The Sugar Quill
Author: AriaStar  Story: Shoot the Moon  Chapter: default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Only A Game

Shoot the Moon

by AriaStar

 

Sirius Black had never liked secrets.

No, that was incorrect. He loved secrets, but even more he loved solving them. When a secret was undecipherable, that was when he didn’t like it.

This was honestly unfair. A friend wasn’t really a secret. Remus Lupin was his friend, and really Sirius liked him quite a lot. The problem was that Remus seemed to be a walking secret himself, and in his whole first year at Hogwarts, Sirius had been fascinated by the fact.

In the beginning, Sirius hadn’t understood why Remus, a shy, withdrawn boy, had been placed in his same house, Gryffindor, the house for the brave of heart. By the second week of term he had found the answer to this puzzle, though – Severus Snape, Sirius’s personal archenemy, seemed to be wondering about Remus’s shyness as well. Snape had wanted to know if Remus was a teachers’ pet. And Remus, showing that he most certainly was not, and conveniently showing the extent of his hexing knowledge at the same time, had calmly cursed Snape.

That had certainly won Sirius over.

But once Sirius – as well as his other friends, James, a friend from childhood, and Peter, befriended primarily by James – had become friends with Remus, a whole new set of mysteries presented themselves. Why, for instance, did Remus never don a T-shirt, even in the most sweltering weather? And why was he almost regularly having family tragedies?

The first question could be answered by the explanation that Remus was simply self-conscious – though that he would be self-conscious to the point that he would always wear a long shirt was almost absurd. Sirius wrote it off, though. He had enough eccentricies himself to accept that.

The second, however, bothered Sirius. A few family inconveniences were, granted, part of life, but to have them happen so often – every three or four weeks, maybe – was almost silly. There was no way Remus’s mum could be ill, miraculously get better, then become ill again, all within the space of a month.

Sirius had pondered this over the summer holiday between his first and second year at Hogwarts. By the time he returned, Sirius had resolved to figure out what was going on with Remus, not only to solve the mystery, but also to help his friend. Whether real family emergencies or something else, it was clear that Remus was hiding something that shouldn’t be hidden.

It was with this in mind that Sirius made his way to his first Defense Against the Dark Arts class of the year. There was a new professor for the subject, and the four friends were in the process of discussing teachers.

At the moment, as they went along, Sirius was holding his hair back with one hand, settling James’s glasses on his nose with the other, and quickly deciding how to best carry out an impersonation of Professor McGonagall. He spun on his heel and turned to Peter. “Mr. Pettigrew!” Yeah, that was right. Shrill commanding voice. That was McGonagall. Keep going, Sirius. “I will thank you to pay attention!”

Peter looked truly terrified, and gasped, “Sorry, Professor!” then laughed, shaking his head. “Wow, that was good! For a moment I thought you really were McGonagall!”

Sirius grinned triumphantly, letting his hair flop back down. James held a hand out for his glasses, and Sirius danced away, waving them.

“Sirius, give James his glasses. He needs to see.”

Obediently Sirius tossed the glasses back to James, who caught them deftly. Turning to the speaker of the command, Sirius commented, “Really, Lupin. I may be the one to give the professors gray hair, but you’ll do that for me, believe me. Stopping my fun every way I turn.”

A flicker of abashment crossed his friend’s face, but Remus quickly replaced the uncertainty with a wicked grin of his own. “And same here, Black. You’ll be the one to give me gray hairs too, I’m sure.”

This was a very familiar act for them. Peter would laugh at the antics of Sirius and James – well, mainly Sirius. Remus was the one to calm them down. Remus was the cautious one, the one with the almost morbid sense of humor, the one to keep Sirius in check. The odd thing was, really, if it was anyone else, Sirius would immediately feel resentful. Not so with Remus. It was somehow natural to listen to Remus.

Sirius now clapped Remus on the back, grinning as he thought of this oddity. “Right. Now, today should we skive off class to annoy Reynolds, or should we give him a false sense of security?”

