Something was definitely off about Professor Tynedale the following Monday morning. She looked exhausted, and several times during class, she drifted off mid-sentence with a dreamy smile playing on her lips.
"See that?" James whispered the third time it happened, nudging Sirius in the ribs. "She's in love. Count on it."
Sirius only rolled his eyes and jotted down the half-sentence the Defence mistress had just abandoned in his notes.
The Prewetts had failed to turn up any new information during the Quidditch match regarding the professor and Madam Pomfrey. They had been foiled in the hospital wing by Dorian Gaveston, a second year Gryffindor, who was being melodramatically ill and generally annoying the matron until she snapped at the Prewetts that if they weren't dying they could jolly well come back later. Tynedale's quarters, of course, were more than adequately defended, and when they had attempted to release the locking charms, they had been zapped by that Mugglish substance, electricity, and continued to emit small sparks whenever they touched anything metal for the remainder of the day.
Sirius could not have cared less about their professor's odd behaviour; Remus was also acting off. He had spent most of the class period staring out the window, but with none of Tynedale's secretive smiles. A quill dangled limply from his fingers, and the parchment before him was as blank as when he had laid it there. Evans, seated beside him, touched his arm frequently, but appeared to be taking extra care over her notes. Sirius bit his lip and turned back to his own. Remus would want to borrow them later.
He's going again, he realised. Sirius had finally made the connection between his friend's preoccupation and his trips home. But what could he do? Tell him not to go? Forcibly restrain him? He scowled at his own uselessness and scratched down another sentence fragment. The least he could do was take decent notes for Remus to copy when he got back.
Remus was equally inattentive in Charms and Transfiguration, and Sirius caught Flitwick and McGonagall casting concerned looks at the usually adept boy as each spell he tried went wrong.
At least I'm not the only one who knows something's up, thought Sirius. Maybe they can do something.
After Transfiguration, McGonagall called Sirius to her desk as the rest of the class melted away, and gave him his detention assignment: changing back all the transfigured objects that his classmates had got wrong that day.
He weighed the carved bone beetle that Remus had not quite managed to change into a button on his palm and wondered if his roommate would be gone by the time Sirius got back to Gryffindor tower. When McGonagall wasn't looking, Sirius pocketed the transfigured beetle.
At last, McGonagall gave him the nod to depart. Sirius grabbed his book bag and sprinted up the stairs towards Gryffindor tower. Halfway there, he nearly collided with Remus, coming down, and drew up short, gasping for breath.
"You headed down to supper?" Sirius attempted a casual tone -- no mean feat in his winded state.
"No. I -- have to go home." Remus's eye were wary.
"Again?" Sirius noted the other boy's empty hands. "Aren't you taking anything with you?"
Remus shrugged and dropped his gaze. "Got everything I need there."
The silence grew between them. Sirius desperately wanted to say something useful, but he had no idea what. Remus was fidgeting, as if he wanted to be off.
"Can I come with you?" Sirius blurted out. Surely if there was a witness, no one would dare --
Remus blinked. "Why would you want to come home with me?"
"No reason," Sirius fumbled. "I just thought it would be -- fun."
"Well, you can't," Remus said slowly, as if reasoning with a child. "You'd need McGonagall's permission, and you'd miss class."
"Yeah. I guess so."
"I have to go. I'm late." Remus moved to step past him.
Sirius touched his arm as he passed. "See you tomorrow," he said quietly.
"Yeah," said Remus, not meeting his eyes. "See you."
It really wasn't his fault, Sirius told himself. It was Professor Beery's fault for making the bubotubers sound so boring that they couldn't possibly be dangerous. Or it might have been James's fault for distracting him with a joke while the Herbology master was explaining why they should puncture and drain the plant's sap-filled blisters, rather than squeezing them sharply. Maybe it was even Remus's fault for not being there to tell him what the professor had said. Whoever's fault it had been, it was Sirius who became the undeserving victim of a stream of bubotuber pus directly to the eyes halfway through double Herbology with Hufflepuff the next morning.
