He didn’t care if he was being childish; he didn’t care that his parents would not appreciate his decision. He just didn’t care. He wanted to go home. How could he have let this happen? How could he have fooled himself to think that this would actually work? James, Sirius and Peter were different from all the others he had once called friends. They wouldn’t have shunned him; they wouldn’t have called him names. He had done this to himself; he had failed to see that his friends had proven themselves to be different, accepting. He had brought the abandonment upon himself and he was paying the price. He didn’t care that he was running away from his problems. He just had to get as far away from the castle as he could. If that meant going home, he was okay with that. Anything to get away.
Remus was sitting in the empty dormitory, carelessly tossing his possessions into his trunk, listening as they thudded uselessly against the bottom. His head pounded painfully as he gazed into the mess that was his trunk. It had been two weeks, two of the worst weeks he had ever experienced. He had given up trying to talk to them, it was a fruitless attempt. There was no point. They had stopped talking to him, even Peter, who had always tried striking up an awkward conversation. The gnawing sensation in his head increased as he thought of this. He had brought it upon himself, there was no other explanation. He had lost his friends because he could not find it in himself to trust them, even when he knew he could.
He knew they weren’t prejudiced, they had shown it countless times. Sirius had turned away from the traditional Black Family beliefs; he had proven that he did not care about the purity of blood. If he didn’t believe in that, why would he care if his friend was a werewolf? Peter had never done anything to suggest that he would be a bigot; Remus had no right to suggest he was. James had come from a family that bore no superiority complex; James would certainly follow in their footsteps. He had ruined everything by not telling them; he could have avoided this whole situation if he had been honest. He winced as his head took another painful throb, and slammed his Charms textbook into his trunk.
He didn’t know how he would get home; his house was quite far from the school. He supposed he could find a shop in Hogsmeade and use a fireplace to Floo home. But if he left at that moment, he would be seen. He shook his tired head; this whole plan was ridiculous. He couldn’t leave school; his parents had wanted him to go for so long. How could he possibly dash their dreams in such a way? And Dumbledore… Dumbledore had done so much to ensure that Remus would be able to get a proper education, despite his Lycanthropy. He couldn’t do this to the Headmaster. Remus sighed and rubbed his head. He was being stupid, selfish. If he left school he would be letting down everyone who had helped him get there in the first place.
He fell down to his knees and began unpacking his trunk, dropping the contents unceremoniously onto his bed. He glanced towards the door every so often, wondering if his roommates would walk through, but they didn’t. He was glad about this; the last thing he needed was for them to see him in the process of emptying his trunk after he had tried running away from his problems. He was supposed to be a Gryffindor – brave, courageous, noble. Someone with any amount of courage would not run away from their troubles, no matter how difficult and frightening they were.
The door to the dormitory opened just as Remus finished putting away his last possessions. Sirius walked quietly inside, seemingly preoccupied in his thoughts and not noticing Remus. He went over to his bed and knelt down beside it. Sirius stuck his head under the bed and reappeared holding a sheet of parchment and a quill. Remus didn’t know why Sirius had to look under his bed for such items; they should have been with his books. Then again, this was Sirius and he never kept anything where it was supposed to be.
“Have to write to my parents,” Sirius explained when he saw Remus watching him.
“Oh,” Remus said simply, suddenly becoming extremely interesting in his entwined fingers.
“They need to know if I’m alive at least,” Sirius went on, sounding as if he needed something to take up the empty space.
“Well, you are.”
“They won’t be pleased to hear that.”
Remus allowed himself a small smile. As long as Regulus was alive, Mr. and Mrs. Black were happy. Sirius scrawled a quick message onto the parchment, folded it up into a tight square, and stood up. This was the longest he had been in a room, alone, with Remus in a long time and he hadn’t the slightest idea as to what to say. The only thing he could think to say was what Peter had said, “How are you?”
And Remus gave Sirius the same answer he had given Peter. “Fine.”
“Good… that’s good.” He glanced around the room, thinking of something, anything, that could break the tension engulfing the room. But something had blocked his flow of thinking. He could figure out nothing meaningful to say, nothing to let his friend know that they weren’t mad at him for keeping a secret. Before running through the open doorway, Sirius blurted out, “I’m sorry.”
October passed dreadfully slow. The first two weeks were, naturally, filled with those awkward and tense meetings between the boys, all of which had resulted in nothing that could solve their problems. The only person who had not come in any private contact with Remus was James. It was not because James was afraid to be near him, that was hardly the truth. He just couldn’t bring himself to. He felt betrayed that someone he had called his best friend couldn’t tell him anything. Sirius and Peter often told him that he was being stubborn, but James didn’t think he was. He thought Remus was the stubborn one.
