Actions

Work Header

Mischief Managed: Year One

Chapter Text

Full Summary:
All Remus Lupin wanted was to go to Hogwarts for as long as he could remember. Now that he's there he wonders if he made a mistake attending school. Between struggling with his relationships, fighting himself, and accidentally discovering something that makes him a target, he has his hands full. And this isn't even taking into account the full moon once a month. With many things happening year one is sure to be as eventful as it is stressful for the awkward boy and the three roommates he gets stuck with.

Eventual pairings but that will come in the later years. Definite eventual Lilly and James. Possible Wolfstar but depends on how the story naturally progresses.

Full Excerpt:

How had it come to this? To Sirius being bent over the still body of his friend clutching his cold hand. When had things gone so wrong? Sirius squeezed Remus Lupin’s hand. He looked more peaceful now than he had ever seen him before with his eyes closed. He would give anything to have his quirky secretive friend back.

To be driven mad by Remus’ secrets, by his skill at avoiding topics. He’d never ask another question again if it just meant he could have him back. But he couldn’t turn back time so now he had to say goodbye. They’d be coming for him in a few hours, to take him away and he’d never see his precious friend again. Thick tears slid down the twelve-year old’s cheeks. He hated crying in front of others but that hardly seemed to matter now.

How could he not cry when all this was his fault. He’d attempted to deny it but no matter how he looked at it he had to face the fact he had driven Remus to this. He choked on a sob the weight of guilt unbearable. He knew the others blamed him as much as he blamed himself, they’d never say it but he knew it was true.

Even if all the house points were taken away because of him, it would do nothing to ease his guilt. He doubted very much nothing ever would. He wished he was back home, wished he was facing a dementor for it was surely what he deserved. Never before in his entire life had Sirius Black hated himself so much.

“I’ll find out who did it.” He whispered into Remus’ ear as if this would somehow bring him back. Remus had often looked like he carried the weight of the world on his too slender shoulders and now Sirius knew what that felt like, now it was his turn. He’d get to the bottom of this or die trying.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter One: Here Lies Hope

It was a pleasant spring day and Remus Lupin was standing by his favorite tree out in the schoolyard, lost in thoughts of summer when he wouldn’t have to attend this dreary place. He was so lost in his thoughts, a rather common occurrence for him, that he didn’t realize people were creeping up on him until it was too late.

Several pairs of rough hands shoved him down onto the ground, his head hitting the dirt hard momentarily stunning him. The older boys positioned themselves in a strategic circle around him, successfully blocking him from the teacher’s view.

“YOU’RE A FREAK!” Came the roar that echoed in his ringing ears. He winced at the volume and braced himself for what was to come. He tried to sit up dirt in his mouth blood leaking from his nose. He didn’t get far as a heavy boot connected with his ribs over and over. His mother had told him how to deal with bullies. “Kill them with Kindness Remus darling.” She had instructed him over and over. It never worked and he knew it never would. He was too different from them, too easy a target.

Even the teachers didn’t seem to care about the small ten-year-old who had disrupted class more than once. Papers flying, glass shattering, and several times the school pets freed from their cages. No one could explain how he did it. Of course, he could since he knew how. It was the same reason his father could levitate things with the flick of the wand, the same reason his mother lit up when his father conjured a flower to hand to her. Magic.

It still sounded funny on his tongue every time he whispered it to himself forcing himself to believe it would bring him something other than the misery it always seemed to. But he could never tell these boys kicking and taunting him, couldn’t even tell the teachers who would smile at him one minute for his grades and shout at him the next when he “skipped school too often” and “caused so much disruption.”

However, even if he wasn’t surrounded by muggle children he’d undoubtedly be in the same position. For Remus Lupin’s oddness stretched beyond being a wizard, it was so much more than that, painstakingly torturously more, and he only had himself to blame.

“LOOPY LOONY LUPIN!” They shrieked giving up their assault on him for name calling. He didn’t dare move for fear the rocks would start flying, a favorite past time of the kid's attacks on him. They desperately wanted him to cry, part of him reasoned if he did cry they might leave him alone. Sure they would laugh at him but there was something about tears that suddenly made even the most unobservant teacher rush over. However he refused to give them that satisfaction, plus he dealt with worse, so much worse on a monthly basis.

“TEACHER'S PET! ARSEHOLE! DICKHEAD!” The words blurred together barely reaching his ears. He was falling away from the conversation into the dark pit that consumed his thoughts every time he was reminded of the monster he was. His fault, it was all his fault. He was an insolent child, a bad child, that much was certain.

If only he hadn’t followed that stranger away from safety. If only he had the sense not to fall for such a ridiculous ploy. If only he hadn’t let that man take him far away if only he hadn’t let the man hurt him, let him bite him. If only he had died, become the meal he was supposed to. Tears actually did prick his eyes now and he swallowed feeling a lump in his throat. A constant disappointment to his parents, that’s what he was. That and a monster that raged against him once a month littering his little body with large scars that never healed and cost his family more money than they could afford.

“You ought to kill yourself.” It wasn’t the boy's voice echoing in his head anymore. He knew this new voice well. It was the same voice that pulled him away from family functions to whisper in a malicious tone. It was his uncle’s voice, his father’s older brother. The man whose frequent lectures made Remus feel like the creature he was. Not human, not one of us, not one of the family, not one of the schoolboys, not even a wizard. He’d never hold a wand, never go to Hogwarts, never take his N.E.W.T.S. Because Remus Lupin was and had been since he was five, a werewolf.

“RIIIIIIIIIIIING!” Came the obnoxious bell signaling the end of recess. Children rushed towards the building in the distant, including the boys who had been bullying him. It took him a second to untangle himself, his lanky limbs shaking slightly from all the emotions he had been suppressing for as long as he could remember. He hardly had time to berate himself for wanting to walk outside instead of taking refuge in the school library, for he was late and try as he might he couldn’t get his sore legs to move fast enough.

“Mr. Lupin! Quit dawdling!” Came Mr. Fiefers shout.

Sure now pay attention, he thought bitterly before shaking himself. His teachers were good people, they weren’t the problem he was. He forced himself to move faster almost crying out from the pain, it was only the third day after the full moon and his whole body ached with the leftover trauma of the transformation. Plus, it left him dizzy with blood loss and fever despite the costly potions he took to remedy this.

“Sorry, Mr. Fiefer.”

“Just get inside.” Came the impatient response as his professor practically slammed the door on Remus. The day passed in a similar fashion of indifference and tediousness. No matter how many times he was expelled all the many schools he been to had roughly the same routine. He jotted down his notes and answered the asked questions quietly to himself, even knowing all of the answers he would never dare answer them out loud.

He may often hate himself but he didn’t fancy dying anytime soon, well...not really. So the hours stretched on and with them the classes. Different classes brought the same classification of teachers. Those who tolerated him and those who did not, as well as students who tolerated him and those who made it their mission to drive him from the school, as if they somehow instinctively knew the beast he was.

End of the school day brought little relief as it brought with it the journey home. He dashed out of the building despite his many pains. It was much worse when he was caught by the bigger boys after school. There was no bell to stop them then and they never ceased to tire of coming up with new imaginative ways to torment him. Luckily every time he moved schools, for multiple reasons, they moved to a different town.

He had a little less than half a mile to his house from this school he had been at for a short time, and if the pattern stuck he wouldn’t be here much longer. Most schools wouldn’t tolerate his many missed days for very long. But for the meantime, this location meant a short walk home which he truly did appreciate. But it didn’t really make him feel much better since normally he wouldn’t have to be running for his life so soon after the full moon at all.

Usually, he would be picked up from school instead. But that was when his mother was alive, now it was just his father and him. His father didn’t pay Remus much attention unless it was locking him in the porta potty sized shed once a month, or if Remus did something wrong. So he would have to get used walking home no matter how far that may be. He had gotten used to hardly seeing his father in the wake of his mother dying and he didn’t even expect his father to give him the time of day anymore. So it was the shock of his life when he silently entered his house shivering despite the thin sheen of sweat covering him, to see his father sitting at the kitchen table a letter clutched firmly in his hands.

“D………...dad…..?” He ventured towards him cautiously. There were no empty bottles but he didn’t fancy getting smacked around any more than he already had today. His father was desperately clutching at a letter like a drowning man might clutch at a lifeline and rather than ignore Remus, which seemed to be the case 95% of the time, he turned to look at him.
“Son come here.” His voice was thick and his steel colored eyes were bloodshot. This wasn’t uncommon as his father spent a great deal of time crying after the love of his life passed away nearly six months ago on a gloomy September evening.

Remus didn’t dare disobey but his legs shook slightly. If this was another letter from school on his ‘lack of participation’ he was in for it. However, his father didn’t have the cold look in his eyes that led to outbursts of rage nor were they glassy and unfocused which led to Remus cleaning up puke and tucking him in at night. Instead, his father was looking at Remus as if seeing him for the first time. He shifted uncomfortably and now stood within reaching distance of his father. He flinched as strong arms grabbed him.

“I’m sorry!” He said habitually flinching, however, he was drawn closer to his father and couldn’t suppress the gasp that escaped him at the shock. His father was hugging him! He couldn’t remember the last time his father had hugged him. Hugging had always been his mother’s job since she was the one who had wanted him who had forced his father to keep him. The same man who had drunkenly confessed to Remus the only reason he was still here was because his mother’s dying wish was for him to take care of him, was embracing Remus like a loving father.

“Dad?” He asked in a small voice terrified at what this turn of events might mean. His father hadn’t even hugged him when his mother died.

“You have a chance!” Mr. Lupin cried tears rolling onto Remus’ shoulders. He felt a wave of exhaustion crash over him, maybe his father was drunk after all since he wasn’t making any sense. Then he let go of him both too soon and not soon enough. Remus swayed the support suddenly gone.

“You may be able to go to Hogwarts!” His father confessed in a hushed voice as if saying it out loud might make it not so.

“What?” A dream, this must be a dream, had to be a dream. His head spun and his vision got rather fuzzy, this couldn’t be reality surely not.

“Remus you may be going to Hogwarts!” Now his father shouted it with more joy than Remus had ever heard. More shocking still was the fact his father’s dark blue/grey eyes were filled with a pride Remus had only ever dreamed about being the recipient of.

“Oh?” He managed to utter, thoroughly bewildered, before he blacked out. He vaguely recalled his father actually catching him rather than avoiding contact with him like usual, as if Remus might suddenly bite him.
.......................................................................................................................................................................................................

In the morning Remus found a glass of water by his bedside. Next to it was a hurriedly scrawled note with poor handwriting that would have offended his proper mother had she been alive to see it.

‘Remus Headmaster Dumbledore is coming to talk to us in a few weeks to discuss your possible future attendance. Do not mess this up. Make sure you don't stick a single toe over the line or the consequences will be severe. Don't do anything to jeopardize your one chance at being normal.’

Remus finished reading it clutching the letter in a similar fashion to how his father had yesterday. His stomach rumbled chastising him for skipping dinner almost three days in a row. However, Remus hardly registered this nor did he brood over his father’s choice of words how he usually would. Instead, the all-consuming fire of hope had come alive in him and made him feel very restless and very tired all at once. It didn’t seem fair he had to wait two whole weeks to find out what the rest of his future would be like. He hopped off his bed nearly falling as his ankle throbbed in protest to the sudden movement.

Because of his typical battered and or sick condition he couldn’t jump in anticipation like most boys. Nor could he run around and expel some of the wild energy that had surfaced suddenly in him. Instead, he had to settle for pacing as he frantically tried to sort through his thoughts and feelings. He shouldn’t be so hopeful, after all, it wasn’t a done deal and for all he knew, this headmaster didn’t know about Remus’ lycanthropy. Hope fizzled as quickly as it came and a leaden sense of despair took its place.

Whatever this meeting with the headmaster would bring it certainly wasn’t going to acceptance and inclusion, this Remus was certain of...well, almost. Try as he might he couldn’t completely squash the rather resilient flicker of hope that stayed with him determinedly, somehow making it easier and so much harder to get through the next two weeks.

.......................................................................................................................................................................................................

Two weeks flew by quickly. The school was now thankfully nearing its end. On March 10th Remus spent his 11th birthday alone letting himself cry as he clutched his mother’s knitted quilt to his chest. Last birthday the two of them had gone to the beach, something of a rarity for him despite the close proximity of their quaint town to the ocean. It had been a rainy day and his mother had laughed gleefully as she jumped in the puddles encouraging him to do the same.

“Remus, love, you must act like a child sometimes! Come join me!” He had, his mother always had a knack for getting him to laugh and enjoy himself even on the worst days.

“Mum.” He moaned into the soft quilt only daring to let himself mourn her when his father was gone. They used to be a happy family, he had vague memories of his father laughing and running with him on his shoulders boyish shrieks of glee filling the air.

But that had been before. After...well after only his mother could get his once cheerful father to crack a smile. Both of them had been transformed from what they used to be though. After the month he’d been gone and the weeks he’d been in the hospital both his mother and father had aged considerably due to worry.

In the first year upon him being back and being a werewolf there was such dismay and worry made worse by the fact Remus wouldn’t talk to either of them. However, a few months later the reality of lycanthropy was sinking in for both of them and the focus turned away from the trauma Remus had faced at the hands of his kidnapper to the trauma that would follow monthly due to the same man.

At first, his already loving parents had grown closer because of the whole ordeal but that too changed with time. Most of the time they argued in low voices when they thought he couldn’t hear. His father always seemed to lose the arguments and he’d ruffle Remus’ hair with grave affection or awkwardly pat his shoulder after the arguments as if to prove something to himself.

There had been good days too when they used to curl up on the couch and his father would only stiffen sometimes as Remus curled against him and read the Daily Prophet with him. Of course, the few days leading to the full moon and after his father only appeared to give him a solemn word of warning and seal the impressively safe but dismally small shed with the necessary spells and charms needed to keep an increasingly large wolf contained.

It took a while but a routine was formed and silent rules established between his father and himself. Things had very slowly gotten better in the years following Remus now being a werewolf. But then his mom got sick. Six months later and she was gone before either of them could wrap their heads around the idea. Then his father began to drink even more excessively than he had before she died and skip work days which is something he never used to do. Remus quickly learned about a year ago to take care of himself and his parents. After that rainy birthday on the beach his mother had gotten sick, at first it seemed to be a cold from being wet too long but unlike with a cold she didn’t get better.

Remus shuddered and cried harder a small part of him felt her death was his fault too. For she had gone into the rain to play with him for his birthday, but even worse than that, her usually childish disposition would fade into a sickly worry once a month which took its toll on her after years and years of this. She tried to hide it but he would feel her crying over him and on those days she would be as pale as he was. Of course, no one other than his uncle had dared to blame him for his mother’s death. But at her funeral, all the whispers seemed to be accusing him, blaming him.

His uncle was the only one brave enough to outright tell him it was his fault, dragging him away when Remus’ father wasn’t paying attention which didn’t take long. He had recanted to Remus the reason the wizards wouldn’t heal his mother. Thanks to the Werewolf Registry, a great proportion of the ministry of magic knew what he was. But this seemed strange to him because being a minor his name remained hidden so only those working in the Magical Bites and Burns ward would know what he was.

As much as Remus blamed himself for everything he couldn’t help but wonder if his uncle had made it up about the healers because surely they wouldn't all know about him? Still, in the wake of his mother’s death, it hadn’t taken much to send Remus fleeing the scene due to guilt and fear, which upon further reflection had most likely been what his uncle had wanted.

His memories jumbled together even darker ones surfacing that he quickly tried and failed to shove away. He cried until he couldn’t anymore then he spent the rest of the day how he usually did, curled up with a book. At 11 pm his father came into the house and quickly disappeared into his room. Remus slipped downstairs and warmed up dinner in an almost robotic fashion, this depressing life of there’s had become something of a routine for the two of them. He had hoped, had foolishly hoped that the letter from Headmaster Dumbledore would change the routine but his father’s hope on Remus getting into Hogwarts seemed to distinguish quickly and more firmly than his own.

He knocked twice on his father’s door having set down the plate of food on the floor like he did every night he physically could. He left the plate there where it would be waiting for him when his father opened the door, once Remus had left. He turned to leave as his father never opened the door until he was gone. However, perhaps the routine was changing after all because the door opened. Remus turned quickly afraid he might be yelled at if he didn’t. His father stood in the doorway a pensive look in his eyes.

“Tomorrow’s the big day.” Remus almost said that his father was mistaken that today was his birthday before he realized that’s not what he was talking about at all. Albus Dumbledore had agreed to come to meet Remus, to talk and decide if Hogwarts would indeed be in his future, on March 11th. Tomorrow! A thrill of excitement ran through him though his facial expressions remained in that neutral place he found was the safest option.

“Yes, father. I won’t let you down father.” He whispered. His father gave a curt nod and bent down to pick up the food.

“Thank you.” He muttered and then disappeared once more behind the closed door. Once his father’s door was out of sight Remus did a little dance of nerves and barely suppressed hope. The great Albus Dumbledore was coming here to talk to him! Excitement turned to panic. Here? He looked around the dingy house they’d been living in for the past five months.

There was a sheen of dust on surfaces and wilted flowers in the flower pot. There was a stain on the carpet and even though Remus regularly did the dishes the two in the sink from yesterday seemed to scream how filthy the place was. Dumbledore would take one look at this place and deem Remus an irresponsible werewolf who didn’t deserve Hogwarts if he couldn’t even bother to keep up on his chores. He rolled up his sleeves and squared his shoulders determination reflecting in those eyes that were far too old for the little boy they belonged to.

“I’ll make you proud mum.” He whispered then set to work cleaning long into the night.

Chapter Text

Chapter Two: A Very Weird Wizard

 

He woke with a start kicking off his blankets and making his bed with a sort of frantic frenzy. This same frenzy led him rushing downstairs where his father sat eating breakfast. The two Lupins looked at each other momentarily. Then his father turned to the newspaper he only read alone now and Remus self consciously slipped into the shower determined to be presentable.

Then he cleaned more as his father had to work until 3. He managed to stay distracted and busy cleaning but decided once he deemed himself finished that he needed another shower and took one again. Half an hour later and Remus sat on the couch fluffing the pillow for the fifteenth time wondering where his father could be.

At 3 he began to really worry. Dumbledore was due to come at 3:30 and Remus wasn’t looking forward to being caught alone with one of the most powerful wizards in the world who may or may not know his secret. Then there was a loud POP! Remus jumped to his feet like a soldier standing stiffly as the green flames roared to life and an elderly looking wizard ducked out of the fireplace with a chuckle.

“Good Morning! My, what a lovely home!” His voice was warm and gentle and his electric blue eyes twinkled with mischief and joy reminding Remus a great deal of his mother’s eyes. He smiled politely despite his nerves that had been rising all morning.

Upon closer examination of the older wizard, he quickly took in the half-moon spectacles perched almost lopsided on a slightly crooked nose. Dumbledore had a thick beard that almost fell to his waist and that was white and fluffy, looking remarkably like freshly fallen snow. All and all he found himself oddly at ease with this kind looking wizard, whose somewhat outrageous purple and pink robes seemed to somehow fit the quirky headmaster perfectly.

“Good evening Headmaster Albus Dumbledore sir it’s a pleasure.” He said offering his hand forward when he finally managed to stop staring. It’s not like Dumbledore looked weird, well he did, but that’s not why Remus was staring. It was just simply, well he looked...looked so much like a wizard!
Remus's mother was a muggle and his father always dressed like one due to the fact his morning job was at a muggle zoo and his wizarding job came after. Still, despite the initial shock he had managed to address Dumbledore with the same polite composure he learned from his father.

If possible the old man’s smile broadened and the eyes twinkled even more. The powerful wizard shook his hand without even the slightest fraction of hesitation. Remus felt cold dread claw at him, clearly, Dumbledore didn’t know what he was. But his dread was second to his manners and he forced himself to focus on his guest.

Remus couldn’t figure out if Dumbledore was an undesirable guest or not, he certainly was a very stressful one. What would he do if he was offered a spot at Hogwarts? He’d have to be honest there was no doubt about it. But what would Dumbledore do once he knew?

Maybe he could turn down the offer. Sure that was being very rude which Remus was always taught to avoid being, but it was certainly better than the alternative. He was getting lost in his thoughts again as he often seemed to do and quickly let go of Dumbledore’s hand growing red with embarrassment as he had been shaking his hand far too long. If Dumbledore cared at all he certainly didn’t show it.

“You are welcome to have a seat. Would you like anything to eat or drink?” He asked politely leading him to the couch trying to imitate his mother’s calm graciousness she had always had with guests, even the undesirable ones. Brilliant sapphire eyes seemed to widen slightly in shock then crinkled with happiness and sincerity.

“What a well mannered young man. But you needn’t worry about me I ate a late lunch before I came here” Remus nodded unsure what to do next. Being called a well mannered young man was something he had only heard from his mother. He couldn't quite believe the comment didn’t sound condescending from this powerful wizard who could easily blow up their whole house.

Dumbledore was looking around the house thoughtfully as if he too was prone to getting lost in thoughts like Remus.

“How often are you home all by yourself?” He asked in the same tone one might ask about the weather but Remus could sense there was a deeper meaning to the question. Suddenly feeling very defensive of his poor father who somehow managed to deal with him he responded quickly, with just the slightest edge.

“Not very often sir.”

Sharp eyes now seemed to be piercing his soul but with a streak of stubbornness, Remus’ mother always said he got from his dad, he refused to look away from the man’s gaze. Dumbledore’s gaze softened with sadness, though he quickly smiled again, still sincere as before.

“Loyalty is a trait that will serve you well should you attend Hogwarts. But I only meant that it must be hard for you since your mother passed.” There was such earnest concern in the statement that Remus took a step back and looked away quickly.

He supposed he shouldn’t be surprised Dumbledore knew about his mother’s death, he had been his father’s favorite professor and they had kept in touch some after Hogwarts, or so he heard. What surprised him was that he cared, why on earth should he care so deeply about some old student’s family so much?

It’s not like his father and he were close friends, they were mere acquaintances at best and that was probably pushing it. Still, Remus didn’t need nor did he want the headmaster’s sympathy and he certainly didn’t want to talk about this.
With more tact than he thought possible, he looked at Dumbledore with innocent honey colored eyes and smoothly asked.

“Were you close to my father? I know you were his professor but he doesn’t speak much about his time at Hogwarts.” Kindly Dumbledore let the topic change happen and his eyes narrowed in thought and sparkled with mystery again.

“No, I suppose he doesn’t. But yes he was my student and he certainly had a knack for getting in trouble. I had to give that boy so many detentions. He and his best friend got in quite a bit of trouble.”

Remus was stunned and momentarily forgot he was supposed to be distantly polite and guarded against this man. After all, he had heard very little about both his parents before he came into the picture nor did he have many people to ask and answer his questions.

“Really! Did he get in that much trouble? But he’s so serious and strict!” He said excitedly his eyes widening in joyful surprise, finally appearing as the child he was.

His father’s parents had passed away when Remus was a baby and his father’s brother knew about Remus’ condition and hated him with a passion now. This meant that the only way he could ever get information about his father was through his father, and that wasn’t likely to happen ever.

Dumbledore sat on the couch and gestured for Remus to join him still smiling. Remus hesitated and sat as far away as he could without seeming rude. His discomfort and wariness disappeared quickly again as Dumbledore launched into several stories of his father’s days in Hogwarts and the mayhem him and a girl names Rosy Danhew would cause together.

“They were inseparable. Those two were attached at the hip from day one. They looked similar so people always assumed they were siblings and goodness did they bicker as such.” He laughed a deep belly laugh that seemed to make the little house warmer and more alive.

“Whatever happened to Rosy Denhew headmaster?” He asked growing rather sad realizing he hadn't once heard mention of Rosy. Not that his father let Remus meet his friends, but if Rosy was like family surely he should have met her at least once.

He noticed Dumbledore’s gaze grow serious again. A pearl of wisdom in those eyes that reflected terrors Remus suspected even he wouldn’t be able to fathom, and he had been through a handful. He shuddered suddenly suspecting he might not want to know the answer.

“I’m sorry Remus but I don’t believe that’s my story to tell.” He answered solemnly and the atmosphere changed from the lightest the house had ever experienced back to a tense silence that usually filled the house.

Remus shifted on the couch unsure what to say to Dumbledore's respectful yet grave response. Clearly, there was something terrible that had happened and Remus could hardly imagine what.
Luckily he was saved from responding by his father’s timely arrival.
He stepped through the fireplace looking as haggard as he always did upon returning home.

“Remus make sure you get ready Albus will…..” He trailed off suddenly, a choking sound emitting from the back of his throat as his eyes bugged at his guest sitting on the couch. He looked at his watch as if worried he was late, but it had been Dumbledore who was exceptionally early there was no doubt about that.

Remus realized perhaps Dumbledore wanted to talk to him alone because now that his father was here Remus was standing upright and rigid again and unlike with Dumbledore he seemed to have lost his voice.

“Lyall it’s been too long.” While most great wizards or witches may have said this without meaning it, the sincerity in Dumbledore's voice was once again shocking. His father seemed to feel the same way but he shook Dumbledore’s hand with composure and politeness, those were two traits Lupins always had.

“Good evening Albus Dumbledore it’s a pleasure.” His father said in a quiet voice that held great respect.

“Oh, I assure you the pleasures all mine.” The old man responded jovially making his father glance from his old professor to Remus as if shocked at this statement.

“If….well if I had known you’d be arriving earlier I would have hurried home sooner.” He explained quite apologetic. Remus took in his father’s dirty clothes the reek of animals wafting off him, his poor father looked so flustered and embarrassed that it was rather painful to watch. Remus certainly hoped he hadn’t looked like that when addressing Dumbledore.

Sure enough, the handshake lasted too long and like Remus, his father seemed to jolt himself out of some thought and quickly apologized again for his absence and appearance.

“Don’t worry Lyall the fault is mine for arriving so much earlier than we had agreed. By all means, don’t feel bad I assure you that I have been enjoying getting to know your son immensely.”

Remus flinched as his father’s almost accusing eyes fell upon him. He could hear the unspoken accusation that Remus had done or said something foolish.

“I must say you have an exceptionally well-behaved son Mr. Lupin. His manners are most impressive especially for a mere boy of 11.” Remus would have felt something close to pride if his father’s gaze wasn’t still scrutinizing him.

“Eleven?” His father asked sounding distracted and Remus flinched again feeling shame rise up in him at the fact his father had once again forgotten his birthday. His eyes flickered to his father who stood by the fire and who had gone rather pale, though Remus didn’t know why.

Remus couldn’t quite meet Dumbledore’s eyes anymore, once again reminded there was no way he’d be speaking to him so kindly and respectfully if he knew what Remus was. Clearly, there had been some mistake, maybe he could simply tell the headmaster to leave before he found out and the incredible kindness he was showing Remus turned to scorn.

If Dumbledore realized that Remus’ father had forgotten his birthday he made no mention instead he gave a slight flick of his wand grinning mischievously.

“Silly me! I almost forgot to give you your present, after all, it would be rude of me to come here the day after your birthday without a gift!” Dumbledore continued with only the slightest edge to his voice as if there hadn't been an awkward exclamation from Mr. Lupin. As if Dumbledore hadn’t somehow been able to decipher that Remus’ birthday had been dismal and lonely.

However Remus hardly had time to consider this for his suspicion about the headmaster had turned into outright astonishment, he even felt his mouth hanging open and quickly shut it.

“Y…….you didn’t have to.” He stammered unsure what else to say. He could feel tears threatening to form in his eyes, unsure how to feel about this misplaced gesture.

“But of course I did my dear boy. It’s not every year you turn eleven.” He chuckled as if he had just said something particularly witty and then produced from thin air a lumpy package he thrust into Remus’s hands.

Remus’ surprise turned once more into suspicion and discomfort, was this perhaps one of those presents his uncle liked to give him, ones that made his hands burn or made him feel like he might puke? He didn’t even realize he was gazing mistrustingly at Dumbledore until he put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“Well go on.” He opened it carefully tearing as little of the paper as need be and sliding a beautiful wool robe into his hands. He studied the black material realizing with a jolt the shiny emblem sewed into the robe, the Hogwarts crest.

“B…...b…...but…..” He stammered hating the way his voice raised three octaves and that his usual composure cracked, as the tears he was fighting so hard against sprung to his eyes.

“Sir I can’t accept this you don’t understand I can’t go to Hogwarts it’s not safe I’m not safe.” He rambled high pitched, hardly able to keep back the tears as he stared at the robe he knew he’d never wear and avoided the gaze of the man who clearly did not understand.

“You have an illness, Remus,” Dumbledore said kindly his sympathetic tone drawing Remus’ tear-filled eyes to meet his kind but sad ones. “This illness is the only thing that sets you apart from anyone else. This isn’t something you should be punished for.” He glanced past Remus looking behind him to gaze at Lyall Lupin rather sternly.

“In no means should you be punished for what you've worked so hard to control when you do your utmost to make sure no one gets hurt but you.” Defensively his father was staring Dumbledore down a vein twitching in his neck that signified his building anger.

“You can’t possibly let him into a place filled with innocent kids! You can’t let loose a potential threat and predator and expect it to work out!” His father sounded so resolute and Remus’ heart plummeted feeling rather numb and hallow.

He didn’t understand, his father had wanted him to go to Hogwarts. He wanted him to succeed to be normal it was all he ever wanted. So why was he attacking his son and jeopardizing his one chance when he had been so stern about Remus possibly doing the same thing?

“Mr. Lupin,” Dumbledore addressed him sharply no longer using his first name. “I assure you that there are precautions set in place to ensure everyone’s safety. I know you love your son and I insist you show this love by letting him attend school. Education is vital for a child and don’t you believe Remus deserves an education?” The headmaster was now much closer to Lyall who had looked away about halfway through headmasters passionate speech his cheeks red.

“Yes…..yes of course. Provided there are the appropriate measures taken.” His father mumbled his anger replaced with embarrassment and no doubt shame in his monster of a son. Remus felt sick, he didn’t want to be here.
He wanted Dumbledore to leave so he could curl up in his mother’s blanket and cry himself to sleep. His father was looking at him now, they both were and with a jolt, Remus realized he didn’t catch what last had been said.

“We were just agreeing that it seems the decision is yours and yours alone to make Remus. I for one would be honored to have you attend Hogwarts. I know that you have had to deal with more than any child your age should have to and I hope that you will find a safe space to be a child, as well as a school which can do well by you and makes your dreams come true.”

Tears were running down his cheeks now, he couldn’t help it but Dumbledore smiled letting him turn away and rub his eyes. He couldn’t believe it was his choice, he glanced at his father whose expression was unreadable and stone-faced as usual. Then he looked back at Dumbledore's patient and kind eyes. They were waiting for his response.

Unable to speak he nodded slowly, feeling dizzy and entirely overwhelmed. Tears leaked out of his eyes again and he ducked his head before either adult could notice. The small embers of hope that had somehow stayed alive in him throughout the weeks had exploded into a bright fire that filled him with warmth touching him to the core. His mother would be so happy, he hoped his father was too, deep down.

Hogwarts, he could hardly believe it even though he had permission, even though he was told he could go. He let out a sob quickly covering his mouth to muffle the noise. He had to get a hold of himself or his father was going to get angry and be even more disappointed and ashamed of Remus than he already was.

“You really will let him attend?” His father sounded as disbelieving as Remus felt. But now Dumbledore seemed to only have his attention on the trembling boy in front of him and with a gentle hand, he guided Remus’ chin so he couldn’t hide his large tear filled amber eyes. It was the way Dumbledore spoke to him, very gently and with more kindness than he could possibly deserve that kept tears running uncontrollably down his cheeks.

“Can I take that as yes you’ll attend?” Despite the tears running down his cheeks Remus couldn’t help but smile as the realization finally finished sinking in. This was reality, this was the truth, Remus Lupin would be a wizard.

“Yes, yes I will. Thank you so much.” He responded breathlessly and excitedly. Dumbledore had let go of his chin and now offered Remus a handkerchief smiling. He took it going red and quickly wiped his eyes.

“Thank you.” He responded again unable to thank Dumbledore enough, did he realize just how much this meant to him?

“Think nothing of it. Thank you for being such a lovely host and for agreeing to attend my school.” He responded as if Remus had only been thanking him for the handkerchief but Remus felt Dumbledore understood and tucked, the wet with tears, cloth into his pocket holding close to the unsaid promise it represented.
As he did this he nodded blushing more very unused to all this praise.

“Thank you for stopping by and….and for giving my son a chance.” His father sounded breathless as well and Remus took the momentary relief of piercing blue eyes to fully compose himself and pick up the robe, holding it out in front of him. The glorious robe seeming to be tailored to fit him.

“Well go on put it on.” Came the encouraging words followed once more by a kind laugh, a laugh that filled Remus with hope, an incredible brilliant hope.

He put on the robe that fit him perfectly and chanced a glance at his father who was staring at him transfixed, his cheeks rather pink and his eyes filled with something Remus couldn’t quite place. Of course, Dumbledore didn’t just come here to deliver presents and good news and they spent the next hour listening to the precautions already beginning to be put in place.

Dumbledore stressed the importance of secrecy and delivering himself in a timely fashion to Madam Pomfrey who would escort him to the whomping willow once a month. He was assured that very few of the staff knew about his condition and that those who did wouldn’t treat him any differently.

Remus appreciated the way Dumbledore addressed him as well, not talking over him as most adults did as if he couldn’t understand. However, Dumbledore eventually said he’d like to talk to Lyall alone so he was excused to his room as the adults talked.

Even though he desperately wanted to hear he shut his door like the responsible boy he’d be sure to be and sat on his bed staring at the official acceptance letter Dumbledore had given him. He stared at it in awe until a soft knock brought him back to reality.

“Come in.” He said with more calm than he felt and he sprang to his feet as the Headmaster of Hogwarts came into his room. He glanced at it no doubt taking in the cleanliness and books put away with the utmost care. As he took in the small room a slight frown touched his lips but was gone so quickly that Remus was sure he’d imagined it. He wouldn’t start thinking Dumbledore was already regretting his decision to let Remus attend Hogwarts, he couldn’t dare.

“I must head out now but I will see you this fall. And Remus…..don’t be in a rush to grow up too fast. Being a child is a time of utmost importance. Good Day.” Then he was gone before Remus could say goodbye. He ran to the balcony almost falling over it in his haste. Despite how quick he was, Dumbledore was somehow already stepping into the fireplace.

“Thank you, sir!” He shouted and swore he received a sincere smile in response before the flames disappeared and with them his Headmaster.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three: The Draining Trip to Diagon Alley

The rest of school and then Summer flew by and yet seemed to move at an agonizing pace. Remus’ father never mentioned his birthday but the next two full moons he actually gave Remus a hug before ushering him into the damp dark cellar. More shocking still was that both times when Remus woke up in St. Mungo’s, his father was actually in the room which somehow made the brisk and cold treatment that always followed his stays more bearable.

But best of all was his father took him to Diagon Alley which Remus had only been to once before back when his uncle didn’t know what he was and still liked him. He didn’t dare hold his father’s hand not wanting to make him uncomfortable or risk his disapproval when everything had been going so well between them lately. But his resolve not to hold his hand nearly broke as they reached the crowded alley.

“Here’s some coins I’ll meet you right here. Only go to these two shops.” His father scrawled down the names and pointed to two shops across the way. But which ones they were Remus couldn’t tell due to the constant stream of witches and wizards. He nodded his consent and slipped through the crowd tugging at his long sleeves self consciously which he did whenever there were a lot of people around.

Of course, he was more self-conscious than usual as last full moon had left him with a nasty scar stretching as far as his wrist. However, even this couldn’t dampen his excitement at being here. The whole place was alive with magic and people. Everywhere he looked there were witches and wizards dressed in colorful robes talking about magic things he couldn’t understand...not yet at least.

He grinned ear to ear gazing up at the small but brilliant little stores half hidden by the constant flow of the crowd. He heard owl hoots over the racket of hundreds of conversations piling on one another and distinctly heard a few peddlers bellowing out whatever they wanted to sell. It was hard to tell where one shop ended and the other began and they all looked so pleasant and homely, little stone buildings with strange colored smoke rising from chimneys despite the heat of the day.

Finally squeezing his way to the other side of the street he saw steaming cauldrons and large leather-bound books propped up for display. This with the hanging cages holding bats and any owl imaginable and it was a wonder Remus wasn’t giggling like a little boy. He couldn’t get caught up in his excitement though, his father had given him a mission and he had to carry it out correctly.

His father had circled what he needed to buy, he knew he’d be getting most of his books from his father’s old collection and his father said he would take care of getting things from a different apothecary as the ones here were overpriced. This left a rather short list of things for Remus to obtain on his own, and he certainly wasn’t going to get away with dawdling as much as he wanted to.

So inside Belby’s Book and Quill Emporium he was physically pained by the fact he couldn’t browse the tall shelves of books. He inhaled the smell of the shop deeply, the quiet atmosphere helping him to relax from the excitement but also anxiety the outside caused. He walked to the M’s and picked up the most used copy of Murky Murphy's Beginner’s Potions he could find. Appalled they were all pretty new, but seeing no other more used editions he walked to the counter and paid for the book and a handful of quills following his father’s instructions to a T.

“Thank you for your purchase.” The young witch called after him but he was already running out of the shop tearing his gaze away from the spectacular collection of books that took up the whole multi-floored shop. It was only when he was back outside that Remus realized the shop he was in couldn’t have possibly been that big. It took him a second to realize it was obviously magicked to be bigger on the inside and feeling stupid he didn’t realize that sooner he stepped into the jostling crowd again.
“Oi watch it!” Some witch shouted plowing into the small boy and sending him falling. He braced himself but a hand grabbed him saving him from falling to the ground. He blinked up at an older clearcut looking boy whose hair matched the color of his sunburned skin. He had a soft looking round face that housed a smile of amused friendliness.

“Nearly got yourself run over you did. New to Diagon Alley?” He nodded unable to find his voice but luckily the young man didn’t seem to mind, his grin broadening as his baby-blue eyes filled with childlike excitement.

“Blimey, then you’ve been living in the Muggle world haven't ya!” Remus was caught off guard by the man’s earnest joy as he couldn’t find anything remotely remarkable about living in the muggle world. “Oh, where are my manners. My names Arthur Weasley I’m recently employed at the ministry of magic!” He announced proudly his eyes widening even more as he did so as if he couldn’t quite believe it.

“I graduated Hogwarts two years ago. It goes by fast lad it really does. Anyways what’s your name?” He opened his mouth say something but still, nothing came out. However the young man didn’t call him a freak for this, nor did he seem particularly stunned by this.

“Don’t worry it’s not uncommon for Muggle-borns to be overwhelmed. Are you lost?” Finally, the young man had stopped beaming at him his eyebrows creasing in concern. Dammit, he had to get ahold of himself.

“My name is Remus Lupin sir and my dad is nearby sir.” He finally managed to choke out though he sounded quite overwhelmed despite himself.

“Jolly good to meet you! Always such fun to see fresh new soon to be firsties.” He said pleasantly followed by a firm shout of “Arthur” which finally drew his attention off Remus.
“That’s my lovely wife Molly! Well, good luck!” He waved and then the friendly young man was gone leaving Remus standing in the midst of the crowd still rather dazed.

Careful not to be pushed or run into anyone else Remus squeezed into the second store finally recognizing the name from his father’s small scrawled note. He quietly purchased the cauldron he needed. When he got back to his father he was starting to feel tired but he perked up immediately not wanting his father to think he was ungrateful.

He gave the change back to his father who counted it quickly. It hurt Remus that his father instinctively didn’t trust him, that he often saw the werewolf before him rather than his son. He swallowed down his disappointment and waited as his father went through the list.

Remus had used a great deal of self-control since he didn’t dawdle and only used the exact amount of money his father had allowed him too, didn’t that count for something?

“We still need some robes for you and your wand.” His father sounded as tired as he felt.

“I can go myself dad you don’t need to worry about it.” His father’s dull charcoal eyes met his earnest ones. He worked desperately to hold his father’s gaze and finally, the older man relented.

“Very well.” He handed him more coins looking as if parting with the coins pained him. He hesitated his eyes softening some.

“Buy yourself something….for….uh for your birthday. I never….got you anything.” He seemed honestly embarrassed by this and that alone was enough for Remus. He dared a nervous smile and was thrilled when his father mirrored it.

“It’s alright dad all of this is my present.” He gestured at the list sheepishly.

“Yes I guess it is….but still get something for yourself alright? It will make me feel better.” Remus nodded stunned and took the small money pouch walking off before his father changed his mind.
...

He was secretly very proud of himself because he used his father’s offer to buy a pack of quills which were both nice and useful. He knew he should go to Ollivander's next but he was more than a little afraid he’d go through all the wands and then Ollivander would realize there had been some sort of mistake.

So instead he went to get two more robes, three being the bare minimum he’d need for life at Hogwarts. When he reached the shop he stopped at the door, took a deep steadying breath, and then entered Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. A little bell announced his presence and immediately he heard an elderly witch shout that she’d be right with him.

He looked around the store made up of racks of robes, indeed for every occasion. He ducked around the floating robes and needles magically working by themselves and headed to the back of the store where a shabby rack was labeled ‘used’. He knew he couldn’t afford to get anything new or even tailored so he busied himself by looking through the discount rack where used robes were hung in varying degrees of wear and tear.

He reached for one that looked almost new hardly believing his luck. But a slender pale hand out of nowhere shout out and grabbed it, practically yanked it out of Remus’ grip as his hand had just been closing in on the smooth material.

Startled he turned and saw dark forest green eyes narrowed in irritation at him as if daring him to fight back. He was a boy about his age and height, and he stood less than a foot away from him, greasy black hair falling limply to his shoulders. The boy looked rather gaunt and disheveled but somehow managed to stare haughtily down a big nose at Remus as if he was the one wearing a tattered robe.

“H….hello.” He said nervously offering the boy a friendly hand to shake. Instead, the boy shot him one more irritated look with those cold eyes of his, then walked away with the robe Remus had been about to buy.

“Hurry up Severus.” A strict looking woman dressed in a velvet emerald robe had watched the whole thing through narrow eyes. She ushered the boy away from Remus chiding him loudly for taking to long.

He pushed the instance away from his mind and picked out two used robes not looking nearly as nice as the one he had almost gotten. He tried not to mind it and politely excused himself from the elderly witch coming at him with a measuring tape. She seemed understandably disappointed but curtly checked him out regardless.

Carrying two squishy bags of robes, he hurried back to his father only having Ollivander's left. He knew it was silly but he wanted his father to go with him. But he couldn’t find it in himself to ask and when he returned and his father didn’t take the hint so he left the bags and went off by himself nervous and sad despite the excitement of the day.

His shoulders felt really heavy as he walked to the wand shop and he was reminded once more by how soon it would be the full moon. He shuddered almost bumping into someone again and forced himself to focus on the present rather than the terrifying future.

He reached and then entered the small shop stopping dead in his tracks as he felt a tingle run down his spine, the air in the wooden shop crackling with magic. Behind the counter were large shelves filled with thousands of thin boxes each holding a different wand. Though Remus didn’t understand the organizing system behind them he felt an almost reverence for the awe-inspiring collection.

“Hello there,” Remus jumped as a middle-aged man rushed to the counter. He seemed stern but pleasant despite the air of mystery around him as tangible as the thick air of magic in the shop.

“Hello, sir.” He responded reflexively as wide smokey eyes peered at him through large spectacles assessing him seriously.

Remus resisted the urge to squirm feeling as if Mr. Oliver and Mr, Dumbledore could both somehow see his very soul. It was a sensation he couldn’t believe he would have to be getting used to you.

“Hmmm yes yes I know just where to start. So many talented wizards coming in here today.” He muttered more to himself it seemed. But Remus turned behind him sure that this man did not mean to imply he was a talented wizard.

He laughed inwardly at the thought and waited patiently for the man to come back with a thin box. Remus felt his heart rate speed up and he took a shaky breath trying not to show the fear that was threatening to overtake him.

“What’s your name boy.”

“Remus Lupin sir.”

“Well go on Remus give her a whirl.” He took the lid off and with a surprisingly steady hand Remus picked up the wand. There were a few seconds of nothing happening and Remus wanted to cry out in frustration, then lots of boxes flew off the shelf.

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” He cried, immediately placing the wand back in the box his heart plummeting. He knew he wouldn’t be a wizard and here was his proof. He was honestly about to turn to leave when Mr. Ollivander inadvertently filled him with hope again.

“Don’t worry about it. Truly it happens all the time.” He gave him a toothy grin then disappeared and came back with a different wand. This one too was a disaster simply doing nothing, then the next one which caused the chandelier to explode, and the next one after that which again did nothing. Remus was beginning to feel very disheartened when he was faced with what must have been his tenth wand.

Mr. Ollivander didn’t seem to mind and was even chuckling happily at the challenge. He set another box on the counter and Remus could feel even before the box opened, that this time it would be different. Mr. Ollivander removed the lid watching him but Remus only had eyes for the plain looking dark wood, dull but smooth.

There were slight variations in the shade of browns as if the wand couldn’t decide what sort of tree it was made from. Remus instantly liked it feeling a connection before he even picked it up.

“How fascinating.” He heard Mr. Ollivander say but he didn’t register the words being in an almost trance-like state as he hesitantly picked up the wand. This time when he picked it up he felt a wave of warmth roll over him and a light shined from the tip of the wand. He smiled, it was official now, he was a wizard.

“Good wand that one. Cypress, 10 and a quarter inches, made from unicorn hair. Seems you two already share a strong bond. How curious I haven’t seen quite an intense connection like that in some time.” Ollivander mused and Remus grew very uncomfortable his grip tightening on the wand, he didn’t want to stand out any more than he already did. He could feel Mr. Ollivander scrutinizing him, his gaze lingering on the scar now visible on Remus’ wrist. He quickly lowered the wand and his hand.

“Thank you, Mr. Ollivander.” He rushed to pay him and left quickly before the man could say anything, terrified of what accusations might be flung at him.

By now the sun was setting and bathed the winding down the alley in vibrant hues of orange and gold. Normally Remus would appreciate the beauty and tranquility of the sunset but he was much too wound up and soon the moon would be up, almost full, taunting him from the safety of the sky.

“Remus! Remus!” Lyall was rushing towards him catching up quickly to his son who was moving as if his every step was a burden.

“Can we go home now?”

“Did you get your wand?” In response, Remus held it up and he felt his father’s large hand rest on his hair ruffling it with the ever rare demonstrations of affection. He hated that he couldn’t appreciate it at the moment he just suddenly felt much too out of place here and his body was beginning to ache how it always did the night before the full moon.

Luckily his father didn’t ask why he didn’t seem happier, nor did he seem offended by Remus’ melancholy mood. He simply ushered him into a nearby public fireplace and a few seconds later he was stumbling into their living room feeling dizzy and a little nauseous.

“Remus why don’t you go lay down, you look rather green. I knew I shouldn’t have taken you with me.” He did indeed feel sick but he swallowed it down and forced a smile unaware how pitiful it looked.

“I really had a good time dad. Thank you for taking me.” His father gave a grunt of acknowledgment and Remus swore it looked like he was going to say more but then something in his eyes shifted and darkened and instead he left his swaying son in the living room, like almost always to fend for himself.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four: Mayhem of the Moon

“REEEEEEEEEMUS! REEEEEEEMUS!” A small boy with sunshine hair and sky eyes ran up to him tackling him into the grass with a peal of laughter that he echoed through his own small body. They held hands and ran to the playground scrambling to race each other to the top of the slide.

“I WON REMUS!” Came a victorious squeal but he was no longer paying attention to the sunny boy and the bright playground he was staring into the shadows where a hand beckoned him and he walked towards it.
Don’t do it!

He begged himself, he tried to stop walking he tried to shout out for the little boy or his parents but he was always doomed to make the same mistake.
“Hi, there what’s your name?”
“Remus. Mister, you’re bleeding.” Came his small voice.

Shout at him. Tell him to go away. Tell him to get away from you
He begged himself again screaming in frustration as the man covered in shadows, almost all of his features determinedly blocked from his mind, smiled.

“Well aren’t you a kind boy. And so pretty. Where are your parents?”
Why hadn’t he realized? Why hadn’t he been creeped out? It wasn’t fair!
Run stupid child run away!

He screamed at himself as he always did. But the dream wouldn’t change it never did.
“Mister you should go see a doctor. I’ll get my friends mom she’s super nice and she will take you. Please, there’s a lot of blood.”
“Woah!” The boy made of sunshine was standing beside him gaping at the disheveled bloody man but unlike the other small boy already consumed by shadows he wasn’t moved with pity but fear as a small boy should have been. Why had he been so stupid?

“Remus come on…..Remus my mom wants us home. Remus…..REMUS!” But he couldn’t see his friend anymore he couldn’t see anything but the growing shadows that swallowed him whole. His small self cried in pain but it was too late, it was always too late.

…………………………………….

Remus woke with a strangled scream covered in cold sweat. He kicked away his covers and shakily got off his bed stumbling to the window. He stared both horrified and transfixed at the moon high above and let bitter tears run down his cheeks.

No one came to check on him when he woke up screaming, not anymore, not since he had driven his mother into the ground. But as he glared at the moon with all the animosity and rage he couldn’t take out on the man of shadows, he was struck by a new and confusing thought.

This time when he woke from the dream a name had been the center of his thoughts, a name that didn’t make sense, Rosey Denhew.

The next day the name haunted him and he tortured himself trying to figure out why he had thought of her and if this had any significance or if it was just a weird dream thing. After he had been rescued from…..from that shadow man he had to be rushed to the hospital as he had been bitten and mauled.

It took weeks for him to stay conscious long enough to realize he was back with his parents and for some reason, this had made him angry. He had been so angry and had fought the healers so much they eventually banned his parents from staying with him.

After he went home he wouldn’t talk to them, Remus didn’t remember why and assumed it was probably because he was so scared or something. In an attempt to help him his mother had forced Remus to go to counseling, it was there he was taught how to control his emotions and he also learned about his dreams.

For example, the boy that was always there with him wasn’t a real boy but some weird metaphorical thing, the boy Remus wished he was or something. He didn’t understand it and he really didn’t get it now either. But he could have sworn when he had been younger, that the boy had been real, that he had been his friend.

“Yes, Remus darling he was your invisible friend. Don’t worry about it darling just go back to sleep, it was just a dream.” Was his mother’s answer every time. But something had been nagging at him ever since Dumbledore mentioned the name Rosey Denhew.

However, he wasn’t able to brood over it long as he fell ill with a particularly nasty fever and spent two hours clawing his way to the tub to try to cool himself down. This helped a little, but because of the cost of Remus’ school supplies, he had refused his father’s offer for any pain medicine for this month.

Knowing his father was gone he allowed himself to whimper and groan in pain thrashing around naked in his bed each movement bringing more pain and discomfort. As the afternoon stretched into the evening the agony was unbearable, his bones felt as if they were breaking already, and for one horrifying second, he thought he had gotten the time of moonrise wrong and was transforming.

He tried to go through the breathing exercises he was taught to stay calm. But these proved useless and he gave up, tossing and turning like a mad man, his fingers digging into the bed and his back arching as his pre-transformation body tortured him.

He didn’t even have the state of mind to get himself dressed and down to the living room like he usually could if he left himself enough time. No, instead his father found him in the humiliating position as he thrashed around desperate for some relief. He was vaguely aware of his father picking him up and cradling him against his chest.

“I’m so sorry Remus, I’m so sorry son.” Surely he had imagined this and he tried to quiet the pitiful sounds of pain escaping him. Why was it so bad? He remembered being told his emotional state affected his transformations but other than the nightmare last night he had been in a rather decent mood considering how upset he could get.

“D……...d…….dad it hurts.” He cried shamelessly convincing himself his father did care and did love him and wasn’t just apologizing because he grew afraid of Remus every month as his uncle speculated. He couldn’t hear his father’s response and felt himself being lowered onto a cold hard floor.

He was in the shed, he hated the shed, the whole thing smelled strongly of blood. It was hardly more room than a cage, his father having to keep the space small in order to successfully cast silencing and strengthening charms on it.

He knew the transformation was close because the pain had subsided, the calm before the storm. It gave him enough time to struggle to his feet checking on the locks which made him feel slightly better. Then the pain came back, less frequent, but more intense. He allowed himself to sink to the ground as his body seized against the pull of the transformation.

Don’t fight it. He had been told over and over again but the nightmare left a bad taste in his mouth and he felt a strong irrational need to fight it as he often did.

So he wrestled with the wolf, fought for control, fought to stop the twisting and breaking and aching. His face was elongating and his nakedness was being replaced by a thick coat of fur. He told his mother he didn’t remember anything about transforming, but that wasn’t true especially when he fought it like he was now.

Surely if he fought it hard enough one day he could beat the monster that slammed itself against his subconscious howling angrily. His rage was the wolfs rage and vice versa. Yes, one day he would win, he’d have to, surely he wouldn’t be a monster forever. But that night wasn’t tonight and he lost against the wolf slipping into a daze where rage and blood overtook his mind.

He was first aware of the blood and fur in his mouth which he quickly spit out. That was a mistake, the motion sent his whole abdomen aflame with pain. He tried to open his eyes but found them caked closed with blood. He assessed himself best he could, trying to ignore the very strong, overpowering, scent of his blood in the room.

His leg was definitely broken, he felt it bent in a weird way but had learned through trial and error enough times not to attempt to move in his assessment of himself. His head was pounding and he knew he should let himself fall into unconsciousness, into the blissful nothing it brought, but he couldn’t shake the irrational stubbornness that he had to win somehow.

It felt like if he passed out before someone got to him that he had lost a second time to the wolf. He had tried explaining it to his mother once but she had grown uncharacteristically angry at him and made him promise not to do that.

Promises could be broken. He had also promised not to talk to strangers, hadn't he? Besides, the more logical reason he fought to stay awake was that the dreams that followed his transformation were never good. They were his most vivid nightmares, all of them of him trapped with that man, that monster.

He let out a sigh that sent more stabs of pain throughout his body as the door to the shed opened. Even though his eyes were closed the light hurt and before his father could reach him he fell unconscious as he always did.

Missing once more what would have been a rather confusing interaction his dad had with himself once he reached his bleeding broken son. Or perhaps he would have at least felt the tears that fell on him, but as it was he knew none of this and only knew the horrors of reality had been replaced with the horrors of the mind.

...
“Come here, boy.” No longer did the man sound kind and gentle. Now his voice was low and grave. Remus didn’t want to come he wanted to stay under the bed, stay hidden.

“I’m warning you boy.” He knew the man meant business, knew it would hurt more if he didn’t do what he said but he couldn’t bring himself to move.

“Times up!” He let out a shriek of horror as the man dropped to his stomach and reached for the boy plastered against the wall. He had lost track of his time here, he had lost track of the how many times the man had hurt him. All he knew is the man said it would be over soon but the way he said it sounded bad, very bad.

He kicked out against him violently, desperately. But it did nothing but made him mad, he screamed loudly at the top of his lungs. He screamed for his mother and father despite the fact they didn’t want him anymore. He screamed for his friend comforted only by the fact he was safe right now as the man roughly dragged him from the safety of under the bed and threw him on top of it.

“You’re lucky I don’t chop you up and eat you now. You are lucky I like playing with you little boy.”

He woke up covered in sweat again. He tried to scream but he had howled and screamed himself hoarse last night. He tried to move and went cold with horror realizing he couldn’t. Tears ran down his cheeks, he hated when they put him in a body bind curse.

Somehow he knew they weren’t allowed to do that, his mother had always cried and said there was no way it was right. Even his father had said that they shouldn’t do it but no one was going to stop them when Remus wasn’t even considered a human, but instead a creature.

He fought against the curse with all his might desperately trying to move feeling his lungs constrict with panic, the shadow man who took him had done this a lot and Remus had hated it almost as much as when the man threw the occasional crucio at him.

“Will someone get it to stop squirming? How is it able to break through the curse anyway? Did you do it wrong Ez?”

“No sir of course not, it must be a strong werewolf.”

“They should all be put down in my opinion, no use keeping them alive if all their good for is spreading their disease like bloody animals.”

Remus finally stopped moving assuring himself that he wasn’t with the shadow man but at the hospital. Of course, this didn’t make him feel particularly good, he had been here every last month for the past year, ever since his mother started getting sick and then died and every time his treatment was more or less the same.

He knew all the healers were sick of him, some even purposely made it painful to “stop the mangy mutt from coming in for handouts.” He didn’t want that to happen so he forced himself to stop moving. At least he wasn’t in as much pain, though he still felt very sore and was under the suspicion that the healers diluted his pain potions.

He still couldn’t open his eyes and felt gross covered in sweat and blood. He just wanted someone to treat him kindly like his mother had, even his father was kind compared to this. He knew his father did his best to heal him after his transformations, but they had been worse lately and his father hadn’t had the energy to do much more magic than was required for his job, and sometimes not even then.

So Remus was forced to spend the whole agonizingly long day in the Magical Bites and Stings ward and be prodded and poked. He took all the medicine they gave him orally not wanting the alternative and forced himself to be a perfect, complaint patient even though he wished to be anything but.

When he managed to open his eyes he was grateful no other werewolves were in the ward as they were some of the most disheveled and ill-looking people he had ever seen. It always made him terrified for his future and for the first time in probably forever he believed he might end up better off than them.

Then again the man who took him had been a werewolf, apparently a pretty strong one from what Remus could gather. He had also been a wizard that much Remus knew with certainty as he had been the victim of more than one hex.

“He was just a bad seed.” His mother had assured him, back when he was terrified to be around any other werewolf, that the man wasn’t what all werewolves were like. His mother had assured him she wouldn’t let anything like that happen to him again.

But she wasn’t here now was she? He dreaded the day he was in this ward with other older werewolves and he didn’t have his mother to assure him the man who took him wasn’t amongst them.

“This isn't the bloody last you’ll see of me!” The shadow man had shouted before disappearing from the Aurors. Of course, he was probably talking to them but Remus couldn’t help but feel he was talking to him as well, both taunting and threatening him.

“Sit up and take this.” It was a curt demand from a smug looking witch. Having been released from the body binding curse since yesterday Remus was quick to comply, ignoring the way his body groaned in protest. He had to get out of here quickly, he was leaving for Hogwarts in mere days!

“You know you are pretty well behaved for a monster.” She sneered at him once he was finished. He blinked a few times then smiled.

“Thank you.” That might have been the nicest thing a healer had ever said to him, well since the day they knew what he was anyways. The middle age witch scoffed and rolled her eyes before she strode away.

His father slipped in after her and Remus was sure to hold himself straighter even if it caused him more pain. He self consciously pulled the blanket up around him more, remembering how his father had to carry him to the shed this time. His face grew very hot at the recollection and he ducked his head in shame.

“How are you feeling?” His father asked rather gently taking his customary seat a good distance away from the bed he was in.

“Fine.”

“Remus Lupin don’t you lie to me!” He exclaimed sternly. His gaze darted to his father whose eyes seemed sunken, made worse by the deep dark bags circling them. His father shifted in his seat as uncomfortable as always to be in the same room as a monster.

“I’m feeling better than before.” His words came out harsher and cooler than he had meant and he struggled to reign in the anger that would surface at random times. The dangerous anger that came from reflecting on how unfair everything was for him.

He was surprised when his father didn’t get angry at his tone but flinched as if Remus had hit him. Again there was that strange expression that Remus had seen often his whole life and yet for the life of him couldn’t identify what it was.

“It’s because he’s so ashamed of you Remus. After all, would you really call a werewolf your son with pride?” He hung his head recalling what his uncle had said, unable to face what must be shame in his father’s dull eyes.

“I…..I’ll leave.” His father’s voice sounded thick, probably because he was choking back his disgust.

At least he tried to hide it, he supposed it’s all he could ask for, but ever since he had witnessed the way Dumbledore had so swiftly and completely accepted him his resentment of his father had been building little by little. Then again Dumbledore didn’t have to raise him, didn’t have to cart his grotesque form to the hospital, didn’t have to clean up after the mess the wolf made of the boy.

So he said nothing, nor could he ever imagine confronting his father about his fear. Instead, he let his father leave without a word, tears stinging in his eyes. He figured this was the end of it but after an hour of restless sleep, Remus was woken again by someone entering his room. He knew immediately it wasn’t a healer since they only came when absolutely necessary, and sometimes not even then.

He also knew it wasn’t his father who had a skinny stature, not at all like the man standing in the doorway. For one wild second, he thought the shadow man had come for him again and he nearly screamed loudly for help when the man took another step but then recognition settled in at last.

It wasn’t as terrible as the shadow man nor was it a particularly good visitor, for it was his uncle who stood back aways and regarded him with unveiled disdain.

“I heard you got into Hogwarts.” There was no congratulatory manner, no pride if anything his uncle sounded furious about it. Remus winced and tried to find his voice, always feeling like a dumb small child around his uncle.

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, I’ve come to make sure you don’t make a fool out of yourself!” He drew up a chair, closer to the door than Remus’ bed, and he knew he was in for a long lecture.

“Your father is too soft with you. If I was your father there is no way I’d trust you enough not to run rampant at that school. You better be on your best behavior and you better stay away from everyone you hear?”

This took Remus by surprise as he had been looking forward to getting to know students who were, at least somewhat, more like him. He figured he wouldn’t be popular but he assured himself he at least wouldn’t be bullied and he would probably be able to make a friend or two.

The weight of his uncle's words sunk in as he launched into a long lecture about the danger of having friends. To sum it up, by the end Remus was convinced that a monster like him didn’t deserve friends and that if he had for a short time believed such a thing was possible it was wrong. He was too dangerous and his sole focus besides studies should be, had to be, making sure no one found out what he was.

“They would hate you and probably hurt you if they found out. While I think a good beating is what you need more times than not I certainly don’t want your peers to kill you because you weren’t careful enough any more than I want you killing one of them. Your father would be devastated either way so you better not think you having friends is possible. No one could possibly want to be friends with someone like you and don’t you forget it. Understand?”

His uncle asked in the usual imposing way he did after the end of his sharp lectures. Remus had wanted to withdraw under his blanket and cry a good half hour into the lecture, but he hadn’t so he nodded unable to find words. Luckily his uncle took this as enough of a response.

“Keep your nose down and follow all the rules. Don't think they won’t jump on the opportunity to kick you out if you give them a reason. This is an opportunity you don’t deserve so you better not mess it up.” His uncle finished in a slightly softer tone, which was still a rather harsh one. His uncle put the chair back, looked Remus over once more with the air of someone realizing he’d be rid of a problem.

He nodded to himself and turned and left without another word. Remus wasn’t able to do anything but dwell on his uncle’s words for a long time, realizing how right his uncle was. He was grateful his uncle had taken the time out of his busy schedule to talk to him otherwise Remus would no doubt have been stupid enough to attempt to make a friend.

He wished he could prove to his father and uncle that he respected and listened to them, and was determined to do so even if it meant his school year just got a lot dimmer and lonelier. It took him awhile to lay back down, not daring to do so while his uncle was yelling at him, but once he did he soon drifted off into a thankfully dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter Five: Hogwarts At Last and a Dismal Train Ride

All throughout the next day, the tension in the Lupin household had been growing. Remus still dutifully laid out his father’s breakfast and was polite when he was around, but there was no pretense that things were ok. Remus had blown that when he hadn’t come downstairs before the full moon like usual.

What made matters worse was that even though this was the day of his departure to Hogwarts his father said nothing. He would stare at him when he didn’t think Remus was watching but would only speak to tell him to do something. It was aggravating to no end and despite being at St. Mungo’s Remus still felt sore and upset by the time they had traveled by floo to an out of order bathroom stall within the train station.

It was the journey from the bathroom to platform 9 and ¾ that finally eased the tension between father and son. Most of this was because Remus didn’t have time to feel bitter and hurt by his father as he was faced with an even more daunting crowd then there had been at Diagon Alley.

He jumped as a kid ran past him struggling to steer a large cart loaded with luggage and a cage that rattled with a particularly irked looking owl inside. Feeling small and stupid with his own rather shabby trunk he stayed close to his father. However they weren’t, unlike almost every other soon to be student and parent pair holding hands, and as such, it was almost inevitable that they became separated.

“Dad!” Remus shouted momentarily terrified as his father vanished from his view. He stayed where he was vaguely remembering his father saying that was the best thing to do. But the shabbily dressed ill-looking eleven years old quickly drew attention.

“Honey are you alright. Where are your parents?” He looked at the rather old looking woman who was crouching slightly and smiling at him reassuringly. Her eyes were a soft brown with flecks of spring green and despite her frizzly greying hair, she seemed to have youthful energy about here much like his mother had possessed. He couldn’t help but feel relaxed around her, that was until she opened her mouth and ruined it.

“Come with me dear and we will find your parents.” He wasn’t going anywhere with anyone he didn’t know ever again. Fear rose up in him and must have reflected itself on his face for she straightened and took a step back clearly not wanting to upset him, but it was too late. His mouth moved wordlessly. No. His mouth went dry and he suddenly felt the station closing in on him.

“NO!” He shouted terrified, his eyes wild and unfocused. In his panic, he dropped his bag and bolted.

“Euphemia, what on earth was that?” He heard someone shout but soon he was disappearing into the crowd.

He was terrified now, and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been around so many people. His head was swimming and his vision blurred with tears. He desperately wanted to go home and hide. Forget Hogwarts! What had he been thinking? He couldn’t do this.

He wound his way around people, or tried to, he didn’t get far before strong arms picked him up, and he screamed and kicked in protest.

“Remus!” His father’s angry shout reached his panicked mind. “Calm down you are causing a scene and embarrassing yourself!” He commanded and Remus went limp the fear replaced by a sharp shame that was as painful as his father’s firm grip.

His father set him down relatively quickly and put two hands on Remus’ shoulders eyes narrowed with irritation.

“I knew this was a bad idea. Let’s go home you can’t do this.”

He was inclined to agree with his father, certainly did in that moment after humiliating himself in front of who knew how many of his soon to be fellow students. However, he couldn’t let Dumbledore down like that, not after he had gone out of his way to make sure Remus had a chance. He knew he didn’t deserve one, but he had gotten one and he would be a fool if he threw that away no matter how rough of a start he faced.
So he squared his shoulders and collected all of the bravery he could into his small quivering frame.

“I’m sorry dad. But I am going to Hogwarts. I am going!” He sounded so much more confident than he felt and he must have looked it too because his father seemed stunned. After all, he wasn’t asking his father as he normally did, he was telling him and he meant it too.

Somehow he must have convinced his father, or perhaps he didn’t care enough to start another scene because with a quick “Accio Remus’ luggage” his father was ushering him to the other side of the station.

No longer blocked by people he was able to see the Hogwarts express in all its shining glory, looking just like a little toy model that had been given to him back when Hogwarts was a matter of when not if. He tightened his hold on his luggage and stepped onto the steps turning around now standing eye to eye with his father.

He somehow felt braver like this, up high where he couldn’t be looked down upon. Also, his father seemed kinder when he wasn’t staring down at Remus with a stern gaze. Instead, his father looked, rather sad. With a horrified jolt, Remus realized he hadn’t taken his father’s feelings about this into account at all.

“Will you be ok?” He asked nervously suddenly very concerned about his father who would be all alone. Would he remember to eat meals without Remus there? What would happen to him on those few but scary occasions that he passed out drunk before entering the house?

“Don’t worry about me. I’m going to go stay with my older brother. If anything I will be worried about you. You…..you’ll write right?” The shudder that had run through Remus at the mention of his uncle melted into a warm feeling as he realized his father really wanted him to write.

“Yes I promise dad, I will.” He smiled as the hand ruffled his hair, he couldn’t be sure but as he entered the train he thought his father’s eyes looked rather damp.

Of course, all thoughts of his father quickly disappeared as he walked past little rooms behind glass doors and people giggled and pointed at him whispering. He felt himself go really hot and hurried to find some sort of empty room he could claim for his own and fall asleep.

Luckily he found one at the back of the train completely free of any gossiping and giggling children and collapsed onto one of the long benches running parallel of each other. Despite not looking like it, the benches were unbelievably comfy and worn out in more than one way he drifted off despite himself.

….

Sirius had spent the summer, for perhaps the first time ever, without getting into trouble. He didn’t taunt his brother Regulus even when he broke one of his secret records. Even harder was the fact that he said please and thank you to all the house elves, even the obnoxious two faced snitch that was Kreacher. He held his tongue when his fat stupid grandparents droned on and on about pureblood supremacy and he even refused to stay the night with his uncle because he was a “bad influence on the future heir of the household.”

By the time he was standing in front of the Hogwarts express he was dying, physically aching to cause trouble. His very bones were in pain by how good he had been and his heart was heavy without the mayhem he took pride in causing. But no, he had to be a good boy, a perfect suck up like his brother to ensure that the freedom of Hogwarts would be granted to him.

“It’s not fair I want to go this year I want to go to Hogwarts with Sirius,” Regulus whined practically hanging off his brother’s elbow, as their father pushed Sirius’ very full rack of luggage and his mother walked behind them. A picture perfect woman with an unmistakable air of stuck up royalty.

Sirius resisted the urge to gag and gave Regulus a smile he knew would seal the deal of guaranteeing his attendance at Hogwarts. After all, treating Regulus nicely was at the top of the “good list” he was sure his parents compiled just to make his summer was hell.

“Don’t worry Regulus you’ll be attending next year.”

“Yes that’s right Regulus and do stand up and walk with dignity,” Came his mother’s cold command from behind them. Regulus quickly straightened and Sirius unconsciously did the same.

It had been a strange summer and his mother and he had actually not been at odds, which cost Sirius a sore tongue from literally having to bite it so as not to say the “wrong thing.” Soon, so soon.

He wanted to run the rest of the way to the gleaming engine, wanted to touch the train running his hand across the sleek looking exterior. But no that wouldn't be “proper” and he’d be damned if his precautions were blown to hell at the last minute because he did something fun.

He would have plenty of fun at Hogwarts, where he’d have more children than his stuffy family and family friend’s to associate with. Surely there would be at least one other person who shared his talent for mischief.

He grinned at the thought then froze as he heard a scream of NO coming from someone sounding horrified somewhere on the platform. He craned his neck to see and was about to go investigate when his mother whacked his head hard as if she was somehow reading his thoughts.

“Sirius keep walking, stop ogling like some urchin child who has never seen the Hogwarts Express before.” She snapped coldly clearly not caring about the scream. Regulus looked a little concerned but both he and Sirius started walking again, concern for the distressed kid replaced by their own self-preservation.

Besides he was too excited to dwell on it long. His mother had been correct in that, it was true he had seen the Hogwarts express multiple times due to his older cousins. But in his defense, the whole thing was much better when it was him that was going to be climbing inside the train and not just waving from the outside.

Somehow he managed to get to the train without causing his mother’s wrath or shaking Regulus, the sponge, off his arm like he so desperately wanted to. He turned to face his family trying to hide his impatience to be rid of them.

His mother pursed her lips in a rare sort of smile and pulled him into a very cold brisk hug that still felt too long.

“Get into Slytherin and make our family proud.” That was all the motherly advice she had to give him. His father was little better clasping his shoulder and telling him to keep his nose clean and to sit with the “right kind” on the train. Only Regulus seemed to realize how momentous this was for Sirius, just Sirius, not the black heir, just him as an individual. Regulus gave him a proper hug and slipped something into his pocket.

“Don’t use these until you get to school. Have fun and write.” He felt what he was sure was a dung bomb slipped into his pocket and he fondly ruffled his little brother’s hair. Sometimes his brother really wasn’t half bad. Regulus beamed under the unspoken praise and rushed back to their mother. They looked like a perfect family all dressed up very nicely, all looking proper and polished.

He finally deemed it acceptable to give them a hearty goodbye with a wave and climb into the train. As soon as he was out of sight he jumped into the air with a joyous whoop. He was finally free, gloriously free of the constant rules and criticism. Oh, Hogwarts wasn’t going to know what hit it, he couldn’t wait and rushed to find his seat.

He avoided his cousins like the plague they were, not only were they Blacks inside and out but they were older girls and as such creatures that needed to be given a wide berth. Females were certainly a mystery to him, and not one of the kind of mysteries he liked, no they were a mystery that he didn’t care about in the slightest and that even bored him when he was forced to ponder it.

So it was with great relief that he found a compartment family and female free. In fact, there was only one occupant. For one wild second Sirius thought the kid was a ghost forced to haunt the train forever. However he became disappointed realizing the kid was living, if only barely and was not, in fact, a cool ghost doomed for eternity,

“Hey! Hey!” He shouted a few times, his disappointment turning into concern. The kid was gaunt, his clothes hanging like bags off a too thin frame. He seemed far too gangly and sickly. Dark bags under his eyes matched a bruise peeking out from under caramel colored hair. He switched spots now sitting next to the kid and gently shook him.

He looked almost like Sirius did after a long stint in the basement and he regarded the sickly pale kid with pity. He had to be a first year for he couldn’t be older than him, he seemed younger and was closer to Regulus’ size than his own.

“Kid….hey kid.” Suddenly the kid came to life flattening himself into the window, large amber eyes widening in horror. He habitually raised his hands, the kid reminding him of a Puffskeins in headlights.

“It’s ok I just wanted to make sure you were ok?” Suddenly such innocent fearful eyes narrowed in a guarded coldness.

“I’m fine.” Came a curt cool response that could have given his mother a run for her money.

“No need to be pissy about it geez.” He muttered irritated with this ungrateful brat. Who did he think he was anyway? Addressing a Black like this.

“Do you know who you are talking to?” He added with his best impression of his haughty father he could muster.

Cold eyes softened some into confusion but he still seemed very guarded. Deep down Sirius understood the defensiveness, he often felt that way too after going into the basement and he knew he should have been more kind to the scared kid but his trip to Hogwarts was supposed to be perfect and full of him mesmerizing his future friends.

Instead, he was wasting his time with probably some Muggle-born. Not that he thought all muggle-borns were terrible like his family thought, but this one clearly was.

“You know what forget it. I’ll leave you to mope and sleep all by yourself.” He thought the boy looked close to tears as he stormed out, but he had a mission to find mischief causing friends and something told him the jumpy kid he left stunned wasn’t going to be one of them.

As he moved to his second compartment, the one directly behind the one he had been in, he found a much warmer reception and grinned at the hazel eyes behind glasses, as he sat next to a well-dressed kid with unruly black hair sticking out in all directions. He hadn’t realized he laughed at him until the kid shoved him good-naturedly.

“Yeah I know it looks weird but I tell ya mate I can’t tame it for the life of me. Names James Potter.” Sirius found himself instinctively liking James, made better by the fact that Potter had been one of the names his parents had thrown out when who not to become acquainted with.

His smile widened and he offered James his hand who took and shook it in a similar, raised with class fashion he had grown accustomed to. This was much better than sitting with the unfriendly urchin looking child. He flopped next to James and sighed contently.

“Names Sirius Black nice to meetcha.” James' eyes had widened considerably, giving him an even more comic appearance.

“You’re a Black?” He gasped ogling Sirius as if he had grown horns.
Sirius was beginning to feel worse about his second decision of compartments.

“Yeah what’s it to ya?”

“I just…...well the Blacks I mean they are Slytherin right…...that house seems sort of…”

“Stuck up?”

“I was going to say evil but yeah that too.” He knew he should take offense but James honestly didn’t seem to mean any, with his earnest eyes wide with shock.

“My whole family has been in Slytherin,” he said. He stretched out resting his feet on the bench opposite there’s. So that he was slouched so far down he was almost lying down, stretched in between the benches. James seemed amused but clearly hadn’t given up on the whole ‘Black’ thing.

“Blimey,” said James, “and I thought you seemed all right!”
Sirius grinned and stuck his tongue out at James who returned the gesture grinning. There was a playfulness about James that inspired and increased his own. He decided that Potter was alright despite his initial reaction to his family.

Now that Sirius thought about it, his reaction to his family made Sirius like him more, once he got over the initial defensiveness of his family who certainly didn’t deserve it.

He realized he didn’t have to feign loyalty here and he shot up in his seat eyes glittering with excitement as he admitted what he hadn’t dared to say out loud prior.

“Maybe I’ll break the tradition. Where are you heading, if you’ve got the choice?”
James lifted an invisible sword practically beaming now, his chest swelling with very obvious pride.

“Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart!” Like my dad. He remembered who the Potters were now and it was his turn to gape at James.

“Blimey, you are like the richest boy in the world!” He figured his statement would make James puff like a peacock again but instead, the boy shifted uncomfortably.

“Yeah but don’t go telling everyone. I don’t want people flocking to me just because of that. I have to win them over with my Quidditch prowess first. Not that you would I mean you are almost as rich as me, well your family anyways.” Sirius almost opened his mouth to correct James, that he was not that rich because his parents gave him very little money if he didn’t do exactly as they wanted. Of course, he still had a handsome sum and his uncle gave him a ton of money when he heard he was headed to Hogwarts, so had his whole family really.