Elderly Professor Beery, clucking in shock at such language from a first year student, took him firmly by the elbow and guided him to a stool as his eyes stung and watered and swelled shut.
"Open your eyes, lad. Let's see how bad it is."
"It's bad," said Sirius between clenched teeth, forcing his eyes open a crack and immediately closing them again when that only made matters worse.
"What's wanted is a soothing ointment for the eyes," said Beery. "Unfortunately I haven't a ready supply. Mr Potter, will you please escort Mr Black to the hospital wing? Madam Pomfrey will know what to do. And mind you come directly back, after."
Sirius stumbled out of the greenhouse and up to the castle, clutching the sleeve of James's robes. His friend's witticisms at his expense did not improve his mood. There was a brief scuffle in which Sirius made a lucky grab for James's glasses.
"Now it's the blind leading the blind," he said testily, "unless you're ready to shut your gob."
The pain in his eyes was making his whole head throb, but in spite of it, he couldn't help worrying that, with himself and James gone from Herbology class, Remus would have to rely on Peter and Evans's notes.
When they reached the hospital wing, he let James explain to the matron what had happened. She sat Sirius down and shooed his friend back to class.
"See you at lunch, I guess," James called over his shoulder, and Madam Pomfrey shushed him.
She clucked over Sirius like a mother hen, speaking in a low voice, but at last offered him a blissfully cool cloth soaked with some sort of ointment to press against his burning eyes. With a sigh of relief, he slumped back in the chair.
"Now, just hold that in place until the sting has gone completely, Mr Black," she admonished him. "It may take twenty or thirty minutes. I'll be back to check on you before lunch."
Within moments of her retreating footsteps, Sirius was bored. There was something especially irritating about being forced to sit still and wait in total darkness with nothing to do. Everything seemed bloody annoying and inconvenient. His hair tickled his face, and he shoved it back irritably, but it only fell forwards again. He reached into the pocket of his robes for his wand and took careful aim.
He had experimented with the hair-tying charm the day before, with the benefit of a mirror, and had found the effect not at all bad. He thought he looked rather sharp with his hair pulled back from his face. Perhaps he should consider adopting the style for his own. He had no intention of cutting his hair at any point in the near future, since it would annoy his parents, and the only alternative was to have it getting in his way all the time.
When he returned the wand to his pocket, his hand brushed the beetle-button Remus had made the previous day in Transfiguration. He rubbed the shiny surface and rough edges between his fingers, feeling the striations that had been the beetle's legs and antennae. Remus would be missing Transfiguration that afternoon, which was a shame since he frequently lacked the confidence to perform the difficult magic reliably. Sirius hoped he would be able to make it to the class, although James's notes were usually the best in that subject.
The burning sensation had mostly faded, and Sirius dared to peel the cloth from one eye for an experimental peek. His vision was slightly blurry, and as soon as his eye was exposed to the air, it began to water profusely, but at least he could see. The infirmary was silent and empty. Madam Pomfrey was probably in her office.
Sirius rose from the chair and looked around, knowing that his friends would never let him hear the end of it if he wasted an opportunity to investigate their current favourite mystery. If the Defence mistress and the matron were lovers, he frankly didn't care, but the others did, and they would expect him to do some snooping while he had the chance. Not that there would be many clues in the large, sterile cavern of the infirmary; any real evidence would probably be hidden away behind the closed door of the matron's office. Still, he had to try.
There wasn't much to look at in the infirmary, he quickly discovered. Two fireplaces, one at either end of the large room, provided warmth for twelve identical beds in two rows, each with its own bedside cabinet, lamp and visitor's chair. At least, Sirius assumed there were twelve beds. He could only see eleven, but there was a curtained-off area which likely served to provide privacy to Madam Pomfrey's only current patient besides himself.
Curious -- and never having had much regard for anyone's privacy but his own -- Sirius crept quietly across the room and twitched the curtains apart an inch to see who it was.
It was Remus.
Sirius blinked. His eyes were playing tricks on him. He hadn't kept the ointment on them long enough. Because Remus was at home. He had told Sirius he was going home. He wouldn't have lied about it. Not Remus.
