James, Sirius and Peter could not fully grasp the gravity of the situation; it still seemed utterly impossible. They didn’t know what part of it was worst – that they didn’t realise it sooner, that they couldn’t do anything about it, or that it had to be Remus who suffered such a fate. He had never done anything to anybody to deserve the hand he had been dealt. James had heard his father speak numerous times about the werewolves he had seen in St. Mungo’s and the stories were nothing short of heartbreaking, especially his tales about the small children who had been bitten. Remus was only twelve; he must have been bitten young. If that was the case, he had never even gotten the chance to be a kid; he had been denied his childhood. James almost wished he had not found out the truth.
There was only one small glimmer of hope that they may be wrong, but they didn’t dare follow Remus to the Shrieking Shack to find out. If Peter was right, that was where he went for his monthly transformations. It was far too dangerous to follow him the night of his transformations – or the nights when he supposedly transformed. They couldn’t put their own lives on the line like that, for their sake and for Remus’s. Besides, they weren’t even sure how to get there without going through Hogsmeade. The boys shuddered every time they thought of his transformations. They had read several descriptions in the libraries books and they were described to contain the most gruesome pain imaginable. Small children often died in the process. Everything they read in those books did nothing but make them fear the truth further.
Though, with their discovery, they found that many things about their friend made sense. When he began panicking about their detention in first year, saying repeatedly that he could not do it, they had thought it strange, but they hadn’t thought much on it. Now they knew what had caused him to lose his composure in such a way. They remembered right before Christmas break started, they had been discussing what they planned on doing for the holidays. Remus had said that his grandparents never got the opportunity to visit, though they lived close by. He had said it strangely, not quite meeting their eyes; they knew the truth now. They may not have been fully afraid of him, but he scared them enough. Whatever accident he had had over the summer was not caused by his dog, it had happened while he was a werewolf.
They had not done it intentionally, but they were beginning to avoid Remus. They sat with him at mealtimes, kept their usual seats beside him during lessons, but they hardly spoke. They did their homework together, but they inadvertently kept Remus detached from the group. It wasn’t as though they were frightened of him, though they sometimes felt as though they were. It was a hard concept to take in. They thought they knew their friend, and then they discovered that there was something alarmingly important about him that he had been hiding. They had always suspected it, but they never expected the overall scale of his secret. They weren’t prejudiced by any means, but they couldn’t help avoiding their friend until they figured out what to do. How could they break it to him that they knew?
Remus had not said anything about their new behaviour; he was actually taking it quite well. This only increased the guilt of James, Sirius and Peter. They knew that Remus must have experienced the loss of his friends more than he needed to, whenever they found out what he was. James, Sirius and Peter did not want to do that to him, but they needed to come to terms with the fact first. Once they did this, they could figure out how to go about confronting him. Still, it did not make the avoidance any easier. They needed time, that was all. Time to digest the information and wrap their minds around it.
“Hey,” Remus said one evening when he spotted the three sitting by the fire in the common room. James, Sirius and Peter had been fitfully working on a difficult Charms essay and were finally making some progress. They jumped at his voice and looked up.
“Hi, Remus,” they said in the same fake, automatic voice.
Remus sat down beside Peter and looked to see what they were doing. “Do you need help with that? I finished mine already.”
“No,” they said hurriedly. “We’ve got it,” James added.
Remus was silent for a moment before standing up. “Okay… I’ll be upstairs, if you do want help.”
“I feel like a git,” Sirius said when Remus had gone.
“Me too,” Peter agreed, throwing his quill down on the table. “How much longer are we going to keep avoiding him?” he asked James.
“You ask that like I meant for this to happen,” James snapped, his eyes focused on his essay. “We just need to figure something out.”
“We can just ask him,” Peter offered sensibly.
“He doesn’t want us to know, and we’re not even sure that we do know. We have to think of a way to go about it, a way that he won’t get mad at us.”
“I think he’s mad at us now,” Sirius said. “Abandoned, more like.”
“Give it time, guys. We’ll tell him we know, we just need to know how.”