However, he didn’t get a chance to explain as the door slid open and a very nervous looking girl with fiery hair dragged along with her a sallow greasy haired kid whose nose was ridiculously big on his scornful looking face.

He reminded Sirius of his family, at least his facial expressions for he certainly wasn’t dressed to the Black standard. Still, his attitude immediately put him off, he hated haughty people as much as he hated defensive ones. He resisted the urge to trip the boy as the kid sat down glaring at James and Sirius as if they had personally done him harm. Well, that could be arranged.

“My names Lily and this is my friend Severus.” His eyes flicked to the rosy-cheeked girl whose nerves seemed to be morphing into a bubbly excitement quickly. She was looking around as if she had never been in a train before and taking in her exceptionally well put together muggle outfit, he figured she must be muggle born.

“James and this is Sirius,” James responded seemingly absorbed into Lily’s excitement because he started bouncing in his seat.

“We are going to Hogwarts!” He shouted happily. Sirius laughed and mimicked his bouncing letting the contagious atmosphere take him over. Only Severus seemed unaffected and he rolled his eyes at them and stared out the window. He and the other kid should be in the same compartment they would probably get along swimmingly.

That was the last thought Sirius gave Severus and the other kid for a while though because he and James passed the time explaining the wizarding world to a very intrigued Lily. Then after the snack trolley came and James and Sirius filled their laps with one of everything, sweats spilling to the ground, the conversation switched to favorite foods and books and other such small talks.

James, despite saying he didn’t want people liking him for his money, was very generous with his sweets even sharing one with Severus who took it without a word of thanks. Lily thanked James repeatedly and the conversation fell into content silence as they dug into their sweats.

“How long till we get there?”

“Oh hours still, it’s quite a long train ride. Don’t worry they will let us know when we need to get ready,” James explained. Sirius realized pretty quickly that James liked flaunting his knowledge even more than he liked flaunting his money.

“You could have asked me that Lily.” Complained Severus who had remained quiet practically the whole time, alternating between looking out the window and reading a book that’s title was obscure.

“I know Sev I didn’t mean to imply that you didn't know.” Lily apologized with more sincerity than Sirius believed he could ever muster for the pompous pimple next to her who had been grating on his nerves for hours.

“Lily you don’t have to apologize to him. He’s been nothing but rude the whole time.” James had stolen the words right out of Sirius’ mouth but he shot a glare at Severus to show he shared his new friend's sentiment.

“Excuse me, Potter, not all of us are born with a gold spoon in our mouths and manners up our arses.” Came the snide response. This sent Sirius to his feet and he glared down at the greasy boy who also got to his feet staring down his nose haughtily at Sirius.

“If you don’t shut up I’ll shove a spoon up your….”

“Boys!” Lily shouted. James had also gotten to his feet but seemed more amused than angry. He laughed at Sirius’ unfinished threat for Lily had jumped to her feet, all of them huddled together in the small compartment. Her pretty green eyes were blazing with anger and Severus sat back down quickly.

“Gonna let your girlfriend fight your battles for you Snivellus,” Sirius commented again finding the nickname appropriate to the boy who seemed to be groveling under Lily’s reprimand. Lily’s face turned the same color as her hair and James laughed again.

“Good one!” He said appreciatively earning a glare from Lily that had previously been directed at Sirius. James gave her a lazy confident grin.

“Come on Sev we can go sit somewhere else!” She huffed her arms crossed around her chest giving her the appearance of a disapproving middle age woman. James and Sirius’s laughter directed at both Lily and Snivellus could be heard from the surrounding compartments they were laughing so hard.

They laughed themselves dry and then one of them looked at the other and they both were sent into fits of giggles again. Only when the compartment door slammed open and an irritated prefect demanded they keep it down did the laughter subsided into muffled chuckles and then finally subsided altogether.

They talked about Quidditch, Hogwarts, Quidditch, and more Quidditch but Sirius found himself growing restless and his need to cause mischief was reaching a breaking point.
He flopped himself against his new best friend with a dramatic sigh.

“Potter I can’t take it anymore.”

“And what can’t you take anymore?” James shot back with mock seriousness. Sirius fought the urge to laugh, he had this instinct that James was like him, in that he would be thrilled to go along with whatever trouble Sirius caused.

“A young growing boy my age needs a good dose of mischief to keep the soul healthy James.” Sirius continued in a tone a professor might use with his student.
James hid his giggles behind his hand.

“Yes, yes I think you may be right.” He responded thoughtfully playing along perfectly. Sirius beamed.

“Well, you see my apprentice before I came to the fated encounter with you I was with an unpleasant fellow.”

“As unpleasant as Snivellus?”

“I don’t know if it’s possible to be as unpleasant as Snivellus.” They both laughed a minute at their sheer wit. Then Sirius explained the encounter only leaving out his momentary possible understanding of the boy and why. He supposed it was because the boy reminded him of some of his worst moments that he felt so irked by him but he quickly brushed that thought away focusing on what prank to play.

“Maybe he’s just a grumpy dude when he wakes up?” James ventured and Sirius rolled his eyes.

“Who cares. I guarantee he’s sleeping again which means he’s a perfect first victim!”

“Haha, you are pure evil Sirius Black what do you have in mind?” Came the excited response, Sirius was sure glad it didn’t take much to sway James into mischief and that he had sat next to him. He explained his plan to James who grinned devilishly at him, oh yes he and James were going to turn Hogwarts on his head when they got there.

They hadn’t expected someone else to be in the apartment with the kid who was indeed asleep again. They jostled themselves into the compartment and raised their eyebrows at a rather pudgy boy with small beady blue eyes and a broad eager to please smile that made Sirius a little wary. He also hated kiss asses as well, he had quite the extensive list of people he hated and he didn’t at all care that others might deem that judgemental. Afterall he wasn’t nearly as bad as the rest of his family which Sirius took pride in.

“Hello, are you firsties too? I am. I’m Peter by the way.” He talked fast in a high pitch voice and Sirius scoffed at him.

“Firsties? Only the older kids call us that.”

“Just say first years otherwise you might offend people like my easily offended friend here.” Sirius elbowed James for that remark but grinned. James, who had sounded much kinder than Sirius, had Peter’s attention and the pudgy boy grinned at him adoration sparkling in his little eyes.

“Oi why you sitting in here anyway?” Sirius barked at the boy irritated that he may get in the way of his, their awesome plan. Peter looked confused by the question.

“I’m James and this bundle of sunshine is Sirius. We have a prank to play on that one so if you want to leave and remain innocent that’s cool. Or you could help us.” It was almost amusing the exchange of emotions passing across Peter’s face. He paled and went pink, and finally settled on a rather dumpy pout to match his dumpy little face.

“Why…...why are you going to prank him? He was really nice to me….” It was a feeble protest and it thoroughly pissed Sirius off. So the kid had been kind to Peter, then was he just judging Sirius without giving him a chance? He gripped his fists tightly, as it annoyed him to no end when people lumped him with his family. Which he was certain was the reason the kid had treated him so abrasively.

Sure James had started to do that but at least he’d been upfront about it, and they had cleared the whole thing up. But this kid who he had taken as just generally offensive had been apparently pleasant to someone else, which left no other option than he knew he was a Black and judged him for it.

Some very small part of him recognized he was judging the kid without giving him a chance too, but he shoved that mature thought into a box and threw it away. Such thoughts were dull and useless and Sirius would much rather act first and think later. He drew his wand ignoring Peter flinching and curling in on himself slightly, giving him the appearance of a toad.

“Go on and leave then mate.” James addressed Peter as he too drew out his wand grinning. Peter still looked very concerned and had gone rather purplish by now so James furthered his explanation even though Sirius personally felt they didn’t owe Peter one.

“It’s just a little bit of harmless fun, we won’t do anything bad. Don’t worry I’m a Gryffindor at heart!” James said striking his gallant pose again, brandishing his wand like a sword. Sirius scoffed at him and turned his attention to the sleeping kid.

He now had a book sprawled out in his lap, a rather ratty and used textbook that seemed to match the ratty looking boy it belonged to.
James had turned his attention to the kid too and frowned.

“He looks...unwell maybe this is a bad idea.”

“Oh don’t chicken out on me Potter.” He snapped giving his wand a flick and muttering a spell that had been used on him on more than one occasion. “Atramentio!”

“I’m not a chicken.” James huffed and copied him, though Sirius was pleased to see the permanent ink now scrawling in crude shapes across the kid’s face wasn’t nearly as creative or vulgar coming from James’ wand. After a few minutes, they set down and admired their handy work.

“I find the dick drawn on his forehead both lewd and impressive work Sirius,” James said thoughtfully looking at the kid’s face as an artist might admire a particularly challenging painting he had mastered.

“How did you do the line curves so neatly, mine looks like a two-year-old scrawled on him with crayons.” Sirius could have rubbed in his clear victory but feeling a sense of camaraderie with his new best friend he shrugged.

“Don’t know but it’s blimey brilliant you got different colors, I could only do black.” James covered his mouth laughing.

“What?”

“Black can only do black.”

“Oh shut up Potter.” He grumbled good-naturedly but was soon laughing with him. Their laughter was combined by Peter’s shrill giggling and this was what the boy finally woke up to. He held himself stiffly his fearful eyes freezing over with a cold defensiveness once again aimed at all three of them.

Now that he was awake, raising his eyebrows in confusion and suspicion the images on the kid’s head were moving too which sent them all collapsing into loud laughter at the kid’s expense. James had his eyes closed clutching his sides with laughter and Peter only had eyes on James who he seemed to have latched onto with a strange adoration Sirius didn’t understand.

So as it happened he was the only one who saw the kid’s eyes fill with tears before he quickly left the compartment. He watched him go the laughter dying in his throat. He convinced himself the kid deserved it for his attitude but he couldn’t help feeling rather somber and guilty at the look of hurt that had been directed at him briefly before the boy left.

Chapter Text

Chapter Six: Hatstalls and The Friendless First Year

He hated that his eyes were full of tears, after all the things the muggle bullies had done to him the overused drawings all over his face shouldn’t upset him so much. It had happened to him many times before, though done without magic, so it didn’t take long to figure out why they were laughing at him. Still, he couldn’t help that they had got to him, he really had thought things were going to be different.

He realized how stupid of a thought it was and kept his head down rushing for the nearest bathroom. He couldn’t understand why he hadn’t woken up while they were drawing on him and supposed he had just been that tired. He supposed it was his fault for falling asleep in the first place. Worst of all was that Peter had been laughing along, he thought the two of them had rather hit it off.

The first time he was woken Remus’ head had been throbbing and he was still trying to escape the lingerings of the nightmare.
He knew he must have appeared very rude to the boy with storm cloud eyes. He really should have made a better impression but the very well off looking boy had left in a huff before Remus could apologize. Still, he didn’t think the retaliation had been called for, especially since the boy had successfully isolated Remus from the one friendly acquaintance he was beginning to believe he had made.

Peter had been so nervous to come into his apartment shortly after the other boy had woken Remus up. Remus was more composed then and made a polite introduction that was returned. He had smiled kindly at the boy and listened patiently as he released a torrent of worries, many of which Remus shared himself.

They had then discussed in low whispers what they suspected Hogwarts be like. Peter telling him what his parents had told him, both were magical. While Remus recalled what little he had read from Hogwarts a History that he had found amongst his father’s books. With permission, he had spent days over the summer pouring over it and his other textbooks, any free minute he had devoted to studying.

Then when the time came he had packed it with his things and at Peter’s insistence had gotten it out to show him. He spent the next few hours reading out loud to Peter who honestly seemed interested in the subject. Somewhere along the line Remus must have dozed off, which is why his face was now covered, in probably very crude shapes and words.

“Oh sorry!” Someone had bumped into him and instinctively he looked up regretting it immediately.

A young girl with the most bright sunset colored hair he had ever seen, was carrying a much nicer copy of Hogwarts a History and had apparently been reading it while walking which led to the collision. Her calming emerald colored eyes widened in horror and then filled with pity. Remus felt himself go red and quickly ducked his head again, but the damage was already done.

“How awful! Who did that to you? It’s simply dreadful!” She had a proper sounding accent that was similar to the first boy Remus had met. She sincerely seemed concerned about him and he blinked back tears feeling hot with shame.

“It….it’s nothing….just a prank.”

“It’s a dreadful prank and very immature. Oooo I bet it was Potter and Black they seem like the sort after how they teased Sev. You’re a first year to right?” Her fast-talking had increased in speed as she seemed to be getting quite worked up, but Remus wasn’t sure if it was for his behalf or this Sev person she mentioned. Assuming it must be the later he tried to sneak around her.

“Where are you going?”

“EVERYONE GET DRESSED! WE ARE REACHING HOGWARTS SOON!” Any concern the girl had for him was replaced by excitement and she let out a squeal forgetting about him with an excited shriek of “I have to go find Sev.” So Remus was left alone and quickly made his way to the bathroom unhindered.

He mentally kicked himself for not bringing his robe to change into and got to work scrubbing his face. It took a long time and a lot of effort and by the time he was finished his face was rubbed raw. Only slight smudges of color remained and Remus found a few tears were running down his cheeks. He looked absolutely ridiculous.

Knowing he couldn’t remain in the bathroom forever Remus slowly walked back to his compartment with a heavy heart. He hoped that it would be abandoned but had no such luck, finding all three boys laughing and carrying on with an energy Remus highly doubted he’d ever be able to possess. Taking a deep breath and bracing himself for insults and jeers Remus entered the compartment.

He grabbed his suitcase and hoped they would all just ignore him as he pulled one of his three robes out, gently tucking his mother’s quilt he had taken with him back into his suitcase. He was so close to leaving the compartment but found the door blocked by the fancy looking boy from earlier.

He really did have very expressive eyes that reminded Remus of laying on the grass and staring into a cloudy sky on the verge of a downpour. He looked defensive and smug as if expecting Remus to start shouting at him and when he didn’t his grey eyes narrowed in irritation.

“Are you just going to ignore me then?”

“What?”

“It’s a miracle he speaks!” Shouted the boy with exaggerated surprise. Remus took a shaky breath swallowing down his nonexistent pride.

“I’m sorry…..about earlier…..I know I came off as rude…..I really…..I’m sorry.” He didn’t expect his response to cause quite that much surprise from the boy. He looked away from the scrutinizing gaze and flinched when a hand clasped his shoulder.

“Well, in that case, I take back the drawings all over your face. It was just a bit of a laugh. Here I’ll fix it for you. Tergeo!” His last word was a command and Remus felt a strange sensation across his face and touched it surprised. He half expected cuts or boils to be on his skin but instead, it felt smooth not raw and red as it had been.

“We cool?” Again the boy’s eyes were narrowed defensively as if he expected an attack as much as Remus did.

“Y….yes um….no worries.” He mumbled nervously and quickly attempted to slip out but found Sirius was still blocking him, scrutinizing him seriously.

“Oh lay off him Sirius. Let the lad go and change. I see Hogwarts in the distance now.” Sirius looked like he wanted to protest but stepped aside, and instead of race to the window to catch the first glimpse of the castle as he wanted to Remus raced back into the hallway to get changed. Once in the bathroom he found that his face was indeed ink free and any sign of his frantic scrubbing was gone as well. Feeling a bit better because of this he dressed quickly and raced back into the hallway just as the train jerked to a stop.

Remembering that in his book it said the luggage was magically transported to his dorm he didn’t go back to the compartment and instead stepped into the cool night his eyes going wide with wonder and amazement at the glowing castle in the distance. It was on the other side of a lake and was truly the largest most incredible castle Remus had ever seen. The pictures in his book simply hadn’t done it any justice.

“Woah!” He let out a breath daring to express his amazement out loud.
He found he wasn’t the only one though as a chorus of excited exclamations echoed around him. Then his amazement shifted from the enormous castle to an enormous man.

Unlike most of the first years, he didn’t step back noticing at once the sincere smile behind the bushy beard. Sure the man must be at least 8 feet tall, but being small for his age Remus was used to people towering over him, this man just towered more. Besides, he truly seemed very friendly and several older students gave him waves or high fives before rushing off.

“Fers years in the boats werth me!” It was unclear if this man was a professor or not but the other first years had also seemed to come to the conclusion he wasn’t going to hurt them, if not slower than Remus had. He found himself jostled around by the crowd as children made a beeline for the boats waiting for them off a dock.

At the mercy of the crowd, Remus disorientedly found himself climbing into a boat before realizing with a jolt he was clambering into the one where the large man sat holding a large lantern in his large hand. Closer now the size difference was rather intimidating, even with the man sitting down. Seeming to mistake his momentary unease for hesitation the man beckoned him to finish climbing into the boat with a grin.

“Yer allowed to sit in ere.” His voice was booming and warm at the same time. Remus sat on a bench and tried not to look too overwhelmed, his manners once more kicking in. He extended a very small hand and wondered for one second if it would be crushed by the man’s grip.

Instead, the large hand was very gentle and Remus found himself returning the friendly smile. He simply had to take any kindness given to him, as now he was sure most people wouldn’t be bothered to give him the time of day.

“Hi, my names Remus Lupin. It’s nice to meet you, sir.” The low rumbling laughter that came in response shook the whole boat.

“No need to call me sir I’m not a teacher er nothin proper like that. My names Hagrid the groundskeeper.” Hagrid was a very talkative man and talked happily the whole boat ride across the lake. Remus felt the children’s stares as other enchanted boats caught up to theirs, or got close. Remus couldn’t help but wonder if their stares were directed at the giant of a man or the rather small boy who had dared to sit with him.

But even their stares weren’t enough to upset Remus who found he quite enjoyed Hagrid’s presence. He was, quite literally, a gentle giant. He helped Remus out of the boat with ease and made him promise to come visit him sometimes.

“Always like it when students stop by fer some tea, specially ones nice as you.” Then he clambered off to help some of the smaller students like Remus, out of their boats as well. He knew how cruel people could be to those who were different so he listened intently. Relieved when Remus heard no screams or shouts of disgust coming from over by Hagrid, he allowed himself to be shepherded up into the castle.

Hogwarts was no let down on the inside either and Remus, like many students, turned this way and that trying to take in everything at once with excitement.

“Single file lines children single file, please,” Came a curt command that jostled many students out of their momentary reverie. Remus hurried to squeeze into the single file line that was forming. A stern looking middle age woman, wearing black robes and a large black witch's hat was peering at all of them through spectacles.

She held herself upright and gave off the air as a no-nonsense sort of person, complete with a stern gaze and everything. Her strict gaze softened some as it fell on a few trembling students who looked close to tears.
Then she cleared her throat and spoke again commanding the attention of everyone with impressive ease.

“I am Professor McGonagall the Transfiguration Professor here at Hogwarts. I am also the head of the Gryffindor house and Deputy Headmistress. Being such it is my job to escort you into the great hall to be sorted. Now please gather into two rows and follow me.” With those brisk instructions, she turned her back on them and headed forward to two large doors that must lead to the great hall. Remus mindlessly fell in line and waited with bated breath to see what was behind the doors.

With a brisk flick of her wand, McGonagall opened the door and they all hurried after her. There was very little shoving as even the most pure-blooded wizards seemed transfixed by the great hall which certainly lived up to its name.

There were four very long tables that Remus knew divided the houses, and in the front of the magnificent hall was the staff table where the staff all sat gazing at the new students with varying degrees of interest.
Remus recognized Hagrid and Dumbledore but no one else. Anyhow his attention was mostly focused on the ceiling which sparkled with stars and wisps of clouds.

It looked as though it opened up to the outside but he heard someone, and he thought he recognized LIly’s voice, whisper it was enchanted. He also took in the floating candles throughout and even dared a glance at some students sitting at the tables. He found that some looked friendly and others looked downright hostile. He quickly turned his attention back to the group of forty-some first years whose two lines had dissolved into a blob.

They all stood in the front of the great hall, so close to the staff table that Remus could count the individual silverware laid out for the professors. He wondered vaguely where the food was when Professor McGonagall walked to a podium at the front of the stage.

He noticed that next to it sat a stool with a large wrinkled hat on top of it. Remus felt himself go cold, were they each going to have to go and sit up there? Was the test his book spoke of really some sort of interview conducted with Professor McGonagall or Professor Dumbledore in front of the whole school?

“Before we begin Professor Dumbledore would like to say a few words.” Announced Mrs. Mcgonagall standing next to the podium a scroll now in her hands that Remus swore had been empty a second ago.
He felt rather sick and noticed a few students looked rather pale as well, but then Dumbledore stood and greeted the hall and all eyes turned forward to him.

“Welcome back to all our old faces and welcome to all our new ones. We gather for another wonderful year and I wish that each and every one of you have a year filled with adventure and friendship. Let us all enjoy our time here and learn a lot.” There were a few ‘here here’s’ from a few brave older students but Dumbledore merely smiled in response and continued.

“However as always, there are certain rules that each one of you should uphold. As always the forbidden forest is off limits this year as well as the southwest tower of the castle. This year we have a new addition to the grounds, a whomping willow to be added to Mrs. Sprout’s continuously growing collection.” A few scattered chuckled at that and an older which grinned and waved her hand in acknowledgment causing some scattered applause, especially from one table. Dumbledore waited then continued once more.

“As the name suggests it is dangerous and as such all students are required to give it a wide berth. Thank you.” He sat back down prompting Professor McGonagall to open the scroll.

“When I call your name you will come forward. I shall place the sorting hat on your head and you will be sorted into your houses.” She gestured as she spoke to the old hat that Remus realized with a jolt was moving. One of the many creases in the hat had opened to form a sort of mouth and it began to speak.

“Come first years to the great hall and let yourselves be enthralled
For here you are safe and free to play
Provided you go to school each day.” There was quite a bit of laughter at this and from the corner of his eye, he saw some older students jostling each other at one of the tables playfully. However, the sorting hat continued in its gravely voice that boomed across the great hall.

“For here at Hogwarts wisdom is imparted and futures are charted. Each future holds such great potential and to find that your houses are essential. Each house holds a different trait though it’s the similarities between them that make them great. So do not hither and do not fear for I help you decide what home you will reside in for years.” Then the hat listed attributes of each hat but Remus had zoned out again and couldn’t tell one house apart from the other besides knowing the colors and symbols were different.

There was a pause and apparently, the hat had finished its poem for there was scattered applause and then Professor McGonagall started calling names. Remus was glad he had not been the first five names called for it took that long for him to collect himself. There seemed to be no apparent order to the names, as they certainly weren’t alphabetic. After each one called, a nervous student and they all looked quite petrified, sat stiffly on the stool and the hat either called out a house right away or took a minute before doing so.

“Peter Pettigrew.” Remus watched as the boy stumbled to the chair almost tripping over himself as he went.

Remus felt his nerves increase for the boy who had almost been a friendly acquaintance, and he watched as the hat was sat upon his head and silence fell. A minute came and past, and then two. If Peter knew how much time it was taking he gave no indication. It wasn’t until about five minutes passed that the hat’s fold opened again and it bellowed “Gryffindor” followed by claps from what had to be the Gryffindor table. Peter was the first Gryffindor of the night and the round of applause he got seemed to be quite enthusiastic.

Remus heard scattered whispers of hatstall from other tables but he didn’t know what it meant and soon was watching other students called. He paid little attention to most but was startled when he saw that the sallow boy who took the robe from him, was sorted into Slytherin. He also found himself smiling as Lily joined the Gryffindor table and found a streak of Gryffindor's followed her. James Potter whose head didn’t even touch the hat, several more girls, and then he recognized Sirius’ name.

He heard whispers grumbling the record would be broken now and wondered why. But it turned out after about a minute the hat shouted Gryffindor. Unlike most announcements the great hall didn’t immediately fill with clapping from the house’s table he had joined. He also noticed several older Slytherin girls sit down quickly faces red with humiliation, and felt he had missed something important.

But then the clapping came and though Sirius looked a little paler than usual he seemed to brighten up as he sat next to James who threw an arm around his shoulder and said something Remus couldn’t hear but that sent Sirius beaming.

“Remus Lupin,” He jumped and forced his legs to work as he approached the stool.

He felt ill as he sat down on the stool and felt Professor McGonagall place the hat over his head, with it shutting off the din of the great hall completely.

“Hm well aren’t you an interesting one. A good head on your shoulders no doubt about it.” It took Remus a second to realize the hat was talking about him, clearly, there had been some sort of mistake.

“No, I don’t make mistakes boy. Let’s see now. Hmm. Difficult. Very Difficult.” Remus felt his grip on the stool tighten as he realized fearfully the hat could read his thoughts. He tried desperately not to think about all the things he didn’t want the hat to know, which of course made him think about it more.

“Ah yes. A werewolf. Never sorted your kind before. How peculiar. Been through quite a lot. Such a great deal of courage, mm and loyalty to I see. Still, with such wit, you’d do great in Ravenclaw.” Remus made a choking sound and quickly reminded himself that no one else could hear the hat, right?

“Yes, that is correct. I am speaking to you in your mind. Now let’s focus. Two choices both which could bring you such potential. Truly difficult indeed.”

“You can’t really think I have a lot of wit. I cause a great deal of trouble and I really am not that intelligent.” He found himself fighting back as if trying to defend his father who seemed so certain he couldn’t handle this.

“Ah, I see. Yes well, that seems to be the answer then. You will go far I can see it now. With all the courage it takes to be here for you it really shouldn’t have been a challenge after all. There is only one answer and it must be…”

“GRYFFINDOR!”

The last world reverberated through Remus’ skull and echoed loudly through the great hall.

He felt rather numb as Professor McGonagall lifted the hat off his head. He thought she gave him a small smile but he had to direct all his focus to making it to the Gryffindor table without collapsing. He managed to do so, not realizing who he sat next only knowing several hands were patting his back which made him very uncomfortable.

“Blimey, two hatstalls and both in Gryffindor what a day! What a day!” Came an excited shout a way down the table.

“Here! Here! We broke the bloody record of Gryffindor's in a row we did! Take that Ravenclaw! Where’s the feast? It’s time to celebrate!” Remus was vaguely aware of the sorting finishing up, Dumbledore saying more words, and the table exploding in wonderfully delicious food. He forced himself to pick at some of it, he really ought to be enjoying this more but he was nervous and felt strangely violated by the sorting hat.

Besides, what if the hat said something to someone? He didn’t think it would but….could he really be certain?

So while the twelve other new Gryffindor first years celebrated as boisterously as the rest of the table Remus forced a few smiles and kept to himself with ease. No one seemed to give him much attention as everyone had already seemed to form friends on the train. So surrounded by the Gryffindor’s that were supposed to be his family Remus felt more alone than ever.

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven: The Worst Roommates Ever and Already Broken Rules

After what seemed like a long time a stern straight-laced witch announced loudly she was a prefect and led them to the Gryffindor common room. Remus felt so upset about everything he didn't really appreciate the moving portraits and the moving staircases. He spent most of the time intently making sure he didn't bump into everyone.

“Are you ok?” He realized sadly he was thinking, worrying about his father again and how he was fairing without Remus there to help. Or maybe he really was more of a hindrance as his uncle constantly reminded him.

“Remus….hey are you ok?” He jumped startled someone was daring to speak to him. He glanced up at Lily who looked rather abashed but offered him a small smile.

“Fine, just tired.” Even though he was anything but, he could tell she was asking more to relieve her guilt for leaving him without helping him on the train, than due to any real deep concern. As it was she took his half-hearted response with a relieved smile, and unfortunately as an invitation to talk.

“Oh, that’s good. I’m tired too but I’m much too excited. I suppose this isn’t quite so overwhelming for you as it is for me though is it.” He had to strongly resist the urge to laugh bitterly at that.

He reminded himself he didn’t know Lily’s history and maybe her comment was truthful. However, he personally felt that it was his despondency that should be reflecting a more overwhelmed state than hers. He worried briefly that he was coming across aloof and rude again but he realized this should be exactly what he should aim for to keep everyone at a safe enough distance.

“I think the prefect is explaining something important.” He whispered to her and the response was immediate and expected as she rushed to the front eagerly. In the few very brief interactions he had with Lily he was already pretty sure he could read her like a book. He quite preferred that to people who were harder to read as being able to accurately guess her responses and emotions was safer than not knowing. Luckily most children, at least first years, seemed pretty straight forward with their behaviors.

He ran through the list of names he had already remembered, having not been paying attention to the monotone prefect since the beginning. Out of all the boys and girls after absorbing all the conversations during dinner, only one student still remained a mystery to him. He glanced at Sirius curiously, he knew that their initial interaction had gone badly. He could feel the disgust and superiority rolling off the haughty boy like waves.

Then, there was his prank that he got Peter and James to participate in, which seemed like it was meant to humiliate and hurt him. However he had apologized, sort of, and that left Remus bewildered. Never before had a bully seemed to regret their actions, not sincerely, not when he was concerned anyway.

Suddenly Sirius turned around as if he could feel, what had unintentionally become a stare. Remus looked away quickly, but not before he caught Sirius’ glare. He felt very much on edge with him, finding him much more difficult to read than almost anyone he had ever come across, excluding his father and Professor Dumbledore. Though he was beginning to feel that Sirius wouldn’t be the only mystery to him, the teacher’s all seemed to have expert poker faces and calm demeanors no matter how fake they may be.

“This here is the fat lady she guards the Gryffindor entrance and only those who know the daily password can get in.” Remus looked to the front of the small group of people, though couldn’t really see over any of them.
“Bumfuzzle which means to confuse or fluster.” Remus doubted many people took note of the definition as most of the kids had burst into laughter at the ridiculous word. He even found the corners of his lips twitching slightly.

Then they were led into the common room which was spacious, but not too big and full of plush couches and chairs. Everything adhered to the theme scarlet and gold and a large stuffed lion stood a few feet away from a roaring fireplace that made the whole space toasty and warm.

Remus glanced around at the pleasant area of study tables and a small shelf where books could be exchanged among housemates. He found himself smiling, feeling a bit more at home and optimistic now. After all, just because he wasn’t going to make any friends, couldn’t make any, didn’t mean he couldn’t eventually have fun acquaintances to make his time here less lonely.

“Ladies follow Prefect Amelie up to your dorms and gentlemen you are with me.” Called the prefect again, gesturing at a petite girl whose pigtails and round face made her appear to be no more than a year older than them, but who must at least be a fifth year for the prefect status.

Remus followed Prefect Liam up into the boy's dormitory. They climbed staircase after staircase until they finally reached what must be the top.

“This year first years are on the seventh floor so you best get comfortable with stairs, this floor will house your dorms for your whole time at Hogwarts.” Remus groaned loudly but luckily he wasn’t the only one, out of the eight boys gathered around the prefect only Sirius and James seemed unaffected by the news. In fact, they were elbowing each other whispering something that must have been amusing from their reactions.

Prefect Liam was not amused though and he criticized all of them for their groaning while simultaneously glaring at James and Sirius for making light of the situation. Remus got a distinct impression not much impressed the older student and there would be no real good option to dealing with him meaning avoidance was the safest policy. A few of the boys shifted away from him apparently coming to the same conclusion.

Only Sirius and James stayed put at the front of the crowd, sporting matching insolent looking grins that made the already similar looking boys appear to be brothers. Of course, Remus highly doubted they were, but the thought sent a deep sadness running through him though he couldn’t understand why.

“I won’t tolerate nonsense, and lights off at 10 pm means silence. Even during other times, no loud noises should come from the dorms as older students have important exams to study for. If you want to run amuck go outside for it.”

“10 pm but at home, I am allowed to stay up until 11!” James complained loudly, sounding as if this was the greatest offense someone had ever committed against him.

“Well that’s how it is here and I don’t care how rich your family is, that’s how it will stay.” James went red for a second then dawned a lazy grin on his face as if he could care less about the words coming from the prefect's mouth. It turned out to be a very effective way of getting the prefect angry.

“Don’t make me give you detention before classes had even started!”

“Sounds like a challenge Potter.” Sirius teased, clearly as laissez-faire about rules and leadership as James was. Remus briefly felt bad for the prefect who, it seemed, had not expected such outward disobedience on day one and had gone rather red and splotchy in the face.

“Don’t test me.”

“But you made it sound like a test just like Black said.”

“JUST GET IN THAT ROOM!” He promptly banished the two grinning boys into the door slightly behind them. Once the door closed, laughter being heard from inside the room, Prefect Liam seemed to relax some and pulled out a list he consulted silently for a minute.
“Hm seems fitting those two have to deal with each other.”

He sounded quite smug about this and Remus couldn’t understand why. Sirius and James clearly had been friends for a long time, perhaps they were actually relatives or something, and no doubt the room they were both in would be a troubled room indeed. Remus held his breath hoping with all his heart he was assigned the other room.

“In the room in front of me, room 2 is…..” He felt his heart plummeting as all the names listed weren’t his. Surely not! Surely he would not be forced to share a room with those loud and intimidating boys.

“That leaves you two in with them.” He didn’t bother hiding his contempt but shot the last two remaining students a quick look of sympathy. Peter, however, seemed thrilled by the idea and quickly left Remus standing in the hallway alone with the prefect.

“Um, sir…...I read….in my book, the rooms hold five?”

“Yes that’s correct but these assignments are final no matter how...unpleasant they may be.” His negative outlook on James and Sirius wasn’t helping Remus any and he shifted with anxiety.

“There’s nothing you can do?” He ventured shyly, his desire of not wanting to cause trouble currently outweighed by his desire not to share a room with the three boys who had bullied him.

“Sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”

“Alright, well thank you, Prefect Liam.” Remus realized horrified that he may have gotten the name wrong, but after a second found that the shock on Liam’s face had come from being thanked. He left the prefect looking as if he had never been thanked before, at least not by a first year and braced himself as he entered his dorm room.

Three boys stiffened almost imperceptibly, but Remus noticed and realized they must have been talking about him. He felt his face go hot and walked cautiously to the only unclaimed bed, his pathetic excuse of a trunk in front of it. He half expected to find nails in his bed and he sat down hesitantly. After a minute, he was convinced there were no tricks and laid down.

It was so soft! He rolled around the bed letting the simple joy in the luxury outweigh his dread at his room assignment. At least he had curtains attached to the bed that could be drawn closed. They currently were closed and were blocking Remus from the three boys and the awkward silence that had filled the room.

“Soooooo this is how it’s going to be until we are sevenths years or one of us dies.” James joked in a slightly tense tone, clearly attempting to clear some of the tension. It worked, too well. Sirius strolled over and promptly yanked Remus’ curtains open.

“So that means we should all get along don’t you think?” He asked it innocently enough but there seemed to be an edge to Sirius’ voice that made his question sound more like a threat. Remus glanced past him at James who seemed unconcerned and was showing an excited Peter the contents of his trunk.

“Oi look at me won’t you!” He jumped and glanced at the scary boy who glowered at him. He opened his mouth to say getting along sounded fine to him, but before he could get the words to form Sirius huffed and closed the curtains roughly nearly ripping them off the posts.
“Figures I get stuck with one of them!”

“One of what?” He was shocked by the confidence in the voice before he realized it wasn't him who had asked but James.

“A judgmental prick who thinks my name means something!”

“Well, it does mean something.” It was clear James meant no harm by this comment but this was, very much, the wrong thing to say as it quickly became evident. There was a long silence, and despite himself, Remus tugged on his curtains a fraction so he could peek out. James was crouched in front of his large ivory chest, several fancy robes on the ground and Peter lying on James's bed holding up a large collection of chocolate frog cards. He looked as uncomfortable as Remus felt watching Sirius stand in front of James.

Sirius’ back was to Remus but he was sure James was facing the intimidating glare he had already faced multiple times. Except instead of choke up like the coward Remus was James got to his feet to his eyes full of irritation and confusion.

“Geez, what crawled up your ass and died.” He scoffed, once again trying to somehow ease the tension, except this time failing.

“Shut up Potter you don’t understand! Everyone is thrilled you are in Gryffindor! Wonderful little Potter the pride and joy of his family I’m sure.” Sirius retorted angrily.

“So what? What does that have to do with anything?” James now just looked baffled, and it seemed, as lost as the rest of them.

“I’m in Gryffindor!” Sirius exclaimed whirling away from Potter in feigned disgust, but Remus realized with a stab of pity it was to hide the tears forming in his eyes. Sirius stared at the floor blinking furiously and when he spoke he sounded angry. From his spot, only Remus saw the hurt and fear that was there. He remembered the lack of applause for Sirius and watched as the boy stood taller, that aristocratic pride showing in eyes that seconds before had been brimming with tears.

“Use your tiny brain and understand that not everyone’s life is as wonderful as yours.” Then he stormed off, and they all watched him leave startled.

“Fine then don’t act like the stuck up arrogant pricks your family is made up of! I thought you were different!” James shouted angrily, hurt by the boy who was getting along so well with him moments before.

“What are you looking at?” He knew deep down James wasn’t really angry at him, but remembering the way the boys so quickly ganged up on him Remus didn’t dare do anything but retreat quickly into his bed. After a tense hour, James and Peter struck up a conversation about quidditch and their carefree tones startled him.

Weren’t they worried about Sirius? He was clearly very upset, sure they didn’t see how upset, but weren’t they friends? Remus glanced at the clock realizing curfew wasn’t that far away. His self-preservation instincts were telling him to stay put and let Sirius fend for himself, surely the castle was safe and he’d probably be back sooner rather than later.

But there was a nagging feeling in his gut that something could be very wrong. So before he could change his mind he dangled his feet off the bed, tugged on his shoes, and quickly walked to the door ignoring James’ question of where he was going. He quietly closed the door behind him and heard the muttered “So weird” that resulted from his departure. Again there was no malice or even amusement in Jame’s voice, who seemed puzzled more than anything. But it didn’t stop the shame that rose to Remus’ face. Luckily his roommates had no clue just how weird he was.

He pushed his negative thoughts away as he entered the cozy common room that was teeming with older students. It seemed he was the only first-year not getting to know their roommates or stressing excitedly about their first day of class tomorrow. Well him and Sirius he corrected himself feeling very upset when he didn’t find the confusing boy in the common room.

Had he really gone exploring at this hour? Though if he had been upset as Sirius seemed he wouldn’t want to be surrounded by older students either. Luckily he went unnoticed in the crowd of students catching up with one another and re-telling wild tales of summer adventures. By contrast, the halls of Hogwarts was a ghost town. A few students rushed past him, their robes streaked with either blue or yellow signifying the different common rooms they were hoping to reach before it was too late.

Remus was an idiot. Not only was he going after the boy who had bullied him, but he was risking getting in trouble, maybe even risking getting expelled his first night at Hogwarts. He felt fear constrict in his chest and he whirled around wildly afraid some teacher would swoop down and drag him off to Dumbledore’s office, who would be furious and would send him back to his father who would hate him more than he already did.

He could feel the minutes ticking away as he hurried down hall after hall, he was about to give up when he heard muffled sobs coming from a classroom. He hesitated sure that if it was Sirius in there he’d get beaten up. But he knew that type of crying. The raw painful and lonely sounds escaping whoever was inside usually followed a spiral of negative emotions. Being alone wasn't the answer, not for this sort of crying he reasoned to himself. He took a deep breath and slipped inside unsurprised by the abrupt silence that followed his entrance.

“Go away!” Remus went cold, that wasn’t Sirius’ voice. He didn’t recognize it, only that it belonged to a young sad boy who wasn’t Sirius. He took a few more steps, his logic still remaining.

“I don’t know who you are if….if that helps….only….well you sound very sad and lonely….you don’t need to say anything and I can’t see who you are…..so if you stay quiet I’ll….um I’ll assume you want me to stay……..alright?”

It wasn’t entirely true, he could make out the outline of someone huddled atop one of the desks, holding their knees tightly and burying their face in an attempt to keep their identity hidden. However it wasn’t enough to identify anyone, nor did Remus try hard to, he simply stood there waiting for another ‘go away’. When none came he dared a few more steps, the crying had started again but when the boy didn’t complain he got closer still.

He found himself emboldened by his desire to ease the pain of this mysterious boy and his mysterious problem. He realized how crazy this all was, but he felt drawn by an instinct that came from years of crying alone and almost a whole year of no one to care if he did.

“They all hate me, I thought…..thought things would be different here.” It was a whisper, undecipherable in the volume exerted and Remus matched it hoping it would make things easier.

“I…..I understand. It’s the same way for me.”

“Really?” There was a sharp tone of suspicion now. Remus was oddly struck by a familiarity he could not place.

“Yes…..I’ve already been bullied and I suspect I will make no friends.” He hadn’t meant it to sound so matter of fact, so certain but it was too late and he waited wondering if the boy would make fun of him or question him. Instead, he sighed heavily.

“Me too. Well…..I know I’ll have one friend so I suppose that makes me better off than you. But we are in different houses so it doesn’t feel like we’re friends…..I’m afraid we won’t be anymore.” Remus felt a little hurt by the boy's lack of sympathy for him, but he was a little too deep to back out now, and maybe he’d feel better if he helped this boy whose problems seemed easy in comparison to his.

“I’m sure that’s not true. Have you been friends for long?”

“Yes.”

“Do they care what house you’re in?” There was a long pause as the boy contemplated that.

“.....no I don’t think so.”

“Well, then you guys can still be friends.”

“But I never will see her.” Remus flinched at the cold angry tone, the boy seemed to be blaming everyone for this and he had a feeling that if he wasn’t careful he’d be the target of more anger.

“Well……...you could always write letters”

“Letters?” Came the scathing reply and Remus felt himself wither slightly, this wasn’t going well at all.

“W…...w…...well that’s uh….I’m sure…...there’s some magic that can be used……” He expected the same tone but instead, the boy sounded thoughtful.

“Perhaps…….I suppose she would enjoy that.”

“We also have classes with different houses and you two could meet up on the grounds.”

“Yes…….I suppose so.” The mystery boy still sounded deeply displeased but he had stopped crying. Remus wondered if the trouble with his friend was really all that was making him cry like that, of course maybe it was. Afterall he didn’t really know anything, especially not about friendship, and he knew better than to assume anything.

“I’m sorry for bothering you.” He hoped this would get him dismissed as he found the sad boy a little off-putting though he wasn’t sure why. He wanted to ask him questions like why the others didn’t like him or why he had been so sure he wouldn’t stay friends with the girl. But he didn’t dare, not with how defensive the boy had sounded.

“Yes well you’ve made yourself useful I guess. You should leave now though.” That was it, the end to the conversation. No thank you, no concern about Remus’ lack of friends. He should have been relieved, and part of him was as he left the classroom, but he also felt rather hurt.

This night was going terribly, he hadn’t found Sirius and he was surely going to get in trouble now as it was past curfew. He wearily started back to the dorm room before realizing with a horrified panic that he hadn’t been paying attention and didn’t know where he was. He was only sure of the general direction to head due to an innate sense of direction he had always seemed to possess. But the maze that was Hogwarts was a lot even for him.

He tried to stay calm as he started up some stairs but almost started crying as they moved and he had to backtrack and try again only for a similar outcome. There were tears of frustration and fear in his eyes, and he was sure this night was the end to what had barely been a start at a semi-normal life. He was deep in negative thoughts when a blur appeared around a corner and smashed into him barreling him over.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight: The Beginnings of Suspicion and Intrigue

 

“OW!” Hissed the boy on top of him.

“Sirius?”

“Salazar Slytherin! What the hell are you doing Remus?” Sure enough, it was Sirius, who got off him and helped him to his feet sounding amused as if the previous outbursts hadn’t happened at all.

“Are you alright?” He had asked before realizing it might not be the best idea. He was sure this would set off Sirius again, but instead, he laughed. It was a tense laugh but he truly seemed amused and Remus for the life of him couldn’t figure out why.

“Please be quiet it’s past curfew,” Remus muttered trying to calm down. Sirius scoffed but still sounded amused.

“Well, you don’t seem to care about rules much yourself seeing as you are out here.”

“I’m only out here looking for you.” He responded, very stressed to be standing here in the middle of the nearly pitch black corridor waiting for someone to find them. There was a long silence and unable to see much of anything Remus thought Sirius much have ditched him.

“You…...you’re out here because you were worried about me?” Remus jumped surprised Sirius was still there and because the boy had grabbed his shoulder tightly. He wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be a threatening gesture, as Sirius sounded more stunned than anything but Remus took it as such. He desperately did not want to deal with any more drama and wanted simply to get back to his bed before they got expelled.

“Please, can we go back now?”

“But I thought you hated me?” This definitely caught Remus off guard. Him? Hate Sirius? Whatever for? He wasn’t so petty as to hold one, rather cruel, prank against someone, though he had a feeling that wasn’t why Sirius thought he didn’t like him. It must have been because he couldn’t see Sirius, or maybe it was the hand on his shoulder that seemed like a threat, but Remus found himself answering truthfully.

“Hate you? But you are the one that hates me!” There was a long silence as both boys digested the words spoken.

“So you…..you aren’t judging me because I’m a Black?”

“A what?”

“A Black, I am the heir of the house of Black.” He sounded offended now as if he thought Remus was mocking him.

Instead, the very tired Remus was simply becoming more confused and stressed by the minute.

“I’m sorry I don’t know what that is but can we please go back we are going to get caught.” However, Sirius seemed to discard the second part of his sentence entirely making no move to go back or let Remus go.

“But you seemed afraid of me on the train and all defensive as if you knew who I was. As if you figured I’d be a pureblood bastard like my family!”

“Is that why you got mad at James?” He asked nervous as to where Sirius’ line of questioning was going. He had indeed been afraid of Sirius but not because of his heritage or family, simply because he thought the shadow man come to take him away again. However, he never could explain this to him nor did he want to. Luckily the question seemed to throw Sirius off topic.

“Well yeah, he was doing the same thing.”

“No, he wasn’t.” STUPID! He was so stupid, why was he engaging in an argument with a boy bigger than him who didn’t care about the rules and didn’t seem opposed to violence. He instinctively covered his face ready to be knocked to the ground and kicked. To be treated how all the other kids had treated him. Instead, Sirius groaned.

“Shit, you’re right. I’m such an idiot. It’s not my fault I was just pissed off because…” He stopped as if realizing who he was talking to.

“Forget it let’s just go back.” Sirius snapped and started walking. Remus hurried to follow him. But because he couldn't see him, in his haste not to be left behind in this dark strange place he bumped into Sirius. He made a slight choking sound unable to get rid of the feeling Sirius would decide to beat him up and do so.

“Stop that!” Sirius snapped, still seeming not to care at all about their current location.

“S...stop what?” He stammered.

“Quit acting like I’m going to hit you geez! You’re jumpier that Peter I swear!”

“Sorry.”

“Whatever, just…calm down it really pisses me off when you do this. But….I still don’t get it why did you come after me? James and Peter didn’t.” It wasn’t a question about the other two being weird for not doing so. Sirius had worded it in a way that didn’t make Remus doubt for one second it was his actions that were deemed very odd and suspicious.

“I…...just wanted to make sure you were ok.”

“But you’re afraid of me? You jump every time I look at you.”

“You did draw all over my face.”

“Oh geez are you the kind that holds grudges. That was forever ago, it wasn’t personal and I won’t do it again so quit being so weird.” Remus was glad Sirius’ hand wasn’t on his shoulder because he knew he flinched again at the comment.

He didn’t know how to be a normal boy, he almost wanted to ask Sirius to teach him, to teach him how to blend in and be a part of this strange club full of invisible rules he didn’t understand. He felt hopelessly overwhelmed by it and had a feeling no matter what he did he wouldn't get it right.

“Sorry.” No this was clearly not the right answer to give, he almost screamed in frustration as he felt Sirius’ intense gaze focus on him. He was doing the opposite of blending in, he was by far the most suspicious boy in their class and it was terrible. He made up his mind to study his classmates closely and to do better at this. But for now, he had to quickly find a way to distract Sirius who didn’t seem opposed to pointing out his weirdness and questioning it.

“I think James said something about going through your trunk by the way.” He whispered quietly and relaxed when it worked.

“He better not have!” Sirius shouted, but sounded good-natured about it and took off running leaving Remus the precarious task of not losing nor running into him until they reached a hallway with enough light to make the trip back bearable.

He let out a sigh of relief when they quickly entered the Gryffindor common room. He had actually gotten quite close to reaching it by himself despite the moving staircases. Sirius seemed much better at navigating them and he hoped he hadn’t missed some trick during the prefect's rant.

 

“Whoo, that was fun!” Sirius was grinning at him eyes gleaming with mischievous delight. It truly was like nothing had happened between them, both that there hadn’t been any glares or bullying. Remus was astonished by the strange nonchalance Sirius had to simply let things go.

Remus nodded hoping he was convincing enough, and as they climbed the many stairs he realized with a heavy heart that maybe he was the kind of person who held onto grudges for a ridiculously long time. After all, he still held a grudge against the shadow man.

“James you….” Sirius trailed off as both Peter and James were fast asleep in there adjacent beds a half-finished game of something strange looking laid out on the floor. Only a small candle had been left burning to allow Sirius and Remus enough light to get into their own beds.

“Bloody idiots didn’t even wait up,” Sirius muttered and slapped Remus on the back in a friendly manner. Of course, Remus stiffened, he really couldn’t help himself. But he rushed into his bed before Sirius could question him further. He curled up under the covers still dressed but nervous Sirius would fling open the curtains if he attempted to change now. Instead, he muttered a good night that was returned and tried to calm his racing heart enough to fall asleep.

 

. . .

 

Sirius lay in his bed for a long time, first worrying about his mother’s and family’s reaction to the house he got placed in, and once he got sick of fretting about that his thoughts turned to Remus. For Sirius was more perceptive than people gave him credit for, which was how he liked it. But he had realized Remus’ purposeful conversation change to keep the focus off himself. It was the same thing his uncle did when his mother was attacking his life choices and asking him questions to be sure he was ‘upholding the Black family honor.’

So while Remus thought he had managed to distract Sirius from him, in fact, Sirius was more curious than ever. He shifted in his bed listening for something to indicate if Remus was awake or not. His interest definitely peaked, now that he knew Remus wasn’t just a judgemental pig, the boy had become something of a mystery and there were few things Sirius liked more. He was already coming up with speculations that got wilder and wilder and which carried him off into sleep.

 

……..

 

“Wake up! Sirius, mate wake up!” He opened his heavy eyelids to find James grinning down at him like the fool he was. He scoffed and playfully pushed him back. Things were fine between them, tension forgot, no need to apologize or dwell on feelings. He was so grateful for this.

“Piss off Potter I have to get my beauty sleep.” He responded in a posh female voice that caused James to laugh and nudge him.

“You’ll miss breakfast and classes your highness.” Sirius grinned and shoved his foot in his face in response. They jostled each other good-naturedly then Sirius dropped to his boxers and got dressed for the day noticing both Remus and Peter were gone. The later’s bed was unmade and his little area of the room was becoming a mess which Sirius could respect.

On the other hand, Remus’ trunk, if you could even call it that, hadn’t even been touched yet and his bed looked like he hadn’t slept on it. Sirius wasn’t sure why this irritated him so much, only that it did.

“Where are the others?” He asked pulling his new robe on, luckily he had a few that weren’t custom Slytherin robes.

“Peter got up when I did but decided he’d rather go eat than get your lazy ass out of bed.”

“And Remus?”

“Thought you didn’t care about him?” This caught Sirius off guard, had he really been that rude to him? Did Remus actually have a reason to flinch every time he was near him, the thought filled him with dread and irritation.

“Well that was before he was our roommate now wasn’t it.”

“He’s really odd. What eleven-year-old boy is that neat?”

“A swot.” Scoffed Sirius as if this explained everything, even though he knew it didn’t.

“Yeah but if that’s the case why did he break curfew last night. You were both gone for a while. Pete and I got sick of waiting for you.”

“Yeah well, I had a whole castle to explore.”

“You know I didn't mean it that way,” James said abruptly looking at Sirius warily.

“Yeah I know and I guess I shouldn't have been such an ass.” He muttered reluctantly.

“A little less ass would be nice.” Remarked James with a mock sophisticated tone. Sirius snorted and punched him lightly on the shoulder. They wouldn’t mention last night again, there was no need to do so, that’s just the way it was.

Sirius didn’t see Remus at breakfast, which had been a blast and nearly ended in a food fight if that stuck up prefect hadn’t gotten in the way. Then when they went back to the dorms, the three of them discussing the castle’s secret passageways excitedly, Remus was sitting in his bed looking over a very badly used textbook as if he had never left the room. His trunk was gone now, probably tucked under his bed. Remus glanced up briefly when they entered but then back down at his book as if they didn't matter.

It didn’t make sense if Remus really had gone after him because he was worried why didn’t he take more interest or at least talk to them? It was so….infuriating. James didn’t seem to care much and Peter didn’t seem to notice which just made Sirius even more frustrated because he was sure he wasn’t crazy and that there was something really off about this kid. He should have been getting ready but instead, he flopped himself down on Remus’ bed ignoring the way he jumped.

“Gosh, you are boring! Reading textbooks is only permitted during class. Put it down and play a game of gobstones with me.”

“I…..I…...uh….” There he went stammering again with his big Puffskein in the headlight eyes.

“Sirius stop harassing him. I thought we agreed to leave him be if that’s what he wants.”

“Well, maybe I’m not sure that’s what he wants!” He retorted more out of spite than because he thought that. Remus who was very close to him flinched badly and took a shaky little breath. Had Sirius accidentally hit the nail on the head? He certainly was a mystery this one was.

“Well geez, that’s really easy to remedy. Remus do you want Sirius sitting on your bed and insulting your choice of activities?” James responded in his dry humor tone. Though he was seriously asking Remus, going so far as to turn so to see his response in case it wasn’t a verbal one. Sirius wondered vaguely if James was more attentive than he let on too. Remus shook his head, sure enough choosing not to speak, or not able to. Feeling disheartened Sirius clambered off his bed and got ready for classes.

All thoughts of Remus left his mind as they went from one class to another. Now it wasn’t the subjects that kept his attention, but the like-mindedness of James who spent most of the class periods coming up with pranks with him. Occasionally Peter pipped in with an idea, offering a few decent ones. Sirius didn’t understand why James took Peter under his wing, the two of them actually seemed to get along well but he couldn’t help but find Peter almost as irritating as Remus.

At least Peter tried though, that couldn’t be said for his other irritating roommate. Throughout all their classes, boring ones like history of magic and mildly entertaining ones like Transfiguration taught by their stern head of house, Remus sat in the front row and spent the whole time diligently writing notes.

Even Lily who was easily as much as a nerd as Lupin took the occasional break to whisper to one of her friends next to her. By their last class, Sirius had realized that Remus was the only kid in their class who seemed to have no desire not to sit alone. He didn’t start conversations with anyone and he barely looked anywhere besides his notebook and textbook, and that included at the teachers.

But again Remus left his head as he focused on his friends he had already made and who he liked to talk to. Especially James, he was sure the Potter’s must be related to the Blacks and that James must be some sort of cousin because he had never gotten along with someone that well.

Sure James seemed to get along with almost everyone, and usually had more patience for the slow or irritating people than Sirius did but he didn’t think James counted him in the same group as the others. He was pretty sure James saw him as an equal, both as a partner in crime and friend. It was a wonderful feeling and he was sure nothing could ruin his day. But that was before he was harshly reminded he wasn’t the only Black currently at Hogwarts.

“Well, well, well if it isn’t the disappointment of the Black family. I’m surprised you can smile like that.” Came the annoying simper belonging to none other than the prissy Narcissa Black. His cousin and a constant thorn in his side growing up. Of course, she wasn’t the worse cousin by far, but that didn’t mean he was pleased to see her and he certainly wasn’t happy by her condescending tone.

She had always talked to him like he was a baby compared to her when he wasn’t, in fact, that much younger. Now that he was at Hogwarts and was in Gryffindor she actually sounded worse, now sounding as if he was a dog in need of scolding. He glanced at James who was regarding Narcissa with contempt. Sirius hoped that it was for his sake and not just because she was a Black.

“Why don’t you go play with the little Slytherins Sissy and leave us alone. In fact, I’m surprised you’ve unglued yourself from Malfoy's’ face long enough to notice anyone but yourself” He shot back at her mirroring her condescending tone.

He knew she hated it when he called her Sissy as only her friends had that ‘privilege’ which is precisely why he refused to call her anything else when they were alone. Sure enough, her face grew red with anger, both due to the name and his subtle threat at her less than ladylike behavior at school.

“Oh shut up Sirius, you’re just a little boy who doesn’t understand love. Have fun dealing with your mother later, I heard she’s already getting the basement ready for you.” She sneered and Sirius felt the color drain from his face. He thought he saw a flash of regret in her eyes but they hardened just as quickly and she sauntered off ignoring James entirely. Sirius felt sick and was grateful for the hand James had on his shoulder to steady him.

He had refused to think about what was awaiting him when he went home. Made easier by the fact he hadn’t heard from his mother yet which wasn’t surprising. Besides by the time he got home, she would have cooled down a little. She hadn’t pulled him out of school which was a good sign. Besides, even in Gryffindor, he was the future heir of the Blacks. Sometimes he had nightmares his mother killed him off so Regulus could be the heir but he knew that wouldn’t happen, after all, that would cause too much of a scandal.

“HEY!” He hadn’t realized James had been waving a hand in front of his face for a while now. He shook himself bringing himself away from Grimmauld Place and back to Hogwarts where he was safe..for now.

“Sorry mate she really gets under my skin she does.” He hoped his nonchalant attitude would vanish any traces of worry James might have about him completely zoning out like that. Sure enough, he scoffed and flung his arm around his shoulders.

“I’d say. She’s a bright ray of sunshine that one is.” He responded voice dripping with sarcasm Sirius appreciated greatly.

“Come on let’s go to the dorms. We’ve got a few hours before dinner.”

“Alright but Sirius?” He felt himself tense unsure what he’d do if James asked what was in the basement or why he reacted that way.

“Y..yeah?” He forced himself to sound as calm as he could and braced himself for serious inquisitive eyes to bore into him. Instead, James shoved him playfully then screamed race you at the top of his lungs already running through the halls at detention earning speed. Laughing delightedly Sirius raced after him leaving his worries about his home where they belonged.

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine: The Ups and Downs of Day One

 

Remus had been up at the crack of dawn, hardly able to sleep due to his nerves and excitement for classes tomorrow. He also had ulterior motives, as he didn’t quite trust any of the other boys to respect his privacy enough. So he showered and got dressed before they could even think of opening their eyes. He had dressed quickly and went undisturbed. He had slipped out of the dorm leaving the others to the mercy of James’ very loud snoring.

Then he realized he almost had a whole hour before breakfast started, realizing there were no explicit rules permitting him from leaving his dorm in the morning he left the deserted common room and walked through the halls that seemed much more pleasant today. Despite his terrible dream last night he was feeling oddly hopeful about today. He spent some time studying the paintings he had neglected yesterday then figured out where the library was.

He had never seen so many books in his life and he spent the last half hour of his free time exploring the calming library, empty of all people. Then he hurried to the Great Hall for breakfast only to be stopped by none other than Headmaster Dumbledore himself. Remus stiffened wondering if he was going to be expelled for last night but instead the old wizard smiled at him.

“How are you enjoying Hogwarts Remus?”

“Fine sir.” He responded quickly hardly thinking if this was true or not. He had learned pretty early on that when adults asked questions they wanted specific answers, not the truth. Dumbledore raised an eyebrow at him.

“And your roommates?”

“Also fine sir.”

“Yes, I imagine it will be,” Dumbledore responded quietly, seemingly more to himself than the child in front of him. His smile widened and he looked closely at Remus again.

“Our matron Madam Pomfrey would like to meet your acquaintance when you have time. She will be the one to help you with your...condition every month.” Even though Dumbledore had looked furtively around before finishing in a low voice, Remus looked around quickly and still felt a pang of panic despite no one being in earshot.

“I’ll go see her now sir.”

“That’s not necessary unless you want to. And you don’t need to call me sir, Professor Dumbledore will do just fine.” He was showing Remus such unnatural kindness that he was beginning to feel choked up again.

“I..I think I’d feel better doing it now sir….er Professor Dumbledore?” He ventured nervously trying to figure out if this was really ok. He still wasn’t quite sure he had the right to call anyone professor as he was pretty sure he’d be expelled before he fully became a student.

“Remember Remus you have just as much of a right to be here as anyone else. And don’t worry too much about the rules. If we expelled every student for testing the rules we’d have no students left” He chuckled eyes twinkling mischievously, the knowing kind glint in them making Remus go cold.

He had suspected Dumbledore could read him somehow, but he couldn’t actually read his thoughts, right? He felt that would be very intrusive then he blushed realizing if Dumbledore could read his thoughts he would have realized Remus was judging him which he really had no right to do. However, if Dumbledore was reading his thoughts he gave no acknowledgment of this.

“Well you best hurry off, we wouldn’t want you skipping breakfast on your first day.” Came his kind playful reply to dismiss Remus. He nodded and hurried off to the hospital wing glad he had a general idea of where it was. It took a little trial and error but eventually, he found his way there. He found there were two large doors made mostly of a sort of foggy glass that allowed him to see blurs in the hospital wing but little else. He shifted not wanting to bother the matron if she was busy, plus he couldn't find it in himself to knock and walking in without doing so was simply out of the question.

He saw a blurry figure through the large panels of glass and turned to leave before he was caught standing there like an idiot. However, he wasn’t fast enough. Even though the witch wasn’t near the doors they flew open with a flick of her wand, revealing a large open wing with a dozen standard hospital beds with flimsy curtains able to give a little privacy when necessary. Remus paled, surely this wasn’t where he would be to recover after every month, it wouldn’t take long at all for him to be found out this way.

“Well don’t just stand there dear come in.” Came a brisk but kind voice. His attention shifted from the problematic layout of the ward to the matron who ran it. She was a middle-aged witch with strawberry blond hair pulled back tightly in a bun. She sported the similar air that Professor McGonagall had, in that she didn’t seem like one who would tolerate any foolishness. Her eyes were pale blue and her gentle but serious expression softened some.

“So many homesick children this year, come in darling there’s no need to be ashamed.” She gave him a warm smile that made her look even younger and much less intimidating. He walked slowly into the hospital wing unsure if he was upset or relieved Madame Pomfrey didn’t know who he was.

“Well hurry up, don’t dawdle I haven’t all day.” She still sounded gentle as she gestured him forward smoothing her typical healer's robes and producing a chocolate bar in her hand.

“I imagine a talk and this will do you some good. There’s no need to be so shy dear.” He was within arms reach of her now and her sky blue eyes were assessing him for any injuries with more attentiveness than he had ever got at St. Mungos. But he was sure that would change once she realized who he was, he was just glad she had agreed to keep a monster alive and keep his secret. That was far more than he had expected to receive from a healer and more than enough for him. Still, he was dreading the change in her gaze that would happen once she knew what he was.

“M...Madam um…..” He didn’t get the words out though as she was already ushering him to a little stool in the back of the ward and handing him a little packet of tissues and the chocolate bar.

“Now then what house are you in dear? Are you experiencing any headaches or stomach aches?” He shook his head mutely forgetting she had asked him a question. There was a long pause before he remembered he’d actually have to speak.

“Gryffindor.”

“Well missing home doesn’t make you any less brave and coming here makes you a good deal smarter than the other boys in your year.” She sounded exasperated and he fiddled with his chocolate bar so he didn’t have to look at her.

“Make no mistake there are likely a lot more than you feeling down except their male pride prevents them from coming in for a soothing tonic. Would you like one dear?” He shook his head and dared to glance at her, she seemed puzzled now and a good deal more concerned.

“Now mind you I won’t tell anyone you’ve been here. Are you familiar with tonics? Are you muggle born dear?” He wished she would ask one question at a time so he didn’t have to speak.

“Yes, ma’am and no ma’am.”

“Well aren’t you the polite one.” She sounded quite pleased but also concerned.

“If you don’t want a tonic what are you here for dear?” He looked away not wanting to see the distrust and anger that would cloud her eyes when she realized.

“I’m….you……..Dumbledore told me to come…..” He finished lamely his hoarse whisper sounding too close to tears to his liking. He clenched his fist on the pack of tissues determined not to need them, at least not in front of her. He hated crying in front of people, especially in front of healers who didn’t really care.

“Oh my! You’re Remus then?” It was the fact she was still using his name and not referring to him as it that made him look up. Her expression had softened even more and her face was creased with sadness.

“Remus I want you to know that you can always come to me about anything. I’m here to help you in any way I can. Do you understand?”

He nodded stunned, even though he didn’t understand in the slightest. She then went on to explain what Dumbledore already had in more clinical terms. Asking him questions about his injuries every month with a straight forward calm he appreciated deeply. Of course, his answers were dismal and didn’t really help her, for he didn’t want to admit to her nor describe in gruesome details how he ripped himself to shreds every month. But she seemed to take the hint and assured him she would do her research before the end of the month came. She truly seemed willing and able to make his transformations as painless as possible.

She even let him keep the chocolate when he offered to give it back since he wasn’t really homesick. She had just patted his hand and told him that it would do him good to eat it all the same. So he left, tissues and chocolate still in his hands after being made to promise several times he would be here no later than 5 o’clock at the end of the month.

She assured him he could come earlier than that if he needed to but he knew he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t dare miss class not when he knew how much they meant, not when he knew this was the one thing securing a semi-decent future for him. He passed the Great Hall breakfast in full swing, there was plenty of time to eat before classes but his stomach was in knots again. Besides he wanted to look over his books once more.

 

……...

Other than Sirius making fun of him before classes, he so far found that his day was quite nice. He liked the professors he met so far and the subjects seemed complicated but not impossible, which was of great relief to him as he hadn’t been sure he could purposely do magic at all. But he was proved wrong by his first Monday class of the day, Transfiguration.

He found he was one of the few people who could turn his match head into a thin point of what was supposed to be a needle. Of course, most of the children had been distracted for a while, carrying on about Mrs. McGonagall's desk turning into a pig and back again, at least until she shouted at them to pay attention. They weren’t supposed to be frustrated if they couldn’t do it on the first try she had told them as most couldn’t.

But Remus noticed that everyone was frustrated, especially after Lily and James managed to perfectly change there match to a needle, sparking somewhat of a competition between the two the rest of the day. Double Charms was next in which Lily beat James by quickly levitating her feather first, Remus was delighted to find he could do so almost as fast as her. Of course this time everyone had managed to float their feather marginally. But only a handful could get it to stay distinctively in the air for more than a few seconds, and Remus couldn’t believe he was one of them.

He had found both classes delightful and even though he sat by himself at the Gryffindor table during lunch he found himself in a really good mood. He finished reading the first chapter for History of Magic and finally let himself eat the chocolate bar having to work hard not to make embarrassing noises as he ate because it was easily the best chocolate he had ever tasted in his life. He’d even say the best thing he had tasted in his life.

“Hi Remus, can I sit here?” He looked up surprised someone was talking to him, he should have figured Lily might try to. After all, both of them seemed to be equally eager and studious about the school which was a sentiment not shared entirely by their fellow Gryffindors.

“Sure.” He even gave her a smile, after all, there was no harm in casual conversation with his fellow Gryffindor, and he had finished his reading. They talked casually about the class material, and Remus listened slightly bemused to Lily talking up a storm about all the charms she was looking forward to learning. He even had to remind her to breathe at one point and her plate of food seemed to be a lost cause.

“Thank you for listening, Remus. I’ve been awfully lonely without Sev. I’m so excited we have potions with the Slytherins this afternoon. I know! Why don’t you sit with us? I notice you’re all by yourself and I’m sure the three of us would make a great team.” He was taken aback by the invitation but realized there was a polite and easy out off this.

“I appreciate it Lily but you’re forgetting it’s two to a cauldron.”

“Oh right! Sorry, I’m just so excited.” She launched into a long-winded rant about what she wanted to learn in potions Remus listening attentively as he finished the last of his chocolate.

There was no avoiding the walk to History of Magic together considering Remus had engaged in a conversation with Lily but he managed to detangle himself from her rant when one of her roommates caught up to her slinging an arm around her shoulders.

“Geez, Lily you’re talking the poor boy to death.” It took him a second to place the name to the face. Dorcas Meadows whose curly black hair was only slightly darker than her complexion had rushed to catch up to Lily and pulled her playfully under her arm. She gave off an air of energy and flashed her bright smile at Remus her onyx colored eyes wide with childish wonder and mischief.

“I am not Dorcas.” Lily huffed then glanced at Remus who had withered slightly under the attention.

“Am I Remus?” He shook his head which seemed to be enough of a confirmation for Lily.

“Hah! Told you so!” She teased her roommate, and Remus was both glad and secretly a bit jealous that Lily seemed to have better luck with getting along with her roommates than him.

“I don’t think we’ve met yet Remus. I’m Dorcas one of Lily’s roommates and her best friend.” Both she and Lily laughed at this and Remus felt he was missing some sort of inside joke or something. He waited patiently for their laughing to fade and tried not to look too lost as they began walking to class again.

Dorcas was very friendly and nearly as talkative as Lily, though she seemed to be more interested in the extracurriculars Hogwarts offered, while Lily’s ranting seemed to come more from anxiety about the curriculum. Remus found he quite enjoyed listening to the pair of them but forced himself to fall back not wanting to sit with them, both because he figured they would be mildly interruptive and because he couldn’t risk being too friendly with them.

So he sat alone during History of Magic which was easily the least exciting class so far, and he had to fight the urge to doze off as the monotone Professor Binns droned on and on. Despite his best efforts, Remus found himself more focused on the fact that their Professor was a ghost than the lesson materials. He was glad he bothered to read the chapter otherwise he would have been horribly lost, which Professor Binns seemed to be more than once. Finally, the class was over, and being one of the more alert students Remus was the first one out of the classroom.

He, therefore, was the first student to make it to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Finding no one there he sat down and pulled out his textbook and notepad, sitting in the front row where many of his fellow students wouldn’t dare to sit.

“What are you doing here so early?” Remus jumped in his seat and looked up at the most intimidating professor at Hogwarts by far. He had short white hair cropped down into a militaristic cut. His pale skin was covered in scars, a few of which would put Remus’ to shame. But it was his narrowed harsh eyes that made him appear to be some army general rather than a professor. Remus swallowed hard and hoped his fellow classmates would hurry up, Hufflepuff or Gryffindor, anyone to prevent him from being alone with this man.

“Don’t just stare at me blankly, speak!” He demanded harshly and Remus searched his mind for a name, vaguely remembering Dumbledore introducing the new defense against the dark arts teacher who had previously taught at something called Durmstrang? He hoped he wasn’t about to address the angry professor wrongly, but his silence seemed to be upsetting him too so he ventured forward as bravely as he could.

“I just wanted to get here in time Professor Blavatnik.” He told him honestly gulping as the cold eyes narrowed more. His professor looked like he was imagining Remus being crushed to pieces.

“It’s pronounced Blavatnik.” Remus nodded and apologized though he personally heard no difference in how the professor pronounced his name compared to how he had. Even when the rest of the Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs arrive Remus found he was still very uncomfortable, and for the first time wondered if his spot in the front row was the safest choice after all. He thought about moving but then their Professor was talking and it was too late.

Professor Blavatnik seemed to have an intense hatred to anything remotely considered the dark arts. It wasn’t long before his lecture on basic safety had dissolved into a rant on the terrible creatures that gave him his scars.

“Professor is any of them werewolf scratches?” Came Sirius’ interested yet disgusted tone from the back of the classroom. Remus felt nauseous and hunched over his notebook, once more feigning diligent note-taking.

“Damn straight. This one right here. We’ll get into werewolves more during the second year but if you are ever up against one make sure you kill it before it bites you. This scratch hurt like hell but I got lucky, I killed that monster before it bit me.

“How did you kill it?” Apparently, the way to win over Professor Blavatnik was by engaging him in stories of his past victories. For he was more than happy to recount the horrific tale and only stopped after one of the first year girls burst into terrified tears. Defense Against the Dark Arts could not end soon enough for him! Remus had to stop himself from bolting from the room and he nearly knocked over his chair in his haste to leave.

“Lupin. You have enough time to get to your next class. Calm down.” His professor demanded and he did his best to comply but his insides were jello and his knees were shaking as he slowed down slightly and left. He took in a few deep breaths, only then realizing he had been close to hyperventilating during class. If it would be like this during every class he wasn’t sure he’d be able to survive Professor Blavatnik.

He heard James, Sirius, and Peter laughing about the stupid girl who ruined the most exciting class of the day. He rushed off before he could catch the details about how James would have killed the monster in his professor's place. Even though he was far ahead of the other students he detoured to the bathrooms where he rid himself of his lunch then forced himself to calm down.

Because of his detour to the bathrooms, he went from being the first Gryffindor to arrive to class to being the last one to make it to the dungeons for potions. This left him no choice on who to partner with and he shakily walked over to Peter still feeling ill.

He sat on his little stool and forced himself to pay attention to his potions professor who was the polar opposite of Professor Blavatnik. Where the later professor had been muscled, scarred, tough, and strict Professor Slughorn was plump, covered in dark green robes, soft, and rather lax with his teaching.

But Remus could not get himself to focus, he figured it must be because of last class but about halfway through a lecture, he was only catching every other word of he realized something was wrong. His head which had hurt upon entering the classroom was pounding now and his chest, which had already been a bit tight with nerves, was making it impossible to breathe well. It was like he was in fog and as hard as he tried to move his hand to take notes it wouldn’t obey.

He felt Peter eyeing him a few times throughout the class period, but luckily the lecture left little room to talk if one wanted to pay attention. Even though Remus couldn’t pay attention he knew pretending to well enough would mean that ignoring Peter’s blatant stares wasn’t terribly rude of him.

It wasn’t until Slughorn was going through the extensive list of ingredients that everything made sense and Remus felt tears prick at his eyes.

“That’s right class some ingredients like aconite and belladonna are very poisonous and must be used with the utmost care. But not to worry we will start with harmless ingredients until you get the hang of it.” Their professor chuckled shaking with amusement while Remus clenched his teeth firmly together feeling the last bit of color drain from his face.

Aconite was very poisonous for regular humans if ingested, but it was much much worse for werewolves who only had to smell it to feel their effects. It was probably only because the plant was in a sealed container that he wasn’t puking his guts out. No wonder he could barely breathe, he should have recognized the signs of the werewolf repellent sooner.

He had encountered it during the two years his parents had gone and spent everything trying to cure him, and that encounter has almost killed him. He shuddered at the memory and resisted the urge to rest his head on the cool desk Peter and him shared.

“Hey, Remus...are you alright? You don’t look well.” Came the nervous whisper in his ear as Slughorn went on about yet another students lineage and past relatives he had known.

“Fine.” He managed to choke out quite calmly.

Peter didn’t look convinced but he dropped it.

Once more Remus couldn’t wait to leave class but there was no way he was walking quickly out of this room, instead, every step left his head spinning and brought him that much closer to passing out and making a fool of himself, or worse someone figuring out what he was.

Neither happened though and once he made it in the hall walking became considerably easier though he kept a lingering headache for another half hour.

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten: Off on the Wrong Foot

 

He spent the rest of the afternoon in the library alternating between studying and resting his head on the table forcing back tears. He would just have to get used to the effect of the aconite, he’d just have to get used to the humiliating lessons where he was labeled as a monster and how to kill him was discussed. He would just have to get used to it all if he wanted to stay, and despite everything, he wanted to.

“Remus, what the hell are you doing?” He jumped and hoped he looked calmer than he felt as he sat up and glanced at Sirius looking away quickly.

“I was looking for you. I didn’t see you at breakfast or dinner…..why aren’t you eating?”

“Just….not hungry.” He knew it was a weak excuse but he figured Sirius would take it and leave. After all, the boy had no reason to care about him nor any reason to feel responsible for his well being. So why he didn’t leave but sat next to Remus he truly didn’t know.

“That’s a bloody lie and you know it. Potter and Pettigrew might pretend to buy whatever the hell game you’re playing but I don’t. I can’t figure out your problem so you’re going to tell me that way we can be mates and actually enjoy our school years yeah?”

“What problem?” He hated how guilty and panicked he sounded and felt a chill as Sirius glared at him.

“Come on Remus I want to be your friend. I don’t understand you but you seem nice enough if not weird and something clearly is wrong so what is it? Friends help each other and I mean….well you came looking to help me so let me do the same ok?”

Stormy eyes gazed challengingly at him and Remus wanted to snap at Sirius to go away, to leave him alone because his day had been wonderful, then terrible and everything was confusing and painful. He just wanted time to get used to being here let alone the fact being friendly with people and not the target of bullying might be possible.

But he didn’t say any of that if he had perhaps things would have gone differently but instead, he looked at Sirius with earnest confusion and uttered four words that would change the course of the next month to a very unpleasant one.