But plainly he had. Sirius's vision was still fuzzy, but there could be no mistake. His quiet roommate lay asleep, curled on his side, blankets pulled tight around his shoulders. There were dark circles under his eyes and a smear of what looked like blood on his earlobe. Sirius suppressed an impulse to shake his friend awake and demand an explanation. Remus looked exhausted, and possibly hurt as well. But if he wasn't going home --
He jumped and spun around, jerking the curtains closed behind him as James reappeared. Sirius went to meet his friend, moving away from the curtained bed and the mystery that lay there.
"I sent Pete up to the room to drop off our things before lunch." James peered at him critically. "Your eyes are really red, mate."
"Shhh," Sirius hissed, drawing James over the the chair he was supposed to be sitting in and pressing the cloth over his eyes once more.
"What's up?" James whispered eagerly. "Is it to do with Pomfrey and --"
Sirius shook his head. Not now.
Madam Pomfrey spared him anymore questions by choosing that moment to emerge from her office.
"Ah, Mr Potter. You're just in time to see Mr Black down to lunch. That is, if you're feeling better, young man?"
"Yeah," Sirius said, removing the cloth from his eyes. "It -- ah -- doesn't hurt anymore. Can I go?"
She took his chin in her calloused fingers and turned his head towards the light, squinting into his eyes.
"The inflammation hasn't gone down as much as I had hoped," she informed him. "Take the cloth with you, and continue to apply it to your eyes whenever possible for the rest of the afternoon. And don't try to take any notes; you'll only give yourself a headache. I'll write you an excuse for your afternoon class. You'll still attend, but you'll be excused from participation."
As soon as they were out of the infirmary, James rounded on him.
"So?" he demanded. "What was all that shushing about?"
Sirius glanced nervously over his shoulder, but they were quite alone on the stairs. "He's not going home."
"Who?" James looked confused.
"Remus," Sirius hissed. "I saw him sleeping in the hospital wing. He looked bad."
"But -- " said James, "-- if he's not going home --"
"Then it can't be his parents, can it?" Sirius reasoned.
James frowned. "And if he's in the hospital wing, then, whatever it is, Madam Pomfrey knows about it."
"Yeah." Sirius felt a surge of anger towards the matron. She knows, and she hasn't done a thing about it. I hope Tynedale breaks her heart and stomps on the pieces.
"So who's doing it to him?" James wondered.
"I'll bet it's Snape," said Sirius between clenched teeth. "You saw what an evil bastard he was to Remus the other day. I wouldn't put it past him to --"
James laid a warning hand on his arm. Sirius looked up to see Lily Evans coming up the steps towards them.
"Not going to lunch, Evans?" James asked. "Think of all the extra study time you'd have if you didn't need to eat!"
Evans paused, looking disconcerted, as if they'd caught her doing something forbidden. "I was just -- er -- going up to my room to get something. Did you -- did you see Madam Pomfrey about your eyes, then, Black?"
"Yeah," he told her. "They're fine now."
"Oh. Well, that's good. I suppose."
"Right," said Sirius. "But you know what would be better?"
"What?" she asked warily.
"If you would tell your tosser friend Snape to leave Remus the hell alone."
Evans went bright red, her eyes glinting dangerously. "Why don't you just leave my friends alone, Black?" she hissed. "Sev said you tried to hex him the other day."
"Yeah, only after he hexed Remus in the back!" Sirius shouted.
"I don't believe that for a second!" she sneered. "Remus would've said something to me."
James tugged at his sleeve. "C'mon, mate. Fighting with girls isn't worth it. They don't do it properly."
Reluctantly, Sirius allowed himself to be dragged away, but before they rounded a bend in the stairs, he called back over his shoulder, "I'd keep an eye on my 'friend' if I were you, Evans."
"Snape can't have done it," James insisted, once they were out of earshot.
Sirius was incensed. "He bloody well did, and you know it, Potter! You saw him hex Remus in the back, same as I did!"
"Not that," James said impatiently. "Of course I know he did that. But the rest of it -- Lupin disappearing and the scars and all that -- it can't be him."
