Needless to say, the plan had not worked. Peeves, perverse by nature, had led the boys a merry caper, promising much, but the only result was an unfortunate encounter with a ghost who haunted the girls' toilets on the second floor. Sirius, James and Peter arrived back in their dormitory soaking wet, shivering, and in a foul humour.
Anyone but Lupin would have fallen about laughing at the sight of them, but he only quirked an eyebrow and asked them how it had gone. Laughter would have resulted in Sirius flinging himself bodily on the other boy and making sure he was just as soaked and miserable as the rest of them, and well-ruffled to boot. Instead, Sirius only gave him a Black Look, marched over to his own bed, and began peeling off his sodden robes.
"I cannot believe we missed the Quidditch again for that!" moaned James. He had subsided onto his bed, a large damp patch spreading out beneath him.
"At least it was only Ravenclaw v Hufflepuff," sniffed Peter, shucking off his own robes and wrapping himself in his too-long, fluffy dressing gown. He explained to Lupin in a few words what had happened.
Sirius crawled under the covers, shivering, hair still dripping, and glared at Lupin. "It was your idea," he said accusingly.
Lupin shrugged. "I never said I thought it was a good one. Why didn't you get the Prewetts to help?"
"Said we were mad," James mumbled, trying to burrow out of his damp robes without getting up.
Something suspiciously like a snort came from Lupin's direction, and Sirius turned from James's squirming antics to regard the pale boy narrowly. As usual, his face showed almost nothing.
"Could've used your help, Lupin," Sirius grumbled.
"Nothing doing," said Lupin, eyes returning to his Potions book. "I don't fancy detention as much as you lot seem to."
Peter paused in the middle of trying to heat a mug of tea with his wand. "How'd you know we got detention?"
Lupin looked up. "You were in the girls' toilets. With Peeves. How many House points've we lost this time?"
"Pringle took ten each," James admitted, following Sirius's lead and bundling himself into bed. "I need to earn some more this week to keep my count up."
"Was it worth it?"
"No," sulked Sirius.
"Well," said James thoughtfully, "we did learn there are places Peeves can't go, which means there must be ways of controlling him."
"Fat lot of good it did us this time," Sirius grumbled.
Lupin looked vaguely interested. "Where can't he go?"
"The Great Hall," said James.
"Classrooms when there's a class going on," offered Peter.
"And the dormitories," added Sirius. "So that plan's scotched."
"Speaking of scotch," said James, "we need to practise that Disarming spell."
Lupin's brow furrowed. "Maybe I don't want to know, but what's that got to do with scotch?"
Sirius was grinning for the first time since their failed mission. "The Prewetts are making another try for old Sluggy's liquor cabinet."
"And they promised we could come along if we show them a new Defence spell we've learned," said Peter.
It was the arrangement they had worked out with the older boys: for every new Defensive spell they could demonstrate, the Prewetts allowed them to come along on an adventure. The twins believed that Defensive magic was important, and while the younger boys were largely unconcerned about the "dangers" posed by what they thought of as little more than boring politics, the Prewetts' incentive scheme had done more for their education thus far than Professor Tynedale's plodding lectures on Defensive theory. Sirius, James and Peter were especially interested in hexes, but once they realised they were going to have to demonstrate their new knowledge on one another, they began learning Shield charms and neutralising spells as well. Unfortunately for Peter, he was not always as quick to pick up new spells as his friends were, and sometimes he forgot the ones he had already learned, which meant he only got to join in on about half of their adventures with the Prewetts.
The liquor cabinet caper was scheduled for the Tuesday night following the incident with Peeves and Moaning Myrtle, by which time all three boys had successfully managed to disarm one another -- though Peter only did it once -- as well as an increasingly annoyed Lupin. At least, Sirius assumed he was annoyed based on the calming breaths he took before speaking to the him.
"You should be pleased," Sirius told him, grinning. "You're always saying how we should study and practise more."