“But we aren’t friends.” Sirius jerked back as if Remus had slapped him, but he hadn’t meant anything by it. After all, it was the truth, they weren’t friends and they couldn’t be and Remus found more fault in pretending they were then in just being as honest as he could with Sirius. It seemed that Sirius didn’t get this nor did he particularly care to the motivation behind it.

For one wild moment, his eyes flashed with rage and humiliation as if he hadn’t been used to hearing no from someone clearly beneath him. Then he smiled, it was neither sincere nor kind and Remus felt dread seep into him as he realized, once more he had somehow messed things up terribly with Sirius.

“Well if you aren’t my friend then you are my enemy and by proxy Peter’s and James’ as well.” He should have taken it back then, should have convinced Sirius he indeed wanted to be friends, but instead, he just dug his grave deeper.

“Can’t…….can’t we just be…..acquaintances?” He begged just wanting some peace and time to sort everything out. Sirius sneered at him looking like a prince ready to flog his servant. It was an effectively withering look and Remus found he could no longer speak.

“Acquaintances? It doesn’t work like that. You are either with us or against us. It would be different if you were in a different dorm but you’re living with us so we can’t just be acquaintances. Besides you’ve just proven what I was trying to figure out. You’re disgusting!” Sirius snapped looking very angry and very hurt and Remus couldn’t understand what he did that was so wrong.

Surely Sirius hadn’t figured out what he was otherwise he wouldn’t have bothered talking to him and would have simply killed him instead. “Bag himself a werewolf” like he and James and been fantasizing about, that and a dragon. He felt tears prick at his eyes and part of him wanted to ask why they couldn’t be acquaintances and what he had done but couldn’t bring himself to.

“You’ll get what’s coming to you.” Sirius huffed then stormed out leaving Remus to break down in sobs in peace.

He cried for a long time then pretended to study since older students had entered the library. But instead cried some more careful not to let his tears ruin the book he was failing to read.

Finally, the librarian ushered him out sending him a suspicious glare as if the notion of a first-year boy spending his first day at Hogwarts diligently studying was impossible. With nowhere else to go and feeling bone tired he returned to the common room.

He was nervous, downright afraid to go to his dorm room, so he huddled in a corner and watched the fire roar in the fireplace. None of the older students paid him any mind and soon he was alone.

Finding it possible to relax now that he was alone he gently unfolded the blanket draped over the couch and pulled it around himself leaning back into the beanbag chair he was in and drifting off into a restless and stressful sleep.

 

. . .

 

For the next nearly four weeks Remus did his best to focus on his classes, this proved relatively easy as he had no other interests and no friends. He was used to loneliness and at least here he had good food and only had to take care of himself.

But he would be lying if part of him didn’t miss home, didn’t miss the rare but occasional signs of affection from his father. He still hadn’t heard from him and could only assume that his brief letter to his dad saying he was in Hogwarts and having a good time had done enough to ease his worries.

Deep down though he knew his father probably wasn’t worried at all, in fact, it was he who was very worried about his father. He desperately wished his father would write back and tell him he’d been eating regular meals and going to work, but as hard as he wished no such response came.

He might have worried himself sick if it wasn’t for the constant unpleasant distraction that was Sirius Black. Because they were enemies this seemed to mean Remus was the recipient of prank after prank after prank.

He was increasingly baffled by Sirius who seemed to grow angrier with each apology Remus gave him. He was doing his best to bring some semblance of peace between them but it seemed it was too late for that.

So almost four weeks went of dungbombs and stink pellets, of bugs in his bed and his shoes missing. Of his showers having to be somewhere else or not at all because some sort of blood came out from the shower head instead of water.

That had been one of the worse ones and left him sobbing in the shower nearly all day. He also had a storm cloud following him that had luckily been rather weak and run out before he needed to leave for class. Of course, classes had been increasingly harder as his books and homework went missing and reappeared randomly if at all.

He wasn’t sure if it was all Sirius’ doing or if Peter and James had joined in. He only knew that neither of them stopped Sirius, even when Remus had to miss class because someone had used the leviosa spell to levitate a bucket of water over his head. That had resulted in him being soaked and a rather bad headache from the bucket hitting his head.

If it wasn’t for Lily, Remus would most likely have left Hogwarts or at least would have attempted to leave the Gryffindor house.

“Honestly they are so immature, you ought to tell them off Remus then maybe they’d stop,” She chided gently letting him look off her notes as his had gone missing.

“They’ll….get bored eventually.” He responded wearily trying to give her a reassuring smile and failing miserably. The harassment was starting to affect his school work, and this seemed to cross an invisible line that before had kept Lily at bay.

“Next time I catch them at it, Remus, I’ll say something!”

“Oh Lilly no! Don’t do that it will only make it worse.” He begged, feeling both grateful and frustrated with her interference.

“I don’t care. It’s either this or I tell a teacher. It’s been almost a month of this nonsense. They need to grow up. You know they’ve been bullying Sev too it’s unbelievable! Those two think they run the school. We ought to retaliate.” Remus looked at her shocked. Lily was always so adamant about not breaking rules and avoiding banned or even semi-banned items at all cost.

This practice had earned her quite the reputation as a party pooper and most of the first years called her ‘Fake Prefect’ behind her back. Remus felt a great deal of shame, Lily was the closest thing to a friend he had and he hadn’t once attempted to defend her. Lily went red realizing what she said.

“Well, nothing terrible just….just ooooo they really annoy me. They apparently humiliated Sev in front of the few friends he’s made in Slytherin. He was so upset he was crying to me the other night in our….”

She paused realizing not for the first time that she had said too much to Remus. The way she paled then blushed then grew defiant would have been mildly amusing if he hadn’t been feeling so guilty about not doing anything to help her.

“You won’t tell anyone will you Remus?” He forced a smile, she must have asked him this at least a half a dozen times this week alone. Lily meant well but when she got worked up there was no such thing as secrets. Other than Severus it seemed Dorcas and Remus were the only people who allowed her to get worked up.

“Of course not.” He assured her wondering when she’d get the picture that he wouldn’t be repeating this to anyone. Not just because him keeping her secrets was the only way he could be of any use to her, but because he had no one else to tell them too.

“Thank you, Remus, you are such a good friend!” Her words surprised him and he stood up from the table as if Sirius had just enchanted another kick me sign to stick on his back followed by an enchanted shoe doing so.

“Remus are you ok?”

“I….I just remembered I left my homework in the classroom.” He came up with wildly and quickly left ignoring Lily’s hurt and concerned shout.

“But it’s Saturday!”

He hurried out of the library and went to his very small nook that he had found while trying to find a place to hide from Peeves. He was at a loss as to how, but somehow Sirius had convinced the Poltergeist to follow Remus all day singing at the top of his lungs as he pelted him with slime balloons. He lifted up the hanging tapestry and huddled behind it burying his face in his knees, the only way one could fit.

He hadn't expected Lily to come after him and he really hadn’t expected Dorcas to come with her. The three of them studied together sometimes, Lily and Remus more often then Dorcas who preferred to spend her free time outside.

But they weren’t friends, not with him….they couldn’t be! Remus had done nothing but sit there and listen, every so often answering the occasional question or reassuring Lily’s opinion about class topics or classmates.

“I just saw him a minute ago. Lily, what on earth happened? Was it Black and Potter again?” Dorcas sounded angry and threatening and she cracked her knuckles as if reading for a fight. This both touched Remus and terrified him, if the two of them retaliated for him the pranks would never end.

“I don’t know Dorcas he looked so upset though. You don’t think Potter and Black are beating him or hexing him or something worse, do you? He’s always so jumpy….” Lily responded, her voice softer and slower than usual.

“I mean I know those two are idiots but they aren’t that malicious are they?”

“I think so! I mean look at what they did to Sev!”

“Lily we talked about this I don’t want to hear about that Slytherin not after what he said to Marlene! You really shouldn’t be friends with him.”

“But Dorcas you don’t understand Sev would never do that he’s so kind he’s just…”

“Misunderstood? He’s not, not really. Lily for someone so smart you can be really stupid.” Dorcas said matter of factly and there was a disappointment in her voice that must have quelled whatever argument Lily had been about to use.

Personally, Remus agreed with Dorcas, he found Severus to be very unpleasant from the few times he joined them studying. But Lily truly had nothing but faith in him and it made Remus hope that she was right about the moody boy.

“Come on let’s go back you can ask him about it later.” Dorcas sighed after a few minutes her tone softener now.

“Fine. I hope he’s ok.” Lily sniffled but Remus was sure she was near tears because Dorcas hurt her feelings and not out of worry for Remus,...pretty sure anyways. He spent the rest of the day by himself narrowly escaping detection by Peter and James once and Lily and Severus a second time.

He wanted to skip dinner but he had been skipping so many meals, in fear of public humiliation which Sirius seemed to have no qualms against, that he was starting to lose weight.

So he forced himself to go to the Great Hall and face Dorcas and Lily. He contemplated not sitting with them but that would put him closer to Sirius and the other boys all of who were in a rowdy conversation about the only two things they ever seemed to talk about Quidditch and pranks.

He’d take his chances with a frustrated Dorcas and Lily. After all, he was much more certain they wouldn’t spike his pumpkin juice with a candy powder that made his nose grow every time he talked. That prank had caused nearly the whole of the great hall to laugh at Severus and resulted in him avoiding eating there for over a week, afraid he’d be next.

But he couldn’t ignore how hungry he was and with the full moon on Tuesday night he knew he needed as much food in him as he could manage. Considering Tuesday he wouldn’t be eating much of anything.

“.......hi.” He ventured nervously fiddling with his hands as he waited for the food to appear. It had taken a while to get used the phenomenon but now even muggle-born Lily didn’t react to the sudden feast that appeared before them.

“Where did you go? What was that about?” Lily huffed in her tone that caused most people to see her as nothing but bossy.

“Yeah Remus, what gives ditching your friends like that?” He flinched badly as Sirius sauntered over to them and ignored the girl’s glares as he sat next to Remus.

“Sirius leave him alone!” Dorcas warned her eyes narrowing dangerously at Sirius.

“Oh, what gives Dor? Can’t two roommates chat for a minute?” Lily’s eyes were blazing with anger but if Sirius noticed he didn’t care.

This was bad, any minute now Lily would send off a spell and any chance at this ending would be ruined.

“We can talk.” He said quickly shooting the girls a pleading look that did nothing to lessen their glares at Sirius but did prevent, at least for a moment, an assault. He let Sirius lead him out of the great hall sure this time mischievous pranks would turn downright malicious and he’d end up in the hospital wing.

Sirius clearly noticed Remus’ discomfort but he leaned against a wall and gave him the type of lazy grin that was usually directed at James or Peter.

“Just wanted to let you know that you’ll be needing another blanket because the one in your trunk is ruined.” If Remus had been given a choice he would have rather ended up in the hospital wing covered in boils as Severus had been a few days ago. This was so much worse!

“W…….what?” He asked voice cracking with barely contained emotion. Sirius’ lazy grin slipped slightly but was quickly back again and he shrugged.

“What? It’s just a dumb wittle blankie for little Lupin.” He teased in the good-natured tone he used with James and Peter, but it sounded anything but to Remus at the moment.

It didn’t occur to him that it might have been an accident or that Sirius might have been putting up a mask to hide his guilt. All he could think about was the one thing he had left of his mother was ruined. He should have been mad but instead, he felt tears fill his eyes.

“How could you?” He whispered devastated and then turned around and bolted for the Gryffindor common room.

“Password?”

“I……….I……” He couldn’t stop the tears from running down his cheeks. It took the fat lady a moment to notice but once she did she opened the door without making him say the password.

He stumbled into the common room and somehow managed to make it up to the steps despite not being able to see through his tears. He fumbled with the doorknob and fell to the ground, the last of his hope the quilt would be salvageable in ashes much like the remains of what seemed to be some of the contents of his trunk.

“No!” He cried heartbrokenly. Cried desolate sobs that shook his whole body.

He cried loudly practically screaming with frustration and pain. It was all he had left of her, now it was gone. It couldn’t be gone it simply couldn’t.

This wasn’t fair!

What had he done to deserve such cruel treatment? He heard several pairs of feet running up the stairs. He didn’t care who it was he didn’t want anyone entering. Not really expecting it to work he glared at the door through his tears and with a wave of his wand said clearly as he could muster.

“Colloportus.”

He heard the click of the door lock just as someone jiggled it. He hunched over himself and sobbed quieter not realizing how clearly he could still be heard from the hall.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven: Going Feral

"Are you happy Sirius? Is this what you wanted?" James snapped trying the doorknob again.

"Remus let us in!"

"NO!" The hysterical boy screamed. "Go away!"

"S…..should we get a teacher?" Peter suggested helplessly.

"No we could get him in a lot of trouble, we aren't allowed to magic our doors like this. I'm surprised he even can." James sounded calm and in control which was a hell of a lot better than Sirius. He stood slightly behind James feeling ill. He hadn't meant to hurt him, well, certainly not this much.

"James just….tell him his blanket is still fine…..it was just a prank." He whispered the words hard to pronounce, his voice hoarse and thick with guilt. He tried to assure himself that this wasn't his fault, that it was justified.

After all, Remus was two-faced and he was just trying to get a rise out of him to see his true colors. He had done the same thing, pulling pranks, on several distant relatives of his who seemed nice but who were the opposite as soon as they didn't have to worry about reputation. He was sure Remus would go off at him or at least confess to writing those terrible letters in retaliation.

That's all he had wanted, he just hated the way Remus could sound sincere saying sorry when Sirius pranked him and then send him nasty scathing letters revealing what he really thought of him the next second. It wasn't fair, and now even James and Peter who had been onboard when Sirius had told them about the letters were doubting him. After this, they might not even want to be his friends anymore.

He felt an intense wave of anger crash into him, this had been what Remus wanted all along hadn't it. He was faking it, of course, he was faking it, no one was this bent up about a dumb blanket even if it was some childhood memento. To think Sirius had almost fallen for the act.

Remus was good he had to give him that much, better than his mother even. But Sirius wouldn't fall for crocodile tears, even well-executed ones.

"You guys he's faking he has to be. I told you about the letters he keeps sending." He complained but James shot him a glare that quickly shut him up.

"Gee Sirius he sure doesn't sound like it to me. Besides don't you think there might be the slightest chance you were wrong?" He wanted to assure James that no he was not wrong but another stifled heart-wrenching sob turned the wave of anger into a wave of panic.

"I….. don't know…." He admitted hesitantly. James rolled his eyes appearing more mature than Sirius had yet to see him be throughout the fun weeks they've had.

Clearly, James was someone who excelled under pressure while he...well didn't. He felt sweaty and jittery and James was just standing there calmly trying to explain to a hysterical boy who clearly wasn't listening that it was a prank and to open the door.

"James I think we should get a teacher he sounds really upset." Peter insisted though he looked as shaky as Sirius did. James sighed heavily and moved his glasses up his face to pinch his nose which he did when he was stressed.

"Yeah….that might be what we have to do. Let me just…..try one more time." James' eyes hardened with determination and he banged on the door even louder than last time speaking in a loud but calm voice.

"Remus it's James if you don't open up we are going to go get a professor." The muffled sobs stopped abruptly. They waited and waited, just when Sirius was beginning to worry something really was wrong Remus opened the door his eyes bloodshot and his cheeks tearstained.

He shot Sirius the weakest glare he'd ever seen. Because Remus' eyes were simply too full of sadness to appear angry even if that's what he was going for. It had to be an act he reminded himself. He'd prove it to James and Peter and then there would be no going back for Remus Lupin.

"Remus we have been trying to tell you that this isn't really your stuff. Sirius is an idiot but your real clothes are in your trunk under your bed." Remus' eyes widened and he whirled around falling hard to his knees and scrambling under the bed pulling his small chest against him. He opened it with trembling hands and let out a cry out relief as the untouched beautiful quilt unfolded around him.

With his back firmly to them, he clutched the quilt to his chest and shook again with either sobs or laughter. It must be the latter, he must think they were fools who were buying his innocent act. Despite assuring himself this was the case, Sirius felt rather sick, he couldn't be wrong because if he had been wrong he didn't think he could forgive himself.

"I think we all need to talk. Because frankly, I'm sick of this."

"Me too." Piped up Peter immediately. Sirius shot him a look of annoyance, just the other day Peter had been helping him scheme while James was in detention for hexing Snivellus after catching him laughing at a muggleborn tripping over their shoes.

"Remus?"

There was a faint nod of agreement from the quivering boy huddled on the ground.

"My mom always says there are two sides to every story so I think it's time we heard your side Remus. Why are you writing Sirius those nasty letters?" There was a long pause in which Sirius found himself growing more irritated, the boy was surely using this time to concoct some sort of excuse.

"I…..I don't know what you mean…" He sounded so pitiful and it thoroughly pissed Sirius off. Luckily James knew him well enough by now to hold him back from launching himself at Remus.

"What do you mean you don't know you liar!" He hollered at the boy still swinging his fists wildly, blinded by rage. Of all the backstabbing two-faced people he'd had to deal with Remus was by far the worst.

Remus flinched again, no doubt realizing the whole thing was working as a stupid act to make Sirius appear insane. Sure enough, Peter was giving him a dubious look, and James seemed determined to figure out the truth as if Sirius' hadn't been good enough.

Sirius knew James was copying his mother who apparently was the best at settling arguments but he quite resented his best friend at the moment for treating him like an explosive child.

"This is what we are going to do. Sirius you are going to sit on my bed facing Remus' bed and Remus you are going to sit on your bed. We are going to talk calmly and figure this out alright?"

Sirius glowered but nodded, if this was what it cost to out Remus as a two-faced liar so be it.

Remus nodded too, and a few minutes later James was standing in the middle of his bed and Remus' bed pacing back in forth deep in thought.

"Remus, you really have no idea of the charges brought against you?" He asked in a wise sounding voice that made Sirius scoff despite the situation. Even now James was trying to lighten the mood, it was both endearing and infuriating.

But Remus didn't seem to get James was joking, or most likely he figured he'd appear more innocent if he took his words to heart because he shook his head placing a perfect confused look on his face. Sirius seethed letting out a low growl of anger which resulting in Remus' flinching again and James whacking him with a pillow.

"Ow! Bloody hell Potter!"

"Down boy! Now as I was saying the evidence points against you Remus so you best plead your case." Stupid Potter treating this like some sort of mock trial stupid Pettigrew for going along with whatever Potter said and stupid stupid Lupin for causing this whole mess.

"I'm sorry but I really don't understand." The stupid kid whispered fiddling with his blanket he was keeping close to him as if afraid they might attack him and rip it to shreds in front of him.

"Stop playing the victim. We aren't the bad guys here you are!" He shouted scowling as Remus flinched and moved back as far as he could so his back was pressed firmly against the headboard. He looked like he wanted to make a run for it and Sirius hoped he would, the guilty ones always ran.

"Sirius one more word out of you and I'll hold you in contempt!" James shouted in a mock uproar and Sirius felt his lips twitch despite himself.

"Bite me, Potter." He responded dryly earning him another pillow whack.

"Ow, I want another judge."

"Well too bad I'm all you got." Potter pointed out seeming a little unnerved by Remus who still looked as if they might attack him.

"Look I know the big bad wolf seems scary but I won't let him bite you." Teased James looking puzzled as Remus went white as a sheet at this.

"Oh my gosh Lupin I'm not actually a wolf are you dumb or something?" He scoffed but quickly made a halo ring around his head as James shot him a look.

"Look Remus we aren't going to hurt you. I know this idiot took things too far but none of us are actually going to hurt you." Explained James switching tactics and speaking in a softer voice.

"We just want to get to the bottom of this. My father taught me to always look at both sides." James continued when Remus made no move to talk.

"Don't you have anything to say for yourself?" Sirius attempted to copy James' calm and gentle tone but he still ended up sounding irritated. If he pretended to give Remus an out maybe the boy would confess and Sirius wouldn't feel like the shitty bad guy when it was he who was the victim in this.

"I really don't know what you are talking about though." Remus' voice had gone up an octave and he sounded very distressed.

"The day after you went after Sirius pretending to care about him he's been receiving nasty letters from you telling him to go die and go back where he came from and how he shouldn't be a Gryffindor." Explained James so matters of factly this time Sirius flinched with Remus.

The boy shook his head looking horrified.

"I'd never." He whispered daring to glance at Sirius. If Sirius had been in Remus' position and really was being wrongly accused he'd be pissed but Remus just seemed nervous which served to reassure Sirius he was right.

"Look we can just start a new leaf. I'll stop teasing you if you stop writing them, deal?"

Amber eyes widened and the boy seemed torn.

"Well, Remus?" James encouraged kindly.

"B…...but I really haven't….." Remus protested weakly. It was Peter who took out the collection of letters Sirius had been keeping and handed them to Remus before Sirius could protest.

Tears ran down the boy's cheeks as he read them and he had gone deathly pale again, he almost looked like he might pass out not that Sirius would care if he did.

"But this is my….."

"Handwriting. We know we compared them just to be certain."

"This is so awful….I'm so sorry…."

"HAH!" Sirius jumped up on the bed elation and horror rushing through him, he was right he really had written such nasty letters to him! Did he really think Sirius would believe he was sorry? What a joke!

…..

"Wait no I just….I meant I'm sorry you received these…" Remus hurried to explain but Sirius wasn't listening and it appeared neither James nor Peter was either. Remus felt sick he truly hadn't written these but what could he say to convince them when this was clearly his handwriting?

A terrible thought entered him, maybe he had written them? What if the wolf was somehow distorting things? What if he was becoming crazy and dangerous?

Deep shame rose within him. Was it that hard to believe? He was a monster and even if these letters sounded nothing like him….maybe he really had written them. What other explanation was there? Of course, it could have been some sort of spell but Remus hadn't heard anything like that and if there was spell it must be too complicated for anyone in their year to do.

Remus didn't know anyone in the older years and there was certainly no reason for anyone to do something like this to him and Sirius. They had been here such a short time and even if Sirius had rubbed someone the wrong way, which wasn't unlikely, no one was cruel enough to do something like this. He felt his shoulders droop with exhaustion and surrender.

He was the only logical explanation and even if James, Peter, and Sirius didn't realize how significant this was, Remus did. He had heard horror stories, told by his uncle, of werewolves who went mad and saw things or hurt people without remembering it. Maybe this was something along those lines? He clutched the letters closer and pocketed one of them before James and Sirius stopped arguing and everyone turned their attention back to him.

"Look Sirius is convinced you're guilty but I'm not quite as certain. Remus did you or did you not write the letters?"

"I…..did…." There was a loud gasp from Peter and three pairs of disgusted eyes turned to him. He hung his head face hot with shame.

"W….why…...Why would you do something like that?" James asked his voice shaking with anger.

"I don't know." Remus whimpered but he knew none of them would like that answer.

"Get out just GET OUT!" Sirius shouted voice full of anger and hurt.

"C…..can we do that?" Peter squeaked.

"Well, I think it's called for. Don't you Remus?" James asked him in a tone daring him to disagree. He nodded and could feel their glares on his back as he left the room tucking his blanket in his pack.

He had almost forgotten about Lily and was sitting on the couch staring into the fire deep in distraught thoughts for hours when she came storming into the common room a letter clutched firmly in her hand.

"Remus, what is the meaning of this? Sirius and James are showing these to all the Gryffindor's. You have to let me do something! This lie is going to make all the Gryffindor's hate or at least dislike you." Remus despised crying in front of people but he couldn't stop the tears running down his cheeks and ducked his head to hide them. He jumped as she came over and sat beside him taking his hand.

"Remus please talk to me. Sev is saying you must have written these and I shouldn't be friends with you." He could hear the tears in her voice. "Dorcas agrees." She whispered as if saying it out loud might cause her to admit she agreed too.

"Lily….I'm not….I didn't….." He choked back a sob. At this rate, he wouldn't even be at Hogwarts long enough to have his first transformation here which might be for the best. He knew he couldn't go home to his father, he couldn't bear to stay there knowing how much he disappointed him. Besides, there was a good chance his father wouldn't even let him stay.

He wondered if maybe Dumbledore would let him stay at Hogwarts, perhaps he could live in the shack connected to the whomping willow, that had been made for him anyways. He knew his wand would be snapped but at least he'd have a roof over his head. Unless he was at too much of a risk to go feral then maybe they'd just put him down. He almost laughed through his tears, what a fitting end for a monster.

"Remus?" Lily sounded uncertain almost afraid of him and he realized with a pang that he had actually laughed out loud. He must have sounded mad, no wondered she sounded scared, she surely was brave to keep holding his hand like this. What if he attacked her? Surely he wasn't that crazy, was he?

"Remus just tell me you didn't do it and I'll believe you." She urged him a desperate plea to her voice.

"I…..I can't." He sounded dead, he practically was dead. She let go of his hand abruptly as if he had burned her.

"You couldn't have written these Remus you are one of the nicest boys at Hogwarts. You never would have…" She lowered her voice into a horrified whisper "written that Sirius should have been born a mudblood because he's filthy just like them." Remus stiffened, he couldn't have written that he didn't even think like that. He shook his head feeling ill.

"I couldn't have….I didn't…..I don't know…." He stammered quickly blinking back more tears.

"Why do you sound so unsure? You either wrote them or you didn't...right?"

"I must have…" She got off the couch and backed quickly away from him. He glanced at her feeling terrible at the tears running down her cheeks.

"I don't understand Remus...why would you?"

"I don't know." He sighed and hung his head so he didn't have to see her look of disgust as she stomped off. He wanted to stay and cry but other people were coming back from finishing dinner and he had to find Dumbledore's office, had to tell him what he did before he did something worse. Holding the one letter he had snagged in his pocket he dared to ask a kind looking Hufflepuff prefect for directions who smiled at him and led him to the office herself.

"Don't worry he's very kind." She explained. He almost said I know but she was already walking away leaving him to climb up the stairs that had appeared after telling a gargoyle some password Remus hadn't gotten to hear.

He was sure the prefect must have known Dumbledore was in his office otherwise there was no way she would have let him climb the stairs alone to have access to the headmaster's office. Sure enough even before he could muster the courage to knock a familiar and unbearably kind voice called out for him to enter. It was his first time in the headmaster's office but he didn't let himself look around, forcing himself to stare at Dumbledore's beard as he stood in the doorway.

"Remus what a nice surprise. Come in and have a seat." Then he got up and did something rather strange. There were large portraits behind him of life like witches and wizards and he turned several of the paintings over. Remus sat obediently in the chair and politely refused the candy Dumbledore offered him. The silence stretched as Dumbledore waited for him to speak, it was at this moment Remus wished Dumbledore could indeed read his mind which would make this a lot easier.

"Professor I…..I think you should expel me."

"Why should I do that?" There was no mischief or amusement in Dumbledore's grave voice this time and Remus felt the weight of the situation heavily on his shoulders. He slumped slightly.

"Remus sit up and look me in the eye. You are a Gryffindor after all." Dumbledore encouraged gently. He found it almost easy to do so when he tried and held Dumbledore's gaze as firmly as he had back at his little house he'd never see again.

"Was sir, I'm not a wizard. I don't belong here and I'm far too dangerous to be allowed to stay." He sounded close to tears but Dumbledore said nothing just gazed at him sadly so he pressed on.

"I really appreciate you letting me come here and I've learned a lot in the few weeks I've been here but…...but sir you can't trust me." Now that he was explaining it all came rushing out.

"You see I think I'm going feral. I wrote terrible letters but I don't remember. My roommates hate me and now the whole of Gryffindor hates me. Sir, I've caused nothing but problems and at the full moon I might hurt someone and I don't want to do that so please just expel me." He explained quickly his voice rising as tears spilled down his cheeks. Dumbledore still held his gaze and his eyes held a serious sadness but not the condemnation that he was expecting.

"Remus I will not force you to stay at Hogwarts if you do not want. However, I urge you to really search your heart. Do you want this?" He shook his head already knowing the answer, it seemed the headmaster wasn't understanding the seriousness of the situation.

"I want to. Even if my whole house hates me I want to be a wizard but sir you don't understand. I'm going feral and that means I'm unpredictable. I could bite someone I could…...really hurt someone. I don't remember writing this letter so you see it's already started." He was sobbing now and Dumbledore wordlessly offered him another handkerchief which sent him crying harder and he rummaged in his backpack pulling out the one he had been loaned what seemed like forever ago.

"Sorry sir I forgot to give it back I didn't mean to keep it I just…."

"I gave you that handkerchief and I assure you that you don't have to worry about returning it. But Remus you must take a deep breath." Something about Dumbledore's tone made him comply immediately.

"Now first things first what is this about going feral?"

"Sir perhaps you haven't heard but….but werewolves can lose their mind and attack people…..do terrible things…...without even realizing it." For the first time, he wondered if the shadow man had been feral but quickly pushed this thought away.

"Remus where did you hear this?" Dumbledore sounded grave and Remus wondered if the headmaster had known this prior if he would have let Remus attend Hogwarts at all. Maybe he shouldn't have after all Remus had hurt a lot of people.

"Remus focus." Dumbledore sighed gently. "Where did you hear the information about being feral?"

"M….My uncle sir." He was confused as to why this mattered and was surprised to see the anger in Dumbledore's eyes which were looking past him and which quickly clouded into grief.

"I see. Remus your uncle is a very close-minded and unhappy man. I urge you to place no trust in him in the future. He lied to you Remus there is no such thing as a feral werewolf."

"But…"

"Remus I assure you with the utmost certainty that this is not the truth." Remus felt the world spin under him.

"It's not?" He asked dumbly the truth slowly sinking in, he had spent hours worrying over becoming feral.

"My father never corrected me, sir…"

"Professor or Headmaster Remus." He corrected gently then sighed heavily looking as sad as Remus felt. "I'm sure your father believed this would be a way to assure you…..always took the utmost care with regards to your condition. Your uncle wanted to hurt you but your father,..as misguided as it was believed he was protecting you."

This didn't help, it certainly didn't make Remus feel any better. As awful as his uncle had been to him he'd never suspect he'd lie to him. After all his uncle always said the only reason he was so hard on Remus was that he wanted to keep him in line.

It seemed he needed firm discipline and his uncle simply was giving him this by putting him down and reminding him that he was a monster so he never forgot. But his father….this was even worse. He couldn't wrap his head around the fact his father had lied to him. It didn't make sense. All that lie had done was make Remus more panicked about all of this, it no doubts caused many terrible transformations which resulted in devastating injury.

How could his father have done this to him?

"Remus I know it is not fair to ask you to be mature about this, especially when you have carried more than a child your age should have to. But I strongly advise you not to write or contact your father about this until you have calmed down. If you permit me to I'd like to talk to him again."

It was a generous offer that might result in something, but what Remus didn't know. He didn't like the idea of two adults talking about him behind his back, apparently because that is what his uncle and father had done. Dumbledore was right he shouldn't have to be mature about this, he didn't want to be. He wanted to scream and cry and lash out at his father as he had never done before.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve: The Truth and Remorse

He spent a long time dwelling on his father's betrayal and his thoughts were beginning to spiral into a very dark place when a squawk jolted him out of his trance. He glanced at Dumbledore shocked and the man smiled at him.

"It seems Fawkes has woken up from her nap." He gestured behind Remus and he turned to see a gorgeous bird that appeared to be made up of flames.

He stared in awe as the creature tilted it's head regarding him carefully. He could feel some of the tension leave his shoulders as staring at the bird calmed him down some. The timing of the bird's call seemed a little too perfect to be a coincidence but he didn't linger on this, he just watched the feathers of fire move with each tiny breath and realized Dumbledore was right. He didn't want to risk his father not wanting him back. Besides his father had cared for a werewolf all these years, he deserved a medal, not a judgment.

Remus had no right to be angry with him, especially if he really was trying to have his best interest at heart. He didn't know how long he and Fawks eyed one another but finally, Dumbledore cleared his throat and Remus was forced to turn back and face him and the sad eyes that seemed to pierce his soul.

"Now about this letter you wrote." He held it up to the light for Remus to see and waved his wand his neat handwriting transforming into a much messier angrier scrawl.

Remus gasped and felt really stupid he didn't have enough trust in himself to know he hadn't written this. It was a shameful thought, knowing you couldn't trust yourself. But he supposed it was better than being too lax, and it made sense given what he had been told.

He sighed heavily, he knew this revelation should cheer him up, that all of this should fill him with relief. Instead, he felt tired and weighed down, it didn't help he hadn't been sleeping well since coming here and the stress and strain of the past few weeks seemed to be crushing him. He hadn't realized he had hunched over as if there really was a physical weight on his shoulders until Dumbledore cleared his throat drawing Remus' attention back to him.

"I apologize this went on for so long. I had heard whispers but I chalked them up to petty roommate squabbles. Recently Sirius' actions against you have come into the light and I must admit this explains quite a lot."

"Who did this sir….Professor Dumbledore sir…." Dumbledore gave him a sad smile but seemed to think even if he corrected Remus' overuse of manners it wouldn't make a difference at the moment, which was correct.

"I'm afraid I cannot say. It was an older student quite advanced with their magic. I suppose Sirius might be able to shed some light on the subject. Yes, I do believe this has gone on long enough."

Remus watched nervously as Dumbledore stood up and walked over to one of the portraits not covered, an elderly witch who had been watching them closely the whole time. She didn't look hostile and even shot him an encouraging smile. He returned it though he imagined he did so badly, luckily her attention was on Dumbledore now.

"Eupraxia you know what to do."

"Yes of course Albus." Then she vanished.

"Sir where did she go?" He asked astonished, his knowledge of magic limited and even though he logically knew portraits could move, watching one simply disappear was something else entirely.

Dumbledore chuckled and sat back at his desk eyes twinkling as he persistently offered Remus a toffee. Unsure if it was wise to refuse the headmaster a second time, especially because once more he was treating Remus with more kindness than he deserved, he popped it in his mouth. He quite enjoyed it though he remained firm on the belief the chocolate Madame Pomfrey had offered him was far superior. He listened as Dumbledore explained the long list of rules associated with magic portraits. It wasn't until he had finished that Remus realized the Headmaster had been attempting to distract him and further calm him down, and it had worked.

"Quite interesting is it not?"

"Yes sir, I…..um thank you." Dumbledore chuckled so hard the glasses on his nose became even more crooked.

"I should thank you, most students would find my passion for the arts quite dull I'm afraid. They much prefer I stick to discussing sweets which I oblige as it's another of my passions, quite a guilty one I'm afraid." He chuckled again, quieter this time but still with so much sincerity Remus found himself smiling. Dumbledore's eyes twinkled with what seemed to be his standard amount of mischievousness.

"Ah, they are here." He left his desk to go greet the visitors and the tension and stress that had left Remus came rushing back. He sat rigidly in his chair and quickly used the handkerchief to properly wipe his eyes and nose, hoping he didn't look too pathetic.

"Thank you, Professor McGonagall, for escorting them here."

"Of course. Let me know if I need to be docking points." She sounded quite upset but Dumbledore just chuckled.

"No need for that Minerva, though I'm sure with their antics it's only a matter of time."

"Indeed," But she sounded begrudgingly amused.

"Oh yes, Professor we won't make you wait long," Sirius said in his best mock good boy voice.

"One can only dream Black," She sighed followed by the fading click-clack of her heels as she left.

"Professor you have a pretty cool office," James said with his usual casual air around authority that Remus quite envied him for.

Soon they would be able to see him, he had to resist the urge to hide behind Dumbledore's desk.

"A…..are we in trouble?" Asked Peter timidly. They were all here? Remus felt a deep sense of dread, three against one was hardly fair. Of course, Dumbledore was on his side too, he reminded himself, this wouldn't be like the strange trial James had orchestrated to condemn him a mere few hours earlier.

"What is HE doing here?" Asked Sirius voice dripping with anger.

"Well, Mr. Black would you prefer I not address the problem that has occurred in my school?" Dumbledore sounded amused, but it also seemed to be a subtle reminder of his authority to James and Sirius who were notorious for disrespecting those in power. Surely even they would think twice about disrespecting the headmaster.

"Are you expelling him then?" Sirius asked hopefully, but his tone had softened slightly into a more respectful one.

"Professor Dumbledore with respect isn't that a bit much?" James asked sounding uncomfortable.

"I thought that is what you three wanted?" Remus shifted slightly trying to get a look at them through the corner of his eye. He flinched when he realized Sirius was glaring at him. Dumbledore whose back was to Remus shifted slightly blocking him from Sirius' view.

"Well…..it's just…." James sounded hesitant and Remus wondered if he actually found Dumbledore intimidating too.

"Go on Mr. Potter, feel free to speak your mind here. Within reason of course."

"It just doesn't make sense Dumbledore. I mean I've reviewed the facts as my father told me to."

"Fleamont is a wise man." Remus could no longer see Sirius but he could now see James, whose attention was on the headmaster and who puffed up slightly at the compliment to his father.

"I mean for starters Remus doesn't seem like the type.."

"I've told you he's faking," growled Sirius.

"Mr. Black you will be given your turn to speak but for now let us hear Mr. Potter out," Dumbledore responded mildly.

"Plus it's really weird that he would write his name at the bottom. I mean if he really was the criminal mastermind Sirius seems to think he is why would he write his name? Why not write someone else' to further cause chaos."

"An excellent deduction Mr. Potter." The headmaster sounded quite pleased and James puffed up, even more, looking quite proud of himself now.

"Professor you can't really think he's innocent." Came Sirius' pained exclamation. Remus flinched at the distress in his voice remembering how terrible what he knew of the letters was. Who would do something like this to him? Who wanted to cause him this much distress?

"I don't think Mr. Black I know." Remus watched James sigh in relief and he felt a bit better, at least one of them had found it weird. James hadn't jumped to his defense but he also seemed to be the only one who paused to consider the possibility Remus might be innocent.

"But…."

"Mr. Black I think you might want to consider the possibility that your feelings are getting in the way of your better judgment."

"I was going to say he confessed."

"We sort of forced him to." James pointed out and frowned most likely receiving one of Sirius' withering glares.

"Mr. Black consider you were corned by several of your classmates you didn't know very well and they were quite adamant about your guilt in something."

"I'd defend myself!" Sirius replied indignantly as if anyone with half a brain would have.

"Even if there was evidence? Even if stating your innocence didn't seem to help?" This seemed to make Sirius pause. Dumbledore shifted again and Remus could see Sirius again but now his undivided attention was on the headmaster. Sirius just looked confused now, and perhaps a little nervous.

"Then who did it?" His confusion was replaced by triumph as he gave what he seemed to think was enough logic to condemn Remus.

"I have examined one of the letters and have found a very powerful illusionment charm." Dumbledore was speaking very gently now, clearly knowing something Remus did no

t.

"But….." Then something seemed to click and Sirius went deathly pale which was quite frightening due to the contrast of his eyes blazing with furry.

"That bl…"

"Language Mr. Black. While I understand you're angry I must point out that it is not your job to deliver consequences but mine. Do you understand?" Dumbledore's voice had gotten quite sharp the warning clear. Sirius seemed to cower inwardly and stared at the floor in a true Remus fashion.

"I thought…"

"I know what you thought Mr. Black but it is precisely for the reason that impressionable young minds jump to conclusions and are driven by emotion that we don't allow students to take justice into their own hands. As I'm sure you have realized such justice can often turn out to be misguided." The headmaster didn't seem to sound angry or disappointed, but Sirius flinched as if he had.

Remus felt bad, he was wholeheartedly willing to forgive Sirius and he didn't think Dumbledore needed to bring up his actions, after all, he seemed to realize he was wrong. Besides, if Dumbledore kept stressing his point Sirius might come to the conclusion that Remus had snitched. Which he never would have dreamed of, however that left the question of how the headmaster had known.

"I'm sorry Professor Dumbledore." Sirius was still very pale and his head was still bent, but Remus didn't need to see his face to hear how sincere he was.

"I am not who you should apologize to. However, I will leave you to do that later. I must ask you to leave me to speak with Mr. Lupin alone. I trust that there will be no consequences delivered by your hand to the student who did this. Leave that up to me otherwise, I will be forced to deliver consequences of my own. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Professor."

"Good, then we can put this whole matter behind us. Lemon drop?" It truly did sound like the headmaster had forgiven everything, and he ushered the three boys out with nothing but smiles and a jolly temperament.

So why was Remus so afraid that once the boys left he'd be screamed at? He couldn't imagine Dumbledore raising his voice any more than he had to scold Sirius. But for a second a terrifying thought of the man throwing one of the many multi-angled objects at Remus in rage for bothering him crossed his mind. He felt guilty for such a thought, for the headmaster had been nothing but kind to him and he truly had Remus' loyalty. He just couldn't help the tiny part of him that saw the shadow man in every adult.

But, if Dumbledore had any inkling of his hurtful and traitorous thoughts he gave no sign. Remus still wasn't entirely convinced the headmaster couldn't read his mind but he also had a significant amount of doubt he could.

"Now before I send you to three guilty and apologetic boys I wanted to make sure you were still comfortable sharing a dorm with them. I could make an exception and move you to the other dorm if you would like." If Dumbledore had asked him this a few days ago, or even day one Remus wouldn't have hesitated to take him up on the offer.

However if he had been in Sirus' shoes and Sirius left the dorm because of him he'd never forgive himself, and Remus didn't want to bring that amount of self-loathing upon anyone. Besides, he reasoned that after this whole fiasco his three roommates would leave him alone. For all, he knew the four boys in the other dorm would be no better and could be worse than his three current roommates he at least sort of knew.

"I think…..I think I will have to decline your offer, sir." The older wizard seemed quite pleased by this and stroked his beard looking thoughtful.

"Then you can be on your way. But first, may I leave you with a bit of wisdom?" Remus nodded the possibilities of wisdom Dumbledore could depart endless.

"The only thing holding you back from making friends is yourself." Remus almost wanted to argue but he knew a dismissal when he heard one. So he nodded to the headmaster as if it made sense to him and left the headmaster's office a great deal more confused than he had been when he had entered.

"Remus?"

He let out a strangled shout of surprise and fear not expecting any of them to wait for him let alone all three. Normally he tried to hide his discomfort with them as best as he could but they had caught him off guard.

At least he could blame his fear of them on their harassment. They all looked ashamed but no one more so than Sirius who looked like he might be sick. He looked quite lost and pitiful and kept opening and closing his mouth resembling quite accurately a goldfish. Instead, it had been James who had called out to him, out of all of them he seemed to have some sort of innate sense that kept him at least outwardly calm no matter what was going on. Remus wished he could be more like that.

He tried to give them a small sort of friendly smile to signal he wasn't mad because he really wasn't.

"So….um….sorry about…...well all of that. I can't….I mean….are we cool?" They were all choking on the awkward atmosphere and Remus wondered if he should have switched rooms just to spare them all from this for the rest of their school years. He nodded a little uncertainly but it seemed to cheer up James and Peter at least.

James thumped Sirius' back who was still hunched over slightly in a similar fashion to what Remus must have looked like when he too felt overwhelmed by the weight of the situation.

"Sirius it's alright." He assured him gently not able to bear seeing such guilt on his face. He much preferred when his three roommates were filled with a boyish excitement and wonder that simultaneously filled him with jealousy and awe.

Yes, Sirius was indeed unpredictable for Remus would have expected him to be comforted by his assurance things were ok.

Instead, he flinched as Sirius glared at him, not quite as harsh as he had before and with a great deal more pain in his mercury eyes, but a glare all the same.

"No, it's not! How could you say that?" He demanded his naturally haughty tone slipping through and making Remus feel very small. He honestly didn't know how to respond to this or how to act. What more did Sirius want from him? Why couldn't they just get along decently?

It was a relief to know he wasn't the only one baffled by Sirius, that he hadn't missed some sort of secret rule again.

"Down boy! Why are you still so angry?" James asked in that usually successful appeasing tone of his. James even flashed Sirius a hesitant but charming smile for good measure. But Sirius wasn't going to be appeased it seemed, instead he brushed James off and took a step towards Remus.

His eyes were narrowed and calculating, and though his moving closer wasn't threatening Remus couldn't help but flinch and step back warily. A little distracted now with fear he couldn't have possibly noticed that Sirius seemed to be looking for something in him, all he knew is that Sirius was angry and raising his hand and that meant one thing. Unconsciously he shielded his face and closed his eyes.

"Easy there mate we aren't going to hurt you. Right?" James' question directed to Sirius had a sharp edge to it of anger warning, Sirius, he better not. Instead, Sirius lightly grabbed Remus' arm and this new expression was worse than the last. His whole face had crumpled and softened into such an intense sadness that it was disconcerting. But once again he was the only one who could see the boy's expression, the other two could not as they were standing a few steps behind Sirius.

"No, we aren't. You guys go on I want to talk to Remus alone." It shouldn't have been a surprise that James seemed to instinctively believe Sirius, but he was still upset. He really didn't like being alone with him, and he wasn't sure what to make at the sadness directed at him. He ducked his head so he wouldn't have to see it as James whispered 'behave' to Sirius and left with Peter.

"I'm sorry." He stammered habitually. He wasn't sure what he had done wrong but it must have been something.

"Geez, Remus you…...you…..why are YOU apologizing?" Sirius asked aghast, seemingly distracted from what he had previously been about to say. He didn't know what to say so he remained silent relaxing some when he was finally released.

"I mean I'm the one…...I….did….I should have….gosh I thought you deserved it….I'm…..well you know…..about…..about it all…..I'm really…..really…...s….you know….." He sounded so awkward but Remus wouldn't hold it against him if he hadn't actually apologized. Even if the words were too hard to get out his remorse was very clear.

"I know. It's ok. Really."

"But that's the thing it's NOT!" The words got louder but it wasn't really anger that drove the change, rather something else Remus couldn't place.

"I…...I don't understand….you apologized…...it's over with. So... isn't it fine?"

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirteen: Similarities and the Confession

He wasn't getting it, Remus simply wasn't getting it. Sirius had to resist the anger building in him again. It wasn't the kid he was mad at rather he was mad for him. I mean who wouldn't have been upset? Who would have said it's fine before he had even apologized if his jumble of words could be called that. There had been a sick feeling growing in him ever since he had realized Remus really was innocent.

But it wasn't guilt, I mean yeah he felt bad but he was a dumb eleven-year-old who didn't really mean any harm. I mean he sure as hell could have been worse to Remus! The pranks had been pretty mild to the harm he could have caused. He was sorry, of course, he was. But he wasn't like Peter or even James who were ridiculously harsh on themselves. I mean he didn't really expect much out of himself so it was fine. Rather it was what Remus' innocence meant that was making him nervous.

Because despite how hard he had tried not to come to a certain conclusion he couldn't fight it anymore. I mean maybe it was because he didn't want to admit it that he had been so quick to believe Remus was cruel and two-faced? Instead, it was worse, wasn't it? Because Remus wasn't just a giant asshole, no Remus Lupin was like him. He didn't know what to do with this information. Should he tell someone? But what if Remus told about him then? Besides what if their situations were so similar that telling an adult wouldn't make a difference.

"S…..Sirius….are you ok?" Gosh, he sounded so timid, he hadn't realized how long the two of them had been standing in heavy silence. He had to say something before Remus bolted, but he'd bolt if he confronted him here, wouldn't he?

Of course, he would, he had already displayed his preference to avoid problems. No, he'd have to be careful about this. What would James do in his place? Well, that was little help, James couldn't at all understand. But Remus did. His chest went tight with fear and pain but then something else began to grow in him. A sort of shaky happiness that he was sure must make him a bad person. Surely he wasn't happy Remus understood? But…..but maybe….well maybe he wouldn't be so alone now?

This was infuriating! Sirius ran his hands through his hair violently as if he could shake this all away. Then he shook himself like a dog, his whole body. Just trying to get rid of the faint happiness. He wouldn't be a bad person. He glanced at Remus through his long hair that had fallen in his face. Poor kid was looking at him like he was nuts, well he wasn't really wrong. This was just too much for an eleven-year-old to take, no matter how amazing and cool that eleven years old was. He threw back his head and did what his uncle had taught him to do when they had both reached their limit with his mother.

"SON OF A BANSHEE AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH" Man did that feel good. Before Remus could stop him he grabbed his hand and pulled him along breaking into a run. He expected some sort of resistance, would have bet his brand new broom back home on it. But the kid followed him!

Maybe the thought of getting in trouble for randomly screaming in the hall was a worse prospect than going somewhere alone with Sirius. It was an oddly warming thought and he began to laugh. Because there was one fact he had been missing. No matter what was going on with Remus he was safe at Hogwarts! They both were, for now.

"S…..s…..Sirius…..w….where a….are we going?" Remus gasped clearly out of breath. An expert prankster Sirius deemed they were a safe enough radius away from the point deducting scream. He glanced around subtly not wanting to alert Remus to his plan. He found the perfect spot and before the kid could protest he dragged him, perhaps a little roughly, into a deserted classroom and barred the door.

Remus was bent over face flushed a hand clutching his chest as he heaved. Geez, they weren't going that fast were they? He expected Remus to look afraid in those large eyes that plainly gave away he thought he'd be punched or hurt. Sirius had those eyes in the beginning too. He swallowed back surprise when Remus didn't look fearful, rather he looked concerned. A kind expression of genuine sympathy and worry on the kid's face. How could Sirius have been so stupid in thinking Remus was anything other than a scared and kind kid?

"You aren't going to hurt yourself are you?" Sirius blinked at him stunned. I mean yeah he probably had appeared a little unstable but he hadn't appeared that upset had he? I mean he prided himself on smiling no matter what, it usually resulted in less punishment since his family hated when he showed weakness of any kind. An arrogant smile or cold lofty look was always more acceptable than the blatant concern and now fear on Remus' face. The kid seemed to finally come to the realization that Sirius might have dragged him here to hurt him and he looked rather ashen.

"I'm not going to hurt myself...or you. Just….relax would you." He meant it to sound more like a question but due to over a decade of influence, he never could quite manage to prevent the demanding tone to his requests when stressed or upset.

"Sorry."

"No….no don't start that. Look I just want to talk ok?" He tightened his hand into fists. Why on earth did what he say cause the kid to look more afraid? He was momentarily distracted by what secrets Remus might be holding before realizing he should focus on the obvious one.

"I get it." He blurted out before he could stop himself, he hated how desperate he sounded. It felt good though and he felt himself get really shaky as he realized he was going to give voice to what he had even kept a secret from his uncle Alphard, despite most of his family knowing.

"I mean….you're so jumpy...and scared all the time...and well...I just...I get it...I was like that to you know? So I mean...who is it for you?"

Remus was stunned by the question. His insides clenched painfully and he felt a panicked gasp escape him. What was he referring to? Remus didn't like this one bit, he didn't want this!

He had just wanted to make sure Sirius was ok. He didn't look ok though. His eyes kept darting around the room, not scanning it for enemies like Remus unconsciously did, but simply because he couldn't seem to stop looking. He also couldn't stand still, other than flailing his whole body like a madman which had seemed intentional, he kept shifting around and opening and closing his fists as if trying to grab something.

Remus knew that his question could mean a lot of things. He knew Sirius was very upset and anxious right now even if he himself didn't seem to realize this. Remus honestly didn't want to get to know his roommates too well since it would make staying away harder but he knew he couldn't ignore this. Besides someone had written those letters, Dumbledore and Sirius knew who and recalling all the little bits of information he had picked up he had a terrible feeling it was one of his cousins.

"Who…..is it for you?" He was hesitant to ask. It didn't seem fair with how Sirius currently was. He clearly wanted to talk but it seemed too desperate and rushed to not lead to regret later. He could only hope Sirius wouldn't hate him later when he realized he had spilled his secrets in a state of absolute distress.

He scoffed and Remus' dread grew.

"More like who it isn't, mate. I mean my cousins are a give in. They were practicing hexes on me before they could legally use magic and they threatened cruciatus on me more than once. Then, of course, my grandparents are miserable geezers who hit whoever gets in their way with canes. But….well my parents are worse you know?" His eyes were full of haunted desperation so Remus simply nodded finding it hard to breathe.

"My dad is better I mean he's gone a lot and that doesn't..well you know, often end in punishment. But my mom she can't….nothing is good enough….I think I was seven when I started talking back…..just….you know I wanted to be good enough. I never was." He was crying now and Remus wished he knew what to do, he felt useless and stupid but Sirius continued before he could say anything, he didn't seem able to stop.

"I mean most of the time I just wanted her to pay attention to me not my little brother who seemed to be perfect. But no matter what she just got mad. She'd hit me and throw things at me. I mean I'm good at dodging now so I guess that's good but…...well I mean…...I got angrier and a few times I really crossed the line…..she…..well there's this really small room…...they have…...have a d….d….dementor down there…...and….if I act weak then I get shoved in there. Not really for long because of course, their precious heir can't go ape shit crazy." He sounded so bitter and he had gone deathly pale. Remus didn't know what a dementor was but it must be some sort of terrible weapon for Sirius' eyes to go so wide with fear at the mere mention.

"Everything would go all cold and then I remember the worse times. Like when she actually whipped me…...or the one time she snapped and burned me…...I mean there are things to hide the marks. Sometimes….I don't do anything…...like I don't even speak and she goes off. She's the batshit one it's scary…..she's scary…..and now….." His voice raised several octaves and he was physically trembling now. Remus desperately wanted to comfort him but he was afraid Sirius would stop talking.

"Now that I'm in gryffindor…..well I'm more than a stupid son….I'm a disappointment…..I'm….everything those letters said that my vile cousin sent….Bellatrix was always the cruelest of the bunch I wish she died when she got dragon pox. She had to miss two years of Hogwarts though I think one of them is because she did something dreadful and almost got expelled. I hope Dumbledore expels her for this. I bet Narcissa blabbed about my comment on her man whore….but yeah…..you know….I've….I've betrayed the Blacks…..I don't know what's waiting for me at home but…...it's probably going to be worse."

He finished with a determined tone, resigned and cold. He had stopped crying somewhere along the line and his eyes had turned into hard grey stones. Then he looked at Remus expectantly.

"Well?"

"I'm s…..sorry your family is so terrible. I….I'm just so sorry. Isn't anyone kind to you?"

"My uncle Alphard. He's the best and my cousin Drommi. But that's not what I meant. It's your turn." Sirius had shut down now, all vulnerability shut behind a haughty look that Remus now realized was defensiveness.

"My what?" He asked in a small voice. He knew what Sirius wanted, knew what he needed from him. But he couldn't, even if he admitted his father had hit him a few times Sirius would somehow consider them close. He had already called Remus mate and he just couldn't be friends with Sirius. Especially not him, not when he was so smart so attentive at times. But he knew that if he said nothing that the determined boy wouldn't buy it.

He weighed his options carefully, they all knew about Peter's past of bullying who brought it up on occasion when he was amazed he had friends. Of course, the confession hadn't been meant for Remus who had spent all the time in his dorm feigning sleep. But neither James nor Sirius had seemed too bent up about it. Neither one of them had asked him questions or tried to find out more. Besides it wasn't necessarily a lie, in fact, Remus had a really hard time with bullying, it just wasn't the truth Sirius wanted to hear.

"Sirius….I….."

"Don't say you don't understand because I know you do!"

"Yes but…"

"You do? Really?"

"Well…"

"I've never met anyone before…..not ever. Is it your mom too?"

"What? No!"

"Your dad then? Figures. Look I won't tell anyone if you don't"

"I won't tell anyone. But…."

"He must have hit you a lot…but I bet you didn't have to deal with dementors so I guess that's good?"

The mention of dementors caused Remus to pause in his attempt to correct Sirius who was convinced he was right. Which he was, but Remus couldn't let him know that.

"What's a dementor?" He felt bad but Sirius had brought it up himself and had already grown pale again at the mention.

"It's cold and hopelessness….a cloaked monster…..and….you remember your worst memories...really terrible.." He concluded shakily.

"Why…..Why do they think it will make you stronger?" Sirius shot him a sharp look that made it clear he hadn't forgotten Remus had said very little, but after a moment of hesitation, he explained.

"It's a really old tradition amongst pureblood families. Some wanker decided it would be brilliant to destroy his weakness with the help of those monsters. I guess he declared it a success and forced all his children to partake. It stopped really quickly because most purebloods aren't complete nutters...well not that much of nutters, not to their own family you see? But my dear grandad used it on my mom a few times and she knows how bad it is so she doesn't really use it to make me stronger which is nonsense as she knows, but to keep me in line and do everything she says. If she wants me to wear stiff dress clothes to a playdate and I argue that I want regular clothes for bloody once. Well….there's always a chance I'll end up in the basement for five minutes….or once even longer." He shuddered and wrapped his arms around himself shivering.

Without thinking, Remus took off the heavy wool robe he had brought with him in case Dumbledore had dumped him outside without letting him get his stuff.

"Here." He stretched it out for Sirius to grab but the boy seemed someplace else entirely, and it was a very bad place by the look of it. Concerned he drew closer to him and wrapped the cloak around him hoping it would shock him out of his spiral. It worked and Sirius held the cloak close to him for warmth. He seemed hesitant for a second then without warning he pulled Remus into a hug.

"You better not tell anyone about this." He growled out threateningly, though it fell a bit flat. Quite uncomfortable, Remus stood there stiffly but when he felt tears on his shoulder he hugged Sirius back.

"It will be ok." He said gently because it was the only thing he could think of. He hoped it sounded as convincing coming from him as it did from his mother. When Sirius didn't protest he assumed it had.

After a few minutes, Sirius let him go with another empty threat and wiped his eyes trying to destroy the evidence of his tears.

"I have a handkerchief if you want one?" He meant it as a sincere offer but Sirius seemed to take it as a jibe.

"You're crying too." He pointed out defensively. Surprised Remus touched his cheek and for some reason the realization he was crying made him cry harder.

"Don't you start again or I will, got it?" Remus nodded apologetically and took out the handkerchief quickly wiping his own evidence away. Sirius snorted and then broke into a laugh.

"You actually carry a handkerchief with you? What kind of boy does that? HAHA!" For an instance, Remus thought it was rather rude that Sirius was laughing at him but then realized he didn't really care that much because it was wonderful that his roommate was laughing in his usual fashion.

"It's what a proper gentleman does." He mimicked James and protested in mock horror because he knew that Sirius needed a friend right now. Since he wasn't one an imitation of James would have to do. Sirius looked surprised for a second then laughed harder clutching his sides.

"Oh wow, you really got James down! I didn't know you could be funny I thought it might break you!" Remus flushed realizing Sirius thought he was trying to mock James.

"I can be funny I'm funny all the time." He continued this time mocking James' posh lady accent which was a lot harder to do but Sirius got the gist.

He gave him a grin that he normally would have given James and Remus was surprised by how happy it made him.

"Yeah, sure you are, kid."

"I'm not a kid!" He didn't mean to sound so angry, in fact, it was probably the first time his voice had even risen a fraction while talking to his roommates and they had put him through quite a lot. However, Sirius didn't seem to notice. He just scoffed and rolled his eyes.

"Pretty sure I'm older than you. I'll be 12 on November 4th which is a few weeks away." He sounded very proud of his fact, and why shouldn't he be. Age seemed to mean everything to the first years considering all the other years sort of looked down at them for it.

"Over a month." Remus corrected automatically.

"Close enough. So see you are a kid."

"So are you." Maybe it was because he was still trying to channel James that he actually answered.

Sirius stuck his tongue out.

"That's not true. Mind your manners young man I'm practically an adult!" Remus smiled despite himself realizing it had been a while since he'd done so sincerely.

"Well, then you ought to be teaching rather than disguising yourself as a student sir." He teased playfully. Sirius didn't miss a beat, he and James never did, it made it much easier to get caught up in their banter.

"That is terrible I shall never be a teacher. Anyone who leaves young impressionable minds in my hands is mad."

"Dumbledore is a bit mad." He meant it in the best way possible, but he realized he did mean it. After all, anyone who let a werewolf attend their school was a bit nutty.

"That is true. Well, then I suppose I ought to give it whirl." Before Remus realized what he meant Sirius rushed to the front of the classroom and hopped up on the professor's desk.

"Attention Class! Attention Class!" He shouted jovially waving his arms like a mad man. In his fantasy, he must have had a hundred students to gain their attention so dramatically. Or a room full of James' and Sirius'. However, in reality, there was only Remus and unwilling to break the momentum, especially since Sirius looked very happy, he sat at the desk and raised his hand bolt right.

"Young man, what's your name?"

"What."

"I asked what is your name, young man."

"My name is what." Sirius' lips twitched but he was now playing the role of a strict teacher and he seemed to take it seriously.

"I am asking you a question. I say are you daft?"

"Perhaps you're the daft one sir," Remus said with his best innocent smile. Sirius couldn't stop the laugh that exploded from him abruptly but he reigned it in quickly and frowned.

"What insolence! Tell me what your name is or I'll have you come march your arse up and spell it."

"My name is what sir. But since you seem inept at names allow me." He marched to the blackboard and wrote as large as he could manage W.H.A.T. He would have carried the charade farther thoroughly enjoying himself more than he cared to admit, but Sirius seemed unable to continue. He had dropped down so he was rolling on the professor's desk holding his sides and roaring with laughter. Remus stifled a laugh with his long sleeve, biting down on it to stop the mirth that was bubbling inside him with desperation.

After several minutes Sirius seemed to calm down.

"You've been holding out on me Lupin." He said in the same friendly way he called James and Peter by their last names, a sort of backward way to express friendship. That was when Remus realized he had carried this too far, that he was in trouble.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fourteen: Nothing Close to Friends

He stiffened and flinched at what had been said when he realized Sirius had been watching him first amused and now intently.

"What's wrong? What did I say? Does that remind you of your father? Geez, I'm an idiot I'll only call you Remus from now on ok?"

"Sirius I….you're wrong." Sirius grinned perhaps thinking they were getting into another round of banter.

"I am never wrong good sir!"

"Sirius I'm serious."

"No, I'm Sirius!" He beamed in response looking drastically different from earlier, and Remus truly wanted to keep it that way. He gave him a weak smile.

"You're never serious you're name should be jokester instead." Sirius sighed with mock heaviness.

"A wasted opportunity on my parents part if you ask me."

"But I think we should go. Year sixths have a get together in here in about ten minutes."

"They do?"

"Yes," It was a lie but it was the only way he could think of bringing this to an end without admitting what he needed Sirius to think had been his lie.

"Oooo cool we should stay and figure out what it's about!" Remus should have realized Sirius would take this as an adventure, instead of deterring the boy he had encouraged him.

"I'm afraid it's something dreadfully boring. It's a chess club you see."

"Chess isn't boring." Remus was startled by this. He liked chess but he honestly couldn't picture Sirius sitting still long enough to make it through a game let alone enjoy it.

"Oh, my bad it was a book club." Sirius grinned.

"Books aren't necessarily boring either."

"Sirius you hate to read."

"That's because Hogwarts doesn't have the right kind of books if you know what I mean." He wiggled his eyebrows like this was supposed to mean something to Remus. But he didn't get it and he was beginning to panic a bit.

"It's an herbology book club."

"Oh well, that is boring." Remus relaxed he had succeeded. Then Sirius' eyes filled with excitement and he realized he had just made things worse again.

"Unless it's a front!"

"It's not a front."

"It's totally a front!"

"Well, you have fun with that." He got up to leave but Sirius stopped him practically whining, the complete 360 from his treatment earlier in the day was dizzying. If he was being honest he liked it, being friendly, he could even see himself being friends with Sirius. It could be fun, much better than what he had been doing. Remus shook his head violently and Sirius gave him a weird look probably thinking he was crazy.

"But you have to stay! I need a wingman!"

"Then ask James."

"Not enough time." He looked thoughtful. "Besides this is our thing that's kind of the point."

"I may have gotten the time wrong you probably do have time." He attempted his voice starting to shake a little. Sirius narrowed his eyes further clearly pondering something.

"I'm starting to think there is no club."

"There isn't." It was such a relief to destroy the adventure, he didn't think about the consequences and problems this to would cause.

Sirius didn't get angry he just looked confused and perhaps a bit hurt.

"Why did you lie?"

"I just…."

"Come on mate you can study later Godric knows you do enough of it."

"That's not it." He pleaded his eyes filling with tears. Why was this so hard? He shouldn't care so much about being friends with Sirius he shouldn't want it. Because he did want it, he wanted it so bad it hurt.

"Remus, what's wrong? Did I say something dumb again? I know you didn't talk about your dad a lot. Jokes aside I really can be serious. You can talk if you want. I felt better...you know after telling you….I've never told anyone else, you're the first."

"I can't be friends with you!" He blurted realizing he sounded and looked panicked.

"Can't?" Asked Serious suspiciously.

"Won't! I mean I don't want to. Not can't. I don't want to!"

"Yes, you do!" Sirius looked upset now comprehension beginning to dawn in him.

"This is because of your father right? He said you can't have friends? My parents sort of said the same thing. Well, they said I could only have the 'right type of friends' but it's close enough. Just ignore them that's what I do." It was so matter of fact to him and he said it so convincingly that Remus actually considered it.

You are the only thing in the way of making friends is what Dumbledore had said. So what would happen if he let himself? Could it really be so bad? He paused then shook his head again. What was he thinking? Sirius wasn't a monster who could tear his friends to shreds! It was completely different for him!

"Well regardless of if you "want" to be my friend or not I want to be yours and I won't take no for an answer." Sirius grinned still finding this all simple.

"Sirius….." He pleaded his voice cracking as a few tears ran down his cheeks. Sirius looked startled, surprised it was distressing Remus so much.

"We are friends. That's final." Sirius wasn't letting up on that but he did seem to be taking it more seriously which Remus wasn't sure was really a good thing.

"You don't understand." He whispered and buried his face in his hands ashamed of crying, even a little bit, in front of anyone. There was a long silence in which Remus resisted the urge to peak at Sirius. More time passed and more, finally positive Sirius must have left he looked up. What greeted him wasn't an empty room but a concerned boy doing his best to patiently wait. He stopped fidgeting when he realized Remus had finally looked up.

"Then explain it to me." Remus was shocked by how much Sirius cared, that someone who had made him miserable was now so invested in his well being.

"Why do you care so much?" He dared to ask, part of him just hoping to distract Sirius, the other part really did want to know. He expected Sirius to be surprised but instead, the boy looked like he was expecting this. Either that or when he chose to use his poker face it was impressive.

"Because before I thought you were someone you aren't and….that was wrong of me. I'm….s…...I'm sorry." He sounded in pain and he physically had to wrench out the apology.

"It's alright." He caught Sirius' stern look and frowned.

"Well it wasn't but it is now. And I….I understood why you were so upset, well not at first but once you showed me the letters. I just..you weren't wrong about me...I mean you were wrong that I did that but…..it would be best if you stayed away from me."

Sirius crossed his arms an extremely defiant look the only answer Remus received. Feeling heavy again he got up and went to the door hoping Sirius would let him leave.

"No matter what you say I'm going to be your friend and I'm going to convince you to be my friend too. Just you wait, Remus Lupin, I don't back down from challenges!" Sirius shouted after him and he broke into a run wishing all of that had never happened. He hadn't realized that he had run outside until a strong gust of wind knocked him back.

He moved almost in a trance the nearly full moon taunting him high above. Then before he knew it he was standing a little ways away staring at the whomping willow with apprehension. He'd be there soon, too soon. He wondered if it would be worse than his tiny little shack at home, he knew it would be drastically bigger than what he was used to. But what if that made it worse? He stood there under the moonlight feeling sick, he dared to look up at the hypnotic moon.

Deep within him, deep where he didn't like to dwell he could feel the wolf howling at him. Both the wolf and moon seemed to be saying it was almost time. Remus felt his knees finally give out as they had been wanting to all day. He sunk down to the ground and gripped the cold earth with his fingers, trying to grip the earth as if that could stop the inevitable from happening two nights from tonight.

Without his wool robe, he had to go back inside pretty quickly. He thought about going to the dorms but decided to go to the library and study instead. He spent the last hour without breaking curfew studying with more focus than he had been able to in weeks. He was glad he decided to stay in the library as long as rule abidingly possible. Because of course, Dumbledore had personally talked to all the Gryffindor's and they all knew he was innocent now.

Remus thought that would be a good thing, but when he finally slipped into the common room right at 10 found it wasn't. Older Gryffindor's whose names he barely recalled kept seeking him out and asking him questions and trying to talk to him not having heard the drama until Dumbledore told them. All he wanted was to go to bed and he struggled to politely excuse himself from multiple people and make his way to his dorm.

It took a while but eventually, he got the older students to give up on getting details from him and made it to the seventh floor. He was expecting the three boys to be waiting for him but the only one awake, or at least not pretending to be asleep, was Sirius. He looked up and waved beckoning Remus over. He feigned not seeing this, though it was obvious he had and curled into his bed instead. He lay there for a few minutes before trying not to groan as he collected his PJs and attempted to go shower.

"You know you can change out here right?" Sirius pointed out either unoffended by Remus ignoring him a few minutes earlier or not showing it.

"I haven't been able to shower in a while." He whispered as gently as he could not wanting to cause Sirius more guilt. Instead, the boy shrugged mumbling "suit yourself." Taking this as being excused Remus hurried to the bathroom. Once there he spent a long time getting ready and was rewarded by Sirius being asleep when he entered the dorm room again. He knew James and Peter had actually been awake because he heard them whispering before he turned on the shower but now they both really were asleep.

He struggled to make his way back to his bed wondering if it had been passive aggressive or just thoughtless on Sirius' part to not leave the candle lit for him. But he eventually managed and toppled into his bed with a heavy sigh. It felt so good to be sleeping in his bed without worrying about what pranks would greet him in the morning, and he quickly fell asleep.

Morning came to soon as Remus had spent a majority of the night tossing and turning and then pacing off the dredges of his nightmare. Luckily as far as he knew he hadn't woken any of his roommates up with his tossing and pacing. Still, it was rare that Remus wasn't the first one up. He groaned when Sirius pulled back his curtains and sang "Morning Sleeping Beauty" loudly in his ear.

"Few more minutes." He groaned yanking the pillow over his head. This just caused Sirius to laugh and flounce around annoying James and Peter with his weirdly good mood as much as it annoyed Remus. Finally realizing sleep was a lost cause with Sirius singing 'Here Comes the Sun' at the top of his lungs he sat up.

"What even are you singing mate?" James asked finally succumbing to his curiosity and giving Sirius the attention that might just fuel his singing until they reached the great hall.

"Why James how can you not know the Beatles? They are muggle magic mate! Here!" After some rustling, he produced a record player and a record and then listened to the Beatles Record which was much more bearable than Sirius' singing. Remus was torn between nostalgia and sadness as his mother had often sung Beatle songs to him being a huge fan. He reckoned he knew all the words to all their songs but couldn't tell Sirius that as it would only further fuel the boy's desire to be friends.

Peter and James were both pureblood, so was Sirius but he was a strange one, and they had never heard The Beatles before though both seemed to tolerate it.

Remus got ready behind his curtains, nearly panicking at the possibility the hyper Sirius might rip back the curtain and expose him. As he was getting dressed Sirius was exaggerating his disappointment in James who had said the music was nothing special and dubbing an ecstatic Peter as his new best friend as the later boy confessed he quite liked it.

"What say you, Remus?" In fact, Sirius did open the curtain but luckily Remus was fast at changing and was completely ready for the day and for his hyper roommate.

"They are alright." He said carefully forcing himself to sound indifferent, in a manner which would have deeply appalled his mother.

"Not you too mate! I thought you were muggleborn?" Remus ignored the subtle attempt to learn more about his family and looked past Sirius giving Peter an innocent look.

"I'm surprised you aren't in the great hall yet it's already 7:35."

"Blimey, your right. Come on we need to get to breakfast!" Peter declared with almost comedic eagerness. Of course, James was nearly as eager which made Remus' plan a success.

"Come on Sirius we can argue over weird old bands later if you fancy. But I'm hungry."

"Coming," Sirius called happily and Remus truly thought he had won this one.

He bent to pick his bag up while he thought Sirius went to his bed to do the same. Instead when he straightened he found himself nearly nose to nose with the determined and triumphant looking boy and let out surprised shout tumbling back onto his bed his robes askew.

"I have you pegged Remus Lupin just you remember that next time you purposely change the topic. You can't slip anything past me!" He boasted then rushed to follow James and Peter out the door. When Remus' heart stopped hammering in surprise he got up and followed after them. He wasn't sure how he felt about Sirius' interest in him. He convinced himself he much rather preferred James and Peter's friendly indifference most of the time, but he'd be lying if he said it didn't hurt they left him behind.

It turned out they didn't get far though as some older students late to leave for breakfast had cornered the boys who all seemed to take great stride in re-accounting the drama that occurred with the letters. Sirius seemed to be just as excited but Remus noticed his fists were tight and his smile seemed just a little forced if one really stopped to notice. He quickly turned away not wanting to be caught staring at Sirius a second time.

He took the opportunity to make it to the great hall without his roommates which was a mistake. He too was bombarded once more by older Gryffindors who wanted to know what had happened or the first years and few second years who knew what happened and felt bad. Remus knew they just felt guilty about suspecting him. But it made it hard to eat and later study as the attention followed him throughout the day, and he was beginning to get very irritated by it.

It didn't help that the full moon was tomorrow night and the stress of it was making him restless and short tempered. He thought he had gotten used to his defense against the dark arts professor slandering dark creatures whenever the students got him on the topic, which was a lot. But this Monday each statement whether it was about werewolves or not was like a knife in his back.

His normally neat notes were angry scrawls across the notebook and there were several tears in the pages. Luckily he had learned his lesson and now sat in row two so the professor didn't notice. He prided himself on making it through the class without losing his mind and he thought he had handled his earlier classes well and would continue to do so, but then came potions.

Potions on Monday was just a typical 45-minute class where they didn't really do much besides discuss properties because only during double potions did they have time to brew most potions. But whether they were working with the cauldrons or not the stench of the classroom was unbearable so close to the full moon.

He feigned coughing and covered his nose and mouth with his long sleeves inhaling through the fabric which helped little. Probably too busy with plotting pranks during classes his roommates had left him alone throughout the day. But this seemed to end with potions and while he had avoided them all day he was now stuck at a desk with Peter who now that he was allowed to was talking to him cheerfully.

Something about breaking into the broom closet and flying the brooms when they technically weren't supposed to. To make matters worse he was helped along occasionally by James or Sirius shouting from their cauldron next to them on Peter's side. On a normal day, Remus would have either politely listened or secretly found the whole adventure quite amusing. But today wasn't a normal day.

"And then we almost got caught you know but…" His voice got even higher pitched and more grating as he giggled with uncontained boyish excitement.

"But James and Sirius were bloody brilliant and told the Hufflepuff prefect that they were under strict orders from Madame Hooch to catch me up on training since I'm so hopeless... Oh, Remus, you should have seen it they were so convincing even a prefect believed them. I reckon there's nothing those two can't do. Oh, I'm so glad we are all friends now!'

It took every ounce of built up self-restraint and patience not to scream in Peter's face. Instead, he gripped his quill very tightly and spoke through clenched teeth every word jarring his throbbing head.

"Later Peter. I'm trying to focus."

"On what?"

"Obviously on class. Maybe if you focused your grades would be better!" It must have been the harshest thing Remus had ever said to anyone. Oh, he had mean thoughts all the time, but he usually never had the opportunity or boldness to speak them. However, Peter didn't seem offended. Instead, he shrugged shaking it off as a friendly irritable jibe and grinned.

"Yes well, James lets me look off his homework. Plus you know the class is almost over Slughorn is just passing around a laughing potion see he's over there by...blimey Snivellus looks even uglier when he laughs." He scoffed sounding more like James who took every option to insult Severus. It was true Severus looked rather unpleasant laughing, probably because he was trying so hard not to.

But no one could stop themselves against the perfectly conducted potion Slughorn had made and Lily who was next erupted into high pitched giggles her cheeks flushed with delight. Remus realized she hadn't talked to him yet, she might have even been avoiding him, but he hadn't time to dwell on this. While everyone was distracted by the ever pretty Lily Evans he grabbed his bag and dashed for the door.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifteen: Fleeing Friendships

His sudden escape from the classroom luckily went unnoticed for as soon as he was in the hall he crashed to the ground the world spinning badly. Luckily everyone was finishing up classes or not in the hall for he was able to spend the few necessary minutes letting the effects of the aconite wear off. It took a lot of determination but he managed to get to his feet as the rest of the class came pouring out. He could do nothing but lean against the far wall and hope he went unnoticed as everyone spread out their different ways based on how they planned to spend the next half hour before dinner. But his attempt to go unnoticed was quickly unsuccessful due to his three roommates.

"Why didn't you stay the rest of the class Remus?" Peter was the first to spot and reach him looking concerned.

"Well isn't it obvious Peter our dear old Remus is allergic to laughing." Sirius seemed highly amused by this and considering Remus had no other excuse he didn't refute it.

"Are you alright? You aren't looking well." James pointed out a bit concerned now too. Even Sirius looked concerned, his slightly mocking tone replaced with a sincere one.

