The Midnight Marauder

The Secret

April, Maya’s 3rd Year and the Marauder’s 4th Year

“Snape had seen me crossing the grounds with Madame Pomfrey one evening as she led me toward the Whomping Willow to transform. Sirius thought it would be - er - amusing to tell Snape all he had to do was prod the knot on the tree trunk with a long stick, and he’d be able to get in after me. Well, of course, Snape tried it - if he’d gotten as far as [the Shrieking Shack], he’d have met a fully grown werewolf - but [Harry’s] father, who’d heard what Sirius had done, went after Snape and pulled him back, at a great risk to his life...Snape glimpsed me, though, at the end of the tunnel. He was forbidden by Dumbledore to tell anybody, but from that time on he knew what I was...”

- Remus Lupin, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, page 357

Severus stormed out of the potion classroom down in the dungeon, his cloak flapping around him as if he were an overgrown bat. He and Lily Evans were the only two allowed to use the advanced potions cupboard. He knew Lily would never trash his area and steal ingredients. Especially as rare ingredients as the hide from a nesting dragon and pixie dust from an albino Cornish pixie. That left only one possibility. He stormed into the Great Hall, ready to give those spoiled Gryffindor pranksters a piece of his mind but...Severus stopped. None of the Marauders were seated at the table. Too late he remembered that tonight there was Quidditch Practice. That meant Potter and Night – he still got a funny pang when he thought of Maya, part regret and part anger – were practicing. And Black and Pettigrew always went to watch. As if there weren’t more important things to do than making a fool of themselves on broomsticks!

But where was Lupin? Snape frowned. The least annoying of the group didn’t usually watch practice. A vision of a brightening moon in the sky last night came to mind.

Of course, Snape thought, his anger growing. The dratted werewolf is busy tonight.

He might not be a werewolf, a small voice said in the back of his head. The voice sounded suspiciously like Lily. They’d talked just the other day and she has dismissed his theories with barely a blink.

Too angry to join his House at their table, Snape turned on his heal and marched back the way he had come. Thinking he might want some fresh air, he went outside and leaned against one of the stone pillars in the courtyard, breathing in the scent of spring. He glared across the grounds.

It took him a few minutes to realize what he was seeing. Remus Lupin going with Madame Pomfrey towards, of all things, the Whomping Willow. Snape crept after them. The tree wasn’t attacking them. He couldn’t see what they’d done...they were too far away and the dark was falling quickly...and suddenly Madame Pomfrey was walking back to the castle alone.

Snape turned to go back the way he had come, trying to think of a way he could confront the nurse without alerting her suspicions. Unfortunately, this brought him face to face with Sirius Black, on his way to dinner after deciding that the Quidditch pitch was too dark to see.

Black blinked, but then a slightly cruel smile broke out across his face. “Hello, Snivelly.”

Something in Snape snapped and he shoved the much bulkier boy against the stairs. Sirius was so surprised that he didn’t react in time and found himself against the stairs with Snape’s wand at his throat.

“I’d be careful if I were you,” Sirius said coldly.

“Not so brave without your friends to back you up,” Snape hissed.

Sirius chuckled. “That’s not the case, I can assure you.”

“How about you give me a real laugh, Black,” Snape said cruelly. “Let’s see your hamster impression.”

Sirius’ gaze darkened. “What do you want, Snivellus?” He spat.

“Where does Lupin go every month?!” Snape hissed. His own words surprised him, after all the missing potion ingredients were much more important, but what he had just seen had unnerved him. And he wanted to rub the knowledge in Maya’s face...he wanted to prove to her...what he wasn’t sure exactly. But if he had lost Maya, he might lose Lily...

Sirius blinked and then asked, a shred less coolly than before, “What are you talking about, Snape?”

“I saw him cross the ground with Madame Pomfrey,” Snape whispered, a feeling of elation running through him. Sirius was definitely nervous now, he must be onto something. “What’s under the Whomping Willow?”

Sirius looked at him steadily and Snape felt his heart rate increase. “What are you lot hiding?” Severus snapped.

“Why don’t you go figure it out yourself, if you’re so clever,” said Sirius.

“The tree?” Severus prompted, poking his wand against Black’s throat.

“What do you think?” Sirius replied nastily.

“There’s a way to freeze it?” Snape hated how it came out as a question.

“Give the boy a prize,” said Sirius nastily. “See if you’re clever enough to remember this: all you’ve got to do is poke a knot with a long stick.”

Snape shoved him and backed away. “You’re so full of crap.”