This question, though seemingly directed at the group in general, was actually meant for James. James was the real leader, quite as naturally as Remus was Sirius’s moderator. And James said, “I vote security,” so Defense class it was.

They burst into the room only a minute before the bell rang, but had regained their breath by the time Professor Reynolds came in. “Good morning,” Reynolds said in a vague way that annoyed Sirius to no end. “Now that I know where you all are in your education, I think we’ll get to work on Dark creatures. We’ll be doing two-person projects about certain creatures that I’ll choose for you. I’ll trust your judgment in choosing your own partners, but if I see you cannot work well together, next time we have group projects I’ll have to assign partners myself.”

Sirius grinned. Poor Reynolds, letting them choose their own partners. What did he think he was, really, the ruler of Hell?

Apparently. Reynolds looked around. “Well, come on, get to it. Choose partners, if you’d be so kind.”

If you’d be so kind,” Sirius mimicked softly, snickering. He turned to Remus, whom happened to be sitting next to him. “Oh, Remus my lad, if you’d be so kind as to be my partner for this project?”

Remus smiled. “D’you think I should be so kind?”

“Actually,” James added, leaning across Sirius’s desk, “I think it might be kinder to you, Remus, to find someone else. Sirius is a prat when it comes to working.”

“And what sort of grades do I get?” Sirius countered, then grinned fondly at Remus. “He’s right, you know. I’m a horrible slacker. It’s my charm that gets me out of things.”

Peter snorted.

“Charm or not,” Remus interrupted, “I take it Peter and James are working together, so I suppose that means I’m stuck with you.”

Sirius nodded cheerfully. “I’ll do some of the work too, I promise. The more interesting the topic, the more I do, of course.”

The glint of a coming sarcastic reply entered Remus’s gold-green eyes, but he didn’t say anything, because Professor Reynolds was clearing his throat and saying, “Now that you’ve chosen your partners, these are the Dark creatures you can choose to do your presentation on. Kappas, trolls, Doxies, manticores, werewolves, vampires, Red Caps, or boggarts. Now, please discuss with your partner which creature you would most wish to base your project on. Have more than one in mind, because I will be coming around the room and asking each group what they wish to work with. Your first and second choices may be gone by the time I get around to you.”

The room filled with a buzz of chatter. Remus turned to Sirius. “How about we do Doxies? They’re very amusing in their own right, you know.”

“Yeah,” Sirius agreed unenthusiastically. “And if we do Doxies, I swear on the grave of Godric Gryffindor that you will be doing all the work.”

Remus sighed. “Well, what do you suggest?”

“I’d like something three-dimensional,” Sirius said, thinking aloud as he scanned the list. “You know – something with more than one side to the story. Something with human feelings to it. Like – well, either vampires or werewolves, I’d say.” He silently congratulated himself. Remus would love such an idea.

His friend’s answer surprised Sirius. “I’d prefer vampires, myself,” Remus said in his flattest voice. If Sirius hadn’t known better, he would have thought Remus was disinterested in his idea. But no – this was Remus’s ‘I’m okay, there’s nothing wrong’ voice. Something was up.

Sirius wasn’t about to argue, though. He’d have to be subtle to get anything out of Remus. Not that he’d really been successful so far, but … hang on. Perhaps this had something to do with the mystery surrounding Remus. Suppressing a triumphant grin, Sirius nodded. “All right then. Vampires first on the list, then werewolves. Any third choice?”

“Boggarts,” Remus replied. He seemed to have recovered, because he was looking and sounding perfectly normal again.

“Made your decision, boys?” Reynolds’ voice said from above Sirius. He and Remus turned to look at the professor, and Sirius asked, “Vampire?”

“Taken,” Reynolds informed them. “Second choice?”

“Boggarts,” Remus said suddenly. He kept his gaze steadily on the professor. Sirius stared. Something was going on. Never, never did Remus Lupin suddenly change his mind on anything, let alone a class project.

“Boggarts are taken as well,” Reynolds said in a bored voice. “Third choice?”

