The words coming out of Mary's mouth felt surreal to her own ears. The very thought of her guess being accurate and the realization that Remus might actually be a Werewolf, was nothing less than terrifying. It was no wonder Mary sincerely hoped that she was wrong, but that hope flew straight out of the window when she was looking up into the eyes of the guy standing in front of her.
Sirius had not even said a word, but he didn't have to: the answer was right there in his eyes. Mary was right… Years had gone by with her and her friends wondering over and trying to figure what his big secret was, but now that she had finally figured it out, she wasn't entirely sure if that was a good thing.
Mary desperately tried to get her head around the fact that Remus actually was a Werewolf, but this happened to be easier said than done. Her voice was barely more than a whisper when she asked: "He is, isn't he? Remus… He is a Werewolf."
For the briefest of moments Sirius seemed to be contemplating whether or not to tell the truth. Then he closed his eyes and nodded.
Mary let go of his hands and took a step backwards. And then another one, moving slowly until the back of her left foot hit a wooden box of cleaning equipments. She flopped down on the edge of the box and stared at a tiny spider that was making a web between two brooms that had been put against the wall.
Sirius, still standing next to the door of the broom cupboard, finally opened his mouth. "You cannot tell anyone," he said, his voice sounded more like a plea than a threat. "It will ruin his life if you do."
He walked towards her and sat down on a bucket that was turned upside down, facing her. "Do you hear what I'm saying, Mary? It is crucial you will keep this to yourself," he repeated in an urgent voice.
Mary sighed, briefly wondering if she would end up with some pieces of cobweb in it. This broom cupboard was particularly dusty after all. "I just…" she finally said slowly, "I cannot believe it. I don't understand why I didn't see it before, but now that I have… This is just awful."
Sirius's head jerked up in sudden anger. "That there is a Werewolf at Hogwarts?!" he snapped. "I know many pure- and halfblooded are raised in some ridiculous and unnecessary fear of Werewolves, but I honestly expected a Muggle-born like yourself to be less narrow minded!"
She looked at him in shock. "What?" she managed to splutter eventually. "No wait, you're getting this all wrong! What I meant was that I'm feeling sorry for Remus, and it's awful that such a sweet guy has to cope with this... this condition."
"Oh." Sirius rubbed his nose. "Sorry."
"That's quite alright."
He shook his head and blew the hair from his face. "I - or we actually - sometimes just get very protective when it comes to Remus."
Mary smiled at him before pulling her legs up to rest her chin on her knees. "How long have you guys known?"
"Second year. When all the lies about visiting his sick parents, dog or grandmother couldn't deceive us anymore. One night James, Pete and I just confronted him with our suspicions – like you, we wondered what kind of disease only appears when it's full moon – and we got an confession out of him in the end."
"And you guys stuck by him?"
"Of course! Personally, I thought it was a coolest thing to have a Werewolf as one of my closest friends. Hoped it might come in handy one day when Lucius or Bella were bugging me again."
Mary snorted. She remembered Sirius's encounters with his cousins in their first Hogwarts years all too well. They used to curse him whenever he passed them in the corridors.
"Of course, we wouldn't be us if we didn't try and do something about it."
"Curing a Werewolf? But that's impossible."
"No, but there are other ways to er… shall I say ease Remus's transformations."
She looked puzzled. "But how-"
"Listen, since we are on the truth-path already, I'm going to tell you something else, but again, you have to keep it a secret or you'll risk me and the others getting expelled."
Mary narrowed her eyes at Sirius, briefly wondering if she would want to hear this, but naturally her curiosity got the better of her in the end. "Alright."
He leaned in a little closer and she caught a whiff of his cologne. He smelled good. The sense was sending a light shiver down her spine. Not that Sirius noticed, he was too excited sharing his story with her. "Werewolves are - of course - deadly to humans, but they are harmless to other animals."
She stared at him blankly. "So…?"
"So… James, Peter and I became Animagi."
Mary stared at Sirius with her mouth open, looking stunned. "You… did… what?"
"We learned how to transform into animals and have joined Remus in his hiding place ever since," Sirius clarified.
"That… That's..." she said, struggling for the right words. "I'd say that's-"
"-An amazing achievement?" Sirius said, smirking.
"I was going for illegal." When Mary saw the look of disappointment on his face, she quickly added: "But amazing all the same. Becoming an Animagus… That is very advanced magic. When did you manage to transform?"
"In fifth year," Sirius said with a note of pride in his voice.
"Wow, that's incredible, but also hard to believe. I mean-" she spoke quickly when Sirius was opening his mouth to retort, looking annoyed again "-Not you and James, but Peter isn't the most talented wizard in the world. How in Godric's name did he pull it off?"
"With many hours of tutoring from me and James. But he did make it work in the end."
"That's fantastic!" Mary stared at him in slight admiration until another thought suddenly came to her. "So what kind of animal are you?'
"What do you think?"
