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Chapter Sixteen

Remus knew not to believe James when he said that they weren’t talking about anything significant. He also knew that it concerned him, and he had a suspicion as to what it might be. As September began to round off and the full moon drew nearer he spent a good amount of his time in the dormitory, resting his head. The previous year his friends would have come upstairs and try to persuade him to come and join them in whatever they were doing. This year, however, they came up only once and when he said he wasn’t feeling well they pressed the matter no further. In fact, he could see their interest peak when he said this, but they never asked why he wasn’t feeling well. This behaviour was so unlike them. He knew they were bound to wonder where he went every month, but just because he knew that, didn’t mean he would be ready when the time came.

Saturday, September twenty third, dawned late and groggily. The four boys had worked late into the night for their detention with Professor Grines. They had been caught hexing Snape and one of his fellow Slytherins while their backs were turned and, as Grines was the professor who caught them, she was the one handling their detention. They had been refilling the Mandrake pots with the appropriate fertilizers, and these fertilizers just happened to be the ones that smelled the worse. They had thought the task wouldn’t be too difficult; the Mandrakes would be sleeping. They thought wrong. The Mandrakes didn’t take well to the movement of their pots as the boys refilled them and put up a strong fight. One Mandrake almost succeeded in lifting itself out of its pot and latching itself onto Peter’s nose. It took the combined efforts of James, Sirius and Remus to calm the Mandrake down, while Peter stayed as far away as possible from the plant.

Three of the four boys awoke at eleven, infinitely grateful that it was a Saturday and they had no classes to slug through. James had Quidditch practise to look forward to and his friends were supposed to come and watch. The first Quidditch match of the season wasn’t until November, but Cory Hamilton wanted to get in all the practise time they could, as they would be playing Slytherin. The practise didn’t start until one, so they had time to get lunch and laze around before James had to head off to the pitch.

“I can’t believe that detention last night,” Sirius muttered miserably as he tucked his blankets under his mattress.

“At least your Mandrake didn’t try to kill you,” Peter said sleepily, searching for clothes in his trunk.

“It didn’t try to kill you, it just wanted your nose,” James pointed out, sitting on his bed and running his hand fondly along the handle of his broomstick. “Hey, Sirius, wake him up, will you?” James nodded towards Remus’s bed, where Remus was still fast asleep. This didn’t surprise them in the least; Remus had been dropping with exhaustion the night before and hadn’t even bothered to change when he reached his bed.

Sirius moved over to his friend’s bed and shook him gently on the shoulder. “Wake up, mate.” Remus did not wake up; he only turned on his stomach and slept on. “Remus, get up.” Once again, Sirius’s efforts proved fruitless. “I found your bloody camera.”

“Shut up, Sirius,” Remus mumbled, his eyes flickering open.

Sirius grinned mischievously. “You’re too predictable.” With his task complete, Sirius went back to making his bed.

Remus sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. “What time is it?”

“Little after eleven,” James replied, setting his broom down on his bed and looking around for his trainers. “Do you feel alright?” Upon closer inspection, James could see that his friend’s face was deadly pale and it was causing him great effort to stay awake.

“Fine,” Remus said in a false cheerful voice. “Just tired.” He shakily stood up and walked around, stretching his limbs. Then he said just what James predicted he would. “Err… I have to go visit my mum again later.”

“Do you?” James said in the most interested voice he could muster. He had slid down to the floor beside his bed and was rummaging through his trunk, trying to locate his notebook.

“Yeah… my dad wrote me yesterday.”

“Is she sick again?” Peter asked, using the same voice as James. He hadn’t thought much of James’s plan at first, but now he thought his friend was right. Why would Remus, who looked as though he needed a trip to the Hospital Wing himself, be going home?

“That’s what my dad said,” Remus responded, sitting down at the foot of his bed and running a hand over his tired face.

“That’s too bad,” James said, finally seeing his notebook under three pairs of his robes. He inconspicuously took it out and began writing the date and Remus’s symptoms down. “Well, I should get dressed, Quidditch practise in a bit.” He grabbed his clothes out of his trunk and yanked the hangings around his bed.

“Are you going to come down with us?” Sirius asked Remus as he straightened out his pillow.

“Yeah, of course.”

“Well then get up and get dressed. You know James is going to drag us down there an hour early.”

“I heard that,” came James’s voice from behind the curtains.

