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Chapter 1 : Letters and Lurkers
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Letters and Lurkers
Hundreds of different colored owls swooped through the Great Hall, delivering the morning mail to the students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Brown, speckled gray, tawny gold, and snowy white owls swerved and looped among the four House tables, dropping assorted parcels, packages, and envelopes next to their owners’ breakfast plates.
A sleek brown owl flew in a circle above the Gryffindor table, landing smartly next to a boy of about fifteen. The boy had thick black hair that fell softly over his forehead, giving him a casual, just-rolled-out-of –bed look. His face possessed classical features; a straight nose, square jaw, and handsomely defined cheekbones. His eyes were a pale gray, and they did not match the confidence of the haughty expression he usually wore.
At this moment, the boy’s pale gray eyes were fixed upon the sleek brown owl next to him. It fluttered its wings importantly, and brandished the envelope clutched in its beak. The envelope had an impressive red seal with a large “B” on it. The envelope was addressed, in emerald green ink, to “Sirius Black”. The owl hooted impatiently, but the boy called Sirius Black did not touch the envelope. He eyed it warily, looking very much as though he wished the owl would go away.
“Sirius!” said a voice suddenly, and an arm slung itself around Sirius’s shoulders. “What’s the matter, mate? Don’t you want to open your letter?” The boy speaking also had jet-black hair, which was rather untidy, and bright blue eyes. “C’mon then, let’s have a look,” said the boy, snatching the envelope from the bird’s beak. It hooted, gave a small nod, then spread its wings and took flight. Sirius scowled darkly.
“Give it here, James. Or just chuck it for me. I’m not in the mood to read more rubbish from my dear mother.” He put on a high, screechy voice. “You’ve brought shame on our entire family, you should be setting an example for your brother, he used to look up to you, and now you’re more than a filthy little blood traitor.” He gave a mirthless laugh. James bit his lip, looking pensive.
“When are you going to get away from her? I’ve told you a hundred times, Mum and Dad won’t mind if you stay with us, you’re my best mate, and they know you’re family’s a bunch of prejudiced gits.” He placed the envelope next to Sirius’s jug of pumpkin juice. “I say don’t even open it. Let’s go out to the pitch and fly around for a bit, Moony and Peter can come too.”
He dug in the pocket of his robes and pulled out a tiny golden Snitch, whose wings were fluttering madly. “I need to get in some more practice before the match. Ravenclaw’s got a new Seeker.” Sirius pushed back his chair and stretched.
“All right then. Meet you there in a few. I’ll get my broom.” James grinned and clapped Sirius on the back. “That’s more like it, Padfoot. See you,” he said, and strode out of the Great Hall. Sirius left the Hall as well and climbed the staircase leading towards the Gryffindor common room. He approached a large painting of a very fat woman in a pink dress. “Chocolate cauldron,” he muttered and the painting swung forward, admitting him into the cozy, circular Gryffindor common room.
A tall, red-haired boy with horn-rimmed glasses was sitting at a table near the fireplace, hidden behind a thick stack of books.
“All right there, Arthur?” Sirius called. The boy peered around a very old book titled “Wizard and Muggle Relations Through the Centuries.”
“Sirius! I’m trying to finish that essay for Muggle Studies. I’ve got about four rolls of parchment, but I thought I’d try for seven. What about you? Have you finished it?” He disappeared behind the wall of books, then reappeared holding a scroll of parchment that reached all the way to the floor. “Did you write about the invention of the airplane? I thought that was fascinating. Flying without brooms…amazing!” He pushed up his thick glasses and looked eagerly at Sirius. “Can I have a look at your essay? I just want to make sure I’ve covered all the right points-“ Sirius quickly interrupted him.
“Er-actually I’ve got to-er-I’ve got detention,” he finished lamely. Arthur, however, didn’t seem to have any doubts about this excuse. He frowned, and his voice had a concerned tone when he spoke. “Sirius, I’d be careful if I were you. Any more detentions and you could be expelled. Maybe if you stopped hanging around with Potter you wouldn’t get in so much trouble.” Sirius knew that Arthur meant well, but he felt irritated.
“At least I have friends,” he retorted sharply. “Maybe if you were willing to get into a bit more trouble you’d be more popular. And Molly Henderson would actually know your name.” He turned on his heel and marched up the stairs to the boy’s dormitory. Immediately, regret started coursing through him. It had always been a challenge for Sirius to keep his temper, but he felt that perhaps this time he had gone too far.
Arthur Weasley shared a dormitory with Sirius, James, and his two other best friends, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew. He was a very studious boy who almost burst with excitement at the mere mention of anything having to do with Muggles. Sirius usually got on quite well with him, and he was the only one who seemed to have deduced that Arthur fancied Molly Henderson, a Gryffindor girl in their year who had a kind face and equally flaming red hair.
Sirius flopped onto his four-poster bed and sighed. “Now Arthur will probably never speak to me again,” he mumbled out loud. “Just another person I’ve let down.”
He remembered the letter that was currently stuffed into the pocket of his robes. Although the envelope was feather-light, it seemed as if the letter was a heavy stone, weighing him down. He reached into his pocket, fingering the envelope. James was right, he shouldn’t open it, and he should chuck it into the fire and get down to the Quidditch pitch. His friends would be wondering where he was…Impulsively, Sirius pulled out the dreaded envelope and tore it open. Three piece of parchment fell out. He picked up the first one and began to read:
It is now clear to me that you do not understand what being a member of the House of Black means. I, your own mother, have done my best throughout your life to teach you what is acceptable and what is not. I have strived to instill in you a sense of pride in your noble heritage. In this, it seems, I have failed. You have brought shame on your father, your brother, and I. The Blacks are one of wizard kind’s most ancient and respected families, and now our pure history has an ugly stain on it. As my firstborn son, I believed you would rise to greatness in the House of Slytherin, and follow in your father’s footsteps. Instead, you chose to be in Gryffindor, the lowliest to fall the Houses, and sympathize with Mudbloods and half-breeds. Any true son of mine would never betray his noble lineage by associating with a half-breed. This, among many other reasons, has led me to believe that you are not truly a member of the Black family. From this day forward, you are my son in name only. I do not wish to see your face until the day you become a Black who knows that the wizarding race must remain pure. Do not come to Grimmauld Place for any school holidays, including the summer.
Barely breathing, Sirius picked up the second piece of parchment. It was a short note from his father.
You have betrayed your family one time too many. You are, and always will be, a disappointment to your mother and I. Do not come home for the school holidays.
