The rest of the week went by in silence as I caught up on the week's homework by the firelight. Sirius still had detention with McGonagall each evening, so the common room remained much more quiet and dull than usual. He was still not being very cordial toward me, but during meal times he at least pretended that he was not upset, so not to let James and Remus know about our fight earlier in the week. Although, by their expressions whenever he left the table and gave me a quick, half-hearted peck on the cheek, they knew something was not right in paradise. Each time they gave me worried looks, I just shrugged and went back to my half-eaten plate of food, trying not to look bothered.
Remus took his last phial of potion on Friday morning. His face was completely drained of color and darkness circled his eyes. The full moon was tonight, and I was praying that my efforts would be successful. He scrunched his face as he swallowed the last of the thick liquid down and smiled at me through his gaunt-looking expression.
"I know this sounds silly," he said, handing me the empty phial, "but I feel pretty good! I think you may have made more of a physical tonic than a brain tonic there, Marilyn." My hopes soared as he said this. Usually around this time, he was achy and fatigued, and moved very slowly and aimlessly around the castle. But even though he might have looked half-dead, he had a certain spring in his step as we walked down the corridors to the dungeons for our last Potions lesson of the week.
"I'm glad it makes you feel well, Remus. Now, let's see if you do extra extraordinary on your quiz this morning," I said, knowing full well that he would make excellent marks anyway, with or without a fake brain tonic.
The sun was setting earlier and earlier as winter set in. Remus and the others were already gone when I returned from the library to pick up a quick read. I saw the moon rising in the sky as I ripped on my jeans and scurried out of the portrait hole and out of the castle. The air was chilly as I approached the Womping Willow. I had seen them all go through a small hole by its trunk the last full moon, but hadn't known where it led. I whispered 'Immobulus' and the tree which was waving its branches back and forth suddenly froze in place, making it look, for once, like an ordinary, harmless tree. I crept into the hole and crawled down until it became a tunnel tall enough for me to stand in. I lit my wand and tiptoed cautiously down the mossy underground passage. After a few minutes of walking under the quiet earth, I heard a low snarl, then something was bounding toward me on all fours. It was a familiar giant black dog. He gnarled the sleeve of my jacket in his teeth and began to pull toward the way I came, out of the tunnel.
"Sirius, stop!" I tried to pull away from his gripping bite. He gave a low growl and pulled harder, nearly ripping my sleeve. "I need to see Remus! He won't hurt me!" I said loudly, but the dog was too strong for me to overpower. Then I heard more animal like footsteps coming toward us. A giant stag burst into view, trying to hold back what looked like a seven-foot monster standing on its hind legs. Its snout was long and pointed, and it sniffed the air as it curled its lips, baring its large, menacing fangs. The stag prodded it in the belly with its giant antlers and the beast made a tiny yelp. The dog pulled me even harder, and made whimpering sounds like he was pleading with me to stop resisting. The chilly air hit my face as he dragged me through the hole and out into the chilled, open air. Then he was no longer a dog, but a human again.
"What the hell are you thinking?" He barked at me. "Why did you come down here? You know how dangerous he is on nights like this!" He pointed up to the sky and the moon was full and glowed yellow behind the thin, wispy clouds. Then his eyes began to burn. "Did you come here to make fun of him? So you could show all of your Slytherin friends what a monster he is?" I was out of breath as I began to speak, but then a low creak came from behind us. The Womping Willow was active once again. A giant limb slammed down between Sirius and me, leaving a massive impression in the earth. I covered my head as Sirius ducked away, trying to escape its flying branches. I scrambled for my wand in the nearby grass, as I dropped it on the way out of the tunnel. Branches were zooming by my head and I saw Sirius running around the tree, dodging left and right as the Womping Willow hammered all around him. Just as I found my wand beside me, Sirius was hit in the stomach by a large limb and flung several yards backward. He lay on the ground, holding his ribs.
