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Chapter 11 : Breaking the Secret
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Disclaimer: The story title is a song originally recorded (under that title) by Bob Dylan. The world, characters and canon events belong to J. K. Rowling. Everything else belongs to me. It is illegal to publish and distribute fanfiction without J.K. Rowling's permission. You may not copy, post elsewhere, change or edit any part of this story. You may not claim it as your own.
Breaking the Secret
Everyone was proved wrong about him.
There was nothing quite so fantastic to Sirius than to see the looks on everyone's faces.
Throughout the weeks, the Marauders had been subjected to many different areas for their training. Tracking to staying vigilant, Patronuses and Occlumensy, deadlier spells, more handy defences. And the four boys had excelled in it all.
Sirius thought back to their first Order meeting. Everyone who thought he was just another good for nothing Black was wrong. Everything who thought a werewolf was nothing more than a monster was wrong. They had friends now; they belonged now. The addition of Lily, whether James liked her there or not, only made it better.
(So what if they'd had to help Peter, had to spend hours in their free time in his flat, practising and training their less confident friend? Peter did it, perhaps not with such ease and power as the rest of them, but he did it, he could do it, and Sirius felt quite proud.)
Not only had they mastered spells, but they were a master of Voldemort's plans now as well. They felt like they understood everything - every motive, every want and desire of their enemy. They knew how to thwart him, knew not to be tricked into looking another way when a bigger plan was brewing.
Old Elphias Doge, who indeed looked to be rivalling Dumbledore in age, had coached them on those things. Edgar Bones, who's family was very prominent in the Ministry, often helped. They learned the layout of the humongous building, in case they ever needed to battle there. They learned of any secret passage or secret entrance and exit. They knew exactly where the Minister's office was, despite never having been there.
And then, when they could recite it all perfectly, they began to learn the same things about the offices of the Muggle Prime Minister.
Today they stared into the sweet face of Marlene McKinnon, who was nearly always smiling and talking about her five year old little girl. It was hard to believe that this portly young curly haired woman would be the one to teach them about the Unforgivable Curses. Perhaps Dumbledore had chosen her, knowing how kind-hearted she was, to make them less fearful of what they had to learn.
Sirius already dreaded it. His mind ran through hundreds of scenarios, the worst of which involved suffering through relentless applications of the Cruciatus Curse in order to build up their resistances to pain.
Dumbledore wouldn't go that far, would he? That sounded like something the Death Eaters would be subjected to, but surely not on this side, too?
"Hello, friends!" greeted Marlene with a wide smile. She had a sing-song voice. "Dumbledore asked me to teach you to resist the Imperius Curse, so here we are, aren't we!"
A rush of relief flew over Sirius; the Imperius Curse, he could handle. But he quickly came to hate this lesson as much as he hated the ones on Occlumensy.
Remus’s voice was quiet and hesitant. He sat on an old wooden stool, one that was covered in scratches and bite marks, and clasped his hands together awkwardly. The familiar old Shrieking Shack was still home to the friends during the nights with a full moon; the place was almost comfortable these days. It was easy to speak of worries and fears here.
James, who had been wrestling on the threadbare, torn up old couch with Sirius, looked up expectantly, one hand still punching Sirius's shoulder roughly. “Yes?” he asked elegantly, as if, beneath his other hand, he didn’t have a struggling young man pinned playfully by the throat.
“I wanted to talk to you about something,” Remus said, beginning to twiddle his thumbs slightly. Then, as if realizing what he was doing, he shoved both hands hurriedly into his pockets and blew out his breath. “About Lily, I mean,” he added, tearing his eyes away from the floor to check James’s reaction.
James narrowed his eyes, and seemed to consider whether hearing something about his girlfriend was worth surrendering to Sirius. In the end, his curiosity got the best of him.
“What about her, then?” he asked, releasing Sirius. The latter gave James one final shove before straightening his robes and casually leaning back against the couch, arms folded behind his head. Peter slid onto the arm of the furniture and stared in anticipation.