"I didn't mean on me," replied Lupin as he got up to retrieve his wand for the sixth time that afternoon.
Two disarmings later, Lupin gave up saying anything at all, and did not even comment when the boys pulled on their robes and headed down to the common room to rendezvous with the Prewetts.
Sirius paused on his way out. "Aren't you going to say something disapproving?"
"Why should I?" said Lupin, already in bed and sounding sleepy. "You lot never listen. Besides, once you get yourselves expelled, I'll have all the peace and quiet I could want."
Sirius laughed and shut the door quietly behind him, hurrying to catch up with the others.
"You sure Slughorn won't catch us?" Peter asked as he peered, awestruck, into the dark interior of the elegant wooden cabinet.
"Don't worry," Fabian said easily, not even bothering to whisper. "Old Sluggy makes a strong Sleeping Potion."
Sirius reached past James for an unlabeled bottle, but Gideon stopped him. "Remember what we said?"
"One drink each," Sirius scowled. "I've had more than that before."
"What was it like?" James asked.
Sirius's ears went pink. "Got dizzy and was sick all down Regs's front," he mumbled.
"You see? I don't care if your parents buy you a bottle every year for your birthday," Fabian told him. "I'm not playing nursemaid to a bunch of drunken first years."
To be fair to the Prewetts, the measures they poured of each boy's chosen drink were generous. Gideon lit a fire in the hearth, and the five of them settled comfortably into Slughorn's squashy leather armchairs, sipping cautiously from their crystal tumblers.
"It's -- hot," Peter complained, making a face.
"Course it is," Sirius rolled his eyes. "It's firewhiskey."
"Firewhiskey's cheap," Gideon informed them, always ready to educate his young charges. "It's not posh, but it'll get you pissed faster'n just about anything else. And I like it," he added, demonstrating by polishing off his own glass in a single swallow and pouring himself another measure.
"My brother, the sot," said Fabian fondly, holding out his own glass for a refill.
James and Sirius had chosen a fancy bottle of something called Gryffin's Gold. Sirius liked the way it sang and sparkled on his tongue, and made his head feel very far away from his knees. He wiggled his toes, and was rather surprised to find that they responded without any kind of time delay.
"Good, innit?" said James, leaning over to clink his glass against Sirius's.
"Yeah," Sirius grinned, taking a tiny sip. It tasted of honey and spices, and if this was all he was getting, he wanted to make it last. "Wonder what Lupin would've picked?"
James snorted. "Tea. With biscuits, if he was feeling adventurous."
They giggled immoderately over James's wit for a moment.
"Tea. Books. Studying," said Sirius, shaking his head in disgust and savouring another sip. "How's a bloke that boring get Sorted into Gryffindor, anyway? Pete's more adventurous than he is."
"Oi!" cried Peter, ears pricking at the scathing inflection of his name. "M'not boring!"
"Didn't say you were, mate," James assured him. "Sirius was just saying Lupin is."
Peter nodded slowly for a very long time, then seemed to realise he was doing it, and stopped. "Nice, though, isn't he?"
"'Nice' is just another way of saying 'boring'," scoffed Sirius. "If he ever does anything interesting, I may die of shock."
"Forgot you three had another roommate," said Gideon, breaking off from whatever he had been discussing with his brother. "I've barely seen him, except for meals."
"Lupin, right?" said Fabian. "Heard Tynedale mention him once."
James rolled his eyes. "She would. Swotty teacher's pet. He's just as boring as she is. They might as well get married."
"Good at Defence, though, isn't he?" asked Fabian.
The boys shrugged. "Suppose so," said Sirius.
"Good for him." Gideon raised his third glass. "Do any of you know 'Helga and the Blacksmith'?"
"Eh?" Peter vocalised their confusion at this sudden change of topic.
"Gideon and I were just trying to remember the words," Fabian explained, "and we don't recall whether the verse about the yellow knickers comes before or after the verse about the cask of mead."