"You look like you're going to pass out mate."

"Mm fine." He mumbled feeling anything but.

"He gets like this every potions class just about." Peter pointed out unhelpfully.

"Well blimey mate maybe you really are allergic to something in Professor Slughorn's stock."

"No!" He exclaimed abruptly, he had to come up with something fast before his clever roommates explored that possibility further.

"No? Then what?" Sirius pushed, his eyes narrowed in that familiar way again which meant he'd be watching Remus' every move.

"I….I just always get faint since I keep missing lunch, and by potions, I'm really hungry." It was believable, sincere, and it worked! All three boys relaxed and had multiple levels of disapproval on their features. Sirius had the most disapproval and he shook his head taking in Remus as a disapproving mother might have.

"You need to stop doing that. You skip far too many meals, young man." He scolded with an old woman accent that could have badly passed as someone's grandma.

"I know." He responded seriously. Sirius' face crumpled with slight disappointment.

"Yes you do but you were supposed to come up with something witty. Like yesterday. I tell you guys he was bloody brilliant. Mr. What." He chuckled and James looked between the two of them with disbelief, clearly finding it impossible that Remus would make a joke. Peter seemed just as dubious over this which left Sirius looking a bit crazy. He sighed dramatically but waved them off like a good sport.

"Well, I think we ought to make sure this one doesn't weasel out of dinner as well." That was the last thing Remus wanted because he really had planned to eat a big dinner, he'd need it. But if his roommates were planning to hound him until dinner, well that was an awful lot of time to spend with them. Peter and James seemed to come to the same conclusion and didn't seem particularly thrilled.

"Well, what would you like to do until then Remus?" James asked with the air of trying to appease someone but knowing he won't have fun. He felt a little hurt but considering he was just going to study until dinner he didn't have much room to complain. He knew he was boring, which is why he couldn't believe his roommates were even willing to hang out with him.

"I will meet you at dinner but I have studying to get done so…" Peter and James seemed fine with this, probably relieved they didn't have to hang out with him. But true to his word Sirius wasn't letting him get away with anything. He smiled wider but his eyes were focusing intently on Remus making him want to run away and hide.

"Come now mates we need to show stuck up Remus here how to have proper fun."

"But if he doesn't want to Sirius we shouldn't force him to." James pointed out usually the voice of reason between the three. Peter nodded quick to follow suit with James, and Sirius rolled his eyes.

"He just doesn't know he wants to...yet. Come on we owe it to him."

"Technically only you owe it to him Sirius but since you will most likely lead Remus to an early death I suppose we better all go along." Peter nodded again though seemed less eager about agreeing with James this time.

"I'd really rather study." Remus protested weakly through knew he wasn't getting out of this. Sirius gestured dramatically at Remus as if the boy had just somehow proved his point perfectly. James laughed and grinned.

"Well, where shall we start?"

"I don't even think he's seen the ground yet have you, Remus?"

"You really could use some sun mate. Alright, let's go to the Quidditch pitch!"

Remus was forced to go with them Sirius' firm grip on his shoulders preventing escape. He was sure their plan to force him along would have worked, and he'd no doubt pass out keeping their fast pace on top of the exhaustion of the soon to be full moon. But luckily Lily and Dorcas ran into them and interceded on his behalf with more confidence and firmness than he figured he ever could.

"Potter! Black! What are you doing?" She shouted at them like a cross teacher changing direction and rushing over to them with a scowl. Dorcas quickly joined her and the boys of floor seven dorm one were forced to stop just before the doors leading outside.

"Well, Evans we are just taking our Lupin for a walk." Sirius teased and even though Remus knew he'd likely say the same thing about the others if the occasion occurred, he felt his face go red with shame. He was acting more like a subservient beast than a boy which was both fitting and terrible.

"He's not your pet Black!" She snapped outraged.

"You three have bullied him enough," Dorcas added threateningly.

"We aren't bullying him. We are showing him what fun is. For his own good." James retorted shooting his competitor Lily a glare which she shot back. Those two would be shooting spells at each other faster than Remus could say cogswallow if he didn't stop this.

"They were just going to show me around the grounds as I haven't seen them yet but I now remembered I promised to study with you Lily I'm sorry." He hoped she wasn't mad at him and that she would take the hint and the out. She glanced away from James her expression softening and she smiled.

"Oh yes that's right you did. Looks like you'll have to go see the grounds some other time."

"Not so fast. You guys can just study another time." Sirius pouted very disappointed at the turn of events.

"Yeah, I don't think so. Come on Remus." Dorcas beckoned him over. He didn't look at Sirius, not wanting to see the hurt that was sure to be on his face, as he pulled away from his tight grasp and walked over to the girls.

"Sorry...maybe...we can go another time." He mumbled to his roommate's feet. He didn't really mean it, he just didn't want to appear too rude.

"Come on Remus you don't need the bad influence of those boys." Lily sniffed tossing her hair disdainfully at James who looks irritated at losing. It irritated Remus more than it normally would have that both sides were acting a bit like he was some sort of prize. Lily even stuck her tongue out at James clearly seeing this as some sort of win.

He waited until his roommates were out of view and earshot before he stopped walking and forced himself to feel grateful for Lily's rescue, even though it had made him feel more pathetic.

"Thank you for that Lily. They really aren't bullying me anymore not...not really." He assured her. He started to walk away preferring to spend what was now probably twenty minutes alone before dinner. But Lily stopped him her hand where Sirius' had been though considerably gentler.

"Are you not going to study with us?"

"Oh….I…." He couldn't meet her eyes though he wasn't entirely sure why.

"Remus are you mad at me?" She blurted out sounding very stressed. He looked up surprised by this to find Lily on the verge of tears and Dorcas looking rather ashamed.

"M…...mad? Why would I be mad?" He asked bewildered.

"Because of the letters of course! Oh, Remus, I should have believed you. Sev had only hung out with you a few times, he doesn't know you as I do and Dorcas….." Lily trailed off glancing at her friend nervously.

"Was being a wanker." Dorcas finished giving Remus an apologetic grimace.

"We should have believed you." Remus wanted to point out that not even he believed him but figured that would result in too many questions.

"It's alright. There….I mean there was evidence. And it seemed unlikely…. I mean that's why my roommates were bullying me because they thought I wrote those." He finished lamely.

"That gave them no right to treating you so terribly! They should have gone to a professor or the headmaster?"

"Like you did." He meant it as a question but the realization hit him quite suddenly, he really should have known. Lily went as red as her hair.

"I only wanted to help you. I'm not a snitch but….well it was affecting your school work, Remus." She exclaimed aghast. He found himself smiling at her sincerely.

"Thank you, Lily." He wasn't sure why this made her blush even more but his gratitude towards her was sincere. He was pretty sure Dumbledore would have reached the same conclusion if she hadn't talked to him, but to have someone care enough about him to do so was a good feeling.

"O….of course Remus. Now if you aren't mad how about we study?"

"There's only half an hour left." Dorcas pointed out sounding amused.

"That's enough time to go over applications of the mending charm," Remus said cheerfully feeling much less irritated. Lily beamed at him and Dorcas rolled her eyes grinning.

"You two are nuts."

"Well, you don't have to join us." Lily pointed out teasingly. Dorcas simply shrugged and they headed to the courtyard, as it was a nice day and they didn't have time to go to the library. There they began quizzing one another in the dwindling minutes before dinner.

….

Remus spent dinner eating as much as he could as him and Dorcas listened to Lily's excited ramblings and he tried to ignore Sirius looks. He knew the boy was further upset he didn't sit with them, and Remus figured he really ought to tread carefully if he didn't want to face Sirius' anger again. So after dinner, he forced himself to turn down Lily's invitation to go to the library and rushed to catch up to his roommates.

"How was the walk?" They stopped walking and turned to him, all three surprised. Sirius was the first to recover and he grinned and flung his arm over Remus' shoulder. He hoped the boy wasn't planning to drag him off and trap him in an abandoned room again but Sirius didn't seem to have such plans this time.

"Well well well look who decided to join us." He teased easily pulling Remus who was quite a bit shorter into a playful headlock. Remus knew this was how they were, how most boys seemed to be, but he still found himself distinctly uncomfortable as Sirius ruffled his hair.

"We were just about to head back to the dorm. Want to join us?" Peter asked politely. There was still a measure of caution and hesitation between James and Peter towards him. Which he much preferred to Sirius' lack of boundaries and determination to get to know him. He offered Peter a small smile and tried to untangle himself from the loose headlock he was in.

"Alright."

It was a start and he hoped it might make Sirius lay off him a bit. They spent the night playing gobstones, which Remus was terrible at, and chess which Remus won twice then had to purposely lose as he was afraid the others would get mad at him. If they realized he was purposely losing they didn't say anything but he highly doubt they did because all three seemed ecstatic every time they won't.

Remus just smiled and played along the best he could. But as the sunset and the moon rose his bones began to ache and his head and heart felt heavy. He found it much harder to keep his eyes open and he knew he ought to get as much sleep as possible since tomorrow was bound to be a long night.

"Oi Remus!" James lightly shook him and he jolted awake looking at all three of them fearfully.

"Sorry!"

"Now how is it that you're winning now when you can barely keep your eyes open when you've lost all other games but the first two!" Sirius huffed torn between amusement and general frustration. Remus realized with a jolt as he was dozing off he was playing with his full skill set and had not been letting Sirius win. He surveyed his board and relaxed realizing he could still lose if he was careful.

He managed to do so then admitted he needed to sleep and stumbled over to his bed collapsing into it with a content sigh. His exhaustion claimed him quickly, giving him no time to change, but not before he heard Sirius whisper in awe to James.

"That blimey bludger let me win! Reckon he did that throughout?" He didn't get to hear James' response though as he fell unconscious right afterward.

Tuesday brought pain and him having to struggle to control his emotions even more than yesterday. He had almost snapped at James, Peter, Lily, and Sirius by the time breakfast was over. He spent the day avoiding everyone not trusting himself to go off at them. He was just unbelievably stressed about tonight and he was unbelievably bitter about the letter he received at breakfast from his father that only said 'make sure you are careful and on time.'

There was no "I'm doing well," no "How are classes." Just a dreary reminder of what would come tonight. He both wanted to cry and lash out at something and he busied himself with the latter taking a large stick and smashing it into a tree with surprising force during the break from classes.

He felt weak and sick but when he tried his physical strength seemed to be slightly heightened right before a full moon, as well as his senses. This along with the intensifying by the hour, desire to eat raw meat kept him from eating anything all day. This did nothing to improve his mood and he even found himself miserable during Charms which was one of his favorite subjects.

Next came Transfiguration and with it their stern Head of House. By this time it was 2:30 in the afternoon and every muscle in Remus' body ached. He sat down in her class as carefully as possible but it still sent sharp pains running through him.

He would usually be skipping muggle school back at home or at least skipping his later classes, but he was determined not to need to do that here. Both because of his desire to learn and because he didn't want to bring any more attention to what would eventually be a great many absences.

"Today I expect everyone to turn their quills into needles and back again by the end of the class period. You will be marked today. Please begin." Yesterday when Transfiguration was their first class Remus would have had no problem with the task. It may have taken him a good portion of the class period, unlike James and Lily who completed there's within fifteen minutes and were already turning them back, but at least he could have done it then. He felt anger surge within him. This caused the quill he was holding, as he looked over his notes wondering if he got something wrong, to snap.

Ink splattered all over him, and Lily who no doubt figured it was James and Sirius, as they had done this before, shot them dirty looks. This threw James off and Lily completed turning her quill back before him. Mrs, McGonagall had come over to where Remus sat and with a wave of her wand cleaned him off before handing him a new quill without a word. However, after that, he could feel her eyes on him throughout the class.

After this, he decided he'd never sit in the front row again. By the end of class, he had managed to get his quill into a needle but was unable to transform it back, like Peter. Sirius who spent the first half of class slacking off had barely managed to have his quill back, but he did complete the task. Only Peter and Remus were unable to and as such, they were held after class.

"Both of you have disappointed me I'm assigning you 500 words on the technique…" Remus didn't hear the rest his ears were ringing with anger. It wasn't fair! Any other day and he could have done it. He'd like to see James do any magic when his whole body was fighting against him and his head felt like someone had hit it repeatedly with a hammer!

"Mr. Lupin!" He blinked back the rage and saw Mrs. McGonagall peering at him intently, Peter too.

"I said you look unwell and you should go to the hospital wing."

"But…."

"I insist!" She responded coolly. "Mr. Pettigrew will take you there won't you?"

"Sure come on Remus!" Peter said dragging him out of the class happy to get away from Professor McGonagall and, it seemed, to be skipping potions.

Remus was considerably less thrilled. Of course, if he was honest he couldn't find it in himself to be upset about missing Potions, as he had been vaguely worried the class might kill him today. But the shame of having to go to the hospital wing earlier than planned was bothering him, and Peter who talked the whole time he led him there was agonizing.

"Well, I'm here so…"

"Don't worry I'll go in with you. Besides I haven't finished telling you how James gave Filch's cat Mr. Hoalluce a mustache."

"Peter I don't care!" He snapped finally, after lasting this long, losing it at the last second.

Peter's face went quite pink and he looked really put out.

"Oh."

"Peter I'm sorry I just…..my head is hurting really bad. I really don't feel well." He admitted even though he hated doing so. This did seem to make up for shouting at his roommate for Peter nodded and gave him an encouraging pat on the back.

"Don't worry Madame Pomfrey will fix you up in time for supper." Remus almost said he doubted that but thought better of it, because it would seem awfully strange if he even hinted he might be in the hospital wing longer.

So instead he gave Peter the best tense smile he could manage, hoping Peter figured he looked nervous at the prospect of meeting the Matron rather than anything else.

"Well see you at dinner mate."

"See you Peter…...and um….maybe you could finish your story when I feel better?" Peter beamed at him.

"Sure thing!" Glad he at least managed not to hurt Peter's feelings Remus entered the hospital wing feeling heavy.

Chapter Text

Chapter Sixteen: Howls and Hospital Visit

"Darling right over here." It hadn't occurred to him the hospital wing might not be empty but Madame Pomfrey quickly and calmly escorted him to the private room in the back that would be "his" when he needed it. He swallowed down the panic that had risen in him seeing two students in the cots, but Madame Pomfrey insisted neither of them noticed and she hadn't said his name just to sure. Her extra measures touched him deeply. She even had a tub set aside that she warmed with a flick of her wand and poured in a potion that would help with the soreness.

After he assured her he just felt a little sick and he could undress she gave him the privacy he needed to get into the tub which he found to be a huge relief on his aching joints. He hadn't realized he passed out until Madame Pomfrey gently shook him attempting to pull him out of the tub. He was very drowsy, but he quickly realized the situation and shifted face going red.

"Oh, none of that I've seen it all before dear." She tsked at him in her brisk air of normalcy that normally relaxed him.

He shook his head glad the bubbles were covering the heinous scars that covered his body. He knew she'd be seeing them tomorrow morning but he wanted to prevent that as long as possible. After a few more hearty tugs she gave up with a sigh.

"Have it your way then darling." She sounded more exasperated than angry but he still felt bad as she left. It took him a comically long time to dry himself off and get dressed into some old clothes wobbling dangerously close to passing out all the while. At last, he finished and set to the next ridiculously challenging task of making it onto the bed.

A few very long minutes later he managed to do so and shivered, teeth chattering loudly, as he pulled a blanket up to his neck, hating that the trousers and shirt didn't cover nearly as much of him as he typical liked and was used to. Still, he wouldn't complain about the clothes 'stolen' from the lost and found, not unless he could provide his own robes every month. An unlikely task with not a knut to his name, as he knew the risk they would get ruined was too great.

He tried to stay awake as long as he could but that wasn't very long. The physical strain of the pre-stages of transformation, that got his body as ready as possible for the grueling night, coupled with the stress about it all left him bone tired. So he shouldn't have been surprised he slept for hours, but Madame Pomfrey waking him up with a gentle "its time dear" sent him into a full-blown panic. His heart hammered loudly as he leaped from his bed and he hardly registered the sharp intake of breath that came from Madame Pomfrey seeing some of his scars.

He was turning this way and that wildly checking for, he wasn't entirely sure what, that he hadn't hurt anyone he supposed.

"Madame Pomfrey what time is it?" His small voice betrayed his fear. What if she got the time wrong and he was going to transform in the castle and kill people. He felt tears dangerously close to falling.

"Remus calm down there's still a whole hour before the full moon." She soothed, rubbing circles onto his back as she instructed him to breathe. He coughed and coughed his chest painfully tight but eventually, he calmed down enough and the panic attack faded away.

"There's a good lad. I didn't want to wake you since you seemed to need the sleep. But would you like anything to eat or drink before we head out dear?" He shook his head finding it impossible to speak right now, some of the fear refusing to leave. It was enough to keep him choked up and he forced himself to focus on Madam Pomfrey's calming voice as she ran through other things he might want or need beforehand. It dawned on him after she suggested taking a blanket with him twice, that despite how unshakingly calm she appeared to be the matron was quite stressed.

"It….it will be ok Madame." He reassured her both for her sake and his. Her eyes turned to him and she looked close to tears as she smiled.

"Of course it will dear." That seemed to settle it then. All too soon he was wrapping the blanket, having realized his scars were visible, tight around him and they were walking out onto the grounds bathed in the warm golden light of a nearly completed sunset. They reached the whomping willow with nearly 40 minutes to spare but after she showed him the trick to stop the branches and showed him around the little shack there were only 30 minutes left.

"Any questions dear?"

"No, but you really ought to leave I...I…"

"I know you like to have plenty of time but are you sure this much is necessary? It's a long time to be all alone with no distractions."

"It's necessary ma'am." He assured her quickly feeling extremely panicked as she was still in the shed. She frowned slightly but he was too anxious to tell if she was upset at him or for him.

"Yes….well...I'll be leaving then." He nodded and before he could stop her she pulled him into a brisk hug that he realized after the fact they both must have needed.

"Good luck darling."

"Thank you." He whispered hoarsely his eyes darting around the shed not wanting to meet her kind gaze. Then she was gone and he was all alone in the little shack.

He spent some time walking around having been too stressed to pay attention to half of what Madame Pomfrey was showing him. He was surprised by how big it was and how attentively someone had gone through making sure there were no sharp edges or sharp utensils the wolf might maim itself on. Still despite all of this Remus found himself dreading morning unsure if this much space would make things better or much worse for the wolf. Two stories complete with a boarded off bathroom and kitchen hardly seemed necessary. Though he was mostly worried about the prospect of the stairs.

The whole shack seemed so flimsy, but Dumbledore had assured him even ten fully grown werewolves wouldn't be able to get out once the door was sealed. He checked to make sure it was and finally let out the breath he had been choking on.

He paced but as the minutes went by so did the increase of pain. Madame Pomfrey had offered him something for the pain, but he knew from experience drugging the wolf didn't go well, and he was so used to the pain after almost six years that it hardly seemed worth the supplies.

Finally, he succumbed to the pain and took off his clothes placing them in a drawer the wolf hopefully wouldn't be able to open, before curling on the ground tossing around shamelessly in an attempt to ease the discomfort and agony coursing through him. Thinking no one could hear him he groaned then screamed in pain his bones twisting and breaking until his screams turned into half screams half howls and then his night turned into blurs of rage and blood.

. . .

He was first aware of the pain, that was always the first thing to greet him when he became aware he was a boy again. He habitually ran through his self checklist to assess himself but found himself too unfocused too. Normally he felt more aware and for one second he was afraid Madame Pomfrey had drugged him against his will somehow. Then the truth sunk in, the wolf hadn't slept at all last night.

Instead, the wolf had preoccupied itself by repeatedly bashing its head against something and Remus no doubt was suffering from a concussion now. So last night had been worse than when he was at home.

"Seems like nothing will do any good in approving the wolfs' attempts to maul me," he thought bitterly. Of course, he had expected this, it was his first transformation from home in five years.

Next to return was his smell which was overwhelmed with the smell of copper and something else nearly equally unpleasant. Remus felt his face go red, the wolf had wasted no time in marking his territory, and he felt like such a monster, such an animal because of it. He didn't want Madame Pomfrey to come to see him like this, covered in urine and blood. He groaned and though he knew it was foolish, he tried with all his might to sit up.

Pain exploded across his abdomen, so sharp and intense he passed out into the blissful nothingness that he normally fought so hard against.

"Shh, it's alright dear. It's just me and I'm just patching you up as much as possible before taking you back to the castle." He realized he had been making painful mewling sounds and he abruptly stopped once more feeling more animal than boy. He wanted to talk wanted to at least open his eyes but his throat was dry and burning, and his eyes were forced shut by the dried blood covering them.

"I'm not sure if you are conscious but you scratched your leg and bit into your abdomen so I'm going to get those wounds closed up before you bleed out." Her matter of fact narration was almost comical, it sounded as if she was treating a bloody nose or resetting a simple broken bone.

He knew Madame Pomfrey had not worked with werewolves before and she had never seen anything like this. However, already she was already doing better than the St. Mungo's staff and he found her running commentary of what she was doing helped him feel more in control and less panicked about hands touching him all over. She had also already covered him with a light sheet and she neither sounded disgusted nor angry.

It filled him with so much relief tears ran down his cheeks and once she had closed his two largest wounds she wiped them away with a wet cloth and cleaned up his face so he could see. He liked having the option to open his eyes but he chose not to, preferring to squeeze them shut with pain refusing to complain as she conjured a stretcher and did her best to get him to the hospital wing without any jostling.

He would not complain, not about her treatment of him, not ever for he was so grateful there were truly no words.

Not only was she kind but also overwhelmingly talented and after a mere half hour her pain concoction was already helping. He still spent all day recovering and while he had suffered some intense injuries that would normally end him up at St. Mungo's, he was honestly feeling better by the end of the night than he ever would have at the hospital or the hands of his father.

….

"Madame Pomfrey I think I can go to classes now." He had attempted after a rather good night of dreamless sleep. She shot him a withering look and shook her head.

"Not another word out of you young man. I keep quidditch players in the wing for a whole week for the type of injuries you received last night." He must have looked horrified for she quickly continued though sounded displeased by what she was saying.

"While I am aware that such...thoroughness is not practical for your situation I'll have you know that I've talked at great lengths with Dumbledore and he is in agreement that unless I say so you will be spending at least two days recovering. Your school work can be made up your life cannot." She scolded gently.

"Two days? Two whole days! Madame Pomfrey you can't...I can't! My classes..my classmates!"

"Are young children and I assure you that they won't give your absences any thought. Your professors have not been told the reason but have been made aware that your absences are excused and are willing to work with you. So goodness child enough fretting or you'll be here for three days. That's right don't think I won't! Lay back down, that's a good lad." Remus had almost broken his promise not to complain about Madam Pomfrey's treatment. But his manners and good sense kicked back in and he laid back obediently and didn't fight her, though part of him really wanted to, as she dosed him with several more medications.

"You just rest and get better dear." She said kindly tucking him back in with a maternal love he had all but forgotten. It didn't take long for the potions to make him feel warm and fuzzy, both dulling his pain and pulling him into a deep dreamless sleep once more.

When he woke up next it was either very late or very early. His head felt heavy and his body ached, though dully. He sat up suddenly, fighting back a yelp, realizing he could hear two voices from the matron's personal offices next to his room. She must not be used to having patients so close to her office that she had to keep her voice down or she thought he was still asleep because she spoke in her normal rather loud authoritative volume. What really surprised Remus was that she was talking this way to the Headmaster of all people.

"Poppy you can't keep him as long as you like. I understand you want him better but I assure you he is an extraordinarily strong and resilient boy who will be alright to go back to classes tomorrow if the worst of his injuries are healed."

"Albus you don't understand! You didn't see! I've never seen such things…..that poor boy Albus! Every month!" She sounded so distressed and Remus felt bad for her, he'd be more careful to hide his pain from her in the future. But surely she wasn't going to keep him another day?

He still felt bad but back at home he would have been itching to leave St. Mungo's and even though his treatment had been unbelievably better at Madam Pomfrey's hands he was still itching to leave. He hated being confined for too long, it reminded him of before and he didn't like being reminded of that dark time.

"You are right Poppy I haven't seen but I remain firm in my belief you need to let him go to classes tomorrow. We must do everything we can to give him a chance at a normal education. I'm afraid my dear that includes letting him attend classes and more likely than not letting him push himself too hard as all bright and dedicated young minds are bound to do." Albus sounded grave but there was the smallest hint of amusement towards the Matrons protectiveness that kept her speaking to him in the same, somewhat harsh, tone as before.

"Honestly Albus! Other boys pushing themselves don't have such dire consequences. If he's not careful he could end up back here for much longer than a few days!" She huffed unmistakenly irritated with the headmaster.

"A fact that Remus knows Poppy. I know you've seen him in a most vulnerable state but I assure you there's a very mature young man behind the suffering." Remus felt very warm from Dumbledore's praise and quite guilty that he couldn't just be a 'normal boy' for their convenience.

"I know that!" She snapped but she must have been given one of Dumbledore's kind but stern looks for she quieted down.

"But….but it's so unfair! It's heartbreaking Albus he shouldn't have to make such sacrifices."

"I know Poppy. I know but we owe it to him to let him be a normal student." There was no amusement in Dumbledore's voice this time only a sad seriousness that increased Remus' guilt. He was causing them so much trouble. But no matter where he went trouble went with him.

He heard Dumbledore say something he couldn't quite catch then he heard footsteps and quickly laid back down pretending to be asleep.

"Remus darling are you awake?" he said nothing hoping if they thought he was asleep they wouldn't be bothered with him anymore.

"Mr. Lupin? Well, I suppose I shall wait longer." Remus wondered if Dumbledore was manipulating him and was playing on the guilt Remus felt at bothering them. He didn't want to make Dumbledore wait longer and wondered if the headmaster knew this and he was using it to get Remus to admit he was awake. Remus should have been offended but he just felt guilty, possibly playing straight into Dumbledore's hand.

"I'm awake sir."

"Quite wonderful timing Remus. I'm afraid the duties of headmaster can sometimes keep me from more important ones and I apologize I was not able to escort you last night as I had intended." Remus was shocked since he hadn't even known Dumbledore was planning such a thing.

"That…..you didn't have to…" He mumbled weakly at a complete loss for words. As Dumbledore came closer he noticed with a pang his eyes were watery but when he spoke the headmaster's voice was calm and steady.

"Quite right. Madame Pomfrey is capable and trusted and I didn't have to but I wanted to. Ah but alas we can't dwell on the could have been or we'd go mad. The past is a dangerous place to dwell for anyone as it's often filled with many missteps. I much prefer to look towards the future which is filled with unmeasurable hope. Wouldn't you agree?" He wasn't sure he did agree but he didn't want to admit that. He nodded no longer meeting the Headmaster's eyes.

"Let us look towards the future, a happy future filled with the lemon sorbets I will partake in back in my office. Or the classes you will attend with what is quite the reputation of astuteness." Dumbledore chuckled. "I daresay you could give Miss Evans a run for her money on a good day." Once more he felt embarrassed and small under Dumbledore's praise.

Luckily he didn't have to come up with a response because Madame Pomfrey who had gone to check on other patients came back and with tsks of disapproval shooed the headmaster out.

"If he's going to go to classes tomorrow he needs to sleep the rest of the night." Dumbledore didn't protest and winked at Remus before he left.

"Lemon sorbets here I come." Remus covered his mouth to stifle his painful laughter. Somehow the quirky headmaster never failed to either calm him down or cheer him up. His respect and awe of the headmaster had truly turned into a comfortable familiarity he only had with those he trusted. Somehow Professor Dumbledore had become one of those people quicker than most.

"Oh quit smiling like a fool. Back to bed with you." Madam Pomfrey chided but Remus saw she was smiling fondly at him. He obediently took the potion and laid back down. His aches soon let up but he found it much harder to go back to sleep, until after hours of tossing and turning and trying not to fret he finally drifted off.

Chapter Text

Chapter Seventeen: Balance and Black's Wish

It took lots of promising to be careful and take things slow to Madam Pomfrey before she begrudgingly admitted he could go to his Friday classes considering it was a shorter day than the other school days. He was about to leave still a little sore but otherwise fine when Madam Pomfrey stopped him abruptly.

"Oh, Remus darling I almost forgot! You're little friends came and asked about you. Peter, James, and Sirius and I weren't sure what your excuse was so I didn't tell them anything." he was extremely grateful for her foresight though dreaded having to face his roommates eventually.

"Thank you for telling me Madam Pomfrey."

"Of course I just didn't want you to be caught off guard. Have a good day Remus and for Helga's sake Be Careful!"

He headed straight for the Great Hall feeling famished only eating a little soup that Madam Pomfrey practically forced down his throat days ago, before realizing the severity of his nausea that usually lasted a few days after the full moon. But now out of the clear, he heaped food onto his plate glad he was the first Gryffindor at the table and ate it as quickly as he could without wolfishly devouring it.

By the time his fellow Gryffindors were entering the Great Hall he had finished half of his massive plate of food and was now able to eat at a more dignified pace. He expected his roommates to question him first but instead found Dorcas and Lily making a b-line for him. He took a deep breath rehearsing in his mind his lie and waited for the interrogation.

"Remus you look dreadful!" Lily said aghast sitting at the usual spot across from him Dorcas close behind.

"Good morning to you to Lily." He responded trying to copy some of Dumbledore's general good humor about everything. She looked surprised but returned his smile going a little pink.

"Well, I only mean….I mean you just look very sick. I knew you must be to miss two whole days!" She whispered horrified as if Remus might as well have killed someone while missing that much class. He winced wondering how this would pan out after months of the same thing.

"I was sick. I had the flu but I'm in the clear now." He offered her a small smile but she didn't return it this time.

"But normally potions can clear up the flu, in no more than a day!"

"I have a particularly weak immune system and it was a particularly bad case. But I'm alright now Lily you don't need to look like that. I'm fine really I am."

Unhelpfully his roommates chose this time to spot him and rush up to him full of concern and worry.

"He lives!"

"Goodness Remus where were you? You look like death." Remus thought they were all over exaggerating. He hadn't really looked in a mirror yet but he felt fine so he couldn't imagine he looked that bad.

"Hello to you to Sirius, James." He tried his best to ignore them, then let out a yelp as Peter clutched his shoulder tight enough to hurt.

"I…..I thought you died! Remus, we went to check up on you but you weren't there!" Peter whined looking petrified. He realized with a jolt all three of his roommates had bags under their eyes as if they had been up the past two nights worrying.

"I'm sorry I worried you. I was contagious and Madam Pomfrey doesn't talk about any of her patients she's quite adamant on that. I'm fine though."

"You don't bloody look it mate." Pointed out James who ignored Lily's look of irritation and sat down next to him. Without warning, James leaned closer to Remus and put a hand to his forehead looking thoughtful.

"Well, you don't have a fever so I guess you are ok."

"That is what I said."

"As if we'd trust your opinion of your health." Scoffed Sirius who sounded nonchalant but Remus suspected he had been the one most stressed, and no doubt working the other two into a frenzy. He hoped Sirius hadn't voiced what he thought he knew about Remus' past to the other two. But when he tried to catch Sirius' eye he found the taller boy was pretending to be fascinated with his shoes which increased Remus' worry and suspicion considerably.

"Potter we were talking to Remus first! You can't just stroll up and steal him away." Lily finally pointed out with as much calm as she could muster. Dorcas actually was calm and seemed to be overseeing them all with the detached air of one who avoided drama any chance she got.

For this was surely going to turn into a dramatic battle between the two strong-willed children. James had a rather smug look on his face and he put a hand on Remus' shoulder and he knew what was coming next.

"Sure can! Come on Remus!" Then he was being unceremoniously dragged away from an irate looking Lily. Remus attempted to protest but it fell on deaf ears. Sirius looked as smug as James and Peter looked relieved to be leaving the scary creatures that were girls.

"Stupefy!" James went still stunned if not unconscious. Remus was impressed Lily could manage such a spell this well with a mere month of schooling under her belt.

It didn't last long as they were only first years after all. James rounded on his heels nearly shoving Remus down whose arm he had hooked in his own. He pointed at Lily and spluttered at her shocked and undoubtedly impressed.

"Y…..y….you stunned me!" Sirius looked less impressed and more irritated, looking this way and that for a teacher to come and give the blushing girl detention.

"I suppose I did." She sniffed sounding very defensive. Dorcas had set down her book and was looking much more interested now. She thumped Lily's back in a friendly yet jarring way Remus could sympathize with. Lily nearly buckled from the force of it but Dorcas seemed to have given her courage and she stopped looking like she might be expelled at any minute.

"Well, you deserved it, Potter! You are insufferable!" Before James could say anything or even worse whip out his own wand Remus used their linked arms to his advantage and dragged a baffled and slowly angering James away from an increasingly smug looking Lily.

He hoped she realized he was trying to prevent a battle and not attempting to avoid her. Besides even if he'd rather avoid everyone he'd pick dealing with Lily over dealing with his roommates any day.

However, he didn't get to pick today and once he had dragged James to the end of the long Gryffindor table he finally seemed to realize what happened and rounded back on Lily angrily.

"James!" *he cried exasperated the boy shoving and fighting against his restraint.

"I have to restore my honor!" He shouted dramatically. Sirius burst into laughter sitting down at the table.

"What honor?" Peter tried not to laugh at Sirius' sass and sat down across the table. James shot Sirius a glare but the boy merely grinned in response. At least he had gotten James to quit struggling, Remus was pretty sure this was the exact opposite of taking it easy.

"Come on James the food is getting cold." Prompted Peter who was at least trying to help.

"Yeah if you keep fighting you might send the kid back to the medical ward." Sirius teased which seemed to make James realize who he had been fighting against. He immediately stopped struggling and apologized, calm enough now for Remus to let him go.

He felt dizzy and sore but he wasn't about to let them know that.

"I'm going to go sit with Lily again."

"No no you have to sit with us!" James responded quickly.

"Why?" He hadn't meant to sound so bitter but he was irritated his rambunctious roommates were making him break his Promise to Madam Pomfrey.

James looked taken aback and Sirius turned around also looking taken aback, watching Remus carefully.

"Well, I mean...we wanted to talk to you," James explained with uncharacteristic bashfulness. Remus felt bad about snapping at him but couldn't bring himself to apologize, not when his roommates had snatched him away from his only friendly acquaintance he had.

"Come on Remus sit with us. It feels like it's been ages since we saw you." Remus glances at the bags under their eyes and despite himself, he sat down.

"There you go was that so hard." Scoffed Sirius already digging into his food. Remus felt weird sitting right next to him, and even worse when James sat down effectively sandwiching him between the two. He tried not to squirm feeling trapped and forced himself to nibble on some toast no longer feeling hungry.

"So what was it you said you were sick with Remus?"

"I was just telling Lily I had a bad bout of the flu." He explained calmly. They asked him questions about symptoms and how many hours he was sick and even what his temperature was clearly trying to trip him up. They didn't believe him and were definitely suspicious which filled Remus was dread. It was only month one and they were already onto him. So he made a big deal of sniffling and coughing which got James and Sirius to move away, and hopefully believe he was sick.

After breakfast classes went smoothly and his roommates didn't interrogate him again. In fact, things fell into a rather nice rhythm. There was a friendly cordiality between Remus and his roommates and for whatever reason, even Sirius seemed to back off him. He sometimes got the impression that Sirius was lulling him into a false sense of security.

But for now, they seemed content for Remus to play a few games of gobstones, which he always lost and chess which he pretended to lose.

Other than them he interacted only with Lily, and occasionally Dorcas, who was friendly and chatty, and Severus who seemed awfully jealous of Remus and would glare at him almost constantly. When James and Sirius had detention, which was often, Remus helped Peter with homework and quite enjoyed interacting with him casually.

Remus kept on track with his studies, successfully didn't worry about his father, and unsuccessfully tried not to think about his father's and uncle's betrayal. Lastly, he kept as far away from the pranks and drama James and Sirius were beginning to get a reputation for,...until Sirius birthday.

…..

The end of October brought Halloween and festivities he was forced to miss due to the full moon falling a few nights before. It was just as bad as last time, though he still thought Madam Pomfrey kept him longer than he felt was necessary. At least he only missed Friday classes, getting to heal over the weekend. Still, he knew he'd have to earn her trust and succeed in being the perfect little patient in order to leave when he wanted to.

Even though he desperately wanted to leave the hospital wing before the matron deemed acceptable, once more he didn't complain once and treated her with the detached politeness he treated all people with. She seemed quite fond of him and oftentimes Remus wished he could be closer to her, her maternal love and kindness something he missed deeply. But he forced himself to keep his distance not wanting to bother her more than necessary.

Of course once more after the full moon, he was drilled by his roommates again. He knew he couldn't feign alternating illnesses every month but considering ten students came down with a terrible cold he figured he was safe. Once more his roommates had come to visit him only not to be allowed to.

They were very suspicious as to why he wasn't in the main ward but dropped it after he teased dryly that he had connections high up. He felt after a few months he had found the perfect balance between sarcastic humor that his roommates found witty and amusing, and avoiding them altogether.

Such avoidance became a necessary tact as James and Peter tried to pull him into some epic plan for Sirius twelfth birthday. He would be the first boy to turn twelve in their year and he was becoming more insufferable the closer his birthday got, lording his superior age over the other first years.

Then came the big day.

Remus was woken with shrieks of laughter as Sirius woke to confetti busting all over him from a charmed piñata floating above him. This energy left Sirius briefly when he opened his parent's gift, a lovely dress robe with a note saying he was required to come home for Christmas due to a distant relatives wedding. But after the presents he got from his friends, Remus was firmly not one of them, he was his usual cheerful slightly obnoxious self once more.

Sirius and Remus had not been alone since the rather disastrous empty classrooms fiasco. Sirius had not once asked about his family again, seemingly content though Remus often felt his eyes on him. Remus didn't ask Sirius about his family, though he paid close attention to the boy's reactions after he received letters from home. Things were going pretty well between them until James and Peter left them alone with no explanation.

Suddenly wishing he had been in on the plans to avoid this he busied himself with getting his supplies for the day ready. When the awkward silence became unbearable Remus stood up and faced Sirius who had been watching him intensely, his eyes practically boring a hole into Remus' back.

"Happy Birthday."

"Thanks." Silence followed and Remus wondered why this wasn't bothering Sirius as much as it bothered him, for if he was bothered by the silence he hid it exceptionally well.

"So….you're 12 now?"

"I was at 3 am."

"What?"

"My birth. Was at 3 am. My mother will never cease to complain about it. I came a week early and ruined a gala she wanted to attend." He smiled at this as if considering it a win over his mother.

"It's not like you could have controlled when you were born!"

"Right!" Sirius scoffed and the tension seemed to lessen some.

"Believe me if I got a choice I would have ruined something far more important than a boring old gala."

"Perhaps a promotion of some relative. Your family seems to care about their reputation a lot." Sirius laughed looking delighted.

"A promotion! Such a wonderful idea I'll be sure to ruin the next one! You're bloody brilliantly Lupin! Oh, bloody hell sorry." His amusement at whatever bad idea Remus had accidentally given him faded abruptly as he realized he broke his promise. It might have been an issue if Remus was actually bothered by his last name, but other than the ironic meaning, he had no real qualms with it.

"It's alright." He said quickly which brought about Sirius' piercing displeased gaze and the awkwardness once more.

"We talked about this Remus it's not ok."

"Well….it's your birthday so you get a free pass." A rather sly look had entered Sirius' eyes but Remus was too nervous to take note of it.

"Oh, I do do I?"

"Yes, I shall graciously grant you one."

"What about a birthday wish?"

"Ask James for one of those." Remus was beginning to realize where this was going and he was desperate to avoid it.

"No, I'm pretty sure I get one pass and one wish."

"Well I'm lame and you only get a pass."

"But you didn't even get me a gift."

"Only friends get each other gifts."

"Which you keep reminding me we aren't."

"That's correct."

Sirius looked thoughtful for a minute a slight pout on his face.

"So we are what exactly?"

"Acquaintances."

"That gets me nothing?"

"No that gives you a pass and a happy birthday." Remus pointed out dryly. Sirius grinned amused despite not wanting to be.

"You're awfully stingy."

"Extremely stingy." He agreed unsure whether to laugh or cry.

"I suppose I should be grateful I even got the pass."

"I reckon it's the best present you'll receive all day." Sirius laughed and Remus bit back a smile.

"You're doing it again," Sirius smirked invading Remus' personal space and poking his forehead.

"...P….pardon?" Remus tried to take a step back but again Sirius had somehow cornered him. If he moved an inch he'd fall back onto his bed in a surely undignified manner. Remus wanted to avoid that again and he knew if he gave Sirius an inch he'd take a mile. So he squared his shoulders and put his best poker face on, feigning indifference.

Sirius took a step back cocking his head and looking him over like he was a particularly hard puzzle Sirius occasionally liked to torture himself with.

"I'll tell you if you give me a wish."

"You're assuming I care."

"No. I know you care." Sirius was smirking again and it made Remus' inside squirm. What had the twelve-year-old figured out? What was he unconsciously doing and what did this tell Sirius?

"Your poker face is slipping." Sirius teased looking delighted. He had once again wound Remus around without him realizing it. Once more got the best of Remus and placed him in a position where he'd have to retreat.

Sirius always seemed to come out on top with their interactions and Remus didn't like it. He hated losing when it mattered, it was different if he purposely lost, but being caught off guard was something he was not ok with.

"Fine, I'll give you a wish." Sirius looked triumphant and Remus kept his face neutral, he wasn't going to lose to the older boy again.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eighteen: A Black Birthday

"You stop yourself from having fun, from enjoying things. Because you want to be my friend desperately and you know it." Remus feigned amusement, he could play this game. He had been taking notes from James and Sirius' interactions and he was able to mimic their banter quite well now.

"Aren't you rather full of yourself."

"I'm the birthday boy I get to be! And I get a wish!"

"Do you now?" Remus was trying very hard not to smile now and the confusion on Sirius's face made it impossible.

"What? Why are you smiling like that? Remus tell meeeee." Sirius whined using his obnoxiousness to hide his uncomfortableness. Remus quite liked having the upper hand, it made him bold and perhaps a bit foolish.

"Tell you what?" He teased feigning innocence.

"This isn't fair. You can't tease me I'm the birthday boy!"

"So you've mentioned."

"That means you have to be nice to me." Remus almost laughed, once more he found himself enjoying his interactions with Sirius no matter how hard he tried not to.

"I don't remember agreeing to that."

"But you agreed to give me a wish!"

"So your wish is that I will be nice to you today?"

"Yes! Wait, no...no no no."

"Too late."

"Wait no that's not fair."

"Alright fine. What's your wish?." Sirius looked triumphant and pointed at Remus joyfully.

"You have to be my friend!" Remus wasn't surprised by the wish, he had in fact been expecting it. Part of him wanted to simply give in and agree. But even if he decided to have friends was ok, which he hadn't, he was too stubborn to let Sirius win.

"I will take that into account for next year."

"Hah!….wait...what?"

"I did say I'd grant you a birthday wish but I didn't say when." Sirius' eyes bugged as his face flushed and he looked livid, unused to being the one a step behind. Then he seemed to calm down quickly and just looked begrudgingly impressed.

"Well, bloody hell. Every time I think I have you pegged Remus you go and do something unexpected." Remus flashed him a smile because he knew this is what was expected, he had won, had skilfully avoided becoming Sirius friend. So why did he feel so miserable about it?

"Haaaaaaappy Birthday to you~!" Sang James and Peter entering with a large cake that needed to be held by both of them. It looked magnificent covered in chocolate frosting with clumps of strawberries on top and neat handwriting saying 'Happy Birthday!'

"Haha wow, this is massive! How did you go undetected?"

"With a little bit of help." Then someone Remus didn't know stepped around the door. She was much older than them and had honey brown hair that was styled in a pixie cut. Her eyes matched her hair perfectly and they were crinkled with happiness.

"Drommie!" Sirius rushed to her and hugged her looking like a small kid. She laughed and tugged him off her ruffling his hair fondly.

"I know we haven't gotten to talk much but I figured I ought to do something for your birthday."

"You made this then! Bloody brilliantly you're a fantastic baker!"

"Well, I should think so after the hours my mum made me slave away in front of a stove. Never understood why the House-elves couldn't do it but she said a proper lady must have a proper hobby."

"And you were rubbish at all the other ones." Sirius finished clearly having heard this before.

"Watch yourself cheeky." She flicked his nose but grinned good-naturedly at her cousin. For Remus now understood she was Andromeda the one cousin Sirius seemed to actually like, but who had been kept away from him at all cost because of her older sister Bellatrix.

But Sirius and Andromeda had hung out while Bellatrix was actually suspended, a rather rare punishment at Hogwarts, for what she did to Sirius. She had been cooped up in the Slytherin dungeons on house arrest unless she was serving her multiple detentions with multiple professors that lasted all day while other students were in class. Sirius had deemed the punishment fitting, especially when he heard she had fallen in the mud during five-hour detention with Hagrid.

"Will you be staying long?"

"I'm afraid I can't. I told Bella I was looking over an exam with Professor Flitwick." Sirius deflated his excited eyes dulling into a painful disappointment.

"Don't look at me like that Sirius. I'm trying I really am it's just hard with how our family is. But cheer up I got you a present. But you must promise me not to use it on my sisters. I mean it." She scolded for Sirius had broken into a rather wicked grin at the mention.

"Oh, I'll be a perfect angel Drommie. What is it?" she scoffed not believing him for a second. However, she must have made peace with the fact her sisters may be targets since she handed Sirius what turned out to be several fanged frisbees.

"Oh, it's brilliant Drommie." Sirius' cousin smiled and ruffled his hair wishing him happy birthday, then left quickly.

James who had set down the massive cake with Peter's help was now hanging off Sirius' elbow.

"We ought to use those banned beauties immediately."

"Hands off Potter they are mine. And worry not we will keep these safe until the perfect occasion arrives." Both James and Sirius had rather evil glints in their eyes, looking wild with excitement. Remus rolled his eyes but knowing he wouldn't be the victim made it easier to enjoy their antics. After all Sirius and James made a point of only harassing those who deserved it, or more accurately who they thought deserved it.

More often than not this was Severus and the group of Slytherins who seemed to have accepted him conditionally. Remus knew repercussions would be coming based off of how boastful James and Sirius always were about their antics against the Slytherins. But neither of his roommates seemed to care, in fact, only Peter seemed to share his worries.

Sirius' birthday fell on a Friday which meant that classes were shorter so Remus' roommates had the afternoon to celebrate. Apparently, they had planned quite the party because when Remus entered the common room it was overflowing with students and music was blaring as enchanted trays floated around with drinks and food.

How they had managed this Remus couldn't begin to understand. He saw Sirius on top of a table downing pumpkin juice with a speed that would surely get him in trouble when he was allowed to drink alcohol. Sirius was soaking up the attention as somehow he and James had earned the respect of several older students.

In fact the whole Quidditch team was celebrating, probably because they were quite familiar with James and Sirius who hounded the practices and who were the loudest fans at games. Of course, Remus had never been but it was one of the many stories Peter had recanted to Remus, whether he wanted to hear them or not.

Resigning himself to an afternoon spent alone in the library, for even Lily was enjoying herself with her roommates, he slipped away before he could be noticed. He made his way into the solitude that was both comforting and terribly lonely.

"Where's Lily?" Remus looked up about fifteen minutes later to find Severus glowering at him as if he was the reason Lily wasn't here.

"At Sirius' birthday party." Severus' already unfriendly expression got even more unpleasant. Even though Remus wanted him to leave he gestured to the chair across from him.

"Would you like to study with me?" Severus looked surprised then seemed disgusted. Remus was sure he'd leave but instead, he sat down pulling out a book and disappearing behind it.

Remus was in no hurry to break the silence and they studied for a while, a rather tense atmosphere between them. Quite suddenly Severus slammed his book down startling Remus badly.

"Sorry." He said cooly, sounding anything but. He was staring at him as if he wanted Remus to burst into flames and it made him even more uncomfortable. But he held Severus gaze warily, unsure what the angry looking boy was thinking.

"Why do you always hang out with us? Why can't you hang out with your own friends?" Severus snapped glowering at Remus. He knew no matter what his answer it wouldn't be good enough for Severus and feeling tired he responded truthfully, if not a bit coldly himself.

"I have no friends." He wasn't expecting much of a reaction but Severus leaped out of his seat as if he'd been burned and Remus turned this way and that wildly looking for James or Sirius. However, he saw no one that could have attempted to hex or hexed Severus.

They were the only two in the library at the moment. He turned back around confused and found Severus pointing at him spluttering, his usually narrowed eyes wide as saucers which somehow made him appear a bit more childlike and therefore slightly more pleasant.

"You…...you….you….."

"What's wrong? What did I do?" He asked nervously replaying every interaction he'd ever had with Severus through his mind. He was sure he had never done anything to Severus and he had never said anything to make Severus suspect his secrets, so it puzzled him why he was being looked at as if he had grown horns.

"You….you really don't know?" The wide-eyed boy asked suspiciously and Remus shook his head sincerely baffled. Severus stared at him for a moment then seemed to collect himself and sat back down.

"Why don't you have any friends?" He asked his tone closer to indifference than disgust now, it was quite the improvement and it stunned Remus into the truth.

"I can't." He caught himself and shook his head hoping Severus wouldn't care enough to pursue it. He didn't, just shot Remus a confused and a rather calculating look then went back to studying much to his relief. A whole half hour passed the air much less tense and Remus was still baffled as to how he had seemed to gain some approval from Severus.

He was about to pack up and leave, wanting to make sure the Gryffindor Common Room wasn't on fire when Severus slammed his book on the table again.

"What about James and Sirius?" He accused angrily.

"What about them?"

"Well, they're your friends!" Remus shook his head quickly snuffling the little voice that had immediately responded 'I wish.'

"No, they aren't." There was a long silence but Severus didn't pick up his book, he seemed to be thinking through something carefully, his gaze on the table so intent it was like he was putting together a puzzle with his eyes.

"You know they are terrible bullies don't you!" Remus almost, almost came to his roommate's defenses. He thought about pointing out the fact that Severus and the group of Slytherins he belonged to were the real bullies. James and Sirius were….yes bullies, but they were bullies of the bullies which seemed a bit better.

However, he remembered the way Sirius harassed him even though he was innocent and wondered how many other suspected bullies they targeted were innocent as well. He frowned remembering Dumbledore's words on justice, even if James and Sirius didn't think it, what they were doing was wrong. He may not always attempt to stop them but he surely wasn't going to defend them.

"Yes, I know. They bullied me in the beginning I know how….cruel they can be." Severus scoffed once more all but ignoring Remus' own problem, preferring to complain about his own.

"That's nothing they were practically playing with you. Like a boy pulling a girls pigtail." He laughed quite cruelly at this seeming very amused by something Remus didn't really get. He supposed he ought to be offended that Severus referred to him as a girl but the expression was so foreign to him he just felt bewildered.

"Me on the other hand. I've been in the medical ward twice because of them. They cursed me and they are so dumb the curse didn't really work as intended! But I still ended up with welts in the hospital wing!" Severus shouted absolutely outraged. He was on his feet eyes blazing with an intense hatred that reminded Remus of his uncle. He flinched hoping Severus would calm down.

"I'm sorry."

"Are you? Yeah right! What do you do about it?"

"I've tried to stop it." Remus realized this wasn't exactly true but it seemed like the necessary thing to say and it shut Severus up which was quite nice.

"You have?" Severus asked in a small voice that seemed really familiar but Remus was too preoccupied to think of why.

"Yes, I've attempted to talk reason into them. But they don't really care about my opinion." Remus pointed out calmly, this was really stretching the truth because all he had said was "must you give Severus such a hard time." But the fact James and Sirius didn't listen nor didn't seem to care about his opinion was the truth. They had both laughed at him and what they thought had been one of his sarcastic comments rather than a real suggestion. Severus sat back down stunned and unsure.

"Oh."

"I'm sorry." He found himself repeating only sounding a little more sincere than he felt. Severus regarded him sternly, reminding Remus of a professor gazing at a particularly unliked and stupid student who passed a test and cheating was definitely suspected. Remus shifted under the scrutiny unsure why he should be the one on trial here.

But he did feel guilty, he honestly hadn't done much to divert Sirius and James attention away from the other children they bullied, he had been too relieved they weren't going after him and too nervous such persistence would result in him being a target once again. He just wanted to spend his Hogwarts days in a haze of peace and isolation. Somehow he was failing terribly at obtaining both.

Silence fell between the boys again, each lost in their own thoughts. After a long time, Severus seemed to make up his mind.

"I suppose we can study together more often then. I haven't let Lily let you study with us as much as I could." Remus was taken aback both that Severus had come to this conclusion and that his tone suggested Remus should be at his feet adoring him for bestowing such a privilege.

Remus almost said "no thank you" just to wipe the smug look off Severus' face, but with years of forced maturity, he offered a small thank you instead. Deep down he knew Severus was as insecure as him, Lily had let certain details of the boys depressing life slip more than once. But the way he went about defending himself was so….so irritating that he tested Remus' patience almost as much as his roommates did. At least he didn't have to share a room with Severus, he thanked Godric he hadn't been placed in Slytherin.

"Potter and Black will get it just you wait."

Severus muttered darkly and Remus felt a chill run up him as he realized amongst Severus' belongings was a very off-limits looking book on dark arts for beginners. Severus caught him staring at it with unveiled horror and he glowered quickly shoving the book into his bag.

"A gift from my father. You better warn Potter and Black that they are messing with the wrong wizard." Then he got up and left perhaps sensing, at last, the deep discomfort he caused Remus.

He sat there a while longer deep in thought about Severus and what sort of threat he may pose to his roommates, not that he should care so much about the nitwits but he sort of did. Thoroughly frustrated with the events of the day he shoved his books into his bag and slowly made his way through hallways searching once more for the perfect spot he could study in, free from boisterous roommates or gloomy Slytherins.

After hours of walking through the castle and grounds with no luck of finding a perfect place he gave up and headed back to the dorm hoping the party had died down. This was not the case though and when he slipped into the dorm it was still loud and full of people.

"There you are!" James rushed over to him bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet riding the sugar high like a champ. Remus remembered the last time he had so much candy he was that hyper, his mother had taken the day as a triumph while his father was disgusted he had lost control of himself. He couldn't help but smile at James, even though he felt a bit jealous at the boy's ease.

"I was studying."

"Yeah, I bet you were you party pooper!" He was taken aback by James' attention as prior to today James seemed to be fine with ignoring him. Chalking it up to the sugar rush he tried to brush him off but James grabbed his arm.

"Come on mate join in on the fun for once. Quit being such a wet blanket," goaded the hyper boy giving him a shake.

"That's ok James I'm awfully tired." He figured this would be enough but James didn't seem persuaded if anything he seemed more determined to get Remus to join in on the fun.

"None of that today, it's Sirius' birthday! He got all gloomy for awhile when you left so you have to make it up to him!" Remus tried to say he owned Sirius nothing of the sort because they weren't friends. But like usual his protests fell on deaf ears. James ignored him and dragged him over to an area where it seemed like all the first years were. All of them lounging around a very large pile of candy in between them.

Sirius sat in a fluffy armchair looking like a king on a throne. Everyone seemed to be having fun, or at least were gorging themselves on the exquisite candy.

"Well, of course, we are going to beat Hufflepuff!"

"I can't wait to learn the growing spell!"

"We better start actually flying soon! Our flying professor is so lame! It's already been two months and he won't let us do more than levitate on the broom!" Remus took in several conversations going on at once glad no one's eyes were on him. As soon as James became distracted he'd slip away, it wouldn't take very long.

But as soon as James pulled him into the group, allowing him to nervously shift away to the outside edge Sirius had noticed him and beamed delightedly he was participating. His plan to slip away died, Sirius' earnest delight to have him here proving to be an invisible chain rooting him to the spot. So he politely took the candy classmates who only vaguely recognized him past to him and listened to all the conversations calming down some.

"As my last declaration as Birthday King, I declare an epic game of truth and dare!" Sirius shouted authoritatively banging a stick that served as his scepter to quiet everyone. There were mixed reactions, some like Lily rolled their eyes and grumbled, a lot giggled nervously, most cheered loudly at the declaration egging one another on. But the one thing all of them didn't do was leave.

Remus desperately wanted to but everyone's eyes would be on him and he decided that might bring more attention to himself than if he just lied through the answers and avoided dares.

So the epic game of Gryffindor truth and dare commenced. There were boys twirling around and standing on heads, at the mercy of giggling girls. Many facts about his classmates were added to Remus' running inventory and he managed to scratch by with only one question. A ridiculous question of if he'd rather have slugs come out his nose or mouth.

All in all, Remus had begun to relax and actually found he was enjoying himself, helped along by a generous amount of delicious chocolate. He even laughed along with everyone as Sirius boldly related his most embarrassing moment of wedgieing himself on accident with his broom when he was young.

"Well, I think that concludes the night everyone. Please return to your rooms!" Remus thought the prefects had been quite generous letting them stay up this long but found their intervention had come at the perfect time since Sirius was eyeing him in a way that made Remus sure he would be next. No longer having to worry about being singled out for leaving Remus made a b line for his dorm.

His plan to avoid his roommates did not work as the three of them were still as boisterous as they had been downstairs. Remus knew he couldn't feign sleep with how loud they were being but he still tried hoping they would be too caught up in their wonderful night to bother him further.

He really ought to know better by now because a mere few seconds after they stormed in talking loudly Sirius pulled the curtains and leaped on Remus' bed with a shriek of laughter. Followed by James and Peter. Remus scrambled to sit up before they decided to dogpile on him.

"Isn't it bedtime now?"

"Bedtime he says. Sirius, it's like he doesn't know us!" Scoffed James.

"My dear friend we clearly need to fix this!" Sirius retorted grinning at Remus mischievously. He felt his insides twist as his roommates made themselves comfortable and turned off the lights so they couldn't get in trouble for staying up past hours.

"Now we can continue?"

"Continue what?" Remus whispered horrified. He flinched as Sirius put a hand on his shoulder.

"Truth and dare obviously," Sirius explained his tone making it very clear Remus wasn't getting out of this.

If only Remus hadn't pushed things with Sirius earlier that day, for he was certain, this was a revenge of some sort. They had lulled him into a false sense of security and now they were going to pressure him into being truthful. They didn't realize how much he couldn't be honest with them, what such a thing would cost him. It wasn't hard at all to picture the hatred and disgust if they ever found out what he was. He felt tears form in his eyes and he was actually glad they had blown out the lights.

"Well, we left off with Sirius right?"

"Can't we do this another day?" Remus begged, deciding it was better to be a 'wet blanket' as James called him than to be discovered as a monster.

"But we don't have classes tomorrow and our professors didn't go crazy this week with homework." Peter pointed out unhelpfully.

"I don't feel good."

"You never do." Grumbled Sirius and Remus felt a jolt of guilt that he was ruining his birthday.

"Please, I just want to go to sleep."

"Fine then answer one question, Remus," James interjected smoothly but Remus knew this wasn't really an out. He knew what the question would be. What else was there to know?

Chapter Text

Chapter Nineteen: A Dark Endless Tunnel for All

"What do you do for fun?" Remus was utterly shocked they didn't ask him about why he wasn't in the hospital wing when he was sick. But instead, James asked something so normal and unthreatening that a bubble of nervous laughter escaped him.

"That's it?" He dared to ask. "I answer that and we go to sleep." He heard a discontented sound from Sirius but he didn't verbally protest and James assured him after he answered truthfully they would all go to sleep.

"But you have to be truthful Remus. We've lived with you for months now so we'll know if you're pulling our legs." Pointed out Sirius clearly displeased. Remus sighed heavily as the question sunk in. He realized with a heavy heart his only answer was a rather pathetic sounding one but he didn't think it would surprise his roommates at all.

"Nothing." He whispered feeling the weight of the silence that followed.

"Well, that settles that then." James finally concluded the first to get off the bed.

"Settles what?" Peter asked eagerly no doubt excited for a new 'brilliant' plan of James.

"We're going to help Remus have fun."

"I told you we should do that ages ago!"

"Yes, Sirius but I didn't really get it until tonight."

"Get what?" Remus cut in quite proud of how calm he sounded.

"That you actually want to have fun. You were having a good time tonight weren't you?" Even with it being dark Remus could feel three pairs of eyes boring into him and he shifted nervously. He knew he couldn't deny it, he just didn't like this meant all three of his roommates would be on his case more.

"I…..uh….a little…"

"Oh come ON Remus!" Sirius practically shouted muffled only by James' quick thinking to cover his mouth.

"Sirius…" James began in a warning tone.

"Back off James. Remus, you've got to give us more than this!" Remus flinched once more, at the pleading in the boy's tone.

"Yes, I had a good time." He allowed himself to admit in a small voice. Sirius seemed to want to say more but James took his promise seriously and ushered the other two boys away from Remus' bed finally leaving him in peace.

Remus was right to suspect all three boys would bother him more now. What he assumed was the next morning, resulted in him being woken up at what must be at least the crack of dawn from Sirius flinging himself on top of him, singing in an obnoxiously cheerful voice.

"When it's early in the morning over by the window day in dawning when I feel the air I feel that life is very good to meeeeeeeee!" Sirius sang loudly clearly not noticing the way the boy under him had tenses badly and seemed unable to breathe.

Luckily Remus was able to bite back a strangled scream realizing pretty quickly that the person splayed out on top of him was too small to be the shadow man. Still, he did not appreciate being woken up this way, not when he was actually getting much-needed sleep. He groaned loudly and attempted to shove off the boy, sticking a hand in his face in an attempt to stop his horrible singing.

"Go away. I'm sleepy."

"Oh come on you are usually awake before any of us. Come on let's go have an adventure!"

"Sirius has lost his mind. Remus the only thing to do now is go along with it or kill him. I'll let you decide." Grumbled James sounding as tired and bitter as Remus felt about Sirius' unwanted wake-up call. He did feel a bit better that Sirius hadn't just signaled him out again.

"James I give you permission to throw him out the window." He yawned earning Sirius' mock horror gasp as James gave a gruff laugh and grabbed Sirius finally yanking him off the bed.

"Traitors the lot of you!" Howled Sirius dramatically. Remus sat up watching the comedic duo struggle with one another. He bit back a smile at their antics and looked over at the only boy who wasn't awake yet.

"You didn't wake Peter?" He asked surprised Sirius would leave him out on what he seemed to think would be a grand time. Sirius scoffed as he finally slipped away from a very tired looking James, his glasses and hair askew.

"Bloody hell I tried! I don't think anything can wake up him! I even tried rolling him off the bed but he just snored and nearly crushed me." Whined Sirius with more mock offense, the boy seemed practically jittery and for the life of him Remus could not figure out where all his energy came from.

"Lucky bastard." Muttered James who was trying and failing to brush down his wild mop of hair. He gave a Remus a look that clearly said 'I wish I was sleeping right now.' He nodded to James in understanding and sympathy as Sirius tried and failed to wake Peter again. Pettigrew seemed to have a magical spell around him that prevented anyone from ever disturbing his sleep.

"This ought to be the last time we give him sugar is what I reckon. Fell into a sleep coma perhaps?" Sirius mused walking around with a hand to his chin like he was some sophisticated professor trying to figure out a particularly difficult puzzle. Remus covered his mouth feigning a yawn, to prevent a laugh. James had no such qualms however and was laughing at Sirius failing at being quiet.

"No James you mustn't encourage him." Remus found himself saying. He earned a grin from James, who seemed to have warmed up to him some. Sirius placed a hand over his heart and collapsed on top of Peter with the most dramatic groan yet.

"Peter you are my only true friend."

"I think it's Sirius we shouldn't let have so much sugar again," Remus responded again, finding teasing the excited boy as easy as breathing. Sirius bounced off Peter, who would no doubt be sore when he did wake up, and stuck his tongue at Remus biting back his own laugh.

"Fine I've given up on Peter he is a lost cause! You two follow me!"

"Not bloody likely! What time is it?" James sounded indignant and Remus was surprised that he didn't feel the same way. Strangely enough, he actually wanted to follow Sirius on whatever adventure he had planned. What had gotten into him this morning?

"Five in the morning. But trust me you'll want to come or you'll regret it." Sirius' air of mystery sold James and even though Remus pretended to put up more resistance it wasn't long before they all were tiptoeing into the Common Room.

"Did you sleep at all?" James whispered at Sirius who shrugged in response. Remus had to reassure himself that since it was technically morning they weren't breaking rules. Still, he felt out of place and very nervous as they tiptoed through deserted halls. It occurred to Remus that Sirius could be lying about the time and it could actually be much earlier.

In fact, Remus didn't feel like he had gotten much sleep at all, and in hindsight, it couldn't have been that long if Sirius hadn't woke him up from a nightmare. His fears were confirmed as they passed by a large window and Remus got a glimpse of the waning moon high in the night sky.

"Sirius it's more like one in the morning!" Remus hissed, his now indignation over the situation making him bold. He couldn't believe Sirius, he'd get them all in trouble! James seemed amused by this and shoved Sirius.

"It will be worth it!" The twelve-year-old shot back in his defense, sounding practically giddy. "This is a momentous occasion!"

"Then we really should have waited for Peter. You know how much he loves sneaking around the castle." James pointed out sounding quite guilty. Remus caught a glimpse of Sirius' shrug but he could only see the faint outlines of his roommates now as they were plunged into darkness. Remus' attention now had to be on following his roommates and not fretting over Sirius' deception and the fact they were breaking school rules.

This was because they were now running through the halls, Remus following as close as he could behind them. He was terrified that they heard an approaching professor and that's why they ran. But when they finally stopped he could overhear there whispered protests about who had won the race, and the real motive for running became clear.

"That's it I'm going back to the dorm." He fumed once his heart stopped threatening to leave his chest.

"Aw no, you can't do that Remus! We're almost there. Look we won't get in trouble! Peter, James, and I have gone out several times and we haven't got caught yet."

"It's against the rules."

"So what? Come on Lupin lighten up a little." James sounded so confident and calm now despite the fact he hadn't wanted to go in the beginning either. But now it was just Remus with a problem, like usual. James had been very accurate in calling him a wet blanket. Well, he'd rather be that than get in trouble and get too close to his roommates.

They had no care for rules and they were far too witty not to catch on to his disappearances matching up with the full moon. He felt a lump get stuck in his throat as the usual terror closed in on him. He hadn't even realized he started trembling until he felt Sirius' hand on his shoulder his concerned eyes looking down at him.

"If you really want to go back we can."

"What!? Sirius, we came so far though!" James exclaimed far too loudly. Any minute now they were bound to be caught.

"Shut it, James. Hey…..I mean it, Remus." He knew Sirius did mean it. Why wasn't Sirius irritated with him for being a wet blanket like James was? How could someone who appeared so rambunctious and immature one minute become so serious and mature the next?

"Why?" He whispered his voice cracking, he hoped James who was now a little ways away couldn't hear him.

"I don't want you to be miserable. But look….." Then Sirius lowered his voice even more, so quiet that Remus had to lean in slightly to hear him. He didn't know Sirius even had it in him to be this quiet, he was both impressed and terrified by what he might say.

"Your dad isn't here though...we won't get caught…please stop fighting us all the time Remus. Would it really be the worse thing to let yourself have fun? Well, would it?"

"...No..."

"Then will you come with us?" Once more Remus found himself desperately wanting to say yes. He wasn't sure why exactly, wasn't sure what it was about Sirius that made him want to...want to be normal. He felt Sirius slip his hand into his and squeeze it.

"Come on Remus….just give us a chance. Please." He sounded so desperate...like he didn't just want but needed Remus to agree. Remus felt his heart clenched painfully and he knew he couldn't say no as much as he felt he had to.

"Just this once." He whispered and Sirius beamed at him in that charming contagious smile he sometimes used to get what he wanted. Remus didn't return it though, feeling he had just made a grave mistake. Sirius didn't seem to mind though, nor did he let go of Remus' hand. He turned to face James who was watching them a perplexed look on his face he only usually got over his Herbology homework. Sirius smirked victoriously and James rolled his eyes grinning.

"Full steam ahead mate."

"About time. Let's go!" An impatient James took off without waiting for them but fell back when he realized he had no idea where they were going. Remus followed on the right side of Sirius while James was on the left. He figured Sirius was holding James' hand too, that it was just another normal boy thing he didn't understand. So he didn't try to yank his hand away, not until they reached a corridor he recognized from his own exploration of the castle.

But that's not what made him pull away from Sirius' firm handhold, instead, it was the faint noise he heard. In the stillness of the castle, it was much easier to hear things one might have otherwise missed, especially someone with excellent hearing like Remus had.

"Someone is coming. Hide!" He hissed at his roommates pulling out of the grip so he could attempt to find someplace to hide.

"Over here." Sirius hissed back and darted for the statue of Gregory the Smarmy that marked the entrance of the Gregory Smarmy Corridor. Remus didn't have time to marvel at the fact that both James and Sirius instinctively trusted his judgment, though by the surprise on their faces hadn't heard what he had. Nor did he have time to question the fact he, in turn, was trusting Sirius' seemingly lax judgment to gather around the small statue that couldn't possibly hide all of them.

By this point he could tell James and Sirius had heard the footsteps too because they both froze at the same moment then Sirius went back to kneeling on the floor behind the statue tapping bricks then swearing at tapping them again.

"Whatever you're doing mate you best hurry." James encouraged sounding just a bit stressed. Remus wasn't sure how he could always appear so calm. He found he wasn't even able to breathe if they were caught surely he wouldn't be allowed to stay. He couldn't have already overstayed his welcome at Hogwarts, he simply couldn't allow it. All the hard work up to now and he had thrown it away for what? Because he couldn't say no to his dumb roommate?

"Hurry," Sirius whispered as a grating sound echoed loudly and a gaping hole appeared where before there was just a brick wall. Remus neither had time to question how Sirius found this nor if it was a trap. He dove in after James and heard a grinding sound again just as the clacking of heels became terrifyingly clear. He caught a glimpse of someone's shadow appear, cast from the lamp they were holding before he was swallowed by darkness. His heart was once more hammering loudly in his chest but by the silence that followed, he assumed he wasn't the only one.

"That was bloody brilliant!'

"Shh blimey, Sirius we are this close to getting detention." James half shouted half laughed, just as loud as Sirius had been. Remus, the closest to the exit, pressed his ear to the wall straining to hear the sound of disapproving professor or suspicious caretaker. When he heard nothing he finally allowed himself to relax.

"I will graciously forgive your lack of excitement on the fact we nearly got detention. But now I expect to be showered with praise." Sirius rejoiced smugly, and happily. Neither Remus nor James seemed to share his enthusiasm, though Remus was secretly surprised James didn't.

"You're mental. I'm friends with a lunatic." He sounded breathless but Remus now recognized James was just giving Sirius a hard time and was in fact as excited as him.

"Oh come off it! What about you Remus? What do you think?" Unsure if encouraging Sirius was a better idea or worse one than rebuking him Remus decided to play it safe on middle ground.

"How did you find this place?"

"Loads of exploring and sticking my nose where it doesn't belong."

"You can say that again." Scoffed James, but he was unmistakably delighted now.

"Where does it lead?"

"Always the practical one aren't you Remus. Quit asking questions and tell me what you think."

"Well….it's…..awfully cramped and dark isn't it?" James snorted at his comment and Remus felt his cheeks get hot, glad for the complete blackness preventing vision.

"Be nice James. Remus is a hatchling we must nurture him and show him our ways." Scolded Sirius but he sounded amused too. Remus bristled with annoyance. He thought both of them were insane! What was great about this cramped little room? What was the point in risking trouble to stand in this dark area that smelled like sweaty shoes?

"Maybe if you told me what we are doing here?" He offered unable to keep the edge of defensiveness out of his voice.

"This my little hatchling is a secret passage."

"A what?" Remus stopped sulking and actually turned around to face where Sirius and James were behind him. Now that he stopped for a minute he could recognize there was indeed more space that he had originally given credit for.

It hadn't occurred to him that this wasn't a dark niche but could actually lead somewhere. It made sense that James and Sirius laughed at him now. Worse still, Remus found himself interested once more, a sense of excitement filling him as he wondered where this could lead to.

"A secret passage can be used to exit or enter a building without being seen. Used for escape, movement of people and goods, or simply stealthy travel." Sirius recited sounding a great deal like Lily who often quoted an answer directly from a book. James laughed again always one for making fun of Lily who got under his skin almost as easily as the Slytherins did.

"Really I had no idea such a thing existed," Remus exclaimed allowing his words to drip with sarcasm he often used with his roommates. Sirius scoffed and reached out in the dark to ruffle his hair, which was his typical response when he had no comeback to Remus. Considering he couldn't see any more than anyone else and ended up poking Remus in the eye instead, apparently thinking he was shorter than he actually was.

"Watch it!" He hissed jerking back and slamming his elbow into the wall.

"Sorry sorry."

"Will you two quit messing around so we can get onto what's important. Sirius, what's at the end of this baby?"

"Don't know I waited to go any further."

"Aw, I'm touched!" James gushed dramatically but did indeed sound sincere about it. Remus found himself touched even though he convinced himself he had only included him last minute, merely another one of Sirius' impulsive ideas. He was merely replacing Peter this one time. He'd make sure they realized this. But as they staggered through the dark passage bumping into one another and shooting witty comments around, Remus was hit with the troubling realization that he was having a lot of fun.

However, exhaustion took over fun as they walked and walked...and walked with seemingly no end in sight.

"Sirius I'm beginning to think this is a dud." James finally admitted but the stubborn boy refused to listen to logic so they kept going. The ground had gotten cold and wet and all of them were in there PJs and were barefoot.

"There has to be something?"

"Mate give it up. We're going to die down here."

"...yeah….ok…" Sirius sounded so disheartened his voice wavered, and Remus was surprised to hear he was almost in tears. This alarmed him because while they had all spent a good half hour fantasizing about treasure, which James and Sirius assured him would be better than old books, Remus didn't find the lack of such treasure to be a big deal.

"Sirius are you ok?" James asked sounding as taken aback as Remus felt.

"Yeah….just…...wanted to find something…." He grumbled any trace of tears gone from his voice. But Remus suspected he was crying, it was too dark to see but he just had this feeling about it. It took a lot of slow and careful maneuvers since he didn't want to jab Sirius as he had him, but eventually, Remus found Sirius' hand.

He was nervous the boy would yank away from him, unsure if this was appropriate normal boy behavior or not, but Sirius squeezed his hand back hard. Even though Remus wanted to go back into the warmth of the dorms he also didn't want Sirius to cry and it only took him a few seconds to recognize which option was more important to him.

"We have to be close now. The water has gotten a fraction deeper and it has to be coming from somewhere." There was a stunned silence and Remus wondered if they were mad at him but Sirius was still holding his hand so he figured that wasn't the case.

"You really want to continue?" Sirius asked sounding stunned. So that's why they were quiet, even Remus was surprised by himself so he couldn't blame them for being so shocked.

"I'm not actually a wet blanket." He replied with more bravado than he felt and just the right mix of lightheartedness that James didn't take the jab too seriously. In fact, it seemed to be just the push James needed.

"Damn straight Remus. Neither am I!"

"Nor I! Alright, then that settles this! Let's finish this like men!" Remus actually laughed this time with James and he thought it went awfully silent again but figured he must have imagined it. It only took a few seconds of silence for James, now seemingly reenergized, to launch into a tale about the time he broke a precious object at his house by flying inside.

"My parents actually yelled at me which really upset me since I was a mere lad back then! But then my mother said she found the thing rather ugly and we all ended up laughing." Remus felt Sirius whose hand was still in his tense and he didn't need to wonder why. He knew Sirius was imagining the same thing he was, what would've happened if one of them had done that in their respective homes. He knew for both him and Sirius it would have ended up with much more severe repercussions.

James must not have been holding Sirius' hand or if he did didn't notice his friend going rigid because he finished his story in the same chipper tone by explaining that's how he got his own private flying lessons.

"Because my mum said she'd rather regift ugly china than have it be broken." Chortled James who even those who didn't know him very well, knew he thought the world of his parents. A fact that was no doubt hard for Sirius to swallow.

Remus was beginning to understand why Sirius had been so desperate to accept the fact that Remus understood. Knowing that Sirius understood a little bit of what he had been through was both disheartening and oddly comforting, he figured Sirius felt the same.

"There…..blimey! We did it, mates!" James shouted and the plip-plop of his footsteps could be heard as he ran through the water towards a faint light in the distance.

"Are you ok?" Remus asked but if Sirius heard he pretended not to. Instead, he let out a whopping shout and ran after James, once more dragging Remus along. This time Remus was in better health, the full moon nearly a week ago, and found it easier to keep up with him. Soon all three of them were peering through a wooden door that was sealed stuck.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty: Secret Passages and Settling In

"I can't tell what I'm looking at." Neither could Remus nor Sirius. They directed their energy on trying to open the door.