They had checked the lunar charts to see when the next full moon would rise and saw that it fell on the twenty second of the month. They didn’t know what to do about this, if they were going to do anything. They certainly couldn’t follow him to the Shrieking Shack, if that was, indeed, where he went. If they followed him and he caught wind of them, he could unwittingly attack them. They knew all too well that if a werewolf killed an innocent bystander they would be sent off to Azkaban with no chance of ever coming out. Besides, they didn’t even know how to get to the Shrieking Shack without going through Hogsmeade, and they strongly doubted that was the way Remus took. They could do nothing except observe Remus the day of the full moon. They noticed that, unlike before, he seemed to be sicker than usual.
On any other day that Remus said he had to go home he usually looked pale; he got sick once or twice, but he was always able to get out of bed and spend the day with them. On this particular day, his face was whiter than the bed sheets, he got sick more than once or twice, and that was the only time he left his bed. Frank, who had no idea what was happening, suggested that he go to Madam Pomfrey. He even offered to walk with him in case he got sick again. Remus declined this offer, saying he felt better in his own bed, and those were the last words he said to anybody that day. He kept the curtains closed around his bed and slept when he could.
James, Sirius and Peter spent the day in the common room, close at hand in case Remus needed them, though they doubted that he would ask him. Even if they were not speaking, they still felt that they had to be there if he needed them. They passed the time playing Exploding Snap, Gobstones, and completing the homework they had neglected. It was only when sunset was arriving that they saw Remus emerge from the dormitory. He seemed fairly confused, gazing around the common room as though he wasn’t quite sure where he was standing. He began to make his way through the common room, which was, thankfully, considerably empty, and stumbled forward slightly. James, Sirius and Peter saw Lily stand up and help him out of the portrait hole.
“You don’t think she knows, do you?” James asked, eyeing the spot where the two had left.
“I don’t think so,” Sirius said, shaking his head. “She just wants to help him.”
Sirius was right, of course. Lily did not know of Remus’s affliction; she only knew that he was ill and needed help. When Lily returned she said nothing to anyone about Remus and continued working on her Defence Against the Dark Arts homework. The boys also made no mention of it and tried their best to pretend that nothing was happening at that moment. Their friend was not transforming into a werewolf. They had gone from a month of thinking nonstop about it to denial. They went to bed that evening, each of their minds filled with horrifying images of werewolf transformations and pain-filled cries.
Sirius’s eyes opened at daybreak. He crept stealthily out of his bed and to James’s trunk, where the Invisibility Cloak was kept. He had made his decision the previous night as he was getting into bed. He knew that there was no chance he could follow Remus at night, but he could in the morning, when Remus was human once more. He found the Invisibility Cloak stuffed under James’s broken potions scales and, as noiselessly as he could, yanked it out. He hid himself under the Cloak and tiptoed through the dormitory door and out of the common room.
The castle was quiet; all the students were still in bed before they had to awaken for classes. The ghosts seemed to have left the premise. Not even Peeves, who enjoyed this time to set up traps for unsuspecting students, could not be found. He walked past Mrs. Norris, who was prowling about, searching for out of bounds students for Mr. Filch. He resisted the urge to kick her and crept on, knowing that he had little time to reach the Shrieking Shack and see Remus before someone went to retrieve him. Unless he walked back to the castle by himself? No… that didn’t seem likely.
The grounds were coated in morning dew and the grass squished beneath Sirius’s feet as he made his way to the Whomping Willow. He didn’t know why he was headed that way, but his instincts were telling him that this tree held some of the answers he was looking for. He could remember Remus becoming unusually upset whenever the Whomping Willow was mentioned. Could this tree possibly be part of the mystery? The branches were whipping about in the breeze, ready to take out any student that dared come within reach. Sirius stood by it, peering at its trunk and wondering what part it could play. He was running short on time; he had to find this out.
A branch came out of nowhere and Sirius jumped forward to avoid getting hit. He rolled forward on the grass, the Invisibility Cloak falling off, and found himself face to face with the trunk of the tree and an unexpected surprise. There was a passageway just large enough for a single person to slide through. Now he understood why Professor Dumbledore was so strict about people staying away from the tree and why he had it planted in the first place. There was something beyond this tree that nobody else was supposed to see. Before the Willow could have another go at him, Sirius dove headfirst through the hole, clutching the Invisibility Cloak to his chest.
