The Grounds at Night
Professor McGonagall led Maya to a stone eagle and said clearly, “Jelly Beans.” The statue jumped aside, revealing a winding staircase. Maya’s mouth dropped open and she looked at her new head of house with wonder. Professor McGonagall couldn’t help but smile, “Go on.”
Maya began to climb the stairs. Soon she was in a circular office filled with all manners of magical equipment and portraits of sleeping witches and wizards. Professor McGonagall followed close behind.
Maya was so distracted by everything inside the office that she didn’t even notice the Headmaster until he said kindly, “Hello Ms. Night.”
Maya spun around. “Hi Professor Dumbledore, sir.”
He got up and smiled kindly, his eyes twinkling over the top of half-moon spectacles perched on a nose so crooked that it looked as if it had been broken at least twice. “How was your first week of classes?”
“Um…hard. But good. Really good,” she said.
“They’ll get better as you learn more,” he told the young girl. “Now, you know why you’re here? Talking to me, I mean.”
“Because I’m a werecat and people can’t know,” Maya recited dutifully.
“Yes, and no,” said Dumbledore gravely. “I trust that your mother has schooled you in the way she wants you to hide your abilities from the other students. I’m here because, you may have noticed already, you are not the only were at Hogwarts. You see, Maya…”
“Remus Lupin isn’t exactly human,” Maya blurted out.
“How did you know?” Professor McGonagall asked from behind her. Maya jumped, she’d forgotten she was there.
“I don’t know,” she told the two professors honestly. “But the first time I saw him, he kinda scared me and I wanted to hiss. But then I calmed down. He’s really nice actually. I got lost on the way to breakfast and he told me where to go. His friend just giggled.”
“Giggled?” Professor Dumbledore asked, trying not to smile.
“Sirius Black,” said Maya. “I swear, he was giggling.”
Both professors smiled to each other. “That sounds like Black and Lupin,” Professor McGonagall admitted.
“You are right, Maya,” said Professor Dumbledore seriously. “Remus Lupin has a secret like yours. But unlike yours, his does represent a potential danger to himself and the other students. Which is why, Ms. Night, I must ask you to never reveal his secret to anyone else.”
Maya nodded solemnly. “Professor, what is…?”
“That, my dear,” said Professor Dumbledore, “I have promised him not to share. But I suspect you will know before long. Your werecat instincts will lead you to the answer. When you do find it, Ms. Night, use discretion. You say that Lupin is nice?”
“Keep that in mind as you learn things about him,” Professor Dumbledore said. “He is a student like any other. He simply wants to learn and have friends.”
“He’s got those, Professor,” said Maya, thinking of Sirius, James and Peter.
“Yes, Maya,” Professor Dumbledore said. Maya thought his smile looked a little sad. “Yes, he does.”
“Hurry down to dinner, now, Ms. Night,” said Professor McGonagall. “Or your class mates will finish the food before you arrive.”
Maya nodded to both professors and began to walk away. Suddenly, she stopped and turned around. “Professor Dumbledore? What’s a Jelly Bean?”
He chuckled and said, “A muggle sweet. Not unlike those Bertie Botts Every Flavored Beans you enjoy with your friends.” Maya nodded and then hurried out the door – Christy was saving her a seat.
As the young girl disappeared from view, Professor McGonagall turned to Professor Dumbledore; “Do you think, perhaps, we should have told her more about Remus Lupin? What if she follows him?”
“My dear Professor,” said Professor Dumbledore, “If Maya Night were to stumble upon Remus, she would be in her cat form and would run no danger of being infected. And I promised Remus – and his parents – to not reveal his secret without their permission.”
“Should we tell Remus about Maya?” Professor McGonagall insisted.
“I think that we should let the two of them decide how to react to the other on their own,” said Professor Dumbledore with a slightly mischievous smile. “I have a feeling that Maya is going to be important to not only Remus but all four of those boys who call themselves Marauders…”
Profess or McGonagall let out a huff of air. She obviously had her own opinions about the Marauders although she couldn’t deny that all of the boys were talented.
The Full-Moon Week of September
Maya waited until all of her fellow first year girls were out of sight before hurrying through the common room with her head down. Luckily, she was small and everyone was too busy to notice a little First Year running through the room. This was the first Full Moon since she had started Hogwarts and she was nervous. Werecat transformation had one side effect that couldn’t be avoided. Since they were born, not made, werecats didn’t transform with their clothes. This meant that Maya would either have to be naked when she gave into the Full Moon’s pull, or she would spend several unhappy minutes after becoming a cat trying to untangle herself from her robes. After all, Full-Moon-Cat-Maya didn’t know anything about clothing. Maya sighed as she hurried through the corridors of Hogwarts. She didn’t like that she forgot about being human when she was a cat on the night the Full-Moon was bright. She was basically an animagus the rest of the nights, but when it was a Full Moon? Nope, forget it. She was basically the moon’s slave.