On the Saturday after James, Sirius and Peter had begun their avoidance, Remus was sitting out on the grounds, camera in hand, staring out at the lake. He had taken their avoidance well at first, but not anymore. He wanted to be mad at them, but he couldn’t. He wanted to be mad because they had done just as everyone else had – they found out and they abandoned him. He could only be grateful that they hadn’t announced it to the entire school, or told anyone. But he couldn’t be mad because that emotion felt so inadequate compared to the others he was feeling. He was feeling abandoned, confused; anger just didn’t matter. He would rather be angry; he would get some satisfaction out of being angry. Of course, when had he ever gotten what he wanted?
He stood up and walked around in a circle, desperately needing something to keep his mind off of the self pity he was experiencing. His father had always told him that the worst thing he could do when he was upset was to pity himself. It didn’t solve anything. It only made the situation worse. He looked over the lake and saw the Giant Squid breaking through the surface of the water. He walked over to the shore of the lake and bent down on one knee, holding his camera up to his face. It was too good of a shot to miss – the lighting was perfect, the squid would only be in the position it was in for so long, gently propelling itself across the rippling water. The camera snapped the shot and the photo came sliding out of the slot in the front.
Remus slung the strap attached to his camera over his shoulder as he shook the picture, waiting for it to clear.
“That’ll be a nice photo,” said a voice from behind him.
Remus looked over his shoulder and saw Lily Evans standing a little way behind him, smiling at him. “Thanks,” he said awkwardly. He glanced at the photo and saw it had a bit more developing.
Lily was looking at him, her smile faltering, as if she had something to say, but wasn’t sure how to phrase it. Finally, she folded her arms across her chest and sighed. “Are you fighting with your friends?”
“No…” Remus said slowly, gazing distractedly over the lake. “Why?”
“Remus, don’t lie. You’re never with them anymore. Now tell the truth, are you fighting with them?”
“I don’t know,” Remus answered honestly, dropping his gaze to the grass. “I don’t know what happened.” This was not entirely true. He had a very good idea, but he wasn’t about to share it with Lily. Nice as she may be, he wasn’t ready to tell her.
“You four are always together, it’s strange when you’re not,” Lily continued, watching him concernedly. “You really don’t know what happened?”
Remus sat down where he was standing, his right cheek in his right hand and shrugged his left shoulder. “I think I know.”
“What is it?” Lily asked, sitting down beside him. She knew he might not tell her, but she felt the need to ask. He had never done anything to warrant his friends abandoning him. But Remus said just as she thought he would.
“I don’t really want to say. It’s nothing against you, Lily,” he added hastily.
“I know it’s not.”
“It’s just that I can’t help what it is.”
“Is it the reason why you leave school?”
Remus knew it couldn’t hurt very much to let Lily know that much. She had always proven herself to be a good friend; she deserved to know a little. Why hadn’t he thought of that when it came to James, Sirius and Peter? He could have evaded this whole mess if he had let them have that much. He nodded slowly, still staring at the ground. “It’s something that’s been happening since I was three. I can’t help it.”
“Your mother really isn’t sick all the time, is she?”
“No… she’s not the one who gets sick.”
“You’re the one who gets sick?” There was no point in asking; it was painfully obvious whenever she saw him when he returned. He always looked pale and had bruises and scars over his face and hands.
“Well… yes. I’ve been… getting sick… ever since I was little and it’s just something I don’t like people knowing. If they knew exactly what it was… people never understood.”
“Yes, but they’re your friends.”
“So were all the other people who claimed to be my friends and, the moment they found out, it was as if they’d never even met me. That was the better reaction.”
Lily didn’t even want to think of what else may have happened. “You know… being sick is nothing to be ashamed of.”
“You don’t understand. In the Wizarding World, kids are taught to hate this… particular illness. And the people who have it are ashamed because of that.”
“But your friends… they know you enough not to-”
“That doesn’t matter, Lily.” There was a noticeable strain in Remus’s voice. “People don’t care if they know you or not. It’s the same thing with Muggle-borns. No one cares what kind of person you are, but if you’re a Muggle-born they might hate you just because of that.”