"The yellow knickers are in the chorus," Gideon insisted, and sang:
"He followed her from east to west,
To win the heart within her breast,
The Muggle smith who loved her best,
Helga of the yellow knickers."
The three first years giggled.
"Is that about Helga Hufflepuff?" asked James.
"Sure is," said Fabian with a wink. "And every word of it true."
The Prewetts took turns regaling the younger boys with as many verses as they could recall -- a dozen at least -- each one bawdier than the last, about Helga Hufflepuff and the Muggle blacksmith who became her husband.
"Who knew a bird like that founded Hogwarts' most boring House?" giggled Sirius after they all joined in for a rousing final chorus.
Gideon grinned. "What makes you think Hufflepuffs are boring, Black? They just know a thing or two about not getting caught. There was this one time me and Fabian and Amelia Bones --"
Fabian cleared his throat loudly, interrupting his brother.
"What?" Gideon scowled.
"They're eleven," said Fabian, giving him a warning look. "They can find out about Hufflepuff girls on their own someday."
"I'm just trying to make a point," huffed Gideon. "Just because they think someone's boring doesn't mean --"
"Point made," said Fabian. "And now maybe it's time we were all getting back to our beds."
Reluctantly and a trifle unsteadily, the boys got to their feet. Sirius tipped his head back and drained the last few honey-sweet drops of Gryffin's Gold from his glass and handed it to Fabian, who quickly charmed it clean and replaced it on the shelf with the others.
They stumbled through the corridors, giggling and shushing one another all the way back to Gryffindor Tower. Sirius was very glad they didn't encounter Pringle or Peeves on the way. He didn't think he was drunk, but McGonagall might not agree, and he didn't want to think about what she might come up with for their second detention in the space of a week.
James trod on Sirius's robes as they climbed through the portrait hole, and the two of them went down, taking Peter with them, and ended in a helplessly fizzing heap on the common room floor.
"Up you get, lads," said Fabian, dragging Sirius awkwardly to his feet, clearly no better off than the rest of them. "And off to your beds. Drink water; your heads will thank you in the morning."
The Prewetts saw them as far as the door to their room, and bid them good night.
James turned to Sirius with a bow. "May I have this dance?"
"Such a gentleman!" Sirius swooned into his arms.
They waltzed into the darkened room, humming the tune to "Helga and the Blacksmith", with Peter dancing alongside them, clapping and giggling.
There was an irritable "Lumos," and Lupin's sleep-scrunched face was peering at them from between his bed curtains.
"Oh. You're back," he said. "Lose anymore House points?"
"Lupin!" cried Sirius joyously, performing a little pirouette. "We were just talking about you!"
"You're pissed," Lupin accused as Peter took Sirius's place in the waltz.
"Only a little," said Sirius, wrenching the bed curtain out of Lupin's hand and flinging it wide. "Only a very, very little bit. Aren't you going to ask us how it was?"
"How was it?" Lupin obliged, keeping a wary eye on Sirius's fancy footwork.
"It was brilliant! Old Sluggy's got taste and style to spare!" Sirius declared, bouncing onto the other boy's bed. "Come dance with me, Lupin!" Without warning, he pounced.
The second his hand closed around Lupin's arm, a soundless explosion jolted through him. He was thrown backwards, only prevented from falling off the bed when one of the bedposts caught him sharply in the back.
He stared across the expanse of the bed into Lupin's wide eyes, heart pounding, the golden fizz gone from his blood and his brain.
"What in the name of Slytherin's pants --?" he gasped.
James and Peter had stopped dancing and were staring as well. "Did you just do accidental magic?" asked James incredulously.
"Sorry," Lupin mumbled, dropping his eyes. "I just -- don't like people touching me."
"Y'don't say," murmured Sirius, staggering off the bed and rubbing a bruised spot at the base of his spine.