“Werewolves,” Remus replied. Oh. Maybe it was nothing after all. Sirius knew well that boggarts were fun. But still …

“Werewolves,” Reynolds repeated. “You’re in luck. Werewolves are not yet taken.” He nodded to them and walked on to the next table.

“Excellent, seeing as that was my first choice in the first place. Remus, what’s up?” As soon as the words left Sirius’s mouth, he wanted to snatch them back. First rule when dealing with Remus Lupin – come to Remus’s terms, not your own. Sirius had just broken that rule, by coming out and saying exactly what he was thinking. Quickly getting back to Remus-terms, he did something his friend often did – an acceptable recovery. “You must really like boggarts,” he added.

It was the right thing to say. Remus smiled his half-smile. “Yeah. They’re amusing, if you get through whatever’s scaring you. And I’ve always wondered what shape they really assume when not around people.”

Sirius recognized this tactic. Remus was trying to divert him. Waving a hand, Sirius said, “Let’s not start wondering about those things. We’re not doing them, remember? Besides, werewolves should be just as interesting.”

Remus shivered slightly. “Sirius, werewolves …” His voice dropped a notch. “I don’t know, I don’t like the idea of them. That is, you know some people willingly become werewolves? I’ve never understood why.”

Sirius was suddenly too fascinated to feel disappointed. This was obviously not the great Remus-mystery after all, but that note in his friend’s voice … he was gladder than ever he had chosen werewolves. This would be really interesting.

“Nutters,” Sirius answered Remus. “Or maybe they’re just ready for a change. Sort of a wild ride through life.”

Such a guess would have usually gotten a shrug from Remus. Not now. A bleak look entered Remus’s eyes, and he said tonelessly, “A wild ride through life. I’m sure that may be what they are looking for, but they’re in for a very unpleasant shock. Because they’re not them anymore, they’re a monster who doesn’t care if it’s a ‘wild ride’ or something else.”

Amazing. Remus was amazing. How did he know this? “Have you been reading about werewolves? I’m surprised the books would have a werewolf’s point of view on it, though.”

The bleak look vanished, and Remus smiled slightly in reply. “Well, that’s why you’re interested in werewolves in the first place. I’m just giving you information on them that I’ve learned.”

Sirius grinned, as much out of relief that the regular Remus was back as anything else. “You definitely read too much. It does come in handy sometimes though, I’ll give you that. Now, let’s get this research started. It’s due on Friday, you know.”

 

 

Sirius raced along, chuckling at the irony. Sirius Black, who would rather be anywhere but the Hogwarts library, was in that very place and enjoying every minute of it. It was very interesting to be excited about any books besides those of the Quidditch variety, but the werewolf books looked just as intriguing as those of the wizards’ sport. Sirius wouldn’t admit they were more interesting, of course, because such thoughts would be blasphemy, but the werewolf books were certainly good.

Skidding around a bookshelf, Sirius bounded over to the table where Remus sat, looking pensive. Plunking the books in front of his friend, Sirius declared, “There’s heaps of stuff on werewolves! I took the ones that seemed a bit more liberal. The ones that didn’t just say ‘oh, werewolves are evil and you should get rid of it, so shoot it with a silver bullet or whatever’, you know?”

Remus nodded absently. Sirius could tell he was attending in a sort of detached way, both because Remus continued to stare off at something Sirius couldn’t see and because he hadn’t attempted to correct Sirius’s grammar.

“There’s one book here that looked really good,” Sirius pressed on, hoping to catch his friend’s attention. “You know how Reynolds has part of the assignment be how you prevent getting attacked by them and such?”

“Lock them up before the full moon and don’t let them back out for a day or two,” Remus said sarcastically.

Snorting appreciatively, Sirius agreed, “Yeah. That actually sounds like a good idea. No one hurt, not even the werewolf, really. Isn’t it funny how no one at the Ministry’s thought of that? I guess the people in power never really think of practical things.”

“True,” Remus replied.

