It was a Thursday night, nearing Christmas, so night approached early. The common room was cosy in red and yellow, and conversation hummed as Professor McGonagall picked her way around the circular room, asking students whether or not they would be staying at school for Christmas. James lay by the fire, attempting to do his Transfiguration homework, but glancing over at Lily Evans every few seconds, who was sitting chatting with her friends. As I watched, she rewarded him with a rare, shy smile and as his face lit up, I knew he wouldn’t write one more word that evening. Sirius had disappeared off with a fourth-year to do God knows what, God knows where and Peter was also struggling with the Transfiguration essay. He kept attempting to ask me about it, but I was too distracted by the lowering sun to concentrate and left the common room as the sky turned pink, only twenty minutes after classes finished. I walked slowly through the corridors, groaning and clutching my stomach whenever I passed anyone – this month, I had a stomach bug.
“Ready, Remus?” Madam Pomfrey came into view as I hurried down the marble staircase. The large oak doors were open and I could see the sun beginning to set. “Come on then,” she led the way through the doors, pausing as I pulled them closed behind me. The air was cold now as the red sun slipped behind the snow-capped mountains, and I pulled my cloak closer around my shoulders.
“Hurry!” Madam Pomfrey glanced anxiously at the setting sun before hurrying off into the gathering darkness; I followed meekly in her wake.
Tonight I could not shake off the feeling that something wasn’t right, a feeling amplified when I heard Hogwarts’ front doors creak open in the silence. I glanced back anxiously and saw a strip of light from the Entrance Hall gleam on the wet grass and then the doors slammed.
The matron must have heard too, because she fell back, took my arm and drew us deeper into the shadows of the castle.
The sun was a mere red rim now.
We hurried on and Madam Pomfrey conjured a long stick, dodged the swaying branches of the Whomping Willow and prodded the root: instantly, the tree froze.
“Here,” she handed me a bottle of some potion that was supposed to help the pain – it didn’t, but I pretended there was some improvement, for her sake. She smiled at me fondly as I clambered into the small opening.
“Good luck,” she whispered, and disappeared into the night with a swish of her apron.
I paused before carrying on into the tunnel, and stiffened, staring around. I was sure – I lit my wand and raised my arm high, so the light fell on the surrounding grass. There was, of course, no one there.
Suddenly, I realised how stupid I was being. If anyone looked out of a castle window now –
“Nox,” I murmured and after one last, uneasy glance into the darkness, I slipped down into the tunnel and vanished from sight.