There was one more piece of parchment. It read:
My own brother, a blood traitor. How could you do this to Mother? You have broken her heart and I will never forgive you. Your brother,
Sirius squeezed his eyes shut tight, hoping the letters would disappear, but when he opened his eyes they were still there. Words and phrases swam around in his mind, making him feel suddenly nauseous. “Ugly stain.” “You are, and always will be, a disappointment.” “I will never forgive you.” And, worst of all, “You are my son in name only.”
Sirius lay on his bed, his heart beating very fast. So this is what it felt like, being disowned by your own family. He remembered the days before he came to Hogwarts, sitting in Grimmauld Place’s stately dining room for formal dinners, his mother never saying anything but “Sit up straight,” and his father never saying anything at all.
He remembered his mother’s tears and shrieks of fury when she discovered he’d been chosen for Gryffindor, the sound of the crystal goblet shattering against the wall behind him as he ducked just in time, while his father sat, stony-faced and indifferent. With a sick feeling in his stomach, he remembered the times he had snuck down the hall to Regulus’s room to make sure he wasn’t crying from his fear of the dark.
Sirius sat up and ran a hand absentmindedly through his dark hair. Do not come home for the school holidays…where would he go? He had no money of his own. The silence of the empty dormitory seemed to press in from all sides. Anger was replacing his sadness now.
“Stupid pureblood gits,” he muttered bitterly. He opened his trunk and rifled through it until he found a picture of four people posing for a family portrait. He studied the picture for a moment. His mother’s face had a hardened look about it, her expression was haughty and arrogant. His father appeared cold and rigid, with eyes that revealed nothing. His brother Regulus looked slightly frightened. Sirius himself looked sullen and unhappy.
A sudden fury overtaking him, Sirius tore the picture in half, then proceeded to tear it into small bits. He threw the shredded pieces into the trash bin, and then returned to his trunk. After rummaging through his spell books, robes, and Potions ingredients, he pulled out a small, nondescript mirror. Holding it up to his face, he mumbled “James.” Nothing happened. “James,” he said again, louder this time. Suddenly, his own reflection disappeared, and he was staring into James’s wide blue eyes.
“Sirius! Where on earth have you been, mate? It’s been nearly an hour! Peter and Remus are- wait a minute, what’s the matter?” Sirius suddenly felt embarrassed. He cast around for some sort of excuse as to where he’d been, but James seemed to have guessed the truth. He narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “You didn’t open that letter, did you?” he inquired shrewdly. Sirius said nothing, and avoided meeting James’s eye. “I told you not to open it, mate!” said James furiously. “Blimey, ever since you brought Moony ‘round for dinner last week and let slip he’s a werewolf, you knew something bad was bound to happen! Your mum nearly had a heart attack when she found out you’d been running ‘round with a half-breed! You know I’d never call Remus that,” he added quickly, seeing Sirius’s outraged expression, “but it’s what she thinks of him. She’s a racist bigot, the whole lot of them are, and you’re better off without them, I swear it.”
Sirius hadn’t wanted to say it but- “I can’t go back there. Not over Christmas, not ever. I’ll have to stay at Hogwarts. ‘Til 7th year, looks like,” he said gloomily.
“You won’t,” James said through gritted teeth, a defiant look in his eye. “Mum and Dad’ll have you over for every holiday. They won’t mind,” he added firmly as Sirius started to protest. He fixed Sirius with an intense stare. “How many times do I have to hell you? You’re my best mate. You’ve got me, and you’ve got Remus and Peter. We’re your family now.”
Sirius wanted very much to say how much these words meant to him, but his throat didn’t seem to be working properly. “Thanks,” he muttered and changed the subject, asking James how his new broom was faring.
Dinner that evening was a raucous affair, largely due to the fact that Peeves the Poltergeist had stolen Arthur Weasley’s hat, and kept cackling madly as Arthur leaped in vain trying to catch it. Sirius was so busy laughing he didn’t even notice when Professor McGonagall tapped him on the shoulder.
“Mr. Black. Ahem, Mr. Black. Black! Turn around!” Sirius jumped.
“Professor! Er- I haven’t got detention, have I?” he asked, crossing his fingers under the table. Professor McGonagall peered at him over her spectacles, her expression stern.
“Not that I’m aware of,” she said stiffly,” However, Black; I do have an urgent matter to discuss with you. I must ask you to follow me.” Sirius glanced at his barely touched treacle tart. “Now,” Professor McGonagall said, in her most dangerous voice.
Sirius sighed, muttered, “See you” to James, Remus, and Peter and followed McGonagall into the quiet entrance hall. She turned to face him, her mouth a thin line.
“Mr. Black, are you aware you will be taking your O.W.L. examinations this year?” she asked. Sirius’s heart sank. What was this about? He had always been a bright student, but lately he had been putting off his homework and had received some very low test marks. He avoided McGonagall’s eye as she continued. “Your O.W.L.’s are extremely important, and you have always been one of my best students.” She sounded slightly insulted. “It mystifies me as to why your marks would suddenly sink so low. I feel I must ask…” She lowered her voice. “Is everything all right, Black? At- at home?”
Sirius met her eyes for a brief second, then immediately looked away. He felt indignant, embarrassed, and appreciative all at the same time. “S’all right,” he answered gruffly. “Could be better, I guess.”
Professor McGonagall cleared her throat. “Well, I’m afraid I can’t allow your poor academic performance to continue. Starting tonight, you will begin work with a tutor.” Sirius let out a furious cry of protest, but McGonagall held up her hand. “Professor Dumbledore believes any struggling 5th years should immediately be placed with a tutor. The O.W.L.’S are too important, and much too close, for any student not to be taking them seriously. Your tutor will meet you in the library in one hour. Don’t be late.”
“Wait a minute,” Sirius began, before he could stop himself, “I have plans for tonight. And who is this tutor? Which teacher is it?” McGonagall eyed him beadily. “Professor Dumbledore believes student tutors are the best way to prepare for your examinations,” she said shortly. Student tutors?
“I want Remus,” Sirius blurted out. “He’s the best in our year, and he’s a prefect, he’ll make sure I complete all my work,” he added emphatically. McGonagall sighed impatiently.
“Really, Black, you’re being quite childish. You are not allowed to choose your student tutor.” She turned to leave.
“Wait,” Sirius said desperately, “Who is it, then?” McGonagall looked at him. “Severus Snape,” she said curtly. “He will meet you in the library in one hour.”
“Snape?”, said James incredulously, once Sirius returned to the common room. Sirius, James, and Remus were sitting in the comfy armchairs by the fire. Sirius fiddled with a loose thread on his robes while Remus gazed into the fire. James continued his rant. “She can’t be serious. Snivellus? Why not let Moony tutor you?”
“I asked,” Sirius muttered glumly. “It’s no use. It’s going to be Snivellus and me in a cozy session in the library. On tonight of all nights. I should just skive off.”