“Anyway, I was saying about how part of the assignment is to explain how to keep from getting attacked,” Sirius reminded him. “And I was sort of thinking of alternate ways for that sort of thing. You know, like your suggestion about locking them away during the full moon. So I was looking for books that might have suggestions.”

Remus nodded, still looking off at nothing.

With a shrug, Sirius opened the top tome, raising a puff of dust. “This one looks really good.” He pointed to a passage near the top of the page and add-libbed, “See, here, it’s saying that werewolves are really misunderstood. Oh, this is interesting – apparently werewolves are often very good at a particular thing in human form, sort of like to make up for being a werewolf. Cool, werewolf psychology.”

Finally Remus looked up and scanned the page. “It really says that? I can’t believe the Ministry let them publish it.”

Sirius flipped the book closed and peered at the gold-leaf publishing stamp on the binding. “Obscurus Books. It’s official.”

Remus sank back into his chair, looking more pensive than ever. Shoving the book he had been looking at, as well as a few other top ones, in Remus’s direction, Sirius instructed, “Anyway, how about you keep looking at these, and I’ll get the basics. Sound all right?”

Nodding, Remus pulled the top volume towards himself. “Go right ahead.”

Sirius grinned, congratulating himself in getting Remus interested, and pulled a book over. After half a page of reading he realized he would need moon charts before continuing, and he glanced towards Remus once more, making to tell him that he was off to the Astronomy Tower. Remus was already completely immersed in his book, so Sirius shook his head ruefully and set off, tearing up the stairs to the Astronomy Tower.

He leaned against the door for a moment, checking to see if there was a class inside, but he was met by silence, so he pushed open the door and entered, strolling past star charts and bronze telescopes and –

“Hey! What are you doing in here, Black?”

Sirius turned and was faced with the suspicious eyes of Kendall Sinistra, the student-teacher of the Astronomy Department. Opting for mocking courtesy, Sirius bowed. “Kendall. So sorry, I didn’t see you.”

Kendall raised an eyebrow. “It would appear so, Black. You wouldn’t be in here otherwise.”

Sirius bit the inside of his cheek to keep from grinning. Kendall could easily top him for pranks, for all that she was twenty and should have supposedly known better. It was quite true that Sirius wouldn’t have dared to enter if he had known she would be around.

“Quite so,” he acknowledged. “But since I’m here already, I’d thank you to let me get what I came here for.”

Kendall’s other eyebrow shot upward. “Be my guest.”

“Where d’you keep the moon charts, then?”

“Say thank you first.” She grinned wickedly.

“Thank you, Kendall,” Sirius said, sing-song.

“Go on then, take your moon charts.” She gave him a shove, then grabbed his arm. At first Sirius assumed she had decided to catch him from falling, but the next moment he was swung around and was facing Kendall again. She looked deadly serious. “Black?” she asked quietly, “What are you using moon charts for?”

“I – it’s a project for Defense class,” Sirius said hesitantly. She was suddenly creeping him out. “Me and Remus, our project is werewolves.”

Kendall took a hissing breath. “O-o-oh. Black, be careful, will you?”

“Sure.” Anything to get her to stop staring at him like that. She was starting to look fanatical. “I’ll be really, really careful. Can I have my moon charts, now?”

“All right.” She finally let go of his arm. Sirius quickly darted across the room, snatched up the moon charts from a pile of charts, and fairly flew out the door and down to lunch.

“Sirius! What’s the matter?” Peter asked hesitantly as Sirius slumped down next to him at the Gryffindor table and grabbed himself a sandwich.

“Nothing. Just Kendall Sinistra is an absolute loon. Nutters, I tell you.”

“What did she do?” James leaned forward curiously.

“Cut off my circulation and told me to be very, very careful.” Sirius shook his head. An idea was forming in his mind, and for once, he didn’t want to tell it to James, his other half. This was something for himself alone. “Like I said, nutters.” He smiled sardonically and went back to his sandwich.

Remus didn’t come to lunch.