Lupin, blushing furiously, yanked his bed curtains closed and vanished behind them. The other three got ready for bed in silence.
It took Sirius a while to fall asleep. Quiet, mild, studious, boring Lupin had panicked and lost control of his magic when touched. And why would he do that? wondered Sirius. He could not imagine what would make someone act in such a peculiar fashion. Lupin, he decided, would bear watching.
Lupin had already gone down to breakfast the following morning by the time his three roommates woke up. Sirius suspected that he was avoiding them after the previous night's incident. That was what Lupin did -- avoid people.
Sirius hurried on his clothes and headed down to the Great Hall without waiting for James and Peter. When he got there, Lupin was sitting with Evans. Sirius took a seat several places down from them on the opposite side of the table in order to watch the other boy covertly.
He was amazed by the sheer amount of food Lupin put away. Did he always eat so much? If he did, surely Sirius would have noticed, or James or Peter would have said something. How could he eat so much and yet be so thin? He ate as if he were starving, without even appearing to notice what he was eating.
Sirius did much the same, automatically shovelling in eggs, bacon and toast, barely noticing that everything was excellent and done to perfection.
When Lupin looked up once and caught Sirius watching him, he held his gaze, his face a bland mask, until Sirius blushed and dropped his eyes back to his plate. He didn't look again until Lupin and Evans rose, plates vanishing, and headed out of the Great Hall. By then, James and Peter had arrived with a bleary-looking Gideon and Fabian, and Sirius decided against following his quarry.
He caught up with Lupin again in Defence Against the Dark Arts. It became clear to Sirius early in the lesson that Lupin was having a bad day. He fumbled the protection spell they had been practising since last week, and looked blankly at Professor Tynedale when she addressed him with a question even Peter could have answered.
"Are you OK?" Sirius heard Evans whisper when Tynedale turned away looking disappointed. He noted that when Evans put her hand on Lupin's arm, she didn't get blasted with accidental magic.
"Fine," Lupin muttered shortly, not looking at her.
Sirius wondered if Lupin's agitation had anything to do with the previous night's loss of control. Sometimes, as with their flying lessons, when Lupin's confidence took a hit, it was difficult for him to regain his composure. Defence Against the Dark Arts was, so far as Sirius knew, Lupin's best subject. For him to be performing so poorly, clearly something had to be bothering him.
In Charms, their second class of the morning, Lupin fared no better. They were meant to be charming a teapot to whistle the Hogwarts school song, and while Sirius managed to get his to do at least the first few notes -- over and over again, ad nauseum -- the only sound Lupin's made was a sad little whimper before cracking itself in half and spilling tea everywhere. Lupin just stood there, staring at it, tea dripping onto his trainers, while Evans charmed away the mess and repaired the teapot before Flitwick could notice.
Lupin was one of the first students into the Great Hall for lunch, and again he ate like he hadn't seen a proper meal in weeks. Sirius began to wonder if he had been hexed, but the odd symptoms didn't match any hex he knew. All he could do was apply to his friends.
"Have you noticed Lupin acting -- funny today?" he whispered to James and Peter under the clatter of plates and cutlery.
Both boys glanced at their studious roommate with mild curiosity, then shook their heads.
"Hadn't noticed," said James, returning his attention to his own lunch.
Peter just shrugged.
Sirius found their lack of interest more than a little maddening. Why was he the only one who could see how strange and mysterious Lupin's behaviour was?
After lunch, Sirius knew, Lupin and Evans usually went to the library until the start of their afternoon class, and there was no way he could follow them there without arousing suspicions. It was well known that Sirius Black had little use for that cloister of silence, dust and study. He widely claimed to be allergic to books.
But to his surprise, when he "just happened" to follow Lupin and Evans out of the Great Hall, instead of going up the main staircase, they turned left and headed out the castle doors into the school grounds.
The day was cold -- it was December now -- and while the other two were both wearing their winter cloaks, Sirius was not, and he hesitated a moment over whether or not to follow them.