“Don't break the couch, you great lump,” laughed Sirius without a care, shoving Peter roughly.
“Shut up, you ratty old fleabag,” snapped Peter in return, his face turning bright red. Sirius laughed again and Peter grinned ruefully in spite of himself.
Watching them joke, Remus swallowed loudly and looked at the dirty floor as doubt washed over him once more. He did not really want to do this; he’d rather keep his secret to himself. But now that Dumbledore had given him a job to do, he couldn’t see any way around the questions that Lily was bound to start asking. Especially since she’d already attended her first meeting, and while he’d gotten lucky that time and nobody said anything, in prior meetings nobody held back the fact that he was a werewolf. It was talked about freely and openly, and it was something he was still trying to get used to.
He bit his lip and James, who was beginning to notice that this was something Remus took very seriously, prompted, “Moony?”
“I think we should tell her. That I’m a werewolf.” He blurted it quickly and his face immediately turned red, redder than even Peter's. However, when nobody responded after a moment, he dared to look up at them and was met with open-mouthed stares.
“Why?” cried Peter, sounding like a defiant child being forced into doing something he didn’t want, and not understanding the reason at all. Sirius and James said nothing, though Remus could tell they were just as reluctant to leak the secret.
Even if the Order members knew, it wasn’t because they had told. Remus had been recognized for what he was by the skilled Aurors, and Dumbledore had confirmed it. They had nothing to do with it, and to them, his secret was one they still kept faithfully. And now here he was, asking them to break it when it was already feeling dreadfully weak. At times, this one secret seemed to be the only thing that they all clung to, the only thing that had remained constant all throughout their school years and now beyond in a frightening war. It did not matter that it was only Lily they were telling, nor that if anyone new had to be in on it, she was the best candidate.
He sighed; revealing the secret that had been theirs alone for years was almost painful. It was almost like saying goodbye to an old friend. But Peter’s question and upsetting tone of voice remained in the dank, stale air. They were waiting to hear his reasoning.
“Because,” he said, sad and resigned, and looked back down at his hands. “Dumbledore’s sending me away,” he admitted.
James stood up quickly at this, his face distorting angrily. “Whoa, wait, Moony. What do you mean he’s sending you away?” He crossed the small space between the crowded couch and the lopsided stool quickly, placing his hands on his hips as he glared down at his friend. Remus seemed to shrink a little more under the sudden scrutiny.
“He wants me to see if I can fit in with the werewolves,” said Remus, not having it in him to lie or brush the job off as if it were nothing. “They’re likely on Voldemort’s side. Dumbledore thinks that if I can convince them that I’m with them, I might find out something useful.” He rubbed at his knee as he spoke; it was beginning to ache. The full moon must nearly be up.
“At the very least,” he added, “Perhaps I could convince them to break their alliance.”
“Ah, hell,” growled Sirius from the couch, and he angrily shoved himself off of it and began pacing angrily. At the same time, James made a noise of disgust and turned forcefully away, his back to Remus.
Remus had known all along that they wouldn’t take kindly to this news. The four friends had always stuck together. It was the one argument James had used when trying to convince him to join the Order - they were strongest as the foursome, the Marauders. Clearly, separation from one another hadn’t crossed their minds. Perhaps they’d thought themselves too young to be apart and thought Dumbledore would feel the same way. Perhaps they thought the professor wouldn’t do such a hurtful thing to them. But this was a war, and in war, sacrifices had to be made. He could be useful for the first time in his life, at least, useful to somebody other than his fellow Marauders, for nobody had ever thought as highly of him as they did.
All of these thoughts ran quickly through his head, and he could tell that James and Sirius were thinking along the same lines. James appeared to be contemplating how to get him out of such a job, and Sirius simply looked livid that he’d be sent out with wild werewolves, alone.
Odd, thought Remus, for he almost felt like defending his new position, as much as he was dreading it. He'd rather go than not, and it was all because he could. He could be helpful and contribute something important. In that moment, a small bit of pride and a renewed confidence washed over him.