He landed in a pile of dirt and shakily stood up. When he gained his bearings, he saw he was at the head of a long and dark tunnel. He suddenly wished he had not forgotten his wand back in the dormitory. He carefully walked the distance of the tunnel; occasionally cracking his head on the lower parts of the roof. He thought the tunnel would never end; he must have been walking for an hour at the least. He could not even spot his watch in the darkness to see if he was exaggerating. At long last he came upon a doorway. He pushed it open and was soon standing in what appeared to be a living room. The wallpaper was ripped, bits of the furniture seemed to have been bitten off, and other items were overturned and smashed in bits. What could have done this?
He spotted a stairwell and decided that the best course of action would be to go up it. The stairway led off to another door that was closed. Somehow he knew that his answers were behind that door, Remus was behind there. First putting the cloak back on, Sirius then grasped the cold doorknob, slowly turned it and pushed the door open. Sunlight was streaming through the dusty windows and fell upon a crumpled figure in the corner. Sirius’s breath caught in his throat as he recognised the figure to be Remus. Sirius flung the Invisibility Cloak off and shoved it in his pocket as he dashed over to his friend’s side.
Every feeling of betrayal left him as he gazed at his friend’s beaten form. Remus’s robes were torn and shredded, revealing nasty lacerations that were steadily seeping with blood. His right eye was completely blackened, his green iris almost indiscernible. Remus’s lip was swollen, his nose bleeding and bruised. Sirius could see his friend’s wrist was at a funny angle, no doubt broken. Through the rips and tears in Remus’s jumper he could see purple discolouration on his ribcage. Sirius felt sick and he saw that Remus must have felt the same way the previous night when he spotted a pile of vomit across the room.
He heard footsteps coming from behind him and instantly tossed the Invisibility Cloak back on and hurried to the opposite wall, farthest away from Remus. The door had been left open and Madam Pomfrey noticed this when she came in. She shrugged it off and looked pityingly at Remus, lying unconscious on the cold wooden floor. She knelt down beside him, placed a new pair of robes on the floor, and her wand was out. Sirius could since Remus’s face scrunch up in pain; he was coming to. He made to move, but Madam Pomfrey placed a gentle hand on his shoulder and held him down.
Sirius’s feeling of sickness increased as Remus groaned in indescribable agony.
“It's okay, Remus,” Madam Pomfrey whispered as she tapped her wand on a gash across his lower abdomen.
Sirius couldn’t take it; he had to get out of there. Grateful that Madam Pomfrey had left the door open, he slipped into the hallway and ran blindly out of the shack. He had no clear idea of how he managed to get out of the tunnel and away from the Whomping Willow without becoming injured. All he could think of was what he had seen. Remus… unconscious and bloody. Remus… almost crying in pain. In the time that he had known him, Sirius had never seen Remus Lupin cry. How could they have abandoned him? Remus did that to himself, he hurt himself! He caused himself that kind of pain and he could do nothing to stop it.
Sirius burst into the dormitory twenty minutes later and saw that it was only a little past six. James and Peter were still slumbering peacefully, not a care in their minds. He ran to each of the boys and shook them violently on the shoulder, trying to wake them up without also waking Frank. James slapped Sirius’s hand away, and Peter muttered some nonsense under his breath. They were refusing to wake.
“Bloody hell, wake up!” Sirius hissed angrily.
“What?” James whined, rubbing his eyes.
“Come with me.”
James and Peter looked confusedly at each other, but followed Sirius down to the common room. They sat down on the couch in front of the fireplace and waited for him to stop his pacing and say something. Sirius was having difficulty coming to terms with what he had just seen; the scene was so vivid in front of his mind’s eye. He wanted to scream. It wasn’t fair. Remus didn’t do anything to deserve what he had gone through. It wasn’t fair. In his frustration, Sirius kicked at the table leg in front of him.
“What happened?” James asked concernedly. He had rarely seen Sirius so upset.
“He is a werewolf,” Sirius muttered miserably, his voice breaking. The words felt like a ton of bricks crashing on top of his head.
“You followed him?” Peter whispered, horrified.
“Not at night, no. This morning, I found him in the Shrieking Shack. He hurts himself… bad.” He clenched his fists until his knuckles were white. It wasn’t fair. “You had to see him… He hurts himself so badly.”
“How?” Peter asked in a small voice.