"Same reason we decided it couldn't be him before," said James. "Lupin had plenty of scars before he ever set foot in Hogwarts. And anyway, why would Lupin let Snape treat him like that when you and I both know he can defend himself?"
"He didn't do much defending the other day after the Quidditch," Sirius muttered belligerently. "What's your brilliant theory, Potter?"
James shrugged, dropping his voice as they came to the entrance hall. "Haven't got one, mate. I say we just wait and watch and use our enormous brains to work it out, like the Prewetts do."
"All right," Sirius relented. "But we don't tell them. Or Pete."
He wasn't sure why he felt that Remus's secret, whatever it was, needed to be kept from their other friends, but he did. This mystery belonged to himself and James. They would solve it together, and then they would stop whatever was happening to Remus.
"Fine," James said. "I wasn't planning on blabbing."
The presence of their friends and fellow Gryffindors over lunch brought about a temporary halt to the conversation. They whispered some more about it in Transfiguration that afternoon until McGonagall became fed up, docking them five more House points.
"You are already serving detention with me for the rest of the week, Mr Black," she said. "Don't make matters worse for yourself."
Sirius fidgeted all through his detention, during which he accomplished very little due to the combined effects of distraction, blurry vision, and a residual sting in his eyes. It felt like hours before McGonagall let him go.
He took the long way back to Gryffindor tower, past the hospital wing, but when he peeked in through the double doors, the curtains had been pulled back, and the twelfth bed was empty.
Steeling himself to pretend that nothing had changed, Sirius turned down the corridor and went to meet his friends.
The mystery of Remus Lupin continued to plague Sirius as March dawned, bright and windy, and light began to return to the northern reaches of the Scottish Highlands. Try as he might, Sirius could come up with no rational explanation for Remus's behaviour.
When he had returned from detention after seeing Remus in the hospital wing, the other boy had been in bed already, ostensibly asleep. The following morning, still tired but more or less his usual self, he had asked about Sirius's bloodshot eyes.
"Got stinging sap in them in Herbology," Sirius had said, affecting a casual tone. "Had to go to the hospital wing."
"Oh." Remus's face had gone carefully blank. "Sorry to hear it."
"How's your mum?" asked Sirius.
Remus had shrugged. "Same as ever."
Ever since he realised that Remus had lied to him, Sirius had felt a strain on their new friendship. He wondered if Remus could sense it, too. They didn't talk much for the rest of the week, though Sirius handed over his notes, such as they were, unasked. He couldn't let the matter drop, but he knew that confronting Remus would only get him more lies.
On Saturday over breakfast, the Prewetts shared the results of their latest intelligence gathering. "Pomfrey's meeting with Dumbledore this afternoon," Gideon whispered, eyes shining with excitement.
Fabian nodded. "We overheard her telling Flitwick yesterday. We'll finally be able to have a poke around her office."
"That is, if you've all got new defence spells to show us," Gideon amended.
Sirius glanced surreptitiously down the Gryffindor table to where Remus was sitting with Evans, and wondered what the secretive boy would think of them snooping through the matron's inner sanctum.
After breakfast, they sneaked into an empty classroom where Sirius demonstrated his mastery of the Jelly-Legs jinx and its counter, and James presented a charm for rapid hair growth, which could quickly obscure an enemy's vision. Peter tried to pass off a shield charm that they had learned in October, and when the others called him out on it, he claimed, pouting, not to remember knowing it before.
It was a wet day with little else to do, and the boys returned to their dormitory to play Exploding Snap and await the Prewetts' "all clear" to go ahead with the plan. Remus, claiming he couldn't concentrate with all the noise they were making, disappeared to the library to finish copying down notes and catching up on assignments from the classes he had missed that week.
When he had gone, James nudged Peter. "Don't tell Lupin what we're up to today."
"Why not?" Peter asked petulantly. He hated to be left out of any chance to find out more about Pomfrey and Tynedale's putative romance.
James and Sirius exchanged a look. They had known better than to mention the day's objectives in Remus's hearing, but they had not discussed the coverup, so far as it concerned Peter.