“Hey,” James said suddenly, “Great idea! You don’t have to go. Just tell McGonagall you forgot. Or were sick. Yeah, that’s it, that’s believable, there was definitely something funny in that pudding at dinner-“
“No,” Remus interjected abruptly. Sirius and James turned to look at him. Remus looked very tired. When he spoke, however, his voice was firm. “Sirius, McGonagall’s right. You’ve got to pull your marks up before O.W.L.’s. And this is the way to do it. You’ve got to go to the library and meet Snape.” He smiled slightly at the look on Sirius’s face. “Oh, lighten up. It won’t be that bad.” “Yeah, as long as Snivelly doesn’t breathe on you,” said James, and they all laughed.
Sirius glanced around the common room, and, after checking that the coast was clear, lowered his voice. “My lesson shouldn’t be that long, though. I say we still do it tonight. What d’you reckon?” He looked at his friends’ faces.
James looked excited, while Remus looked wary. James clapped his hands together. “I’m all for it. I’m voting for Peter, too. He’s in.”
Sirius turned to Remus. “Well?” he asked eagerly.
Remus hesitated. “I don’t know,” he said slowly. “It seems a bit risky, with Sirius being with Snape right beforehand…he’d love to catch us at something. And I think he knows about me. He’s always staring at me like he knows something everyone else doesn’t.” James let out an exasperated sigh, and Sirius privately agreed. Remus was like a brother to him, but sometimes his cautionary manner could be infuriating. He leaned back in his chair.
“Well, if you think it’s best,” he said resignedly.
“Personally, I think it’d just be a safe idea to wait for a bit,” said Remus. James looked extremely disappointed.
“Well personally,” he said, “I think it’s a bit rich of you to have the nerve to tell Sirius what to do. Especially after his family’s chucked him out permanently simply for having you ‘round for dinner last week.”
A shocked silence followed this statement. Remus’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open in surprise. James wore a defiant expression. Sirius felt his face burn. He had not yet told Remus about his family’s letters, and had half hoped he would not have to. Remus seemed to have finally found his voice.
“Sirius,” he said quietly,” Is this true?” Sirius met his eyes. Although Remus’s tone had been calm, his eyes were blazing with anger. Sirius dropped his gaze and stared hastily at his knees. “Sirius, look at me,” said Remus sharply. Sirius reluctantly raised his head. He nodded slowly.
“Yes, it’s true. My dear mother sent me the letters this morning. Can’t say I’m surprised.” He shrugged.
“But why didn’t you tell me?” Remus asked furiously. He jerked his thumb in James’s direction. “You can tell him, but you can’t tell me?”
“Oh, lay off him, Moony,” James said suddenly. He was watching Sirius very intently. Sirius had the uncomfortable sensation that James knew exactly what he was thinking.
“Look,” he said desperately,” Come off it, all right? Both of you. Let’s just forget the whole thing. And don’t tell Peter, he’ll throw a nervous fit.”
“But-“ Remus began, but Sirius cut him off. He stood up.
“Remus, I’m sorry James is such a git,” he added, throwing James a reproachful look.
“Blimey, I was sticking up for you!” James said indignantly. “I don’t need you to stick up for me all the time,” said Sirius. He grabbed his book bag.
“Look, I’ve got to meet Snape. See you lot later.” He turned on his heel and climbed through the portrait hole, ignoring James and Remus’s protests.
“It’s a bit late to be out, isn’t it, dear?” called the Fat Lady, but Sirius ignored her. He sincerely hoped Remus and James would have quit bickering by the time he returned. The whole thing was sort of your fault, a voice in his head told him guiltily as he walked. Well, another voice argued, look how upset Remus got when James told him. You knew he’d take it badly and that’s why you didn’t want to tell him. And Remus has enough on his plate, Sirius concluded grimly; he has enough problems without worrying about mine too.
He slipped behind a suit of armor and pulled back a tapestry depicting the Goblin War of 1814, revealing a hidden staircase. Sirius took the steps two at a time, hoisting his heavy book bag higher onto his shoulder. After what seemed like an hour, the staircase ended and Sirius, panting slightly, pushed on the large back of a portrait. It swung forward, revealing a row of dusty books on the history of the Wizengamot. Sirius eased the portrait shut and stepped into the cavernous library. He ducked behind a row of musty volumes on Ancient Runes, and peered through the books.
The hawk-eyed librarian, Madam Pince, prowled among the desks and rows of shelves, ready to pounce on anyone mistreating her precious books. Sirius glanced around, his eyes searching the room, hoping vainly that Snape would not be there. His hope was dashed as his eyes landed on a desk in a dark corner of the library.
A thin, dark-haired boy was hunched over a piece of parchment, scribbling furiously. Sirius let out a small groan. Grimacing, he adjusted his book bag, squared his shoulders, and made his way over to the desk where the boy sat. Sirius lingered awkwardly behind the boy’s chair. “Er,” he said, by way of making his presence known. The boy jumped, and turned in his chair to face Sirius.
He had a thin, pallid face with a sallow complexion, and long, greasy black hair. His nose was sharp and hooked, and his eyes were like two bottomless black pools. Severus Snape was regarded as somewhat of an oddity to Sirius and his friends. It was well known that he had an affinity for the Dark Arts, and he had a habit of acting annoyingly superior, at least in Sirius’s opinion. He now gazed up at Sirius, dislike etched in every line of his thin face.
Sirius, glowering, pulled a chair up and flopped onto it. He heaved his heavy Potions book onto the desk, and flipped it open to a random page.
“Let’s get this over with,” he muttered sulkily. Severus said nothing, and Sirius had a sudden urge to thump him on the back of the head.
“Well, what are we working on?” Sirius asked impatiently. He glanced at his watch. Maybe this wouldn’t take too long…Snape took out a piece of parchment and a quill.
“Professor Slughorn has asked me to go over the fundamentals of potion-making with you,” he said, his voice dripping with maliciousness. “He feels you need to go over the basics.” Anger coursed through Sirius.
“Fundamentals of potion-making” he spluttered. “I’m not in the first year! I know how to brew a bloody potion!” Severus gave a thin-lipped smile. “Your marks in Slughorn’s class suggest otherwise. Of course, it’s hardly surprising, considering your overall low level of intelligence-“
“Oh, shut it, Snivellus,” Sirius snapped. Severus’s face flushed with anger.
“I told you and your Gryffindor pals never to call me that,” he said furiously. “I really don’t give a damn what you said,” Sirius said calmly,” “and if you keep butting your abnormally large nose into my friends and I’s business, you’ll be very sorry indeed.” Severus leaned forward; his black eyes boring into Sirius’s gray ones.
“Is that a threat?” he hissed through clenched teeth.
“Yeah, I suppose it is,” Sirius said casually.