The sun was setting as Maya finally snuck out of the castle and raced down to Hagrid’s hut. Hagrid was one of the people Dumbledore had told about her condition and she had hatched a plan with him after lunch two days ago. Maya would hide her clothing in a cauldron outside his door, and would come back for it after dawn. At least, Maya hoped that Cat-Maya would know to stay near Hagrid’s hut as it started to get light. Maya got to his back door just as the sun sank beneath the horizon and she quickly pulled off her clothing, then sat under her robe.
Barely a minute had passed when her heart-beat suddenly increased. Her eyes were drawn to the full moon as it began to rise above the horizon. A sound – like the soft, haunting music of a single cello – filled her mind. Maya’s head snapped back and she let out a soft moan that had Hagrid’s blood-hound puppy scratching at the door and whining.
“Maya?” called Hagrid, grabbing hold of the puppy’s collar. “Maya, is that you?”
There was no reply; but suddenly Fang stopped barking and snuffled worriedly at Hagrid’s boot.
“Get off you dozy dog,” said Hagrid, not unkindly. “Let see what’s going on, eh?” Hagrid pushed opened the door and grabbed a tighter hold of Fang’s collar. There, sitting on top of a black Hogwarts’ cloak, was a black cat with a single white paw. It was a bit large for a cat, with large intelligent green eyes. She hissed at Fang, her tail bristling.
“Maya?” asked Hagrid. He pushed Fang into the house and closed the door. Dog gone, the cat regarded Hagrid with something like curiosity.
“Reckon, you dunno who I am,” Hagrid told the cat. “But that ain’t no reason to be impolite.” He rummaged among some boxes and held out some dried fish. “Here ya go.”
Cat-Maya sniffed at the fish for a minute then happily began eating it. Once she was finished, she began to clean her whiskers primly. Slowly, carefully Hagrid reached over and scratched her behind the ears. Her response was a happy purr.
“You’re just a kitten, ain’t ya?” said Hagrid. Cat-Maya purred louder and then bristled as poor Fang began to bark for his owner. Hagrid turned around for a second and when he looked back, the black cat was gone…
Many hours later, Maya woke up in the middle of Hagrid’s pumpkin patch with the dawn light on her face. She cautiously peeked over a pumpkin that was already her size, and was happy to see that her robe was within reach. Maya grabbed it, put it on and then collected the rest of her things. She was wondering whether to change there or not when Hagrid opened the back door to let out Fang.
“G’morning,” he told her with a smile.
“Good morning,” she said sheepishly.
“Ya wanna come in ‘ere an’ change?” he asked. “I’ll stay outside with Fang.”
Maya nodded gratefully, her bare feet leaving a trail in the morning dew as she disappeared inside his hut.
Hagrid led Fang away from the house and waited until Maya came out, trying to brush out her bushy hair and then giving up.
“Thank you for everything,” said Maya.
“Try to get back before the moon rises next month, hmm?” said Hagrid. “We can ‘ave a cup o’ tea before the sun sets.”
Maya laughed. “I’ll try!” she dashed up towards the castle, snuck in through a side door and was soon sitting in an armchair by the fire in the Gryffindor Common room, waiting for her fellow first years to come down so they could go to breakfast. Laughter called her attention to the stairs that led to the boy’s side of the tower and she saw Sirius, James and Peter bounding down. Strangely enough, Remus wasn’t with them. But wait…Maya looked outside, her eyes unfocused. She’d heard Lily telling someone that Lupin was sick but wasn’t it weird that he got sick at exactly the same time as she did? And Dumbledore had said he had a secret like hers…? But he couldn’t be a werecat – Maya would know. They’d be related, cousins. So that just left…
Maya leapt out of her seat and raced down the stairs and all the way to Dumbledore’s office.
“Jelly Bean!” she shouted at the Gargoyle. It just looked at her. “Oh…rats…” she muttered. She walked back to the Great Hall slowly, one thought dominating her mind. Remus Lupin is a werewolf. That had to be it. That was why Dumbledore had told her to not tell the other students and why she’d wanted to hiss at him the first time she had met him. Did his friends know? Maya watched Sirius giving James a noogie and Peter piling sausages onto his plate. No, probably not. Maya suddenly remembered her mother telling her, so many years ago, that werewolves had no control, and she felt sad.
