The boy stifled a yawn, placing his head on his hand in a gesture of boredom. It was Friday, and he couldn't wait for the lesson to end: they had more important things to do. Besides, the topic was boring: the Silencing Charm was really easy, and it such a long explanation was definitely not neccessary. Why had Flitwick made a whole theoretical lesson out of it? A few instructions would have been enough.
James casted his eyes over the room: Remus and Peter listened attentively to the Professor, diligently writing down notes while Sirius sketched, with an excellent technique, some drawings in a piece of parchment. And a few desks ahead, there she was.
The thick, dark red hair fell gracefully on her shoulders, framing the delicate face. James ran his eyes over it, smirking at the slight frown, admiring the curved eyelashes that were now hiding her eyes, smiling with tenderness at her little nose, carefully outlining her pinkish mouth. He wondered what it would taste like, and if it would feel as soft as it appeared.
Right then, a red lock escaped and brushed her right cheekbone, tickling her. Lily absentmindedly raised her hand and, still holding the feather quill, tucked it behind her ear leaving a tiny ink spot on her cheek. The boy noticed that the tiny little freckles that covered her nose and cheekbones were clearer than they usually were; they would probably become lighter as the winter approached, being almost invisible for Christmas. How far would those freckles go? Would they end at her face, or would they go down her neck towards her chest? James forced himself to think about something else; he didn't want to find himself in the need of ran out of the classroom in order to have a really cold shower.
Luckily, the bell rang, and both he and Sirius jumped from their seats. Remus and Peter, however, took their time to put their stuff into their rucksacks.
They left the Charms classroom and confidently headed towards the Room of Requirement, and the lycanthrope didn't stop complaining all the way there. James just hoped than once he saw everything went good, he would start taking everything with a little more sense of humor.
"You promised, Moony." Said Sirius, entering the room and settling the business. Remus sighed, but nodded. He knew he couldn't stop them from doing it, but he was still terribly worried about them. During the summer, they had been about to do it, but they had decided to wait to give Peter a little more confidence, and they had devoted those months to work with him in the aspects he was having trouble with.
"Are you sure?" the honey-eyed boy asked once that everyone was in their places. Sirius and James rolled their eyes with arrogance, but what surprised him was that Peter answered:
"Definitely." He pronounced that single word with a confident tone he had never used, and that was what convinced the lycanthrope.
It all happened so quickly that Remus couldn't even describe the moment for his friends later, and in less than a minute, the boy had two huge animals in front of him. His heart stopped for a second and fear invaded him, but it all went away when he saw the third creature rolling on the floor. It had worked. The lycanthrope started laughing with joy and relief, and he would have sworn that the animals were laughing too, even though they were only capable of emitting growls and strange moans.
Admired, the boy approached to them and observed them one by one. First, he stopped in front of an imposing and majestic stag with enormous prongs, who looked back at him with satisfied and haughty hazel eyes. Then he addressed the gigantic black dog, who started licking his face and then jumped over him, making him fall to the floor. The animal winked one of its grey eyes: just as he had supposed, that dog, so similar to the mythical Grim, was Sirius. Finally, Remus sat up and let the little rat climb up his arm, lovingly biting him. Peter.
His friends didn't transform back immediately after, instead, they spent a while learning how to move into their new shape, enjoying the fruits of their labor. Remys watched them with a smile on his face and a lump in his throat. His mates had made it. And they had done it for him.
When they had had enough, all of them went back to their human shape. The first to talk was Sirius:
"It's awesome." He said, stressing the expression with a hand gesture, "It's fantastic, Remus, you can't imagine what it feels like."
"So, a dog, huh?" Lupin commented with his indelible smile. With all they had studied about Animagi, they knew that the shape that each wizard and witch took reflected their inner nature. Of course Sirius was a dog; an animal characterized by their loyalty.
"What do you mean by 'dog'? I'm a majestic hound." The boy replied, proudly puffing out his chest. All of his friends started laughing.
"Come on, let him believe it," James said, patting his friend on the back. "Though my animal is much better: a stag! I knew it would be something cool like that." And yes, a stag suited James perfectly too: a noble animal like no other.
But, why was Peter a rat?
"You don't know what you're talking 'bout, mate, being a dog is way better." And of course, the two of them started arguing like kids about something as stupid as which animal was 'cooler'. Little Pettigrew didn't add anything to the conversation, he wouldn't mind if he was a puma or a slug, he was just ecstatic: he couldn't believe he had made it! His eyes shone proudly, and Remus was proud of him too. They all were.
