When he hears more clearly than he smells, he knows that he is human again.
He feels a searing pain in his left side, but is too exhausted to look and see why he hurts. He hears a door open.
“Oh, no. John, he broke the bindings. Look—he’s ripped his side open.” He hears his mother’s voice but cannot open his eyes. He is only vaguely aware that she is talking about him.
“Let’s get him upstairs, Lena. We’ll have a better look when he’s patched up and in some light.” His father’s voice sounds worried, but calm. His father’s voice is always calm. When he hears his father speak, he knows that the pain will eventually fade. That is what fathers do. They reassure.
“Look at the remains of his clothes,” says his mother sadly.
“We should have thought of that. He is turning into a monster that is so much bigger than he is.”
Remus wonders why his father is talking about the nightmare he had last night as though it were real.
“My poor boy. It breaks my heart,” cries his mother, picking up his barely-conscious body and hugging him to her.
He hears footsteps climbing the stairs. He feels as though he should stand to meet her, but can’t summon the energy to do so. He never has been able to.
“Come on, now, dear,” says Madam Pomfrey. “Time to get up.” He is vaguely aware of her pulling a nightshirt over his head. “You have some bad cuts. I’ll have a look at them when you are safely tucked upstairs.”
Remus grunts. He can hardly lift his head. Madam Pomfrey holds him by the waist and hoists him onto a stretcher that she has conjured. She magics him down the stairs, through the passageway and out into dawn on the Hogwarts grounds. He fades into sleep before he has even entered the school.
“Next time, Moony, we will be ready,” says James. They are sitting in the hospital wing, James to his right, Peter to his left and Sirius at the foot of his bed.
“Look, if you need more time, I would prefer—” he begins.
“We’ve got it, Moony. Relax,” commands Sirius.
“Yeah. Things’ll only get easier now, Remus,” says Peter.
Remus is nervous. He is scared he will kill one of his best friends. He is scared of them changing their minds. He is scared of them seeing him turn into a wolf. He is scared that they will leave before he changes back so that they can get a few good winks of sleep before class. He is scared of waking up alone.
“You really have to admit, Moony, I am a bloody good friend and you are really indebted to me,” says James, “I mean, it takes a lot to help one of your best mates get dressed after a rough night, especially after having gotten no sleep. I mean, sure, I’m your roommate and everything, it’s my responsibility and all that, but I’m just saying…”
Remus doesn’t respond. He can’t lift his arms, much less make a noise more distinct than a grumble. But he does admit, to himself if not to James, that James is a damn good friend.
Remus reaches into a small hole with his middle finger and presses a button. The door into the rest of his very tiny flat opens. He stumbles—well, crawls, really—over to his bed and drops, bloodied and bare, onto it.
He glances at the clock as he closes his eyes. It is 5:30 in the morning.
He winces slightly as he shifts to make himself more comfortable. The old wound in his side has opened again. He does not remember how he got it, and he does not remember how it opened, but this wound has been the worst of all those he has ever had.
“Remus.” He smiles slightly to himself.
“Hello, Madam Pomfrey,” he exhales.
“Well, you have gotten stronger. In the old days, you used to mumble incoherently,” smiles Madam Pomfrey as she helps him climb into his bed. “Does the Wolfsbane Potion help that much?”
“Not really. I’m still pretty drained. My stamina improved from having to do it on my own, though,” he replies groggily.
“Well, I’m not saying that you having to take care of yourself in this state is a good thing, but it is an improvement.”
“A necessary one, I think.”
“Drink this.” She forces a goblet into his hands. He drinks deeply. He falls back onto his pillow, asleep instantly.
“Did Prongs have to do this for you when you lived together?” demands Sirius.
“Yes. He had it worse. I couldn’t even lift my arms,” Remus replies.
“Bloody hell. You are lucky to have friends who don’t mind the sight of your mangled, naked body.”
“I figure there are worse things in life. It could be Voldemort you had to help into a nightshirt.”
“I would rather help him into a body bag.”
“Tonks offered to help, you know.”
“That’s very kind of her, but I don’t think she knows exactly what that entails.”
“Yeah…I think she just wanted an opportunity to ogle your naked self, and then nurse you back to health. Some women are like that.”
“Oh, shut up. She’s your cousin.”
“I know. Isn’t that weird?”
"That you have a cousin?"
"If you like."
Sirius settles his friend into the bed. “Thanks, Sirius,” murmurs Remus.
“Get up.” He does not like the voice that greets him. Of all the voices that have ever been present at his return to humanity, Fenrir Greyback’s is the last that he particularly wants to hear.
“Weakling,” spits Greyback, “gone soft from years being tended by humans. And what now? Can’t even stand. Look at him.” Remus knows that Greyback is mocking him, pointing at him to the other werewolves. “Do you see what happens to those of us who try to survive in the wizarding world?”
He hears Greyback move away. He hears the crowd disperse. Then, he feels a hand on his back.
“Come on, Remus,” he looks up. It is Mary-Claire. She is seventeen. She looks tired. She hands him a robe.
“I’ve got it. I’m fine. Thank you, Mary-Claire.”
“Did people really take care of you after you transformed?” she asks wistfully. She is muggleborn and ran away from home when she was fifteen, when she was bitten, when she couldn’t go home anymore.
“Yes,” he replies, just as wistfully. He thinks of Dora, who would kiss him gently and lead him to their bed where she would hold him close while he slept in her arms. He thinks of Sirius and James, who would always try to make him laugh through his pain. He thinks of Madam Pomfrey, who took care of him without him having to say anything, without any direction. He thinks of his parents, whose lives were torn apart by his monthly transformations.
“You were lucky to have friends who would do that for you,” she whispers, “I wish I did.”