They stared at each other for a minute, neither daring to blink. Then Severus abruptly started scribbling on his parchment.
“We’ll begin with potion-making safety,” he said,” you will write down all the safety precautions that are necessary before properly brewing a potion. Then you will describe the equipment that is needed for a proper potion.” Sirius could barely resist the urge to strangle Severus. He snatched the parchment away from him and begrudgingly began to write.
“You really are a slimy bloke,” he said, “honestly I have no idea what Evans sees in you.” Severus plunged his hand into the pocket of his robes and whipped out his wand. He pointed it directly at Sirius.
“Take that back,” he said, breathing heavily, “take it back or I swear I’ll-“
“You’ll what,” Sirius taunted him, “get one of your creepy Slytherin pals to do me in?” He put a hand to his heart. “Ohh, I’m terrified!”
“Petrificus Totalus!” Severus shouted, and Sirius felt his limbs go completely stiff. He fell sideways onto the floor, and Severus stood over him, sneering.
Out of nowhere, Madam Pince swooped over, screeching at the top of her lungs.
“Magic! In the library! Completely out of line! Mr. Snape, put this young man right this instant!” Severs muttered the counter curse, and Sirius clambered back onto his chair. He waited until Madam Pince was out of earshot, and then turned to face Severus, who wore a triumphant expression.
“I’ll get you back for that,” Sirius whispered fiercely, but Severus simply smirked and opened a book. Sirius glanced at the title. “Darkest Arts of the Ages, must be a fascinating read,” he snarled.
“You know,” Severus said calmly, not looking up from his book, “I reckon your brother Regulus was right about you.” He seemed to have guessed this would strike a nerve. Sirius paused in mid-sentence, his fingers clenching his quill so tightly his knuckles turned white.
“Keep my brother out of this,” he hissed. “You don’t know him. You don’t know anything about him.”
“We’re in the same House,” Severus said simply, as if this explained everything.
“So,” Sirius said, trying to breathe deeply, so as not to explode in a temper, “What’s that got to do with anything?” Severus peered over the top of his book. He was clearly enjoying the effect this topic had on Sirius.
“Because,” he said, as if speaking to a very small child,” people talk, Black. Slytherin House gossip. The word is that your own family has labeled you a blood-traitor. There are rumors that your parents discovered you’ve been associating with a dangerous half-breed.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Imagine that, Black. What an absurd rumor.” Sirius’s heart began to pump very fast. Severus was watching him closely. Sirius tried to arrange his face into what he hoped was a nonchalant expression.
“That’s Regulus for you,” he said, trying to sound as if he found the whole matter ridiculous, “he’ll make up anything if it’ll get him a bit of attention.” Severus pressed on.
“It certainly has been garnering him lots of attention. He’s claiming the half-breed is a werewolf. However, he refuses to reveal the identity of the wolf.” He paused, and then continued. “Imagine if the rest of the school found our there was a fully fledged monster roaming the halls. They’d probably want to capture the beast and arrest his accomplices-“
Sirius couldn’t take any more. He pushed back his chair, collected his book bag, and stood up. Severus appeared very small now that Sirius stood at his full height.
“Listen up, Snivellus,” he said scathingly,” there is no werewolf roaming the grounds of Hogwarts. If you’re thick enough to believe what my idiot brother tells you, well, I suppose that can’t be helped. But if you or any of your Slytherin cronies accuse any of my friends of being a werewolf again-“
Severus cut him off. “I never said the wolf was one of your friends,” he said, smirking,” but I think we can now agree that is.” Sirius gave Severus a look of purest loathing, turned sharply on his heel, and stormed out of the library.
Sirius could not remember a time when he had been as angry as he was at this moment. He could feel his heart pounding so hard he thought it might burst. His hands were balled into fists, and his teeth were clenched in rage.
“So,” he thought savagely, “Regulus fancied he’d gain himself a bit more popularity by telling his good-for-nothing friends about Remus, eh?” Well, maybe not specifically about Remus, as Snape had claimed Regulus did not know the werewolf’s identity, but the point was that Regulus could seriously damage Remus’s reputation if he managed to discover the truth, and Sirius could not let that happen.
Instead of climbing the vast marble staircase that led to the upper floors, and the Gryffindor common room, Sirius turned sharply to the left. Here the hallway became darker and quieter, and began to steadily slope downwards. The ceiling overhead became lower, and the smell of something foul told Sirius he had reached the dungeons. He continued his trek for a short while until he reached an apparently obscure stretch of slimy stone wall. He hesitated for a second, and then pounded his fist on the wall.
“Oi! Open up!” Nothing happened. Sirius tried again, banging harder on the wall with his fist. “I know one of you lot can hear me! Now, open up!”
“They can’t hear you,” said a voice behind him, “and if you keep banging your hand against that wall it’ll be worse off than the time I slammed it in your mother’s wardrobe.”
Sirius turned around. A girl in emerald green Slytherin robes stood behind him, wearing a bemused expression. She had very long, straight blonde hair; so blonde it was almost white. Her face had the same straight, classical features as Sirius’s, and she had the same pale gray eyes. Sirius grinned.
“Cissy” he said, leaning forward, and slinging an arm around her shoulder, “My dear most favorite cousin!” The girl shook his arm off.
“It’s Narcissa, not Cissy, and if I were really your favorite cousin you’d have got me a proper present last Christmas,” she snapped.
There was a twinkle in her eye as she spoke, however, and her mouth twitched as though she were trying hard not to smile. Sirius let out a bark like laugh.
“What,” he said, in a mock-hurt voice,” you didn’t like the engraved copy of the Black family tree? Mother said it would be the perfect stocking stuffer!” Narcissa snorted.
“Aunt Alexandria really is full of herself, isn’t she,” she said, shaking her head. “Have you talked to her lately? Father wanted to know if you lot are coming ‘round for Christmas. Hopefully we’ll be going to Grimmauld Place this year instead, beg your mother, I hate having to share a room with Andromeda when we have company staying.” She stopped speaking suddenly and looked at him. “What’s the matter? You look like you just swallowed an ear-wax flavored jelly bean.”
Sirius hesitated. He had no desire to relive his family’s letters with Narcissa. They had always been got along quite well, and Sirius greatly preferred her to her two sisters, Bellatrix and Andromeda. Andromeda Black was in the same house as Sirius, but she was two years above him, and had her own set of 7th year friends. Bellatrix, the oldest of the sisters, had already graduated from Hogwarts, and she and Sirius had never been close. Sirius privately thought his eldest cousin was a bit strange, but he had never divulged this thought to Narcissa.
“Oh, er,” said Sirius, “I’m fine. Just, the pudding’s been really off lately, don’t you think?” Narcissa crinkled her nose.