He decided against it. If any two first year students were less likely to be doing anything questionable, Sirius couldn't name them, and it was clear from Evans' concern in Defence class that she had no more idea what was wrong with Lupin than Sirius did.
James and Peter caught him loitering around the entrance hall.
"What're you up to, Black?" asked James.
Sirius shrugged. "Nothing. Just saw Lupin and Evans go outside, and wondered why."
James gave him an odd look. "You OK, mate?"
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"Well, for one thing, you've been following Lupin around like a lost puppy all day --"
"I'm investigating," Sirius informed him with asperity.
James looked dubious. "Is this about last night when he zapped you?"
"Yeah," said Sirius, surprised that he should ask. "Didn't you think that was weird?"
"A bit odd," James allowed. "But it happens sometimes. You've never lost control of your magic?"
"Not since I got here," Sirius said. "And neither have you, that I know of, nor Pete."
He looked to the blond boy for confirmation, and Peter nodded. "Nothing since last summer."
"So, it's weird," Sirius insisted. "He's weird. And I want to know why."
James shook his head, baffled. "Suit yourself, mate. C'mon, Pete; we've just got time for a game of Exploding Snap before History of Magic."
Sirius watched them go, then positioned himself on the first landing of the main staircase so that he could be "just passing through" the entrance hall on his way to their next class when Lupin and Evans returned.
When the doors opened, he hurried down the stairs and fell into step beside them, before realising he should have prepared a conversation opener.
"Nice day for a walk," he said lamely.
"Hmm?" Lupin glanced at him, distracted. "Oh. Yeah."
"Headed for History of Magic?" he asked, wanting to hit himself. Where else would they be going?
"Yeah." Lupin didn't seem to notice anything unusual in Sirius's demeanor, though Evans gave him an odd look.
"Me, too," said Sirius, feeling like a first rate dunce.
When they reached the classroom, he only just stopped himself from saying, "Well, here we are." Before he could make anymore moronically obvious statements, he hurried to his seat and took out quill and parchment. He gave himself a count of ten, then glanced over at Lupin and Evans. Both had quill and parchment on the desk before them, but Lupin was staring straight ahead, eyes unfocused. Not an unknown expression in this classroom, but most students didn't get that glazed look until Professor Binns started talking.
Sirius's eyes strayed to Lupin frequently during the hour-long lecture. Lupin wasn't taking notes. Sirius wasn't taking notes either, but that wasn't unusual, especially in this class. Lupin always took notes. Sirius frequently stole them. Halfway through the class, Sirius caught Evans casting a worried look at Lupin, coppery eyebrows drawn together. She, at least, was behaving as usual, scrawling down notes as Binns droned monotonously on, as if long-dead goblins were the most fascinating thing in the world.
When the bell rang, Sirius hung back, allowing Lupin and Evans to exit the classroom ahead of him. James and Peter waited with him, James shaking his head in apparent disgust, but prepared to humour his friend.
Halfway down the corridor, they met the first year Slytherins. It had been over a month since Sirius had been troubled by these encounters, instead shooting insults and sneers back with careless ease at the House he had formerly coveted.
But today, he paused. Snape had detained Evans, and Lupin stopped to wait for her.
"You didn't come to the library after lunch," said Snape.
"We went for a walk," Lupin told him.
Snape turned narrowed eyes on the pale boy. "I wasn't talking to you, Lupin," he spat.
Sirius's jaw clenched. The sallow Slytherin's tone set his teeth on edge.
"Sev." Evans's voice held a note of warning. "We just went for a walk. Remus didn't feel like studying, and I --"
"You just thought you'd blow me off, is that it?" said Snape coldly.
Evans scowled at him. "It's not like that, and you know it, Sev. We don't have to meet up every single day."
Snape's eyes were still locked on Lupin. Sirius saw his hand twitch towards his wand, and surreptitiously drew his own. Then Snape seemed to realise that he was surrounded by Gryffindors. His own classmates had not waited for him.