Mary shot his body an examining look. "Hmmm… You're both strong and athletic, which should reflect on your Animagus form. There's also intelligence and cunningness, so I'm thinking… A leopard?"
He laughed. "Close, but no. I'm a dog."
"A dog?" she snorted.
Sirius narrowed his eyes at her. "I'm not a small dog like a Dachshund if that's what you were thinking."
"Of course you're not," she grinned back, her eyes twinkling. "Show me."
"I don't think so. We've been out here for a while and if someone opens that door and catches you with a large black scruffy dog, what are they going to think?"
"I suppose you're right. For now I'l just have to take your word for it, then. So you're a big black dog and Remus is a Werewolf, or Moony as you guys call him." She gasped when something clicked in her head. "That's why they call you Padfoot!"
Sirius nodded. "Exactly. Care to guess what Prongs means?"
"Prongs… That's a stag! James is a stag? Wow, if only Lily knew…"
"Well, she can't. At least not until we're well out of Hogwarts or Remus decides to share his ah… furry little problem voluntarily with you girls after all. Finally, where do you think the name Wormtail comes from?"
"That would be some sort of rodent, right? Which suits Peter with his insatiable desire to eat. He likes cheese, too. Is he a mouse?"
"A rat to be more specific."
She burst out laughing. Sirius had just joined in with a snigger when they heard the sudden sound of fast approaching footsteps. For few seconds both of them looked at the door in shock before Sirius sprang into action and pulled Mary ove to the back of the cupboard where - for the moment - they managed to hide against the wall behind a rack of pots and buckets.
Mary dared to lean across Sirius and peek through the shelves. She was forced to conclude that their visitor was not a friendly one. It was Argus Filch and his dear Mrs. Norris, the devilish cat all Hogwarts students loathed with a passion. Sirius pulled Mary back from view and blocked her against the wall by pushing himself close to her body in order to make them as invisible as possible.
"Well well, well… I sense there are some insolent students in here who cannot keep their filthy parties inside their Common Room. They're in big trouble if I get my hands on them. Track them down, my sweets, and I will take care of the rest."
Mrs. Norris mewed, the eerie sound echoing through the dark and dusty cupboard, and was probably already staring straight at the back of the cupboard. Filch lifted his oil lamp slightly, its light putting their corner in full view. Luckily they were still hidden behind the rack, so they managed to remain out of view. At least for the moment, because all Filch needed to do was poke his head around the rack and they would be busted.
Thankfully, so far neither Filch nor Mrs. Norris were doing that. As the caretaker moved his oil lamp into a different direction and the light left their corner, Mary relaxed slightly. She became more aware of Sirius's firm, yet soft body pressed up against her own.
The feeling was making her legs slightly wobbly. Pretty inconvenient at the moment, because since his legs were intertwined with hers, at some point he would notice her legs were trembling. Mary quickly decided that if he would tease her about this later, she would simply say her legs shook so badly because she feared getting caught by Filch.
However, this thought did not reduce the wobbliness of her legs. On the contrary, the shaking intensified when she caught the hint of a musky scent in Sirius's neck, which was right near her nose. She realized she had smelled the same smell weeks ago in Slughorn's dungeon when they were making the Amortentia draft. She had loved that scent… And now she knew why.
To Mary, this discovery was kind of hysterical. That, as well as the fact she was in a broom cupboard with a guy (an act she resented on principle), that guy being Sirius Black (something she once swore would never happen) and that they were huddled in a close embrace, made her want to giggle madly.
Filch had now started to rummage around at the other side of the cupboard. It did not look like he was about to leave anytime soon. It was the worst possible moment, but Mary's mouth was slowly crinkling into a smile. She desperately tried to keep herself from bursting out laughing, but could not prevent her shoulders shaking with silent laughter. Sirius looked positively alarmed. He quickly clapped his hand over her mouth to try and make a stop to her surreptitious laughter.
Filch finally decided there was nothing to see and left the cupboard, muttering to himself about disobedient students and how much he would to punish them like they did "in the good old days".
For good measure, the two of them remained in their forced position for another minute. Once they felt safe that the caretaker and his cat would not return, Sirius finally let go of Mary. She immediately gave in and burst out laughing. Sirius watched her as she was bending over in hysterical laughter. "What's so funny?"
"The… The ir-o-niiy of… it all," she managed to stammer in between her laughs.
"Is it… Was it something I did?"
"No," she replied eventually, calming down slightly as she clamped her hands to her stomach. "Oooh, my belly muscles. Sorry, it's just… Never mind, you would never understand."
"I really rather not. Besides, in case Filch might have heard this and is now hurrying to his office to get one of his notorious torturing devices, we'd better head back."
Sirius - looking disappointed - shrugged. "Fine. Just remember: not a word to Brice and Lily."
"My lips are sealed," she said, walking over to Sirius and, after she kissed him on the cheek and told him she thought he was cute, Mary pulled him along by the hand to the Common Room.