Sirius tossed back his hair and Severus felt a pang of jealousy – why couldn’t he look handsome when he tossed back his hair? “And you’re too much of a coward to even check,” Black taunted. And then he was gone, walking to get some dinner before the food was cleared away. Not even worried enough to glance back at the confused and indignant Slytherin standing in the corridor behind him.

“You...just...wait...” Severus breathed.

Severus continued his path to his dungeon common room, completely ignoring the black cat with one white paw that was sitting on the nearest window. She, of course, didn’t care at all for humans. But something about that conversation made her hair stand on end.

“You told him what?”

“It was a joke, James. Relax.”

“You idiot! He took the bait, you dimwit!”

“You don’t know that, mate...James? James! James, where are you going? James?!”

Approximately 10 Hours Later

Severus Snape and James Potter stood before the Headmaster’s desk. Dumbledore looked at them steadily over his half-moon spectacles. No one said a word. James’ face was covered in scratches from when he had raced down the tunnel to get Severus. He could still feel his heart pounding from running into the dark, wet earth, knowing full well what lay on the other side. Severus’ cloak was ripped, his hands filthy from his violent wrestle with Potter in the tunnel before the sound of the werewolves’ snarl had convinced him to run. Snape could barely contain all his emotions – fear over what had nearly happened, shame at being found out, and rage that, of all people, James Potter had saved his life.

They’d come out of the Whomping Willow to find a furious Professor Sprout; she had happened to see James run after Severus from a window in her Greenhouse when she went to check on the plants that only bloomed in the full moon. She had marched them straight to Dumbledore’s office where Snape had blundered an explanation involving Sirius Black and werewolves. James hadn’t said anything except to tell the professors that he wasn’t hurt.

Now, they waited in silence.

The door to Dumbledore’s office opened and Professor McGonogall came in marching Sirius Black before her.
Black tried to make eye contact with his friend, but James was staring ahead, a stoic mask in place of his normal mischievous grin.

“Sirius Black,” Professor Dumbledore rumbled. “Do you deny telling Severus Snape how to get into the tunnel below the Whomping Willow?”

Black swallowed and looked at his shoes. “No, sir,” he said.

“In full knowledge of what – or made accurately who – he would find at the end of it?” Dumbledore added.

“No, sir,” whispered Black.

“No what, Mr. Black?” Snapped McGonagall. She looked angry enough to breathe fire.

“I...I don’t deny knowing who was down there,” Sirius said, unable to make eye contact with anyone.

“That was Remus Lupin, wasn’t it?” Snape demanded. “He’s a werewolf. Isn’t he?”

James still wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone and Sirius looked at the floor. The two teachers traded glances and Dumbledore sighed, “Yes, he is.”

“Why...” Snape hated how he voice began to tremble. “Why is he even here? He’s dangerous!”

“He’s only a danger to foolish students such as yourself that disobey strict rules about wandering the grounds at night!” Snapped Professor McGonagall. Snape wondered if smoke would start coming out of her nose; she looked so angry.

“All precautions have been taken, Mr. Snape,” said Professor Dumbledore sternly. “I assure you that no students are in danger of being bitten. Unless they are foolhardy enough to go into the tunnel after Remus when he is in werewolf form.”

Snape ducked his head, ashamed. He’d had strong suspicions of what lay at the end of the tunnel. He should have waited to confront Lupin the next morning – which was only an hour or two away at this point. The castle below was already starting to awaken. He could even hear footsteps on the stair below.

Snape frowned. Wait a minute...

The door to Professor Dumbledore’s office burst open once again and in rushed an exhausted and pale looking Remus Lupin assisted by Maya Night.

“Was anyone hurt?!” Remus demanded.

“No,” said three young voices. Snape ashamed; James relieved; and Sirius exasperated.

“Thank god...” Panted Remus. “I wasn’t sure...” Then he half-collapsed against the wall; saved from falling by Maya.

“I told you, you shouldn’t be running so soon after changing back,” she murmured to him crossly.

She glared at Severus and James. “What the bloody hell were you two thinking?! It wasn’t like I knew to get help or anything at the time!”

Severus put two and two together. “You told me you weren’t a werewolf!” Severus shouted at her.

“I’m not!” Maya shouted back. “I’m a werecat you ninny!”

That stopped Severus short and a feeling of shame overlook him. He’d put two and two together and gotten three, apparently. He’d judged her wrongly then, about many things.

“Maya...” He began, but Professor Dumbledore cut him off.