"Hey, Remus why don't you try the unlocking charm."

"Me? Why me?"

"Because you successfully locked a door, the dorm door nearly a month ago. You're almost better at charms than James and Lily."

"Yes but James is better so shouldn't he…."

"But Remus if you hadn't pushed us forward we never would have reached here. So the honor is yours mate." James relented if not a bit reluctantly.

"Are you sure?" Remus asked in a small voice, not wanting to steal a privilege that really should have been James or Sirius' over his. With the faint light streaming in Remus could see James and Sirius both smiling at him encouragingly.

"Yes now go ahead the suspense is killing me." Feeling nervous, and hoping he didn't ruin this whole night by proving himself to be a failure at magic, he took out his wand.

"Alohomora." He heard a click and James and Sirius both thumped him on the back in a congratulatory manner. It felt nice and as he opened the door Remus reminded himself he shouldn't care what his roommates thought of him. Since when did he want their approval?

"Oh wow!" Remus couldn't have said it any better himself. They were in the small boathouse filled with boats they had to clamber around. But once they were free of the junk piled in the boathouse they had a clear view of where they were as they looked across the stretch of greenery at the Hogsmeade Station not far off.

"We're..."

"Outside!"

"The castle! We did it! We found a passage to Hogsmeade!"

"Well, technically Hogsmeade Station...according to Hogwarts a History it's quite a walk to Hogsmeade which is on the other side of the lake..." Remus explained, but he was breathless with awe and a twisted sense of accomplishment.

'Good enough for me!'

"Indeed this is brilliant. Don't you think so Remus?" For once Remus didn't hesitate.

"Yes, it is!" The three of them grinned at each other filled with a foolish boyish pride Remus never would have believed he was capable of feeling. He knew James and Sirius were "bad influences," but as he looked the other way out over the looming lake to the breathtaking castle of Hogwarts in the distance, he decided he didn't really care.

They sat on the edge of the lake and ate a basket of snacks that Sirius said: "Hagrid or the conductor of the train was kind enough to leave for them." Remus was against stealing but he reasoned James and Sirius were going to eat the whole thing one way or another, and he was quite hungry. It was pleasant and surprisingly peaceful.

He wasn't aware that James and Sirius had the capability to sit in silence as long as they did. But something about watching the faintest trace of dawn break out behind the giant castle was breathtaking enough to warrant silence from all three of them.

"Well…..I would call this a success don't you two think so?"

"Absolutely. Only next time we need to find a passage to Hogsmeade."

"Agreed."

"That it was a success or that next time we need to find a passage to Hogsmeade?" Remus considered the question carefully, but he was feeling unusually good with food and companionship filling him with warmth. He grinned at Sirius who looked eager for his answer.

"Both."

Sirius jumped into the air with a shout of triumph.

"So we are friends now?" The warm feeling in Remus dulled slightly and he looked from James who was watching him with a perplexed look again to Sirius who looked like a hopeful puppy dog waiting for his master to agree to take him for a walk. It was such a fitting metaphor that Remus doubled over covering his mouth and shaking with built up laughter. He tried to stop it, but it was hysterical laughter that had a life of his own, and he could not control it.

"Sorry…..sorry...you just…...you're like a puppy…" He laughed clutching his sides which hurt from the force of laughing. From laughter and joy that had been forced back for months and which were attacking him with a vengeance. He was sure James and Sirius would find him crazy but Sirius went from looking hurt to laughing himself and James upon hearing Remus' justification was laughing with as much hysteria as Remus was.

No doubt a night of no sleep adding to the hysteria, soon all three of them were clutching their sides. Remus being the first to lose his composure was the first to regain it and watched James roll on the ground laughing and Sirius doubled over gasping for breath with a sense of camaraderie for roommates he nearly despised a short few months ago. They sure had come a long way in only two months. That's what worried him.

"What's wrong?"

"What? Nothing!"

"Remus...you've got that look again."

"What look?"

"Like you've made a mistake…..you've got this sad longing look again that makes me think you're going to push us away," Sirius called him out boldly and Remus cursed the fact he was so observant again.

"I….."

"Come on Lupin it's clear you had a good time!' James called out, dusting himself off. Only he called Remus by his last name and it was clear by the discomfort on Sirius' face that he didn't like it. Remus was going to have to talk to Sirius before he told James something he shouldn't. He was both surprised and impressed that Sirius hadn't said anything to James about it... yet.

"I did. Everything is fine really. I'm just getting tired. We really should head back."

"Yeah, but we have to come back with Peter next time." James decided either believing Remus or simply letting the matter drop, it was hard to tell. Sometimes Remus thought James was more observant than Sirius even, then other times he was painstakingly oblivious.

Remus jumped on the opportunity to change the subject, and even though Sirius looked displeased about it he dropped it as well. They took in the sight and the victory of making it outside of the grounds one last time then headed back. There was much less talking this time which Remus thought was his fault but when they reached the safety of their dorm once more, he realized it was just because the other two were bone tired. They mumbled goodnights before flopping into their beds.

James passed out in record time to Remus' amusement and Sirius wasn't too far behind. Knowing sleep wasn't possible for him with so much going on through his head he gathered his belongings, got dressed for the day, and headed back out now having a better idea where to look for his own secret hideaway since it was actually early morning now. Once again he wasn't successful and resorted to the library which was luckily empty. He lost track of time in his books until he heard his name called several times.

"Remus….Remus!" He finally set down his book surprised to see Peter rushing towards him looking concerned.

"Remus I think James and Sirius are sick they aren't up yet and they never sleep in past noon."

"It's passed noon?" He asked dumbly no doubt increasing Peter's concern. The poor boy looked flustered and Remus realized he better fill him in on what happened last night before the concerned boy brought a professor's attention to it.

"...oh." Came Peter's disheartened reply after Remus had finished recounting last nights adventure in a hushed voice. His roommate looked really put out and quite hurt.

"But we all missed you. Sirius tried really hard to wake you up and James said we have to bring you along next time."

"Oh!" This seemed to do the trick and Peter was once more the earnest happy boy who wanted the other two roommates approval only a little more than Remus did. He spent the rest of the afternoon studying with Peter and eventually going to dinner with him where they had a pleasant conversation on Peter's vacation two summers ago to Egypt.

Having never been anywhere outside of England, Remus was fascinated by the account. When James and Sirius joined them near the end of dinner they both eagerly recounted the other countries they had been to.

"What about you Remus?" James asked curiously seeming a little more awake than Sirius whose head kept bobbing dangerously over a plate of mashed potatoes.

"Me?" He asked surprised having been content to just listen.

"Yes, you." James encouraged patiently.

"Oh um….well...I haven't really been outside of England…" He explained nervously, reminded once again at how different he was from his three roommates. Sure they were all different, Sirius' family especially from James' and Peter' loving homes. But all three of them were pureblood wizards with wealthy families, Remus had none of that.

"Well, we'll just have to fix that," James exclaimed brightly and Sirius who was struggling to pay attention nodded in agreement. Remus wasn't sure what that meant, but Peter did and smiled knowingly. Upon trying to find out what he had missed, his curiosity peaked, he found none of his frustrating roommates would tell him. He finally gave up with a huff causing one of James' good-natured chuckles and was surprised to find Sirius peering at him far too intently again.

"What?" He asked trying to think what he had said or done to reveal something he didn't want to be revealed again.

"How are you so awake?" James snorted at the question and elbowed Sirius nearly making him dive into his potatoes, to both of their amusement. Remus was too nervous to feel amused now though and tried to come up with a plausible answer that wouldn't raise further suspicions at his differentness.

"Sirius only you are still tired. Don't read more into something obvious again." James chided him. Remus smiled glad he had come to his rescue and said nothing to counteract this.

"But he wasn't asleep…." Sirius protested. "I only slept for a little bit, which is why I'm tired but when I woke up again Remus was gone."

Now all three of them were looking at him puzzled.

"He seemed wide awake when I met him in the library." Peter unhelpfully added. Remus felt himself growing hot at their stares again. He knew 'I'm not a wet blanket' wouldn't cover it this time.

"I guess I was just too excited to sleep. I went looking for more passages." He explained calmly, only half lying. Sirius looked skeptical at this but James and Peter seemed to buy it so that was that. Remus realized that as long as James and Peter bought his lies and excuses, and he avoided being alone with Sirius that maybe he could be sort of friends with them. So that's what he did. For the rest of the month, he found he reached the perfect balance of hanging out with his roommates, studying with Lily (and unfortunately sometimes Severus), and staying on top and even ahead of his school work.

That month they also finally began actually flying on their brooms which Remus thought he would hate but actually quite enjoyed. Of course, no one had more talent than James, even Sirius fell just a tad bit short much to the competitive boy's frustrations. Peter could handle a broom better than Remus, so like usual, he was last. But he honestly didn't mind, because any wizarding task he could even do was automatically more than he expected.

Truthfully, because James and Sirius spent most of their free time harassing the quidditch team Remus found the amount of time spent with them wasn't nearly as much as he thought it would be. Harder than that was avoiding being caught with just Sirius, who seemed increasingly determined to get Remus alone. He wasn't sure if Sirius realized Remus was deliberately avoiding him but decided he didn't care either way.

By the end of November Remus was really beginning to find his place at Hogwarts. He was enjoying himself more and more and even with the threat of the full moon looming ever nearer, he was able to have fun with his roommates. This mostly came from the interest all four of them surprisingly had in common, exploring the castle.

Remus tried really hard not to be fascinated by the adventures, especially since it meant breaking the rules. But James and Sirius realized pretty quickly that Remus wanted to go and if they pressured him enough he would eventually surrender and follow their lead. So he found himself back outside of Hogsmeade Station, this time with Peter and a proper feast. They were skipping rocks and trying to one-up each other with spells to get the rocks to do tricks or change colors.

Peter who grew up on a farm and played this game with his cousins won much to his delight. Remus didn't mind but he realized neither James and Sirius were the best sports and they challenged Peter again. Only this time Sirius pushed the poor boy into the lake which of course broke his spell. Remus found he often, had to play mediator and that this time he seemed to be the only one who cared that the sensitive boy's feelings may have been hurt.

"Oh come on Remus don't look at me like that. He needs tougher skin. We were just messing around."

"Yeah, it's fine Remus I'm fine," Peter assured him though he looked rather pitiful standing in soaking clothes shivering in the cool fall evening.

Remus had realized that even if he protested or disagreed with his roommates they would still hang out with him and want his company. This puzzled Remus but it made it easier to speak his mind. Because even though he had made them all retreat to the castle before Peter caught a cold, they went back a week later and still had a great time. Remus knew everything would have been quite perfect if it wasn't for one thing, one rather glaringly large terrible thing.

Because a month of fun was coming to an end and Remus' reality became what it always was once a month, the full moon and the wolf. The fact that the full moon was on the 26th, a Friday, meaning he'd most likely miss no classes, brought Remus little comfort. He was desperate to come up with an excuse that would prevent further interrogation and would allow Remus to hang out with his roommates longer. Problem was he couldn't really come up with anything, nothing good enough anyway.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-One: Bubbling Burning Boils

Sirius thought he had won with Remus he truly did. Throughout the majority of his birthday month, the four of them hung out making quite the team. James and Sirius gave Remus space by going to watch Quidditch practice, sometimes with Peter in tow.

They all knew, though no one else but Sirius knew why they had to be careful not to push Remus to hard. James who had been the most hesitant about Remus joining their group was now in full support of their witty roommate.

"Do you think he considers us friends?" Sirius asked James out of the blue. Well, it wasn't really out of the blue considering during this last week of November, Remus had started pulling away and Sirius didn't know why. But it was out of the blue considering they were supposed to be concentrating on potions. James looked over at the poor boy who always looked like he was going to pass out in this class, the only class he didn't keep up with Sirius, James, and….yes even Lily.

Sirius knew Severus was on that list for Potions, easily the top student, but he refused to acknowledge that. Sirius looked at Remus to having realized pretty quickly that for whatever reason Remus was out of it too much to catch him staring in potions. Not that he stared at him!

"I don't know Sirius. I mean he seems happy enough when he's with us….but…"

"But then he looks like that. What do you think is his problem?"

"An allergy? Some sort of bad reaction to something in the classroom. He also gets sick a lot…" James mused now both of their attention on their newest friend rather than the potion bubbling in front of them.

"I was actually thinking Sirius...well I think you ought to sit with him and I should sit with Peter in this class."

"What's this? My best friend is betraying me!" Sirius gasped enjoying the smirk he received from James who knew he understood what he meant.

"I think you're right...Peter isn't a bad student but he's not good enough in potions to catch his and Remus' mistakes. At this rate, he won't survive the year." Sirius laughed nervously feeling a stab of dread that his comment may be more accurate than he wanted to admit.

He couldn't help but think one day Remus would just ...vanish. He got that impression a lot. He wasn't sure why it's not like his father could just yank him out of Hogwarts. I mean "technically" he could but if Sirius' mother wouldn't even do that he was betting neither would Remus' father. He shook himself and dumped in four horned slugs into his cure for boils just in time. James took their cauldron off the fire just as Peter and Remus' pot bubbled over covering them in a hot potion that made boils erupt all over their hands.

They had successfully made a potion that did the opposite of what it was supposed to do, yet again. Peter howled in pain and jumped up and down, a proper reaction to someone who just got burned. Remus…..he just sat there his eyes glazed over in a scary sort of way that happened too often for Sirius' liking.

He glanced at Lily, who besides James and Sirius, was the only one who sometimes paid close attention to Remus. She looked horrified her eyes filled with concern for the boy. But like usual Sirius couldn't tell if she knew any more than he did. He figured she must with all the hours Remus spent alone with her "studying."

He convinced himself he wasn't jealous. So what if Remus avoided being alone with him. So what if he caught him and Lily laughing at the library table over something in a book, while he was "checking up on Remus". Sirius wasn't jealous, not even the slightest bit.

He was about to get up and shake Remus, at least move him away from the boiling potions oozing onto his hands. Slughorn hadn't seemed to notice, too preoccupied with Severus and Lily's "perfect potion." But finally, Remus seemed to realize where he was and stood up backing away from the potion.

Sirius gripped his quill so tightly it threatened to break. Unlike Peter who was cradling his hands rocking back in forth in clear pain, Remus didn't seem phased. Was his pain tolerance that high? He tried to calm down, maybe Peter was just a big baby? Yeah, he liked that idea a lot more than Remus being abused so badly he hardly felt a normal level of pain anymore. James seemed startled and Lily had finally gotten Slughorn to recognize the accident in his classroom.

"Oh goodness. Quite the spill here." He waved his wand with the resignation of a professor who expected mishaps from, particularly dumb students. Which wasn't fair because if he bothered not to be a kiss ass for ten minutes he might realize something was wrong with Remus. Something in this classroom was bothering him, that had to be it! But why wasn't he saying anything? Why the bloody hell couldn't he just say something!

"Mate…" Sirius jumped as James placed a hand on his clenched one sounding concerned. He looked down and realizing his quill had broken and ink was all over his fist.

"Bollocks." He muttered quickly letting go of the quill, his hand hurting from how hard he had gripped it. James laughed but Sirius could tell he was worried about Remus, weren't they all.

"Well Pettigrew, Lupin can escort you to the hospital wing. Go on. Why are you looking so stunned Pettigrew? No reason? Very well go on then." Professor Slughorn was as exasperated as Sirius was, but for different reasons.

Remus left helping Peter in that kind quiet manner of his. Anyone watching them probably thought like Slughorn had, that only Peter got burned. Remus' long sleeves successfully were covering his burns with the skill of one used to hiding injuries. Sirius felt sick watching them go and was glad it was a Friday because he didn't think he could focus on any more classes. About ten minutes later and Slughorn should have dismissed them but instead used the remaining time and went into another lecture on the importance of proper procedure.

"Professor, shouldn't you tell us this when Peter and Remus are back?" Lily dared to ask, and Sirius felt a stab of reluctant appreciation.

"What? Ah yes very well. Class dismissed." Lily had done something Sirius never would have thought possible, she successfully got class to end early. Sirius didn't need to guess why he watched her say something to Severus whose face darkened with jealousy and his general evilness. James knew what she was up to as well because Sirius didn't need to suggest they go after her. They almost had to run to catch up to the girl's long strides.

"Lily!" James finally called. Sirius didn't understand why they had to walk "with" her, he would have been fine with trailing behind her. It's not like it was a race to get to the medical ward.

"Lily come on!" James called again. "Do you know something about what's going on with Remus?" That got her to stop and Sirius realized his best friend wasn't an idiot but in fact a genius. Sirius hadn't thought to straight up asking Lily like this, that's why he needed James in his life.

"No….do you?" She asked turning to them with eyes filled with worry. She was such a girl, it was so annoying. She shouldn't be so close to tears the burns hadn't been that bad or anything. But Sirius knew he was just as worried as her if not more, but he was sure he knew more about Remus than she did. Remus wouldn't confide "that" to Lily, not when Sirius had to force it out of him. In fact, he had never even admitted it, not really.

"No….we just…...well I mean we are worried," James admitted in his rare moments of maturity. Sirius rolled his eyes as Lily seemed surprised and a bit impressed.

"Yes me too." She sighed heavily.

"Then let's get moving!" Sirius snapped fear and jealousy gripping him tightly. She better not know more than him. If anyone was Remus' closest friend it was him, followed closely by James and Peter. It wasn't nor would it ever be some girl.

"Sorry about him. He's just worried too ..."

"Yes well." She huffed in her usual Lily manner. There was an awkward silence in which Sirius stared down Lily, both of them sizing the other up, trying to guess how much they knew.

"Let's go check on him then." James agreed and off they went. They walked as quickly as they could without full out running. When they got to the medical ward Madame Pomfrey intercepted them like always. It was like the matron had it out for them or something, even Lily seemed surprised with how quickly they were stopped by the always busy Madame Pomfrey.

"You can see him later. Not now."

"Madam, please. We are just worried."

"I understand that but not now."

"What about Peter?" James asked looking around for him. Unlike with Remus, Peter and everyone else who was in the hospital wing could be seen from where they currently stood. Sure enough, Peter was sleeping in a cot looking peaceful and unhurt. His hands were bandaged but the swelling had gone down a great deal.

"You can see him later too. Out! I won't have my ward be made a zoo."

"Madam Pomfrey please," Lily whined tears in her eyes now. Madam Pomfrey softened a great deal, and Sirius swore he saw guilt in her eyes.

"I'm sorry dear. Not now. I assure you he's alright though."

"Then why can't we see him?" He yelled his intense anger over the situation reaching a breaking point. He expected Madam Pomfrey to get mad at him, but she just looked sad which made him all the more frustrated and suspicious.

"I'm sorry dears. Go run along."

"I'm not leaving!" He insisted crossing his arms over his chest. He was surprised both Lily and James followed suit, both more hesitant about doing so, but doing so all the same. Madam Pomfrey looked angry now, or perhaps stressed was a better word for it. She threw her hands in the air in exasperation, but again there was something close to guilt as she looked at the three of them. She seemed to be trying to come up with something to say to them.

Sirius had a terrible realization as he tried to make sense of her guilt. What if Remus' father was a professor? What if he could have access to Remus whenever he wanted? It explained a lot, too much. Sirius felt another wave of nausea and blinked back his own tears quickly.

"Well, then I suppose I will have to get your head of house in here." This threat was enough to make Lily look fearful, but when she saw James and Sirius didn't even flinch she held her ground. Once more Sirius had to give her some credit, even if he still thought she was too bossy and too much of a know it all to like.

"Nothing? Well then perhaps the Headmaster." Lily broke at this.

"Oh, Madame Pomfrey please don't. We just want to see our friend!" She pleaded a single tear running down her cheek. Sirius blinked back his own tears with increasing frustration. What was everybody hiding? Why couldn't they tell them?

"You called Poppy." He knew he should feel at least apprehension at the headmaster voice behind them, but at the moment all he felt was a worry for his friend and anger at the ridiculous secrecy.

"Oh, headmaster I'm sorry please don't…." Lily hurried to explain her voice two octaves higher than usual. Sirius knew James was calm, and he appreciated the way his friend could always seem to focus himself no matter what the situation was. It was damn impressive how good he was at it considering he was only eleven, but he guessed that's what happened when your mother used to be an Auror.

"Miss Evans please calm down. I assure you that you aren't in any trouble. There is nothing to be ashamed about in regard to loyalty. You are in Gryffindor for a reason my dear." Dumbledore explained successfully calming the girl down. He sounded as relaxed and amused as he often did and Sirius glowered at him with all the hostility he couldn't direct anywhere else.

Besides, if Remus' father was abusing him and was a professor, then it was directly the headmaster's fault. The only thing stopping him from accusing Dumbledore publically was knowing how much Remus would hate him for spilling his secret, as much as Sirius would hate him if he did the same.

"Now you three how about we retire to my office to talk?" Lily seemed terrified at the notion but James and Sirius had already been in the headmaster's office. Dumbledore said he'd wait for them then was gone, leaving James and Sirius plenty of time to convince Lily that Dumbledore's office was something akin to a torture chamber.

She did her best not to outwardly show she believed them. But Sirius personally found great pleasure in the way she trembled upon entering the office with them several minutes later. Of course, she soon realized James and Sirius were lying and shot them nasty looks, but Dumbledore put a stop to it with a stern look at him and James.

"Now then. What seems to be the problem?" The three of them all attempted to launch into an explanation about Remus.

"One at a time, please. Mr. Potter why don't you start us off."

"Certainly sir," James said with respect towards the headmaster that Sirius didn't think he deserved.

Sirius listened to James, quite accurate, description of Remus and their concerns about him, with growing impatience. Lily went pale after hearing just how many days Remus had been missing or sick, or at least feeling unwell. Dumbledore listened to them the whole time with an expression that showed he was taking them seriously.

Sirius still suspected he was in on "it" though, whatever "it" was.

"Miss Evans, have you anything to add?"

"Only that Remus is a very attentive student and I can't imagine he'd miss school without a good reason. I thought it was due to Sirius bullying him sir...but that's no longer the case."

"Professor or Headmaster will do just fine Miss Evans. And I assure you that is no longer the case." Lily nodded encouraged by the headmaster's kind tone.

"Well, sometimes when we are studying...he...well there are days where he seems to be in a great deal of pain sir. He moves stiffly and...and…" Lily stopped and glanced at Sirius and James judging whether to say something or not.

"He has this scar I saw on his wrist…..Professor someone is bullying him or something…" She finished rather lamely, face flushed with concern and embarrassment. Sirius felt the color drain from him. A scar? There were few things that could leave lasting scars like that, each more dreadful than the next. Either Remus' scar was very recent or it was caused by one of those things. Sirius wasn't sure which was worse.

"Mr. Black, have you anything to add?"

Dumbledore was watching him sadly as if he could guess Sirius' thoughts, or at least suspect how angry he was at him.

"No, sir." He ground out through clenched teeth. James looked at him surprised but he shook his head slightly and twitched his left thumb. This meant "later" in the language they were beginning to create in order to talk in the many detentions they'd been getting for innocent pranks.

"Are you sure Mr. Black?" He narrowed his eyes at the Headmaster trying to gauge how much he knew. But attempting to read Dumbledore was like attempting to catch a moonbeam, without magic.

"Only that if Remus is being hurt on school property it's your responsibility….sir." He added with mock respect. Lily gasped and James flicked his pointer finger three times signaling "stop it!" Dumbledore neither seemed offended or upset. He nodded looking serious and offered them all a piece of candy. James and Lily both took one but Sirius refused, couldn't they see the headmaster was stalling!

"I would like to remind you three that Mr. Lupins' personal business is his own. I cannot disclose any personal information of my students without their permission. However I understand your concern, I will inform you that Mr. Lupin is not being bullied. I assure you he isn't being hurt by any staff either at Hogwarts and that Madam Pomfrey is working with him closely to help with any illness he may experience." Sirius didn't want to believe Dumbledore because that meant he was back to square one, but the headmaster was sincere and Sirius had to admit he felt he was telling the truth.

"I must instill in you the importance of leaving Mr. Lupin be. If you question him about this he may avoid you three altogether and that would be a great tragedy." Dumbledore considered them sadly.

"I know that you three care for him deeply and also Mr. Pettigrew, who you may inform of this once he is feeling better himself. If you do care for Mr. Lupin I stress you let this matter be. You may find Mr. Lupin will tell you more in the years to come, but it needs to be on his own time when he feels comfortable enough to do so. Am I understood?" Lily and James nodded, both looking relieved.

"Mr. Black?" He clenched his fists together knowing Dumbledore was right, after all, he had already pushed Remus so much he wouldn't be alone with him. He didn't want to lose his friend, but he had to know Remus wasn't in danger outside of Hogwarts also.

"Could I actually speak to you alone Headmaster?" It took a lot out of him to sound as respectful as he did. But he didn't want to risk Dumbledore saying no. He ignored James indignant and bewildered look feeling rather self-conscious.

"Of course. Miss. Evans and Mr. Potter would you mind stepping out of the office. Thank you for stopping by. Good luck with your Charms exam next week." Dumbledore dismissed them cheerfully as if they had stopped by for a social call. Their headmaster was definitely a strange one. He ignored another pointed look from James again, then Lily and James left, and he was alone with Dumbledore.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Two: Whispered Conversations and Half-Truths

"Go ahead, Mr. Black." It was a weird thing to notice at the moment but Sirius realized his relative's portrait was covered, and that more than anything made him realize Dumbledore could be trusted.

"Sir I'm worried that Remus...that he may….." He hadn't expected it to be so hard to say. Sirius felt nervous, he had to be careful otherwise Dumbledore may suspect his own lack of safety at home. He couldn't have that, it would only make things worse.

But what if this would make things worse for Remus? He felt so much turmoil and stress that he felt himself lose his battle with his tears. He ducked his head shame filling him, he was a Black, Blacks did Not cry like this.

"Sirius is there something you'd like to tell me?" Dumbledore's voice was much softer than moments before and for some reason, this made Sirius cry even more. He balled his fists until he felt blood prick where his nails dug into his skin.

"No, sir."

"Mr. Black I hope you know that the adults here all want the best for their students and are committed to helping them inside the school...and out." Sirius wanted to shout like his uncle taught him to. But that would be rather out of place here and no doubt counterproductive.

"I know sir but I just want to talk about Remus."

"But of course. What else did you think I meant? Do you know someone else's welfare the professors should be concerned about?" Sirius flinched realizing he had nearly given himself away, how had he messed up that bad? He took a deep breath forcing himself to focus.

"No, sir. I think Remus may be having...a hard time at home."

"Has he said anything to you?"

"Not exactly but….."

"What makes you think he does?"

"Everything."

"It seems neither Miss. Evans nor Mr. Potter have come to that conclusion. Why have you?" Sirius could tell Dumbledore suspected what he would give anything for him not to. He knew that the headmaster's soft tone was an attempt to trip him up into letting something slip again. But he was a Black and Blacks weren't bested, nor did they air their families dirty laundry. He might hate his family but he had too much pride to sell them out.

"They haven't talked to him as much I have Professor." He ducked his head feeling Dumbledore's sharp eyes on him. He held his breath waiting for Dumbledore to ask him if he suspected such things from experience.

"Very well. Mr. Black, I assure you that Remus is in no immediate danger from his family." Sighed the professor suddenly sounding very tired. Was he lying? Sirius couldn't tell if he was or if he was disappointed Sirius didn't say more to him.

"Thank you, professor. I think I should go now."

"Mr. Black?"

"Yes Professor?"

"I want you to know that you may come to talk to me whenever you wish to."

"I know Professor."

"Also please don't push Mr. Lupin away. He needs your friendship as much as you need his." Sirius didn't think too much into what that meant. He nodded thanking the professor and sort of meaning it before he left, suddenly the office feeling distinctively too small.

He took off at a run once he realized James and Lily hadn't waited for him. He was furious and hurt before he realized where they would be and let out a dry laugh changing directions. As he was rushing to find them he stopped dead in his tracks realizing what he had missed in Dumbledore's office. He had been so worried Dumbledore would realize his own family situation that he hadn't stopped to ponder Dumbledore's word choice. He had said Remus wasn't in any immediate danger!

That wasn't really an answer and it sure didn't do much to console Sirius' worries. Still, he had to focus on the immediate problem, because something was a problem with Remus while he was at school. And Sirius knew they were all on the same page with wanting to figure out what that something was. Sure enough, Lily and James were huddled over a large ancient looking text. Both of them were whispering, bonded over concern of Remus which allowed them to be civil to each other for once.

Sirius wondered what Remus would think if he could see this. Perhaps he'd be glad they were getting along but Sirius didn't think so, not over this. Poor kid would probably be terrified because he didn't want them to know whatever it was, there was no mistaking that. But why? What was worse than the abuse that Sirius had already correctly figured out?

"What are you two up to?"

"Geez mate don't sneak up on us like that! Thought you were a professor."

"So?"

"So we have a restricted book."

"Shhh" hissed Lily looking around nervously. "I didn't steal it. Severus had it and I'm borrowing it from him."

"I'd be more impressed if you had stolen it." He replied dryly sitting on the other side of James and trying to look at what they were reading.

"Snivellus has this book?" James asked irritated.

"Oh do shut up Potter. Leave him alone or...or…"

"Or what?" James dared, apparently their civility only lasted so long for Remus. Normally Sirius would be all for the animosity between them, especially because James was right to be upset over Snivellus having a dark magic book. But he needed them to focus, he needed them to get at the bottom of this.

"Focus children. Why are we looking at a dark magic book?"

"Shhhh!"

"Shhhhh"

"See you guys can agree on something." Sirius taunted, taking their surprise and horror at agreeing on something to snatch the book away.

"Give that back." Lily hissed snatching it back. Sirius had seen enough to realize they weren't going to get anywhere with this.

"You're looking at curses? You really think he's been cursed?" He asked skeptically and Lily shut the book face red.

"Well, there's not many options are there? Dumbledore said he wasn't being bullied so...it can't be that." She struggled to explain.

"He's a kid! Who in their right mind would curse him?" But once more Sirius felt sick. After all his own family had cursed him before, but those had been minor and temporary. Was Remus' father really that cruel?

"Well, what do you suggest then?" She huffed and Sirius had to admit a book on beginner dark arts was as good as place as any to start searching for whatever it was they both hoped and dread they'd find.

It took hours with nothing being found out for them to call it quits for that day. They agreed to meet over the weekend and on Sunday the, now four of them made up an unlikely group, and could be found pouring over book after book. Even with the fourth pair of eyes courtesy of Peter joining them, they still found nothing and tensions seemed to be running high.

"I think we need more people to help."

"Yeah well, there's no one else who would help." Sirius pointed out bitterly irrationally angry at Remus for being such a loner. Other than the four of them he had only seen the boy talk to teachers, prefects, or occasionally help out random students with a hard charm or spell.

"That's not true. I'm sure Severus would help." Sirius could not believe her! How could someone who was annoyingly bright be so incredibly stupid?

"Absolutely not!" James beat him to answering so Lily cast her glare at him. But Sirius and Peter both made it clear they were in agreement, the former much more boldly and persistently than the later.

"Lily we are not letting him help. He doesn't even like Remus!" James argued, tempers running high with all of them at the end of another day of useless searching.

"Yes, he does! You don't even bother to get to know him you just bully him instead! He and Remus get along fine! We all study together."

"Yeah but that's a lot different than this. Remus is kind to a fault which is why he puts up with Snivellus when most people flee from him." Sirius scoffed shaking his head at his poor roommate who seemed to struggle a great deal at saying no.

"He doesn't just put up with him! They are friends!" Lily shot back her eyes narrowed dangerously. But Sirius was angrier than her, especially at her choice of words. He wanted to point out Remus wasn't even friends with her, but he wasn't that cruel.

"No one in their right mind would be friends with Snivellus." He responses cooly forcing himself not to yell in her purpling face.

"I'm his friend!" He sneered at her with all the Black family haughtiness he could muster.

"My point exactly." He responses cooly. James burst into laughter and Lily collected her books and stormed away fuming. It wasn't till she was gone that Sirius realized he'd destroyed their best asset at researching. He groaned loudly but James and Peter didn't notice both laughing loudly. Sirius decided this was pointless and instead they went outside James and Peter glad to give up researching.

They enchanted leaves and jumped in piles until they were worn out and sweaty. Peter pointed out they had an exam in a few days and since the sun was setting they decided to head to their dorm and study. But that idea went out the window because when they reached their door clambering loudly into their room they realized Remus' bed curtains had been drawn around his bed. Sirius froze and the laughter at James' joke about a centaur died on his and Peter's lips.

Most of the time James took the lead with things or Sirius and him decided together, but both Peter and James looked to Sirius when it came to Remus. He shrugged to show them he had no better solution than them and they all stood awkwardly in the doorway. The silence was growing unbearable when Remus opened the curtains giving them a feeble smile clutching the blanket Sirius had almost destroyed in his arms.

"I hope you guys are planning to study. We have a charms exam on Tuesday." It was such a typical Remus thing to say, to ignore his absence, to focus on studies above all else that Sirius had to stifle a laugh. He fought between frustration and amusement and realized it would be better to lead with the later reminded of Dumbledore's warning not to risk Remus pushing them away.

"Yeah, we were just about to be good little students." Remus' smile grew a fraction wider, though it still looked pitiful and he forced a dubious look onto his sickly pale face.

"I'll believe it when I see it." Peter and James had relaxed some, but they all were at a bit of loss, uncomfortable with how pale and sickly Remus looked. The kid seemed to be struggling to stay seated upright, and he swayed his vision blurring for a moment. He looked dreadful like he usually did after coming back from the hospital wing. How many times had it been now? Three, which was three too many as far as Sirius was concerned.

The silence was growing awkward again and Remus shifted in his typical nervous manner, no doubt fearing their suspicion as much as Sirius feared for his friend.

"I solemnly swear it!" He responded dramatically holding up his hand as if his life depended on studying. It had the intended effect, Remus looked relieved and James and Peter snapped out of the uncomfortable air that had surrounded them all.

"Merlin's Beard. Whatever have you done with Sirius?" James exclaimed loudly adding to the lighthearted atmosphere they all desperately wanted to keep. Sirius elbowed him in response and they tussled their way over to Sirius' bed all piling on it and cracking open their books. Remus studied with them as long as he could but it seemed an invisible force was sapping all the life out of him.

After an hour he had succumbed to lounging against the headboard and a half an hour after that had to lay down. They all seemed to be done studying and Remus, it seemed, could hardly keep his eyes open.

"Alright Remus answer one question and we will all go to bed alright?" James asked, having done this several nights. Sirius thought it was brilliant if only James would ask better questions than useless ones like "what was the score on your last exam." However, he couldn't argue that the easy and issueless questions had lulled Remus into acceptance for he agreed without hesitation. Sirius could tell by the way James sat a little straighter that tonight's question would be different.

"What happened this weekend?" There was a very long pause in which they all thought Remus, who had closed his eyes, was simply feigning or had actually fallen asleep. Then he opened his eyes gazing down at the rather small blanket he had been holding onto all night. He seemed to be weighing his options carefully.

Then his shoulders sagged like he had given in, or he was pretending to. Sirius wasn't sure what to expect from Remus most of the time, but it was usually safe to assume it wouldn't be the truth.

"I was home." It was Sirius' turn to sit straight, he felt like he had just been electrocuted. Remus was avoiding his eyes and Sirius was glad he hadn't eaten much dinner for once again he felt sick.

"Home?" Peter prompted curiously. Remus hadn't said one word about his family up until now.

"Back to my house. I…...I have permission. My mother she…." He took a deep breath and gripped the blanket tighter, when he spoke again his voice was so soft Sirius almost missed what he said.

"She's…..she's dying."

"Bloody hell."

"Blimey." Both Peter and James exclaimed unsure what to say. There had been a few strange muggle disappearances lately but none of them knew anyone who had lost, or would soon lose, a parent.

Sirius didn't know what to say either but for a different reason than James and Peter. He felt bad Remus' mom was dying sure, but he knew what going home meant whereas the other two were luckily oblivious. He found himself scanning Remus as if he'd actually be able to see the bruises.

"Can we go to bed now?" Remus dared to ask after a long tense silence.

"Oh uh yeah of course. Sorry about your mom mate."

"Yeah, that's dreadful. If you ever want to talk about it or anything…" Peter concluded and the two uncomfortable boys left with solemn goodnights. Remus looked guilty and Sirius could only begin to understand why. He was pretty sure part of it was precisely because the kid had made them uncomfortable and upset which seemed for Remus to be unacceptable for anyone who wasn't him.

Sirius' own guilt had increased too as he finally realized the significance and cruelty of the blanket prank. But he didn't let this stop him from elbowing his way into Remus' bed once James "noxed" the candle. He felt Remus tense up and heard the soft exclamation of pain escape the kid.

"We need to talk." He whispered, unable to keep the urgency out of his voice.

"In the morning Sirius. Please." He was tempted to agree but Remus' bad habit of hiding from him made him realizing waiting wasn't an option.

"No now. Don't worry James and Peter can't hear us. Just whisper alright?"

"Sirius….."

"I mean it, Remus." He felt the weary boy next to him deflate with defeat and he sat up so that Remus would feel more comfortable.

"It's fine. My dad isn't around much. Can we drop it please?"

"No. Not if you are going to make it a habit of going back."

"I'm not. I won't even be going back for Christmas. So please...can you just leave it?"

Sirius was surprised to hear this. Surely Remus would go back home if his father really wasn't there a lot and his mother was dying what was stopping him? It seemed awfully suspicious. Sirius carefully reached for Remus' hand hoping this would convince him that he was in no way judging him.

"Why aren't you going back?"

"It's…...too much trouble. Money is tight...and with my mum's medical bills…..they can't really afford me." He seemed to be telling the truth, Sirius could hear the shame in his voice. Hear the reluctance at admitting how tight on money they were.

"If you want to go back, I'll give you the money mate." He offered without thinking, because after buying mounds of candy for everyone and all sorts of prank supplies he was pretty tight on galleons himself. There was another long pause and Sirius could tell Remus was once again struggling to respond.

"No, it's better if I'm not there."

"Doesn't your mother want you there?"

"Yes….but…..it's just better alright." Remus snapped quietly. They both froze as James gave a loud grunt and rolled over on his bed. Sirius knew Remus didn't lose his temper, much, and when he did it was a sure sign to back off.

"Alright." Remus sighed heavily with relief and Sirius couldn't help feeling he had somehow lost. He retreated to his bed none of his questions answered, and if possible even more questions to answer now. Remus Lupin was quite the mystery, and he pondered this mystery until sleep finally claimed him.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Three: Two Insufferable Twats and a Pillow Fight

Over the next week, he had found that his excuse about his mother dying had worked. He felt incredibly guilty lying about that but figured his mother was more likely to forgive him than his father would if Remus let someone find out about him. Still, it didn't make it any easier when after a week of avoiding Lily he finally had to tell her the same thing.

"Why didn't you tell me sooner Remus? We were all so worried about you. We even went to see the Headmaster."

"I know James filled me in when he filled Peter in. I'm sorry Lily I guess I just don't like talking about it."

"No, I'm sorry Remus. My grandmother died two years ago and it was the worst thing that has ever happened to me and my family. I can't imagine what your family must be going through. You let me know if you need help with anything ok? Anything at all I mean it. And I know I talk a lot and you usually do more of the listening but I can listen to alright?" He nodded trying to show the appropriate amount of remorse.

She, unlike his roommates, was much better at consoling him. Problem was he didn't really need to be comforted, and her kind and understanding response just made him feel worse. But at least for the time being, everyone bought his lie and once more he found he could juggle hanging out with them and not pretty well.

Of course, they all thought he was their friend, Sirius said it the most, and Lily when trying to get him to talk about his mom said they were friends too. After months of denying it, he had to begrudgingly admit they kind of were. Sort of friends, he had told Sirius that's what they were and the older boy had laughed and rolled his eyes.

"Whatever you say, Remus." He had retorted with the smugness he had every time friendship was brought up. Sirius knew he had won and deep down Remus did too. Oddly enough he realized he didn't care terribly. As long as they didn't ask any more questions Remus was quite happy with how things were. He even had to admit things had been going well with Severus too. He had gotten James and Sirius to back off on the boy, if only until their exams were done, which in turn made Severus overall more pleasant.

Gone were the days of Remus glancing up to find the sallow boy glaring at him. In fact, Severus talked to him in almost the same friendly manner as Lily, of course, no one could be more important to him than Lily and there were still the occasional times that Severus got jealous. But overall they had reached an unspoken agreement and throughout December life at Hogwarts had been pretty peaceful. It would almost have been perfect if it wasn't for James and Sirius.

For James and Sirius who had been notorious for their pranks from September to November had ceased doing them all together in December. Many people were glad of this but Remus, who knew why they had stopped, rather wished they would start pranking again no matter how bothersome it may be. For rambunctious and spontaneous Sirius had withered slightly as at the end of December he would have to be going home.

Remus tried to talk to him about it, very worried about him, but Sirius didn't want to talk about it any more than Remus wanted to talk about his own family. James, who knew none of this, thought Sirius had lost his edge and loudly voiced his disapproval of him to anyone who would listen. Sirius hurt by this retaliated and then James did and so forth. This caused weeks of bickering between James and Sirius who would argue back and forth making their dorm room a thoroughly unpleasant place to be.

Which was why Remus found the library with Severus and Lily to be the much better option, but usually he did not have a choice in where he was. Because James and Sirius both used Remus and Peter as shields and weapons meaning the four of them had been hanging out together far too much for Remus' liking. Peter was James message boy delivering snide comments to Sirius before running away in fear.

Sirius tried to get Remus to pay James back in kind but Remus was surprisingly less of a pushover than Peter and wouldn't. Which is why Sirius was once more trying to goad him into telling James his feet smelled and he snored like a boggart.

"I'm not telling him this."

"You have tooooooo! Remus, you haaaaave toooo." The older boy whined dramatically. Remus resisted the urge to roll his eyes at him.

"Sirius this is ridiculous! Just go and talk to James!"

"Shut up Remus. I refuse to talk to that wanker!"

"But you guys are best friends!"

"Former best friends! I'm done with him I'm absolutely finished with him." Sirius exclaimed loudly and flung himself on the couch earning a scornful look from James who stood across the common room with Peter. Remus had tried to reason with both Sirius and James over and over feeling like the only logical one out of the whole bunch.

Seeing Sirius was, as usual, too stubborn to see any reason he walked over to James hoping he, who sometimes was a little less impulsive than Sirius, would see how ridiculous this was.

"James can't you just talk to Sirius. You both are being ridiculous."

"No, he's ridiculous. Peter go tell Sirius that without me he's a Billy no-mate."

"Peter don't! Sirius told me next time you went over there he'd hex you." Remus interjected honestly, personally finding it ludicrous that Sirius wouldn't play pranks for fear of getting in trouble at school and therefore at home but he'd hex his roommate.

"James do I have to?"

"Yes, Peter."

Remus sighed heavily, even though the full moon was over a week away he found he was thoroughly frustrated with all his roommates. Once again Peter was going to do whatever James said and would no doubt wind up hurt because of it.

"No, I'll go." He muttered shooting both of them a disapproving look before marching over to Sirius who was skulking nearby. He felt a stab of guilt as Sirius saw him coming back and brightened considerably no doubt assuming Remus was finally going to take "his side" in the whole ridiculous affair.

"About time you joined my side, Remus. This whole "neutral" thing is ridiculous." Remus sighed heavily not planning to actually relate James' offensive message but once more at a loss on how to help bring this thing to an end. These past weeks would have been very near perfect if it wasn't for James and Sirius, each being stupid in a different way.

In an attempt to help, Remus had actually asked Lily for help, however, she found the whole thing rather amusing and didn't provide any insight. They were in the common room, and like usual were attracting a good deal of attention. Unsure what to say Remus shook his head and, feeling everyone's eyes on him, grew uneasy and retreated to their dorm pacing and flipping through a book on fun magical spells in a last-ditch attempt to find a solution.

"Wingardium Leviosa." He heard Sirius shout as he walked into the room and before Remus could stop it, the book he was holding levitated up and out of his grip.

"Why did you run away?" Sirius asked the book now in his hands.

"Give that back!"

"Hm Lupin this doesn't seem like you're usual 'light' reading. What happened to The Magical Properties of Dragon's?" James asked for some reason following him as well. Of course, that meant Peter was behind him too. This was not what Remus wanted, the four of them in one room had ended up in James and Sirius arguing every time. Remus felt dread fill him and a sort of panicky desperation to do something.

"Mind your business, James." Sirius snapped though he was the one looking through the book, clearly as confused as James to what Remus was doing with such a ridiculous book.

"Oh shove off Sirius! You are worse than I am. I had to prevent you from digging through Remus' trunk."

"That was months ago!"

"SHUT UP! BOTH OF YOU!" Remus was shocked as the other three he yelled that loud, but it seemed to do the trick. Sirius' eyes went wide and he dropped the book and James and Peter were watching him surprised. Remus felt his face go red with all their eyes on him but they were all looking like they expected him to say something like they wanted him to fix this as much as he wanted to.

"I….I've….been….trying to tell you three for a week now….. Um…." He trailed off unsure what this great reveal would be.

"Trying to tell us what?" James asked eagerly.

"Yeah, what's up with you Remus?"

"There's…..well….."

"There probably isn't anything is there?" James asked sounding disappointed.

"Come on James I'm sure there's something. Right, Remus?" Peter asked pleadingly, with James and Sirius fighting neither were going to Quidditch practice which meant Peter's study sessions with Remus weren't happening. In one of the few instances, Peter and Remus were alone Peter had begged him to fix this, finding it as stressful as Remus did. This was all wrong, he was supposed to be leaving the three be, not purposely trying to bring them all together.

But with James and Sirius friends again things would be much more peaceful so he squared his shoulders and decided there was only one thing that would bring them all together.

"I found a new secret passage." It was a lie, one he'd have to remedy quick, but it did the trick. Sirius and James were both ecstatic too busy trying to get more information out of him to realize they were agreeing on something.

"When can we explore it?"

"Let's go now!" James pointed out excitedly. This would be a problem as there was only an hour left before curfew, and of course, there wasn't actually a new secret passage.

"No, not now," Sirius mumbled the light leaving his eyes.

"Why not? Come on Sirius what in the name of Godric is going on with you?" James and Peter were now facing Sirius with accusing glances Remus had been the recipient of more than once. Sirius looked so trapped that Remus answered without thinking.

"It's not his fault it's mine." Once more three surprised gazes were directed at him again, Sirius shocked and both pleading and guilty.

"I told Sirius…...not…...not to do anything…..b…...because...that way the surprise prank we've been planning would be even more dramatic after the break."

"You and Sirius were planning a prank together?" Scoffed James not buying it for a second. Sirius seemed to realize what a brilliant idea this was because the light was back in his eyes and he picked up the book showing it to James like it was proof.

"Then what's this, you nitwit. That's why I was so frustrated. It was supposed to be a SURPRISE moron!" James looked angry then embarrassed he gestured around as if this was an answer. To Remus' surprise, Sirius gestured back in a different yet similar way, with finger flicks and movements that were almost to fast to comprehend.

James and Sirius both seemed to understand though because a few minutes later they were grinning sheepishly at each other.

"Well, how the bloody hell was I supposed to know?" James explained defensively, but it was with good-natured friendliness.

"How about you give me more credit than thinking I'd be done with pranks. My foolish mate, we've only just begun." Then the two were beaming at each other like before and Remus realized he had done the impossible.

"Still I'm impressed Remus is coming up with one."

"Ah yes, the hatchling has become a wee chick."

"Can't we come up with a better metaphor I think others will get confused if you call me a chick." He sighed but found himself grinning with the others, things were how they were supposed to be once more.

In celebration of James and Sirius' renewed friendship, the four of them gathered on one bed, which always seemed to be Remus', and talked happily. Luckily Sirius was coming up with the epic prank they were supposed to have been planning together and James didn't seem to realize Remus hadn't said one thing about it. In fact, the only problem was that Sirius who should have been grateful for Remus saving him had chosen to repay him by giving Remus an important part in the prank.

"Wow, this is going to be amazing! Absolutely amazing!" James cheered quietly, everyone but Remus a little loopy from staying up all night.

"But you see the wisdom in lulling them into a false sense of security?" Sirius asked wisely gazing at James with the kind of disappointment a mentor might have of his favorite pupil. James stuck his tongue out which somehow lead to a pillow fight.

"Ow watch it, Potter!"

"Watch it yourself, Black!" But they were laughing and Peter and Remus got in a few good throws, Remus truthfully aiming purposely for Sirius in an attempt to relieve frustration. But soon James and Sirius were jumping from bed to bed launching themselves at one another with force the other two couldn't keep up with. Not that they particularly wanted to.

"Good job Remus. James was honestly beginning to drive me mad." Peter confessed with a guilty grin hitting Remus lightly with a pillow. They were on James bed and Sirius and James were now on Remus' which looked like it might break.

"You know you could always tell James no." Remus pointed out wincing as Sirius sent James hurling against his bedpost which creaked in a warning. He tried not to worry about his poor bed and focused on Peter whose baby face had cringed with horror.

"Oh, I couldn't possibly. Then he wouldn't be my friend." Peter's worry was all too familiar to Remus, who'd probably be a lot more like Peter if he wasn't still forcing himself to stay distant from them all.

"That's not true Peter. James won't ever stop being your friend. If we didn't say no to them their heads would get so big they wouldn't fit in the room." Remus teased hoping to get Peter to smile. His roommate did indeed smile his eyes widening with delight as if he'd never considered the possibility before.

"You really mean it? He'd stay my friend no matter? Even if I don't want to go see the quidditch practice in the rain." Remus vaguely realized he probably wasn't the right person to make such promises, but James was fairly easy to read and his affection and ease with Peter were genuine.

"Yes, I mean it. Besides now James and Sirius can drag each other." Peter laughed, the sound quite a wonderful one after the tense atmosphere they had been forced to put up with for too long.

"Thanks, Remus you're a good friend." That word always sent a jolt of panic through him, and always made him want to leave. His chest felt tight but he managed a weak smile in response.

"Come…..come on let's stop them before they break my bed." Peter laughed again and Remus was secretly glad he wasn't as observant as Sirius or even James was. It was nice not to have to be so on edge, Peter was an earnest simple boy, and the breath of fresh air from his other roommate's drama he often needed. Remus took the time needed to aim carefully and chucked the pillow at Sirius putting all his frustration behind it, if only the boy wasn't so nosy and persistent then maybe he could afford to be actual friends with them all.

His aim was true but the force was more than he should have put behind his throw and the pillow hit Sirius square on the head knocking the surprised boy right off the bed. Both James and Peter burst into laughter, Peter bending over and James flopping on Remus' bed clutching his sides. But Remus felt guilty and horrified and ran over to Sirius whose face was still covered by the pillow. This was precisely why he couldn't let his guard down with them!

"Sirius, I'm so sorry are you ok?" He cried terrified he somehow hurt him. Of course, a pillow wouldn't cause any damage but Remus was too flustered to realize that.

"You twat!" Sirius sat up quickly grinning broadly and yanked Remus down to the ground, forgetting it wasn't James he was roughhousing with. Remus let out a yelp of fear and Sirius let him go immediately all the joy fading into a dark concern. Stormy eyes gazed at him intently and Remus' desire to run increased until he couldn't bear it any longer.

"Sorry." He whispered getting one glance at Sirius' stricken face before he dashed away from the room before James and Peter could stop laughing. He knew Sirius would attempt to follow him if James didn't stop him so he left the common room and went to one of the many hideaways he had found.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Four: Patricia Rakeburn and Dreamers Folly

He huddled there and tried not to worry about how his father hadn't sent him any letters since the first one months ago. Maybe he found things easier when he pretended Remus didn’t exist. He knew he wouldn’t be going home over winter break, that he’d be at the castle bothering Madam Pomfrey who wouldn’t get to celebrate with her family because of him.

He tried not to worry about Sirius who would be going home in about a week to his explosive and abusive mother. Who would have to face a dementor alone, he had now learned more about such horrible creatures and knew poor Sirius would only have his cousin Andromeda to make the holidays bearable. But he failed at not worrying about both things and found himself in an awful mood as he gave up on his hiding spot and walked the grounds the setting sun behind him.

“Ello there Remus.” He looked up towards the friendly shout surprised to see he had wondered near Hagrid's hut. The groundskeeper waved at him with such sincere happiness that Remus felt a little cheered and walked over to the towering man.

“Hello, sir how are you?” He was met by Hagrid’s deep guffawing.

“Sir ee says! Not much of ere sir. Just call me Hagrid, that will do.” Remus smiled sheepishly.

“Alright, then Hagrid. How are you?”

“Good I…..” He trailed off suddenly as loud barks echoed through the evening air and Remus was tackled to the ground a slobbery tongue meeting his cheek with unrestrained glee.

“Off Brutus you oll mut!” Hagrid shouted sternly yanking the large dog off Remus. Brutus whined and sat by his master's side his tail thumping as he watched Remus clearly wanting to jump on him again. Remus felt a little awkward as Hagrid helped him up, unsure if Brutus was just that friendly or if this had something to do with what he was once a month.

He didn’t have to wonder long however as Brutus suddenly barked again and bounded up the hill intercepting Peter, James, and Sirius who were running down it. Brutus started towards Peter but Sirius’ delighted cry made him change course and he happily plowed Sirius over. Hagrid went running after him but Sirius’ laughs were as loud and happy as Brutus’ barks and the groundskeeper simply shook his head bemused.

“He sher likes yer.”

“I sure like him!” Sirius laughed, with James help finally getting to his feet. Remus wondered if he had time to run away from them all but the forbidden forest seemed like the only place to hide, and he didn’t wish to go in there in the slightest.

“Well, yer all welcome to come in fore a cup o tea if yer like,” Hagrid said invitingly gesturing to the little hut. He didn’t seem to know the other’s names, perhaps not having seen them since their first day at Hogwarts. Remus decided not to run and walked towards them instead, introducing Hagrid to Peter, James, and Sirius.

“My dad told me to tell you hi when I got the chance,” James explained with a broad grin.

“Actually meant to stop by sooner but the months have been flying by.”

“Oh, that’s alright. They always do yer first couple o years. Then yer OWLS and NEWTS happen yer last few years and it’s all over for you know it.”

“But I heard you didn’t graduate,” Sirius interjected with an unbelievable lack of tact. Hagrid’s warm and inviting air dimmed some as his expression changed into shame and a guardedness.

“I’ve seen enough students pass by to know.” Sirius realized he had offended Hagrid and looked remorseful.

“Well my cousins are all a bunch of nitwits I don’t know why I ever listen to them,” Sirius explained trying to make up for his insensitive comment. Hagrid seemed to have thick skin because he bounced back quite quickly his smile truly a contagious one.

“Now not all of them. Yer cousin Andromeda is a real treat. Her and Ted have visited me several times. Such a nice couple they are.” It was Hagrid's turn to say something he ought not to because Sirius clearly did not know this information. He took a staggering step back his eyes widening in what would have been a comedic fashion if he didn’t look so horrified.

“Ted Tonks? As in muggle-born Hufflepuff Ted Tonks?”

“I should not have said that. I should not have said that.” Hagrid said shaking his head looking very guilty.

“Ted Tonks!” Shrieked Sirius much more upset than Remus thought necessary. It quite hurt to hear Sirius so bothered by his cousin dating a muggle-born. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one to think so because James punched Sirius’ arm quite hard.

“What’s the matter with that?” He asked casting a pointed look at Remus whose face went hot and he quickly ducked it. His three roommates thought he was muggle-born and Remus hadn’t actually corrected their misconception figuring it made more sense for him not to have much knowledge of the wizarding world, rather than them realize his father just hadn’t cared enough to properly inform him. He figured it would be hard to explain why his father had thought that would be a waste of time, as Remus was never supposed to have been here. Sirius followed James gaze and paled.

“Oh, bollucks. I didn’t mean it like that Remus. It’s just well…..well Drommie is a Black and…..my aunt would be livid if she found out.” Hagrid had gone quiet while they were talking back in forth but he shook his head again hearing the cause of Sirius’ concern.

“No one else knows. None of yer should know. They been keepin it a secret.” He explained and Sirius relaxed though by the way he was pressing his lips tightly together, was still very displeased about it. Remus was glad when Hagrid invited them again into his hut and the topic changed to more pleasant things like what Christmas was like at Hogwarts.

Remus knew that James had only asked because they all knew he’d be staying behind, but by the end of Hagrid’s explanations of the party and feast the other three were wishing they had signed up to stay behind too.

“Well, you’d know I’d stay if I had the choice mate.”

“I would but my family parties are legendary and I’d probably make my mum cry if I didn’t go home.”

“Me too. My mom and dad are really excited to see me. Er, not that….yours aren’t Remus I just meant…”

“No, it’s ok. I don’t mind you guys leaving. Really it’s fine.” Remus truly meant this because if they stayed he’d have to come up with another excuse for his disappearance. In fact, it was a huge relief everyone he knew fairly well would be leaving for the holidays since it made things easier, and he was certainly used to being alone. Hagrid patted Remus’ back lightly but with enough force, his head almost slammed into the table they were all crowded around.

“You can come visit me if er like.” The kind man offered before getting up to get the teapot that was screaming curses now that it was ready. Remus found it amusing but kept his face neutral as the other three had grown up with such kitchenware and didn’t seem to register it as anything special. Either that or they were all feeling mildly guilty about leaving Remus alone.

“I’ll be sure to do that Hagrid. See I won’t be alone.”

“I serpose I could ask Dumbledore if you could help me in the forbidden forest. That would sher make yer holidays eventful.” Hagrid mused pouring them all what looked like a liquid mud into their large mugs. James and Sirius immediately wrinkled their noses and pushed theirs away. Peter pretended to sip it and but quickly set it back down.

Realizing Hagrid was watching them expectantly Remus picked up his mug and drained it. A thick substance ran down his throat, and it was only years of similar unpleasant medicinal potions that kept him from throwing up. He finished it, the earthy aftertaste strong as the rock hard scones the gamekeeper also had produced. Sirius, James, and Peter were looking at Remus with a mixture of awe and horror, though it may have also been because they thought he’d be going into the forbidden forest.

It was no secret James and Sirius wanted to go into the forest and had contemplated doing so on several occasions, but no one could enter the forest without getting horribly lost except Hagrid and even James and Sirius weren’t that stupid.

“Blimey, Hagrid can’t you wait till after break to do that,” Sirius whined giving Hagrid his best pleading face. James followed suit and the gamekeeper seemed to find them awfully persuasive.

“I suppose I could ask. It depends on Dumbledore.” They then got into a much less pleasant conversation about the forbidden forest. They were just getting into dangerous territory, as James asked what monsters lived there when they were interrupted by a knock.

“I’ll get that,” Hagrid called and clambered over to the door nearly taking out the table as he went. His shack seemed far to small for him but when Remus had hinted at that Hagrid had proudly stated Dumbledore built it for him and it truly seemed to be something he treasured dearly.

“Come on in, come on in.” Remus sat up straighter immediately fearing it was another professor and they had accidentally stayed out past curfew. Instead, a fellow Gryffindor walked in covered in dirt. She was older than them and it took Remus a long time to remember her name, Patricia Rakepike. James and Sirius didn’t seem to have the same difficulty though, in fact, they seemed to know her and both jumped to their feet looking like they wished to salute her.

Patricia could have been Lily's older sister, they both had the same red hair and the same shade of blue-green eyes. In fact, Remus wondered briefly if she was before remembering Lily saying she only had one sister and her name was Petunia.

“Hiya boys,” Patricia called loudly handing Hagrid back something none of them could make out.

“The great Patricia is gracing us with her presence,” Sirius whispered to James clutching his shoulders tightly. Both boys truly seemed star-struck and Remus covered his mouth with his sleeve biting back a laugh.

It was quite the sight to see and Patricia seemed to fully realize the effect she had on them. Peter seemed amused too, though he was typically wary of girls having been bullied terribly by them back when he was in wizarding daycare by his home.

“Now I recognize you three.” She grinned gesturing to Peter, James, and Sirius.

“You’ve all been in detention more than once especially Black and Potter. But who's this?” She asked bold and friendly, looking over Remus trying to decipher if he was more a Black and Potter or Pettigrew when it came to pulling pranks.

“I’m Remus. Nice to meet you.” He murmured shyly sticking his hand out to her. This seemed to confirm something for her for she scoffed and took his hand a jolt of electricity rushing through him making his hair stand on end. They all laughed at him and his face went red, she thumped his back grinning widely.

“Beginner’s mistake kid.”

James asked her what charm she used to do that but she just winked.

“You two may be promising but not promising enough to earn my secrets.” Sirius groaned loudly and they both begged her for tips and tricks gathering around her like two puppies eagerly greeting their master. Remus bit back a laugh again and walked over to Hagrid who had unfortunately started another pot of what he called tea.

“Patricia is a good one she is. But she sure gets the first and second years riled up.” Chuckled Hagrid when he realized he had company.

“She seems….nice.” He sighed smoothing his hair down and trying to be a good sport about it. Hagrid smiled and handed him, much to his horror, another cup of tea.

“She’s a real good student too though. Especially loves to care fer magical creatures.” He exclaimed with a great deal of passion so that Remus didn’t have to wonder if Hagrid shared her interest or not. He then went over to Patricia who was laughing at Sirius and James who were now bowing down to her, pride gone in an attempt to learn some sort of trick spell or whatever it was they so desperately wanted to know.

Remus watched in awe as Hagrid handed her a cup of tea and she thanked him for it, calming down some and drinking it much slower than Remus had with an exclamation about how good it was. James and Sirius quit groveling stunned and Hagrid explained what exactly was in the tea which made Remus go rather green and made Patricia smirk knowingly.

They passed a few more high energy minutes with Patricia the center of attention before she reminded them all to head up to the castle before they ended up breaking the rules.

“I thought you didn’t care about the rules.” Sirius sighed dramatically sounding betrayed. Patricia scoffed and tweaked his nose.

“Yes but I’m not about to get caught being a bad influence on icky firsties now am I? Well, goodnight Hagrid see you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight you lot.” Then they were being ushered by the fourth year out into the freezing winter night air. Remus shivered and held his cloak tighter around him grateful once more for Dumbledore’s present for without it he’d surely freeze.

Peter trailed back with Remus as James and Sirius circled around Patricia seemingly decided on annoying her into submission. The older girl was stubborn and gave them quite the run for their money but by the time they entered the castle, Remus could tell the boys were slowly wearing her down.

“Alright alright, enough you insufferable buggers!” She huffed whacking James lightly over the head who was closest to her. He made a big deal of it dropping to the ground in fake pain rolling around howling loudly. Patricia paled looking this way and that, but with the volume, James was using, it would only be a matter of time before a professor found them, or worse Peeves.

“Alright alright I’ll teach you one thing but you have to shut up the rest of the way. Got it?” Remus wondered why she hadn’t given in sooner for suddenly Sirius and James were perfect little angels. They would have walked in silence the rest of the way back but Patricia ordered the two boys to walk ahead and much to their surprise fell back to walk with Peter and Remus.

“You two must be bloody saints to put up with them all the time.”

Remus still felt awkward around the older student but knew Peter would be more tongue-tied than him, so the responsibility to respond fell on him. He tried to pretend Patricia was actually James or Sirius and knowing she wanted such a casually response spoke to her in a similar manner he would them.

“They are insufferable. I dare say we deserve a medal, don’t you agree Peter?” His attempt to rope Peter into the conversation failed as the red-faced boy nodded and then dashed ahead as if Patricia was the scariest creature he’d ever been faced with. Remus sighed heavily his discomfort growing as he now found himself alone with her. She had a wider jaw and smaller eyes but If he squinted she looked like a tall Lily, so he tried to remain calm.

“Well that one isn’t much of a Gryffindor is he?” She chortled watching Peter catch up to James and Sirius who kept shooting furtive looks back at them. Remus felt himself bristle at her insult.

“He really is quite brave he just doesn’t know how to talk to girls yet is all.” He exclaimed coming immediately to Peter’s defense.

“Hm, I guess the rumors about you and the letters to Sirius really were just that. You’re quite the loyal one, aren’t you? A true Gryffindor.” He looked away from her finding his courage leaving him once more. He had no idea how to respond to such a thing and knew he must be very red, both from shame about the whole letter fiasco and embarrassment at a talented older student’s approval.

“Oh come off it. You’re the only one treating me like a regular person, don’t stop now.” She sighed and that’s when Remus realized why she had sent the other two up ahead. He looked at her surprised and found her cheeks were pink too. She was uncomfortable with James and Sirius’ adoration though she hid it well. Remus figured she’d like it but realized this wasn’t the case at all.

“Sorry about them. I guess they just really like the pranks you pull?” He figured this is what their excitement had been about, but truthfully he hadn’t been paying close enough attention to figure it out.

“Hahaha well, I have quite the reputation I suppose. Still, you’d think I was invincible the way those two look at me.” She half laughed half muttered.

“Do all the first years act like that?”

“Mostly. I had to tutor a group of Hufflepuffs for detention once and the boys wouldn’t focus at all and kept asking me about my manual.”

“Manual?”

“Yeah, that’s how your friends know about all the pranks I’ve pulled even before you lot went here. I kept a running commentary of sorts and some moron made copies and what was supposed to be between friends ended up with the whole bloody school knowing about it.” She huffed irritated once more by her notoriety.

“Well, first-year boys are dumb.” He attempted to console her feeling apologetic for his whole grade of boys, though he only really knew three of them. Patricia laughed and looked at him amused.

“I suppose that’s true. But you don’t seem stupid.” He blushed again once more at a loss with her praise but luckily she wasn’t done speaking so he didn’t have to say anything.
“I suppose it’s not the worst thing. But now that I’m in year four I’m starting to think about my future and I sort of want to be known for more than my past pranks you know?”

“Hagrid said you are a really great student.”

“That’s because I am.” She laughed. They were almost to the fat lady now, the other three were waiting impatiently for them. Sirius practically jumping up and down in his excitement to learn one of the many secrets of Patricia.

“Well...I suppose if you wanted to focus on your studies more. Then...well I guess you could pass all your secrets onto a younger generation then they would be the ones famous or infamous, however, you look at it.” He certainly hadn’t meant much more from his statement than a friendly suggestion to help her out but Patricia stopped walking and raised her eyebrows amused and impressed.

“I suppose this “younger generation” would be your friends?” Remus opened his mouth to protest not at all wanting her to encourage James and Sirius more than they already were by her. She laughed and patted his shoulder in a much too familiar way for his liking. She seemed to think just because they were in the same house they were basically friends, a belief held by many Gryffindor’s Remus had come to realize.

“I guess you have a point. Still, I ought to make them work for it don’t you think?” A rather devious smile had stretched across her face now as she seemed to ponder just how to do so. Remus waited patiently, unable to walk ahead to the others as Patricia’s hand prevented him from leaving her side.

He dared a glance at Sirius who was standing at the portrait mouth open. James seemed to be seething in jealousy and Peter looked worried as if afraid Remus might be needing rescue. He personally thought Peter’s thought process was the closest to the truth. Finally, Patricia let him go coming to a decision.

“Very well I will teach them my ways. Well Eventually anyways. I still have the rest of this year to cause some havoc.” She grinned brilliantly and wickedly.

“But next year the serious exams start and if I find your friends worthy I will impart my wisdom to them.” She glanced ahead at them and laughed at their expressions.

“They are jealous of you.”

“There’s really no reason to be.” He hurriedly replied hoping it would stay that way. Patricia laughed and whispered something under her breath that Remus pretended not to here completely mortified. “You’ll be quite the heartthrob when you're older. It’s sure going to be a fun couple of years. Can’t wait to see them chase after all of you.”

Luckily she seemed to buy he hadn’t heard, for she had been awfully quiet. They hurried and reached James and Sirius who were struggling to stay quiet and mostly still and Patricia looked them over.

Once inside the common room, she asked James and Sirius several questions about her past pranks Remus didn’t understand at all. However, both boys immediately knew the answers which seemed to impress Patricia and make up her mind.

“Alright, I’ll take you boys under my wing and slowly teach you my tricks. Remus here has convinced me to pass on my legacy to you all. So if you remain worthy next year you can take over where I left off.” Then she left them laughing, leaving James and Sirius stunned frozen perhaps for the rest of their lives.

They’d be a warning to all other stupid first-year boys not to go after your Hogwarts idols, that they were too young to handle the power that was fourth-year magic. Remus shook his head at them amused figuring he’d title their statues “Dreamers Folly.” Then he’d be the famous one, how ironic. He covered his mouth with his sleeve having to work really hard this time not to laugh.

Peter was once again concerned, perhaps thinking the scary fourth year cursed his friends who had yet to move, both their mouths comically hanging open. Peter called their names while Remus saw an opportunity too good to pass. He circled around to them both their eyes glazed over with awe and disbelief. He took a scone Hagrid had insisted he take, broke it in half with great difficulty, and stuck the pieces in both their mouths.

He smirked feeling justified, that’s what they got for not drinking the tea. This made them come back to life and they coughed and sputtered out the scones with comedic faces of disgust. Remus had to use both his hands to muffle his laughter and his whole body shook with it.

“Blah blah! Remus Lupin if you hadn't just made our Hogwarts dreams come true I’d sock you.” James exclaimed.

“Why do you keep doing that?” Sirius asked after spitting the rest of the scone into some poor student’s paper left out in the otherwise deserted common room.

“Do what?” He asked when he realized Sirius was addressing him.

“Covering up your laugh. We’ve heard you laugh before. It’s not like you have an ugly laugh or anything.”

“Who cares about that right now Black! Remus, you are amazing! You’re the best! I think I’m in love with you!” James shouted gleefully running around the common room with enthusiasm. Sirius was a little less reluctant to let the matter go but he too was overcome with glee and soon he and James were clutching each other spinning around singing “Remus is the best. Patricia is the best~”

“If you four aren’t in your dorms in the next two minutes I’m giving you detention and docking fifty house points.” Came the low timbre of Kingsley Shacklebolt, head boy and notoriously known for his temper when woken. He stood in elegant purple night robes scowling at them. Even in their giddiness James and Sirius knew better than to mess with the large Gryffindor Quidditch captain.

“Sorry, Kingsley.”

“We’ll go right away, Kingsley.”

“Then do it.” He sighed his usually calming low voice now purposely threatening. All four of them dashed to their rooms with various levels of amusement and nerves.

“Best day ever!” Sirius declared sincerely before they all fell into their respective beds and went to sleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Five: A Black Christmas

The next week was the most fun Remus would probably ever have at Hogwarts. Sirius and James were Patricia’s “protegees” which basically meant they were her servants. She gave them ridiculous tasks and watched them scramble to fulfill them. Sirius and James had both questioned her ways after she told them to wash the common room windows, but one threat from her not to train them and they rushed off.

Remus knew he shouldn’t be quite so amused, but James and Sirius finally seemed to meet their match, and truly the whole of the Gryffindor house found great amusement in it. It also allowed Remus to relax around the boys as he had never been able to before, both of them far too tired from Patricia’s growingly challenging physical and mental tasks to even attempt to be curious about Remus.

He also realized Peter was a much better friend than he could ever hope to be, waiting for James and Sirius with cool drinks seeing as many days they finished their evening running laps around the quidditch pitch. Meanwhile, Remus had to stop himself from teasing them further, a rather devious side of him appearing he never realized he had.

They also spent several nights, since Sirius declared himself too tired to sleep which made no sense, outside Hogsmeade Station. This had become their meeting place and they could fool around loudly without the worry of percussions. Once again Remus realized how easily he could be like the others, carefree and foolish if only he wasn’t a monster. So when Christmas Break came and the three boys left him with hugs and sympathies he found that his amazing mood of the past week shriveled and deteriorated.

Three days from now Remus would be in agony while his three roommates were gorging themselves on leftovers surrounded by family. He even envied Sirius, though he was still worried. But he’d still take being with a terrible family to being all alone and never hearing from his family, possibly not even having one anymore. He knew it wasn’t fair of him to feel this way but he did, made much worse by the fact he still hadn’t heard from his father. For all, he knew he was dead.

Luckily, no one was around to see him sulk. He was able to cry loudly in his dorm for the whole floor was deserted, all the first-year boys had gone home for the holidays. From the 23rd to the 7th Remus would be all alone on the floor. In fact, only a handful of the fifth-year Gryffindors were staying, to study. Other than that it was Remus and surprisingly enough Patricia who he avoided preferring to sulk in solitude.

Considering all the students going home left early in the morning on Thursday the 23rd Remus spent the next two days getting ahead in his studies and then exploring the castle realizing he had to find a secret passage. In the excitement of Patricia, James and Sirius had agreed to wait till after break to see the new passage the “Marvelous Remus” had found. He wished he had never lied about such a thing, wished he had never unknowingly suggested Patricia train James and Sirius, and wished they would stop calling him ridiculous names.

Saturday the 25th came and he found he felt too ill to join the feast, nor did he comprehend the small pile of presents at the end of the bed were his. Once more he was grateful his roommates weren't there for as soon as he woke up he lost his dinner from yesterday into the toilet. He could tell he had a fever and he felt worse than normal the day before considering the 26th would be the longest moon of the year.

Every step was agony and he was soon covered in sweat from the sheer exertion walking back to his bed took. He knew he should be in the hospital wing but he was already making the matron miss spending the holidays with her family, he wouldn't make her miss spending it with her friends. Then he heard the knock on his door and his stomach lurched.

“Remus. Open up or I will kid.” Why oh why had he gained Patricia's attention? Why couldn’t she just leave him alone? He wanted to tell her to go away but he was nervous if he opened his mouth that he’d throw up again. He tried to get to the door but the room spun and instead, he lost his fight with gravity and fell hard to the ground.

“What the hell?” He heard Patricia exclaim then she was opening the door and her irritated tone turned into one of deep concern. He felt her flip him over but his eyes kept rolling back into his head and he couldn’t seem to focus on her face.

“Oh my gosh, Remus! Remus! Shit! Shit! Shit!” Her icy hand found his forehead and she swore in response though he couldn’t tell why. He wanted to assure her this was normal and that he found her concern funny. But his mouth felt fuzzy and his tongue too heavy to lift. She scooped him up in her arms and was shouting for a professor or something but she sounded really far away.

“Ms. Rakepike what is the meaning of all the yelling and running through the halls? OH MY! Albus!”

“Minerva, you called? Ah, I see. Ms. Rakepike I will take him to the hospital ward thank you. Minerva if you could go let Poppy know and get her from the Great Hall. Ms. Rakepike I understand you are worried but the matron will take care of him. Please try to go back to the feast and enjoy yourself, the wizard crackers are especially exquisite this year.”

Remus felt he was handed to Dumbledore whose grip was calming and seemed to make him feel marginally better.

“Alright, Headmaster. Let him know I’ll be by later to check on him ok?”

“I will.” Then he felt himself moving, gliding along with the air, floating even. It took him a while to realize he actually wasn’t, that Dumbledore was moving and he was in his arms. Then everything got even hazier and he was pulled deep into unconsciousness.

….

Sirius was not enjoying his break. Oh, he was staying out of his mother’s way alright and he quite enjoyed getting to hang out with Regulus. But overall the whole thing was dreadfully boring. He had to sit through the wedding on the 24th so as soon as he got home he was stuffed in a suit and off they went. It was a stuffy wedding as boring as the distant relatives getting married.

Yes, both relatives and both getting married to each other. Sirius found it disgusting, after all, he’d rather die than marry any of his cousins, and that included Drommie though he quite liked her. Christmas and New Years was spent at his aunt's house and only Drommie spoke to him, it seemed the Blacks had decided ignoring his presence was the best way to treat a blood-traitor as his mother had “kindly” called him upon seeing him.

But after Christmas things had gotten slightly better. He was allowed to stay at his aunts who was as disapproving as his mother, but a great deal less vocal about it. Also, there was no dementor at his aunt's house and Bella was gone getting to know her future husband, her age but already graduated like she was supposed to be.

Sadly Drommie was also away, preferring to hang out with her friends rather than constantly argue with her mother. Which meant Sirius only had to deal with Narcissa who was closest to him in age, a mere four years older but treated him like he was a dumb toddler.

“No Sirius you can’t go into that room I know my mum told you!” She chided him when she caught him once again trying to enter his uncle’s office. Sirius had a talent for sniffing out where the drama was happening and he knew if he could get in the office he could find out family secrets as a child he wasn’t privy to yet.

“I know that Sissy I’m not dumb! That’s why it’s called rule-breaking.” She wrinkled her nose in disdain and whipped out her wand in a clear threat.

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“There’s plenty of adults here. We both know the ministry won’t notice.”