Once the boys were fully clothed and had their lunch, they headed out to the Quidditch Pitch. Jamie Kirkland apparently had the same idea as James: To head down to the pitch early. He and his fellow Chaser immediately took off to the changing rooms to get into their robes and were soon off into the air and practising their flying. Sirius, Remus and Peter didn’t really see why James had to work on his flying; there was nothing to improve. He had the perfect handle of his broomstick; he could swerve and duck as easily as he could walk. The rest of the team appeared a little while later, brooms in hands and ready to begin their training session.

After fifteen minutes of training it became clear that Gryffindor had the best team it had seen in years. Now that they had two Chasers who weren’t Quaffle hogs, the Chasers were able to work as a unit, duping the Keeper in order to score. The Beaters never missed an opportunity to whack a Bludger out of the way of their Chasers and Seeker. When the Keeper wasn’t tricked by his own teammates (which was a rare chance), he was making spectacular saves. The Seeker never missed the Snitch. They played three scrimmage matches, using Biggs as an opposing Seeker, and Hamilton caught the Snitch two out of the three times. The only reason his missed the third time was because he sneezed at the wrong moment.

As the practise session was concluding, Remus stood up abruptly. He had been fine for the entire hour and a half that the team was training, but now he felt like something very large was pressing itself against his forehead and an iron hand was clamping itself around his insides. He had to get up to the Hospital Wing, or to a bathroom, anywhere that was not where he currently was. Sirius and Peter whipped their heads around, shocked by their friend’s sudden movement.

“What happened?” Sirius asked, bewildered.

“Nothing,” Remus said in an unconvincing voice. He didn’t know why he felt that he had to lie; both Sirius and Peter knew something was wrong.

“You’re going to be sick, aren’t you?” Peter said knowingly. Without answering Peter’s query, Remus sped out of the stands and towards the castle. Looking in the direction that Remus had taken off in, Peter said to Sirius, “I guess we can add this to the list, then?”

Sirius nodded mutely. He wished they had more information to go by, but they hardly remembered any of the exact times that Remus disappeared home. It had become a part of their lives, something they thought they could easily look over. But they couldn’t do that anymore. He hadn’t thought much of James’s idea initially, like Peter, but he was beginning to see the cause for it. He had said it before; if they were really friends they would have to know what horrible things were happening to each other. Even if it was an uncomfortable subject, it would have to be known.

Sirius and Peter met up with James as he was coming out of the changing rooms, talking to his fellow Chaser, Lawrence Biggs, about a move the Hamilton had been going over with them. When he caught sight of his friends, James bid Biggs farewell and joined up with them.

“We have some more information for you, James,” Sirius said the moment James was in step with them. He didn’t feel like beating about the bush any longer.

James didn’t even have to ask what Sirius was talking about. “Yeah?”

“Well, Remus just took off before and he looked like he was about to get sick. Add that to the list of symptoms.”

“We still don’t have that much,” Peter reminded them. “What if it takes all year to figure this out?”

“We just have to think back to last year,” James said. “Can we remember any other times he left?”

“New Year’s,” Sirius said.

“But he didn’t actually leave, we weren’t in school.”

“Don’t you remember? He came back all beat up and angry.”

“Didn’t he have a stomach virus, though?” Peter asked, trying to think back to that time.

“He did, yeah,” James confirmed. “But before he was sick he had all these bruises and cuts on him. Viruses don’t do that to people.” He shifted the weight of his broomstick on his shoulder and whistled lowly. “So we have sometime around New Year’s, we have September fifth; we have around Halloween, that week during July. And we have today.”

“My birthday,” Peter added.

“Those are really random dates, James,” Sirius said.

“There has to be something they all have in common,” Peter said desperately.

“Maybe if we go to the library and look up his symptoms? There has to be something in one of those books.”

“Yeah, sure,” James said. “Let’s wait a little though, when we’re sure Remus is gone. I think he’s on to us.”

The full moon glowed exceptionally bright that night, and it didn’t help that Remus already had so many things weighing on his mind. Bright full moons meant pain worse than usual, and when his mind was heavy on thoughts, that only added to the agony. Remus lay on the four-poster bed at the top of the Shrieking Shack, mulling over the events of the past month. What were his friends up to? Were they really, as he feared, researching him? They had always been concerned about his wellbeing, what friend wouldn’t? Recently, though, they seemed to only care about it because they were trying to figure out the cause of it. He knew it sounded selfish to think like that, either way they were proving that they cared about him. He just didn’t like the uneasy feeling he received from it.