The idea growing in Sirius’s mind was niggling him, like puzzle pieces that were obviously meant to go together, only he couldn’t figure out how.

By the middle of his last class the following morning, Sirius could barely stand it. Kendall Sinistra’s fanatical eyes were in front of him whenever he blinked. Moon charts and half-forgotten phrases blinked through his mind whenever he looked away from the board on which they were taking notes. And Remus – Remus was the worst thing. He seemed so perfectly normal amid all the chaos in Sirius’s mind. It was driving Sirius mad.

He didn’t bother to go to lunch. As soon as class was let out, Sirius tore back to the library to read up on werewolves, pulling out some parchment on which to take notes. He read. And read. And read. It was hours later when he rubbed his sore eyes and glanced at the clock. It was already quarter to five, and Sirius was fleetingly thankful that they had no more classes on Wednesday afternoon. His stomach gave an indignant rumble, and he sighed, stuffing his parchment of notes into one of the books, then pushing back his chair and ambling down to dinner.

Reading seemed to have done the trick. For the rest of the evening and all through Thursday, Sirius was no more high-strung than usual. After their last class, Transfiguration, which ended at three, Sirius stopped by the Great Hall for a bit of a snack, then went back up to the library and took out his notes.

Five minutes had him staring from his notes to the moon charts and back again, wide-eyed.

Ten minutes had him thinking furiously. Every month … once a month … Remus went to visit ill relatives. Oh, poor Remus. Was someone in his family a werewolf then? It would explain his discomfort on the subject, as well as why he was usually gone around the full moon, but – no, that couldn’t be right. That was the one time of month when they wouldn’t want Remus at home.

But then …

Kendall Sinistra’s fanatical eyes were back. Black, be careful, will you? And his own voice as well, clear and cheerful, blindly explaining to Remus things he would rather not hear, apparently werewolves are often very good at a particular thing in human form, sort of like to make up for being a werewolf. Explaining this to Remus, Remus who was a brilliant student, Remus who always seemed to be compensating for something Sirius couldn’t possibly understand … And Remus’s own voice as well, flat, toneless, scared, I’m sure that may be what they are looking for, but they’re in for a very unpleasant shock. Because they’re not them anymore, they’re a monster who doesn’t care if it’s a ‘wild ride’ or something else . . .

No. No way.

This was the first mystery Sirius had ever solved in which he didn’t feel a fizz of satisfaction at discovering the answer. This time, there was only a sort of emptiness inside him, and then slowly a sort of sympathetic horror as Sirius began to remember everything the books had said about werewolves.

Oh gods, Remus . . .

Sirius stood up suddenly, coming to two simultaneous decisions without realizing he had made them. His feet carried him in the direction of Gryffindor Tower, and he had only a moment to consciously realize what his other decision had been as well before he was bounding up the spiral staircase and into his dormitory.

Sirius checked in the doorway. There was Remus, stretched out on his bed, reading one of the werewolf books Sirius had given him, wearing a long-sleeved shirt as was customary. That made sense now – Remus wouldn’t want anyone to see scars from the full moon … Sirius’s heart clenched for a moment. Then he strode across the room and stood by Remus’s bed. His friend didn’t look up, so he put his hand in front of the book, forcing Remus to pay attention.

The gold-green eyes slowly raised themselves to regard Sirius. “Yes?”

For a moment, Sirius drew a blank. Then he said, “I’ve finished most of my werewolf research.” He hesitated for a moment, then added, “Is the book good?”

“It’s very informative.” A guarded look crept into Remus’s face. “Would you like to read it now?”

Without meaning to, Sirius muttered, “It’ll probably do you more good.”

“What?” Remus asked sharply.

It was too late to back out now. “Well,” Sirius started carefully, “I dunno, it’s just that it’s probably cheering, reading about people who try to have a view of werewolves as things besides monsters. You know?”

Silence. Sirius considered his options for a moment. He could try to do things on Remus-terms, subtly, insinuating. The problem was, he was sure to botch it. This was one thing that, whether Remus liked it or not, he would have to do his own way, Sirius-style.