It was only Peter who spoke, and he did so with slight impatience. “What’s that got to do with Lily?” he demanded on James's behalf. Either the dangers of Remus’s upcoming job had gone right over his head, or else he’d forced them from his mind because he didn’t want to think about them.
James looked quickly at Peter and then his head snapped back to Remus expectantly. “That's right,” he said, feeling suddenly dreadful. He'd murder Dumbledore himself if Lily was going to be involved in this mission somehow. “Spill it, Remus.”
Remus shrugged, but sat up a little straighter and spoke with confidence and a new sense of direction. “I just figure conversation about my upcoming trip is bound to rear its ugly head. Whether between us, or among the Order. She doesn’t know about my furry little problem. I’d rather she heard it from us, honestly, than heard it in a side conversation about other things.”
James’s nostrils flared for a moment as he stared at Remus, and then he rather forcefully ran one hand through his hair. Sirius stopped pacing and looked expectantly at them both, shoving his hands into his pockets to occupy them - he could see the sense in Remus's thoughts, though he didn't have to like it. And Peter continued to peer searchingly at Remus.
“I guess you’re right, Moony,” James finally sighed. He pressed his fingers into his forehead as if suddenly under a burden of stress. “Damn it.”
“Yeah,” agreed Remus, almost in relief. Nobody spoke for several moments and his joints grew steadily more painful. He shifted his weight uncomfortably on the hard, unstable stool, and here and there a moan or guttural growl escaped him. None of his friends paid it any heed; they were used to the awkward moments before his physical transformation - moments in which he seemed barely able to control himself or his words.
He hated the silence. It allowed time for his pestering thoughts and doubts to wash over him. And he began to wonder how Lily would react to his news.
“She won’t care,” James said, his voice firm and confident, and Remus marvelled because it was as if he could read minds. James had always seemed to know just what his friends were thinking, even if he didn't realize he was usually spot-on. “She’ll still love you, Moony.”
Remus raised his eyebrows and gazed at James, but said nothing. James had, at one time, wondered if Remus might have had a thing for Lily. It certainly said a lot that James was professing Lily's love for him now, no matter how platonic. He had a high enough opinion of Lily that he was certain she wouldn't turn her back on him; he simply didn't want her to look at him differently.
A few more moments of silence passed, marked by Remus's uncomfortable, pained shifting on his stool. He began to shiver violently. Still, his friends were perfectly calm, having experienced it many times before, and nobody made a big deal out of his embarrassing spasms as the moon rose.
“You know what this means, don’t you?” Sirius finally asked them all, still standing where he’d stopped pacing, still with his hands shoved into his pockets. He looked at them all in turn, grey eyes lingering on each before moving on. But nobody answered; nobody got a chance to.
Remus suddenly gave a sharp growl, as if fighting back a moan of pain. His back went rigid and his eyes shut tightly while he clenched his teeth. His fists balled around his shabby robes.
“Here we go,” announced James as Sirius and Peter jumped into action. He, being the closest, wrestled the old cloak off of Remus and flung it into a corner - Remus couldn’t afford to ruin more clothing because they’d lost track of time and hadn’t been ready.
They didn’t go onto the Hogwarts grounds anymore, not since graduation. They didn’t feel right about roaming the grounds with a dangerous werewolf when they were no longer even students at the school. Instead they stuck to the deserted areas of Hogsmeade - the surrounding forest and lake front, the rocky, snow-covered mountain that rose behind the village - the same one they had explored with Gideon and Fabian. They followed the railroads tracks upon which the Hogwarts Express travelled for a short while.
Hours later, as dawn began to show itself and the four were within the shack once more, Sirius finally finished his sentence as if no time had passed at all.
He breathed heavily, looking around at his friends. James, bleeding from the head, was helping a very weak Remus slowly to his feet. Peter was gingerly walking to the corner to retrieve the battered cloak James had tossed aside. He limped slightly. Sirius himself cradled an injured arm and he collapsed onto the couch, sweating slightly.