“That goes for me too then.” He retorted drawing out his own wand He knew logically that he couldn’t stand up to Narcissa but he presented himself with all the air of a true Black heir and she put her wand down.

“Just...quit being a child. You aren’t allowed in there.”

“Whatever. Why don’t you go and snog the picture of Malfoy in your room.” He teased. She flushed angrily and stormed away. For all her threats he knew Narcissa wouldn’t really hurt him, not unless Bella was there to egg her on.

Actually, way back when they were both little they had actually been friends. Then Narcissa went to Hogwarts five years before he could and suddenly she was better than he was and wouldn’t give him the time of day. If he was being honest, he missed the days when they would play chess together.

“Hey, Cissy you wanna play a game of chess later?” He asked out of sheer boredom because Regulus was with his mother, she only didn’t want him around, and Drommie was gone for long stretches of the day. Narcissa turned around and for a second he thought she’d agree but then she stuck up her nose.

“I’m not falling for that. You’d probably put a dung bomb under my seat again you twat.” Yep, those days were indeed over. He resigned himself to his fate and retreated to the guest room that would be his for roughly the next week and a half.

He tried to tell himself he was safer here, away from his mother’s rage. But it hurt to be so unwanted just because of a stupid Hogwarts house. His mother had never been what one would call maternal and he’d never been a real kiss ass like Regulus, but her blatant disdain of him now was...upsetting. There, he admitted it.

Just because he admitted it to himself didn’t mean he felt better, in fact he felt worse for it. So he caused hell the next couple of days at his aunts taking it out on the only target around, Narcissa. Drommie tried to get him to stop and he calmed down for a few days but after New Years, when he was stuck alone with his prissy boring cousin yet again for the whole day, he was at the end of his rope and he really couldn’t help himself.

In fact, he reckoned he was quite justified in his pranks after having to put up with his families “pureblood” banter the night before, a topic Narcissa never ceased to irritate him with. So he carried out his plan and positioned himself in a good place to watch the chaos.

“Mother he ruined my dresses!” She shrieked rushing down the stairs in hysterics, she always had been such a drama queen.

“Sirius Black you get down here this instant!” His ain’t thundered just having just got home from some gala. He thought about yelling come make me but realized he had pushed things far enough. He retreated downstairs and his aunt slapped him across the face, she was still much kinder with physical punishment than his mother.

“I was trying to help my sister taking in her unwanted burden. But I’ve had enough of this!”

“So you’ll send me to Hogwarts?” He asked hopefully. His aunt sneered at him and shook her head.

“Uncle Alphas then?” He asked beginning to feel worried.

“No young man I am sending you back to your mother’s. You can spend the last few days before school under her whip for all I care you, ungrateful cretin.”

“Love you too aunty.” He replied dryly but his stomach had twisted into a knot. As soon as his aunt dismissed him he rushed upstairs and slammed his door bursting into tears. He spent a very long time crying no one bothering to see if he was there, and he contemplated, not for the first time, running away.

“Knock knock.”

Finally, someone had come to check on him, hours later, but even though he recognized the voice he didn't want company.

“Go away.”

“Sirius let me in.” Drommie sighed.

“Go away.” He sniffed without really meaning it. She seemed to know this and entered anyways sitting next to him on the bed and pulling him into a half hug.

“You just can’t help make things worse for yourself can you?” He knew she didn’t mean it in a harsh way but his ears were still ringing from being called an unwanted burden which caused him to be a little more sensitive than he’d normally be.

“Shove off Drommie. You aren’t any better snogging that muggle ...mmmm….” She had covered his mouth eyes going wide as she quickly looked to the door before flicking her wand at it, no doubt making sure no one would be able to listen in.

“Don’t Sirius. Please don’t tell anyone.” Drommie was mostly a Black by name only, any of his other cousins would have whacked him upside the head if they were feeling nice or hex him for his mouth. But Drommie was kinder and more gentle, not weak make no mistake about that, but compassionate and merciful at times whereas her mother and sisters were cruel and cold always.

Still, he realized, not for the first time, that her pleading eyes and quiet disappointment were more effective than any slap or curse would be.

“I won’t tell anyone I swear Drommie.” He assured her once she finally uncovered his mouth. She relaxed a fraction, but they both still sat with the rigidity they had been taught over and over again by their respective governesses.

“You better not Sirius. You could get me in serious trouble.” She hissed angrily, the closest she had ever come to threatening him. That’s when he realized this Tonks boy was more serious than a stupid school fling. He could feel the blood drain from his face and when Drommie realized her mistake the color of her pale skin matched Sirius’.

“Drommie you can’t. You’ve got to end it soon. This is your sixth year….. You can’t.” He whispered fearfully but a familiar guarded stubbornness had filled his cousins' eyes.

“I won’t Sirius. I thought you of all people would understand.”

“Understand what?”

“Somethings are more important than the family name.” Sirius gasped shocked Drommie would say such a thing. If he was the black sheep of his family she was the light grey middle child sheep of hers, her sisters and mother loved her and he knew she loved them. He couldn’t imagine her ruining her family name and humiliating her mother all over some boy.

“Why Drommie?” He asked trying to voice the quiet disapproval Drommie was so good at. She smiled at him sadly and sighed heavily.

“I suppose you are too young to understand such things after all. I imagine you'll understand one day though. Just... don’t say anything, ok? I’ll be careful Sirius I promise.” He nodded still stunned then the color that had returned to his face fled again as he heard his mother’s familiar screech for him.

“Get down here you terrible disappointment! You bane of my existence!” Drommie squeezed his hand tightly sympathy shining in her gentle eyes.

“You’ll be back to Hogwarts in a mere two days. Hang in there, Sirius.” He nodded pressing his lips together tightly.

“Sirius I mean it!” His mother shouted finally using his name. Knowing what she’d call him a third time he hurried downstairs to his executioner. She stood in the parlor room dressed in a dark blue dress a regal blue satin cape hanging around her bony shoulders.

He swallowed hard realizing she was holding her ornate gold walking stick, as she occasionally suffered from dizzy spells which Sirius suspected had to do with how worked up she could get. Her eyes were narrowed and as soon as he got close enough she whacked him hard on his legs with the stick. He buckled hitting the ground his hands keeping his face from slamming against the floor.

“You disgrace!” Whack.

“You foolish boy!” Whack whack.

“You bane of my existence you thorn in my side you terrible creature you filthy blood traitor!” She roared in one breath her face rather purple. Whack Whack Whack Whack Whack Whack! He bit down a cry as the stick got dangerously close to the back of his skull. He knew from experience his mother hated giving him a concussion as it meant a trip to Mungo’s and story to concoct.

He glanced up through his long hair that had fallen into his face. Both Narcissa and Drommie were there as it was the custom for all family members to witness the often public humiliation of the black sheep within the Black family.

Narcissa was looking away with a look of boredom sketched on her ugly prissy face. Drommie went from glancing at him to looking away, her fists tightly clenching her emerald dress, her face forced into an impassive expression. ,

“Why can’t you just behave!” Whack Whack Whack. She was slowing down now he could feel it, which was good because his legs were burning and his back which was now the target of the assault was beginning to ache.

“Why must you always ruin my day!” Whack! He waited, he knew his time for “remorse” would come soon in which he’d be expected to grovel for her forgiveness, to apologize for his “unacceptable” behavior.

“What do you…” Whack!

“Have to say for yourself.”

“I apologize mother.” He responded cooly ducking his head quickly as she brought the stick down hard on his shoulders.

“Making me come all the way from Grimmauld Manner to fetch you like you’re some urchin brat! Disrespecting your aunt and your cousins!” Whack!

“Well? Apologize to them!” She finally set her walking stick down leaning heavily on it her breathing shallow. He hoped she died he thought to himself darkly, imagining her keeling over light leaving her malicious eyes. He struggled to his feet feeling blood ooze down his legs.

“I’m sorry Auntie. Sorry, Narcissa.” His aunt and cousin nodded, both of them quietly disapproving of the intensity of his mother’s punishment.

“Sister if you don’t want him I will take him back home. But “they” are there and this filthy traitor would ruin everything if he were home.”

“He can stay here.” His aunt responded cooly only hesitating for a minute.

“Good I will be back to fetch him tomorrow night so he can have his farewell dinner at home.” By her tone, Sirius knew there was more than a dinner awaiting him there and he shuddered.

“Very well. Good evening.” His aunt replied curtsying respectfully to her sister who did the same. Then his mother stepped into the flames and was gone, the silence following so thick you could cut it with a knife.

“Go get cleaned up for supper.” His aunt dismissed him coldly.

“I don’t want blood on my good seats.” She added with as much concern for him as someone might give a dirty mutt. He noticed Drommie open her mouth looking like she might say something but a sharp look from her mother and she shut it once more tipping her head in a respectable lady fashion. They all were bloody nuts.

He struggled to get upstairs and into the tub letting the warm water soothe his wounds. Then he got out, dressed, and waited, knowing either Drommie or his Aunt would place the cream on his back and legs that would completely erase all evidence of his mother’s explosive behavior.

Apparently, his aunt was still irritated because it was Drommie who entered going over to Sirius who was laying on his bed shirtless, they had done this routine many times before.

“How bad was it this time?” She asked gently applying the pain obliviating creme, pretending like they usually did that she hadn’t witnessed it first hand.

“Same as always.” He sighed sitting up now completely better and rolling down his trousers before throwing a dress shirt over his head.

“She’ll be taking you to the basement tomorrow night, won’t she? I don’t understand Sirius why can’t you simply behave.” She scolded and fretted at the same time taking a comb to his hair in a motherly fashion. In many ways, his cousin was more his mother than his mother ever would be, even though there was only a five-year difference between them.

“Because otherwise, I feel like I’m going mad.”

“It was only for two weeks Sirius.”

“Yes, and it was bloody hard waiting as long as I did to get to this point.”

“You missed her didn’t you?”

“No!” He protested immediately, though even he had to admit he sounded like a whiny child. He cleared his throat.

“I just…..I wasn’t even able to see Regulus for more than a few days. I mean being a Gryffindor shouldn’t mean I can never see my family again….. She…..she hates me now...she disliked me before on occasion, but now…..now she really hates me.” He was sure he wouldn't cry, not over his useless mother, but he couldn’t help the hot traitorous tears that trickled down his cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

For a Black lady to cry it was improper but for a Black gentleman to cry was scandalous and unheard of. Sirius hadn’t cried in front of anyone since he was seven. Luckily Drommie wouldn’t tell a soul and she didn’t seem to mind, her tone if possible more gentle and understanding than before.

“She doesn’t hate you. Deep deep down she loves you. She’s just under a lot of stress. You will be let back into your house your mother just...needs to get used to the idea of you being a Gryffindor. We were all hoping, expecting, you’d be a Slytherin. She’ll come around, you’ll see.” He wasn’t sure how much he believed her but it made him feel better all the same.

“You know you’re my favorite right Drommie.” She smiled and tossed her invisible locks in a mocking Narcissa fashion.

“Oh, I know.” He laughed and they headed down for supper together.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Six: Lumpy Scarves and Secret Passageways

Peter was very glad that he could honestly tell his mother his grades which were all respectable. She had heard he had gotten detention for looking off James' homework and had been ever so disappointed in him since. It was hard for Peter, it had always been hard for him to do magic considering he had grown up with the possibility that he might be a squib since his mother was one.

But not only had he proven the worries wrong, but he was amongst some of the top students in his grade, thanks a great to deal to Remus' patience in tutoring him. His friend Remus was the first person, besides his family, to ever tell Peter he was smart.

"Course I'm not Remus. I'm rubbish at all of this." He had responded figuring Remus hadn't realized this as in the beginning, after the train, he seemed to want nothing to do with them.

"Yes, you are Peter you just learn a bit differently than others that's all. Once you hear it you're awfully good at the spells it's just you read a bit slower than others that's all." Remus had responded in his quiet yet encouraging manner of his.

Peter was fond of all his friends, though Sirius scared him from time to time. So as soon as he hopped off the train and waved goodbye to Sirius who had grown quite moody on the train and James who was cheerful as always, he had set out to find his family a little torn at leaving his friends.

While Sirius and James didn't seem to care to hear much about his family, Remus always listened to him even if he knew Peter's story would be boring. Sometimes he looked awfully sad when Peter was telling him about his family and all the fun his younger brother, he and his mum got into. Remus was polite enough never to ask about his dad so Peter was polite enough never to ask why he looked so sad.

Of course, he knew now, and he didn't brush off his mother's suffocating hug like he normally would, realizing how lucky he was she was healthy and happy. Neither Sirius' nor Remus' family seemed very nice and after months Peter had found he rather missed his.

"Oh, Petey darling how I've missed you!" His mother cooed smoothing his hair and clasping her hands around his cheeks so she could kiss his forehead. It would have been embarrassing but Peter realized most first years were being greeted in the same manner. From the corner of his eye he could see James' older parents sandwiching him between them in a fashion that made him miss his dad terribly.

"Yeah, Petey we missed you thiiiiis much!" Pipped up his little brother hopping around Peter's feet with enthusiasm.

"I've missed you all too." He responded affectionately. Then they headed out where his grandparents were waiting, away from the crowds. They hugged and kissed him in a similar fashion to his mother, and the five of them went home. It felt good to be home and Peter showed off his magical skills to his five-year old brother until he was caught and scolded by his mother.

His grandparents were a little more understanding and he spent the first evening back curled up on the couch with his brother and mother listening to his grandparents recount their illegal magic use upon returning home for the holidays.

"It's expected really." His grandfather chuckled.

All in all, Peter's holidays flew by much to fast for his liking. He spent several large family dinners with his many aunts and uncles and was delighted to find out one of his aunts was pregnant. His mother was the oldest by almost 15 years in her family and as such most of Peter's aunts and uncles were in their early 20s and two had just graduated from Hogwarts last year.

There had been eight siblings after his mother and they had always been a tight-knit family. No one talked about Peter's father which is how it had been for almost five years now. Peter knew his little brother didn't even remember him but his mother allowed Peter to hang onto a single picture of him and write him from time to time.

However, with as large of a family as Peter had, all living fairly nearby, he never had much time to miss his father. After their large Christmas party which lasted two days and nearly resulted in an arrest after his youngest uncle set a bale of hay on fire, things around the large Pettigrew farm calmed down some. Back home Peter got used to waking up and the crack of dawn and looked forward to when he'd be able to sleep in again.

He was sure to write all his friends and his mom gave him some money so he could buy them presents. He was particularly proud of his choices and delighted he now had friends to shop for. New Years brought another roaring family party in which one of his uncles did get arrested for riding a horse into town nude. Peter's mother was mortified by her siblings like she always was when they all got together, but he found them all a wonderful lively bunch. He was sure Sirius and James would agree though his mother had told him that his energetic friends would be watched carefully if they ever came to visit.

"The last thing I need is for my brother Silvester to slip them some alcohol and then their parents would never let them visit again!" She fretted and Peter didn't have the heart to tell her he wasn't sure if his friends would want to come to visit over the summer. I mean his family was wealthy and had lots of property but both James and Sirius lived in what were practically castles. He couldn't imagine them wanting to come here when they could be at their own homes. He just hoped they'd invite him if they were going to get together.

All too soon he was being coddled and smothered by his mother back on the train station. He promised her he'd write every week.

"Yes for real this time. I promise mom!" He held up the small elf owl his grandma got him for Christmas, which could fit in his hand. He had no excuse not to write now and while he thought that might be a bit annoying, not many first years but James wrote their parents every week, it was worth it to have an owl. Even Sirius and James didn't have one!

"Don't leave Petey don't leave!" His brother was wailing and Peter wished his mother had left him home, he was crying so loudly!

"Don't cry Cooper I'll be home before you know it." He hugged his brother then the train whistle was signaling they'd be leaving soon and after putting up with several more hugs he rushed off clutching the small owl cage tightly.

If possible James seemed to have better Christmas Break than he had. They were all gathered in their compartment and the whole ride back James recounted his many presents, the feasts, his knew filly pegasus, and above all getting to meet one of his favorite quidditch teams in person.

"You really got to meet the Holyhead Harpies! Blimey, mate that's fantastic!" Sirius exclaimed having been unusually pale and quiet most of the ride back. Closer they got to the castle the more he seemed to come to life and soon James and he were arguing over which Quidditch team was the best and Peter could hardly get two words in.

"Oh well." He thought, turning back to stare out the window. He was sure Remus would like to hear about his Christmas at least.

Soon they were back at the castle, this time taking a carriage pulled by nothing to reach it. Peter wished they would take the boats back but apparently, that was only for the first time you arrive at Hogwarts and the last day you left. During the invisibly pulled carriage ride back James and Sirius calmed down enough he could at least begin to recount his holidays.

"Blimey, your family sounds like a real hoot. I reckon your Uncle Howard could teach us a thing or two."

"I've told them all about you they'd all love to meet you…" He trailed off and went red realizing what he had just suggested. But James and Sirius didn't seem to find it weird at all. Counter to Peter's fears they actually seemed thrilled to come visit him over the summer. Then they were all arguing about whose place they'd visit first and what they'd do. It was great fun and by the time they entered the Great Hall for a late dinner, they were all grinning broadly.

Sirius rushed ahead of them and leaped in the spot next to Remus flinging his arm around his shoulder. Peter couldn't hear what they were saying but he supposed it was good as Remus didn't try to get out of Sirius' grip like he usually did. Peter was about to ask James if he thought they would be able to go to Remus' place, for he was quite curious when Patricia walked up with a lazy grin.

Her effect on James was immediate and the boy who had been casually walking with his puffed-up swagger Peter wished he could imitate, stopped dead and gaped at her.

"Wotcher Potter. Enjoy your Christmas?"

"Huh?...uh….yeah…." James mumbled finally finding his voice at last. Peter sidestepped slightly so he was partially behind James. Patricia shot him a bored glance then ignored him, Peter didn't like her much and he certainly didn't like how obsessed James was with her.

"Hope you're ready to get back to training soon." She teased.

"Absolutely can't wait!" James replied, his voice slightly higher than usual. She rolled her eyes at him, looked like she was going to say something else, but then thought better of it walking away from James' puppy dog eyes.

"She's gone now, James. Come on we're going to be the last ones to sit down." He urged giving him a slight push from behind, which Peter and Remus soon realized was the only way to get Sirius and James to function after Patricia interacted with them, especially James.

Peter was surprised to find both Sirius and Remus had turned in their seats watching them. Sirius was envious and Peter was horrified he had lost Remus to whatever spell Patricia had cast on his friends, but realized he didn't look jealous. He had a strange expression on his face Peter couldn't explain and his eyes seemed to get distant as they often did.

But then he was smiling and waving to them so Peter forgot all about it. Instead, he sat across from Sirius and Remus with James and focused on the retelling of his and James' breaks.

….

Remus was glad his roommates were back. He would be lying if he said his break had been completely miserable because in fact, it had gone better than he could have hoped. After being carried to Madam Pomfrey's by Dumbledore he was pretty out of it until after the full moon, which once again was a violent transformation. He had woken to the matron crying though he wasn't sure why. She was talking to Professor McGonagall who seemed to be comforting her not yelling at her, but he couldn't make out enough of their conversation to figure out what had happened.

With no classes to attend the matron had kept him prisoner for six whole days! He nearly missed the New Year's feast and Dumbledore had to come and convince her to let him go. She had been very upset with Remus who thought it was because he had ruined her holiday. It wasn't until she was lecturing him on the importance of coming to the hospital ward before he collapsed that he realized she was so cross with him because she was worried.

He had nearly started crying at that but didn't want a repeat of when he had opened the presents he got. Of all people Professor McGonagall had brought them to him, he had always thought she didn't like him much. Luckily she hadn't stayed much longer than to give them to him, make sure he was alright, and wish him Merry Christmas. Had she stayed she would have witnessed Remus breaking down into sobs when it sunk in he had gotten a small pile of presents.

Not only had all three of his roommates given him something, but Lily and Dorcas, Patricia, and best of all he received a long letter from his father with a nice tea set. Madam Pomfrey had walked into the room to find him crying and had spent the next half hour calming him down before sending him into tears again when she too gave him a present, a wonderful and no doubt expensive wizarding chess set. He couldn't believe she had remembered his offhand comment about not having one and to be surrounded by such love was nice and terrifying all at once.

He had wanted to avoid the matron after that but she wouldn't let him leave adamant that he would spend the "appropriate" amount of time recovering since he didn't need to worry about going to class. But it turned out alright because he wasn't all alone and he was able to find out all about Madam Pomfrey's family and even a few stories about her time at Hogwarts. But he still felt sick and sluggish most of the time.

To make matters worse Patricia who had found him in such a state visited him, clearly worried. It took a lot of pleading to convince her not to tell his roommates what had happened but her visits too turned out to be quite pleasant. It turned out Remus and Patricia were both quite fascinated by magical creatures, not monsters for him but the more innocent creatures. She told him all about her expeditions into the forests and her hopes and dreams about working closely with all magical creatures one day.

Apparently she had told Hagrid what had happened for the next day he visited him with her bringing a present for Remus and they spent several hours talking about dragons of all things. Remus kept the present of a tin of rock hard scones tucked under his bed thanking the groundskeeper sincerely, it was the thought that counted after all.

When Hagrid finally left Patricia bounced the scones off the wall and the two of them had ended up trying to guess where the scones would ricochet too. They quickly stopped the game after one scone knocked over a tray with a loud crash. Patricia had summoned the scone back into her hand before the Matron came running and they both feigned innocence while trying not to burst into laughter.

When he finally recovered enough to leave the hospital wing he sat with Patricia during meals and got to know a few fifth years who said they found him "charming" and even let him join in on their study sessions. Most things went over his head but he was able to find out about a secret passage through multiple versions of rumors so he found it was rather a success.

The last few days he had to dodge Patricia who was trying to get him to go into the forbidden forest with her and Hagrid, and he shamelessly used the matron being to dramatic as to why he couldn't join them. He had managed to convince Patricia, who didn't know how sick he often got, that it was his first time getting the flu probably because he had spent too much time outside in the cold.

She bought the lie and had dropped the matter spending hours playing exploding snap, gobstones, and chess with him, courtesy of Peter, James, and the matron's gifts. Sirius had by far spent the most on him and he would give it back if he thought there was any hope the stubborn boy would allow him to. For when he had finally opened his presents he found that Sirius had sent him a large collection of very fancy books, both muggle and wizarding about all sorts of topics, fiction and nonfiction alike.

Remus now had a little library stored under his bed and a stash kept hidden at the hospital wing for the many hours he'd spend there. It was only Sirius insistence most were handy downs in the accompanying card, that kept Remus from sending them back immediately.

Even if that were true one book alone, with a sleek leather cover, must have cost a whole five galleons! Remus felt terrible that he had neither gotten his roommates anything for Christmas not even having a sickle to spare nor had he even sent them letters, like they had sent him full of Christmas wishes and good cheer.

So for the last two days, he had locked himself in their dorm and worked endlessly on knitting them scarves. They were scarlet and gold and lumpy and, he was convinced, stupid looking. But Patricia, who had no qualms barging into his room it semed, convinced him to give them to Lily, James, Peter, and Sirius. When he had assured her he would make her one too she laughed and ruffled his hair, which she had done a lot over the break, saying she'd hold him to it.

But it was a lot easier to say he'd gift the scarves then do so. Because James, Sirius, and Peter had all walked in with nice new robes and shoes and he was sure they had all gotten much better things for Christmas. His guilt at not even writing them a letter soon disappeared when he saw Sirius alive and happy.

He was so relieved he forgot to mind the arm around his shoulders. No one seemed to care he hadn't sent them anything as they all excitedly recounted their Christmas', though he noticed Sirius didn't say as much as he normally would. After a large late dinner, they retreated to their dorm room when finally they turned their attention to him.

"You haven't said one word about your Christmas break. How was it?"

"Good." He responded noncommittally hoping they'd let it go. This seemed to be good enough for James and Peter, but once again Sirius had to keep pushing.

"Oh come on Remus! What did you do? Who'd you talk to? Did you find a secret passage to show us?" This last question surprised him, he looked up eyes filled with guilt but Sirius was smirking.

"Please, I knew you were lying before. But did you find one? James bet you didn't but I bet you would."

"Hey, I didn't hear about a bet. I thought Remus was telling the truth" Peter pouted looking from James to Remus with hurt in his eyes.

"I was telling the truth Peter don't let these doubters fool you. Since they didn't, believe me, I'll only show you!" That got them! James and Sirius shot each other a panicked glance then proceed to dramatically beg him for forgiveness. He only hesitated for a second before putting them out of their misery. At least they had forgotten to dig into what his break was like.

He thought about spinning a tale about a great epic trip to the forbidden forest but knew his lie would be discovered as soon as they saw Hagrid again, and that would just bring attention back to him. Instead, he contented himself to listen to James and Sirius fantasize about what would lie at the end of the tunnel once they realized Remus had waited to explore it further.

After much begging and arguing he relented and agreed to take them to the new secret passage the same night they returned. After sneaking out outside of hours over a dozen times Remus had gotten quite bold and no longer jumped at every sound or possibility of detection. In fact, all four of them were really quite good at it, in his humble opinion. There had been several close calls, especially with Filch, but not one of them had gotten caught and in a typical boyish fashion they were beginning to believe they never would, including Remus.

Which meant the only thing he had to fear to cause detention was the stupid large prank he had gotten himself into. He had no hope of getting out of it, as Sirius had pointed out to him several times. So in a few days times he'd have to risk gaining his first detention unless he wanted to let down his roommates and assuredly get them caught, which he did not want to do. He tried not to think about that though, especially because his father had written him a nice letter and would no doubt be furious when he learned of Remus' troublemaking.

But that was in a few days and by comparison slipping out once it was lights out was much less dangerous and frightening. Which is how he found himself leading the other three to the one-eyed witch statue by the stairs leading to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. They much have passed it a hundred times heading to class and had never thought twice about the humpbacked witch and her one eye which always seemed to follow them.

"Dissendium." He whispered confidently having tested the passage out several days prior. Sure enough the hump on the statue, in response to his command, opened just wide enough for a small child to slide down to the hidden passageway below. All four of them fit with ease and soon they were standing underneath the statue and Remus' heart was hammering loudly.

He fumbled with his wand the passage currently pitch black, then hoping this wouldn't turn out to be a stupid idea held his wand out, three carefully wrapped packages a few feet ahead of them.

"Lumos." He whispered bringing the small corridor into view and with it the three packages.

"Oh ho ho ho what's this?" Sirius asked pouncing on one of the packages excitedly.

"Here I thought you forgot all about us Lupin old pal!" James responded happily following suit. Peter seemed stunned and delighted and grinned at him broadly before rescuing his own package form the flying shards of paper as the other two tore quickly apart their own.

Remus turned around unable to face them, he felt his shoulders tense and squeezed his fists tightly together sure they'd hate it. His fears seemed to be confirmed by the silence that followed and he swallowed down his sadness throat tight.

"Well?"

"How do we look?" He turned around surprised to find the three of them ridiculously posed, their scarves wrapped around their necks each one grinning at him sincerely.

"Don't tear up you big pansy." Sirius laughed affectionately going over to Remus and patting his back. Peter and James laughed and quickly joined him, all of them huddled closely together. Remus rubbed his eyes furiously.

"I didn't have any money. I know they aren't nearly as great as the other presents you got. But I couldn't think of anything else so….." He trailed off lamely blinking back fresh tears as they all group hugged.

"Well, my mom taught me that a handmade present is worth several gifted presents. Thanks, mate now we can support out Quidditch team in style!"

"Here here!" Cheered Sirius then added slyly.

"If a handmade present is better Potter I guess you better give me back the whole prankster kit I bought. Yeah?"

"Absolutely not! It's priceless and vital for our operation Monday!"

"Here here!" Peter said loudly attempting to hide his nerves with the sheer volume of his cheer. But Remus knew he was just as worried about getting detention on Monday as he was, and just as resigned to his fate as well.

"Well, men we could continue to dilly dawdle or explore this passage."

"Here here," Remus responded and they all laughed and headed out.

Authors Note: How did everyone like the different Christmas perspectives? I hope everyone is enjoying the story so far.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Seven: The Shrieking Shack

Much like the last secret passage they had to work hard to reach their destination with this one as well. Remus and Peter were both out of breath and even Sirius was slowing down, his stamina not up to par with James like usual for reasons Remus didn't want to ponder on.

What none of them could have expected was where the passage led to. Remus went first like last time as he was the "mastermind" who found the passage. He cautiously entered the store above and it took a few minutes for his eyes to adjust to the warm glow coming from a few lit lamps. For one horrible second, he thought they were caught red-handed and nearly shouted at the others down below to run for it and save themselves.

Then the wonder set in once he realized there was no adult to bust him and he nearly shouted out for another reason. He hopped back down and couldn't wipe the smile off his face which grew at the questioning looks the others gave him.

Realizing what above them must truly be wonderful beyond their imagination James and Sirius both fought to go up second. While they were fighting Peter took advantage and up he went, his muffled shrieks of glee echoing from above. James and Sirius wrestled each other to the ground both wanting to go next. Realizing this may take a while Remus shook his head at them and smiling climbed back up into Honeydukes.

"Blimey," Peter whispered beside him the two of them turning this way and that to ooggle at rows upon rows of every kind of candy imaginable. Finally, James emerged the victor and nearly fell back beneath as the weight of the fantastic discovery crashed upon him.

"Hurry up Sirius." He whispered.

"Bloody git whose fault do you think it is I'm las…...Good Gryffindor!" He shouted in amazement.

"SHHHHHHH!" They all hushed him, all freezing in what would have been comedic fashion had they not been terrified they had just woken up the owner of Honeydukes. When they were sure they hadn't they combed the aisles hungrily with their eyes and Remus had to convince them all, himself included, not to steal anything.

"This is incredible. Remus, you truly are brilliant! Isn't he bloody brilliant?"

"Sure is."

"Absolutely."

Remus felt his face get hot again but realized it wasn't altogether a terrible feeling bubbling deep inside him.

"It was just dumb luck." He responded quietly wishing they'd go back underneath before they got caught not only up past hours but outside of the castle!

"And oh so humble too."

"A right polite chap he is."

"Hey while we're here, let's go look around Hogsmeade." Luckily only Sirius was rash enough to suggest such a thing because it took all three of them to talk him down.

"But I want to see the shrieking shack!" He whined loudly once they had left the shop with armloads of candy that James did indeed pay for. Remus popped a piece of amazing chocolate into his mouth, James assuring him he deserved it.

"Mmm, what's that?" He asked after another mouthful, the ecstasy of the heavenly chocolate making him forget his manners.

"Oh you know that shack that was built late last summer, the one Dumbledore dumps the worst behaving ghosts into, don't know why that doesn't include Peeves. But apparently, they throw lots of fits all the time but especially at the full moon all throwing some sort of occultic party or something." Sirius explained amused and the last bit of chocolate in Remus' mouth seemed to turn to ash and he struggled to swallow it.

"Oi, what's the matter mate?" Asked James for they were now, fortunately, all talented enough to alternate lighting the tip of there wand and therefore didn't have to blindly stumble in the dark. But unfortunately, that meant they had seen Remus go deathly pale and fall against the wall eyes wide with terror.

"Come on Remus you're as bad as Peter honestly it's not like the ghosts can get you."

"Hey, I'm not afraid of ghosts!"

"No, but you're afraid of Peeves."

"So are you!"

"Are not!"

"Are too!"

"Are too!" Added James all eyes off Remus who was trying to calm down. He suddenly felt a surge of anger rush and sink into him. Dumbledore hadn't said anything about this. He had no idea that people had been able to hear him! He should have been told! They shouldn't be able to hear him! Maybe something had gone wrong during the last full moon? How long had this been going on?

"Remus."

"Remus!"

"Oi LUPIN!" He jumped realizing his three roommates eyes were on him.

"What's wrong you look dreadful?"

"You allergic to chocolate? Or did you eat too much of it?"

"M…...must…...of…" He stammered glad for an out. He put an arm around his stomach as if that was the cause of his distress. Sirius shot him a weird look but soon became preoccupied in fighting back James who had already eaten all his candy and now wanted the candy he had given to Sirius.

"Back off mate, they're mine!" Remus trailed behind the three thoughts racing all the way back to the dorm. They tried to drag him into the conversation again but realized he was in one of his "withdrawn moods" as Sirius liked to call it, hoping doing such would goad him into speaking. It never worked though because at those moments Remus had much bigger worries on his mind than if his roommates found him temperamental and antisocial at times or not.

They let him go to bed without complaint and he listened to them whisper about him and his weird behavior once they thought he had fallen asleep. Hours later and still unable to sleep at all he got out of bed and left the room and his three fast asleep roommates with it. He paced the common room trying to wrap his head about what he learned.

Shame filled him thinking about how people had heard him…..heard him screaming and howling like some beast. That they had contributed it to some occult ritual the ghosts had every full moon. How long until people realized what was in the shed weren't ghosts at all but a werewolf? Why oh why had Dumbledore let this happen? He was one of the most powerful wizards of their day surely he could make the shed soundproof if he wished.

It took him about another half hour of pacing before he realized there was an easy solution to this, well sort of. He allowed his anger to carry him through the halls of Hogwarts and up to Dumbledore's office who had given him the passcode for the next month in case he needed him for an emergency. Well in his anxiety-riddled brain this indeed seemed like an emergency and at the moment he was too upset to be worried about bothering the Headmaster.

It didn't surprise him to walk into the office and find himself alone. He paced back and forth finding himself angrier than he had been when he first had to adjust to being a werewolf, being a monster. One that people were laughing at and telling ghost stories about. It wasn't fair!

"Mr. Lupin is everything alright?" He wanted to say yes, to apologize for overreacting but every time he tried to be mature he thought of the people of Hogsmeade listening to his screams and his blood boiled once more.

"No sir I'm not. I…...I….." He trailed off momentarily silenced by the realization he couldn't tell Dumbledore how he'd found out. Then he realized he could just say they had gotten on the subject in the dorm, Sirius was certainly impulsive enough that this was believable.

Dumbledore waited for him to speak changing out of his pale pink night robe, complete with a nightcap, into his bright purple day ones with a flick of his wand. He turned over several portraits like last time then sat down at his desk and watched Remus seriously, perhaps wondering if he'd gone mental as Remus spluttered trying to get his frustration across in a still respectful manner.

"I found out…..about...about the shrieking shack…...Sirius…..told me…...he...heard...from professors…..!" He finished nearly out of breath from holding back the majority of his anger and saying something he'd regret.

"Ah, I see," Dumbledore said simply nearly setting Remus off again.

"Why?" He gritted out turning away from Dumbledore hoping to see Fawkes calm him down but finding an ugly baby bird instead.

"It was decided this would be the best way to keep people away from the shack. Rather than make it appealing with mystery pretending to be upfront about it so people may talk but have no desire to attempt to get in seemed the wisest option."

"I…..I thought…..there were wards...preventing that." He stammered his anger turning into fear at the prospect of some innocent person wandering in while he transformed.

"There are but it's still best to keep people away. A powerful enough witch or wizard could break through the wards. I had to assure that none would want to."

"But…...but…..but…" Dumbledore sighed and pushed his rimmed glasses further up his nose.

"I understand this solution is...an upsetting one. But I assure you Mr. Lupin that no one will find out that it's you in the shack."

"But that doesn't matter!" He cried face going red.

"The…...they...still hear me…" He finished lamely not sure how to get Dumbledore to understand what a big deal this was to him. It was quite possible Dumbledore had never heard what his transformations were like, maybe he had underestimated how...loud Remus and the wolf could both be.

"They think they are hearing ghosts. No one would conclude that there was a werewolf inside I assure you. Remus, I know this isn't fair to you but I promise you it's the best way to obtain your and others safety. If not I would have assured no one could hear you as you are accustomed to and I'm sure a great deal more comfortable with."

Remus nodded just feeling ashamed and sad now. Dumbledore wasn't going to fix it, he would have to be an unknowing part of the legend of the Shrieking Shack for who knows how long.

"I understand sir." He whispered, feeling tears prick his eyes but determined not to cry in front of the headmaster a third time.

"I do apologize Remus. I thought it would be better if you didn't know. But truthfully I suppose I just didn't know how to tell you." He admitted with surprising humility. Remus nodded still upset.

"I don't suppose I could make it up to you somehow?" It was this comment that made Remus realize how ridiculous he was being. How dare he be upset with Dumbledore of all people! He had no right, not when the headmaster had given him a chance other werewolves had never received and could only dream about.

"No, sir. I apologize for bothering you."

"Call me Dumbledore. And nonsense I always love guests at four in the morning." He chuckled with only the slightest bit of sarcasm in his voice. He stroked his long beard and looked Remus over closely.

He then proceeded to ask Remus about his classes and his roommates, again he was honestly surprised by how much Dumbledore already seemed to know about him. He supposed it made sense for the headmaster to keep tabs on the monster in the castle.

"Well, I daresay we both best get ready for the day now. I'm sure your friends have the carefree plans of youth to drag you into." Dumbledore dismissed him sounding amused. Remus almost immediately corrected Dumbledore that they weren't his friends but realized, at last, that they were.

"Yes Professor Dumbledore I suppose you are right," Remus responded with a faint smile that was returned immediately.

"Do keep up the good work Mr. Lupin I do so enjoy keeping track of all my top students." Once again Remus left Dumbledore's office confused and flustered.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Snowball Fights and Ending up with Your Foot In Your Mouth

"Get up you lot it's the weekend!" Sirius cried jumping up and down thrilled about their discovery last night and about being back in general. The last day or two before coming back to Hogwarts had been absolutely miserable, he'd only avoided the dementor thanks to his little brother's interference with their mother.

But he wasn't going to dwell about the past for he was back at the glorious school surrounded by his wonderfully brilliant friends and completely and utterly free from his family, well most of them anyway.

Like usual Remus was gone, up before the rest of them could even think about rising. He sure didn't seem to need much sleep, completely different from James who was groaning and begging for mercy as he shook him awake.

"Come on sleepy head! There's a fresh blanket of snow on the ground and the day is magical and begging for fun~"

"You're such a twat." James groaned swatting him away half-heartedly but Sirius saw the smile he tried to hold back and whooped with victory.

"Come on Come on~" He sang dancing around with the energy that made most adults label him, unpredictable. But adults were boring and he was fun and he was back and he was safe and everything was perfect!

"Peter!" He shouted in the sleeping boy's ear. He tickled Peter's foot after waiting a minute of predictably no response from the heavy sleeper. After missing another late-night rendezvous which at the times they had still been surprised Remus seemed to enjoy, Peter had told them the secret to waking him up. A secret they all swore not to abuse but this didn't count because he knew ol Pettigrew wouldn't want to miss this!

He leaped back with skilled precision as the boy flailed, something him and James had come to realize from experience after waking Peter up at odd times for the hell of it, which didn't count as abusing the power. Sure enough, tickling his feet woke Peter as nothing else would and soon the three of them were bundled up, all in there spiffy new scarves and heading down into the common room.

Sirius had hoped to find Remus there, curled up on the couch in front of the fire with a book and a distant look in his eyes that made Sirius doubt he was reading at all. But instead, he found Remus and Patricia of all people playing chess, both of them looking quite equally match. Not only did this confirm Sirius' suspicions Remus was a much better chess player than he pretended to be, but also that he was mental not to be even slightly flustered around the prettiest and wittiest girl in Gryffindor.

Not that Sirius liked her or anything like that, he wasn't as hopeless at James who truly did have a crush on her. No, he was just in awe of her masterful brilliance with pranks. He still couldn't believe Remus of all people had convinced her to show them her ways. He sure was a wild card that Remus, never doing what Sirius suspected to and so complicated that he never could seem to figure him out for very long.

Not that he'd ever tell Remus that, as long as the kid believed Sirius had him at least slightly figured out he'd keep getting flustered and making mistakes, which is what he was counting on to figure out his bizarre friend.

"Wotcher Patricia." He called mimicking her thick Cockney accent. She shot him a bemused and irritated look he had quickly become familiar with. He threw an arm around Remus' shoulders causing the boy deep in concentration to jump badly. Like usual he pretended not to notice.

"Morning mate. You're up early as usually hm?"

"I'm more surprised you're up this early? And are you alone? I can't imagine you didn't wake James and Peter." He responded easily with his dry humor, a faint smile on his tired face.

"You bet I did they are just a bunch of slowpokes." He retorted part of him wanting to shake Remus, an impulse he often had to fight. Slowly Remus Lupin was driving him mad, he knew he was hiding something. Those innocent-looking eyes weren't fooling him. James had attempted to tell Sirius that he was reading too much into things, again.

"Have you ever thought that maybe you want him to be hiding something. Because then you wouldn't feel guilty about the whole letter fiasco." James had pointed out to him during a quidditch practice they had watched about a month ago. But James didn't know anything, he didn't understand. He knew he Knew, there was something else and he'd go mad if he couldn't eventually figure it out.

"We are not slowpokes!" Huffed James coming up behind him. Sirius smirked and counted down from five.

"Oh…..oh! Uh…..h…..hi Patricia." James stuttered reduced to a moron in the girl's presence once again. It was nice really, how predictable Peter and James were usually, much easier to follow.

"Well, that's my cue to leave. I'll beat you one of these days Lupin." She sighed and good-naturedly rustled Remus' hair like he was a little brother she'd come to care about. When had they grown so close? Over the break, of course, it was the only option. Remus still hadn't said one thing about it, avoiding the subject in his skillful typical fashion. But Patricia had given him a wonderful opening and he wasn't about to squander it.

"You must be pretty awful at chess then Patricia you see Remus always loses to me, well after the first few games anyway. Guess I'm just that good." He bragged.

"Watch it you firstie. I'm amazing at chess. I'm betting Remus here has just been letting you win." Remus went red and looked between them guiltily, caught at last. Sirius made his eyebrows raise in a look of surprise, only enjoying Remus' discomfort a little more than he should.

"What? Surely not!" Perhaps he was laying it on a bit thick because Remus had given him a look that said he knew Sirius wasn't surprised by this. Patricia now seemed amused and despite her threat to leave hadn't moved from her seat.

"I…..well…..uh…." Remus stammered thoroughly uncomfortable.

"Wait you really were just pretending to lose? No wonder you beat Sirius the one time you were almost asleep. I can't believe you were letting us win!" James exclaimed coming around at last. Someone letting him win, and henceforth hurting his massive pride, trumped a girl any day.

"Well no...I mean sort of….I just…" Now Sirius felt a little bad as Remus had the fearful wide-eyed gaze he'd had the first day he met him. What had then irritated him, now filled him with guilt. He knew he ought to be nicer to him, it was just so tempting to tease him and it was oh so easy to and such fun!

"Well, I think this requires a rematch!" James declared eager to restore his wounded pride, or no doubt wind up with it more wounded. Patricia rolled her eyes but stood up and let him sit in her seat rearranging the board with a flick of her wand. Sirius had wanted to start a snowball fight, maybe even lob a few at some annoying Slytherins, but that could wait. He was excited to see Remus' true potential, he whispered to Peter that James didn't stand a chance."

"Course he does," Peter whispered back rising to the bait.

"Five galleons that Remus wins." Peter hesitated but James had puffed out his chest and ran a hand through his messy hair like he did whenever he felt confident.

"Deal," Peter whispered. The chess game lasted about ten minutes and it was the easiest five galleons Sirius had ever made. Peter was, in all fairness, a good sport about it. Which was more than could be said for James who was a bit peeved when he found out Sirius had bet against him.

"Oh come off it Potter. Anyone ever tell you you're a right sore loser you are." Sirius teased earning him a playful, yet bit harder than necessary, punch on the shoulder from James.

"He sure is." Patricia laughed having watched the whole match with detached interest. Then Frank Longbottom who was in her year came downstairs and she rushed to greet him.

Apparently, fellow fourth years were more interesting than "icky firsties" after all.

"Come on guys there's no point staying cooped up when there's fresh snow calling our names!" He shouted happily glad he was a first-year and it was acceptable for them to play such childish games. All the other years were much more boring, he'd never be that boring, he promised to himself.

"What are we going to do outside?" Remus asked confused and relieved to put aside the chess thing, for now. Oh, poor poor Remus. Sirius realized he had much more fun growing up than he did and basically all fun had been banned for Sirius growing up. It really made him worry how much worse Remus' home life had been. James clasped Remus' shoulder with the air of one imparting serious wisdom.

"Oh, dear Lupin our sweet little chick haven't you had a snowball fight before?"

"O….of course…" Remus insisted defensively, but this time he wasn't fooling any of them.

"Don't worry. We will show you the way. You're one of us after all." Sirius declared and then they were all headed outside, Remus firmly in front of Sirius in case he tried to make a run for it. He seemed to have realized long ago that this was useless, but one could never be to careful with Remus.

Then they were outside and Sirius was running through the snow falling into it and rolling around in it like it wasn't freezing. He sat up only to have James throw a snowball in his face.

"Traitor!" He shouted passionately reaching quickly for his own arsenal. It was so on.

He was so caught up in eventually tackling James and shoving his smug face into the snow where it belonged, that he had momentarily forgotten all about Remus. Peter's aim was a little wonky but he got in a few clear hits and was now building a fort while Sirius was distracted as James.

"Hey, no fair!" He laughed and charged toward Peter's impressive fort planning to kick it down, and that's when he saw Remus off a way watching them with a mix of wonder and horror. He reluctantly stopped his charge and earned a snowball in the face from an ecstatic Peter.

"Time out! Time out!" He jogged over to Remus who took a few steps back. Honestly! Weren't they passed that by now?

"Here duck down. Come on. See how I'm scooping the snow. You got to pack it real tight otherwise it will fall apart when you throw it alright?" Remus nodded and copied Sirius' motions forming a perfect snowball. There was a moment of hesitation on his face before his features hardened and he repaid Sirius' kindness by shoving the snowball in his face before he took off running and laughing louder than Sirius had heard before. That little bugger! It was so on!

"Raaah I'm an abominable snowman!" James shouted launching himself at Sirius tackling him back into the snow.

"Help help!" He shouted between his laughter.

"I'll save you! I'm a Gryffindor" Peter called mocking James' usually tone he took when taking pride in being a Gryffindor. Peter even held up the invisible sword James always did and they all roared with laughter, James included.

Both Peter and Remus teamed up which only seemed fair with how talented James and Sirius were. So three teams versed each other with plenty of friendly jibes and laughter. The boys of floor seven-room one threw snowballs and wrestled in the snow for hours before worn out and soaked they trampled into Hagrid's hut.

The massive man was all too pleased to have them and soon was brewing them that nasty tea. Right, he had forgotten about that. They talked about their respective Christmas breaks, all but Remus. James saying the most followed by Peter.

Sirius told the good parts, exaggerating them enough to actually be good but he didn't want to think about it much and was glad Peter and James both seemed to have enough good stories for two. After a while, the conversation lulled a bit and Hagrid talked about his break and expressed how glad he was they visited again.

"Nice of all yer to stop by. Been worried about you Remus you sure seemed awfully sick last time I saw you." Remus froze cup almost to his mouth, why he insisted on drinking the disgusting tea was a mystery to Sirius.

"I'm much better now. Sorry for worrying you." He quickly recovered and responded calmly. But it was too late, Sirius caught the momentary look of panic. He wasn't about to let this go either.

"When was this?"

"Huh why over break o course," Hagrid responded not noticing Remus' pleading look.

"You were sick again Remus?" Peter asked worried, his cup empty given to the giant dog when Hagrid wasn't looking. Sirius ought to do that himself but he was a little too preoccupied with Remus now. His squirly roommate shifted and looked away.

"It wasn't that bad. Just a cold."

"A cold! That weren't no cold yer were as sick as a dog! Had Madam Pomfrey awfully worried you did." Hagrid thundered in disbelief. Ah good old Hagrid, Sirius loved the big oaf he sure did! Remus looked trapped and realizing Hagrid was a hindrance, not a help drained his tea forgetting apparently what was in his cup, for he gagged and spluttered coughing loudly. Peter thumped his back and Hagrid looked concerned as Remus struggled for breath.

"Hmm, you get sick an awful lot don't you Remus," Sirius interjected before he could change the subject. James was watching Remus his head leaning slightly against his hand, which Sirius knew meant he was calculating things again. James too, deep down, knew the pieces just didn't add up with Remus.

"Not…..not that often….." He insisted nervously.

"It's ok Remus. My aunt gets sick loads. Nothing to be ashamed of." Peter pointed out kindly. Hagrid seemed to have come to the conclusion he shouldn't have said anything about Remus being sick again for he was being awfully quiet and looked unsure on what to say.

"Yeah so why not just admit it? If I didn't know any better I'd say you were acting like you had something to hide." Remus went his usual shade of deathly pale.

"Course not." He whispered hoarsely. Inside Sirius' mind, Dumbledore's warning not to give Remus cause to push them away echoed at him, but he had been too curious for too long so he ignored it.

"Really? Because you disappear a lot and you get sick a lot."

"I already explained that," Remus whispered his eyes filling with tears which was uncommon and which never seemed to actually fall from his eyes, the boy always blinking them back with impressive self-restraint before they could.

"Sirius," James said in his cautionary tone.

"James." He shot back in sarcastically, irritated.

"I think Remus explained enough. His mom is sick."

"Then why is he the one always sick? What's going on with him?" Sirius asked angrily. Remus jumped and looked to the door as if debating if he could make a run for it or not.

Then the teapot was screaming curses, that Sirius had half a mind to shout at Remus and his stupids secrets, and Hagrid jumped to his feet nearly breaking the table in his hurry.

"Second pot o tea is done. Yer all welcomes to have some." He interjected rather awkwardly nearly breaking the tea kettle as he lifted it off the fire.

"No...no thank you, Hagrid. I remembered I promised to study with Lily." Remus responded quickly already halfway to the door. He shot them an upset and nervous look before he ran away.

"Now look what you've done." James sighed.

"What? I was just asking!" Sirius protested loudly in his defense. James gave him a look that plainly stated what he thought of his line of questioning. Sirius thought about running after Remus but realized he was much more likely to get details from Hagrid than the tight-lipped boy.

"So Hagrid how sick was Remus? Really?" Hagrid paused looking uncomfortable.

"Oh well...I don't think I ought to be telling you that. Didn't sound like Remus liked it much." Sirius appreciated Hagrid's kindness and loyalty, he really did, just not about this.

"Oh don't mind him he's just embarrassed. Takes everything too personal. I'm sure you know the type." He sighed dramatically hoping James would help him out. He shot his partner in crime a look and James rolled his eyes but came to his rescue anyways.

"That's right Remus is just a quiet sort you know. But we're all his friends and we're just worried about him honest." Hagrid considered them for a few minutes before he sat down.

"Well, he was awfully sick. He was in the hospital wing for at least five days. Missed the Christmas feast and the New Years one. Patricia and I visited him in the hospital wing and he was awfully polite and happy about it. But he seemed very worn out and Madam Pomfrey would only let us stay for a few hours at a time since ee needed his rest." James and Sirius shot each other a look.

"Thank you Hagrid you've been very helpful," James said politely, going so far as to pretend to take a sip to show his gratitude.

"Yeah thank you. We best be going now though. Figure we ought to check up on Remus and make sure he's alright."

"That sounds like a good idea. You lot come visit again soon." Hagrid called as they left and Sirius realized he must be awfully lonely living in that dismal shack by himself.

Once they were ought of earshot and sight James sat down in the snow looking thoughtful.

"You reckon he has what his mum has?" He asked after pondering for a long while.

"Don't say that James! He can't be dying!"

"Well it sort of explains things if that's the case, doesn't it? I mean why else would he look so guilty over getting sick." Sirius could think of a reason, flashing back to his mother screaming at him shouting that Blacks don't get sick and he better stop making up excuses to get out of dinner parties. He had been six and even though he had a fever his mother still insisted he was doing it just to ruin her day. He sighed heavily wondering if maybe it was like that. Surely that was better than him dying?

"You're right we shouldn't pry." He admitted getting an odd look from both Peter and James.

"A little too late for that isn't it." James pointed out dryly. Sirius groaned realizing once more he had gone too far.

"Reckon he'll talk to us again?" He asked worriedly.

"I'm sure he will." Peter offered though sounded unsure and equally worried.

"Eventually. We should give him space for a bit. You really did it this time Sirius." James muttered. Sirius hung his head accepting the earned chastising with dignity.

"He'll come around. He has to."

"Still we have to agree no more snooping. Whatever it is Dumbledore knows about it. That has to be good enough for us...at least for the time being. Agreed?"

"Agreed." Peter pipped up quickly but he wasn't the one James was looking at.

"Sirius?"

"Agreed." He muttered reluctantly. He knew James was right, but he really hated it when he was. Twat would get too arrogant at this rate. So he picked up a snowball and chucked it at James' head.

"It was getting too large." He teased ducking as the snowball flew past him and hit Peter. They all grinned at each other, needing once more a distraction. Thus round two commenced.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Nine: A Rather Stinky Situation

Remus had of course been lying about studying with Lily. He only slowed down when he was nearing the castle and realized he hadn't been chased. He took several breaths then realized he really ought to see Lily and give her the scarf he had knitted her. It was a much worse present than the shiny new copy of Hogwarts a History she had given him after he had told her the one he currently had wasn't his own.

It was a relief to ship it back to his father with a letter and an assortment of cookies he had boxed up from one of the dinners, and he kept his new copy with him at all times. Still, he felt a little emboldened by his roommates' reactions, he was back to thinking of them not as friends after yet another interrogation and decided he best give Lily her present soon or he never would.

So he went back to the dorms briefly, and changed into some dry robes, then headed for the library the badly wrapped bundle in his arms. He stopped dead in his tracks when he heard Severus' voice carry over the books. He hadn't made Severus anything and it was terribly rude to give Lily a present when he had nothing for him. So he tracked down a house-elf, they were all incredibly helpful and asked for some more materials this time in different colors. He apologized for bothering the house-elf named Nibbly who didn't seem to mind the bother at all.

"Here you go, sir. Think nothing of it, sir. It's my pleasure, sir." Remus found the house-elves made him feel very uncomfortable. Still, he had the green and silver material and he spent the next few hours magically knitting a small pen case which turned out, he thought, much nicer looking than the scarves did.

He was quite pleased with the progress he had made in enchanting the knitting needles, especially since they had been particularly ornery ones his uncle had given him for Christmas. He hadn't counted his uncle's present since the little letter attached said they were so Remus wouldn't kill himself with boredom being friendless and all, and they stabbed his hands till they bled until Remus got the hang of them.

Still, they did the trick and Remus was now quite grateful for them, deciding it to be the best present his uncle had ever given him. With the finished product Remus set out for the library again, and just in the nick of time for he nearly ran into his roommates who were, once more, covered in snow and out of breath.

"Think he's in the dorm room?"

"Seems unlikely. Bet he's avoiding us."

"You mean you?"

"You didn't exactly come to his offense." Sirius and James bickered quietly.

"Maybe...he's actually in the library," Peter added timidly only to get shot down. Remus hurried off before he could hear anymore. Confident now that they wouldn't look for him, if they even bothered, where he said he'd be. So he headed to the library and once more found Lily there, but it seemed he had taken to long for Severus wasn't.

"Oh hello, Remus. How was your break?"

"Good. Yours?"

"It was lovely. Only my sister Petunia was acting like quite the brat. She can be very annoying. Oh, what's that your holding?" She asked noticing the bundle and stopping her excited recounting of Christmas.

"It's um…..for you." He held it out his embarrassment growing as a light blush spread across Lily's cheek.

"Really? Thank you!" She opened it and was just as satisfied with the scarf as his fr….roommates had been. She put it on immediately too and praised Remus' handiwork though he still thought they had all turned out a bit lopsided.

"This will be perfect for the Quidditch games. I imagine I'll have to go sooner than later considering Dorcas and Marlene like it so much." Remus was glad to hear Lily mention one of her other roommates. Marlene was just as outgoing as Dorcas but a good deal more confrontational and her and Lily butted heads nearly as often as James and Sirius and weren't nearly as good as making up as they were.

"Getting along with her now?"

"Oh yes, you see…." Lily then launched into a long-winded explanation about how Marlene read this one author that she did and how the two had bonded over that and the fact that their side of the room was always tidy while Dorcas and Mary's side was not. Then she launched into her family Christmas story after making sure Remus liked his present, which he assured her sincerely he did.

It was a relaxing evening in which Remus had to do little talking and he appreciated this. Eventually Lily fell back into studying and homework which Remus was glad to do as well. They walked back to the dorm together discussing what they hoped they'd learn during the next half of the year as well as discussing professors, who they now had much stronger opinions of one way or another.

Remus was startled to find Lily liked Slughorn as little as he did despite him liking her so much, but he quickly steered the topics to other professors for fear of her remarking on his behavior during potion classes.

They both agreed McGonagall was tough but impressive, Sprout was passionate and interesting, that Binns was utterly boring, that Flitwick was friendly and easygoing often letting them play charm based games if they finished lessons early, and that their defense against the dark arts professor Professor Blavatnik whose name could never be pronounced well enough for his liking was intimidating but had a great deal of experience.

By the time they went through all the main professors, Lily not finding flying worth mentioning it seemed, probably because she was dreadfully bad at it and therefore pretended it did not exist, they were back in the common room having worked through lunch and dinner without stopping and it was time for bed.

"Oh, dear Marlene's going to scold me again for not eating. I can't help it though when I'm absorbed in a good book." Remus was amused she thought their herbology book was such a book but kept his mouth shut as the walked into the common room.

"THat's alright we'll have a bit breakfast tomorrow." He responded dreading Sirius scolding him, as he has in fact missed all means and was grateful Lily hadn't noticed or he'd no doubt get scolded by her.

"Yes, that's true. Though you really ought to sit with me sometimes. You're spending far to much time with those no-good trouble makers. Be careful or they'll rub off on you Remus." He gave her a smile but decided it was best not to answer that stopping at the steps leading into the female's tower.

"Goodnight Lily."

"Goodnight Remus." He left her with an increasingly heavy heart as he slowly dragged his feet up the stairs to floor seven. He stood outside his door and listened, he knew it was still too early for his roommates to be asleep but perhaps he'd be lucky and they would have gone somewhere else, anywhere else.

"Ugh, I don't understand this rubbish!"

"That's because you're holding the book upside down you nitwit." He heard three distinct pairs of laughter, including Sirius whose presence he worried about the most. He sighed and sat outside the door hoping they'd go to sleep very soon.

He had completely forgotten he hadn't slept at all last night do to the adventure he had with his friends when they were his friends and not prying into things they ought not to pry into. So he underestimated how tired he was and sprawled out on the floor, leaning against the door, he soon fell asleep.

….

"Remus? What's going on? Have they locked the door?" Prefect Liam asked a slight gleam in his eye at getting James and Sirius in trouble who mocked his authority every chance they got.

"No sir I just fell asleep." Liam looked unconvinced so Remus had no choice but to open the door to prove his point. Of course, his roommates had gone quiet because of course, they were listening to the exchange, no doubt becoming more suspicious of him by the day. He was fooling himself if he thought he could stay friends with them long.

Perfect Liam gave him a look clearly questioning Remus' sanity, to be fair he was too. But the Prefect seemed to have better things to do with his time and realizing he had nothing to get James and Sirius in trouble for he walked away.

"So…." He addressed his roommates awkwardly feeling like he had been caught red-handed somehow.

"Get in here Remus! We are hashing out the prank for Monday." Remus was torn between relief they were all acting as if nothing had happened and dread because he really didn't want to turn the Slytherin dungeon into a swamp.

….

Remus, despite his friends' obvious attempt to put him at ease after the disaster at Hagrid's cabin, was keeping his distance again. He had another terrible nightmare where they found out and Sirius especially hated him and attacked him. It left him shaky all day and a similar nightmare made him particularly jumpy Monday.

His roommates contributed it to the prank they were going to pull using over fifty dungbombs and a potion Sirius stole from the sixth year that turned the floor into a swamp-like consistency. Of course, Sirius had insisted that Remus, who supposedly had come up with the idea with him, help him in the dungeons to make sure all went right. Meanwhile, Peter and James would be the guards, and if need be, decoys to keep people away.

This whole prank was only possible due to Sirius' intensive knowledge of the Slytherins schedule, meaning he'd know when they would mostly all be gone. Unfortunately, this meant they would be skipping History of Magic after lunch. If it had been any other class Remus would have called the whole thing off, even if it meant the three calling him a swat for the rest of their years.

But he really found the subject boring and they all knew Binns wouldn't note their disappearance. As it was James and Sirius skipped most of the time only passing due to Remus giving them his notes.

Remus still hated the plan, this was his first time actively participating in a prank and he didn't think antagonizing the Slytherins was a good idea, especially after they lost to Ravenclaw in the recent Quidditch game he had refused to attend. But to no one's surprise, none of them listened to his protests and he was carted off by Sirius, after lunch on Monday, to the dungeons.

So not only was Remus sleep-deprived, jumpy from nightmares, and guilty from pulling a prank, but he'd be alone with Sirius. Needless to say, this day could not be over fast enough. Still, Remus partly wanted to get Sirius alone as at breakfast all the color had drained from his face upon reading a letter from home, an unusually strong reaction as he usually crumpled them up or read off the insults in a mocking tone.

This time it had clearly bothered him and Remus really wanted to know why. Besides, hopefully, this would keep the topic off him. He hesitated to bring it up though as he helped Sirius line the floor with dungbombs.

"You've been really jumpy today." Sirius started off innocently enough, he even shot him a look of concern and Remus knew he meant it, that was part of the problem.

"And you got really upset after reading the letter today." He retorted softly. Sirius shot him a look eyes narrowed in irritation.

"I've already told you about my family. You actually haven't said one word about yours. I don't even know what your parents do for a living!"

"Technically I don't know what your parents do either…"

"My mother is an heiress so all she does is spend money and complain about things. My dad works for the ministry some real boring high up position that I don't really get nor care to try." He responded immediately, in the same cold tone he often had when discussing his family, and always had when discussing his mother.

"Oh."

"Your turn." Remus knew not answering this would set Sirius off, and they were stuck down here for at least an hour as all the dungbombs had to be set with precision or the chain effect wouldn't work, meaning the end product would end up not nearly as stinky or masterful. Besides, it seemed an innocent enough question.

"My mom doesn't work...too sick. My dad, he also works for the ministry but in a low position under the beast division. He doesn't talk about work much so I don't really know what he does." He explained cautiously weighing each word making sure Sirius couldn't gain any information Remus didn't want him to know.

"Oh."

"So why were you so upset at breakfast?" He asked, hoping he had given enough information to get Sirius to talk more. But the older boy shot him a disgruntled look and he wearily realized this was not the case at all.

"Not so fast. If I'm going to tell you more about my family's secrets I want to know some of yours." Remus panicked and nearly dropped a dung bomb which would have set the whole lot off and would have drenched Sirius and Remus in the foul-smelling gas which would no don't linger for days.

He made sure to set it down very carefully as that scenario flashed through his head briefly. He took a breath, there was a way out of this, there had to be. A way to answer but not and to get the information he wanted out of Sirius, he just had to think.

"Alright." He responded as slowly as before, again weighing every word carefully.

"My dad's brother. He hated my dad married a muggle and he and my dad didn't talk for years. Now they get along but he hates me." Sirius had been watching him carefully, stopping in the daunting task they had to finish quickly. Remus watched Sirus' hand clench slightly and he nearly set his bomb off as well. Maybe they should save this conversation when the stakes weren't so high?

"That's not what I meant and you know it."

"You never specified. So what upset you at breakfast." He sounded much more confident than he felt and his slightly demanding tone did the trick. Seeing as Sirius really couldn't argue that Remus hasn't answered he sighed and answered himself, seemingly just as careful about his words as Remus had been. Whether this was out of spite or because he really didn't want to talk about it was hard to know.

"My mom wrote something about my brother."

"Regulus."

"I'm surprised you remember his name. I only mentioned it a few times."

"I'm a good listener." His comment earned a wry smile from Sirius.

"I've noticed. Your a bloody brilliant listener but an awful talker." It was jab but it was delivered with a friendly tone so Remus gave Sirius his own wry smile. He figured that was the end of that but Sirius' expression grew stern and serious instead.

"You know you can talk to me right? I haven't told anyone about anything you know. Even though I hate James calling you Lupin. But I haven't said anything even about that. You really can talk to me." Once again there was the faintest hint of desperation in Sirus' voice that made guilt rise in Remus swiftly. He nodded as if he was considering it and silence fell as they set to work lining the dungbombs, each lost in thought.

"She wrote to me that she put him in the basement…..because he was sticking up for me. She knew it would be a worse punishment for me than if she had done it to me. Wrote it was all my fault because I had been such a bad influence on him. Said she won't be letting him receive any more letters from me."

"Oh, Sirius!" Remus cried full of sympathy and horror. He did drop the bomb this time but swooped and caught it in the nick of time. Sirius commented on his fast reflexes but it was clear where his attention still was.

Remus didn't think he was great at comforting people but once again he was the only option, and he must not be too terrible if Sirius kept talking to him even when he wouldn't do the same. Either that or he was just that desperate but Remus preferred to believe it was the former reason.

"It's not your fault Sirius. She's terrible and there's only her to blame." Sirius gave him a sad smile.

"So you don't think I'm a bad influence."

"Not on your brother no." He said seriously and Sirius relaxed as if he had been waiting much longer than a day to hear those words.

"Thanks, mate." Remus waited for the hidden meaning behind his words to sink in.

"Wait...you said not on my brother as if I am on someone else?" He asked worried and Remus wondered if it was right to tease him now, but he could tell from Sirius' tone that he didn't want to stay serious long nor did he usually, certainly not about his family situation.

"Me." He responded making sure Sirius saw his wide smile and could tell easily he was joking. The concern turned to amusement and he snorted.

"Clearly. Somehow I've convinced a well-mannered swot to partake in a criminal act. I must be quite the bad influence."

"Awful just dreadful," Remus responded delightfully, glad they were no longer on such serious topics, for both their sakes.

"You must be touched in the head to follow suit like this."

"No, you are just that good." Sirius barked a laugh at the backward praise taking pride in it like Remus knew he would. Remus rolled his eyes and flicked his forefinger which, after hours of watching the two communicate, found it was Sirius and James nonverbal way of saying twat. Sirius' eyes widened and he stopped placing the bombs yet again.

"How'd you do that?"

"Do what?" Remus asked surprised, feigning innocence. They really should be moving faster than this, they were going to get caught. Yet at that moment Remus couldn't quite get himself to care.

"Don't play innocent with me! How'd you know what that meant?"

"Maybe I don't." He responded with his best not so innocent smile. Sirius' mouth dropped then he closed it and grinned in a similar fashion.

"I reckon you're the most dangerous one of our lot Remus." He responded proudly. Remus knew, he truly did know that Sirius meant this in the best possible way. A good way, a friendly joking way.

But it felt like Sirius had stabbed him with a knife so Remus quickly ducked down feigning concentration so Sirius wouldn't realize just how right his comment had been.

...

Somehow Sirius and he managed to focus enough to set all the bombs in the allotted time they were given, despite their rather slow start. They raced back to James and Peter, and Remus shook Sirius' comment away. He felt a sort of thrill fill him, nearly as powerful as his guilt, as Sirius kissed the potions bottle and chucked it as far as he could down the hall.

"Run!" He yelled and none of them hesitated in bolting down the hall as the sound of over fifty dung bombs exploded and a full-blown swamp opened up on the dungeon floor. This Successfully blocked the Slytherins from their dorm and leaving any Slytherin unfortunate to be inside a nasty surprise. It was an immature and stupid thing to do so it was beyond Remus why it felt so good, why he was sincerely smiling.

Perhaps it was the sense of camaraderie building inside him, the sense of belonging in all aspects of his crazy friends' adventures. Whatever the reason it felt really good until they nearly collided into Professor Blavatnik, then it just felt sickening and dreadful.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty: Detention

The buzz at dinner was quite intense as word spread that four first-year Gryffindors had turned the dungeons into a swamp. Not only blocking the Slytherins from their common room and dorms but also preventing Potions class which was a subject truly liked by few while Professor Slughorn taught it.

Sirius and James were soaking in the attention, even Peter seemed quite pleased with himself. But Remus' intense feeling of elation upon pulling the prank had soured just as intently as it had plummeted on being caught. He knew Sirius and James feigned remorse as first Professor Blavatnik scolded them, then Professor Slughorn, then Professor McGonagall.

Their head of house docked points and was going to be in charge of their detention but seeing as Professor Blavatnik caught them he wanted that "privilege". Remus was already feeling terrible when Lily approached him at dinner scandalized and so disappointed she, of all people, was at a loss of words.

"I say it's an improvement for her." Sirius pointed out cheerfully accepting another discrete high five from either a Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff. For Slytherins were livid with them and Gryffindors were irritated to mildly miffed due to all the house points they had lost.

"Don't say that." He pleaded doing his best not to sound close to tears. If even Peter, who was usually as anxious about detention as Remus, was relaxed he truly had no reason to be.

"Lay off him Sirius. Can't you see he's bent up his wittle girlfriend is upset at him." James teased and Remus' face went scarlet. It wasn't like that at all, sure his roommates had hinted at such a thing but they had never outright teased him about it before!

"That's not true!"

James laughed and Remus realized they all knew this and were just being berks as they tended to be. Remus spent the rest of dinner picking at his food and truly questioning his sanity due to his choice of "friends".

That night detention with Professor Blavatnik was not nearly as "exciting" as Sirius and James had hoped. Remus found out they had gotten detention from every other professor before but that their defense against the dark arts professor usually let McGonagall give them detention when they irked him too much.

So they spent the walk to the classroom coming up with dangerous but "cool" things the professor would have them do as punishment.

"You reckon he'd make us fight a banshee...or...or a werewolf!" Declared James excitedly trying to one-up Sirius' guess of dueling the professor. Peter let out a strangled noise of fear, his happiness at the attention gone with their first detention looming over them.

Remus' legs, who had been doing their best despite all the stress, gave out at last. He hit the floor hard and bit back his cry, not because he was scared but ashamed. Once more he was cruelly reminded just what Sirius, James, and Peter thought of werewolves, would think of him if they ever found out.

"You four are testing my patience. It's not wise to arrive late to detention." Professor Blavatnik called them menacingly from further down the hall where the classroom was. Sirius ignored him and went to Remus' side.

"You alright?" He asked neither making fun of Remus nor irritated with him. He offered Remus his hand but he didn't take it ignoring Sirius' questioning look. Professor Blavatnik watched them with narrow eyes.

"Hurry. Up." They all did and Remus who felt dizzy was last. He made to walk inside the classroom but Professor Blavatnik stopped him.

"I'd advise you to hang out with different classmates before you get yourself in real trouble." Remus knew that the professor meant more detentions because of his friend's antics. But with a comment about werewolves still ringing in his ear, it sounded like his professor knew what he was and was reminding him just how much trouble he'd be in if his friends found out.

It was a ludicrous thought because if the Professor knew he would surely kill Remus right here right now without any hesitation, but somehow that did nothing to improve his mood. When he entered the classroom he found four desks spaced out as far away from each other as possible. Peter looked ready to wet himself as the professor walked in close behind Remus.

"Each of you sit in a desk!" Peter dashed madly for one and Remus took the one closest to the door, meaning the least amount of walking for his poor shaky legs.

Sirius and James took their time, always ones to push it further than should be possible. They acted like each desk held some sort of significance like one would make plants sprout from their ears and the other would make horns grow atop their heads. Professor Blavatnik had more patience than Remus had earlier given him credit for, he merely glared at the two boys until at last, they sat in their respective seats.

"In front of you ...yes, Mr. Potter?"

"Professor are we going to fight a monster?" James asked sounding much to eager. Remus swallowed hard as the professor's thin mouth curled into a rather unpleasant smile.

"While I would like very much to show you arrogant first years just how naive and weak you are. Such practices aren't allowed at Hogwarts. I, therefore, will be boring you instead." He explained dryly and seemed pleased when both James and Sirius' excited expressions shifted into deep disappointment.

"Now as I was saying you will find a line on the top of the paper tailored to your crimes. You will copy this line an express amount of times. You will all finish at different times and after two weeks of your detention if you are too dumb to figure it out I will tell you but not until then. Now as I have better things to do with my times than babysit first years I will be leaving you unattended." James and Sirius brightened at this and Professor Blavatnik gave an unpleasant smile once more.

"You will find that I have enchanted your quills. Once you pick them up you will neither be able to talk nor stop writing until you are finished. You may begin." He waited until they all picked up their quills and true to their word once the quill hit the paper Remus found his hand moving on his own.

He also felt a tingling sensation down his back and recognized the feeling, he had been silencio-ed somehow and could not speak. It was quite impressive but Remus had never doubted their defense against the dark arts professor was powerful.

Professor Blavatnik left the room and Remus relaxed slightly finally finding himself able to focus on the words. When he realized what they said a stab went through his heart. In bright black ink at the top of the page were the words I will learn to say no to my friends. He wrote the line twice then blinked surprised. His hand had stopped moving and he realized if he wanted to he could talk. He was baffled, thinking perhaps the spell had not worked on him.

He glanced furtively around. James and Sirius both seemed to be fighting their quill gripping their magically moving hand with their other one and losing the battle. Peter, on the other hand, seemed relieved and resigned to the boring detention. His hand moved on its own and he had his eyes closed. Remus realized from the patterns that Peter would have to open his eyes to write the words seeing as the magic merely moved the quill which would scribble nonsense without direction.

But none of the other three seemed to have stopped, Professor Blavatnik had said they would all be done at different times but surely this was a mistake! His confusion turned to fear. Was it somehow not working right because he was a werewolf? Would the professor know if he left early? Was it some kind of test for him and him alone?

It seemed unlikely but Remus had come to expect just about everything and anything from Hogwarts. So he kept writing and writing and writing. It became increasingly harder to do so with each stroke. After a few more lines he had to use all his strength just to move the quill and by the time he reached the second page, he found the quill wouldn't move any longer no matter how hard he tried to make it budge.

Finally realizing fighting was useless Remus pulled out the quill he always kept in his pocket. They had been instructed to bring nothing but Remus never left anywhere without the quill and his wand, both precious proof of his independence and wizarding status.

He dipped the quill in the inkwell the defense professor had provided for each of them and began to write. But nothing appeared on the paper. He tried several times before giving up altogether and leaving his desk with a heavy heart. He could feel James and Sirius' envious eyes on him as he left. He was sure Peter would feel the same but he had fallen asleep. Realizing he couldn't leave yet Remus walked over to Peter's desk.

"Peter...Peter." The boy jolted awake and opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. He looked shocked then seemed to remember where he was and frowned looking at Remus quizzically.

"I finished. But Peter look at your paper." The boy did and his face fell even more. Remus explained how the quill worked and once he was sure Peter understood, left.

It was dark outside Professor Blavatnik making sure they would be up late for detention. So Remus was alone as he journeyed back to the common room his gut leaden with guilt. He turned the corner and halted stunned to see Professor Blavatnik and an older student glaring at each other.

"I'm in my seventh year and will graduate soon. You can't stop me!" Remus ducked himself back around the corner before he could be noticed. He knew he shouldn't eavesdrop but his feet couldn't seem to move and he was concerned the professor might hurt the student, he seemed that upset.

"That's what you think."

"What are you going to do about it?" Asked the seventh year Ravenclaw angrily. Remus knew Ravenclaws were supposedly the smartest house but this once seemed to be as dumb as a Gryffindor first year, for he was egging on the professor in a similar fashion to how James and Sirius did. There was a slap and Remus jumped horrified. A professor couldn't assault a student like that!

"Don't you see what a fool you are." Came Professor Blavatnik's surprisingly soft reply. It's like all the anger left him with the slap. At least that meant he wouldn't do it again, right? If his defense professor made a habit of slapping students Remus' worry had just increased drastically for his friends.

"Sod off!" Came the student's harsh reply.

"Did you forget I have the power to make it so you don't graduate."

"You wouldn't dare!"

"Watch me."

"That won't stop me!….I'll tell Professor Dumbledore how it was you! Everyone knows he doesn't trust you! He'll listen to me. Only killing me will silence me"

"Get out of my sight. GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!" Professor Blavatnik bellowed and Remus flattened himself to the wall as the seventh year Ravenclaw came flying past. He didn't notice him and Remus hadn't gotten a good enough glimpse of the student to be able to tell much more than his house, year, and that his hair was brown.

Then Remus took off running behind him as he heard his professor approaching slowly from the opposite way. He didn't know if Professor Blavatnik saw him or not, he didn't stop to find out. He just kept running and running until he reached the Portrait of the Fat Lady.

"Password?" She asked in her shrill voice. Remus stood there his heart and mind racing. What had that been about? He straightened catching his breath at last and was about to enter when something stopped him. How could he go back to his dorm at a time like this? Did he really trust Professor Blavatnik not to hurt his friends? He imagined the intimidating professor slapping James or Sirius, or doing worse. He imagined him pinning a crying Peter to the wall, of his friends returning to the dorm with bruises and hooded expressions unable to meet his eyes.