“Oh, YES. I haven’t been touching it. Stick to the treacle tart.”
“Er, right, I will,” Sirius said, then, switching topics, “look, speaking of family, have you seen that idiot brother of mine? I need to knock some sense into his overly large head.” Narcissa frowned.
“I wish you’d try and understand him a bit more. I always say you’ve got him all wrong.” Sirius could not suppress an eye roll.
“Got him all wrong? Give me a break, Cissy, the kid’s a git.” Narcissa frowned again.
“He’s not a git. He’s your brother. And just because he’s not in eh same house as you doesn’t give you the right to act like he doesn’t exist.” She fixed him with an unwavering gaze. “Being in separate houses hasn’t stopped US from being friends.”
“Of course it hasn’t,” Sirius began, but Narcissa cut him off. “Then why can’t you do the same for Regulus? Family is important. You need your family.” Her gray eyes bore into him. Sirius looked away.
“I don’t need anybody. And I already have a family, my mates in Gryffindor.” Narcissa continued to gaze at him for a moment, then shook her head.
“Fine,” she sighed, “ If that’s how you feel. Wait here a moment and I’ll go find Reg.”
Sirius nodded his thanks and leaned against the wall. Narcissa whispered the password, and a gap in the stone wall appeared. She slipped inside, and the wall slid shut. Sirius closed his eyes. He wondered what he would say when his brother emerged. Part of him wanted to scream at the top of his lungs, while part of him wanted to shake Regulus and demand that he apologize for hurting Remus…and Sirius. His stomach squirmed uncomfortably. Maybe there really had been something in the pudding…
A creaking sound told him the wall was being pushed open. Sirius clenched the strap of his book bag and stood up straight, waiting. A boy emerged from the gap in the stone wall. He had jet black hair, which, much like James’s, was rather untidy. His face was pale and drawn, as if he’d been missing out on sleep. Sharp cheekbones gave him the traditional haughty Black features. His eyes, however, were much different form Sirius’s; they were very large and a shade of deepest green. Sirius walked forward until his face was inches apart from his brother’s.
“So,” he spat bitterly, “you’ve been causing all kinds of trouble. As usual.” Regulus gazed up at him.
“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re on about,” he said. His voice had an odd quality. It was very soft, almost girlish. Sirius gritted his teeth.
“Oh, right. Blimey, I’ve had enough, Reg! Enough! If you hate me, fine, but for Merlin’s sake, do you have to take it out on my friends?” Regulus said nothing, so Sirius plowed onward. “Snape told me! I know what you’ve been telling everyone.” He glanced around, and then lowered his voice. “After all these years, you haven’t changed a bit, have you? Still listening in at doors, then spreading what you hear far and wide, anything for a bit of attention!” Regulus looked indignant.
“Sirius, that’s not true! I did hear what you told Mother and Father about Lupin-“ “Keep your voice down, you prat” Sirius hissed- “but I didn’t tell anyone, honest!” Sirius shook his head in disgust.
“You mean, you didn’t tell anyone it was him specifically,” he said, “because you knew if you did, James and I would make your life hell. Which we will, if you don’t shut your mouth.” He folded his arms and glared at his brother. “So, since Mother wasn’t around to impress, who was it this time? Lucius Malfoy? Hoping he’ll let you into his little gang? Or wait- let me guess- Zimelda Zabini.” Something in Regulus’s eyes flickered, and Sirius let out a snort. “No surprise there. A word of wisdom-she’s too old for you, mate.” Regulus’s protuberant eyes narrowed, and his soft voice was harsh when he spoke.
“Keep your nose of out of my business if you know what’s good for you.”
Sirius threw back his head and laughed.
“Threatening me, little brother? I didn’t know you had it in you. Mother always tells people you’re the sweet one! Looks like she’s wrong about that. But then, Mothers’ wrong about so many things…”
“Shut up!” Regulus yelled suddenly, his face contorted with rage. “Don’t talk about her like that! Ever! After everything she’s done for you-“ Sirius could not control himself any longer. The suppressed fury he had been trying to hide ever since reading his family’s letters that morning exploded.
“After everything she’s done for me? What about everything she’s done to me? To you?” Sirius’s voice, much deeper than Regulus’s, was raised at full volume, its echoes bouncing off the dungeon walls. “Can’t you see what she’s doing? She’s manipulating you! Trying to get you to hate me! And it’s working! You’re being used, Reg!” Regulus’s large eyes were slits of anger.
“I am not being manipulated!” he screamed, “It’s not my fault if you’ve ruined your good name by being in Gryffindor and running ‘round with half-breeds! Mother tried to help set you straight, and you wouldn’t listen, and Father-”
“Father doesn’t give a damn about me!” Sirius roared. He was sure that the entire school could probably her him, but he did not care. “Or you! Or anyone! He’s a statue, he doesn’t have feelings, at least Mother criticizes, that’s better than pretending you don’t have a son-“ Sirius felt a hot stinging sensation around his eyes. Blinking, he continued his rant.
“Do you know what your precious Alexandria wrote me this morning? She said I was an ugly stain on our family history. A blood traitor. She said I-“ Sirius’s throat felt very tight-“She said I was her son in name only.” Sirius could hear the pleading tone in his own voice. He was begging his brother to scoff, to proclaim that it was an absurd accusation, to say that not even Alexandria Black could go so far. Regulus stared at him, his luminous eyes oddly vacant.
“You deserve it,” he said simply.
A strangled cry rose from Sirius’s throat. Without thinking, he dropped his book bag and lunged at his brother, punching, scratching, and clawing every bit of him he could reach. Regulus fought back with a vengeance, sharply elbowing Sirius in the eye and plunging a knee into his stomach. Ignoring the searing pain, Sirius swung his fist in the air, intending to make contact with Regulus’s nose, when a loud voice shouted “Expelliarmus!” Sirius felt himself left several feet in the air; he heard a sickening crunch as he slammed into the opposite wall.
The gloomy corridor had become very crowded all of a sudden. Students were streaming out of the hidden passage disguising the Slytherin common room, and several more were trickling down from the Entrance Hall. Alice Owens, a Gryffindor prefect, was fighting her way through the throng of Slytherins.
“Out of the way, come on, move it, I’m a prefect, five points from Slytherin!” She finagled her way through the cluster of students, who were eagerly hoping for a glimpse of the destruction, and stood above the crumpled heap that was Regulus. “My goodness! What’s happened here? This boy’s bleeding! You-Macnair- gets Madam Pomfrey! And a teacher, please!” Sirius eased himself into a sitting position. His eye was throbbing where Regulus had elbowed it. Putting a hand to his mouth, the tasted blood. Alice Owens was now shouting for order.