“It means,” Sirius panted, tiredly sitting back and massaging his aching arm with his free hand as he watched Peter and James pull the cloak over Remus’s shoulders. “We’ll have to tell her we’re Animagi as well.”
James’s head fell back tiredly; he looked up at the ceiling and gave a brief laugh. Then he hung his head forward and heaved a fake sob. Peter laughed and Remus rolled his tired eyes.
“Oh God,” James moaned, voice broken by tired chuckles and he still hung his head. “Why does everything have to be so damn complicated and difficult.” He glanced at Sirius and shook his head, eyes wide and full of warning. “She won’t take that part well at all, mate.”
Sirius grinned at him sympathetically. She wasn’t his woman, after all.
Lily was curled up in a chair in Sirius’s flat, sipping a cup of tea in the early morning hours. She hadn’t been invited to his home, and part of her felt awkward as she sat there alone. Yet her anxious worry over the four boys had drawn her there and she couldn’t resist it. She had to know they were okay, and thus, she stood guard in their usual meeting place, waiting for them.
She’d been okay with it when James told her tonight was boys’ night out. She could understand his close relationship with his friends and only wished that she had such a good one with friends of her own. Yet, after attending her first Order meeting, after learning some of what was really going on out there in the world, she felt anxious any time she didn’t know exactly where James was. Such as last night. She didn’t understand why he refused to at least tell her where they were going. It was taking all of her restraint not to visit every pub she knew of to check for them.
Because of her anxiety, it was a relief when the front door suddenly burst open (though mildly alarming as well). She looked towards it expectantly - James had promised he’d be home early in the morning. Nothing, however, could prepare her for what she saw.
It was Sirius who walked in, his eyes immediately falling on her. Her first thought was that James was dead. She couldn’t help it - how often did Sirius show up with no sign of James at all? It didn’t even matter that James didn’t live here - that perhaps he’d gone straight home or to her flat rather than come here. Her heart leaped into her throat and pounded there in a very sickening fashion. She set down her cup, ready to throw herself at him and scream James’s name in desperation.
“Hey ho, Lily,” Sirius greeted tiredly, stomping snow off his boots on the doormat and slowly, achingly pulling off his cloak. He didn’t even seem surprised to see her there.
He looked nervous, she spotted immediately. And then she saw it - all around his right eye were bloodied gouges and scrapes. He cradled his arm gingerly and spots of blood had soaked through his shirt sleeve. He looked as if he’d been attacked by some wild animal, or worse, a wild wizard. The black eye had already begun to form and it was slightly swollen so that he couldn’t open it all the way.
“Sirius?” she asked in a panic, standing. If this was what he looked like, then she could be sure James was dead, they’d been attacked by something or somebody and he looked nervous because he didn’t want to give her the bad news.
He caught the tone of her voice and gave her a closer, confused look. But then all despair was abandoned as James walked in the door behind his friend, followed immediately by Remus and Peter. All three of them did the same as Sirius - stomped the snow from their feet and took off their cloaks.
“Morning, Lily,” said James cheerfully, looking exhausted and thoroughly clubbed upside the bloody head by something.
“God, James,” she replied shakily, sitting back down. She picked up the tea, hoping it would calm her nerves as it had failed to do all night long, but she felt too ill then to drink it.
“Is everything okay?” he asked immediately, worry evident in his voice as he realized she’d been sitting here, in Sirius’s flat, without them. “What are you doing here? Did something happen last night while we were gone?” He hurried to her side and crouched in front of her, examining her face for any sign of injury.
“Everything’s fine, James, I just thought...” But then she saw just how bad his head injury appeared to be. Dried blood flattened parts of his hair and almost completely covered one side of his face. Even through the ridiculous mess of black tufts, she could see a swollen lump rising upon his scalp. He didn’t have a black eye as Sirius did, but his bottom lip was bleeding and his knuckles looked as if they’d been split open. “What in Merlin’s name did you four get into last night?” she demanded to know, now noticing Remus’s sunken eyes and Peter’s limp.