“Promise me, Severus,” said Professor Dumbledore sternly. “That you will never reveal that Remus Lupin is a werewolf – or that Maya Night is a werecat – to anyone. It is for their own safety, as well as the safety of all the students at this school.” Severus met the piercing blue eyes of the headmaster and instantly wished he hadn’t. He felt as if that man could see straight through him. “Your word, Severus.”

“I promise,” Severus said.

“And your words as well,” Professor McGonagall said to Sirius and James.

“I promise,” the two chorused immediately.

Remus, meanwhile, had tried to stand and let out a hiss of pain. “You need to go to the Hospital Wing, mate,” said Sirius anxiously, taking a step towards his friend.

“Don’t act like this isn’t your fault,” Remus snapped at him. “Maya saw what happened.” Sirius froze, looking pained.

“Although it did no one any good because I didn’t know why it was important,” Maya muttered. She sounded furious. Although Snape couldn’t help but wonder if some of that anger was self-directed.

“I’ll escort Mr. Lupin and Ms. Night to the Hospital,” said Professor McGonagall. Maya gently heaved Remus to his feet and the trio left – leaving the three guilty boys alone with the Headmaster.

“What you did, Mr. Snape,” began Professor Dumbledore. “Was extremely dangerous and against several important school rules. Fifty points will be taken from Slytherin, and you will have two weeks’ worth of detention.”

“Yes, Professor,” mumbled Severus.

“Mr. Potter,” Professor Dumbledore turned his attention to the next student in line. “While your actions were chivalrous, they were also foolhardy. I advise you to go straight to a teacher if something similar happens in the future. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” said Potter.

“You will not be punished, but neither will you be rewarded,” Professor Dumbledore said, his voice a bit softer.

But it was stern as he turned to the last boy before him. “Mr. Black, your words directly endangered two students, and indirectly affected two more. I expected more from you.” Black ducked his head in shame. “Fifty points from Gryffindor and a month of detention.” Dumbledore told him, he sighed heavily suddenly looking ten years older. “You are all dismissed,” he said.

Severus hurried to leave first, desperate to find Maya – whether to apologize or gloat or demand answers he wasn’t sure. But Maya was long gone and, wary of talking with her in Lupin’s presence, Severus half-ran to his Common Room where he washed his face, changed his robes, and then just sat on his bed in a daze. Shocked and confused about everything that had happened that night.

Sirius was expecting James to let out a relieved laugh once they had left the Headmaster’s office behind, after all, detention wasn’t anything new. But they had already climbed several flights of stairs and James still remained stubbornly silent. Unable to take it anymore, Sirius began, “At least we’re pretty used to detention...”

“Shut up!” James hissed. He spun around and glared at Sirius from two stairs up. Shocked, Sirius froze.
“Remus could have bitten him!” James continued, his face very white and his brown eyes over-bright. “Can you imagine what that would do to him?”

“I don’t care about Snape!” Sirius spluttered.

“Not Snape!” James said impatiently. “Remus! If he bit someone he could never live with himself! At the very least he’d get kicked out of the school! At most...” James’ voice was shaking. Sirius felt terrible.

“At most...” James repeated much more softly. “...I actually think...he wouldn’t want to live with himself...”

Sirius wanted to hide in a hole and never come out. “I...I didn’t think about that,” he whispered, his mouth very dry.

“You didn’t think at all,” said James harshly.

“I thought...” Sirius said wildly, trying to explain himself. “Just another joke, you know...”

“Very witty,” snapped another voice behind him. “Get someone killed. Or, better yet, get our best friend’s secret told to someone who hates us.” Sirius looked at Maya, standing a few steps below them. Her arms crossed and glaring at him with as much venom as James. “Yes,” she continued sarcastically. “Excellent idea, thanks Sirius.”

“I didn’t mean for it to go so far!” Sirius protested.

“What did you think was going to happen?!” Maya demanded, her pointed canines flashing.

“No matter what we do,” James growled. “What sets us apart from those dirty punks in Slytherin is that we don’t use Dark Magic...”

“I didn’t use Dark Magic!” Sirius snapped.

“And we don’t hurt people!” James finished angrily. “Ever!”

“Gryffindors are brave, not cruel,” Maya added, climbing past Sirius without even glancing at him. “That’s why people trust us – even if we do get more detentions than the rest of the school combined.”