That decided, Sirius began spilling his project materials onto the floor between their beds. Digging through them, he produced one of the moon charts, and shaking it out, sat down on the bed beside Remus.

“Now,” he started, “Remus, let me say this, but when I’m finished, feel free to knock the stuffing out of me.”

The guarded look still on his face, Remus nodded.

Taking this as encouragement, Sirius looked the moon chart over. Summoning as much courage as he could – and it was funny how such a lot was needed, when confronting Remus like this – Sirius began to speak. “I always wondered why you’d disappear suddenly every month. I knew you wouldn’t just come out and tell me anything, but I didn’t really know where to start looking. Strange how it is that the last place you think to look, that’s where you should have started. I’d never thought of looking through research papers. It fits all the other information too …” And he was off, explaining the moon charts, the reading, everything.

The only thing left to say was what was now the obvious.

“So my friend Remus is a werewolf.”

Remus stared at him, and for the first time ever, it seemed that all mask of Remus’s emotions were gone. A thousand expressions flew across his friend’s face. Uncertainty, shock, and almost shining relief.

Sirius could tell Remus didn’t even realize he was wearing any expression, and some of his own emotions welled up. The biggest, oddly enough, seemed to be an overwhelming desire to laugh his head off, but that would seem a bit too … insane.

He decided to grin.

“Why on earth are you smiling?”

Sirius stared. Never before had he seen Remus be so totally unguarded. As his friend’s question caught up with him, he considered for a moment, then proclaimed, “Well, if you’re not going to knock the stuffing out of me, why shouldn’t I be smiling?”

The total openness of Remus’s expression faded. No barrier was again put over his face, though, as he said with relative evenness, “Well, when one finds that one’s friend is a sort of Dark monster, one usually doesn’t smile.”

This statement suddenly seemed utterly amusing, and Sirius found his grin widening as the full implications of everything he had just realized caught up with him. A werewolf. A werewolf. “Well, that’s it exactly! You’re about as un-Dark a person as I’ve ever met, and Remus, don’t kid yourself, it’s cool!”

Remus blinked. “What’s cool?”

“What’s cool?” Sirius repeated incredulously. “Remus, the werewolf! I think it’s cool you’re a werewolf.” Seeing disbelief creeping over Remus’s face, Sirius rushed on, “It’s cool, Remus. And it’s not like I’m planning to go around telling everyone.      Except …” Except that to tell Sirius anything was to tell James and Peter as well. “Except James and Peter. Look, you’ve got to tell them. You being a werewolf, that doesn’t bother me –”

“Not everyone is you,” Remus interrupted quietly. “James … James knows wizarding ways quite well, he’s always been taught. And it’s a principle, Sirius – non-humans. Giants, vampires, werewolves, anything … just being that puts you on the ‘Dark’ list, and you know it. Is James going to turn that easily from what he’s been taught from the cradle?”

Scowling at this implication that James could possibly be untrustworthy, Sirius pointed out, “I was taught that too. And look at me right now. I’m sitting in front of you telling you I think it’s cool!”

Remus sighed. “Not everyone is you, Sirius. Not James.” His voice slipped a notch. “Not Peter.”

Looking up sharply at the tone in Remus’s voice, Sirius said, “Hey, look. We’ve gotta trust Peter on this, too. I know he was sort of – of –” Searching for the word that would adequately describe James’s befriending of Peter, he came up with, “An experiment of James’s. See if we can get the little shy kid confident.” Forcing his voice to sound totally assured, he added, “But Peter’s going to take this well.”

Remus’s customary half-smile grew on his face. “I have reason to believe that I was also one of James’s ‘let’s get the shy kid confident’ experiments.”

A slight flush crept over Sirius’s cheeks as he heard the truth in this, but he protested, “Hey, it’s not like that! I mean, maybe that was James’s idea, but for me, I just wanted to see if there was someone interesting behind that pale shy kid.” He chuckled, half out of embarrassment for admitting such a thing. “I think you won me over when Snape was teasing you that day by the lake. Remember?”