Sirius shrugged and offered the shorter boy an easy grin. "You know how he and Tynedale are," he said. "Practically joined at the hip."
"Yeah," James agreed, playing along. "He said he didn't like how we were prying into her personal life. I don't think he'll ask, but if he does, don't mention that we've gone to the hospital wing. All right, mate?"
"We're counting on you," Sirius added solemnly.
Peter perked up at that. "I won't let you down," he promised.
When Gideon came for them after lunch, Peter hardly whined at all about being left behind.
"Don't try to follow us," Sirius warned.
"We'll tell you everything when we get back," promised James.
"Did you see McGonagall posted the signup sheet for Easter stay-overs?" Gideon asked as they hurried down the winding tower steps and out of the portrait hole.
"No," said James. "Are you two staying this time?"
Gideon shook his head. "Nah. It's Molly and Arthur's anniversary over the break, and we promised to take wee Billy up to Mum and Dad's place for a couple of days."
"Why?" Sirius asked. "Don't they like their kid?"
That made Gideon laugh. "Sure they do. But sometimes, Black, when a man and a woman love each other very, very much, they like to have a little time alone together every now and then, and a noisy, bald thing that eats and soils itself every couple of hours can spoil the romantic mood. I'm sure you'll understand when you're older."
"Oh." Sirius blushed. "Right."
"What about you lads?" asked Gideon. "Are you staying again?"
"Can't," said James, making a face. "My folks are going to Italy, and they want me to come with them, since it's the first holiday Dad's had in ages."
"Italy's nice," Gideon promised. "You'll have a good time."
"I'd have a better time spending my birthday with my mates," muttered James.
Gideon ruffled his hair, grinning. "Don't worry; you'll be twelve for a whole year. I'm sure you'll find the time to celebrate."
"I guess if you're going, I am, too," Sirius said glumly. "There's no chance of Remus staying, and you know Pete will cave to his Mum this time. So it's either stay here by myself and be bored, or go home and deal with my family."
"Maybe it'll be easier to sort things out with them face to face," suggested Gideon.
Sirius scowled. "I doubt it. You haven't met my family."
They greeted Fabian at the entrance to the deserted infirmary. "C'mon," he whispered. "The office door is unlocked, but I've been waiting for you lot. We haven't got much time."
Madam Pomfrey's office was smaller and more cluttered than they had expected, when compared with the spacious sterility of the infirmary proper. Her desk was a mess of parchment and open medical tomes, stacked one on top of the other, and a bulging wooden filing cabinet as tall as the twins leaned against the desk, none of its drawers quite able to close. There was a comfortable leather chair behind the desk, and two less-comfortable wooden ones in front of it. A large bookcase stood in one corner, and a small, tidy bed in another.
"Single bed," Gideon murmured, nudging his twin. "Doesn't look like Tynedale sleeps here."
"If she keeps a diary or something, it'll probably be in her desk," said Fabian. "But why don't you and Black check the filing cabinet, just to be safe?"
Gideon rolled his eyes. "Sure. Because nothing screams 'illicit lesbian romance' like a filing cabinet."
In spite of his protests, Gideon went about his work eagerly enough. He started with the top drawer, instructing Sirius to start from the middle, so they could both work their way down without getting in one another's way. Fabian and James, meanwhile, began poking through the clutter on the desk, taking care not to rearrange anything noticeably.
Sirius was halfway through his first drawer when his fingers stopped dead on a fat blue folder neatly labeled "Lupin, Remus John, 1971-1978". Answers. All he had to do was open it and take a peek.
Gideon noticed his pause. "Find something?" he asked, peering over the edge of his own drawer.
"No," said Sirius, slamming the drawer shut and thinking quickly. "I -- I think the files are alphabetical. If there's one for Tynedale, it'll be lower down."
"Good thinking," said Gideon.
They knelt on either side of the bottom drawer as Sirius's racing mind scrabbled for a way to get his hands on Remus's file without the twins noticing. But before he could think of anything, Fabian let out a whoop of discovery.