“Poor wolfy,” Maya muttered.
“What?” asked Christy.
“Nothing,” said Maya. “Just thinking.”
Christy shrugged and said, “You feel better now? You went to bed really early and then were up before anyone else could wake up.”
Maya nodded, smiling. “I just needed sleep.”
Maya was on her way to Charms class a few hours later when an explosion filled the hall behind her with black smoke. All the students in the hall froze.
“Bloody hell,” someone said. Then two boys wearing the colors of Gryffindor dashed past, looking thrilled.
“That was brilliant!” Sirius shouted back at James.
“That was supposed to go off after we left!” James countered, laughing breathlessly. They had just passed by Maya when Sirius froze, stopping so suddenly that James rammed into him from behind. They both landed in a heap on the ground. Coming down the hall from the opposite direction of the smoke was the caretaker, Mr. Filch. And he looked furious.
“Run!” James shouted, pulling Sirius up with him. The two boys dashed back the way they had come and students hurried to get out of their way. But getting up from the ground had taken too long, Filch was definitely going to catch them. Unless…
Maya couldn’t help it. A sudden feeling of possession overtook her – like a cat that glares at a human that has taken their favorite toy – as well as a feeling of mischief. The full moon whispered to her from behind the light of day and she found herself falling in front of Filch. She’d pretended to trip over her own feet. Filch tripped over her and he fell across her – completely undignified. Filch turned on Maya, and he looked so angry that Maya wondered if she would cry. But instead,
“Peeves!” she shouted into the air. “You bloody ghost! What did I ever do to you?”
Filch paused. “Peeves?” he asked. The one thing he hated more than pranking students was the pranking ghost.
“He’s been trying to push me and trip me and pull my hair all day,” Maya lied. “He’s been following me around, all invisible. I told him to get out of my way yesterday and now…?” Maya shrugged, looking frustrated. “Something needs to be done about that ghost.”
“Yes, yes,” Filch agreed. “An absolute disgrace to the castle. I’m going to go find him right now…yes…”
Filch got up and stomped down another hall, completely distracted form chasing the two second years.
“Maya?” Christy asked, looking shocked but very impressed. “Peeves hasn’t been following us all day…”
Maya grinned, and two slightly pointed canines flashed in the sunlight. “Really?” she said innocently. “If he was invisible how can anyone tell if he was following or not?” Christy laughed and another first year, a burly Irish boy called Thomas, gave her a high-five.
Maya was just finishing her potatoes that night at dinner when someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around and flashed the boy standing there a smile. “Hi! James Potter, right?”
“Yeah, and this is Sirius Black,” said James, elbowing his best-friend in the ribs. “And you’re the first year that distracted Filch this morning.”
“Maya Night,” said Maya. “Pleased to meet you.”
Sirius who had been regarding her curiously, suddenly snapped his fingers. “You’re the one who was talking to my brother on sorting night! I knew I’d seen you before.”
“Well no duh you’ve seen me before,” Maya huffed. “I’m in your House, you dummy.” Sirius blinked, a bit shocked that this first year would speak to him that way and James roared with laughter.
“Oh, I like you,” said James, clutching his side. “Why haven’t you spoken up before?”
“I just feel brave tonight, I guess,” said Maya. “Channeling Godric Gryffindor or something.” Or the full moon, though Maya. It would be bright for days now – and throughout all that she’d feel a bit more catty, a bit more like something mysterious and brave and strong and magical.
“You’re brave all right,” said Sirius, having recovered his usual good humor and mischievous smile.
“We wanted to say thank you,” said James. “And to ask…well…”
“Why’d you do it?” asked a third voice. Peter had joined the group. “Even people in our year who have known us for a while just try to stay out of the way. Even Remus and I sometimes decide that their pranks aren’t worth the trouble.”
“You participate often enough,” said James.
“It’s a good question though,” said Sirius. “Night…Night…are you pureblood? The name sounds super familiar.”
“Um…” Maya decided to just avoid the second question and only answered Peter’s. “I did it because we’re all Gryffindors after all. Professor McGonagall gave a whole speech about our House being like our family. Families stick up for each other, and so do friends. Beside…” here Maya tossed back her curls and grinned, her two little fangs glinting in the candle-light. “Sirius set it off too soon, right James?” James and Peter laughed again and Sirius soon joined in. They squeezed onto the same bench as Maya and introduced themselves to all the other first years, who gazed at them as if they were celebrities – which they practically were. And Maya, feeling brave and strong and daring, felt like she’d done something right.