Remus nodded, his smile growing, and recounted it. Sirius laughed in return. “That’s a good memory, Remus.” He leaned back, grinning. Remus propped his chin in his hands, looking pensive, and there was silence for almost a full minute before Sirius realized that Remus had used his tactic of distraction to the fullest. “Hey!”

Remus looked up, totally innocent. “Yes?”

“About ten minutes ago now,” Sirius said patiently, “I told you we’ve got to tell James and Peter about your werewolf-ness.”

“Lycanthropy,” Remus corrected him. “Sirius, I told you, I can’t.”

“Why not?” Sirius demanded.

“I told you!” Remus said loudly, and if Sirius hadn’t known any better, he would have sworn his friend was whining.

“You can’t be afraid of them!” Sirius retorted. “C’mon, from what we’ve been reading about werewolves, you’ve been through plenty worse things than telling your friends what you are!”

“Not the same kind of worse,” Remus said, so softly Sirius barely caught it. But he did, and blinked at his friend, feeling suddenly absolutely horrible for bringing it up in the first place.

“I can’t,” Remus said, still very softly, slumping down and staring at the thick red carpet.

“Remus.” Sirius leveled him a look. “Listen to me. They won’t be bothered by it any more than I am. Trust them on this. You have to tell them.

“And if I could shoot the moon down, I’d do that too!” Remus shouted, lifting his head. “Sirius, don’t you understand? I – this seems too hard for me right now.”

Shoot the moon down . . . Suddenly and very strangely, Sirius the master of plots was glad for his Muggle mother. “Seems,” he repeated significantly. “All right, Remus. If I find a way for you to shoot the moon down, you’ll tell them?”

Remus blinked. “Er … very well, I suppose.”

Sirius grinned at him. “I’ll think of something.” He clapped Remus on the back, still formulating his newest plan, and set off to his next destination – Professor Reynolds’ office.

At his knock, the professor droned from within, “Come in.”

Sirius pushed open the door. “Excuse me, sir?”

“Mr. Black.” Reynolds turned from his desk and regarded Sirius. “What would you like?”

“I – I know the project – our Defense project on Dark creatures – is due tomorrow, sir,” Sirius started. “But me and Remus, we were wondering if we could change our subject.” He watched the professor’s expression, but found neither encouragement or disapproval, so he rushed on, “Because while we were researching, we came across a lot of really good information on Doxies. Would you let us change to them? We’ve got … er, quite a lot of information on them already, sir.” He laced his fingers together nervously and stood waiting.

“Very well,” Reynolds said slowly. “But remember, Mr. Black, I will not take into account that you have had less research time on your new subject than the others, since you have changed topics of your own accord.”

“Yes, sir.” Managing to keep a solemn look, Sirius nodded and backed out of the office, then sped to the library. He needed material on Doxies. Quickly.

 

 

SPLASH!

“Smirg!” James said in a muffled voice, or something very like, as Sirius dragged him off down the corridor.

Sirius turned. “What was that?”

James chuckled. “Not quite sure. Except that I wish I had a camera. The look on Snape’s face was priceless!”

Grinning agreement, Sirius led James in a dash along the charms corridor. “We – need – an – alibi …” he panted.

“Got something … to do?” James gasped back. “A … game or … something? Gobstones … Exploding Snap?”

“YES!” Sirius said, just in time remembering to keep his voice low, so that the word came out as a sort of shouted whisper. “Yeah, I have just … the thing …”

They pelted on down the corridor, Sirius now grinning wildly. He’d been looking for an excuse to play cards, ever since he had confronted Remus about his lycanthropy. Remus was completely back to normal now, and in rather a good mood, most likely from their excellent marks on the Doxy report – but Sirius now saw another layer of him, and quite delighted in giving his friend knowing grins, only to get an exasperated look in return, but with underlying gratitude.