The moon would be rising soon, at any moment. He could tell by the unending shooting pains he received in his head, the cramps in his joints and the sweat pouring onto his forehead. He curled up into a ball on the bed and stared fixedly at the wall opposite him, as though if he stared hard enough the pain would go away. The pain did not lessen; it seemed to increase with his concentration. A nail hammered itself into his skull and the clouds outside, invisible to him, began to shift. The moonlight gleamed through the dusty window. The moon’s glare hit Remus’s pale and sweaty face and his transformation began.

The nail that was making its way through his skull jammed itself into his brain as Remus screamed out in agony that could not be stopped. His trembling limbs stretched and cracked, making way for their wolfish counterparts. His once clean face slowly became covered in grey fur. His green eyes flashed yellow. He fell sideways off the bed, onto the cold wooden floor, groaning in protest as his human mind slipped away into unconsciousness, only to be replaced by the wolf’s mind. In his new mind he had just one thought – food. But food was far out of reach, he had himself and only himself.

For the wolf, his own body would suffice.

“You have that written down?”

“Yeah, right here.”

“What about that?”

“Yes, James, I have it all written down.”

James, Sirius and Peter were taking advantage of the empty common room to continue with their research. They were sitting on Remus’s empty bed, Sirius and Peter leaning over James’s notebook as he scribbled away furiously. This was the perfect opportunity for them to continue their work – Frank was tutoring a Ravenclaw in History of Magic and Remus was away. They had the entire dormitory to themselves. Their information was still rather empty – they didn’t have many leads, but, as was becoming their motto, it was better than nothing.

“I still feel kind of guilty about this,” Peter admitted.

“Remus has no idea,” Sirius said, thinking that this was all the reassurance he needed.

“That’s exactly it. What if he thinks we’re plotting against him or something?”

“Where would he get that idea?” James asked incredulously.

“We’re being pretty obvious about it. Whenever he walks into the room and we’re talking about it we change the subject to something completely stupid.”

“What do you suggest we do?” Sirius questioned edgily. “Continue talking about it so he knows we’re snooping on him?”

“We’re not snooping on him,” James said fiercely. They were making it sound like they were trying to hurt Remus, not help him.

“It’s as good as,” Peter said. “I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want my friends researching me.”

“It’s for his own good.”

“Listen, if we’re going to fight about this then we shouldn’t even be doing it,” Sirius snapped. “Can we just stop arguing?”

James and Peter nodded grudgingly. James stood up, clutching his notebook to his chest, and went to put it back in his trunk. As he stood up, he bumped Remus’s nightstand and a piece of parchment that had been perched on the edge fluttered to the floor. Had it not been for the fact that it flipped onto the side with writing, James would not have given the note a second thought. He stooped down, under the pretenses of replacing it back on the nightstand, and hastily read it. What he saw was something that did not ease his nerves about the situation at all.

“James?” Sirius said peering over the edge of the bed. “What’s up?”

“Look at this.” James straightened up and shoved the note in Sirius’s hands. “He didn’t go home.”

“What?” Peter said, looking over Sirius’s shoulder at the parchment. “Dear Remus, owl us and tell us how you’re feeling. Love Mum and Dad.” He raised his eyebrows at his friends. “Tell them how he’s feeling; his mother is the one who’s supposed to be sick.”

“This letter’s dated from yesterday,” Sirius said, pointing to the date scrawled at the top. “Remus did say that his father sent him a letter.”

“Yes, but it was supposed to be his father telling him to come home,” James said, staring at the back of the letter with a peculiar expression. “I don’t understand, could it really be so bad that he has to lie to us like this?”

“Maybe it is,” Peter said, looking down at the floor.

James sighed and bit his bottom lip. Maybe Peter was right in thinking that they shouldn’t be researching their friend. If it was so bad that he openly lied about it every month… Maybe the truth was too hard to handle? Maybe whatever he had was terminal, without a cure. “I think Peter may have been right.”

“About what?”

“About us researching Remus. Maybe it’s best that we don’t know what happens to him every month.”

“Wait,” Sirius said sharply, jumping up from his seat and glaring at James. “You’re the one who pushes us to do this in this first place and now you’re going to tell us that we should stop when we’re actually getting somewhere?”

“Where are we getting, Sirius?”

“It happens to him every month. That was something we didn’t notice before. Only a few things happen every month, it narrows down the choices a lot.”

“But we don’t know what happens.”

“Isn’t that what we’re trying to find out? He’s our friend, James, and we have to figure this out. Maybe it’s something we can help him with.”