"All of your animals are cool, stop arguing already," Lupin interrupted them. "And you're both quite big, you can control me in case
"You lose control." Sirius finished the sentence for him, nodding. "Don't worry Remus, we're perfectly capable of keeping a tight rein on you, you saw us, we're huge."
"Well, I don't think I will help much, but at least I will be with you." Peter commented, slightly blushing. He was used to being unable of contributing in any important way, but being useless still embarrassed him some times.
"You're wrong," said Remus with a smile. The three boys stared at him questioningly. "You will be useful, and very, or don't you remember that to go through the passageway you've to stop the Whomping Willow first? Madame Pomfrey does it pressing the right knot with a stick, but you'll be in your animal shapes when you have to enter; you couldn't do it. Peter's perfect for the job: he's so little he can manage to slip through the branches and press the knot until you two are safe."
The boy smiled, radiant.
"Good idea, Moony." James praised him, putting his arm around Peter's shoulders. Remus frowned lightly.
"Y'know? We should find you a nickname as well. It's not fair that you can call me Moony and I don't have a name to call you. People already think I'm the weirder Marauder without the need of a nickname."
"That's not a bad idea," said Sirius, raising his eyebrows. "In fact, it could be useful; despite we always call you Moony, not everyone knows that we do, even less the Professors. We could use them for the map and stuff." Remus rolled his eyes; they had just transformed into Animagi, project that had taken them three years, and Sirius was already talking about the map.
"But, how could we call us?" James asked, "'Moony' was something Sirius said spontaneously, it's not like he gave it a lot of thought. It stuck cause it sounded good."
"Well, you don't haev to give it a lot of thought, actually," Remus replied, shrugging, "You're a stag, we could call you Prongs. Not too obvious, and it sounds good."
"I like it, "said James, smiling. "Prongs. Wicked!"
"Hey! What about me?" asked Sirius impatiently: he had liked Prong's nickname.
"Well, you're a dog," answered the recently named Prongs, "Why not Padded, or Pad? 'Cause of the feet, I mean
" His friend looked at him with an expression that made clear he hadn't liked the idea.
"That's the lamest nickname I've ever heard," the boy answered, annoyed. "You're no naming your dog. And even then, the name's stupid even for a dog."
"I like it," Peter added, shrugging his shoulders. Sirius glared at him.
"The nickname's stupid, and being named that way because I've got pads on my feet is even worse." He complained, "It's as if I called you Bucktooth or something"
Well, you can call him Wormtail for a similar reason, and that does sound good." Said James. Peter took the pet name immediately:
"I like it!" Sirius folded his arms in a childish way; he was the only one without a name.
"Y'know? I some parts of the U.K., the Grim is also called Padfoot. In Lancashire they call it both ways, but in Wakefield, leeds and other places they just call it Padfoot." Said Moony, and Sirius' expression changed. After considering it for a while, he nodded, satisfied.
"Padfoot sounds good. Even better than Prongs." James couldn't help rolling his eyes.
"Padfoot it is. And how the hell did you know all that?" he asked, and Remus shrugged.
"My father has always been superstitious."
They had to wait a few weeks before the next full moon, but the Marauders had played a few pranks on people taking advantage of Peter's new ability (Remus, of course, didn't approve.)
When the day finally arrived, out werewolf felt awful- With a tired sigh, he flopped down on the Common Room's sofa in order to finish some homework before heading to the Hospital Wing; it had been little more than a month since the classes had begun, but the teachers wouldn't stop talking about the O.W.L., and they were right: they had a lot to study if they wanted to pass them. Obviously, James and Sirius couldn't care less, and Peter was a bit worried, but he wouldn't start studying until they had to sit for the exams.
"Hi," Remus startled: he hadn't seen the redhead curled up on the other side of the sofa. She realized about it and smiled: "It seems this time was my turn to scare you." Lupin smiled back at her.
"It was about time. Doing some homework?" he asked, pointing with his head at the stack of books resting on the floor next to her. Lily nodded.
"Yeah, the O.W.L's will end up driving me insane, I swear," she said, sighing. "Of course, my friends don't give a damn. Not even Sam, who studies as much as I do." Lupin laughed.
"Same here. Maybe you should go with them for a while, relax a little."