Now, though, Sirius was only concerned with digging through his robe pockets, searching for what he knew was there. Just as they came to Gryffindor Tower (with James bowing to the Fat Lady and saying the password as evenly as though he and Sirius had only been out for a little stroll) and crashed into the common room, Sirius found what he was looking for. Ambling over to where Peter and Remus were looking at James’s Quidditch books, Sirius produced a battered deck of Muggle cards.

“Something to do.”

Coming up behind him, James gave Sirius a look. “Are we bored?”

“No, but we’re trying to look innocent.” Catching James’s expression, which clearly said oh, but Muggle cards!, Sirius implored, “C’mon, maybe if we’re doing something boring McGonagall won’t realize who turned Snape’s hair pink.”

Remus snorted. “It really isn’t that hard to guess, especially if we’re pretending to do something boring.”

Waving a hand, Sirius said airily, “No, but this isn’t actually boring. Ever played Hearts?”

Remus shook his head, looking wary. It really was unfortunate, sometimes, that Remus knew Sirius well enough to tell when he was up to something. Come on, you moon-dog, it’s for your own good, you know.

“Never heard of the game,” James informed Sirius, sounding rather cheerful considering the look he’d been giving Sirius a minute ago.

Moon-dog. That sounds rather good. Maybe I could shorten it. Maybe Remus would kill me if I gave him a nickname. Well, maybe I don’t care.

“I’ve played Hearts!” Peter announced happily, looking proud of himself and jolting Sirius back to the present.

“Would you like to explain the rules?” Sirius asked Peter.

Looking rather startled, Peter nodded and began to explain. James and Remus asked one or two questions, which Peter answered enthusiastically.

Moon-dog. Er, nothing with “dog”. Moon-boy? No, he really would kill me. Moon. Moony?

“I think I followed that,” Remus offered. “Can we try a practice round?”

Still not quite attending, Sirius dealt the cards. He’d played it so many times at home that it was automatic, anyway.

Moony. Remus. Moony. I like it.

Sirius blinked at the game. It seemed to be over, and he seemed to have ended up with no cards at all. Well aware that he was wearing a very smug look, Sirius said, “Right … let’s play for real, shall we?”

He dealt again. This time he had to attend. Before, Sirius had only ever had to concentrate on winning himself. Now, he had to concentrate on also keeping Remus in a very close second place. It wasn’t really all that hard, because both Peter and James were hopeless at the game, but Sirius still had to be careful …

Sirius suddenly realized that Remus was collecting point card after point card, dismay evident on his face. With a grin, Sirius began to discard all his hearts to Remus. Good … he’d gotten every single one. Producing the Queen of Spades, Sirius gave Remus an ironic look and tossed it across the table. Unable to suppress a wicked grin, Sirius instructed, “Okay. Tally up.”

Remus glared balefully at him, and Peter looked just as annoyed, but his glance was in Remus’s direction. “Hey, no fair!”

“What?” Remus and James chorused.

“He has all the point cards,” Peter explained. “That means that we all get twenty-six points, except Remus.”

“Oh, wait,” Remus said, looking highly confused. “You’re saying that if I get all the point cards, everyone else collects points?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” Sirius nodded, trying to keep from looking too triumphant. “Didn’t I tell you that rule, Remus? Getting all the point cards – it’s called shooting the moon.”

Remus’s mouth fell open, but he shut it quickly. “Tell me another.”

“No, it’s true,” Peter piped in. “You shot the moon, Remus. No points.”

Remus’s eyes went very wide, and Sirius could tell what was running through his head. If I find a way for you to shoot the moon down, you’ll tell them? Remus looked at Sirius in a panic. Sirius nodded back. Go on, Moony.

Closing his eyes briefly, Remus took a deep breath. When his eyes opened again, he was still looking at Sirius. Something was glowing in his gaze.

Trust.

Feeling a bit embarrassed and very pleased, Sirius grinned encouragingly, and Remus grinned back. Then he looked around the table and told them.

//
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