“Settle down please! Professor McGonagall will be arriving any moment! Back to your dormitories!”
Sirius glanced around quickly. He had no desire to hear a stern lecture from Professor McGonagall, nor did he much like the idea of Madam Pomfrey fussing over him in the hospital wing. Narcissa, who threw Sirius a disbelieving look, was helping Regulus to his feet. Sirius avoided her gaze and rapidly weighed his options. He could spend the night in the hospital wing with Regulus…or he could make a break for it. Wincing, he climbed to his feet and stealthily shouldered his book bag. Checking to make sure Alice was occupied, he ducked his head down, squeezed between two Slytherin third years, and sprinted down the dungeon.
“Hey!” a voice behind him yelled, “he’s making a run for it!”
Abandoning all pretense, Sirius burst into a run, hurtling along dark dungeon passageways.
“Sirius!” a voice called, “Hey! Sirius! STOP!” Sirius skidded to a halt, panting hard, clutching a searing stitch in his side. A tall black girl emerged from a door to his right. She had hair down to her waist and slanting brown eyes. She was extraordinarily beautifully. Sirius suddenly became acutely aware of how ridiculous he must look, gasping for breath and covered in blood.
“Zi-Zimelda,” he breathed, “Hi. Now’s not really a good time, I’ve er-got to run.” Zimelda smiled.
“It looks like you’ve already run a good deal,” she said, giggling. Sirius hoisted his book bag onto his shoulder. The strap was cutting into his skin. He forced a grin.
“Er-yeah, erm-see you later,” he said, waving half-heartedly and breaking out into a run once again. If only he could reach the Gryffindor common room….he could throw on James’s invisibility cloak, hide from Alice Owens, and forget this night ever existed, he concluded grimly. Sirius was so busy thinking about which shortcut was closest (behind the tapestry of the Merpeople Wars on the second floor, or through the trapdoor under the suit of armor on the third floor?); he did not even notice a lone figure hurrying up the corridor towards him. WHAM.
Sirius’s book bag exploded. Ink bottles smashed, books tumbled to the floor, and papers were strewn everywhere. Swearing loudly, Sirius bent to pick up his things when he heard a familiar, disdainful voice.
“Watch where you’re going, Black. I know it must be hard to manage with feet that large, but…”
“Eat dung, Snape,” Sirius said furiously, stooping to collect The Standard Book of Spells Grade 5. He turned to glare at Severus, and then hastily realized he must look very suspicious, running at full speed with a burgeoning black eye.
“Well, well,” Severus said softly, eyeing Sirius through his lank curtain of hair, “it seems as if I’ve interrupted the getaway plan.” His bottomless black eyes traveled over Sirius’s disheveled appearance. His lip curled into a smirk. He shook his head dismissively. “Train wreck,” he sneered, each word dripping with disdain. Sirius felt his face flush.
“Get stuffed, Snivellus,” he growled. Not waiting to hear Severus’s reply, he continued his mad dash down the corridor. Gasping for breath, Sirius ducked into an empty classroom that was primarily used for Arithmancy classes. His heart was still pounding madly, and his leg had begun to cramp. Exhausted, he dropped his book bag on the floor and sank into a chair. A glance at his watch told him it was a quarter to nine. There might still be time to do it tonight…Remus would be in the shack already…Sirius dug in the pocket of his book bag until he located a small mirror.
Gazing into it, he said, loudly and clearly, “James.” A few seconds passed. Suddenly, a voice broke the stillness.
“Sirius?” James’s reflection had appeared in the mirror. “How was your lesson with Snape?” he asked. “Did he blimey, what happened to your eye?” Sirius laughed darkly.
“So you haven’t heard? Dear old Regulus and I’ve had a row.” “A brutal one, by the looks of it,” interjected James. “Does it really look that bad?” Sirius asked, cursing himself for going to visit Regulus in the first place. James considered him for a moment.
“It looks like you tired sleeping under the Whomping Willow,” he said truthfully. Sirius let out a small groan. James frowned. “Where are you, anyway?” he asked. “Empty classroom,” said Sirius, “needed to catch my breath.” He lowered his voice.
“Listen, has Remus left yet James hesitated. “He has …he left about an hour ago.” “Well,” Sirius said eagerly, “What d’you reckon?” James paused. He appeared to be mulling over his thoughts. When he spoke, it sounded as though he were choosing his words carefully.
“We HAVE been waiting an awful long time for this…Remus reckons we should wait a bit longer though…” “He’s been saying that for the past two years,” Sirius scoffed.
“How many more excuses will he manage to come p with? I say we do it tonight. Surprise him.”
As he said it, a great leap of excitement darted through him. He grinned at James. “C’mon, aren’t you the one who’s always saying the risk is what makes things fun” he said teasingly. “Or was that all just talk? Wait ‘til people hear what a pansy James Potter is off the Quidditch field…”
“All right, all right, shut up!” said James, but he was grinning. “I’ll wake Peter. Meet you by the statue. We’ll be under the cloak.”
“Bring the map,” said Sirius. James nodded, and then his reflection disappeared from the mirror. Sirius stuffed the mirror into the pocked of his robes. Excitement was coursing through him. He decided to leave his book bag in the classroom; he could return for it in the morning. After stowing it behind the wastebasket, Sirius approached the door and peered cautiously around its frame. It was lucky he was already on the third floor…it would be much harder to avoid teachers, and especially Filch and Mrs. Norris, if he had had to navigate his way down from the Gryffindor common room.
After making quite certain the corridor was completely abandoned empty of people, or worse, Peeves, Sirius stepped cautiously out of the doorway. Taking great care to walk as quietly and quickly as possible, he hurried past suits of armor and empty classrooms until he reached a statue of a rather ugly witch with one eye and a hunched back. He hesitated. The corridor was completely abandoned.
The castle was still and quiet. Sirius pulled his wand out of the pocked of his robes, pointed it at the statue, and muttered “Dissendium.” A gaping hole appeared in the witch’s humped back. Glancing over his shoulder, he shoved his wand back into the hole. The witch’s hump closed, and Sirius was plunged into total darkness.
“Oi!” came an urgent whisper to his left, “Sirius, is that you?” A second voice whispered “Lumos,” and the tunnel was illuminated with an eerie blue glow. James and Peter were crouched next to Sirius. James’s eyes were alive with anticipatory excitement, while Peter looked slightly nervous. Sirius grinned. “Let’s get a move on, shall we? We haven’t got all night!”
“Peter, since you’re the shortest, you lead the way,” commanded James. Peter nodded and began crawling up the tunnel, followed by James, then Sirius. The tunnel was cramped and smelled like damp earth. However, Sirius knew eventually the ceiling would be high enough for them to all stand comfortably. He, James, Peter, and Remus had been in the tunnel several times before. After several minutes of uncomfortable crawling, the tunnel began to slope upwards and the ceiling rose. Finally, they were all able to walk on their feet.