“I don’t know… he just does. He doesn’t deserve this. We shouldn’t have abandoned him the way we did! We’re horrible! What happens to him is horrible!”
“Sirius, keep your voice down,” James warned.
“And you!” Sirius raged, turning on James. “You were the one who kept saying that he should have told us. If you saw what I saw you would know why he didn’t tell us!” He wanted to scream; he wanted to do something that would relieve him of the agony he felt. “We have to do something about it; we can’t let him suffer like that.”
“What do you expect us to do?” James asked, his voice still with shock. “Werewolves are dangerous to humans; we wouldn’t be able to help him while he’s in his transformation.”
“I know... I just want to do something to help him.”
“We can’t do anything about that right now. We need to wait and talk to Remus. I don’t think he’ll be ready today, or at least not until tonight.” He stood up and began leading Sirius towards the steps to the dormitory. “Get some sleep while you still can, mate.”
Sirius did not resist. But, as they walked up the stairs with Peter trailing behind, he turned to James. “It’s not fair, James.”
“I know it’s not.”
James, Sirius and Peter knew Remus had returned from the Hospital Wing before dinner and that he was resting in the dormitory at the moment. They had been struggling for the past half hour to burst in there and tell him that they knew everything, but they feared what they would see when they came upon him. Sirius was the only one prepared; he had seen it already, but James and Peter were dreading it. They could not come to grips with the fact that their best friend was capable of inflicting such harm upon himself. The thought sickened them, made them ill.
“We have to do this,” Sirius murmured determinedly, pushing the door open and stepping inside. James and Peter followed and their eyes instantly fell on the bed that belonged to Remus. The curtains were, miraculously, not drawn around it. Remus was lying on his back, staring blankly through his uninjured eye into space, rubbing the bandage on his wrist. He didn’t seem to hear them walk in and it was only when they stood around his bed that he had no choice but to look at them.
“How are you, Remus?” James asked.
Remus was getting tired of answering this question. “Fine.”
“Look, we have to talk to you.” James sat down at the foot of Remus’s bed, folded his arms across his chest, and looked his friend straight in the eye. “You don’t have to hide anything from us.”
“We know what happens to you,” Sirius admitted, sitting down beside James.
“I can’t help it,” Remus said, looking down at his sheets.
“We know you can’t,” Peter said, sitting opposite James and Sirius. “And we’re not holding that against you.”
“We just wish you had told us,” Sirius said, reaching out a hand and placing it on Remus’s shoulder. Remus winced slightly; Sirius saw this and withdrew his hand.
“I… I wanted to… so many times… But I couldn’t.” Remus placed his forehead in his hand and stared down into his lap. “People… they don’t understand… I was… I dunno.”
“You were scared,” James deduced, his eyes never leaving Remus’s face.
“I don’t like being scared, but I can’t stop feeling that way.”
“You don’t have to be.” Sirius stood up and walked around to the other side of his friend’s bed. “You don’t have to be scared of us.”
“I’m not scared of you… Well, I was… I’m more scared of what I could do to you if you ever found me as what I am.”
“But Dumbledore’s done everything he can to stop that,” Peter said encouragingly. “He won’t let that happen.”
“You can’t guarantee that, Peter… The things I do… I get violent and I have no one around to take it out on, so-”
“So you take it out on yourself,” Sirius finished, nodding. Remus finally tore his eyes away from his lap and looked up at Sirius. Sirius was staring down at him as though he had never seen him before, but it was not in a way of anger. It was in a manner that showed he was truly hurt that his friend had to suffer in such a way. “I saw you this morning, before Madam Pomfrey came to get you.”
“How did you know where I was?”
“Peter figured out that you went to the Shrieking Shack, and I just knew that Whomping Willow had something to do with it. I saw you and… I don’t know what to say about it.”
“Then you see why I’m afraid of anyone finding out, what I can do to them.”
“No, I see more that you’re my friend and I never want to see you like that again. I want to help you. We all do.”
“But there’s nothing that can be done. My parents have tried everything the Healers come up with… every bloody cure they can think of. They never work.”
“That’s what happened to you, isn’t it?” James piped up. “My dad saw your father at St. Mungo’s, but he wouldn’t say why you were there. He just said you were sick.”
“The cure they came up with didn’t work and it was made with something I was allergic to. My dad and mum didn’t know that; they didn’t know what would happen if I took it.”
“Your dog has never hurt you, he has? You’ve been doing it all to yourself.”