James was looking at Sirius was a look that could only be called disappointment, and it tore Sirius apart. “How could you, mate?” James asked. “To Moony? Of all people...” James turned on his heel and followed Maya the rest of the way to the Common Room. Sirius stayed on the stairs, breathing hard, and found he couldn’t follow.

He tore back down the stairs, tripping and going sprawling on the steps and getting up and running again.

“I expected more from you.”

“Gryffindor’s are brave, not cruel.”

But Slytherins were cruel. Like his family. Like his maniac cousin, Bellatrix, who had proudly told his family that she was becoming a Death Eater. Like Mulciber and Avery who tortured first years’ pets in front of them because it they thought it was fun. Two of his best friends had compared him to Slytherin. And the Sorting Hat... Sirius’ eyes filled with angry and ashamed tears as he remembered that day.

“My whole family has been in Slytherin,” he’d told the boy who would become his best friend.

“Blimey! I thought you were all right,” James had replied.

Sirius had smiled. “Maybe I’ll break the tradition.”

And then, sitting on that stool, looking at the entire school before him. And right before the old, black hat had slid above his eyes, James Potter had winked at him.

“Why, is it not another Black, hmmm?” A small, wise voice had whispered in his ears. “The Black Family – an old, traditional pureblood family whose values and ideals are right in line with old Salazar himself. Everyone has been in Slytherin, and they have done well.”

But I don’t like my family, Sirius had thought. And he hated his creepy house with house-elf heads above the stairs and paintings whispering as he walked past them.

“’ve begun to rebel, haven’t you? A pureblood with a rebellious streak, with a need to prove himself different from the rest...these are Slytherin traits.” Sirius heart had sank and he thought about James, laughing with him on the train. And that other boy, Remus who had shyly joined them half-way through the trip and then had said barely four words. He hadn’t minded him either, although his clothing had been old and patched – but his mother would have kicked him out of the compartment... “Yes,” said the hat, “Yes...difficult...there is bravery in there, and loyalty...but it is your choice, you know? In the choose...”

Sirius thought of his family, of how angry they would be if he wasn’t in Slytherin. And suddenly, fiercely, he hadn’t cared. Not Slytherin, he had thought hard.

“Gryffindor!” The hat had shouted to the Great Hall. James had let out a happy whoop and Sirius had beamed.

Pulled back to the present, Sirius walked into a random classroom and shut the door. He balled up his fists and leaned against the door, a shuddering sob wrenching itself from his throat. He had chosen Gryffindor. It had been his choice. But the hat had been right, he was a Black. And all the Blacks went to Slytherin. There had been something dark and ugly inside of Sirius as he taunted Snape only a few hours ago. Something selfish and cruel and he has let it out. And because of that his best friends...the people that he loved more than his own family had almost been hurt. Had been hurt, in a way, by his betrayal of their trust.

“I’m sorry,” Sirius whispered into the door. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’M SORRY!” He shouted and then jumped as a loose window opened with a bang. Suddenly, Sirius recognized the classroom. He was on the second floor, in a classroom that was directly above the courtyard. In fact...just a month ago...Maya has deftly climbed out of the window one night and walked along the top of the courtyard’s stone walls. Peter and Remus has been alarmed. James and Sirius impressed.

“I won’t fall,” she had assured them.

“This is why you’re in Gryffindor,” Peter had said, as being impressed overcame his fear.

Peter’s words echoing in his ears, Sirius walked to the window and looked out. The top of the stone awning was really only a step away. He climbed onto the window and looked out. If he fell, it would hurt. He took a large step, and then another, and he was outside the window. Tears slowly traveled down his face as he stretched out his arm for balance and began to walk. The top of the stone awning was wide, but slippery and old. Cracks were apparent even in the dim morning light.

“I’m not afraid,” he whispered to the wind.

Yes you are, said a voice within him. You’re afraid of being like your family. Afraid of losing your friends.

“I won’t lose them,” he whispered. “I’m in Gryffindor...I am.”

Because that was what you chose. Sirius almost slipped and he froze, a tear trembling on his face before spiraling to earth. What does it feel like, he wondered dimly, to fly without a broom?

Lily Evans had been practicing transfiguration on a beetle and now a full-fledged hummingbird was flying away from her. Desperate to catch it in order to show Professor McGonagall, she dashed outside. Her fingers were a mere centimeter from the bird when she happened to look up. Lily froze and the bird disappeared. Above her, standing on the courtyard wall, was Sirius Black.

“What are you doing up there?!” She shouted.

Sirius looked down at her and she was shocked to see a single tear shining on his cheek. “Do you think I was sorted into the right House, Lily?” He called back.