“Just a bit longer from here,” panted James.
“Does anyone know a good scourging charm?” asked Peter in dismay, looking down at his hands. “My fingernails have got dir under them from all that bloody crawling!” Sirius didn’t answer. His heart had begun to beat very fast. After all there hard work, it was finally going to happen. He wondered how Remus would react when he saw his friends. This train of thought was interrupted, however, by a loud thudding noise, accompanied by an indignant “Ouch!” James snorted.
“All right there, Peter?” Peter winced. “I think we’ve reached the trapdoor,” he said rubbing his head tenderly.
“Looks like it,” said James lazily. Sirius pushed between his friends impatiently. He put a hand to the wooden trapdoor above his head and prodded it gingerly. There was a creaking noise and a shaft of moonlight shone into the tunnel. He turned to Peter and James.
“Give me a leg up,” he hissed. Peter and James cupped their hands together. Sirius put his feet into each of the makeshift steps and hoisted himself through the trapdoor.
He pulled out his wand. “Lumos,” he whispered. Illuminated in his wand light where boxes of all sizes stacked against the wall. Words like “Acid Pops”, “Droobles Best bowing Gum”, and “Chocolate Frogs” were stamped onto their sides in green ink. Smaller lettering said “Property of Honeydukes: The Best Sweetshop in Hogsmeade.” “Oi!” James whispered,
“Give us a hand, will you?” Sirius knelt and helped James, then Peter (who needed to jump to grab Sirius’s hand) clamber out of the trapdoor. It dropped closed with a loud creak. “Shh” said Sirius angrily, pressing a finger to his lips. It was a miracle they had gotten this for undetected; Sirius felt it would be extremely foolish to start being careless now. Peter had begun eagerly edging towards the boxes of candy.
“Peter!” said Sirius incredulously, “Those boxes are sealed! How suspicious would it look if the owners come down here in the morning and saw one of them had been opened? Don’t you ever think about something before you do it?” James shook his head in disbelief. Peter moved away from the crates with a sulky expression, muttering something that sounded like “Look who’s talking.” Sirius ignored him. He walked over to a corner of the room where a door stood hidden in the darkness. “Alohamora,” he whispered, pointing his wand at it, and a small clicking sound told him it was now unlocked.
He turned to the others. “It’s open,” he said, unable to keep the excitement out of his voice. All three of them stood silently for a moment. Sirius felt sure his friends could hear his pounding heartbeat. Peter broke the silence.
“So…do you think it’ll work?” he asked tentatively. “Of course it’ll work,” James assured him, ”we’ve done it before, haven’t we?” “But never for more than few minutes,” Peter said in a tremulous voice,” and never in front of –in front of a-“ James gave a great sigh of irritation. Sirius interrupted him as he opened his mouth to speak.
“Listen up, both of you,” he said fiercely, “are you forgetting whom we’re doing this for? This is for Remus. We’ve got to stop bickering and do what we set out to do.” He glared at both of them.
“You’re right, mate,” said James. He wore a determined expression. “Ready when you are.” Peter seemed to be fighting an impulse to run. However, he gulped then said,
“You’re right, Sirius. You’re always right. Let’s do it for Moony. I’m ready.” His voice was steady despite his terrified expression. Sirius placed his wand in his pocket. He wouldn’t be needing it any more tonight. “Spread out,” he instructed his friends. He pushed open the door, revealing a stone stairway.
“Those stairs will lead us to the cellar doors outside. They should be open. The owners of Honeydukes never bother closing them because they think the basement door is locked.” A nervous tension hung in the air.
“On three,” said James. Sirius nodded. Peter looked as though he were about to faint. James took a deep breath. “One…two…three.” Sirius squeezed his eyes shut tight and balled his hands into fists. He must concentrate…Visualize what you want to become, he instructed himself silently, visualize every detail. Leave nothing to chance.
A faint buzzing noise began to fill his ears. Sirius gritted his teeth and concentrated with all of his might. The buzzing noise grew louder and louder. Visualize, he urged himself, concentrate…the buzzing was now so loud Sirius clapped his hands over his ears. And then…a strange sensation began spreading through his toes to the top of his head. He had the peculiar feeling that he was being stretched. His back contorted, and he could feel his spine twisting…it was not painful though…as abruptly as it had started, the buzzing noise ceased.
Taking a very deep breath, Sirius opened his eyes. The room seemed much taller. IT was a moment before he realized he was standing on all fours. He glanced down. Gigantic, furry black paws had replaced his hands and feet. Sirius let out a whoop of delight; instead of his own voice, however, he heard a loud, deep bark. The transformation had worked. He was no longer the boy called Sirius Black. He had become Padfoot.
“What part of the house do you reckon he’s in?” Peter asked nervously.
“I suspect we’ll find out once we get inside,” James answered. “Be careful. You don’t fall off my back, Wormtail, I might step on you.” Sirius laughed. Again, instead of his own voice, he heard a loud bark.
“Quiet, Padfoot, you’ll wake the whole village,” James admonished him.
“Yes, please be quiet!” said Peter, sounding positively petrified. Sirius knew that to humans, Peter’s shrill plea bust sound like a lot of nonsensical squeaks, however Sirius could understand him perfectly. He napped playfully at James’s heels.
“What d’you reckon people hear when you talk, Prongs” he asked,” a purr of some sort?” James looked down at him. He looked incredibly regal; his brown coat glistening while his huge antlers made an impressive silhouette against the full moon. His hooves clicked smartly as he walked.
“Don’t be a git, I’m not a cat. Stags don’t PURR,” he said, trying to sound cross, but not quite succeeding. “I suspect all a human would be able to hear would be some soft snorts or perhaps a whinny of some kind,” said Peter seriously. Sirius caught James’s eye. Sirius looked away quickly, trying hard not to laugh. Peter looked very odd, a small brown rat riding on the back of a stag; his little paws clasped together thoughtfully. Sirius was about to speak when suddenly, from the dilapidated house a few feet in front of them, came the most chilling sound Sirius had ever heard. A mournful, unearthly howl filled their ears and seemed to echo throughout the village of Hogsmeade. Sirius felt a shiver travel down his spine.
“I think we’d better hurry,” he said.
James nodded and the pace of their walk quickened. Peter was twisting his front paws together nervously. Another long, chilling howl rose from the decrepit shack. Sirius bounded ahead of the others until he reached the sagging front porch. The house was an old abandoned wreck what Professor Dumbledore had specifically chosen as a secluded place where Remus could transform during the full moon. Sirius gingerly nudged the front door within his muzzle. It didn’t budge. He reached for the rusting doorknob with one of his gigantic front paws and attempted to turn it. With no thumb to grasp the knob, however, his paw simply slipped.
