over it."
Remus sat, feeling dizzy and lightheaded. Could it be true? They didn't mind? They really, seriously didn't mind?
"So..." he ventured, "It's all right? You're not...scared of me, or anything?"
Sirius snorted. "Scared of you? I'd sooner be scared of a rabbit, they're probably fiercer..."
James' grin grew even wider. "Mind? Of course we don't mind. In fact..." he caught Sirius' eye, and the familiar expression of wicked mischief spread across their faces. "In fact, we've had a bit of an idea, Remus. Or should I say...Moony?"
* * *
"Er..." Harry offered the parchment back to Lupin, who blinked as though coming out of a daze before taking it back.
"What is it?" asked Harry again. Lupin shook his head, a slight smile playing across his face.
"Let's just say it was a bit of a running joke between the three of us for years afterwards. They never lost an oppurtunity to remind me of it whenever they thought I was being stupid. It's- well, a long story, Harry..."
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