Before he knew it he was running back the way he came ignoring the Fat Lady's shouts behind him. He reached the defense against the dark arts room quicker than he had fled from it. If his legs were shaky before they were near full-on revolt now. He forced himself to breathe his chest tight and listened terrified he'd hear thumps and whacks but instead there was silence. He slid down the wall and hugged his knees to his chest trembling.

It hadn't occurred to him until now that even if Professor Blavatnik had decided to beat his friends there wasn't much he could do about it but he still felt better being so close. He sat there for hours convinced the professor wasn't in the room for surely he would have said something by now.

"Are you three done now? No? Well, you can pick up where you left off tomorrow." Came Professor Blavatnik's smug tone. He must have released the spell because Sirius' annoyed voice suddenly filled the room.

"Come back tomorrow night? How long are you going to do this? Can you even keep us this late? It's midnight!"

"Mr. Black you need to work on your listening skills. I said you'd come back tomorrow night. I will do this as long as it takes and will keep it up long past two weeks if necessary, though I'm hoping it's not. As a professor, I can keep you in detention as long as I wish but I don't want to get in the way of your studies more than you already do yourselves. So get out or I may keep you later." His last sentence was a definite threat and Remus stiffened remembering the loud slap that had echoed down the hallway.

Three pairs of feet walked into the hall and walked right past him without noticing. Remus didn't want Professor Blavatnik knowing he had been waiting outside the whole time any more than he wanted his roommates knowing. So he silently followed them ducking behind statues when they turned around. He hung back and waited until they entered the common room counting down before following suit apologizing to the Fat Lady for his rude behavior.

By the time Sirius came back down looking for him he was curled up on the couch with a book he kept hidden underneath looking like he had been there for hours.

"Oi, you blockhead it's way past bedtime." Remus looked up and feigned surprise.

"What time is it?"

"Almost twelve-thirty in the morning now. Come on. Honestly one of these days you are going to read through a whole day and not realize you've done it."

"Who said I haven't already." He teased hoping to distract Sirius to the fact he was shaking. It seemed to work because Sirius scoffed a whacked him playfully on the back of his head. He nearly toppled over and caught himself on the railing making it out to be a dramatic gesture like he and James always pulled. To keep him distracted he quickly asked if Sirius was the last one in detention.

"No we all got done at the same time not too long ago." Then he looked at Remus oddly.

"How'd you do it?"

"Do what?"

"Get out so early of course! Sometimes I think it ought to be the other way around and you should be teaching us three your ways."

"Oh, that's easy." He responded immediately forcing a grin on his face. Sirius gave him a hopeful look.

"It's called being a swat." Sirius looked irritated then amused.

"Yeah yeah race you to bed you swat." Sirius won that race by a landslide.

The next morning Remus realized what the brave Ravenclaw had been talking about. It was all everyone was talking about. A fifth-year muggleborn Hufflepuff had been poisoned the word 'mudblood' scrawled across her forehead in blood that wouldn't come off. She had to be transported to St. Mungos and all classes were filled with whispered discussion on whether she'd die or not and speculation on who did it.

Remus felt ill all day even though the full moon was over a week away. He spent the day alone, unable to take Sirius' utter certainty it had been a Slytherin, or Lily walking away from him when he tried to approach her at the library. That night detention was postponed which his three roommates were delighted about. None of them questioned it because why would they?

Most of the student population suspected a Slytherin, more specifically a pureblood from a pureblood family with strong purist beliefs which was less than half the house. No one suspected a professor? Why would they? Several times Remus tried to tell his friends what he saw but the words seemed unable to form.

"What's up with you Remus you've been gaping as a guppy does." Sirius laughed tossing a pillow at him. Remus' head was whirling too fast about everything besides pillows, and it hit him in the face.

"I…..Sirius what if…..the hufflepuff girl...what if…."

"Well go on spit it out." An intrigued James called from across the room.

"What if it was a professor, not a student?" There was a long silence.

"You're joking right?" James asked uneasily. Sirius was staring at Remus intently looking at him with suspicion again so that he immediately regretted it.

"Never mind." He murmured and quickly retreated to bed. He didn't sleep at all that night.

….

They found out the next morning the hufflepuff had survived but her muggle parents wouldn't let her come back to school until the culprit was caught. But the air was still tense as more and more muggle disappearances outside of Hogwarts were being reported in the Daily Prophet.

They no longer seemed to be random and one article hinted there may be some mastermind behind it all. Sirius told Remus he'd buy him his own subscription after Remus spent the whole breakfast scanning Sirius' lent copy closely.

"But I'm warning you that having a prescription is at the next level of being a swat."

"A mega swat," James added with a cheeky grin. Other than a few comments Sirius made about how his family better not be involved by this, none of his three friends seemed particularly bothered by the muggle disappearances.

In fact, Remus got the impression that his friends didn't care precisely because the mysterious deaths were "just muggles" though they didn't say this out loud. Remus didn't feel like joking much but he knew he had to in order to keep an already suspicious Sirius from finding out. He had to avoid Sirius confronting Professor Baltvnik and getting himself hurt with his impulsivity. Remus figured it couldn't be that hard to keep one more secret, though it weighed on his shoulders heavily.

"Says the one with a prescription. Guess we should be calling you a mega swat." He retorted in his witty humor that sure enough had James and Peter cracking up.

Maybe it was because Sirius could sense there was some underlying frustration from Remus towards him or maybe because his family had bought him the prescription and this bothered him more than he let on, but Sirius did not laugh. He in fact looked hurt then angry, a completely baffling response from someone who loved a good jibe almost as much as a good prank.

"Sod off Remus." He snapped. Remus' first instinct was to apologize but with the stress of the past few days, he stopped himself, shot Sirius a frustrated look, and left.

"Mate what the bloody hell was that about?" He heard James ask as he walked out of the Great Hall. He told himself it didn't matter, that he'd rather be alone, and he wasn't even going to be able to eat anyways. But his mood darkened more because of it and for the first time in a long time Remus sitting in the front row of the class felt less like a choice and more like he really had none.

He could feel three pair of eyes on the back of his head through charms and double transfiguration but he was an expert at dodging them when he wanted to and he was able to succeed both times. In their third class of the day, Professor McGonagall had advised caution, the first adult to see fit to warn them of the danger rather than just say it would be fine.

Remus' respect for her grew even more after that. All the muggle-born students were on edge and Remus wished he could talk to Lily but he knew he had no right so he cast a few worried glances her way, but stayed away from her as she wanted.

Then came their fourth class of Wednesday, the class where he would have to face the problem. He waited until the last possible minute, long after James, Peter, and Sirius had raced past no doubt trying to catch up to him before he entered the defense against the dark arts class.

Professor Blavatnik was the second adult to address the danger but it felt like a false concern to Remus and he noticed the professor seemed rather spacey throughout their class hardly watching them as they practiced the disarming spell on one another.

"Oh, Mr. Lupin see me after class please." He added seemingly as an afterthought after handing back their quiz they took on Monday. Remus had gotten full marks on the written and the practical part but he hardly noticed this too nervous about after class. He supposed he was a Gryffindor after all because after class he didn't run away, and though it took every ounce of courage he had he walked up to the professor's desk.

"I wanted to ...yes, Mr. Acton?" Professor Blavatnik addressed an older Slytherin student.

"I'd like a word with you professor." He cast a glance at Remus "It's about that." He added emphasizing the last word. Remus was pretty sure he knew what that was though he wished he didn't.

"Very well. Remus come see me tonight. Tell your friends detention is postponed again as I wouldn't want to take from their Astronomy class and it would no doubt take them to midnight again. But I'd like a word with you before Astronomy at some time alright?" He nodded unable to meet his professor's eyes or talk. He left quickly before his professor could change his mind. It occurred to him once he was nearing the Great Hall for dinner that he should have stayed and perhaps gained more information about whatever was happening both inside Hogwarts and out. He turned back to do that, his courage demanding it of him but was stopped by Dorcas.

"Hi, Remus. You alright?" He nodded and she gave him a doubtful look.

"Guess not many are today what with what happened. But anyway my birthday is the 13th and I'm throwing a party, figured it's the pick me up we all need. Lily is still peeved at you but I thought the prank was brilliant and seeing it's my birthday and not hers I'm formally inviting you. I mean it has to be in the Gryffindor common room so you could show up even if you weren't invited but I knew you wouldn't unless you were invited so I'm inviting you alright?" He nodded only vaguely following what she was saying.

"Great so I'll see you tonight? I figure we can party until Astronomy and then afterward if anyone's feeling it. I reckon with what's happened the prefects will let us be if you know what I mean?" He nodded again not knowing at all what she meant.

She sighed, her smile fading into a look of disappointment, and she told him he didn't need to bring a present or anything but she hoped to see him there. It wasn't until she left that he realized not only today was a Wednesday, meaning the stressful subject of Astronomy was today, but that today was the 13th and therefore Dorcas' birthday.

He stood there stunned feeling like a complete and utter idiot. He didn't like big parties but he would be sure to go and wish her a proper happy birthday. He felt so guilty for not doing so that he decided to skip dinner and knit her a quill holder like he had Severus. It's not like he felt particularly hungry anyways.

It turned out knitting calmed him down and he was finally able to push some stuff to the back of his mind. He and Dorcas were friendly enough and he didn't want to disappoint her a second time by weighing the party down with his many problems. It was a relief really she was throwing a party tonight because his roommates were too preoccupied with the party starting in a mere few hours, and that Patricia would be there who had been impressed with their prank, that they didn't bother Remus.

He nearly didn't finish the present by the time he heard the party start in the common room below. When none of his roommates returned he understood it must be quite the party, and therefore another thing to dread about tonight. He put it off for as long as he could then walked downstairs present clutched in his hand. It was easy to find Dorcas who was the center of attention and who seemed to have made it her mission to cheer up all the muggle-borns, well the Gryffindor ones anyways. He found her getting an awkward second-year muggle born to dance.

"Um, Dorcas?"

"Oh, Remus so glad you came!" She said sincerely. She was dressed in a flowing beige dress that her parents had sent her for her birthday and was also wearing black leather boots her aunt had sent her which had earned Sirius' passionate and loud declaration of jealousy a few minutes prior.

Everyone seemed to be having a good time which was nice. He realized he nearly failed at wishing Dorcas a happy birthday and grabbed her arm lightly before she could leave. However, she seemed to take this as an invitation because the next second Remus was spinning around and being pulled closer to the music which blared loudly in his ears.

Surprised and disoriented he dropped the gift and tried to tell Dorcas happy birthday and to please let him go, neither of which she heard. Finally, the song was over and he had detached himself from the smiling radiant girl and dropped on his hands and knees onto the "designated dance floor."

He got stepped on and kicked and was shouted at by older students multiple times but finally, he found the present and scooped it up popping to his feet once more.

When he stood up he found himself uncomfortably close to Lily who was smiling brightly and dancing with Marlene, and who stopped, her smile falling when she saw him.

"I don't want to talk to you, Remus. Go away."

"I….." He was going to say he was looking for Dorcas and probably would have added he was a moron who couldn't wish his acquaintance happy birthday and kept upsetting his friends. But she didn't give him a chance to say any of this her flush of enjoyment turning into one of anger as she crossed her arms firmly around her chess.

"I can't believe you. I expect such things from James and Sirius but you! Remus, how could you?" He opened his mouth to explain or at the very least to apologize but Dorcas had shouted loudly "wizard wango" which apparently meant something to a lot of people for the already crowded dance floor suddenly got even more so.

Remus lost sight of Lily in the surge of bodies pressing against him. This was going all wrong! He never should have tried! He was very uncomfortable as he fought his way to the outskirts. He nearly made it when the music started and he was about to be pulled back into the scary crowd when a hand firmly gripped his and pulled him out of the danger zone.

"Thank you." He responded breathlessly.

"No need to thank me that's what Gryffindor's do," James responded with a broad smile. His dramatic pride at being a lion had become even more exaggerated as he adapted it to be the joke it had become. But Remus knew James was a bit hurt by this becoming a joke because being a Gryffindor truly meant the world to him in the same way his family did.

"You are indeed a true Gryffindor." He meant it more as a light joke, to play along with James' self taunting tone. But he was stressed and tired and it came out sounding very sincere. James look surprised then flushed proudly.

"Thanks, Remus." He said stunned.

"You trapped him!" Sirius hooted in delight rushing over with Peter close on his heels.

"Where have you been mate?" Even with how terrible things had been going Remus found himself smiling dryly, almost an automatic response by now.

"I was on my bed upstairs but you were too busy swooning over Patricia to notice." This time he managed to sound as mocking as he had meant to sound with James, not that he regretted his statement sounding sincere, for he truly felt all his friends were true Gryffindors.

No matter how annoying they all were. He smiled at them glad Sirius didn't seem upset at him anymore. His bad mood seemed over and they all laughed at his comment accepting revenge like good sports.

"At least my girlfriend likes me." James teased back and Remus sighed heavily, had he just encouraged them to tease him about Lily more? He hoped not. He had a feeling it might break his now shaky friendship with her and he really didn't want that. Luckily before he could respond Sirius had and slapped James hard across the back.

"In your dreams Potter, she's soooooo out of your lead."

"I thought we were still at the age where girls had cuties." Peter pipped in sounding alarmed and like he had missed some sort of orientation. Sirius stuck out his tongue.

"Maybe for you babies but I'm twelve." Remus laughed knowing for a fact that Sirius was quite adamant about girls having "cooties."

"Hah! Ten minutes ago you swore you'd never dance with a girl after Marlene asked you to dance." James roared with laughter at his own wit. Sirius turned red then grinned.

"Yes, but in a few years Potter I won't be able to keep the girls away while you won't be able to get any." He taunted throwing back his invisible locks apparently seeing himself with much longer hair in the future.

"Will not!" James shouted in mock outrage, unable not to grin at the idea of Sirius having hair down to his waist no doubt, for that was quite the amusing image.

"Will too!" Seeing where this was going and still needing to give Dorcas her present Remus walked away shaking his head but too happy all seemed well with his roommates to be anything other than amused. He was surprised when Peter followed him clutching his sleeve tightly.

"Remus, we aren't going to have to start liking girls are we?" Peter asked fearfully his eyes bugging at the terrifying idea. Remus bit back a laugh knowing Peter's fear was genuine and he wasn't about to accidentally upset anyone else anytime soon.

"I told you, Peter, you don't have to like everything James does." He shouted as someone used the amplifying charm on the already charmed instruments. They were going to get in trouble real soon for the sound was now earsplitting.

Luckily someone near the instruments had enough sense to nullify the charm and soon the sound was loud but doable, and by that he meant still far too loud for his liking. He knew Peter hadn't heard him as his shout had been nothing over the instruments so he repeated himself.

Peter gave him a blank look, he opened his mouth to repeat it a third time before realizing his roommate heard him just didn't get it. He sighed and gave Peter a kind smile.

"Don't worry I guarantee if Patricia attempted to kiss James cheek he'd run away screaming." Peter laughed cheered up by the prospect.

"Reckon we can get her to do it?" He asked with a wicked grin James would be proud of. Remus smiled back finding the prospect amusing.

"Definitely." He replied because he knew it would completely rid Peter of his momentary fears. He couldn't imagine doing something so cruel to James who would be mortified for sure, but he couldn't deny the small mischievous part of him his roommates had fostered acknowledged it would be quite fun.

He walked away from Peter and tried to find Dorcas to no avail. Disappointed in himself he set the present on the first step leading to the girls' dormitory. He scrawled a note saying Happy Birthday and sorry I couldn't deliver it in person I tried.

He frowned and scratched out the last part so it just read Happy Birthday. Satisfied this was the best he would get he walked away heading for the exit. Once outside in the blissfully quiet hall he found he could think clearly again and realized he still had to go meet Professor Blavatnik.

His fear returned with all the worries of the past few days. He thought about bringing back up, just in case, but didn't want to bother his friends. So with a heavy heart, he walked away from the careless fun inside the common room and to the professor who may or may not know Remus knew more than he should.

Perhaps he'd be the one at St. Mungo's next he thought dryly before reminding himself that was ridiculous. That Professor Blavatnik probably didn't even know he'd overheard and that certainly a professor wouldn't blatantly attack a student at Hogwarts, not when he wasn't even muggleborn which seemed to be the targets.

But he knew this was of little use for he was something much worse than muggleborn. He passed a large portrait of a knight getting geared for battle. He wondered vaguely if the knight was on his way to fight a werewolf and if Professor Blavatnik did indeed know about him somehow and would soon be doing the same thing as that knight.

"Only one way to find out he supposed," he found himself thinking in a voice that didn't quite sound like his. It took him a moment to place the voice in his head then he smiled and sighed heavily, yeah Sirius really was a bad influence on him after all.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty-One: Shattered Innocence

Dorcas' party was better than his had been, he had to admit when he was beaten, and hell did that girl know how to throw a party. They laughed, and danced, and shouted to one another over the instruments gathered and bewitched from several very generous students. Sirius couldn't believe he hadn't thought of something so brilliant. His party truly seemed childish in comparison.

"That's not true Sirius." James had assured him after he vocally voiced his fears.

"Yeah, it is."

"Is not that game of truth and dare will be legendary. Legendary I tell you." He sighed dramatically as if imagining the multiple generations to hear of such glory. Sirius laughed and shoved him.

None of them wanted to go to Astronomy, all of them much more tired than they usually were at midnight. But they all knew they had to as Professor Tablica marked them down heavily for absences. So ten minutes later they all stood on top of the astronomy tower bundled in their winter robes and huddled together in their perspective groups for warmth. But Sirius' group was one man down as it was far too often for his liking.

"Blimey did Remus go off on his own again. I warned him he'd end up missing a class one of these days with his nose in a book."

"Bet we have enough time to run down to the dorm and fetch him. Maybe he's asleep he's seemed more tired than usual lately." Sirius knew this was true but still felt annoyed. However, Remus was one of them so he went over to the quiet professor whose eyes, were like they always seemed to be, trained on the sky.

"Professor Tablica our friend seems to have fallen asleep can we run and fetch him." She pulled her eyes away from the stars and the waxing moon as if it was physically painful.

"If you hurry." She responded in her melodious voice that caused all students to struggle not to fall asleep in her class. It wasn't as bad as History of Magic, but it was awfully close.

"She said we could." He explained and the three of them, well two of them because Peter couldn't keep up, rushed to their dorm. It hadn't occurred to Sirius that Remus wouldn't be there. He looked at James confused.

"That's not like him."

"Well, he probably couldn't study because of the noise. We don't have time to check the library and it's technically past hours."

"Then he wouldn't be at the library anyway." He pointed out impatiently, worry gnawing at him.

"Come on Sirius let's get back to class. We can give him hell about it tomorrow." Sirius reluctantly agreed but he had a bad feeling something was wrong which made it nearly impossible to focus on stupid stars.

He had found his feelings were usually right. He had told Narcissa about it once when they were much younger but she had scoffed at him and accused him of making it up. But even she had to believe him a little bit when he complained to her of such a feeling an hour before their great uncle died of a heart attack.

Still, he could be wrong, there were times when he had been wrong. Oh, how he wished he was wrong. Halfway through class, the door to the tower opened. He hoped it would be Remus but knew with sickening certainty it wouldn't be.

Something was very wrong! Now everyone in the class knew it or at least suspected it too. Because all eyes were on Professor McGonagall stood in the entranceway face grim.

"Nelly you need to cancel the class for the night." She commanded, her lips pressed together in a thin line. Her eyes danced, almost nervously, across all the students. They lingered briefly on Lily, and on the three of them. Sirius felt like he might throw up.

Ever since he had befriended Remus he had the feeling the boy might just vanish one day, he wouldn't know what he would do if that was the case.

He must be imagining the lingering gaze, he knew he had a tendency to be quite dramatic, usually, it was when he wanted to be but sometimes it was more unconscious. But then the professor walked over to them.

"Professor, what's wrong?" James asked sounding as worried as he felt. She said nothing just looked at them sadly which was somehow much worse. Then, at last, she seemed to find her voice.

"Ms. Meadows, Ms. Evans please come over here." Dorcas and Lily both did so their faces so full of joy mere hours earlier now devoid of any trace of it.

"It's not my parents is it?" Lily asked in a small voice clutching Dorcas' hand very tightly. Sirius wanted to feel annoyed her, obviously, it wasn't that or the three of them wouldn't be standing here but he just felt tired and...wrong. It all felt wrong. There was only one person that connected all five of them together, a person who was missing, who should be here but wasn't. It was all so wrong!

"No Miss Evans it's not your parents."

"Because muggles have been disappearing a lot and I've been terrified they'd be next."

"No Miss Evans that's not it." Professor McGonagall responded with more patience than he could have, with more patience than he did have.

"What happened to Remus?" He demanded and Lily let out a gasp, one of the brightest students finally putting the pieces together much slower than she should have. Professor McGonagall eyed him like she wished she could deny it but they all knew she couldn't.

"There has been…..well I won't say an accident. We are investigating what happened. It seems...well...right now it seems like Remus Lupin jumped from a fourth-story window but…"

"He would never! Sure he seems to be sad a lot but he'd never! He's a fighter!"

"A true Gryffindor," James added next to him in a strangled whisper.

"Calm down Mr. Black. I was going to say it seems there has been foul play and I assure you we are looking into it."

"Good because he'd never do that!" Sirius retorted firmly, no doubt in his mind.

"I know Mr. Black I agree with you."

"But….he's a muggleborn...isn't he? So isn't it whoever poisoned the other student?" Peter asked slowly as if he couldn't quite believe what was happening, as if this was all just a bad dream caused by eating too much sugar. Oh, how he wished it was, he reached to pinch himself but he didn't think he could handle it if he knew without a shadow of a doubt this was their reality.

"No but…." Professor McGonagall looked, for a fraction of a second like she was going to say something but then decided immediately not to. Her hesitance was almost unnoticeable, but Sirius was on high alert right now and his suspicion of all the professors at Hogwarts ever since Remus had hinted the poisoning might be one of them, made him currently able to pick up on such a thing.

"..we are looking into it considering how close the incidents happened together." She finished smoothly. Sirius was about to ask when they could see him when Lily asked something that made his blood run cold.

"He's not dead right? Professor, please tell me he's not dead?" She asked frantically tears running down her ghostly white cheeks. Sirius hadn't even considered that possibility he staggered back nearly falling off a tower himself but McGonagall caught his arm eyes flashing with concern. She only let him go once he sat down then made them all do so for good measure.

Lily and Dorcas huddled close together for warmth and comfort. Lily was clutching Dorcas' hand as well as James' hand tightly. Hell if Severus was here and kept his mouth shut James would probably be clutching his hand to. Two seconds was all it took for their head of the house to answer, but two seconds had never stretched nor felt so long.

"No, he's not." They all let out a collective breath but their headmaster still looked far too grim for Sirius' liking.

"However he is currently in a coma. It….." She seemed hesitant to say more.

"It what?" Sirius heard himself ask sharply, practically growling at the professor, as if she was the one who caused this. He knew it wasn't fair, knew if it was any other day he'd receive several detentions for his lip. But he'd take that over this any day, he'd take serving a detention every day for the rest of his life over this in a heartbeat.

"It's a miracle he survived." She finished not even commenting on Sirius' misplaced anger. For out of all the professors he knew he could trust McGonagall, the pain and concern in her usually stern eyes simply could not be faked.

"When….can we see him?" Asked Dorcas who had pulled something out of her pocket and was clutching it to her chest face as grim as McGonagall's. Sirius realized it was a hand-knitted quill holder, a quill already sticking out of it. The little thing was much neater than the scarves Remus had made them but he knew it has his handiwork, knew he had given Dorcas a present because it was just the kind of ridiculously kind thing he'd do.

He thought the girls were the only ones crying as tears slid down Dorcas' cheeks too, then realized Peter had stuffed his shirt into his mouth to quiet his sobs and James was staring straight ahead looking stricken a few tears rolling down his cheeks.

Bunch of pansies, Remus would be fine they'd see. This would be just like the time he bet against James when Remus was playing chest. He was constantly surprising them he'd surely do it again. If it was a miracle Remus was alive there would be another miracle, he didn't see why not.

"Mr. Black…...Mr. Black. Here." McGonagall finally said holding out a handkerchief to him. He didn't need a stupid handkerchief but he took it because it seemed like it was Remus offering it to him long ago, surely they had been friends for years not months for it sure felt that way. It wasn't until his fingers closed around the handkerchief that he realized he was shaking, that he realized he too was sobbing.

"I'll let you know as soon as you can." She promised them.

"Let's get you back to the common room."

"No." James' hoarse whisper was now very demanding and not a whisper at all. Professor McGonagall looked surprised then just looked very tired and older than her actual age.

"We'll wait outside the hospital ward." James finished the words seeming to push more tears out of his eyes. Profesor. McGonagall looked around at five tear-stained faces and didn't seem to have the heart to argue.

….

It was a long quiet night. No one spoke, they just all held each other's hand, ever Peter who would never have been caught dead holding a girls hand before this. They cried and no one teased them. Perfect Liam approached them with more kindness than Sirius thought possible for the power flaunting perfect. He came with mugs of hot cocoa which no one took and blankets which he draped around them a bit awkwardly when he realized they weren't moving.

Somewhere between the fear and resilience and grief they all passed out leaning heads against shoulders. Whose shoulder it was didn't matter, they all felt impossibly young and old at the same time and just like that they fell asleep.

Thursday morning came too soon. Most of the school were happy and surprised when classes were canceled. Sirius hated them for being happy even though very few people were privy to the information of what happened last night. Professor McGonagall greeted them and it was a relief to see a face that wasn't peering at them with curiosity or amusement as students who passed had whispered rumors about what would cause the unlikely group to be together.

But relief turned to irritation as she made them go to their common room to get cleaned up and changed.

"You can come right back." She assured them when protests began to rise. Her tone was kind but left no room for argument. Physically speaking Sirius felt a bit better after a hot shower and a change of clothes, but emotionally he still felt dead. Their head of house also made them eat soup for lunch in the common room, no one else was allowed in as they were all supposed to be in the Great Hall anyways, before taking them back outside the hospital wing doors.

The large doors blocking them from Remus had never seemed so daunting and impenetrable before. Lily broke down in hysterics and Peter nearly did as well after Dorcas asked fearfully if Remus would live to no one in particular. Sirius would have socked Dorcas if he wasn't too busy crying. He took it as a really bad sign that their head of house brought out the nerve-calming tonic for Lily and Peter rather than the matron.

It really spoke to their emotional state when neither James nor Sirius commented on Severus who came around 2 pm. It also spoke to Severus' emotional state when, Sirius was sure, for the first time in his life, he wasn't a selfish twat but actually appeared to be a decent human being. He glanced briefly at them his gaunt face appearing more gaunt than usual, but maybe everyone just looked sad to Sirius right now, he couldn't be sure.

Severus sat silently with Lily who clung to him tightly and for awhile Sirius forgot he existed. Then he turned his head, just scanning to make sure they were all still alive, that a hole hadn't opened up and swallowed them and this whole ridiculous situation, not that he'd care much if it swallowed Severus.

Because in the same way, Sirius recognized Remus' handiwork in Dorcas quill holder he recognized it in Sev...Snivellus'. The grimy git was holding it looking at it with furrowed brows while Lily leaned against his shoulder knocked out from the tonic.

He would have throttled Severus for daring to hold something that clearly shouldn't be his but Peter, the other recipient of the tonic, was asleep, his head in Sirius' lap. Instead, he glared menacingly at Snivellus until he finally saw him. Sirius' anger grew when the slimy toad didn't glare back like he normally would but looked away with something akin to guilt on his ugly features.

Sirius let out a low growl of utter rage. Remus was too damn nice for his own good, if he woke up Sirius was going to have a serious talk to him about who to waste his time on, Snivellus not being one of them. He froze and stared at the ground that was becoming oddly blurry. He had thought... if Remus woke up...no it wasn't if it was when. He might be surrounded by doubters but Sirius knew Remus would recover he just knew it because he had to.

In the meantime, Sirius had to tear Snivellus apart limb from limb until he got whatever confession the sleazy grime ball coughed up. For he knew Snivellus knew what had happened to Remus as much as he knew Remus would wake up and scold Sirius for dismantling Snivellus.

Sirius was about to move Peter carefully off him before violently launching himself at the intruder in their midst but was stopped by the hospital doors opening. He jumped up forgetting about Peter who was roughly jarred awake.

"You can each visit him for a few minutes. One at a time please." Madam Pomfrey looked like she had aged ten years in one night.

"Me!" Sirius demanded. James and Dorcas let him and Peter and Lily were just now beginning to realize what had just happened. The matron nodded and Sirius left them to fight over who would be second. Visiting Remus was the most important thing right now after he was done with that then if Snivellus was still there he'd pummel him into the dirt.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty-Three: Five Friends' Perspectives

It shouldn't have surprised him to see Dumbledore there. But it did almost as much as it worried him not to see the twinkle of mischief he had come to expect to see in the old wizard's eyes. He offered Sirius a sad smile having come out of a little room Sirius swore hadn't been in the medical ward last time he was here.

"Hello, Mr. Black I'm glad you have agreed to see Mr. Lupin. It will do him a world of help to hear from his friends right now."

Sirius nodded but couldn't deny he felt anxious. He had seen lots of dead people before but that was in funerals and they were all old geezers that had been as unpleasant as they were wrinkled.

Remus was a child, even though he was still alive, he was in a coma so would he look dead? Sirius imagined scenarios of what state his friend was in each more gruesome than the next. He found it very hard to move his feet and had come to a stop, staring at the room he knew Remus was in with apprehension.

"Mr. Black I assure you that if Mr. Lupin was in a state not appropriate for growing minds I wouldn't be letting you see him." This brought a great deal of comfort indeed. He couldn't be that bad then...right? Sirius was a Black after all, even if that meant more shame than pride most of the time, but he held himself like one and strolled through the hospital wing like he owned the place.

Like he had the authority to demand Remus wake up and it would be as easy as that. His bravado fell though as he stood at Remus' bedside. Most of him was covered up in thick sheets which Sirius should have realized would be the case. Was he gruesome underneath the sheets? He wanted to check but Dumbledore was quite literally breathing down his neck and he didn't want to get kicked out. It felt unbearably awkward. Remus looked like he was sleeping, his face a little bruised but peaceful looking.

"Is he in pain?" He forced himself to ask assuring himself he must not be.

"No. Madame Pomfrey is very good at her job." Came the calm reassuring words of the headmaster. Sirius just stood there for a few more minutes feeling weird.

"You know some believe that while in a coma the patient can hear everything going around them."

"Can…...can he really hear us?"

"Mmmm I believe so. I suppose we will have to ask him once he wakes up now won't we." Hearing Dumbledore's vote of confidence did wonders to increase Sirius' hope.

"Well then wake up you lousy wanker," Sirius grumbled to the sleeping boy. It felt weird having a one-sided conversation, though his interactions with Remus typically started this way. He noticed the seat positioned by Remus' bed and sat down unsure what else to say.

It felt a little awkward talking to a person who looked dead. He shifted in his seat wondering what to say and glanced at Dumbledore wondering if he planned to leave. The headmaster wasn't looking at him, instead, he was staring at a gold pocket watch looking thing, his expression impossible to decipher. Sirius saw his chance and lifted the sheets a bit. Remus had his hands and wrists bandaged up which seemed weird as they weren't bleeding or anything.

Dumbledore noticed and explained his body was currently too weak to withstand any type of magic as if this was an answer to Sirius' unasked question. Sirius didn't understand but his thought process felt sluggish at the moment and figured there'd be no reason for Dumbledore to lie, so he didn't press it. Instead, Sirius shifted again feeling strange.

"Professor, are you going to stand there the whole time?" He asked unsurely. Talking to his friend in a coma was hard enough as it was without the headmaster in the same room.

"No. I can see you want a private word with Remus. If you need me I'll be in my office." Dumbledore responded seriously, no joke or words of wisdom. He didn't even sound like himself his tone a bit flat. It scared Sirius but before he could say anything more the professor was gone. So he turned back to Remus watching him closely for any sign of life. He cleared his throat and closed his eyes trying to pretend his friend wasn't lying before him in a coma.

"You…..you're a real berk for scaring us like this. You need to come back and apologize. You better hurry and come back or else...well or else I may kill Snivellus. You see I can tell he had something to do in all of this, it's just the sort of thing he'd be involved in. So if you don't come back then I'm going to kill him and I'll wind up in Azkaban and it will be all your fault. So there! I know you'd say it's not polite for me to kill someone but I don't think it should count with Slytherins." Sirius sighed feeling crazy and dumb.

"Jokes aside. You know I ain't one for mushy talk. But you're my friend whether you want to be or not. But I think we can both agree you are my friend and want to be" Sirius had to smile a bit at this remembering Remus' stubborn insistence they were not friends until it became blatantly clear they were.

"And I miss you…" He finished rather lamely. He was afraid to touch Remus, afraid to find his skin would be cold and clammy and lifeless. But it didn't feel right for him to leave without doing anything. So he awkwardly patted Remus' shoulder on top of the blankets covering most of his body.

"I'll see you soon. I'll come back to visit soon. Only I'm not used to talking to someone in a coma so you can't laugh at me if I'm not good at it. Well anyways I better let the others come in and talk to you and I'm hoping Snivellus is there so I can kill him and avenge your honor." He meant to sound like James but it fell terribly flat. He cleared his throat and shifted awkwardly. He couldn't say bye it sounded too final.

"See you real soon." He repeated again because it sounded better that way. Sirius both couldn't wait to leave and couldn't wait to see Remus again. Dumbledore was gone now but Sirius would take his words to heart. If talking to Remus every day would help then he'd do it. He'd do whatever it took to bring his friend back.

When he went out into the hall he was deeply disappointed to find that Snivellus had slithered back to his lair, and a little relieved if he was being honest because he didn't really want to kill anyone.

James had seen lots of dead people. His parents were old when they had him and he was young when both sets of his grandparents had passed away. This was different which was certainly better than it being the same. He sat in the chair by Remus' bedside and found he couldn't come up with any words.

He looked at Remus' face which still had color in it, well the typical color he had when he looked as pale as he did now. But there was still life. James had done a lot of thinking after finding out Remus was like this. He preferred to sort things neatly in his mind, to think things through logically then if he decided he wanted to jump in, emotionally.

But Remus' coma had jumbled everything up and he wasn't quite sure who he was anymore. He felt too old to be a boy and much too inexperienced to be a man. He felt he'd never be as carefree again before this happened and in a sort of ridiculously tragic way felt his childhood had ended on that astronomy tower on a cold January night.

But he wasn't about to become all self-absorbed. This wasn't about him nor Peter nor Lily nor even Sirius. This was about Remus. Remus Lupin who James knew very little about.

James realized he was fidgeting very badly and sat on his hands so he could think without being distracted. Things he knew for certain about Remus other than obvious stuff like he was a human. James found a nervous laugh escape him and he immediately felt horrible. Somehow how this allowed him to finally find his voice.

"Sorry, Remus I didn't mean to laugh at you. I…..I never should have teased you about Lily. I just…..well I was just being dumb. I think you got that though. Even though you're pretty sensitive you're a surprisingly good sport." He leaned in slightly as if someone could overhear him as if it wasn't just him and the boy in a coma.

"You're a better sport than Sirius but don't tell him I said that. I was just thinking about all the facts I know about you. I prefer facts over the what-ifs and maybes Sirius gets himself tangled in. Do you know what I mean? Oh geez, can you even hear me? No, I don't want to question things right now. My head hurts. But I'm making it about me again sorry mate." He could almost hear Remus kind assurance that it was fine, almost.

"I guess you wouldn't mind if I did huh? Guess that's a fact sort of….you really didn't, don't like to talk about yourself. I always thought you were a muggle-born. Not that it matters or anything I just...didn't know that...I don't know a whole lot. But I know some stuff. I know you're a fast learner that's a fact." James smiled a little his insides all squirmy and gross feeling.

"To tell you the truth I really thought you were nothing but a wet blanket in the beginning. You come across as one at first...guess that's a fact though not a really nice one. If it wasn't for Sirius we'd never be friends. But you brought people together too, that's a fact. I held hands with Lily Evans the other night and I didn't feel the immediate need to wash my hands. I know if you could you'd laugh at that even though it's not terribly funny. You're good at laughing at the right times and a good listener and a brilliant chess player and really kind and ..."

James found he couldn't go on anymore he was getting choked. His father had always told him to keep his chin up even in tough times and his mother had taught him to always have hope. But he was finding it harder to listen to their advice than he ever had before.

"Guess I shouldn't take too long. Sirius...well I thought for sure he'd take longer and he didn't. Guess it weirded him out too. Uh...not that you're weird or anything. Well, you are but in a good way. The same way the rest of us are, our group. Hm, we really ought to come up with a name a better name than the boys in room two, floor seven or five or whatever it is. I can't even remember what floor we live on right now. You have me all mixed up. But...er that's not your fault really it isn't. You are always so quick to blame yourself...that's also a fact."

James wiped his cheeks but the tears just didn't seem to stop. He knew it wasn't fair to make this about himself but he kept remembering his grandparents' funerals, that they were underground eating worms now and Remus might be joining them and none of this was fair.

Madam Pomfrey came into the room, for Remus had his own room which was cool. James didn't even know these rooms existed just like he hadn't known the passage to Honeydukes existed.

He wanted to go back to that time...it couldn't have only been a few months ago. Even time felt wonky now all upside down and figure eights and he wasn't even making sense anymore. He knew, recognized he was sobbing like a baby, not quite like Sirius had, nor was he attempting to be quiet like Peter.

He was wailing like a baby like he was that five years old who broke his nose sneaking onto his dad's broom. It took the matron awhile to calm him down and he accepted the tonic under the condition she swear not to tell Sirius.

It wasn't fair that Potter got to go before her. If only she hadn't taken that tonic that made her so tired and sluggish. She didn't like being sluggish she wanted to be one step ahead of everything and everyone. She pretended she didn't realize what people thought of her but she knew.

They weren't wrong she was bossy and a know it all she just loved magic and learning so much!

"Madam Pomfrey where is he?" She asked her voice much too high for her liking. At least no one had teased her about it last night. Not that they ever would, even Potter wasn't that terrible, and he was pretty terrible. The matron came over to her led her to Remus' bedside.

"Oh, Remus!" She cried rushing over to him and burying her face in his chest. It helped to hear the faint thump-thump of his heart and it made it worse to feel how cold he was. She let him go wiping the tears away and sat in the little chair set aside for them.

She was just a bossy little know it all and somehow Remus had wanted to be friends with her. He was so kind to her and listened to her better than Sev did though she'd never admit that to a single soul.

She looked down at his face, he seemed to be sleeping, but he looked much more peaceful. She had seen Remus asleep, back when he'd curl up on the couch either too afraid or not allowed to go to his dorm. She had a bad habit of sleepwalking and that's how she had realized he was in the common room after waking quite suddenly upon banging her toe on a chair leg.

He had been tossing his blankets off, his face scrunched up, his cheeks damp with tears. She had pretended it was the fact the bullying had been interfering with his grades that was the final straw, but really it had been seeing him sleep so fitfully. It wasn't until much later Lily realized the bullying from Sirius hadn't caused such a pained expression on his face that night, that it was something much worse.

She realized quite suddenly she wasn't saying this out loud, the whole point was to talk to Remus not to get lost in thoughts. She had been doing that for hours. If this was a homework assignment she was sure she would have failed it.

Only this wasn't a homework assignment this was her dear friend lying unmoving on a bed. She wished his face would scrunch up with fear or whatever bad emotion had caused his nightmares that night. She would prefer that over this blank face peaceful Remus because the other Remus she could have woken from a bad dream. She had no way to wake him from this.

"I'm so sorry Remus. You deserve a better friend than me. I shouldn't have been so cross with you…..w…...what if those are the last words I ever get to say to you?" Her promise not to cry didn't last long at all. She knew Remus was sorry, knew he had been dragged into the prank, but she had let it anger so much.

"I'll be better if...when you wake up, I promise. I'll listen more and talk less though you don't seem to want that. Well at the very least I'll hear you out when I'm mad. I promise Remus. So please come back."

She was such a girl, that's what Sev told her in his 'you're making me uncomfortable tone' he always got when she cried. Remus had seen her cry before, usually about Sev who often accidentally hurt her feelings. Remus hadn't told her she was 'such a girl'. He seemed to know what to say when to offer words of comfort when to listen when to hug her.

"You must have learned that from your mother. I bet she's a wonderful woman." Lily paused a sick dread filling her. Why didn't Remus' mother come to visit him? What about his father? Was she that sick? Did they care he was here? Did they know?

Of course, they knew! In Hogwarts Medical History, she read that ever since the 1700s it has been mandatory to alert guardians of illnesses or injury. It was the sort of thing Remus would find interesting so she repeated it out loud wishing he'd open his eyes give her that small crooked smile of his and ask her what caused the reform or did this bring forth controversies, or some other wonderful question that showed he really was paying attention.

"Remus, why aren't your parents here?" She asked him in a small voice as if he'd respond. Her eyes went to where his arm was laying next to him on the bed. She remembered the scar she had seen poking from his long sleeve.

It seemed logical to assume there were others but she hoped that wasn't the case. Back when she had gone to muggle primary school there was this boy named Benjy. One day Benjy was gone and she was told he'd moved. She hadn't been friends with him or anything but she would never forget hearing her parents discussing him in hushed voices years later.

Apparently, his father would beat Benjy and his mother watched, apparently they starved him and made him beg for food despite feeding his other siblings, apparently his father had strangled him in a rage one night because Benjy wasn't his kid, apparently, his mother had helped him bury the body.

Lily still got cold every time she remembered that. Truthfully it's why she had sought Remus out in the first place. He was so skinny and jumpy that she had been reminded in a terrible way of Benjy. It seemed just like with Benjy she could do nothing to help, only now she was older and a wizard and why didn't that seem to matter?

"Remus I'll research magical induced comas and everything like it." She vowed to him, which made her feel a fraction of a bit better. She didn't like sitting by and watching doing nothing, she needed to do something, feel like she was helping somehow.

"I'll find something Remus." Though she knew it was arrogant to presume she could find something when adults could not. Still, she had to try and it felt better than admitting she couldn't do anything.

"I'll visit soon. But if it takes a while it's because I'm going to spend every last free minute researching." She didn't bother asking if he understood she knew he didn't and it made her heartache.

She felt she was taking too long and the heavy silence was beginning to scare her. She stood up, smoothed her robes, leaned over and gently kissed his cheek goodbye. She had done it without thinking, it seemed like the best thing to do, but she wouldn't be forgetting the almost waxy feel of his cold cheek on her lips any sooner than she'd forget the night she learned about Benjy and just how cruel the world could be.

….

Dorcas found this ridiculous. She wasn't even friends with Remus, not really. She didn't really deserve to be included in the miserable group, part of her wish she hadn't. She only had a few conversations with the boy and never really had a whole conversation with him without Lily leading it.

Sure Remus was nice and all and she'd be lying if she wasn't upset. But she felt like an imposter sneaking into a private funeral of close family and friends. Well, she didn't think any of the boy's family was here, not that she'd seen anyways. She also really hoped he wouldn't die.

She let her hand run across the smooth material of her new quill holder. Part of her wanted to tear it up and forget Remus had given her it, forget he existed. But she knew she could no more do that then she could resist the pull of her legs that carried her to the chair beside the sleeping boy. At least he didn't seem to be in any pain that was good.

She felt like stone unmoving in the chair that was now hers. She didn't like how Remus looked, it reminded her of her cousin. Six when she drowned. She'd been in a coma for several weeks then she had died.

Dorcas looked away from Remus reminded too much of her cousin to bear it. Perhaps it would be different this time. This was the wizarding world after all. So why did everyone seem just as powerless here as they had been back home?

She knew she didn't get to grieve. No, she'd have to be strong for Lily no matter what happened. Lily who wore her heart on her sleeve who thought she was all logic but teetered dangerously close to being driven by emotion instead. Dorcas knew she really was driven by logic, at least that's what her parents always said.

That's why they had no doubt she'd do well in school. But with everything that seemed to explode out of nowhere she wasn't sure she'd be able to do quite so well. She stood up nearly knocking her chair over. She wished she hadn't seen Remus. Now every time she closed her eyes she'd see his face and then it would morph into her freckled face cousin.

She scowled before realizing if there was a chance Remus could hear and somehow see her, as her aunt had been convinced her cousin could, then he probably was thinking she was mad at him.

"You shouldn't be so sensitive Remus." She sighed.

"It's not you, it's me. Look I suppose if you ever wake up I owe you a conversation. Don't want to leave you sad so cheer up. I bet you'll be better in time to see us kick Slytherin's asses...in quidditch of course. But yeah...this is weird for me so don't expect me to visit again. Just get better so we can get to know each other better I guess."

Figuring this was good enough because she didn't really believe she was being watched or heard right now, she shot him one last uncomfortable look and left.

"He won't….won't turn into a zombie will he?" Peter whispered fearfully to the matron. She blinked at him. She had dark circles under her eyes and he thought she was going to scream at him but instead, she tilted her head back and laughed uproariously.

"A zombie! That's the last thing he'd need! Another creature! Goodness I've never heard such a ridiculous thing. Thank you for that dear I needed that." She smiled at him kindly. Peter had meant the question to be a serious one and now felt rather dumb, but the matron was always very nice to him and he knew he shouldn't sulk too much if he had gotten her to laugh like that.

Plus she really did seem to need it. He followed her into a little back room he hadn't known existed, and he had been in the hospital wing several times. Then again perhaps it hadn't been there and now was, his grandfather was really good at creating rooms, perks of being a wizard of all.

The matron left him at the doorway and he stood there frozen. It's not that he was afraid of Remus, out of all his friends he knew Remus would be the least likely to hurt him accidental or otherwise.

Unlike Sirius and James, the few times Remus had hurt his feelings he had known and apologized sincerely. It made it hard to be mad at Remus and Peter felt terrible he was so mad at him right now.

He knew that everyone thought that Remus hadn't jumped out the window himself, but what if he had? He knew Sirius might kill him if he suggested it and he reckoned James would be ticked with him as well. But when a farmer down the lane had killed himself everyone had been shocked because he was always smiling so much, and as nice as Remus was he didn't smile nearly as much as that farmer had.

Plus Remus' mom was sick, not only sick but dying. If his mother was dying he didn't think he'd want to stay around to watch either. Well if it wasn't for his aunts, uncles, little brother, and soon to be niece or nephew. How big was Remus' family? Did he have a sibling?

Sirius talked to Peter less than Remus did and Peter knew he had one little brother who he described as a "suck up", though not as much as after break for some reason. But Peter didn't even know if Remus had a sibling. Now that he thought about it he realized he and James had been so worried about Sirius snooping around too much that they hadn't really ever asked Remus many questions.

This made Peter sad, he liked Remus an awful lot. But he still didn't move away from the doorsill, he was afraid the Remus over there wouldn't look like the Remus he remembered.

It scared him and since James wasn't here to make him, not that he really could as Remus reminded him patiently many times, he didn't feel particularly pressured to. He knew Remus would understand, Remus always understood.

"I…..I'm over here Remus." Peter began awkwardly because Sirius had angrily declared if they didn't all at least say something to Remus he'd hex them into next week.

"I just...can't go in. I'm sorry I'm angry with you. I'm trying not to be. I just...it's hard not to be." Peter wiped his eyes wishing he could stop his tears better, the way Remus seemed to be able to, and even Sirius.

"You have to come back soon. Then you can tell us you didn't do this and it's all a big misunderstanding like with the letters. Then you can tell us if you have siblings...or if you don't. I know it makes you sad to talk about your family...but maybe you could for a bit?"

Peter waited for a response he knew wouldn't come. He dared to take another step and teetered on the idea of going closer, but the unnaturally long silence convinced him otherwise and with one last apology to his friend he left.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty-Four: A Gloomy Weekend

Sirius kept his promise. He visited Remus once more Thursday, as they had been sent to their dorms upon all getting a chance to "talk" to him. Sirius decided he would visit Remus at least once a day, though this didn't seem like enough. Of course, the fact he'd be available for Remus meant he wouldn't get to go home like the others would, "oh darn."

By after dinner, Thursday rumors had begun to spread about a Gryffindor getting pushed out a fourth-floor window. Classes had resumed that Friday though those who had been huddled outside the hospital ward were excused. With another level of drama added to an increasingly unsafe seeming school, the muggle-borns were jumpier than ever.

Sirius had heard a few girls talking about their parents urging them to leave when he'd finally give up the fight to stay the night in the hospital ward Thursday. The matron assured him he could visit whenever he wished as long as he slept in his dorm.

So he had reluctantly shuffled back to his dorm catching the two girls who shot him fearful looks and rushed out. Sirius felt offended momentarily by their fear but brushed it off and staggering finally reached the dorm where the others had already been escorted, no one putting up as much as a fight as him.

James and Peter were already asleep though it couldn't even be seven at night yet. Sirius went to take a long hot shower, for the second time that day, realizing he looked dreadful and feeling so as well. With his bloodshot eyes, pale skin, and messed up clothes and hair, the girls had probably thought he was what had become known as the 'Phantom Student' who was thought to be who was attacking muggle-born students.

Of course, no one realized Remus wasn't muggle-born so it seemed like two had been attacked. It was possible Remus had been mistaken as a muggle-born, a mistake Sirius had made until Remus had finally told him his father's occupation.

But Sirius didn't think this was it not with how jumpy Remus had been a few days before…..well before this. He had also mentioned something about a professor being behind this and Sirius was worried this was bigger than all of them could have imagined.

After his shower, he wasn't able to sleep and headed down into the common room which was a mistake. Sirius usually enjoyed being the center of attention but this day was anything but typical.

Gryffindor's swarmed him each wanting to know what was going on and about the student who fell seeing as Sirius was friends with him. Sirius angrily told them to sod off finding it irritating none of them knew Remus' name, well almost none of them. Sirius realized Patricia was one of the few students not approaching him.

She was surrounded by books her head buried in one so she looked for one bizarre second like an older Lily. Sirius would have teased her any other time but he wasn't sure he'd ever be in the mood again and he had to focus his attention on growling out threats so they all stayed away from him. Patricia didn't seem to be bent out of shape. Did she know?

Dumbledore had told them it was best to keep this quiet until the details of what happened to Remus could be pieced together. But surely Patricia had a right to know. Sirius had nothing against Dorcas but personally didn't think she and Remus had been close. Between Dorcas and Patricia, it was a clear winner who was closer to being Remus' friend, something the adults seemed to have missed entirely.

She looked up and shot him a grin rolling her eyes and gesturing at the students like they were nuts. Sirius suddenly found it much harder to move his feet, she didn't know. Maybe he shouldn't say anything after all but she had noticed his expression and her exasperation at gossiping students had turned into concern.

He nearly collapsed and would have probably fallen on his face if she hadn't grabbed his shoulder and steadied him. So it was him shaking not the room? He wondered if he looked like Remus did when he couldn't seem to take a step without collapsing, wondered if this is what he felt like. It was a very unpleasant feeling.

When? When Remus woke up Sirius would make sure to keep an eye out for how often he struggled to walk. But he couldn't believe he was thinking about Remus' secretiveness now. It didn't matter anymore, it just...didn't.

"Sirius what's going on. I assumed the student had been you or James pulling a prank or some sort of stunt."

"What are you dumb or something? Why would classes be canceled Thursday then!" He snapped his anger flaring once more. Patricia recoiled and her worry turned into full-blown fear.

"I thought that was the plan…...I hadn't seen you a lot so I figured you were in double detention or something. But…this isn't like you what's going on!" She was no longer asking she was demanding the information. Sirius was upset and sleep-deprived but he wasn't an idiot.

"Not here there are too many people." Patricia's eyebrows had creased a deep frown now on her face.

"Um…..alright. I know a place."

Sirius followed her out into the hall because he didn't know where else to go. He was about to scream angrily because some stupid student had dared to follow them out the portrait. He whipped around face livid ready to threaten the seventh year if that's what it took. Then he recognized the fretting student as one of Patricia's friends from her year.

"Frank I can't talk right now I'm sorry." The nervous but kind looking student glanced at them running a hand through his short blond hair.

"Just making sure. Sorry to bother you. Can't be too careful with everything going on." He shot Sirius another nervous look clearly having noted the hostility in his gaze and realizing he was friends with the boy who fell.

The one who, it seemed, was too unimportant for his blasted name to be remembered. Sirius sized the fourth year up ready to sock him if he asked a question just to soothe his curiosity, friend of Patricia's or not.

"I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. I'll leave you two be. But if you need help getting Gryffindor's to leave you alone let me know. I have a very loud yell." It was a clumsy attempt to cheer up Sirius. He hadn't been expecting this and nodded.

Frank nodded back a grim smile on his features before he turned back into the loud common room an air of authority and protectiveness around him.

The fat lady swung back and Sirius was turned around by Patricia who was very stressed. Unlike Lily whose outward tears had been nearly immediate Patricia seemed instead to close in on herself. She was stone-faced and the only indication she had any idea of the seriousness of what happened could be found in her eyes which were burning with anger.

"Which one of you is hurt?" She demanded and Sirius was glad she had pieced things together quickly enough he didn't have to awkwardly attempt to explain while keeping his own tears in check.

"Remus." Patricia's face remained the same, her eyes still blazing, but Sirius noticed her hands were fists, her knuckles white.

"Take me to him." She demanded her already powerful voice hardly suppressing her rage. Sirius was very glad Remus had befriended Patricia and that she was on their side, no matter who or what they were up against. Sirius wasted no time in taking Patricia to the hospital ward.

"Now see here Mr. Black when I said for you to return later I didn't mean this early. You need to sl….." Madam Pomfrey stopped chastising him finally realizing he wasn't alone.

"Ms. Rakepick what are you doing here?" The matron asked shifting slightly so the aisle that led to the room Remus was in was blocked. Sirius vaguely wondered if she was this protective of all her patients.

It made sense the matron knew Patricia as not only was she older with more years of illnesses and injury, but she was a professional prankster and injuries were an occupational hazard.

There was no trace of the usual devious amusement that could always be found in Patricia's face and Sirius wondered how the matron recognized her as she looked so different.

"I've come once more to visit Remus. Who did this Madam Pomfrey?" She asked with more composure than Sirius had, the anger skilfully suppressed into her tightened fists it seemed.

"Of course you can visit him. Forgive me for forgetting you're his friend too. It's been…..hectic." The matron finished sounding stressed but she looked a bit better at the prospect of another friend of Remus'.

It was almost like she hadn't been expecting this many which was funny because the matron was nice but she tended to be quite distant with her patients, probably to avoid being accused of favoritism. If Patricia found the matrons seeming familiarity with Remus odd she said nothing just merely clenched her jaw and followed the matron.

Sirius knew he should have warned her what state Remus was in but no matter how hard he tried he couldn't find the words. The walk with her had been accompanied by a heavy silence and Sirius just hoped she had listened closely to the rumors.

This appeared not to be the case as Patricia let out a strangled shout of surprise and rounded on the wall punching it with her first.

"WHO DID THIS?" She thundered looking much more imposing than a fourth-year student should. If Sirius hadn't been so worried about Remus he'd be too tongue-tied to say anything to her. As much as Patricia slowly taking James and Sirius under her wing was surreal and amazing, as much as a dream come true as it was, he'd take it all back to have Remus back to normal. Well normal for Remus anyways.

"Ms. Rakepick I assure you if I knew I'd tell you." Madam Pomfrey responded and Sirius was shocked her famous calm composure was shaken, not out of fear of Patricia as he initially thought but out of anger for the same reason they all were angry. Sirius shifted trying really hard not to wonder how this piece of information, the matron's clear fondness of Remus, added to the rumbled puzzle pieces.

Of course, it was possible she had just been charmed by Remus as anyone who seemed to talk to him for more than a few minutes seemed to be. Remus had been down here a lot, much more than the first years should be. Something was nagging at Sirius, something about professors and secrets and danger, but nothing fit together and he was much too tired to sort anything out.

He had meant to stay with Patricia while she visited Remus, to ask her afterward who her thoughts were on who could have done this. Perhaps even tell her about Remus' stranger than normal behavior and strange comment about professors. But instead he nearly collapsed from exhaustion and a tittering matron forced him out into the room and into a nearby hospital bed.

"Since you are so persistent. But I better not catch you bothering him." She tsked at him but she was looking at him kindly. He fought to keep his eyes open, he needed to, needed to talk to Patricia. But he failed just like he had failed Remus, had failed to get to know him, to help him.

….

Sirius woke a few hours later feeling at if he had slept on a Nundu, everything sore. It took him a few minutes to realize what had woken him up. He sat up gripping his wand tightly, on edge with everything that had been going on. He dropped his wand realizing almost immediately it was James. He scanned the room twice before finding Sirius' dark shadow amongst the pitch-black hospital wing.

"Hey."

"Hey." There was a long pause things feeling wrong without their usual jabs and playful energy, or energy really. James sounded as tired as Sirius felt.

"So ...well I know you don't like home much but I was talking to my mum in the fireplace in Professor's McGonagall's office and she said to make sure you knew you could come home with me tomorrow morning. Blimey is it really nearly already Saturday" he muttered.

Sirius agreed the day had gone by very fast for how little they had done. None of them, not even Lily, had even touched their homework. Sirius was sure Albus had talked to all the professors because anytime they had glimpsed one they only received sympathetic looks.

Sirius didn't hesitate to stay. He had to reassure James, who would relate it to Peter, that it was ok for them to leave for the long weekend. He could tell by how unnaturally quiet they had been they needed it. It took a while for him to convince James of this and even longer to convince him that he really was fine to stay behind.

"Alright. We'll be back on Monday. Professor McGonagall said we'd have to do go back to classes but that the professors are all pretty good at working with students who've been through a tragedy or whatever." He mumbled clearly uncomfortable about it.

"Also she's talking to us all. Trying to gauge our feelings or whatever. Be on the lookout mate she'll be after you next. I just came from there. You wanna know what's worse than Professor McGonagall being stern, Professor McGonagall being nice and understanding." James exclaimed sounding thoroughly grossed out. For mere seconds things seemed back to normal and they both grinned sheepishly at each other.

Then they both seemed to realize where they were again and why. Sirius felt guilty he had smiled which was rubbish because Remus would be more upset if they didn't smile. He knew Remus wouldn't want them acting like this, but he didn't know how else to act, at least not at the moment. He wished James a good weekend though it felt robotic and slipped into Remus' room. His guilt intensified as he slipped his hand in Remus' cold one. It didn't make him feel better but he felt closer to his friend and would be right there if something changed.

…..

He wasn't surprised to be woken Saturday morning to Madam Pomfrey's kind but stern insistence he wasn't to come back until after lunch at the very least. He had attempted to argue, of course, but she told him he needed to get some fresh air, food, and actually sleep. So he stormed out with a few choice swear words that he knew she wouldn't get him detention for, not when she seemed as unhappy about Remus' situation as him.

He was surprised though that when he entered the common room, all the students giving him a wide berth, Lily had come over to him. She seemed to have her own flock of students trying to get information out of her and her normally neat hair was sticking every which way as if she had been yanking on it.

She shot a glance back at Dorcas who seemed to be a bodyguard of sorts, threatening away anyone who wanted to bother Lily. She looked like she hadn't slept well last night either which he could tell from the bags under her eyes which became more prominent as she came closer, a book clutched to her chest, and a very serious expression on her flushed face.

"Sirius this is a book about medical coma's. I….I'm staying until after dinner to research but…." He tried to be patient as the girl's eyes filled with tears.

"Do you think Remus would be upset if I went home for the rest of the weekend? I wrote to my mum and dad yesterday and they really want me to visit home ...what with everything going."

Sirius watched Lily her fingers twisting her long vibrant locks into all sorts of painful twists. He wasn't sure why they all seemed to think he'd know what Remus wanted. They had all unofficially dubbed him Remus' best friend, the one who was closest to him, who knew the most. He supposed this was true considering how little everyone else had known. But how could he explain to the others that just because he had known Remus wasn't a muggle-born that he hardly knew more of them?

"Yeah, I think he'd want you to do what's best for you. I mean…you know how he is." He explained though he didn't have a bloody clue how Remus was.

He thought he did, perhaps an inkling, but he couldn't be sure. He wasn't sure about anything about Remus. However, his answer seemed to be correct because Lily gave a small smile, said he was right and handed him the book.

"Here. I need you to help me with research. Will you help?" Sirius gave her a look not seeing any point to flipping through the pages on coma's or whatever else nonsense was in the book. He figured it was a great way to lose hope Remus would recover, and he needed that hope, badly.

"No." He finally responded and LIly's face fell, she looked absolutely crestfallen.

"But this could help him." She attempted, sounding stunned Sirius would turn down a chance to help. Sirius didn't believe it would help, didn't want it to help because then he'd have to read it.

"How can you be sure?" He snapped angrily wanting to throw the book away, to not look at the cover of a very old wizard in a bed similar to Remus with a similar blank dead look on his wrinkled face.

"I...I'm not sure. But I have to do something. This could help and it's better than doing nothing right? I figured you'd understand but I guess I was wrong." She responded cooly hugging the book against her chest like it might be Remus' only hope. He hated to admit it but he realized Lily was right. If there was even the smallest chance it would help Remus he would do it, no matter how upset it might make him.

"Give it back. I'll do it." Lily looked hesitant, perhaps realizing this book would be at the mercy of a very angry Sirius. But she finally handed it back to him. They looked at each other unsure what to say. Finally Lily muttered thanks and that she'd be back Monday before going back to her seat Dorcas protected, picking up a similar looking book and diving into it. Stares had followed her and Sirius also felt them on him as he walked up to his dorm room.

That weekend Sirius slept little. He never thought he would spend his free time reading something not for class. But he did. He was right that the book would destroy his hope and by the end of it he had no help to offer and very little hope Remus would ever wake up. One particular account of a kid who had been poisoned and woke up fifty years later was almost more depressing than those who never did.

Then there was so much of it Sirius didn't understand, the book was much too complicated with large words he didn't even pretend to know. Just the sort of thing Remus would probably love to read, that swat. He hoped Lily had made more progress but Monday morning he was sure he would find that she had not.

He wondered if maybe he should have gone back with James because nothing had changed with Remus and Sirius' weekend had been terrible.

At least James had warned him about Professor McGonagall so he knew what to expect when she told him to meet her in her office after breakfast Sunday. She had asked him questions about Remus and if she knew why he had left.

"Probably because he doesn't like parties much. He's more the read alone in a corner sort of swat." Professor McGonagall raised her eyebrows then went onto asking about how he was doing.

"Just swell." He had responded trying to sound as chipper as he could. His professor did not look amused. Sirius didn't care. If she thought he was going to be honest with a professor about his feelings of all the things, she had another thing coming. He answered each question with a more ludicrous answer than he had the following question.

Trying to one-up himself and not worry too much about what she was actually saying. He was eating and sleeping and shitting fine and he would be going back to classes on Monday without complaint, well verbal complaint anyways. He could tell Professor McGonagall was getting more irritated as her eyebrows rose higher and higher and she looked increasing exasperated with him. It was a battle of wills, sort of, and he was pleased to report he came out on top.

"Mr. Black! This is an attempt for us to help you. If you aren't going, to be honest with me then I can't do anything to help you."

"What? Maybe I really do dream about gnomes evading Hogwarts and feel unsafe with the structural integrity of this school." He had repeated his response, once more like this was the worst thing he could ever think of happening. He had nearly smiled when he saw a vein twitch in her temple.

"Mr. Black!"

"Well…..you can do one thing." He had sighed heavily as if finally giving up. McGonagall seemed to think so anyway, for she had leaned in, her exasperation replaced by concern

"And what's that?"

"Well I mean no homework sounds like a good start to me." She hadn't been amused and dismissed him from her classroom with a look of deepest disappointment.

Sirius had almost toyed with the idea of writing his brother Sunday, knowing he would be sympathetic, before realizing he wouldn't be allowed to anymore. If possible thinking of his little brother facing the dementor was almost worse than thinking about Remus. But he decided not to even try to write to him and Monday morning came and he had never felt worse about receiving no mail.

He thought he'd be sitting alone since Peter, James, and Lily weren't due back until first hour started but instead, his cousin sat down next to him earning puzzled looks from a lot of people. Drommie didn't seem to care and it took everything Sirius had not to bury his face in her shoulder and cry in front of all these people and everything.

"Let's go for a walk." She responded quietly not because she cared about what fellow students thought but because any minute now her sisters would arrive in the Great Hall. Sirius had no problem with the idea and set down his untouched muffin before following her out onto the grounds. They walked in silence but he could tell she knew what had happened and how it impacted him because she kept glancing at him with concern.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty-Five: A Lack of Answers and a Surplus of "Friends"

They found a small oak tree to sit under and Drommie melted the snow so they could sit on the ground without their arses getting wet. There was an awkward pause as neither of them seemed to know what to say.

"I heard about what happened."

"I know."

"I'm sorry."

"I know."

"Sirius please talk to me. You grew up crying to me don't stop now."

"I shouldn't be sad I mean he's the "wrong kind of friend." Why should I care?"

"You know I don't care about that in the slightest." She huffed. He knew she didn't but he was finding this harder than he thought it would be. Where he had been so close to crying before now he couldn't seem to muster a tear as if his life depended on it and though he wanted to hold his cousin's hand his own wouldn't seem to cooperate.

"We weren't even that close." He pointed out finding pushing her away to be the easiest option.

"Balderdash" Sirius looked at Drommie startled and defensive. It's not like she kept tabs on him that well. She had been too busy with her Hufflepuff boyfriend she shouldn't have.

"How do you know?" He asked angrily. She seemed to realize he wasn't just upset about the situation finally because she glanced around and lowered her voice.

"Is this about Ted?"

"Not everything is about your boyfriend."

"Sirius stop that. I told you I was being careful."

"Balderdash." She gave him a wry unamused smile.

"How do you know?"

"You didn't answer my question." He pointed out knowing he sounded like a pouty kid. But Drommie, unlike Narcissa, didn't look down on him. Realizing she wouldn't nor would she tell, his eyes watered once more.

"Because when you get involved with someone or something you are all in. Plus I've heard about the trouble you get in with your little group. Remus was a part of that. So I know you care about him a lot." The fact that Drommie knew Remus' name broke the last prideful barrier that was keeping Sirius' composure. He burst into tears and Drommie pulled him into a tight hug. It felt really good to have her support and care, he just wished there were more in his family that applied to.

….

Crying his heart out to Drommie helped him marginally and when the others returned he was able to go to class with them and somehow focus on them. In fact, James and he had become very attentive students, it was better to pay attention than to start the whispered conversations they usually did. They would just end up talking about Remus or feeling guilty for not talking about him. Peter, and surprisingly Lily, both couldn't seem to focus on the class at all.

Peter had set his book down and was asleep. Lily had another book hidden behind her book and was scanning through lines of complicated medical texts which such intensity she didn't jump on every question like she usually did.

"Ms. Evans. Would you like to put down your book and join the class?" Professor McGonagall was standing in front of Lily's desk watching her with a serious expression.

"Yes Professor. Sorry."

"Considering you're usual attentiveness I won't dock points this time but next time I won't be so lenient. Also please see me after class." There were scattered mutterings of varying degrees of amusement and even joy.

Lily really was an insufferable know it all and had never been reprimanded by a teacher before. Only Lily's friends weren't teasing her, the rest of the class quite merciless in their snickering and comments. Lily's face went dark red and she nodded to McGonagall with another hurried apology.

After class James seemed more like his old self prompted by him wanting to know what McGonagall would say to Lily.

"Can you imagine if she got detention? Wouldn't that be brilliant."

"No it wouldn't she was researching for Remus you dolt." Sirius never would have imagined defending Lily and even after doing so he still couldn't imagine it. James seemed to feel the same way for he looked absolutely stunned. Peter pointed out if they kept dawdling they would be late for lunch and Sirius lost it.

"Stop thinking about your stomach for more than five minutes bloody hell Pettigrew!" Peter's face went very splotchy and for one bewildered second he thought the boy would punch him. What was wrong with all of them today?

"I wasn't. The Matron said we could visit during meals and after all our classes." He pointed out tersely. Right, everything was on its head today because of Remus.

"Forget what I said, Pettigrew. You're a bloody genius! Let's hurry!" Peter went from looking pissed to pleased. James thumped him on the back in a wordless agreement to what Sirius had said. Then they were all dashing down the halls.

Lily joined them in Remus' room about fifteen minutes later. They were eating sandwiches the Matron had brought since they were missing lunch. James was telling some story Sirius was only pretending to listen to. If someone had been listening outside the door they would have thought three friends were just hanging out, only the slightly higher pitch of all of their tones hinted something might be wrong.

Lily sat down and seemed nearly as nervous as Peter whose chair was closer to the door than the bed. James and Sirius had coaxed him to come closer so he could actually see Remus but one glance and Peter had returned to the safety of the chair. It's not like Remus looked gruesome or anything but James had told Sirius to let it be. Lily seemed uncomfortable and opened her book again without so much as acknowledging them.

"Hi to you too."

"Oh sorry. I…..I'm nearly done hang on." So they fell silent watching Lily flip a page and then another because it was better than looking at a too still Remus.

"There. This is the third book I've been through. There's nothing absolutely nothing." She explained in a brave voice though her lip quivered slightly. Sirius stared at the ceiling so as not to cry. He knew there would be no solution, that they couldn't help, but he had listened to Lily and here they were feeling worse than when they began.

"Did you find anything Sirius?"

"What do you think?" He snapped.

"There's no need to be so rude about it." She sniffed. For all of James' irritation towards Lily he had this whole valor thing going, and as such found it necessary to rebuke Sirius for "making" LIly cry.

"Why can't you just say no. This isn't her fault." Sirius felt betrayed but mostly just annoyed and gave James a gesture to explicitly express this.

"I don't need you coming to my defense Potter." Came Lily's rather shrill voice.

"I was trying to help."

"I'm not some sort of helpless damsel in distress."

"I was trying to help."

"Just….just sod off Potter." She snapped and then stormed out. Well, that lasted long.

"I was trying to help." James repeatedly dumbly. Sirius patted his back forgiving his friend for his momentary insanity.

"Don't try to understand girls mate. Take it from me." So they spent the rest of the time ranting about how confusing and annoying girls were. A topic Remus probably wouldn't have enjoyed much but he didn't have much of a choice. Maybe this would wake him from his coma, he'd be so uncomfortable that he would just wake up. That was the hope anyway.

At least it was easier to talk to Remus this way. It felt more like a conversation when they could fill in each other's awkward silences when they occurred. But Sirius soon found that James and Peter weren't comfortable visiting as often as he did. After a few days, they suggested they visit Remus every other day to which he had a few choice words he sent there way.

So he had to visit Remus alone but he kept his promise. He was very upset when he realized he wasn't the only one visiting Remus. A lot of students stopped by feigning friendship to get a glimpse of Remus. Sirius supposed that was partly his and James' fault. Those who previously only knew him as the scapegoat of the letter fiasco now knew Remus as the brave hero who went up against the Slytherins. Sirius had to give James the glory for coming up with such tall tales but they had to come up with something as they kept getting bombarded by questions.

The investigation had uncovered nothing and James was quick to save Remus from becoming some kid who attempted suicide. Besides once Sirius had filled in James, about what he was sure was Snivellus guilt, they both agreed it was the most likely explanation. James and Sirius saw eye to eye on most things concerning Remus except the topics of visiting him and Sirius' insistence no one conducted a proper investigation.

"Why wouldn't they?" James asked impatiently when Sirius had brought up the topic after classes Monday.

"You were gone, James. I'm telling you I didn't see any Ministry official."

"Well, they probably just talked to Dumbledore? Or here's an idea the oh-so brilliant Sirius just didn't notice it." James had responded very sarcastically when the topic first got brought up. It didn't go over very well with Sirius. So they avoided those two topics and things were 'fine' between them and Peter except they were all a little more impatient than usual and it took a little more for them to smile or laugh at things.

But regarding painting Remus as a hero it had truly seemed like a good idea at a time. When Remus woke up he'd never just be the shy student in the background again, which in hindsight would probably be something he hated a lot. On the bright side feuding between the Gryffindors and Slytherins became worse than ever and only stopped once some fed up professors threatened expulsion for the next student caught hexing. Of course, this didn't completely stop the fighting but it limited the ways James and Sirius could take out their anger on certain first-year Slytherin students.

Remus had missed the second great week of stinky Slytherins that would be a legend for all Hogwarts history to come, the first time because he had only been worried about detention to much to appreciate it. Then he also missed the second week of Stinky Slytherins in revenge for what they undoubtedly did to Remus. It seemed fair even though the Slytherins had also suffered greatly due to the swamp, but they'd been too worried about Remus to really enjoy more than the first few days of that legendary prank.

Learning from past mistakes James and Sirius busied themselves with creative revenge that they could cleverly remain blameless in. They had gotten even more creative with their use of dung bombs and stink pellets and had even gotten the morning owls to drop dung bombs on the Slytherins instead of their mail. Of course, it was much easier to remain uncaught when the whole of the Gryffindors took personal offense against Remus' attack, which had become a very convincing story no matter how much the professors tried to convince everyone otherwise. Plus neither James nor Sirius had a hard time keeping a straight face with their friend in a coma.

But it backfired slightly as everyone wanted to see Remus now. I mean the cards, chocolates, and flowers were nice but they came from those who actually cared about Remus. Sirius doubted Remus would believe as many people knew and liked him as there had been. Even Sirius was surprised by those who truly did seem to care.

A good portion were people who cared about people who cared about Rems. Like Frank Longbottom who had sent a nice card, more out of his friendship to Patricia and decency as a Gryffindor, than from any real attachment to Remus. However, most of their year had been helped by him at some point, seemingly insignificant things like lending a quill, which in hindsight seemed to have left an impression.

But the problem was there were also students from Slytherin showing up to mock him and steal his gifts. Sirius had a hard time breaking it to the matron that not all the people who visited had been Remus' friends because she seemed delighted by it. She had been upset when he finally told her, though she didn't say much, and had stopped all but a few select people from seeing Remus after that.

But the week went by, and by Saturday most students had better things to do than gossip about a first year, no matter how brave he had supposedly been. This ticked Sirius off but James had pointed out that Remus wouldn't care and neither should he. Still, Sirius didn't like how few meaningful visits Remus got.

Of course, James visited Remus sometimes but Sirius could tell him and Lily were too uncomfortable with the idea. At least they tried, Peter couldn't even get to Remus' bedside. Sirius had almost set a dung bomb off on him but James had told him to lay off Peter.

"We all grieve differently is what my mum told me." James had explained to him in his typical, "I'm so wise" tone that irritated Sirius to no end.

"There's nothing to grieve!" He had snapped and stormed off to the hospital wing. At least he made a habit of visiting Remus at least once a day, he just hoped he'd be enough. It had been awkward at first and Sirius was sure he'd run out of things to tell the boy but ended up going off on long-winded stories.

He even told Remus more details of his past, hoping maybe he could startle Remus out of his coma that way. Sirius noted that Remus' father never came to visit him which didn't surprise him but pissed him off. What did surprise him though, was that no one, absolutely no one, from Remus' family came? James had tried to convince Sirius that, just like with the investigation, he must have missed Remus' family visiting.

"But it's understandable Sirius. I mean you can't be there twenty-four seven." James had added quickly wanting to avoid another fight, his jaw still sore from last time he had hinted Sirius was crazy about the whole situation. This time James had nearly convinced him he must have missed them while he was forced to attend classes.

So he asked Madame Pomfrey knowing that unlike him she really had been there twenty-four-seven, evidenced by the growing bags under her eyes and her increased irritability. She gave him her usual "none of your business answer" but after a lot more careful weedling and sucking up the sleep-deprived matron finally confessed no one had visited him.

"And I know Dumbledore wrote to them! Just because…." She trailed off stopping herself. Sirius noticed she had been almost letting slip whatever it was about Remus she knew multiple times.

However, he doubted she would actually let anything slip as she was much too good at catching herself and would immediately shut down refusing to give any more away. He realized by saying nothing, pretending he hadn't noticed he could at least keep her talking which usually gave him some information, though not the things he really wanted to know.

So Sirius considered his role a very important one not just someone who visited Remus but the one who could relay to the others what was happening. Like if they were planning on moving him to St. Mungos and that the Matron didn't think they conducted and very good investigation either. This is why he was so outraged that after nearly a week and a half of diligently visiting his friend they just expected him to stop.

"It's not fair! I'm helping him! Yesterday his fingers twitched!" Sirius shouted in protest. McGonagle's expression softened and he scowled, he rather his professor be mad at him than look at him with such pity.