They had hardly crawled through the portrait hole when a flushed but happy-looking Lily was hurrying over to them. "There you are! You've been gone for ages. Where have you been?"
"Er…" Mary hesitated, exchanging a look with Sirius. "We were ah... busy."
Lily, drawing the wrong conclusion, grinned at her. "That's great. Look Sirius, might if I borrow her for a sec?"
Sirius, who was just Accioing three bButterbeers with his wand, handed one of them to Lily and one to Mary and said: "No problem," and walked off to Peter, who – since the Bertie Botts Beans were all gone – had moved on to feasting on the Sugarquills.
Lily dragged Mary over to the last empty seats by the fireplace, where Brice was already curled up on the couch, solving another one of her crossword puzzles. "What's up, Lil?" Mary asked curiously.
"I still cannot believe it," her friend said, chattering away at top speed. "I mean, he just asked in a normal way, something I never thought possible. It really caught me by surprise and of course I just had to-"
"-James asked her on a date to Hogsmeade and she's said yes," Brice elaborated calmly, not even bothering to look up from her puzzle.
"Oh," Mary said, faking a surprised look. "That's wonderful, Lil. About time, eh?"
Lily, who had calmed down a bit, sipped her butterbeer thoughtfully. "You wouldn't believe how mature James handled the situation. He just made some conversation with me at first and then asked me calmly whether I would like to join him on our next Hogsmeade trip. Of course, after I agreed to go with him, he couldn't resist jumping on top of the table and shouting 'I'm the king of the world!', whatever that means, but still… The way he did it, you'd almost think someone talked to him. The whole thing had a female touch about it."
"Really now?" Mary said nervously.
After Brice shot her a significant look, she noted shrewdly: "You were out with Sirius for quite some time. Did you have some fun in a distant corridor?"
Mary remembered her talk with Sirius about Remus. That he was a Werewolf and that his friends had managed to become Animagi. She realized she could not mention any of this to her friends and what else did a boy and a girl do when they left a part together? Mary knew how suspicious this all looked and started to blush furiously. "We didn't make out, if that's what you mean."
Lily and Brice lifted their eyebrows in unison, looking amused. "Suuuure," Lily said, crossing her arms. "What have you been doing then, sweeping the floor?"
"We just talked."
"Talked? About what?"
"Just stuff. About what we're going to do on our date, actually," Mary added in sudden inspiration when she saw the incredulous looks on her friends faces.
Brice shrugged. "Fine. If you don't want to tell us anything yet, then don't. But if you think I'm going to believe that Sirius did not even attempt to kiss you, you're completely bonkers."
"He really didn't, although we did hug closely for about five minutes."
"How?" Lily and Brice asked almost simultaneously.
Mary snorted at the memory and quickly filled them in on the Filch debacle, although she left out the part of smelling the musky scent in Sirius's neck.
"You guys were so lucky," Lily said. "So you really didn't make out?"
"No. Well, I gave him a kiss on the cheek before we came back here, but that's it. Not that I was going to kiss him tonight anyway, so…"
She shrugged. "Because I can." She rolled her eyes at her friends confused faces. "Don't you see what I'm doing? Sirius is a hunter, he enjoys the chase. Who am I to take away that element so soon? So I won't be kissing him before Saturday, at any rate."
"And you're not afraid he'll get bored and move on to someone else?" Lily asked.
"No. Although I have to admit that with the way I'm feeling now, I'm not sure how much longer I can it make it last."
Brice chuckled, crumpled her unfinished puzzle and cast it into the fire. She yawned. "I don't know about you girls, but I'm off to bed."
"Night," Mary and Lily said and when Brice stood up, Mary couldn't help but wonder what she would think about Remus's secret and asked: "Hey Brice, who are you going with next weekend? D'you think Remus would be up for it?"
She shrugged, shaking her blonde hair from her shoulders. "Honestly, I don't know where I stand with him. He either doesn't fancy me or is blind to every hint."
"Maybe he's just shy," Lily suggested.
"Or perhaps he's just having a lot on his mind," Mary added thoughtfully.
Brice lifted her eyebrows. "Such as?"
"Nothing," she replied a little too quickly. "I agree with Lily. Remus is probably just being timid, he will get there eventually, don't you worry."
"Do you really think so?"
"I do," Mary nodded as she also got up from her seat. "I also know that it's about time to call it a night and get a well-deserved beauty sleep."
Thankfully, Brice agreed about going to bed and stopped inquiring about Remus Lupin, but Mary still feared this whole "don't tell anyone Remus is a werewolf"-secret could be a problem. She was terrible at hiding things from her friends and making up excuses wasn't her biggest talent either.
But what Mary did know, was that none of her problems came in comparison to Remus's reality of being a Werewolf. She realized she was really admiring his strength and courage. Mary smiled to herself as she made a mental note to tell him that one day soon. But her smile quickly faded when she realized she could not ever tell him how she felt, because Remus did not know she knew his darkest secret.
~*~ End of Chapter ~*~