James smiled gently, glancing around at his friends before addressing her. “Well, Lily,” he began in the same tone her grandfather used to use when he was about to tell a long story. As if on cue, the other three settled onto the chair and couch around her, watching intently as if it really were story time. “That’s been our little secret for a long time now. But we decided it’s about time to let you in on it.”
Lily narrowed her eyes at him, fear once again beginning to grow inside of her. Too many Muggle movies and television shows, she suspected. The way he spoke made it sound as if he’d been acting all along, that it’d been one big elaborate plan, and they were going to reveal they were Death Eaters and would be taking her to her doom. The casual way he let her know she was on the brink of a big secret made her exceptionally nervous. She hadn’t forgotten, not after the incident with her former boss, how people could be Imperiused. She peered at him searchingly, and then at his cronies.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” James asked again, suspicion evident in his own voice then. “You’re mighty jittery.”
She shook her head, trying to clear the ridiculous thoughts as she returned her green eyes to him. “I’m fine, James, I’m just...” She shrugged, not even knowing how to describe it. “It’s just getting to me, everything. I’m getting paranoid.”
“Ah,” James said in an understanding tone. He moved quickly from his crouch and plopped onto the arm of her chair, resting an arm across her shoulders.
Remus swallowed loudly then, once everyone was sitting up straight and alert, once Lily was looking at each in turn in confusion. He could put it off no longer. “Er... Lily. Do you remember how frustrated you used to get with me sometimes when I’d skive off Prefect duties and disappear for a while?”
Lily smirked at him. “Of course, Remus, you told me your grandfather had died once, and I know for a fact you claimed he died in third year as well.”
Remus blushed and rubbed his aching hands together, stretching his stiff fingers. “Right. Well, I wasn’t being truthful all those times I was leaving.”
“Really?” asked Lily, not at all surprised. James elbowed her lightly as if to say, please don’t make this harder than it is.
Remus swallowed again after watching the brief exchange between the two. “Did you ever notice a pattern as to when I was gone?”
Lily’s mouth fell open. It had been two years since Severus Snape had come to her in a fluster to report that Remus was a werewolf. It was a mark of just how separated the two had become that she refused to believe him. She’d assumed that Severus was just trying to make trouble for the Gryffindor boys. She knew Remus and he was one of the kindest boys she’d ever come across. Even if the news came from the one she’d called her best friend since childhood, she couldn’t believe it knowing the rocky history between him and the Marauders. She’d flat out told Severus she didn’t believe him.
“You’re a werewolf,” she blurted. Then she clapped a hand over her mouth as if she’d cursed and looked aghast at James.
“How’d you know?” demanded Sirius, narrowing his eyes at her. Remus gaped at her in surprise.
“Snape,” she said simply. “He told me in fifth year, but I wouldn’t believe him. I thought he was just trying to get you lot back for something by spreading a rumour. Considering the crowd he was hanging out with... it wasn’t hard to brush him off...”
“Oh, he had a run in with Moony here,” said Peter, grinning broadly. “During transformation. It was his own bloody fault for spying.”
Sirius blushed and hung his head. Here it was, brought up again. It was his biggest regret, revealing their secret to their worst enemy. He would never forget the pained look on Remus’s face when they told him the following morning. Neither would he forget the harsh way that James glared at him, had shoved him aside roughly like the dog he was as he ran off to right what he had done.
“Let it go, Padfoot. Everyone else is over it,” Remus used to say, months afterwards, and he’d smile warmly at Sirius and pat the seat beside him invitingly. “I'm not mad,” he’d add, after seeing the indecision and embarrassment on Sirius’s face. And James, seeing how down he’d been in the weeks that followed the incident, apologized for his own actions as well in the hopes that Sirius would smile again.
But neither of them had seen the way Remus’s father looked at him in Dumbledore’s office, a look of shame and hurt and betrayal. Neither had read the letter from his parents, which hadn't chastised him for doing something terribly wrong in school, but rather for not finishing off the Half-blooded Snape boy in his cruel prank.