"Immobulus!" I yelled, the Womping Willow freezing once more. I ran over to Sirius, his face was distorted in pain. I knelt down beside him. "Are you okay?" I said, quite frantically. It was my fault he had been injured. He nodded with a great effort as he tried to sit up.
"I definitely broke something," he said as he stood up, still holding his ribs. He looked toward the hole in the tree and noticed two large furry things emerging. "You need to get back into the castle right now, Marilyn." He tried pushing me up the hill.
"Sirius, wait. I don't think he's dangerous," I said, watching as the stag struggled to push the beast back down into the tunnel. Sirius gave me a skeptical look, but my eyes pleaded with him to believe me.
"Why don't you think he's dangerous?" he said with more seriousness in his voice than I was used to.
"I gave him something. Just please trust me." Sirius, still looking doubtful, nodded his head.
"You stay here," he said as he walked slowly back down the hill. The stag looked over and made a snorting sound, warning Sirius not to come any closer without being in his Animagus form. Sirius made a calming gesture and looked Remus in the eyes.
"Remus," he said softly, "it's me. It's Sirius." Remus sniffed the air for a second and whimpered as he tiptoed past James, whose expression, even as a stag, was of utter disbelief. Sirius held out his hand with a smile, inviting Remus to shake. He took his hand and then bounded around them, excited that he was no longer a danger to them. Sirius began to laugh and beckoned me down to where they were. "What on earth did you do?" He said as he brought me into a hug.
"I'll tell you once we get back into the tunnel. Just because he's not dangerous doesn't mean somebody won't still see him," I said as I pulled them all back into the hole under the tree.
I sat down in a chair that billowed up with dust, its upholstery torn into tatters. Although it was creaky and very grimy, I found that the Shrieking Shack had a touch of hominess. They were all now in their human forms, even Peter, who had been hiding in the grass during the whole scene.
"Sorry we don't have any butter beers or anything up here," James said as he leaned up against a towering armoire. "We don't have much use for refreshments when we don't have thumbs." I giggled at him, perfectly content to just be in their company. "So how did you do it?" He asked, curiosity dripping from his mouth. Remus came closer. I cleared my throat.
"Well," I began, "there was a potion that was discovered sometime, called Wolfsbane Potion, and I read about it before. I remembered the recipe and made it last week. Remus has been taking the regimen all week." Remus looked up in confusion. "That wasn't a brain tonic I was giving you," I explained.
"I have never heard of that potion," Peter squeaked, quite incredulously.
"She's from the future, Wormtail," Sirius said blandly, as if it was no longer big news. Peter's eyes widened as he mouthed 'the future' with an unbelieving look on his face.
I looked over at Sirius. The stern look he had been wearing all week had suddenly melted into a soft, admiring gaze. "This is what I was trying to tell you," I said to him, knowing that he finally understood my intentions.
"I see that now," he said gently as he strolled over to me. "I am so sorry for the way that I acted and the horrible things I said. I should have listened to what you were trying to say. I should have known that you aren't the type of person," he paused and looked into my eyes, prayerful for me to forgive him. I smiled and sunk into his hand as he brushed my cheek. "I admire you so much for what you did for Remus. Like a true Gryffindor." He took my hand in his and kissed my palm lovingly. I could feel my face getting hot as I blushed. He kissed my cheek and traveled to my lips, then whispered softly so only I could hear "I love you." My heart pounded a few times, but then slowed as he gazed longingly into my eyes, begging me to say it back.
"I love you, Sirius Black." I whispered back. We were suddenly ripped away from our small, intimate world by James annoyingly clearing his throat.
"It's all so lovely that you two have made up, but it's starting to make me feel nauseous," James said, watching us as he still leaned against the armoire, his eyebrows raised. My face blushed again as I reached into the pocket of my jacket and pulled out a small box of playing cards. I saw James's eyes light up.
"Exploding Snap!" I said excitedly, mocking James's eagerness whenever he asked us to play. We all sat on the floor in a small circle and played one of our favorite games until the sun peaked over the hills and peppered the dusty floor of the Shrieking Shack in specks of welcomed sunshine.