Remus nodded shamefully. “And my mother has never been sick. I’m the one who gets sick, I’m the one who hurts me; I’m the one who does everything.”
“But you’re not the one who turned yourself into a werewolf,” Peter said bracingly.
Remus’s hands convulsively gripped his bed sheets and shook his head furiously.
“Who did it to you?”
“Fenrir Greyback,” Remus spat, the name sounding like a disease when he spoke it. “He bites children because he wants to raise them away from their parents. He wants to teach them to hate wizards because they don’t accept us. He wants to make as many werewolves as he can so we can overtake wizards. But he can’t have me; his plan didn’t work with me.” A muscle in his jaw tightened as he thought about the monster that had caused him to lose his childhood. “My parents wouldn’t let that happen. They kept me and tried to help me.”
“How did it happen?” Peter asked in a low voice.
The muscle in Remus’s jaw tightened further as he thought about that fateful night nine years ago. “My father… he got into an arguement with Greyback. He never told me what it was about, but I know it had something to do with what Greyback does. Greyback didn’t like that and before the full moon he found out where we lived. He positions himself close to the people he wants to bite when the full moon comes. He figured that the best way to make my dad regret what he said was to turn his only child into a monster. I was only three when it happened, I didn’t know better. I didn’t know that I shouldn’t leave the house at night without my parents. But I always liked dogs and I thought Greyback was one.”
James exchanged a glance with Peter and Sirius. Maybe this was the reason Remus always blamed everything on his dog. His love of them had driven him to become a Dark creature.
Remus seemed to have read James’s mind. “Maybe that’s why I say my dog does everything, but I don’t blame him. I didn’t even have him at the time. Anyway, I was sleeping and I heard something scratching against the house, so I got up to see what it was. My parents were already sleeping, it was late, and I just walked out the front door. I could hear something, but I didn’t really know what it was, so I kept following the sound. By the time I found Greyback I was so far away from my house I could barely see it. When I saw him I thought he was a dog and I went to try and pet him, but he snapped at me and I think that was when I knew I’d done something wrong. I shouldn’t have left my house. Greyback backed me up into a tree so I couldn’t run away and the last thing I remember about that night was just feeling pain in my arm.”
He rolled up the sleeve on his right arm to his elbow and turned his arm so the underside was facing up and held it out for his friends to see. There was a pink scar that looked as if it had not faded since the day he had gotten it. It was the mark that had cursed Remus since he was only three years old. “It never fades, you can always see it. When I woke up I was in St. Mungo’s and I just remember the Healers saying that the best thing my parents could do for me was to put me down before it got worse.” He laughed harshly as he thought about it. “Like I was some kind of animal, like I didn’t matter enough to save. But my parents wouldn’t do it; they weren’t going to kill me if they didn’t have to. My mum - she’s a Muggle - she had no idea what she getting herself into. My dad felt so guilty he didn’t look at me for days. When the first full moon came, he never left my side. He still blames himself.”
“But you don’t blame him?” Sirius asked. He could never picture Remus holding a grudge against his father.
Remus shook his head. “He didn’t know what would happen. It took him years before he could tell me the whole story, of why it had to be me. I used to feel sorry for whoever had done it because I knew how it felt. I knew what it was like to not have any control over what I did. After my dad told me, I began to hate Greyback, and that hasn’t changed. Greyback took my childhood from me, he stole any friends I could have had, and he almost took away my chance to go to school. If it wasn’t for Dumbledore, I wouldn’t be here.”
“Dumbledore’s a good man,” James said quietly.
“Dumbledore didn’t see why I shouldn’t come to school. He said that as long as we made sure I couldn’t find anyone to hurt, I could come. He was kind of right. I can’t hurt anyone else except myself. Werewolves need blood and meat, or else they go mad. I’m the only person in the Shrieking Shack, so I bite and scratch myself. Now you know why I look the way I do when I come back.” He flinched as a pain shot across his wrist. Peter moved forward, but Remus shook his head. “It just hurts a little.” He sighed and looked up at his friends, who were all staring at him as if they’d never seen him before. “I’m sorry I never told you. I’m sorry I had to lie to you for so long and tell you things that I knew you wouldn’t believe. I wasn’t doing it to hurt you; I wasn’t ready for anyone to know. You three are my best friends and I was afraid of losing you like I’d lost everyone else I called a friend. I just don’t want you to be mad at me for it. I really am sorry.”
James, who had for so long claimed that Remus had no right to not tell them, stepped forward. “You have nothing to be sorry about.”
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