“I’m sorry, Remus,” Lily said quietly. She had never realised that his situation could be completely the same as being a Muggle-born. She had yet to really experience any prejudice because of her bloodline, but it was only a matter of time before it happened.
“You don’t have to be sorry, Lily. Look, I really don’t feel like talking about this anymore.”
Lily nodded understandingly. She didn’t want to press him on a subject that did nothing but distress him. She stood up, ready to go back to the castle, but she felt she had to say something before she left. “Listen, Remus, even if that’s what people think of whatever might be wrong with you, it’s nothing to get upset over. Your friends will come around, just give it time. Don’t listen to what other people say; you’re not a bad person and no one can tell you any different.” She lingered a moment longer before heading up the grassy slope to the castle.
Remus watched her go, mulling over what she had said. He sometimes envied her for not being born around all the prejudices that witches and wizards had to experience. It had given her time to build her own solid beliefs. She was going to have to face intolerance eventually, because she was a Muggle-born, but she would be able to overcome it. He wished he could have that kind of skill, to not be so affected by what everyone thought of him. He had been looked down upon too many times, shunned everywhere except his home. One day he would tell Lily what he was, one day when he was ready. She was his friend and he never had to doubt it.
The Gryffindor second years sat in their last class of the day – History of Magic – drowning in a stupor of absolute boredom. Professor Binns was droning on about some nonsense in which they only caught one or two words and, even then, they weren’t sure what he was talking about. James was idly doodling on the parchment he was supposed to be taking notes on. Sirius had planted his head in his folded arms and was staring at the wall, which was infinitely more interesting. Peter was folding up blank sheets of parchment into elaborate paper airplanes and Remus was leaning backwards in his seat, tilting on the back legs. Had this been any other day, they may have been playing a competitive match of hangman while Binns talked on, but each boy was far too preoccupied in his own thoughts.
“When does this murder end?” Sirius whined. He had neglected to wear his watch that day and was relying on Peter’s timepiece.
“Ten minutes,” Peter said, glimpsing at his watch. Sirius let out a strangled moan of despair and his face dropped back into his arms.
The next ten minutes passed so slowly that Sirius almost swore Peter had read his watch wrong. When the bell rang, breaking every student out of their daze, they packed up their books and filed out into the corridor. Outside the classroom, Remus turned to join James, Sirius and Peter, but saw at once that they had somehow moved so quickly they were already out of sight. Lily’s words kept ringing in his ears as he searched needlessly around for the three – “they’re your friends.” He was struggling to believe her; he wanted to so badly. He gripped the strap on his book bag and walked swiftly, head down, through the crowd of oncoming students.
Why are they being so bloody stupid? he thought angrily as he narrowly avoided trampling on a first year. He hadn’t done anything to them, anything except keep a secret that would alter their whole opinion of him. Honestly, who could blame him? He had too many experiences with people he thought were his friends and then, the moment they discovered the truth, they said horrible things to him. He remembered one time when he was seven. He was at a friend’s house and it was the day of a full moon. He had let it slip why he had to leave before nightfall and his friend’s mother had been lurking just outside the door. The moment she heard she burst into the room and literally threw him out of the house. That was the last time he had ever said anything of his affliction.
He had hoped to catch up with them in the dormitory where they always went to deposit their belongings before heading to dinner. When he pushed the door open, he saw that only Peter remained. Peter was sitting on his bed, trying to undo a particularly tight knot on his shoelace. Remus sat down on his bed and watched for a while as Peter struggled with his shoelace.
“Bloody piece of string!” Peter swore loudly, throwing the shoe across the room and narrowly missing Remus’s ear. “Oh, sorry about that,” he said when he saw what he’d almost done.
“Its fine,” Remus said dismissively, standing up and going to retrieve Peter’s shoe. He had always had a knack for undoing stubborn knots. His father attributed this to the fact that when Remus was younger he would sit in front of the foyer closet and tie knots into all of the shoes. When he was caught he was forced to undo them. He resumed his seat and dug his nails into the tiny creases between the laces.
“You don’t have to,” Peter said when he saw what Remus was doing.