"They are flying, the four of them," she answered, frowning. "I hate flying." She added childishly, and her friend laughed again.
"If you left your fear aside, you would actually enjoy it." He assured her. The girl left the quill aside and sat up, observing him. Remus looked really ill again
Lily had thought about it for quite a while; she didn't believe the boy had the bad luck of getting sick at least once a month. She had thought about asking him about it directly, but judging by the way he escaped he reyes and changed the subject when he was asked about his health, she knew he didn't want to tell her. Sam and Bree said she was being paranoid, but Becca had agreed with her: Remus had a secret, and Lily wanted to find out what it was. Not out of curiosity (the redhead didn't use to nose around in other people's business), but out of honest concern. Maybe she could help him.
"Are you feeling alright, Remus?" She asked sweetly. The boy shifted uncomfortably on his seat; he had noticed his friend had been analizing his tired face.
"Actually, I'm feeling a bit sick. I think I should go to the Hospital Wing." He answered. Lily made as if to get up.
"I'll go with you."
"No, don't worry," the lycanthrope stopped her. "One of the blokes will." He said, making a gesture towards his friends, who were laughing out loud. Remus guessed the reason and frowned; he was sure he had heard some girl scream something involving the word 'rats'.
Lily nodded and let him go, but the topic kept wandering in her head.
Night had fall a few hours ago, and a deadly silence reigned in the grounds. The sky was clear and there was no breeze to move the trees' branches or caress the lake. However, behind the castle, the scene wasn't so static. Two imposing figures raised some steps away from the Whomping Willow, waiting. The full moon's white light bathed their fur, and the stag's splendid prongs casted ghostly shadows thanks to it. You had to look very closely to be able of sighting the lttle creature which approached to the tree with quick and quite steps. As soon as its little feet touched the trunk, the branches begun to move, violently hitting an invisible enemy. The rat carefullt approached to the knot, and when it stood on it, everything stopped. The stag and the huge black dog didn't hesitate, and disappeared through the tunnel in the blink of an eye, followed by the rat.
It wasn't hard to get to the end of the tunnel, where they were received by an immense adult wold, which emitted a growl when he detected their smell. The animal bled in several parts of its body (he had probably hurt himself), and it would have been scary for anyone. But they knew that inside that wolf was Remus. At first, the lycanthrope was confused; his animal mind didn't understand what those indivividuals were doing in the place that was his prison. However, he had recognized them; they were his three friends, the Marauders, who had decided to be with him during his painful nights of full moon. His mind seemed to settle; paradoxically, those animals were waking the human buried deep inside his wolf body. That must have reflected in his eyes, 'cause the gigantic black dog jumped on him. The werewolf showed him his teeth, getting on the defensive, but Sirius started licking him, and the animal understood that he just wanted to play. The stag approached to them, playfully tapping him with his snout, and the rat jumped from James' back to his.
When the animals were sure that part of their friend was conscious, and that they would be able of controlling him anyway if something happened, they decided to go outside. Just for a while, and as an experiment. If it didn't work out, they would never do it again.
As soon as he was out and saw the white sphere shining in the sky, the wolf filled his lung and emitted a long howl, and then started running towards the forest escorted by his friends. They wandered around the thick foliage, enjoying for the first, but not only time, the freedom and company.
Lily stroked Arya's head absently: after hours and hours of trying to sleep without succeeding, she had desisted, putting on a think woollen jacked over her long t-shirt and approaching to the window. He had opened it, and her owl, which rested at the top of some wardrobe, had soared towards her to keep her company. The round, white moon shone lonely in the sky, and the girl watched it for a while; it was beautiful. She looked down and sighed.
She wasn't sure if it was the reason of her insomnia, but now that she was awake, the redhead couldn't help thinking about her father. It wasn't fair that he was sick. It wasn't fair that he had to die.
After a while, her thoughts had shifted to Remus and his strange illness. She hadn't seen him come back from the Hospital Wing; he had probably spent the night there. She hoped he was okay.
Lily stood up, but when she was about to close the window and go to bed, a wolf-like howl ripped the silence of the night, and the girl froze in her place with her eyes wide open. She was a smart girl, and it wasn't hard for her to connect the dots. It was a crazy idea but
what if she was right?
Lily carefully closed the window and flew back to her refugee high up in the wardrobe. It would be better to go to sleep and think about in the morning. But, she decided, she wouldn't tell anyone about it, not even if her suspicions turned out to be true.