"We've got her calendar!" he crowed triumphantly, waving it over his head.
Gideon and Sirius scrambled to their feet and peered around the exultant prefect, Sirius feigning interest as the twins eagerly pointed out the initials "H.T." neatly recorded on every Friday afternoon until the end of the school year.
"So they have a date every Friday?" asked James.
Gideon frowned. "That does seem a bit -- scheduled -- for a passionate rendezvous," he admitted.
"Maybe she has a condition that needs regular treatment," said Fabian, deflating a little as his favoured theory began to slip away.
As the twins argued about what sort of condition that could be, James nudged Sirius in the ribs and nodded at the calendar. Sirius looked at it again, and noticed what his friend had seen. Inked into the evening of the twenty-eighth day of February, with an arrow carrying it over to the twenty-ninth, were the letters "R.L."
Sirius glanced at the Prewetts. They hadn't noticed, but then, they weren't looking for those initials. Fabian was pacing up and down the small room, and Gideon was leaning against the bookcase, scowling and idling running his fingers over the spines of the medical texts for inspiration.
Together, Sirius and James turned the calendar back a page, and found their roommate's initials again, this time covering the twenty-ninth and thirtieth days of January. The same was true of four weeks before that on New Years Eve and New Years Day, but this time with a query mark.
"He went home for Christmas," Sirius whispered.
The initials appeared on the calendar approximately once a month from the beginning to the end of the school year, though never falling on the same date, nor on the same day of the week. It made no sense at all.
"Hang on a tick, Fabe." There was an odd note in Gideon's voice that caught even Sirius's notice. The older boy was still looking at the bookcase, still running his fingers over the spines, but something among the dusty tomes had clearly captured his attention.
"What's up, Gid?" Fabian strode over to peer at the books as well. After a moment, he whistled and pulled one off the shelf, leafing through it.
"What?" said James, catching their excitement.
Gideon looked up, eyes bright. "Werewolves."
"What about them?" asked Sirius, Pomfrey's calendar momentarily forgotten.
Fabian gestured at the shelves. "Pomfrey's just got about fifty books on them, that's all."
"Really? Why?" Sirius tilted his head to read the spines.
"It's obvious, isn't it?" said Gideon. "She must be treating one."
Sirius froze, eyes still locked on the cloth and leather bindings, but he was no longer seeing them.
"A werewolf? At Hogwarts?" James scoffed. "Don't be daft! Dumbledore'd never allow it, and he'd have to know if Pomfrey was keeping one."
"I dunno," Fabian said thoughtfully. "Dumbledore's as mad as pants. Who knows what he'd do? And it might not be too hard to hide something like that if you had the matron and the headmaster covering for you. It could be almost anyone, couldn't it?"
James's nose wrinkled in disgust. "If it's anyone, it's got to be that hairy seventh year from Slytherin, hasn't it? What's his name? Goyle. A werewolf would have to be a Slytherin."
"It could be Tynedale," suggested Gideon. "Though why she'd need to be checking in with Pomfrey once a week, I've no idea."
His housemates' conversation washed over Sirius, but he had lost any sense of it. Slowly, he reached out and picked up a folded sheet of parchment that lay on the shelf in front of the books. It was a Ministry of Magic pamphlet that bore the rather ridiculous title, "So Your Friend/Relative/Coworker is a Werewolf". There was a picture of the full moon on the front of it.
The full moon. Almost once a month, but never on the same day. He remembered clearly seeing its round face through his telescope the night Remus had missed Astronomy.
Sirius felt funny all over -- excited and a little bit ill. It explained everything. The moodiness. The secrecy. The absences.
He opened the pamphlet, skimming over it until his gaze was arrested. The werewolf, deprived of victims, may turn on himself in frustration, tearing at his own flesh with teeth and claws.
Sirius's stomach turned over, and he thought he might be sick. Bloody hell! The scars! He did that to himself?
Bolting from the office, Sirius tore through the infirmary and out the double doors, the pamphlet still crumpled in his fist. He barely noticed where he was going. All he knew was that he wanted to get away to somewhere quiet where he could think.
