"This is an absolute abomination!" Zephyros Horsefeather sneered as Severus Snape trotted after him through the hallway. "You're sure she's my kin, Snape?" he shot a look at Severus, wrinkling his pointed nose. Severus nodded.
"She's in Potions class with me. You have a certain likeness," he said emotionless. Zephyros gave a disgusted scoff.
"A Horsefeather in Gryffindor. I never thought I would see the day. Our family name has been hauled through dragon shit," he said through gritted teeth. "Where is she now?" his black eyes had a hint of embers burning inside them.
"I imagine she's with Sirius Black," Severus said, a nauseated look on his face as he mentioned the name of one of his long-time tormentors. "They have been looking mighty cozy lately, skipping through the corridors like some doe-eyed looneys."
"Even better. Fraternizing with a traitorous ingrate," Zephyros said as he traipsed down the staircase toward the dungeons. He clenched his fist as he shoved them into his pockets. He was maddened by the thought of a disgrace to the Horsefeather name. It was the only pure-blood line that had not yet been tainted by a do-gooder blood traitor, and he was not going to let some distant cousin of his ruin that reputation.
The next morning, I awoke refreshed and rejuvenated as I stretched out the night's sleep. It was a Saturday morning and the sunshine poured through the arched windows, spilling light across the stone floor. I pulled on a pair of jeans and ran down to the common room, hoping to meet my beloved at the bottom of the stairs. The common room was quiet and empty, aside from a second-year snoring over a pile of books in the corner. I sat down on one of the couches in front of the hearth and waited. A few minutes passed when I heard heavy footsteps coming down the stairs from the boys' dormitory. I turned with a smile, hoping it was Sirius, but instead I was met with a sleepy-eyed Remus.
"Good morning, Remus," I said cheerfully. He just gave me a half smile. "Has Sirius gotten up yet?" I tried not to sound eager, Remus just shook his head.
"I doubt he will be up any time soon. He got in late last night," he said as I tried to hide a smirk, "and he was up for a few hours after that, too." Remus looked pale, and he winced occasionally as if his body were aching all over.
"Are you alright, Remus?" I asked, concerned that he might be coming down with an illness.
"Yes, I'm fine," he said, making a conscious effort to pull himself together. "Just a bit hungry."
"I am too," I said as a stood up from the couch. "Let's go get some breakfast." And we ducked out of the portrait hole, leaving the common room empty once more. Over breakfast, Remus and I talked about anything we could think of. Quidditch, classes (which I found out Remus was in my Potions class, hiding at one of the back tables), our favorite places down in Hogsmeade.
"I was brave enough to visit the shrieking shack once," I said proudly, as if this were an accomplishment to be fawned over. Little did I know that Remus visited it every month. He gave me a shy smile and pushed the food around on his plate with his fork.
"It's a pretty creepy place," he said, not looking up. I could sense that talk of the supposed 'Most Haunted Building in Britain' was making him uncomfortable. "So you and Sirius have become fast friends," he changed the subject. I nodded my head shyly. It really had only been a week and I was already falling head over heels for Sirius Black. Remus raised his eyebrows and gave a doubtful look. "Just be careful." I whipped my head around to face him, not knowing full well what he meant. He looked startled at my sudden jerk. "I'm just saying," he began, "Sirius has a bit of a reputation. I'm sure you haven't neglected to notice all the girls who fall all over him." He gave a small chuckle. I put my elbows on the table and rubbed my head. Remus saw the distress growing in my eyes.
"Are you saying I have made a mistake by getting close to him?" I said softly. Remus put his hand on my arm.
"I did not mean for it to sound like that. I know Sirius likes you. I can see it in the way he looks at you," he said with a genuine smile. I returned his smile with a playful nudge. I checked my watch and noticed it was barely eight o'clock.
"So what are you going to do now?" I asked him, not wanting to be alone on a Saturday morning. "Going to pour over more books in the library?" I said, teasingly. He just shrugged. I racked my brain for something to do that did not include studying or causing mischief. "Want to go flying?" Remus's eyes lit up and we ran out of the Great Hall to fetch our broom sticks.
It was in the afternoon when we decided to dismount and head back toward the castle. The morning had slipped away from us as we skimmed over the grounds of Hogwarts, flying over the lake and zigzagging between the towers of the school, we even missed the flailing branches of the Womping Willow by inches, taunting it because it couldn't reach us as we sailed through the chilled air. As we walked through the corridors to head back up to Gryffindor tower, I noticed that some color had come back to Remus's face, although it might have just been the wind-bitten look of his rosy cheeks. We were headed to the Great Hall for something to eat when he looked at the clock.