“What?” Lily asked.

“You hate us,” Sirius said steadily, still balancing on the wall. “Do you think I was sorted correctly? Be honest. Am I a Gryffindor or...” He swallowed hard and finished, “Or a Slytherin, like my family?”

Lily was at a loss. Why was she, of all people, outside when he was obviously going through some sort of identity crisis? Where were his friends? And where was this even coming from? He was as fiercely Gryffindor as James Potter...

Wait. “Are they mad at you?” Lily asked.

Sirius closed his eyes and didn’t reply. Trembling, he lowered his arms and Lily struggled not to shout to be careful. She had a suspicion it would do no good. “I may have done...I did something terrible...” Sirius said softly, but the gathering breeze whipped his words down to Lily’s ears.

I need to get him down before it gets so windy that he falls, she thought.

“Answer the question, please...” He told her, his dark eyes boring into her almond-shaped green eyes.

Lily thought of their jokes, how they bullied Snape and annoyed her and almost shouted no, he wasn’t in the right house. But then she thought of Maya in the common room the other night, telling her, “If you gave them a chance, Lily, you would see that they are amazing friends.” And she thought of Sirius protecting Maya from some older Slytherin boys and of him helping Peter with potions and of how fierce was the friendship between James Potter and Sirius Black.

“Yes,” she told Sirius. “You are in the right house. And you know why? Because people would be very upset if you were to get hurt because you felt like proving something and walked on a roof.”

Sirius looked at her and didn’t say a word.

Lily sighed and said much more kindly, “They all love you, you know. There is absolutely nothing you could do that they won’t forgive if you’re really sorry.”

Sirius looked at her steadily and then gave her a small smile. “Thank you, Lily.” Then he put out his arms and very carefully walked backwards to the window, went inside, and closed the window behind him. Lily heaved a sigh of relief. And to her delight, the hummingbird landed on her arm.

Sirius left the classroom behind him and hurried to the hospital wing. More than anyone else, he needed to apologize to Remus. Sirius rushed into the Hospital Wing and pulled up short. Maya was sitting on the edge of Remus’ bed, her shoes discarded on the ground and her bare-feet hidden under her cloak. Peter had claimed a chair and was sitting up straight, his eyes intent on James’ face. James, obviously having just finished saying something, was leaning against the end of the bed, but he straightened when he saw Sirius. For a moment, no one spoke.

“I’m sorry,” Sirius said. He’d planned an entire speech on his way down, but that was all that came out. “I didn’t mean for this to happen. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. I...” Here he took a step forward and met each of their eyes, lingering a moment longer on James’. “I would die before I hurt any of you. Please, you’ve got to believe that.”

James finally allowed himself a small, tired smile. “Yeah, we do,” James said.

“I’m sorry,” Sirius repeated, sinking into the other chair by Remus’ bed. “I just...”

“It’s okay,” said Remus tiredly. “’s not but you’re forgiven. I...I know you didn’t do it to betray me or anything.”

Maya nodded, “Yeah. You’re forgiven.”

“It’s not the end of the world, mate,” said James, giving him a playful punch in the arm. “In fact...” Here he frowned. “I may have lost it a little earlier.”

“You weren’t out of line, James,” said Sirius. “I needed a little mental slapping.”

“This has got to change,” said Remus softly.

“What?” Asked Peter.

“This,” said Remus. “Us.”

“More like me,” James and Sirius chorused.

Maya cracked a smile. “At least you recognize it.”

“The stuff we do,” James said, “It can’t involve others anymore.”

“Even Snivellus?” Asked Peter, pouting a bit.

“Even Snape,” said Sirius, earning himself a smile from Maya for using his real name.

“You think he’ll keep his promise?” Peter asked. “About not telling anyone about Remus?”

“Yes,” said Maya.

“You sure?” Peter pressed. “It’s not like you’re friends anymore or anything.”

Maya’s pained look prompted Remus to throw one of his pillows at Peter. “Guess all we can do is wait and see,” said Remus.

“No matter what,” said Sirius. “We’re still the Marauders. We stick with each other until the end. Agreed?”

“Agreed!” The others said with feeling.

“You lot have class, out!” Madame Pomfrey called from her office. “Let the poor boy sleep!”

Chuckling, everyone except Remus left for another day of class. Alone, Remus let himself fall back onto his pillows and finally let himself begin to tremble. The werewolf would always know James Potter’s and Severus Snape’s scent now. It had been close...too close...

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