Ducking behind a tapestry, Sirius found a small window with a broken pane of glass. Eyes closed, he rested his forehead against it, gratefully gulping the fresh air. He realised he was trembling, and wondered if he was going to cry.
Get a hold of yourself! he thought, giving himself a shake. Blacks don't cry. You've just had a shock. You found out one of your mates is a werewolf, and --
He almost laughed. It was too ridiculous. Sirius thought back a lifetime ago to the blood-proud boy who had come to Hogwarts expecting to be Sorted into Slytherin. And here he was, six months later, with a half-blood werewolf for one of his best friends. Merlin! Mother and Father would have fits if they knew! He imagined throwing it in their faces, then stopped short.
He could never tell them, he realised. If his parents ever found out there was a werewolf at Hogwarts, let alone living in the same room as their son and heir, they would stop at nothing to see Remus expelled, or worse. The secret had to remain hidden.
Sirius heard echoing footsteps in the corridor and peered around the edge of the tapestry. James had come looking for him. He would have to tell him something after running out like that.
He's my best mate. I should tell him the truth.
James was so close to guessing, anyway. He had all the same clues Sirius had seen; he just hadn't put it together yet. It wouldn't be long before he figured it out. And he would understand, as Sirius did, the need for secrecy -- the need to protect their friend from people like his parents.
Sheepishly, he emerged from his hiding place. James looked startled, but leaned against the wall next to him, his face a mask of concern. "You all right, mate?"
"The Prewetts -- they think you're scared of werewolves now," James told him. "You're not, are you?"
Sirius shrugged uncomfortably. "No more than most. James -- I --" He licked his lips. His mouth had gone dry.
His friend's brow furrowed. "What's the matter?"
"The -- the werewolf," he stammered. "James, what if it's --"
"What?" James asked eagerly. "D'you think you know who it is?"
Sirius swallowed, staring at his best friend helplessly. "I think it's Remus."
James snorted. "Bollocks. It couldn't be. Not Lupin!"
"Think about it," Sirius urged. "The scars. His initials once a month on Pomfrey's calendar -- that could be the full moon. And Pete's puffskein is terrified of him. Animals always act weird around him. That has to mean something, right?"
James stared at him, incredulous. "You're serious about this, aren't you?"
"Merlin," breathed James, sagging against the stones. "We've been sharing a room with a bloody werewolf for half a year, and no one even thought to tell us? That has to be illegal!"
"What should we do?" asked Sirius. "We can't tell anyone, obviously, but --"
James looked at him as if he'd gone mad. "Of course we've got to tell someone, Black! The students have a right to know. And the parents. Mum and Dad would go mental if they knew Dumbledore put a werewolf in my room!"
Faster than thought, Sirius's wand was out, his free hand planted in the middle of his friend's chest, pinning him to the wall. "Don't you dare." His voice shook, and he felt his eyes prickle dangerously. "Don't you breathe a bloody word of it to anyone, Potter, or I swear to Gryffindor I will hex your face onto your arse, and you'll spend the rest of your life walking backwards."
"Take your wand off me, you nutter," James hissed.
"Not until you swear," Sirius said fiercely. "He's your friend. He's never done anything to you."
James scowled. "He's lied to me about what he is."
"Sure," Sirius spat. "Because you and everyone else would have been really nice about it if he'd just come out and told you the first day of school. The Hat made him a Gryffindor, too, Potter. Same as me and you."
James set his jaw, and they stared one another down for a long moment.
"All right," James said at last. "I won't say anything. Mostly because I'm not completely sure that it's him yet. We'll wait and see what happens when the next full moon comes around."
Sirius eased up on him a fraction. "The next moon is over Easter. It'll have to be the one in April."
"Fine. April. Whatever," said James. "Are you going to put that bloody wand away now, Black?"
Sirius bit his lip. "First swear to me on your honour as a Gryffindor that you won't say a word to him or anyone else about it, Potter."
"I swear," James said grudgingly, holding out his hands, palms up, as if showing that he had nothing to hide. "Until the April moon."