“What if there’s nothing that can be done?”

“Then we make it bearable for him. We help him deal with it.”

And, so with Sirius’s final statement, they continued their research until Frank Longbottom walked in and asked why they were doing homework on a Saturday night. They would have to wait until the following day to go on.

The library was unusually empty for a Sunday, which was when the students got the bulk of their homework done. James, Sirius and Peter procured a table in the back, far away from the prying eyes of the librarian, Madam Jules. James was busy looking up any library book that could help them in their project, while Sirius was tackling a Transfiguration essay and Peter was working on his lunar charts for Astronomy. James was stumped in his work; he didn’t have the foggiest idea of where to start. He had pulled out books on magical ailments, curses, magical creatures… He couldn’t even begin to fathom what was happening to his friend.

“Any luck?” Sirius asked as he completed the final sentence in his third paragraph.

James shook his head irritably. He was poring over a book about magical illnesses and he had so far come up with nothing that resembled Remus’s case. He flipped the page over and began reading once more.

“Full moon was last night…” Peter murmured as he did his homework. They had been assigned the task of charting the lunar phases for September and it was due the following day. Peter only had the beginning of the month done, not the end.

James’s ears almost perked when he heard this innocent statement. “Repeat that, Peter.”

“Full moon was last night?” Peter repeated, highly confused.

James’s eyes widened at an alarming rate. He thrust the book he was reading aside and grabbed the book about magical creatures. “No,” he said, his voice full with dread. “No, it can’t be.”

“What are you talking about?” Sirius asked, his face looking much the same as Peter’s – utterly bemused.

James seemed to be in a state of shock. He kept turning the pages in the book over and over until he found what he was looking for. “No… Merlin, no.”

“James!” Peter said loudly, earning nothing except a reprimand from the librarian.

“Merlin… oh, Merlin…”

James seemed to have completely forgotten that his friends were there. He turned almost to the back of the book and ran his index finger along the page until it came to rest of the creature he was looking for. He picked the book up so the cover was facing Sirius and Peter, disenabling them from seeing what James was. They could only continue to hear him mutter in denial, they could only see the top of his head shaking slowly back and forth. He jumped up, taking the book with him, and ran to another section of the library. When he returned, Peter and Sirius saw that he was carrying the lunar charts from the past two years.

James looked through them, consulting his notebook. The look of terror deepened with every phase he checked. September fifth… around Halloween… the week of New Year’s… the week of July 23rd… August 24th… and the night before. When he could no longer deny it, he whispered the one word that voiced the cause of everything Remus had gone through. “Werewolf.”

“What?” Sirius and Peter said. Unless their ears were mistaken, James had just said “werewolf.”

“He’s a werewolf,” James repeated, his voice a little louder.

“Remus?” This was impossible; all the work must have been causing James to crack. There was no way that Remus, the quietest boy in their year, could turn into a bloodthirsty monster every month. It was impossible, unthinkable. James had to be cracking up.

“Are you mad?” Sirius hissed. He was in denial… there was no way.

“I wish I was.”

“How can you be sure?” Peter whispered anxiously.

“What else can it be? Look at the dates, they all fit.”

James pushed the notebook he had been recording over to his friends and gestured for them to check the dates and the lunar phases. The weeks that they were unsure of the exact date held a full moon, and the days they were sure of were full moons. Remus’s symptoms fit the description in the library book. No matter how much they wanted to think different, they couldn’t. Their friend was indeed a werewolf.

“What are we going to do?” Sirius asked, his eyes full of shock.

“I don’t know… maybe we aren’t even right,” James said, hoping he sounded optimistic. “These could just be coincidences.”

“How do we find out if it’s true, then?”

“I don’t know… If he is a werewolf then it’s not safe to follow him. He could kill us without meaning to. We don’t know where he goes to transform – if he transforms.”

“Hold on!” Peter said suddenly. He jumped out of his seat and ran off to the section of the library that contained old copies of the Daily Prophet. When he returned they saw he was holding an old copy that bore a headline about the Shrieking Shack. “This is dated September sixth from last year, that’s the day after the full moon. The Shrieking Shack was named that night because of loud shouts and howls and noises. Werewolves howl and if Remus was transforming it would have to hurt. That would make him yell.”

“You’re not saying – you can’t mean –” James couldn’t believe his ears. He had been hoping that he was mad, just as Sirius had suggested.

“He goes to the Shrieking Shack.”

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