"Fine," he said. "From now on I'll consult you about your daily calendar, and see if you can pencil me in. Once a month, do you think?"
"Sev --" Evans's voice had turned pleading.
Snape pushed past her and stalked off, throwing, "I'll owl you my schedule," over his shoulder.
"What a whiney prat," muttered James as they headed back to Gryffindor tower for the afternoon. "You'd think he owned her."
"Typical Slytherin," smirked Sirius, and they both chuckled at the irony of the heir to House Black saying such a thing.
Sirius spent the afternoon on his bed, pretending to study, while Lupin appeared to do much the same. Lupin's eyes were glued to his Charms textbook, but he never once turned the page, nor jotted down notes, nor attempted the Whistling Charm again. His eyes did not move, and had the same glazed look they had worn in History of Magic.
At last, Lupin sighed and closed his textbook, then, with a surreptitious glance at Sirius, headed down to supper. It was a little early, and Sirius wondered if Lupin would repeat his performance from breakfast and lunch. He waited five minutes, then followed. James and Peter were playing Gobstones with the Prewetts in the common room.
"I'm famished," he told them. "See you lot down at supper."
James raised his eyebrows. "Already gone down, has he?"
"Who?" asked Fabian.
"Lupin," said James. "Sirius is investigating him to find out if he's really as boring as he seems."
"Fair enough," replied Fabian, positioning one of his gobstones for his next shot.
Sirius went through the portrait hole and headed down the long staircase. He would just have to catch up to Lupin in the Great Hall.
But Lupin wasn't in the Great Hall. In fact, Sirius was the first to arrive for the meal. He peered around a few corners, and even out the huge double doors of the castle, but all he saw was Hagrid, the gamekeeper, heading up to the castle for his supper in the gathering darkness. Lupin was nowhere to be found.
When James and Peter arrived with the Prewetts ten minutes later, hair sticking up in places, stiff with gobstone juice, Lupin wasn't with them. Evans, a few minutes behind them, arrived alone. Sirius spent the entire meal craning his neck, expecting his roommate to show up at any minute and fall on the roast pork like a ravening wolf, but he never did.
Sirius began to worry that something had happened to him. Something like Snape.
"Have you seen Lupin?" he asked James and Peter.
"Not since this afternoon," James replied.
"I saw him go out of the common room just before you came down," Peter offered.
But that much Sirius already knew.
"Oi, Evans," he called down the table.
The redhead looked over at him curiously.
"Have you seen Lupin?"
She shook her head and turned back to her conversation with Dorcas Meadowes. She didn't seem worried about him, at least.
After supper, Sirius dragged James and Peter off to check the library, and, just in case, the hospital wing. Lupin was nowhere to be found. Nor did he reappear in the common room or their dormitory that night.
"He's gone and buggered off again," said Sirius disbelievingly.
James glanced up from the Daily Prophet's Quidditch results towards Lupin's empty bed. "Looks like."
"Maybe Snape hexed him," suggested Peter, giving voice to Sirius's largest concern.
"Nah," said James, not looking up. "If there's one thing Lupin can do, it's defend himself."
"Wouldn't put it past Snape to hex him in the back," said Sirius darkly.
James flashed him a sardonic smile. "If you want to go pound on the Slytherin common room door and demand that Snape come out so you can beat a confession out of him, be my guest. Maybe I'll even come along and watch."
"You could go to McGonagall and report him missing," said Peter practically.
"Nah," said Sirius, flopping restlessly back onto his pillows. "He's always come back before."
"See?" James said, deftly transfiguring Sirius's pillow into a rock. "If he's not back by tomorrow night, we'll call out the cavalry."
Sirius scowled at him, rubbing a sore spot on the back of his head. He hefted the rock in both hands. "I am going to chuck this at you in about five seconds," he informed his friend, "so you'd better change it back."