“I don’t mind, I’m good at this.”
Peter bit his bottom lip, his brow furrowed. They had been absolutely rotten to Remus. They had exchanged no foul words, but that seemed a better alternative to avoiding him. He wanted to say something, anything, but he didn’t know what. “How have you been?” The question seemed lame as it came out of his mouth, but the silence was driving him mad.
“Fine,” Remus answered shortly, slowly pulled out one of the knots.
“Oh, well… that’s good.”
“I suppose it is.”
“That cut on your cheek, cleared up?”
“How did you get it?”
Remus seemed thrown by the question, but recovered himself. “Broke a glass, piece hit my face.”
“Not really.” Remus undid the last knot and handed the shoes to Peter. “Here.”
Peter took them, though he did not feel relieved that his shoe dilemma was solved. “Thanks,” he muttered feebly.
“Well… I guess I’ll go down to dinner.” Peter shoved his shoes on his feet and, without tying them, hurried towards the door. Once on the other side, he placed his forehead in his hand. He had the perfect opportunity to tell Remus everything they knew. He had been sitting there, talking, and he had not said anything important. His brain went numb and all he could think of were stupid small talk lines. He knew Remus was upset with them, but he would never say anything about it. The least he, Peter, could have done was waited for Remus to go down to the Great Hall. He had blown another chance to talk to him about their discovery. Groaning in frustration, Peter went miserably down the spiral staircase leading into the common room.
“We’re the worst friends imaginable,” he said when he sat down beside Sirius at the Gryffindor table.
“Are we?” Sirius asked vaguely as he completed the crossword puzzle in the Daily Prophet.
“Yes. What kind of friends abandon their friend when they find out something that hurts him?”
“I dunno, Peter… What kind of friend doesn’t tell his friends what happens to him?” James questioned harshly.
“He was scared, James. You can’t blame him for that.”
“So what? We’re his friends and friends tell each other these things. I don’t bloody care what he is. I just wanted to know why he gets hurt. I have my answer now, and it didn’t come the way I wanted it to.”
“You’re the one who kept saying that Remus couldn’t know, and now you’re mad because you didn’t find it out from him? That makes no sense. If you had asked him, he may have told you.”
“I doubt that.”
“Okay, if he didn’t tell you everything, he might’ve given you something. That’s not a very easy thing to admit, James.”
“I’m not prejudiced, Peter.”
“He doesn’t know that.”
“He should, he’s known me long enough.”
“But he’s also probably had other people find out and he probably got some bad reactions.”
“Will you two shut up?” Sirius snapped, slamming his quill on the table.
“Why don’t you tell us what you think about this, Sirius?” Peter asked, hoping he could find an ally.
“I think that he’ll tell us when he’s ready. Until then, I don’t know what I’m going to do about it. Peter said it, James. Admitting that is a hard thing. You should hear my father talk about… them… It’s awful to hear.”
“He doesn’t have to worry about that from us,” James insisted forcefully.
“He doesn’t know that! We’re probably the first friends he’s had in years and he doesn’t want to risk losing us. But let’s face it, we are losing each other. We’re not speaking to him and he doesn’t deserve that.”
“Well, we don’t deserve him not telling us.”
“James, you’ve lived in a house with parents who don’t care about things like people being what Remus is. It’s not the same everywhere else, come round to my house and you’ll see. My parents say terrible things about them, things that would make anyone in his position afraid to tell people.”
“We’re his friends.”
“And, as his friends, we shouldn’t be abandoning him the way we are.”
James opened his mouth, ready to burst out with another retort, but he couldn’t. Sirius was right; they were Remus’s only friends and he was scared to lose them. They had not gone about this situation the right way. They should have just gone up to Remus and asked him what happened to him and that, whatever the reason, they would understand. But they hadn’t done that, and it was his, James’s, fault that they hadn’t. He wanted to be secretive; he wanted to make sure that Remus did not have the faintest idea as to what they were doing. He had thought that by doing this they would be able to save their friendship, once they found out the truth. He had been wrong. Their secret research had given them the truth, but it had cost them one of their best friends.
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