“James!” he hissed urgently, “Come over here, will you? Use your antlers and smash in a window.” James trotted up the crumbling front steps and stood next to Sirius.
“My paws can’t turn the doorknob,” Sirius explained simply. Looking as though he were trying to stifle a grin, James approached the large window next to the front door. He took a few steps backward, then galloped full speed ahead at the window. Peter let out a terrified squeak as the glass shattered; the shards scattered near their feet. “Careful,” James whispered.
“I’m going in first,” Sirius whispered back, and leaped through the now open window.
The house was pitch dark and smelled musty, like old clothes. Furniture was strewn everywhere; chairs and tables had been ripped and torn into pieces.
“Blimey,” James, who had come in behind Sirius, said quietly. “Let’s find Moony and get out of here,” Sirius muttered. He did not like being in the house at all; it had a strange aura of sadness and hopelessness about it. The trio (with Peter still riding on James’s back) made their way cautiously through the darkness, occasionally stumbling on shredded bits of furniture.
“Stop!” James said suddenly. At the end of the hallway stood a closed door with light peeking out from beneath it. Ominous thumping noises were issuing from behind the door. There was a horrible snarling noise, followed by a whimper of pain.
“He’s hurt,” said Sirius, bounding forward, “C’mon we’ve got to go in there.” James said nothing, but his mouth tightened and he lowered his head so his stately antlers pointed forward. Sirius knew he was afraid of what might happen beyond the door. Would Remus recognize them? Would he be angry with them for surprising him? Sirius and James exchanged looks, and then taking a deep breath, James nudged the door open with his antlers.
The room was in complete shambles; a large four poster bed had been utterly destroyed, its hangings were a shredded heap upon the floor, while every bit of stuffing had been ripped out of the ancient mattress. Several tables and chairs littered the floor, which was spotted here and there with maroon stains that looked horribly like-
“Blood,” James said softly. Sirius felt his stomach lurch. Peter once again looked as though he were about to faint. Out of nowhere, a huge, dark shape hurtled across the room and lunged itself at Sirius. James and Peter were shouting, but all Sirius could hear were the ferocious snarls and growls of the fully grown werewolf that was now attacking him. He could feel the wolf’s hot breath on his face, it was clawing and scratching at every bit of Sirius it could reach. Sirius batted at the werewolf’s head with his paw, it turned his head for a fraction of a second and Sirius sunk his teeth into the wolf’s neck.
It let out a howl of pain as Sirius rolled over and got back on his feet. He was panting heavily, his heart pounding wildly. The wolf’s eyes were yellow and insane-looking, they darted frantically about the room, as if searching for more potential enemies. Its gray fur was matted and dirty, and several tufts were missing.
Sirius’s throat felt uncomfortably tight. This could not be Remus; his witty, intelligent friend could not really be the pathetic creature standing in front of him in this abysmal wreck of a house. Sirius and the wolf glared at each other, teeth bared, hackles raised, when James emerged from the dark entryways of the room. He was so large his antler brushed the rusting chandelier hanging from the peeling, faded ceiling.
“That’s enough, Remus,” he said, in a voice that sounded much more commanding than usual. “It’s us. Prongs, Wormtail, and Padfoot. It’s us.” The wolf stood so still it looked as though he were frozen. Then, his yellow eyes widened and his fierce jaw dropped open in astonishment. He gazed at Sirius with a horrified expression.
“I attacked you…I could’ve killed you…”
“No,” Sirius said fiercely, “No, you didn’t, you were just surprised, that’s all. It was an honest mistake.” This statement did not seem to satisfy Remus. “No,” he said angrily, “This was a mistake. You lot. Coming down here. Don’t you know how dangerous I am? Did any teachers see you?”
“Forget about all that,” said James impatiently, “We’re here now. And we know you’re not going to attack us again.” Remus opened his moth to argue but James ignored him. “Your days of being alone in this place are over.” He gazed around the ramshackle room with a disgusted look. “You’re never going to be alone in here again.”
“Look,” said Remus in a pleading voice, “any one of you could get seriously hurt.” “It looks like you’re the one who’s seriously hurt,” Sirius interrupted brashly, “look at your legs! You’ve been biting yourself and tearing out your own fur, haven’t’ you?” He narrowed his eyes at Remus.
“There’s no need to be ashamed, Moony. We’re your best mates. We look out for each other. You’ve always taking care of everybody else, and now it’s our turn to take care of you.” Remus said nothing, but continued to stare at the stained floor.
“I should never have told any of you what I really am,” he said in a hollow voice. “It was a terrible mistake.” Sirius opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by an indignant squeak.
Peter was sitting straight up on James’s back, and his eyes were angry slits.
”You ungrateful little prat,” he squealed, “we’ve spent the better part of two years learning to transform and have broken about a hundred laws doing it, and all you can say is “This was a terrible mistake?” I’m starting to agree, maybe it was a mistake, a mistake to leave our nice, warm beds and climb through that bloody tunnel just to come see a sulky little git! We risked getting expelled for you! I had no idea werewolves were so whiny!”
A stunned silence followed Peter’s speech. Remus was staring at Peter, slack-jawed and wide-eyed. A moment passed, with Peter still glaring at Remus, his tiny paws clenched into fists. Then, Remus burst into laughter. Sirius, James, and even Peter soon followed, all laughing so hard they could barely talk.
“Werewolves…whiny…” Remus gasped, and Sirius laughed so hard his eyes watered. Peter’s impromptu speech had broken the ice. Remus smiled at each of them, and Sirius gave him a pat on the shoulder.
“Well, Moony? What d’you reckon? Ready to leave this abysmal shack and have a bit of fun? Promise we’ll be careful,” he added with a grin.
Remus grinned back.
“Yes, we’d better be careful,” he said sternly, though there was a twinkle in his eye, “we don’t’ want there to be rumors of four very different animals lurking around the village and school grounds.” Sirius let out a bark of laughter.
“Excellent, are we going to the school grounds then?” he asked, wagging his tail in excitement. “Of course,” said James, in a perfect imitation of Professor McGonagall, “but remember, no lurking!” Remus put on an oily voice that was clearly meant to be Snape. “I’m going to get all of you lurkers in trouble,” he said, sneering, “You’re all going to be expelled.”
“Oh shut it, Snivelly,” said James. Remus bit back a snort.
“I will personally see to it, Potter, that you are the first one to be thrown out of Hogwarts . I’ve always said that this school needs-“
“Oh, Severus,” squeaked Peter, “stop being so whiny!” And at the mention of the word “whiny”, they once more exploded into laughter.
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