Sirius had half expected Lupin to show up for their midnight Astronomy class that night, but he didn't. Instead, Sirius left James and Peter to work together while he partnered with Evans, much to her consternation.
"Any idea where Lupin is?" he asked quietly as they took turns gazing at the face of the full moon through her telescope. The brass knobs were slippery and difficult to adjust with chilled, gloved fingers.
She looked at him curiously. "He went to see his mum," she said, breath clouding in the cold night air. "Didn't he tell you?"
"His mum?" Sirius asked, surprised. "Why?"
"Because she's ill," Evans said slowly, as if Sirius were a bit of a simpleton. "Surely he's told you that."
"No," Sirius said grumpily. Not that I've ever asked.
Lupin was missing from Herbology, Charms and Transfiguration the next day, but Sirius had stopped wondering at his absence once Evans had offered such a mundane explanation for it. His mother's illness probably also explained his occasional preoccupation and lack of focus in class. Sirius wondered if perhaps she was dying. If she was getting worse, that might be the reason why Lupin sometimes disappeared midweek, rather than waiting for weekends to go home. It was a shame for Lupin if she was dying, but still was not terribly interesting.
By mid-afternoon, his quiet roommate had completely vanished from Sirius's thoughts, his attention now entirely focussed on an argument with James concerning which of them was the better flyer. The three of them had dropped their books and quills back in the room after Transfiguration, and headed down into the grounds to swipe a couple of school brooms from the broom shed.
Sirius privately thought he had managed to lay hands on a better broom than James, but still he complained loudly about its quality, so that if Peter, who was to act as judge, decided against him, he could later blame his poor performance on inferior equipment. James, however, had outflown him easily, ending in a swishy loop and sideways skid that had knocked Sirius from his seat.
"You owe me a Galleon, Black!" James crowed as he flew his borrowed broom back to the shed.
Sirius had returned to their room alone and in something of a foul temper just before supper. He rummaged through his trunk until his fist closed around the glinting gold of a coin. Shoving it into the pocket of his robes, he noticed mud and grass clinging to his sleeve.
Wanting to tidy himself up a bit before supper, he barged into the bathroom, one hand tugging at his hair, wondering if it was in as much of a state as he suspected it was. Then Sirius froze, one hand still on the doorknob.
Lupin was stepping out of the shower, slim hips swathed in a large, maroon towel.
"D'you mind?" he asked, a touch sharply.
"Sorry," Sirius mumbled, quickly stepping back and closing the door between them.
He stood there for a moment, and then went to sit on his bed, mind whirling at what he had just seen. Lupin's arms, legs and chest were covered -- covered -- in a fine crosshatching of livid white and pink scars, with here at there the pucker of a deeper puncture. It had not even occurred to Sirius until now that, unlike the rest of them, Lupin always changed in the bathroom, or with his curtains closed. Sirius couldn't imagine -- did not know what to think. No bloody wonder if he didn't like to be touched!
It was ten minutes before Lupin, now dressed, exited the bathroom. He went to his bed, not meeting Sirius's eyes.
"What happened?" Sirius asked softly.
Lupin shot him a glance, and quickly looked away again. His face was a closed book. "I'd say that's none of your business, Black."
"Is some Slytherin giving you trouble?" pressed Sirius, thinking again of Snape. "Because if they are --"
"It's nothing." There was a sharp edge to Lupin's voice, warning Sirius that the subject was closed.
"Remus --" It was the first time he had used Lupin's given name. It felt strange on his tongue.
"What?" Lupin snapped, eyes flashing.
"I just -- d'you want to borrow my Astronomy notes?" Sirius blurted out.
"Oh," Lupin blinked. "Yeah. Thanks."
"It's a shame you missed it." Sirius attempted to disperse the tension in the air with a smile. "The moon was gorgeous last night."
Lupin stiffened slightly and turned away. "Yeah," he mumbled. "That would've been cool."