"I think I'm going to skip lunch, Marilyn," he said, an anxious look in his eyes. I shook my head in understanding and he shot down the corridor. As I walked into the Great Hall, I saw Sirius and James sitting at the Gryffindor table across from Peter, all three of them laughing heartily. I sat down beside Sirius, rubbing his neck as I greeted him. He welcomed me between bouts of laughter.
"What's so funny that's got you boys laughing like school girls?" I asked.
"We were talking about one time when James and Sirius," Peter began. He could barely talk through his endless giggles, "gave Snape a love potion! He fell in love with McGonagall!" He grabbed his side as he tried to get a sip of water from his goblet.
"He even showed up to her quarters in the middle of the night, and she had to escort him down to the dungeons wearing her night clothes!" James said, amused with himself. I laughed as I imagined Severus Snape doe-eyed for Professor McGonagall.
"It took a week for Slughorn to get the right antidote for it," Sirius said. "We made it pretty strong for old Snivellus!" I began to feel a pang of sympathy for Snape. I knew what it felt like to be picked on, although, I was never slipped a love potion and infatuated with one of my professors. "Where have you been, by the way?" Sirius asked casually, trying to sound as if my whereabouts had no effect on his morning. I knew he was only trying to sound nonchalant in front of his friends, because he leaned over and whispered 'because I missed you' softly into my ear. I blushed.
"Remus and I went flying. We explored the grounds," I said as I began to eat a roll off my plate. I saw Sirius's eyes narrow slightly, as if a small bit of jealousy were sneaking up from his stomach. I touched his arm and whispered 'but I missed you too' and gave him a flirtatious smile.
"Where is Remus, anyway?" Sirius asked, realizing that his friend was not indeed sitting with them. I shrugged.
"He said he did not want to eat. I guess he went back up to the common room. He seemed in a bit of a rush," I said, not thinking anything of it. James, Sirius and Peter exchanged looks, and then craned their heads to look out the window.
"We've got plenty of time," said James as he stood up from the table, followed by Peter. "We'll see you in a bit, Padfoot." They both walked out of the Great Hall as Sirius scooted closer to me.
"Everyone seems so urgent today," I said as he slipped his arm around my waist and smiled.
"Want to go to the Room of Requirement?" He said with a cunning smirk creeping across his face. I gave him an appalled look, as if he were insinuating something. "Not for that reason! I was thinking we could begin your lessons!" I gave him a puzzled stare. He came in close and lowered his voice. "Animagus lessons." My face brightened. I had nearly forgotten about Sirius agreeing to teach me. I nodded my head excitedly. He scooped my arm in his as we exited the Great Hall and headed up to the seventh floor corridor. We approached the empty wall and looked around to make sure nobody would catch us, but the corridor was completely barren. I closed my eyes as I began to imagine the door when Sirius interrupted me. "Let me try it this time," he said as he grabbed my hand and closed his eyes. I saw his lips making words silently, and then the door began to materialize. It looked as big as it had the night before, but there were no intricate designs swirling around it, and the handle looked like a giant bronze knocker. "After you," Sirius gestured, and I squeezed into the room.
The room looked completely different, as it did every time I had entered it. This time, it had an arched ceiling and the walls were lined with books. There was a fireplace whittled into one of the bookshelves, and a few padded chairs circled it. Other than that, it was a wide empty space.
"I don't know how long this will take you to master," Sirius began as he strolled around the room. "After all, it took us three years to get the hang of it." He fingered the spines of a few books on the wall, and then looked over at me. "But then again, we aren't as bright as you." I began to blush. "You may get it within a month!" I walked toward him as he sat down in one of the chairs near the hearth. The mantle was lined with small, silver figurines of animals, which glinted from the light of the fire. "The first thing about becoming an Animagus is embracing your inner animal." He clutched his chest as if he was able to feel the dog inside of him. At first I didn't understand how to do this, but then I finally grasped it. There was not a dog inside Sirius. There was loyalty, faithfulness, and a strong desire to love inside Sirius. I tried to search inside of myself as Sirius looked at me.
"I'm not sure if I know myself well enough," I said softly as I picked up one of the figurines, an elephant. Sirius stood up and grabbed me from behind.
"You're not an elephant," he said laughing. I turned to him with a disappointed look. We were barely even ten minutes into my first lesson and I was already losing hope in my ability to become an Animagus. Sirius put a finger under my chin, tilting my head up to look at him. "My friends were the ones who showed me the person I am. I did not find out for myself," he said as he kissed my forehead. "I see traits in you such as intelligence, passion, cleverness. Uncertainty, self-consciousness, those things will not just hinder your ability to become an Animagus, but will keep you from living. You've got to be who you are, and love who you are." He looked into my eyes as if he were seeing through my body and straight into my soul. I could feel tears rising.
"Will you help me?" I said wetly as he brought me into a hug. He pressed his face into my hair and nodded as he held me tightly beside the fireplace in the room that helped us grow closer to each other.