Indeed, what with running away from home months later during the summer, fifth year had been the worst in Sirius’s life. He still had nightmares about what might have been from the incident; blood everywhere. Remus’s blood, Snape’s blood. James’s blood, for he was the one who risked his life to save Snape. And he was utterly alone. He’d wake up in the dark gasping for air, lungs aching, and covered in sweat. It still tortured him.
James, seeing the look on Sirius’s face when the incident was brought up, looked desperately as if he wanted to change the subject. Yet this wasn’t exactly the type of subject one could easily change. He watched Sirius in concern - they’d always seemed to understand each other without words and he hoped that Sirius could feel him reaching out even now.
He was thankful when Lily didn’t question about the encounter. “Moony?” she said now. “Oh, wow, it makes so much more sense now ” Had she believed Snape, she could have put two and two together in an instant. It was rather obvious, once one was on this side of the secret.
“Oh, Remus ” Lily cried, jumping out of her chair and crossing the room to embrace him. “How old were you?”
“Five,” he managed through her mane of hair. The hug felt good. It had been a ridiculously long time since he’d received one.
“You’re the greatest werewolf I’ve ever met,” she told him, resting her forehead against his. “Most are wild, aren’t they?”
“Yes,” he whispered, and he was glad that nobody bothered to point out that she probably hadn't met any other werewolves.
“You went to Hogwarts and everything.”
“Yes,” he repeated, and his tone held a very slight hint of surprise. It sounded like so much more of a big deal than it really was when she said it.
“I’m very proud of you,” she said in a low voice, so that the others couldn’t hear.
Remus smiled at her and she got up and retreated, sitting with James once more. She smiled back from across the room. “So... why are you lot all beaten and bloody?” she asked conversationally.
James smiled grimly. “Because we spend the night with him when he transforms.”
“That’s not possible.”
“We’re Animagi,” said Peter, bravely throwing it out into the open. James shot him a warning look, but it was too late now, and he glanced carefully back at Lily to her reaction.
“That’s not possible either.”
“Want to bet?” asked James daringly.
“It’s illegal,” Lily informed him. “Well, unless you’re registered.”
“Yet entirely possible,” smiled James tiredly, rubbing his eyes beneath his glasses. He loved Lily to death, but he sincerely hoped he wouldn't have to argue with her over this, not right now; all he wanted was to fall into his bed. Or the floor, the floor was fine.
Lily, however, didn’t respond. She simply narrowed her eyes at her boyfriend suspiciously. He gave her a cheesy grin in return.
“Prongs?” she ventured at last, a bit reluctantly, as if she didn't want to accept this.
“Indeed. Listen, Lily, you can't tell anyone... I mean the Order knows he's a werewolf, but nobody knows we're illegal Animagi. And I know you don't fancy rule breaking, hell, even law breaking, and such... but it was all with the best of intentions...”
For a moment she said nothing, simply pursing her lips and surveying the four battered boys in front of her. All of them were slumped over slightly, so exhausted they couldn't even sit up straight. Dark circles were beneath their eyes and their faces looked drawn. Then she sighed and pulled out her wand.
“Do you lot even have potions to heal yourselves?”
“No,” admitted Sirius, wincing as he examined his swollen wrist. “We used to sneak into the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts, but that's obviously no longer available.”
She rolled her eyes. “Have a cauldron lying around, Sirius?”
Are you thinking that Lily didn't have a big enough reaction? I wanted to explain this, because I'm worried people will think that. In Deathly Hallows, Snape has a memory of himself telling Lily what he knows about Remus. And in that memory, Lily brushed him off and didn't believe him, thinking he was just trying to cause more problems.
For this reason, her reaction wasn't overly surprised. I think that deep down, she already knew. She's smart enough to realise the dates Remus was absent, with Snape's words in the back of her mind, even if she chose to ignore such a thing.
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