"Mr. Black while you have indeed been helpful towards Mr. Lupin's recovery we are moving him to St. Mungo's upon his father's request."

"No! You can't do that! You can't let his father near him!" He cried panicked. He knew he shouldn't but in his concern, he hurriedly explained his observations to his professor who looked even sadder than previously.

"Mr. Black if Mr. Lupin is being hurt by his father we will intervene." She fixed him with a look he didn't at all like. "We are committed to our students' safety. All of our students' safety." He forced himself to keep eye contact, he wouldn't let her think there was anything to suspect. If she already suspected…, well he wasn't going to give her any reason to suspect even more.

"If that's the case why haven't the ministry come to investigate? It's like they don't even know." He was hoping to catch her off guard and he did. Her eyes widened in a faint flash of panic before she collected herself so quickly Sirius had to convince himself he hadn't imagined it.

"It was a very straightforward case, Mr. Black. A representative was here. While I don't expect you to know all the going on's of this castle I do expect you to leave certain matters to the adults." Her reply was sharp and calm. But he knew he saw momentary panic.

His suspicions increased, even more, there was something off about all of this though he couldn't understand what. Sure the ministry of magic had their hands full with all the muggle deaths lately but that gave them no reason to slack. He figured he had hit the nail on the head when he said the ministry didn't know. He just couldn't figure out why. But he would, he'd get to the bottom of this.

"Can I say goodbye? Really quick?" She regarded him cooly but finally relented.

"Quickly Mr. Black." He nodded and dashed back to Remus' side feeling despair fill him. This wouldn't be the last time he saw him right? The closer he got the harder it was to push back all the questions and thoughts he had trying hard not to acknowledge since this first began.

How had it come to this? To Sirius being bent over the still body of his friend clutching his cold hand. When had things gone so wrong? Sirius squeezed Remus Lupin's hand. He looked more peaceful now than he had ever seen him before with his eyes closed. He would give anything to have his quirky secretive friend back. To be driven mad by Remus' secrets, by his skill at avoiding topics.

He'd never ask another question again if it just meant he could have him back. But he couldn't turn back time so now he had to say goodbye. They'd be coming for him in the morning to take him away and he'd never see his precious friend again.

Thick tears slid down the twelve-year old's cheeks. He hated crying in front of others but that hardly seemed to matter now. How could he not cry when all this was his fault. He'd attempted to deny it but no matter how he looked at it he had to face the fact he had driven Remus to this.

He choked on a sob the weight of guilt unbearable. He knew the others blamed him as much as he blamed himself, they'd never say it but he knew it was true. Even if all the house points were taken away because of him it would do nothing to ease his guilt. He doubted very much nothing ever would. He wished he was back home, wished he was facing a dementor for it was surely what he deserved. Never before in his entire life had Sirius Black hated himself so much.

"I'll find out who did it." He whispered into Remus' ear as if this would somehow bring him back. Remus had often looked like he carried the weight of the world on his too slender shoulders and now Sirius knew what that felt like, now it was his turn. He'd get to the bottom of this or die trying.

He swore he felt his finger twitch again and he grasped his hand tighter. If only he had kept Remus with him. If only he hadn't asked so many questions. If only he had asked more questions. Where had he been going that night? Why hadn't he asked any of them to come with him? He sighed and reluctantly let go of his friend's hand feeling immense guilt over it all. He'd be back, Remus had to come back, right?

"Now I think you best be going. You have a paper on the practical uses of Reparifage." His Head of House reminded him gently and attempted to shoo him from the ward. Professor McGonagall would know, she had assigned them a lot of homework lately. Sirius swore it was to keep them from not looking into things too hard but James believed it was simply because it was the second term now so it made sense there would be more work.

"It's Sunday I can do it later! Can't I stay until they take him away at least!"

"I think not. We wouldn't want you interrogating the St. Mungo's staff now would we?" She shot him a stern look and he knew that she knew that he was still investigating things secretly. That he was not "leaving it to the adults" as he had been warned to do several times.

Of course, he hadn't really gotten anywhere and after a week of asking around, he had only discovered that Remus had gone to see someone before he apparently jumped from a tower. No one knew where he was supposedly going, only that he had told Professor Flitwick who saw him in the halls that he had a meeting and would be sure to be back before it was lights out. It was all very aggravating, but this was even more so.

"I promise I won't say anything!" He attempted, willing to beg to stay by his friend's side, especially if he really wasn't going to return. But he couldn't think like that, he wouldn't. Professor McGonagall wasn't buying his lie, she forced him to leave and he was forced to retreat to his dorms where he explained to Peter and James what had happened

….

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty-Six: In the Shadow of the Full Moon

Remus heard everything going on around him. In the beginning, the many noises and voices sounded so far away he couldn't hear much, if anything, of what was being said. But after who knows how long the voices seemed a bit clearer. It was only Madame Pomfrey and Sirius Black that kept him from not being with the shadow man in a never-ending nightmare.

Only them that kept him sane. Two voices were all he had left, one soft and motherly the other boisterous and daring. Each vitally important to him, something he couldn't do without.

He didn't know what was going on, his brain couldn't seem to comprehend whatever it was. His brain couldn't comprehend very much at all. He didn't know how much time had passed or much of anything, just those two voices reminding him who he was.

"Minerva, did you convince young Mr. Black?" He recognized that voice though it took him a moment to place it... Dumbledore. He sounded strange and far away, not pleasant and close like the usual two voices were.

"Yes I told him Mr. Lupin was being moved to St. Mungo's and that seemed to do the trick, though he was quite upset." He had to work hard for this name too...Professor McGonagall. What was she a professor of? And who was Mr. Lupin, he didn't have the answers, though he could tell they were of vital importance.

"Foolish Human so weak and dumb."

He wished he could forget that voice. A low rumbling growl that sent chills down his metaphorical spine, for he could physically feel nothing at the moment. He wasn't sure how, but the wolf had been yelling at him for however long they had been trapped in this dark place together.

"Shut up." He yelled back though no sound came forth. The wolf heard him somehow and howled his resentment in return. How could the wolf hear him if he didn't speak? Oh right because the wolf was him, and it was getting stronger, something must be happening soon. Something big and important and scary but he couldn't remember what.

"Well that is understandable Mr. Lupin is his friend after all. However, he must not find out Remus is here I fear he is already too suspicious."

"Professor, what will happen to him…...will it break his coma?"

"One can only hope Minerva. I believe it will. That by tomorrow morning we will have a very confused and distressed student on our hands, but a conscious one." Mused Dumbledore sounding very fond of whoever this student was.

"Indeed," responded Professor McGonagall and she sounded hopeful and relieved. He felt he should feel that way but too, all he could feel was a cold chill and a bone reaching dread at what was going to happen soon, too soon.

"It will be my turn human."

Came the angry and eager growl again. He wanted to respond but he'd been feeling weaker for a while now, unable to shout as loudly to the monster sharing his consciousness, and his head which was scrambled and lost was begging for a break.

"Soon flesh soon blood soon freedom from chain soon soon." The howling was excruciating and tugged at all that made the confused boy what he was, threatening to pull him to pieces. He wasn't sure why it was so important to fight the voice but he knew he had to. Even if losing himself to the violent haze scratching at his conscience seemed oddly tempting he wouldn't, he just wouldn't.

He couldn't feel the hand on his shoulder but he could hear Dumbledore was closer now and a surge of warmth ran through the cold dark that surrounded him and shut him out from the world.

"Good luck tonight Mr. Lupin. Ah, Madame Pomfrey impeccable timing as always."

"Of course I would never be even a minute late for something so important. Are you coming with us tonight?"

"Yes, I want to make sure everything is in place."

"Will…...will he wake up tomorrow?"

"Let's hope so Poppy. Hope is one of the most powerful magic we can have at a time like this." There was a heavy sigh and once again Remus had no way of knowing but he was being carried by Dumbledore to the whomping willow. He wasn't even able to follow the rest of the adults' conversation, feeling far too weak and dizzy. Instead, all he was aware of was the ever-growing presence and persistence of the wolf which filled him with growing worry.

He was faced with anxiety such as he had never known which had taken over him, though he didn't know it was because he was terrified he wasn't safely secured in the shack. He was, of course, courtesy of the headmaster, but between his lack of physical feeling and overall confusion, he couldn't reach this conclusion.

Instead, he just felt intense panic though he couldn't pinpoint why. So it would be another bad full moon. Rage and an unquenchable thirst for flesh and blood kept him going all night. And though the several worried adults had no way of knowing, the wolf was indeed conscious and moving. This was both good and bad for the insane anger and disgust at its human captor left the wolf very violent this time indeed.

…..

He was first aware of the pain, as always, then of his fingers and toes twitching. The confusion that had plagued him for a long time cleared and with it came again an intense panic. He forced his blood-caked eyes open finding it hard to see. But based on the feel and smell he was in the shack and he relaxed.

He hadn't hurt anyone then. Now things could go back to normal. He waited for Madame Pomfrey, the idea of her happiness at seeing him conscious numbing the sharp pain that came every time he took a wheezy breath. He stayed awake the whole time, wanting to see someone happy he was back, part of him fearful no one would be.

Surely it would be easier if he hadn't transformed this month if the coma kept the wolf back and he had just stayed like that burdening them less than he usually did. But he tried not to think of this just like he tried not to think about how his father hadn't visited him. As much as he tried not to think about how often and loyal Sirius had been with his visits.

He no doubt owed his intact sanity to Sirius and Madame Pomfrey for without them he would have gone insane trapped with only himself for what felt like a long time. Before he could put together how long it had been based on last night being the full moon he heard the door unlatch and could practically feel the unusual nerves rolling off the matron.

"Goo Ning." He managed his tongue swollen and numb from biting on it too hard.

"Oh thank Helga!" She cried loudly rushing over to him in a very un-composed manner. Her response was sincere and immediate and it warmed him greatly to hear the concern and relief in her voice.

"Good morning Remus." Came the calmer deeper response of Albus Dumbledore. It truly surprised Remus he was here, which was saying something because usually his sense of hearing and smell was elevated. He tried to acknowledge the headmaster but the relief of being cared about, and the current attentive care of the matron healing his wounds, dragged him into a safe shallow unconsciousness.

When he woke the second time he was aware it was very late and wasn't able to place what woke him until he heard the door open, soft footprints following. The footprints of someone who wasn't supposed to be here. He didn't need to hear his voice to know who it was.

"Remus…...Remus…" Came the urgent whisper, as if Sirius hadn't believed whoever told him Remus was conscious. He thought about not answering but that went out the window when he heard the panic in the poor boy's voice.

"I'm alright."

"You aren't bloody alright." Sirius laughed tensely but sounded relieved. "Guess they should have sent you to St. Mungos earlier huh?"

"St. Mungos?" It took Remus awhile to remember the bits of conversation he had caught while in a coma. For the first time, he wondered if there would be any lasting damage and felt the need to get up.

He struggled to sit up and Sirius rushed to his side though paused awkwardly unsure what to do. Remus thought he looked quite silly bent over his arm outstretched as if expecting Remus' coat, with a wide-eyed lost expression on his face. He covered his mouth to keep back the laughter but found it impossible to do so.

"Well, maybe I shouldn't have come." Huffed the embarrassed boy but he was smiling at Remus so he knew he didn't really offend him.

"Do you not remember being at St. Mungo's?"

"No." He was grateful this wasn't a lie. He didn't remember because he never went there. Seeing Sirius was waiting for something more he chose his words carefully.

"But whatever they did must have worked." He moved his legs and arms again just because he could.

"Hang on the others are outside the door. Madam Pomfrey tried to get us to see you in the morning but there was no way that was going to happen."

Then Sirius was gone and Remus worked hard on sitting up. He could hardly do that and was terrified it might be because of the comma before realizing it was because of the monthly abuse of the moon. Luckily he realized his scars were exposed and he was able to wrap a blanket over his shoulders in time before the door opened again.

He could see three figures at the door and a smile broke out across his sore face. They all cared! They all wanted him back! He nearly started crying but realized he had worried his friends enough for a lifetime. So instead he pointed out they must be breaking the rules because he knew it would relieve them, to hear him sounding so normal.

"You sound like you just took a nap or something." James laughed his laughter tense, his voice full of relief.

"Oh, Remus!" Peter cried and ran over hugging him tightly, far too tightly. He tried not to cry out in pain but that went out the window as he became a victim to Peter's strong embrace.

"Oi, you dumbass you're hurting him!" Sirius howled yanking Peter off Remus, luckily before the pain caused him to pass out.

"I'm sorry." Peter quickly apologized shifting in the dark with guilt.

"I….it's ok…." He whispered hoping he could keep the pain out of his voice.

"Shouldn't you ...I don't know...not be in pain?" James asked uncertainly, joining Sirius and Peter, all of them now crowded around the head of his bed.

"I don't know. Oddly enough I've never been in a coma before. Have you?" Remus was glad he was able to hide the pain this time. He reasoned Madam Pomfrey hadn't given him his usual potions for whatever reason because every breath he took brought with it a fresh stab of pain. But it almost felt good after feeling nothing for such a long time.

"No haven't had that pleasure." James joked back with another tense laugh. There was a very heavy awkwardness hanging just beneath the surface of all of them.

"What happened?" Sirius asked urgently unable to hold back any more, Remus was impressed he had lasted as long as he had.

"I don't know," Remus responded truthfully. Of course, he didn't mention the last thing he remembered was heading towards Professor Blatvnik's office. He still felt it was best not involve his friends in this. If Professor Blatnik had really done this to him he wasn't about to let the same happen to his friends. There was a long silence and he could feel Sirius' calculating gaze boring into him.

"You don't remember? Really?" He asked at the same time Peter asked in a high pitch voice.

"You didn't jump did you?"

"Of course not!" Remus responded quickly, horrified.

"How can you be sure if you don't remember anything?" Sirius pointed out quickly.

"I…..well…..why would I?" His question felt a little too desperate as he toyed with the scary possibility he might have. But surely not!

"I….I remember little bits…." He admitted because he could tell he hadn't really convinced any of them.

"What do you remember?" Sirius demanded. Remus could tell they weren't planning to leave anytime soon and as much as he appreciated their concern he felt terrible and just wanted to sleep.

"Can't this ...wait? I mean it's possible more will come back and then I can have a better idea." He attempted weakly.

"No," Sirius said firmly and now sounded rather angry. Remus flinched at his tone which was a mistake and he inhaled sharply against the pain.

"Sorry." He finally said unable not to apologize, especially when he remembered how upset they had all been that first scary night. Sirius laughed at first quietly then louder and louder as he seemed overcome with mirth.

"Only you ...would apologize for being in a coma!" He wheezed gesturing at Remus incredulously. James covered Sirius' mouth with his hand but he too seemed overcome by the incredulity of Remus' apology.

"Don't forget it's past curfew," Peter whined looking at the door.

"I don't want our detentions with Professor Blatvik to start up again." He added. This time Remus jumped recalling precisely what happened after the one detention they had been in. Surely his professor hadn't really done this? He let out a sharp breath again from the pain of moving and regretted sitting up, though he felt better addressing his friends this way rather than laying down.

"What's wrong?" Sirius asked sharply, his laughter, which seemed closer to sobs than laughter after awhile abruptly stopped.

"Nothing."

"Not nothing. It's like every time you move you feel pain. That's not normal." Remus was about to ask how Sirius would know this, worried his friend may have been put in his own coma from his mother. But he didn't get the chance as Sirus' hand darted out and clamped firmly on Remus' shoulder.

Now Remus prided himself on having a very high pain tolerance but Sirius' hand felt like a scalding burn and he couldn't help let out a small choked sound of pain. Sirius let go right away but now they were all looking at Remus intently. He wondered if it would make things worse if he called out for Madam Pomfrey, sure his friends would be angry at him, but at least he could have some time to think of excuses.

"Why are you in so much pain? Lily made me read a stupid book on coma's and being a little sore is one thing but…..but not this!" Sirius sounded fearful and Remus' guilt grew. He seemed to be causing his friends more distress now that he was awake than when he had been in a coma.

"I…" He tried to rack his brain for a plausible excuse.

"Stop that!" Sirius cried angrily raising his arms in a gesture of deep frustration.

"S….stop what?" He stammered still trying to come up with a plausible excuse.

"Stop stalling. Spit it out, Remus!"

"I ...have a weak pain tolerance."

James scoffed, his arms crossed very tightly over his chest.

"No, you don't. We all saw that potion hit your hands not that long ago. Peter may be a bit dramatic but you didn't react at all." He sounded as stern as Sirius, and Remus swallowed his fear. It was one thing dealing with Sirius' suspicion but he wasn't sure how he could handle all of them being suspicious.

"Fine but you can't be mad ok?" There were three muttered sounds of consent. Remus apologized inwardly to Madam Pomfrey but seeing no other option pressed on.

"I've been back for a little bit. I don't remember being at the hospital but I remember afterward. It wasn't her fault since I surprised her, but Madam Pomfrey was levitating me getting the bed ready and well….she dropped me." He finished feeling terribly guilty.

"You must have been high up to be in this much pain." Sirius didn't sound convinced but Remus said nothing holding his breath. He knew nothing he'd say would convince Sirius, that hadn't been his goal, he only needed the other two to believe him.

"Oh but she's usually so careful," Peter responded sympathetic and sad. Remus waited for James' response, he could feel the boy watching him, calculating him, running the logic behind his answer against whatever theories Sirius would come up with later.

He didn't expect Sirius to keep quiet about what he thought he'd learn about Remus' dad anymore. He knew as soon as his friends left Sirius would reveal it as some sort of theory he had. He just needed the others not to believe him, or at least doubt it.

"I guess that makes sense," James said slowly and Sirius made a strangled noise of anger.

"Why do I even bother! Can't you tell he's lying!"

"Why would he lie?"

"Fine! Whatever! Then tell us what little you remember about before you ended up in a coma before you make excuses about that as well." Sirius demanded his voice quiet but full of anger. Remus felt bad and was finally forced to consider what he did actually remember.

"I ...remember the party being loud. I was frustrated since I couldn't give Dorcas her present. I decided…..to leave since I was getting a headache. Then things get fuzzy and the next thing I remember is I…." He froze finding it hard to breathe.

"What?" Sirius asked his voice much more gentle now hearing the way Remus' voice was shaking.

"I…..um…..something was chasing me….." Remus stammered because he remembered the shadow man, remembered being terrified for his life. Remembered hurling himself out a window because it was better than what awaited him inside.

"Something," James noted quietly.

"Yes ...s…..something…..a monster…," Remus whispered horrified. Was the shadow man still in the castle? Had he bitten someone last night? Surely Dumbledore would know if a full-grown werewolf had broken into his castle! He needed to talk to the headmaster immediately though just in case. He bit down on his lip until it bled to keep himself from crying.

"Remus ...Remus….you've got to calm down you're freaking us out." Sirius pointed out sounding uncertain. Remus realized he was hyperventilating, wheezing and struggling for each painful breath. He tried to calm down but it seemed impossible as he remembered being put in a full-body binding curse, of breaking free of it, of shouting and anger and fear, and of being chased.

"Sirius we should get Madam Pomfrey."

"Shut up James I'm trying to think."

"He's clearly telling the truth. Come on mate just look at him."

"Remus…..Remus, you've got to calm down." Sirius demanded as if this would make Remus listen to him, and seemingly angry when it didn't. Then Petter crouched down and spoke in a soft voice.

"Remus you are safe. Everything is ok. Everything will be ok." He explained in such a soft convincing voice he found himself listening to him, clinging to his words.

"Just take deep breaths. It's ok everything is ok." He assured Remus and finally, he found himself able to calm down.

"Dang Pettigrew. How did you do that?" Sirius asked sounding impressed.

"My little brother gets panic attacks, especially during storms. My mum and I got pretty good at calming him down. We had to otherwise he'd lose control of his magic and shatter all the windows." He added as an afterthought and James let out a low whistle also impressed.

Remus felt foolish and silly but the others didn't seem to think so. If anything they sounded nervous, taking his panic as a sign something must be really wrong. It made Remus feel better but also worse because what if it hadn't been the shadow monster? What if he had just convinced his friends there was a monster loose in the castle and there wasn't one?

But what if there was? He asked himself and he knew he really had to talk to Dumbledore.

"What do we do? The investigation didn't uncover any monster." Peter wondered out loud.

"I don't think there was an investigation."

"HAH!" Sirius shouted sounding very smug though Remus didn't know why. Investigation? He couldn't think Dumbledore would let that happen. Because the ministry didn't know Remus was here and couldn't. So he was preventing the investigation, but what if that put others in danger? Oh, he really needed to talk to Dumbledore!

"Can…..can one of you…..get the headmaster?" Remus dared to ask, the fate and safety of other students winning over annoying his friends.

"What if he's in on it?" Sirius asked dead serious.

"No!" Remus shouted because he wouldn't let his friends doubt Dumbledore. not even for a second. Not when the headmaster had been so kind to Remus, had in many ways saved his life. He owed Dumbledore everything.

"Are you sure Remus? Because it's Dumbledore's fault there was no investigation. Why else would he keep this hidden from the ministry?" Remus had to stop himself from shouting it was him, it was his fault.

"I know Dumbledore isn't involved. Trust me, he's not."

"I don't think so either mate. I mean it's Dumbledore!" James pointed out as if this explained everything. Between Remus and James' insistence, Sirius let it go.

"You want us to get him now?" James asked turning his attention once more to Remus.

"Yes please." He wasn't going to force his friends, not if there was a chance they'd get in trouble. But the sooner the better and James seemed to realize this.

"Alright, I'll go."

"No, I will." All four of them jumped as a fourth person entered the room. Remus recognized the voice immediately.

"Lily." He cried surprised she would risk detention to visit him.

"I'm so glad you are ok Remus." She responded staying in the doorway sounding tearful.

"How much did you hear?" Sirius asked sounding suspicious. Remus didn't want Lily to get dragged into this any more than the others, but he didn't think excluding her was the answer. Lily was very stubborn if they told her she wasn't allowed to help they would never hear the end of it.

"Enough. You really ought to place an Imperturbable Charm if you're going to have secret conversations you know?"

"Do you even know what you're saying? That charm is too advanced for us!" James muttered irritated almost immediately by the girl's presence.

"I'm sure it's not that hard." She insisted sounding rather stuck up which Remus knew would probably result in another argument between James and Lily. He suddenly felt very tired by his rambunctious friends. There was no resting when they were around.

"Have you ever done it?" James asked smugly, knowing she hadn't.

"Well no." Lily sniffed haughtily.

"Lily, were you offering to get Dumbledore?" Remus cut in sharply before a duel could break out.

"Yes. I was going to say you lot have already been given a detention." She admitted suddenly sounding rather unsure of herself. James went silent seeming to struggle with the idea she was trying to help them. Sirius had no qualms about letting a girl take the fall for them, it seemed, as he responded brightly he thought it was a swell idea. Remus sighed heavily.

"It's alright Lily. I….it can wait." Remus attempted to assure her but after how desperate he sounded a few minutes prior he wasn't surprised when she wasn't buying it, though he really hoped she hadn't heard all of that.

"It's fine I don't think Professor Dumbledore would punish a student for visiting him. Besides the Professors have been pretty lenient with us with…..well everything going on." She finished perhaps realizing that bringing up Remus' coma would upset him. He was going to assure he wasn't offended by the mention, it's not like he had forgotten he had been in a coma for the past week, but it occurred to him how much class he had missed. So he suddenly felt quite sick and therefore he didn't say anything.

"How do you reckon that?" Scoffed Sirius.

"Well I mean Professor Blatvik seemed to have forgotten about your lots' detentions and Professor Flitwick has been letting you three talk to each other during class more than he normally would."

"Or Blatvik is a forgetful twat and Flitwick had just given up on controlling us." Lily sighed heavily but seemed to realize there was no arguing with Sirius about, well, much of anything really.

"If you're sure Lily." He knew he sounded hoarse and quickly dropped his voice back into a whisper not wanting to have to explain why his voice he hadn't used in a long time sounded like he had spent all night screaming.

"Just be careful."

"I will Remus." She said warmly then left before James and Sirius could say something else stupid to her.

"We probably shouldn't be here when Dumbledore gets here." James pointed out begrudgingly. It sent another jolt of warmth into Remus that they wanted to stay with him. Both Peter and Sirius seemed equally as hesitant about leaving him but with James' insistence, they all left promising to be back as soon as they could.

Sirius lingered slightly behind and knowing he wanted a word alone with Remus, James waited in the hall with Peter.

"Did you ...could you hear while you were in… you know."

"You can say coma it's not like it's a swear word though if it was you'd probably say it more."

"I'm serious Remus."

"I know you are Sirius I haven't lost my memory." Sirius scoffed, slightly amused. But Remus knew he wasn't going to drop this.

"I heard some things...it was kind of in and out if that makes sense. But…" He hesitated not wanting Sirius to feel self-conscious.

"It wasn't your fault Sirius. Not about me or your brother or your mom treating you so bad. None of that is your fault." Sirius shifted and Remus knew he had made him uncomfortable despite trying not to.

"Yeah well…...you reckon if I was in a coma you'd tell me a bunch of embarrassing stuff to? I bet I could pretend to be." Sirius teased and Remus let out a soft whispery laugh. A silence fell which quickly became awkward then Sirius mumbled he should probably leave and left before Remus could say anything else.

Torn in more ways than one by his friends visiting Remus simply waited for Dumbledore to return, hoping Lily was right about not getting in trouble.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty-Seven: The Return of Remus Lupin

Sirius watched in horror realizing Remus was a monster. Not a literal one obviously, that was ludicrous. But he was quite the terrifying metaphorical one. Sirius had assumed things would go back to normal as soon as Remus woke up. However, he hadn't counted on the fact Remus had missed so much homework and was behind in all his classes.

He thought Lily was scary when she was stressed about tests but she was a kitten compared to Remus. The usual calm quiet boy had been transformed into a raging ball of anti-socialness. He snapped at everyone and they all gave him a wide berth, even Lily, unless they were talking about studies.

"We've got to do something Sirius he's going to hurl himself off a tower out of his free will if we don't get him to relax soon." Sirius nodded absentmindedly, watching Remus scan through three books at once with irritation.

"We've offered to help but he's so bloody proud! He won't even let the professors help him because he doesn't want 'special privileges'." Sirius grumbled remembering how after Remus' first day back to classes Flitwick had to beg Remus to stay after class so he could go over the severing charm with him.

In fact, throughout the week Remus seemed to be avoiding all the professors and Sirius wasn't entirely convinced it all had to do with pride. He still hadn't forgotten Remus' comment about a teacher causing the drama around Hogwarts. But talking to Remus about anything other than studies resulted in the stubborn boy pretending they didn't exist or quite the tongue lashing.

Gone were the days Remus didn't seem able to express his irritation with his friends, and this seemed to give him the confidence to tell them to bugger off. Sirius just hoped Remus wouldn't want them to bugger off forever. Sirius knew Remus had told him what happened to him wasn't his fault but it was hard not to feel like Remus wasn't mad at him with how touchy and bristly he'd been.

"Yes but you know how he is. He nearly bit my head off for slipping him my transfiguration homework the other day. He actually called me a cheater. To think I ever thought he was nice." James sighed dramatically. Sirius knew James was joking but still felt the strong need to defend Remus.

"I mean... he... it's just….."

"I know mate. If I cared about my marks and was in a coma for over a week I reckon I'd be the same way."

"Plus he hasn't been sleeping…."

"Ugh neither have we!" James groaned as only Peter had been getting much sleep in their dorm lately. James had even slept on the couch in the common room a few nights. Sirius couldn't blame him since Remus woke up every night multiple times with a shout of panic, absolutely terrified. He would pace around looking mad, a crazed wild look in his eyes, and fall back asleep an hour or so later. Even when they attempted to talk to him he didn't seem to realize they were there, even with the lights on, so they had taken to trying to ignore it.

It really creeped both of them out and they couldn't seem to find time to talk about it to Remus, who if he remembered the next morning stubbornly pretended not to. They all were just holding out, waiting for Remus to catch up so he'd go back to his usual self, one they missed desperately.

"Well if you have any brilliant ideas James I'd love to hear them," Sirius replied a bit short, they all had been a bit irritable with one another, courtesy of being woken up every so often in the middle of the night.

"If we could just get him to sleep." James lamented.

"We can," Peter said coming over to them with a broad grin. Sirius wanted to hit him, he wasn't bothered at all by Remus' nightly terrors.

"What do you mean?" James asked also sounding mildly irritated. Peter's smile fell but he had gotten bolder with them as well and sat down at the table where they were spying on Remus who spent 95% of his time in the library, eating and sleeping little.

Sirius couldn't understand why he wasn't in worse shape, to be honest. He knew he wouldn't even be able to function but somehow Remus seemed to keep slowly catching up in classes. A fact that Sirius would have thought would calm him down but it didn't seem to help.

They had decided if Remus didn't snap out of it for Lily's birthday which was on Sunday they would take drastic measures. It was Saturday and they were beginning to think they might actually have to take such measures, though none of them knew what that would be. Although by the look on Peter's face it seemed he might have come up with one, though it probably wasn't a good idea.

"I told Madam Pomfrey I wasn't sleeping well and she gave me a tonic." It was such an obvious answer that Sirius smacked his forehead. James kissed Peter's cheek beaming.

"You are the best out of all of us mate!" He said enthusiastically. Peter rubbed his cheeks with a dramatic sound of disgust then grinned broadly.

"I know." Sirius laughed, he and James seemed to be very good at transforming people into cheeky little bastards.

"How do we get him to take it though? Professor McGonagall had to threaten detention just to get him to go attend meals and he hardly eats or drinks anything." Sirius pointed out not bothering to hide his concern.

He had told James and Peter after Remus woke up and was in a lot of pain what his theory had been for a while now. That Remus father beat him and that he might work at Hogwarts or somehow get access to Remus while he was here, which didn't go over to well with any of them.

He was right to suspect they would question why he had come to such a conclusion. But it was easier to convince them Remus' dad was probably a terrible person because they all knew, though pretended not to, he hadn't visited him. Still, Sirius knew that Peter and James didn't believe it, not really.

"We just slip it in his drink. I mean it's not like he doesn't drink anything."

"Good luck with that," Sirius muttered and they all sighed heavily. For someone so buried in his books, Remus had been extremely attentive to the going ons around him. James had attempted to sneak up on Remus in an attempt to get a laugh out of the stressed boy and nearly avoided a black eye.

"It's worth a try though." Peter insisted firmly. So with a rather flimsy plan, they waited for dinner looking over their own work haphazardly all of them thinking of what they had learned, or more accurately what they hadn't. Because Lily had told them that she had been excused from Remus and Dumbledore's meeting, and predictably Remus hadn't said one word about it.

"And he did use the Imperturbable Charm." She had added with a smug look at James. Sirius had cut in before James could retaliate, pointing out that now they would never know what they discussed.

He thought it was amusing Lily thought she could get the information out of Remus. But nearly a week after the fact and none of them were any closer to the truth.

"I'm telling you he knows something," Sirius muttered as they walked to dinner.

"I think so too, but it's not like we can force him to tell us the truth." Sirius stopped dead in his tracks and turned to James a gleam in his eyes.

"Sirius no."

"Sirius yes!" He responded ecstatically. Once more they had skipped over an obvious solution. They could, technically speaking, force the truth out of Remus with the right potion anyway.

"Sirius that's a huge invasion of privacy! He'd never speak to us again!" James pointed out impatiently. Sirius deflated, he was right, of course, but he couldn't deny how tempting it was.

….

Halfway through dinner like clockwork Remus arrived, his face expressionless his walk tense as if he expected someone, or something, to attack him any minute. When Sirius found out who had caused such fear in his friend he was going to kill whoever or whatever it was.

Because he now firmly believed the Slytherins had been involved. For starters Remus hadn't remembered giving Snivellus the gift he had made for him, Sirius was able to get that much out of him before he was released from the hospital ward.

Not only that, but Sirius had read over Remus' shoulder the first day he was back for breakfast in which he had received a letter. It was painful to see how excited he got tearing into it, so distracted by whoever he hoped had written him, that he wasn't at all careful. That's why Sirius could see the hastily scrawled letter that said: "You better not say anything." Remus had seemed confused but scared and Sirius had caught older Slytherins in closer proximity to Remus than was necessary throughout the week.

But on the other hand, Sirius suspected Professor Blatvnik to since Remus jumped at every sound in the classroom and Professor Blatvnik ignored him more than he did any of his other students.

Most of the Gryffindors now thought Remus was touched in the head, considering he didn't soak up the glory of his return like anyone else would have. Which Remus didn't seem to mind, actually preferring to be left alone.

"Hi, Remus. How're your studies going?" James called cheerily, none of them expecting more than a grunt or one-word answers.

"Fine," Remus responded cooly but softly, sitting next to Peter, in what had become all of their designated spots. Peter shifted slightly, guilty at what he was planning to do, and Sirius kicked his shin. He better not ruin this! They all needed the sleep and they needed Remus back.

"You...getting caught up?" Sirius asked.

"Nearly," Remus replied as shortly as he had been the past week. But he seemed to pause and when he looked at them again he actually seemed to be able to see them. Which was some serious improvement. Sirius sat up straighter a flicker of hope in his chest.

"I…...I'm sorry how I've been acting this past week. I…..I've been a real berk…" He explained his voice hesitant.

"Massive," James replied cheerfully and Sirius found himself grinning.

"A real pain in the arse Remus." Perhaps they took things too far for he had gone very pale and now hung his head in shame mumbling something James and Sirius couldn't hear.

"Of course not!" Peter exclaimed unhappily and Remus jumped.

"What did he say?" James demanded. Peter looked a little hesitant glancing at Remus who shook his head pleading him with his eyes not to say anything. Peter hesitated but he really had grown more confident from their influence and he turned to James and Sirius, determination in his beady eyes.

"He said he understood if we didn't want to be his friends anymore." Sirius laughed, loudly. He couldn't help it. It was such a typical Remus thing to say, so ridiculous, but so..him. James was grinning too though trying not to.

"That's rubbish Lupin we aren't going anywhere."

"Yeah, that's what friends are for," Peter added happily. Remus looked up his honey-colored eyes soft and filled with tears.

Sirius thought he'd actually start crying but, like usual, Remus sat straighter and blinked them back.

"I'm really sorry." He repeated again. Peter thumped his back nearly sending Remus' face flying into his untouched pot pie.

"Apology accepted. Now eat." Sirius barked pleased to see Remus listen to him and pick at his pot pie with more enthusiasm towards food than he had displayed all week. Peter looked at them clearly wondering if the plan was off or not. Sirius nodded looking pointedly at Remus' goblet.

"So Remus we were wondering if, since you are now talking to us again, you'd fill us in on what Dumbledore said." James goaded. Sure enough, this threw Remus off, his fork clanging against his plate with unnecessary force, allowing Peter enough time to slip the draught into the goblet. They all let out a breath of relief. Now he just had to drink the damn thing.

"He said that it wasn't a monster. That it had to be someone, not something."

"Most likely a Slytherin," James said wisely. Remus said nothing.

"Or perhaps a professor." Bingo. Remus stiffened, just slightly, but it was enough to convince Sirius which of his theories had been correct. He lowered his voice knowing he shouldn't be pushing Remus so much but needing to know.

"It was Professor Blatvnik wasn't it." Remus jumped this time his fork falling to the ground with a clatter that rang across the table. He went red and scooped to pick it up quickly avoiding their eyes.

"Remus." Sirius urged because he could now tell that their Remus was back. He looked up looking torn.

"Either way I'm going to think it's him so you might as well confess it."

There was a long pause then Remus nodded, just slightly, but they had all been watching him intently and they all noticed. Peter let out a squeak of fear. James sat straighter and Sirius shot a glance to the Professors table where their defense against the dark arts professor was taking a deep drink from his goblet.

His eyes found Sirius' and he felt a shudder run down his spine, he looked quickly away. Remus looked horrified and guilty and Sirius realized with a jolt why he hadn't said anything until now.

"You…..you moron!" He hissed and James looked at him surprised by how angry he sounded. Remus met his eyes, a resigned look in them. Sirius realized he was expecting him to no longer want to be his friend and he almost screamed.

"Later." Hissed James sounding fearful as they realized Professor Blavatnik was walking straight towards them. All of the students at the Gryffindor table went quiet, at least if the professor tried anything there would be witnesses.

"It occurred to me you all owe me at least one more detention." He responded thoughtfully casting Remus a sharp look.

"Now that you are all back and healthy I think it's time we start them up again. Don't you agree?"

"Yes Professor." James grounded out.

"Good, then I will see you all tonight."

"I thought you said Remus was done." Sirius pointed out quietly, watching their professor closely. He looked thoughtful for a minute then gave a small smile that looked rather threatening to Sirius.

"I don't think so. I'll see all four of you tonight. No exceptions." Then he was gone and all their hearts were pounding in their chests. They looked at each other with wide eyes.

"Later," James repeated in a tense whisper. They all nodded.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty-Eight: Suspicion Smells Like Werewolf

….

They had only a few hours before detention with Professor Blavatnik started and they wasted no time. They had gone to their dorm where Remus had been forced to relate everything he had heard, remembered, seen, and suspected. It truly felt amazing to get, at least one of the many secrets off his chest.

"You moron!" Sirius shouted again and Remus still was surprised they all had not, declared they wanted nothing to do with him. Not only had he been terrible this week, unable to do much of anything besides worry about the shadow man and his schoolwork, but he was now involving them in something very dangerous.

It took some convincing but they were able to make him realize they were still his friends and that they weren't mad at him for being irritable the past week but for not saying anything sooner.

"You don't get to play the hero!" Sirius had continued pacing back and forth twitching slightly in anger.

"YOU don't get to protect us! That's what all this had been about, hasn't it? Why you didn't say anything sooner?"

"Well ...well I didn't want to get you involved in anything dangerous." He had protested only to be drowned out by complaints.

"Bollocks! The four of us are a team! We handle danger together!" James cried indignantly.

"That's right," Sirius repeated firmly. Remus nodded because they expected him to, but he wasn't sure he had done the right thing. If one of them ended up in a coma, or worse, he'd never forgive himself.

They were convinced he had been scared about Professor Blavatnik and just him. But Remus was more afraid of the shadow monster...of Fenrir Greyback. Dumbledore had talked to Remus a long time the night Lily had gotten him.

She hadn't gotten in trouble but as soon as Remus hinted his fear Dumbledore had excused her. Then he had told Remus the name of the monster that had plagued Remus' mind all these years.

"Fenrir Greyback that's the name of the man who bit you, Remus. Calling him by his name gives you more power over him. He is not a monster Remus he is a man." Remus had found the truth hard to swallow, found it almost impossible to say the name even his mind. At the mention of Fenrir, something in his memories seemed to unlock and he knew with certainty that Dumbledore was right about who had bitten him, who had taken him.

"I don't know ...don't know if I can sir." He had admitted fearing the name would make the monster, man, whatever he was more alive.

"Always use the proper name for things Remus. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself."

Remus knew Dumbledore was wise but that particular advice still seemed rather ludicrous to him. Dumbledore had assured him that Greyback wasn't in the castle nor had he been as Dumbledore had checked. That they had checked for that terrified Remus because he didn't want to think that the shadow monster would ever come after him again.

He had asked Dumbledore what he thought had happened to Remus recounting to Dumbledore what he remembered. Then Dumbledore pointed out that the full body curse reminded Remus of Greyback and that his brain probably filled in the missing pieces.

"Make no mistake Mr. Lupin. Someone attacked you just like someone attacked Ms. Roong and we will find out who." Remus had felt a little reassured by that but he kept thinking he'd run into Greyback, made worse by his persistent nightmares on the subject.

It didn't help he realized Dumbledore knew, he knew! Not just that Greback bit him but that he had kidnapped Remus. Luckily he hadn't realized this until after Dumbledore left, for he now found it impossible to meet the headmaster's eyes.

How had he known about that? Was it more obvious than he had feared? Needless to say, Remus' week had been one of the worst ever, which was kind of funny because it wasn't a week leading up to a full moon.

"Remus? You're zoning out again." Peter called giving his arm a little shake. They were all looking at him again so he gave them a tense smile, hoping it didn't look to pitiful.

"Sorry."

"Ugh quit apologizing." Sirius groaned.

"What are we going to do about detention?" James asked as they finally got to what mattered. It took them a while but they eventually decided it would be best to play dumb until their detentions were over. They also discussed how to prove their professor was a part of this which required breaking into his office and finding the remains of the Bloodroot Potion the staff had discovered was what had been used to poison Renilo Roong.

"Sirius, how do you know if there will be any left?" Remus had asked in an attempt to stop such a stupid plan.

"Because the villains always leave evidence behind. That's what all the detective books I've read taught me." Sirius announced proudly, ignoring James laugh.

Remus tried to get them to take this seriously, but he should have known only Peter would. Still, they all reached somewhat of a compromise to at least wait until detention was done, so Remus had time to think of something else.

Then they were walking to detention and Remus hadn't caught up in school yet and he also had to think of something to give Lily for her birthday, then there was the fact they were walking into the office of the man who may have chased him off a tower.

When they got there he was waiting, the four desks in the same place they had been before. Same sheets of paper, same enchanted quill, same stern intimidating professor.

But something felt...different.

"Sit down boys and we will begin." The other three went to their desks but Remus just stood there trying to figure out what was wrong. He looked around feeling a strange clenching feeling in his gut.

James and Sirius were gaping at him, this wasn't the plan, he should be following the plan. But Remus couldn't help it, all the hairs on the back of his neck standing up, convincing him something just wasn't right.

"Professor ...um…." He couldn't speak his eyes were trained slightly behind the Professor where he occasionally saw the faintest flicker of movement. It wasn't easy to spot, someone had to tilt their head just right to see the ripples of unnatural movement. Professor Blatvnik was looking at him surprised.

"What is it Lupin?" He felt foolish pointing out something that might or might not be there so he said nothing just shook his head.

"Then sit down." He snapped and Remus obeyed quickly. They were given the same speel and then the Professor left.

Remus' hand moved and he scratched out several lines before. Like last time, he stopped quickly, unable to write anymore. But he didn't leave this time something still feeling really off.

He looked around and found Sirius looking at him a confused look on his face. He flicked his pinky twice. What's up? Remus shook his head then touched his ring finger to his pointer finger three times. Later. James looked up and his mouth was hanging open.

You understand? He mouthed looking absolutely bewildered. Remus nodded feeling self-conscious, he only knew a bit of the secret language the trouble makers had created. James mouthed wow and looked impressed.

Remus left his desk and walked over to where their Professor had been standing. Once more the hair was standing up on the back of his neck. He crouched down reaching down towards the floor, feeling the air hesitantly.

Suddenly Remus was holding a rather shoddy invisibility cloak in his hands. It took him a second to realize besides the knock off invisibility cloak there was also a disillusionment charm camouflaging a handle on a trap door to blend into the floor. Now he looked at his friends all of them staring at him with eyes wide as saucers, lines they were supposed to be writing completely forgotten.

Do it. Sirius and James were both signaling with their free hand that wasn't magically scribbling nonsense. Remus looked away feeling torn. With a trembling hand, he reached out and touched the cool wooden planks. His heart was in his throat as he slid the metal lock and lifted the trap door by the still disguised knob handle.

He couldn't see what was beneath besides pitch black darkness but he knew, he could smell it. He closed the trap door covered it back up and left the classroom without looking at his friends.

Then he ran through the halls horrified. Everything felt small and suffocating and he rushed outside staring at the night sky shaking all over. He knew the smell of that place he knew the smell because he had spent every night once a month in a similar small enclosed place for years and years. Either his Professor was a werewolf or he was harboring one, and Remus was pretty sure who that werewolf was.

Either his Professor was Greyback or he was helping him. Remus curled himself into a ball and cried. Should he go to Dumbledore? It was tempting but what if the headmaster already knew? How couldn't he? Maybe that's why he had been so insistent that Greyback was a man, not a monster.

Maybe Greyback had changed or maybe Remus was being ridiculous. After hours of crying, he realized he didn't know enough and he wasn't about to ruin someone's life without being certain of what he was accusing, not when he personally knew the weight that accusation would have.

He convinced himself whoever the werewolf was it wasn't Greyback, that he was somewhere far away like Dumbledore told him. But it was impossible to completely quiet that small voice of doubt which rang in his head like a warning bell he had to just keep ignoring, unsure if this was a wise decision or not.

…...

When Remus finally entered the dorm he let out a strangled cry as Sirius tackled him to the ground shaking.

"Where did you go?" James demanded standing over them his arms wrapped tightly around his chest. Peter rushed over his eyes and face red.

"What? What happened?" He asked a rush of panic running through him as he finally convinced Sirius to let him go.

"Didn't you hear? Another student was poisoned!" Remus felt himself go cold.

"What?"

"Yeah, we thought it was you. Where the hell were you!" Sirius demanded sounding like a nagging mother, though Remus could tell it wasn't on purpose. He swallowed down his guilt.

"Sorry I thought your detention would be taking a long time."

"Why did you run out like that?"

"I thought I heard our Professor coming and...I guess I panicked."

"What was down there?"

"Nothing just some textbooks and stuff."

"Then why was it hidden? With a second rate invisibility cloak of all things!"

"On top of a rather poor or faded disillusionment charm…"

"How did you know it was there?" Remus' head was spinning from all the questions they were shooting at him.

"Please! I just want to go to bed!" He finally cried and they all went quiet.

"...ok….."

"Goodnight." He could tell his friends were angry at him but he didn't care. He laid down wrapping himself extra tight in his blankets and fell asleep plagued by guilt and nightmares.

Remus told himself he'd talk to Dumbledore if anything else happened. Deciding on this he was able to calm down some. He convinced James and Sirius to hold off on questions until after Lily's birthday. That morning he dug through his trunk for something to give her crying out in frustration when he couldn't find anything.

"Here." He turned only to have a book shoved in his face.

"Wh...what's this?" He asked taking the book from Sirius. He still seemed upset with him and had a look of hesitation on his face.

"A book she will like. Just ...there's your present to her alright?" Remus wanted to protest but Sirius' tone prevented him from doing so.

"Thanks."

"Yeah, whatever. Just tomorrow actually talk to us ok. You aren't the only one freaked out by all of this." He muttered to himself. Remus frowned and nodded tucking the book into his bag.

"I'm sorry."

"For what Remus?" Sirius asked angrily and Remus flinched staring down into his bag.

"For not being a very good friend….." He whispered, feeling tears sting his eyes again. There was a long silence and when Remus looked up Sirius was gone.

His chest clenched painfully and he spent a long time getting his bag ready to hide his tears. James and Peter were a little less upset with him, but only by a little bit as he found out at breakfast. After trying to talk to them only to be ignored he bit his lip and went to sit with Lily. At least she wasn't mad at him.

"Happy Birthday." He said sitting on the edge of her group of friends, all the girls from her dorm which she now got along with. Quite opposite from Remus really.

"Oh thank you, Remus! Have you caught up with studies?" She asked beaming at him brightly.

"I will be by the end of today." He assured her with a small smile. After breakfast in which he found he got along with all of Lily's roommates, he was feeling a bit better. They even invited him to their small little party they were having.

They giggled a lot and shot each other looks which he didn't understand but he told them he'd come as long as it was small.

"I guess I can give you your present then." He pointed out to Lily who grinned.

"You didn't have to get me anything! You already made that wonderful scarf for me!"

"That was for Christmas." He found himself laughing, which had seemed quite foreign to him lately. Then they got on the topic of Remus' knitting and he felt quite embarrassed but in a good way, by the end of the conversation, he had promised the girls that he'd make the rest of them scarves. He left the table wondering what on earth he had gotten himself into.

True to his word he was caught up on his studies by the time night rolled around. He found Lily and her roommates after dinner and they walked around outside just talking. Then surprisingly enough Dorcas knew how to sneak into the kitchen and they had cake and drank pumpkin juice in celebration.

Remus was ecstatic to tell his roommates about the secret passage into the kitchens before remembering they were mad at him. This upset him once more made worse by the fact Lily loved the present that was given to him to give to her by Sirius. The girls were talking about playing a game of Gobstones but Remus ducked out early.

He was sure to apologize but they didn't seem to mind, Lily looked a little disappointed but she understood as he told her he really needed to get some sleep after all the full nighters he spent catching up.

So Remus headed to his dorm to find his roommates playing a much rougher game of Gobstones which seemed to have dissolved into them just chucking the flagstones around nearly breaking their dorm windows. Remus tried to smile, it looked like fun in a sort of boyish daring way he'd come to enjoy, but as soon as the door opened they all stopped what they were doing, cast each other a look and crawled into their respective beds.

So Remus got ready for bed trying just to be thankful for the fact they at least weren't pranking him anymore and fell asleep yet again with a heavy heart.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty-Nine: Incriminating Evidence and A Different Kind of Monster

The next morning by the time classes was over Remus was no closer to a believable story about what he had seen so he avoided his friends not at all ready to explain. Instead, he went to the library and looted over old newspapers desperate to find a picture of Greyback.

"What are you doing?"

"Ah! Sirius! Oh, I was um…" He should have been able to come up with something but the sharp look Sirius was sending him stopped him lying before he could come up with a believable excuse.

"Where are the others?" He asked instead, not wanting to bring up the way his roommates had been ignoring him, but the need to have a topic to discuss alone with Sirius winning out.

"Back in the dorm." Sirius sat down giving Remus a rather chilling smile. "So it's just you and me." There was a slight threat ringing behind his friend's words and once more Remus knew he had to play on the truth just enough to get out of this without letting his roommates know what was going on.

"Have you come to bring me back to the dorm?"

"Well, I figured you'd hide out here all night if I didn't." Remus didn't refute that, he knew just how true it was, he had in fact been contemplating it before Sirius had snuck up on him and scared him. They had let it go until after Lily's birthday as he wished, but he wasn't dumb enough to think they would let it go even more

"Then I guess we should go back?"

"I'm not letting you have more time to come up with a lie!" Sirius huffed sounding more hurt than angry. This was worse and Remus hung his head in shame. He really was a terrible friend and he wasn't going to be able to call himself one anymore if he wasn't careful.

"I saw something that really scared me." He admitted in a small voice. Sirius was regarding him carefully, the distrust apparent.

"What did you see?" He asked coldly and Remus flinched again. Even if he concocted some sort of half-truth would it be enough, was it too late to be forgiven? Had he really messed up that badly?

"I'm ready to talk but I'd rather not repeat it." Sirius took him in carefully and suddenly his hand darted out, for one terrible second Remus thought he would hit him and nearly tumbled out of his chair. Instead, Sirius only gripped his shoulder and Remus was surprised to find he was trembling.

"I wouldn't hurt you. I'd never hurt you." He heard Sirius whisper and looked up to those dark fog colored eyes filled with hurt and tears.

"Tell us or don't Remus I don't care anymore." He next responded so flatly, so cooly that Remus flinched. Sirius let him go and walked away looking more lonely than Remus had seen him since the beginning of the school year. Remus wanted to chase after him, nearly did but he still had to come up with something to tell his friends.

Because he could no longer pretend he didn't want them as his friends, didn't need them to be. So he watched Sirius leave his cheeks feeling damp and he put a pause to his hunt for what Greyback looked like and spent a long time coming up with what to tell them.

…...

Sirius was so upset he didn't go back to James and Peter as he promised them he would. Instead he went to straight to Professor Blatvnik's office sick of waiting for Remus for answers. After a seventh year Hufflepuff, not a muggle-born, was poisoned everyone was thrown into confusion about what this was about. Sirius was sure Professor Blatvnik was involved regardless, and there was no reason he couldn't find out himself what was under that trap door.

His bravery faltered slightly as he got closer to his professor's classroom. It's not like he was afraid of detention or whatever, but something had terrified Remus and that, was unnerving. He let out a breath when he found the classroom empty. He looked both ways before dashing inside.

He stood where Remus did last time trying to figure out what had caused his peculiar friend to know something was there but try as he might he saw or felt nothing. Maybe something had been different last time but he doubted it. Instead, he recalled where Remus had been and knelt down sweeping his hands frantically across the floor, his frustration increasing as the minutes ticked by and he still didn't find a trap door.

"Oh come on!" He muttered to himself.

"Mr. Black, what do you think you are doing in my office?" Sirius jumped nearly banging his head on his professor's desk he had been halfway underneath, just in case the trap door moved. He scrambled to his feet and gave his intimidating professor a calm smile.

"Well, sir I thought I lost something in here from detention." He forced himself not to look away as cold eyes pierced into his.

"Mmmm well then perhaps you should check the lost and found. There's a rather large collection after so many years." Sirius knew Professor Blatvnik didn't believe him any more than he believed Remus about what he claimed he had found beneath the trap door.

"I don't believe I know where that is, sir." He responded dryly feeling irked at his Professor's calm demeanor. He should be acting guilty, perhaps if Sirius bated him he'd show his true colors. The problem was he didn't know how to bate him, he didn't have enough information to do so. Still, he had to try, for Remus, for all the students he'd been hurting.

"Well, I imagine you will find it with all the snooping you do."

"I suppose. I bet there's all sorts of cool stuff in the lost and found. And probably some dangerous stuff too. For example, I mean no one would be stupid enough to hide incriminating evidence somewhere it could be traced back to them." He was sure his Professor's eyes would narrow or he'd snap at him. But instead there was no change in his demeanor, and when he spoke again it was the same maddening calmness as before.

"If you are referring to the poison being used to hurt the students I assure you all the Professors have been on high alert for contraband of any kind." Sirius felt a chill run through him as the Professor gave him a rather menacing smile.

"Of course I would hope no incriminating evidence would be found on your person or in your dorm Sirius. That would be…..most unpleasant for you. Perhaps I ought to tell your head of house to search your dorm, as you've seemed to take an unnatural interest in this." Sirius swallowed feeling a stab of fear. He had never liked his Professor very much, hated him after what Remus told him, still he hadn't expected to be threatened. Not so casually, at least.

It left him wondering what sort of nasty things Professor Blatvnik would do if he was pushed too far. Sirius convinced himself he wasn't giving up, just merely biding his time. For there would be no reason for Professor Blatvnik to threaten him is he wasn't involved in the poisoning of the students. So, in the end, Sirius really won, even if he felt rather nervous about it.

"Not at all Professor. Just don't like all the students getting hurt recently is all." He heard himself reply glad he was able to keep his voice from trembling. He could only imagine what Remus had found now, everything from bodies to poison, to the most dangerous of monsters.

"Then get out and don't let me catch you in here or anywhere you shouldn't be again. Am I clear?"

"Yes, sir." He whispered this time feeling his voice wobble. Professor Blatvnik raised an eyebrow at him in clear disapproval and Sirius left quickly having to force himself not to run. It didn't take him long to get back to the dorm and once he got there he started searching like a mad man for planted evidence in case Professor McGonagal would be knocking on the door soon. He wasn't about to get expelled, if anyone was going to get expelled from his family it would be Bella not him!

"Geez Sirius, what happened?" James asked sounding more amused than irritated.

"You gonna finally lose it and go through Remus' trunk? Careful I think I saw him hex it or something to bite." James laughed and Peter joined in. When Sirius didn't laugh and went from Remus' bed to his they stopped laughing.

"Are you ok?" Peter asked uncertainly stepping quickly away as Sirius went next to his bed. James came up behind him and grabbed his wrist just as he reached to check under the bed.

"Woah there I can only take one mysterious roommate at a time. What happened?" Sirius thought about not saying anything but didn't want to be like Remus so instead, he explained it all hastily to his friends who by the end seemed as shaken as him.

"Sirius, what were you thinking? Pissing off a professor!"

"Not just any! One of the most dangerous ones in school!"

"Exactly! We could all get expelled."

"Then ...then we should go to Dumbledore." Sirius found himself saying nervously. James nearly laughed at him then gave him a bit of a shake.

"I thought you didn't trust him. Besides what makes you think he'd believe us?"

"I'm sure if we all explained everything…."

"He seems to like Remus and James a lot." Peter pointed out thoughtfully.

"I don't know if he does enough to believe us over a Professor! You heard what Remus said happened when that one-seventh year tried to threaten the same thing, Professor Blatvnik just blew off the threat…" James explained sadly. They all sat there for a while feeling the weight of the power Professors had over them. It wasn't fair!

Sirius jumped to his feet.

"What is it this time?"

"I nearly forgot. Things didn't go well…..with Remus."

"Big surprise." Groaned James flopping back onto his bed.

"I don't like being mad at him. Does this mean he won't tell us anything?" Peter asks sadly.

"Nor do I but we have to stand our ground. We still know nothing about what happened to him." James pointed out, though he sounded more worried/sad than mad. They all were, really. Sirius sighed heavily wondering if it would make things worse for him to go hunt Remus down again or better.

"We can't let up on him now or he'll never be ready to talk." Sirius sighed ready to head back to the library with a heavy heart.

"We can talk now." They all jumped shocked to see Remus standing in the doorway. He looked nervous but his eyes were filled with a determination Sirius had come to expect and admire from him. Of course, he wanted to ask Remus how long he had been standing there, how much he had heard, but James opened his mouth before he could.

"You mean it?" James asked happily sitting up from his bed with a smile, apparently quick to forgive.

"Yes," Remus said in a tone that suggested he wished he didn't. Sirius bit back a grimace, the hurt, and frustration at not being trusted rising in him upon seeing his friend again.

"No lying ...I mean it Remus don't you think it's about time you start trusting us?" Trusting me especially, he wanted to add silently and tried to with his eyes.

I mean he got Remus as no one else did, he knew what it was like, so why didn't Remus trust him? Why did he get the sickening feeling he didn't know what it was like at all, that Remus and his experiences hadn't been as similar as Sirius initially imagined?

Because whatever way he looked at it, it seemed Remus' life had been worse way worse. He shuddered and looked away from Remus' earnest amber eyes. Part of him wasn't sure he wanted to know everything, but most of him was convinced he had to. So he made a mental note to himself that he and Remus were going to have a heart to heart tonight even if he had to kidnap him to get him alone long enough.

And he realized he knew exactly how he was going to do it.

…..

They were all, predictably excited for him to talk to them. They also all were, understandably wary of whatever answer he'd give.

Sirius especially seemed ready to nitpick and interrogate every word he said. They were all huddled on his bed, as had somehow become customary. He was sitting with his back pressed against his headboard, away from the other three who had elbows on elbows and legs on top of legs. All looking at him eagerly, expectantly. Sirius looking ready to attack him if he didn't follow through on his promise.

"There was some sort of creature down there."

"So?"

"He's a defense against the dark arts professor!"

"Why did that scare you so much?" Came the onslaught of remarks and Remus forced himself to stay calm. He was expecting this. But he also knew he couldn't tell them he found the potion because he hadn't, and if it turned out Professor Blatvnik wasn't involved, ...well he didn't want to get anyone into trouble unless he was sure they were guilty.

"I…...well I'm really afraid of Cockatrice's…...one…..attacked me when I was younger. And I just…...panicked." Remus knew he sounded convincing and didn't have to fake the shame he felt when he explained the reason he didn't tell them sooner was that he didn't want them to judge him or laugh at him. He held his breath refusing to look up as the seconds ticked by.

"No poisons or potions of any kind? Promise?"

"Promise." He responded immediately, relieved it wasn't a lie. Again there was another long pause and he could tell they were all deciding to believe him or not.

"Blimey mate we wouldn't laugh at you about that. Cockatrices are scary especially if you got attacked by one. I think they should be on the list of banned creatures myself!"

"You just don't want to like Professor Blatvnik," Peter laughed and James elbowed him lightly in response.

"It's not like any of us like him now. Especially not after he threatened Sirius." Remus forgot he wasn't going to look at them and stared surprised as Sirius flinched then shifted guiltily.

"What?"

"Um ...well you see….." So Sirius explained his stupidity and Remus had to take deep breaths so as not to yell at him.

"So if you had just told us what it was about sooner that wouldn't have happened. Not that I'm mad because now we are sure he's in on it."

"Sirius isn't it possible he was just irritated by you?"

"Remus!' Sirius shouted scandalized.

"I can't believe you are protecting him. He pushed you out a window."

"Or maybe he didn't."

"Then it was the Slytherins."

"I don't know…." Peter, Sirius, and James gave him an exasperated look.

"Well, I don't want to accuse anyone unless I'm sure." He protested weakly.

"I still think it's the Slytherins."

"My bets on Professor Blatvnik."

"You just don't like him because he gives lots of homework!"

"Do not!"

"Do too!" Remus held back a laugh watching his friends squabble fondly. Things were back to normal, he had done it, he had convinced them. For now.

"Oi Remus tell us about being attacked by a rooster crocodile."

"Sirius we said we weren't going to tease him!"

"I can't help it, James, it's just who I am." Remus knew he should be offended since they were making light about what must have been very traumatic for made up Remus who was a regular boy with loving parents. In fact, he reckoned that was the scariest thing that ever happened to made up Remus.

He covered his mouth shaking with laughter but soon was overcome once more by hysterical mirth. His friends, probably assuming he was laughing at them since that was a more sane option, soon joined in. Then they were tossing pillows and swapping stories about the worst creature that ever attacked them, and everything stayed light and fun and Remus was oh so very glad.

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty: Kisses in the Moonlight

After a few hours of swapping horror stories, Remus' winning by far, though Peter getting attacked by a hippogriff was a close second, they called it a night. Remus knew Sirius could have won if he had told about being attacked by a dementor, just like he could have won if he told about being attacked by a werewolf. But neither of them would. Instead, Sirius told a funny story about being attacked by gnomes at his uncle's, and Remus saw he only laughed a little bit harder than need be.

It didn't surprise him that when they all called it a night, because unfortunately, tomorrow was an exam in potions, that Sirius slipped back into his bed. Remus expected whispered questions but instead, he sat bolt upright realizing Sirius was crying.

"What's wrong?" He whispered because he knew Sirius would kill him if he brought the others' attention to something he clearly didn't want their attention brought to. It's not like Sirius particularly cared if he cried in front of Remus, at least it felt that way, but he seemed more reluctant to do so in front of anyone else.

It made Remus feel strange and a bit special, but mostly just guilty because he knew he hadn't repaid all of Sirius' honesty about his past. Especially not after the things he had been told when in a coma.

"Can we talk? Not here. Unless you know how to cast an Imperturbable Charm." Sirius added with a painful attempt at a smile. Remus suggested if they both turned out the candle and waited for James to start snoring they could talk right here, but Sirius wasn't having any of it.

Remus didn't particularly want to go anywhere alone with Sirius, worried he hadn't bought his lies as the others had. But in the end, his blasted conscious won and he found him slipping out of the dorm with Sirius because he couldn't let his friend cry like that and do nothing.

He had assumed they would be talking in the common room but realized it wasn't empty, that it actually wasn't all that late. In fact, his friends had been going to bed early lately, which surprised him but he wasn't going to complain about it. Not when his nightmares kept him from getting much sleep either.

"What now?" He whispered into Sirius' ear who had done a good job at calming himself down before they entered the common room.

"This way." Remus wanted to protest realizing Sirius was no doubt planning to break curfew for the hundredth time, but he had grown rather numb to the idea so followed him, if not a bit reluctantly. The fat lady warned them about curfew but Sirius brushed her off and soon he was grabbing Remus' hand and tugging him through the halls.

"Where are we going?" He asked in a whisper, but if Sirius heard he didn't listen. Remus was surprised when Sirius pulled him outside into a large courtyard. They were hidden by the shadows of the pillars framing it, but Remus still felt exposed the moonlight far too bright for his liking.

"Sirius, what are we doing out here?"

"Shhh." Sirius hissed and pushed his head down so they were both crouched behind the railing as a Professor walked by. Luckily the Astronomy Professor didn't turn around to see them mumbling to herself, surprisingly not about stars, but about the friend she was going to meet in Hogsmeade.

"Yuck. It's so gross to think of them having a life outside of school you know?"

"Sirius."

"I mean like ...for all we know her friend is more than a friend and….."

"Sirius…."

"Yuck! But man we need to go back and properly explore Hogsmeade. I can't wait until the third year. I just bloody can't! Of course, now that I think about it I know my blasted parents won't sign the damn form and…"

"Sirius!" Remus shouted exasperated his voice echoing dangerously in the courtyard. He flinched sure they'd be caught but no footsteps retreated back so he assumed Professor …. Either didn't hear or didn't care enough. However, more importantly, he got Sirius to stop rambling.

"Sirius, what's wrong?" He asked gently noticing the boy seemed far more anxious than usual. He jumped a little as Sirius' hands gripped his wrists tightly. It was an odd move for comfort but he assured himself Sirius must be awfully upset not to just hold onto one of his hands like usual.

Still, he couldn't help feeling his grip was tight yet seemed to have more of a purpose to it, for starters his hands weren't shaking not even a little bit. In fact, he seemed more worried Remus would run than anything else. It suddenly all made sense and Remus felt his eyes go wide as he tried to pull away.

"Please don't!" He begged a small part of him worried Sirius would do worse than force him to answer questions. But he quickly silenced that worry focusing on the much more likely possibility. Sirius held him tight and his plan was quite perfect. If Remus struggled too much he risked them getting in trouble, both of them. Neither could he scream or use Lily as an excuse to getaway.

Sirius clearly had thought this through carefully Remus was both impressed and frustrated. Of course, he knew it shouldn't have come to this, to Sirius all but hunting him down, that he shouldn't have been avoiding him so plainly. He knew he should have told Sirius a little more, at least enough it didn't come to struggling with Sirius in the cobblestone walkway that surrounded the courtyard.

"Sirius let go of me."

"No! Not until we talk! Please, Remus, I don't know what to do anymore I don't I can't ...you were so cold." Remus froze in his attempts to yank himself away. There was that desperate edge to Sirius' voice that once more left him a little shaky.

"I'm sorry."

"No ...no I don't want you to apologize. Just...can we talk...just the two of us ...please?" His voice nearly broke and Remus found himself nodding before he realized what he was doing. Sirius didn't let go though.

"Promise you won't run."

"Sirius you are starting to hurt me," It wasn't really causing him pain but a great deal of discomfort and the memories they were pulling to his mind of other times he'd been restrained hurt a lot. Sirius let go immediately, looking guilty.

"Sorry." He knew Sirius expected him to run now but Remus didn't. He found himself staying because of how quick Sirius had let go. It nearly brought tears to his eyes he felt so touched. He reminded himself it was a dumb thing to be touched by, and luckily Sirius took his watery eyes for distress.

"Look…...I'm not going to demand everything just…...just a few things. Please, you have to talk to someone Remus. Why not me?" Remus could tell just how nervous Sirius was to ask that.

"Ok."

"And I know you hate talking about yourself so maybe you could just nod yes or shake your head no or something ...or you could like mime it out. Bloody hell I'd take anything at this point."

"Sirius…."

"I just…..I'm sick of not knowing like anything about one of my mates. I mean we're going to live together for years so…"

"Sirius."

"Huh…..wait…..did you say yes?"

"Technically I said ok...but same difference." Sirius' eyes brightened.

"No, take backs!" He said hurriedly as if this would make a difference. Remus nearly smiled but was about to give one of his secrets away to Sirius and felt rather sick, so he didn't his lips frozen in place.

"Ok."

"You don't need to sound like your going to the gallows," Sirius remarked sadly, perhaps a bit of guilt in his eyes.

"Beggars can't be choosers." He shot back in a shaky whisper. Sirius gave a wry smile and shrugged.

"I suppose not. Sooooooo how do you want to do this?" Remus couldn't believe Sirius was taking into account his opinion and feelings about this. He knew how desperate Sirius was for answers, how much not knowing something he wanted to know drove him nuts. But he was still trying to make this as painless as possible for Remus as he could. This time Remus really did manage to smile.

"What?"

"Thank you." Sirius looked taken aback then scoffed.

"Should I trick you into coming out here more often?"

"No...just. You're a good friend thank you."

"Duh." Sirius retorted with a lopsided grin, but Remus noticed his cheeks seemed rather red.

"Does this mean you are going to tell me everything about yourself. That you've given up and realized fighting is useless."

"No."

"Yeah, I didn't think so."

"How about…..one question?" Sirius didn't look happy about this but he actually seemed to be considering it, and for that Remus was grateful.

"Like James used to do."

"Still does sometimes."

"He comes up with some weird questions to. He's such a berk." Sirius said fondly, Remus nodded in agreement

"Do I eventually get more?" Remus flinched and shrugged slightly. Sirius sighed heavily, rather dramatically Remus thought. But he shouldn't be surprised considering Sirius faked tears to get him here, at least he hoped they were fake.

"Fine. Beggars can't be choosers I suppose. But you really should think about promoting your friend to something higher than a beggar." Sirius pointed out and Remus flinched before realizing he was kidding and gave him a hesitant smile back.

"What's your question?" He asked suddenly finding it hard to breathe. There were so many questions he could ask, questions he probably didn't know to ask but if he did Remus would be in big trouble.

"How has your dad hurt you?" Remus nearly let out a breath of relief before realizing this would be the wrong response. This was supposed to be the worst secret he had, the only secret he had. Besides after a few seconds, the weight of the question really sunk in and he found he didn't want to answer it much at all. But Sirius was looking at him so concerned, so hopeful that he let out a sigh.

"He…usually doesn't mean to hurt me." He began surprised when Sirius didn't scoff or try to refute this. He was waiting patiently, listening very closely to Remus. This kind of attention would be nice when Remus was trying to get Sirius to do his homework, but not now.

"He…..well…..drinks a lot…." He could still feel Sirius' gaze on him even as he firmly stared at the ground. He fell silent for a while hoping that would be enough for Sirius, that he could fill in the blanks.

"And?" Remus wanted to cry but he knew if anyone deserved the truth, could handle and understand the truth, it was Sirius.

"He gets really angry….he drinks because of my mom and other stress….he's not a bad dad…..not really. He does his best." Remus cried, only for the second time tears actually making their way down his cheeks in front of his friend. But his head was ducked so he wasn't sure if Sirius knew or not.

"And?"

"And I have to take care of him a lot…..make meals…..and clean up…since he's not around and sometimes he'll pass out or get sick or…."

"Remus, does he hurt you?" Sirius asked impatiently. Remus flinched tightening his hands until he could feel his nails digging painfully into his palms.

"Yes."

"How bad?"

"N…...not that bad…."

"Remus."

"He doesn't mean to Sirius you don't understand he thinks I'm some...one different." Remus nearly had said something, nearly given away the fact his dad often sees him as a monster, not a person.

"What does that mean?" Sirius asked sounding baffled. Remus shook his head.

"One question."

"Come on Remus!"

"Sirius you agreed to one."

"Fine, then tomorrow night we'll come back and…."

"No. That's all you need to know."

"But that's not fair. I've told you so much!" Remus felt himself getting angry, he wasn't comfortable saying anything more. Sirius should respect that!

"I said no!" Sirius flinched at Remus' quiet but angry tone looking angry, then sad, then angry again. He opened his mouth to say something they both probably would have regretted when the door to the courtyard opened slightly. Sirius put a hand on Remus' head to make sure he was crouched low enough and they both fell silent, close enough that Remus could hear Sirius' beating heart.

"Free at last." Shouted a happy voice that Remus couldn't place but the voice that came after he could and he looked at Sirus who had gone very pale in horror.

"Oh be quiet Ted you'll get us in trouble." It was Sirius' cousin Andromeda, she sounded different though, giggly and her tone was a bit higher. Remus yanked Sirius back down as he had tried to straighten slightly to try to peek over the concrete at his cousin.

"Oh, I don't care as long as I'm with you Drommie Bear~" Ted Tonks sang sounding rather strange himself. Sirius made a gagging sound and Remus clamped a hand over his mouth with a warning look. He was pretty sure Ted Tonks was a prefect and even if Andromeda was Sirius' cousin he had a feeling she wouldn't stop Ted from docking points, as she would probably think they were spying on her.

Andromeda laughed, quite loudly. Neither of them seemed to care about getting in trouble, maybe being a prefect meant different hours. Remus tried to think through if he'd read that somewhere before and not the rather nauseating display of flirting that was going on a mere few yards away from him.

"You're high Ted."

"High on love perhaps."

"I love you too."

"Not as much as I do."

"Yes, I do."

"No, I love you to the moon and back." Andromeda gave a shrill laugh again, she sure seemed to be enjoying herself. Remus could feel Sirius glaring daggers at Ted through the concrete his jaw tense with anger.

"You are so silly."

"Andromeda."

"Yes."

"I won't leave you. I promise I won't. You won't be alone. I know I only find out a few days ago but I really have made up my mind. We'll be a family. I promise I'll make a good dad." Sirius' jaw dropped and Remus no longer could keep him from peeking over the concrete, his poor friend's face red, his eyes so wide he looked much younger.

"I know Ted," Andromeda responded softly. No more giggly high pitch tones from either of them. Remus almost wished they'd go back to that the air feeling thick.

"I'll take care of you."

"We'll take care of each other." She retorted but it was a gentle reprimand and she was gazing at Ted with such love it was both appalling and oddly thrilling. Sirius' nails were digging into his hand so he would no doubt have bruises tomorrow but Remus didn't pay him any mind wondering with a throb if his parents ever looked at each other like that. Before fights and monsters, and being chased out of town after town and sickness which led to death.

He really hoped so. He hoped his father seemed as happy as Ted seemed to be a father, that his mother was as radiant as Andromeda when she looked at him. Then she pulled him into a kiss and suddenly Remus was able to move again and he ducked back down quickly pulling a shocked Sirius back down with him.

He was struck by a distant, very sad thought as Ted and Andromeda took a long time kissing, finally finished, and left the courtyard with whispered words of love neither he nor Sirius could properly hear. No one would ever look at him that way, no one could ever possibly look at him that way, ...not if they knew what he was.

…...

Sirius and Remus both walked back in silence each gloomy for their own individual reasons. Remus forced himself to come around for his friend and stopped in his tracks so that Sirius, hand in hand with him would stop as well once they were safely inside the now abandoned common room.

"She's going to be ok Sirius."

"She's going to get disowned from the family." He croaked.

"She doesn't seem to mind that."

"She's going to be the laughing stock of the school."

"No one is going to laugh at a Black." Sirius seemed to stand taller at that then looked at Remus surprised. It was true for the most part, no one would dare laugh at a Slytherin Black but Remus knew he didn't need to clarify, and he had seemed to successfully calm Sirius down.

"It might not even be obvious at that point? Right? And maybe there are spells to hide it or she'll wear baggy robes. I don't know enough about, pregnant women." He explained his voice rather high pitched.

"Nor do I. But they both seem capable. You've told us lots of times what a strong person Andromeda is. Besides, you'll support her even if no one else in your family will." Sirius smiled a little then his smile grew wider and it was almost contagious.

"Blimey, I'm going to be an uncle!" Then his smile suddenly fell and he seemed nervous.

"You think I'll be a good one?"

Remus smiled at him and gave him an encouraging smile.

"The best." Sirius smiled back then they both made their way upstairs. Neither of them seemed to realize they were still hand in hand.

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty-One: The Wet Blanket

Once more Sirius felt like he had missed out with Remus again, like the harder he tried to figure the boy out the more he slipped away from any hope of understanding him. Not only had Remus gotten away with yet again not discussing himself very much but for the next two weeks, he somehow managed to throw Sirius off-balance anytime a question about his past or even him as a person arose.

Sirius had nearly yelled at him after a harmless question of when was Remus' birthday resulted in a question if Sirius had talked to Drommie yet. He did not appreciate his attempt at questions being constantly directed back to Drommie, even if he hadn't talked to her yet.

He hadn't talked to her but he made a point of seeing her more, as much as she was willing to hang out with him over her friends or boyfriend. It resulted in them meeting once a week which was a big improvement from not even once a month. Of course, Sirius had to work hard to behave himself, at least around her.

When he was with his friends he would gag dramatically at the thought about what had caused Drommie's pregnancy, he knew enough to be grossed out. Also, Remus had to stop him several times casually casting a curse Ted Tonks way when he saw him "coincidentally" in the halls.

"Oh please, Remus just a small curse."

"No Sirius."

"But I won't get caught."

"It's not about getting caught." Remus had explained with a sigh, his patience nearly unending accept for the rare times when he had none. Sirius was lucky that when he threatened to curse/hex Ted it had been times when Remus was patient. He was pretty sure the 'nonpatient Remus' who appeared at the most random of times would have whacked him over the head.

He saw the look in Remus' eyes sometimes as if he'd like nothing more than to give his three friends a good shake. To be fair they all deserved it, well mostly. But at the time he was merely very careful to make sure Sirius didn't attack an older student, not because he was worried about either of them getting detention, but because Remus Lupin was just that nice.

Nicer than stupid Ted Tonks anyways, Sirius was sure Remus would never get a girl pregnant. That was against the rules after all. Ted didn't seem to care for the rules he was just a stinky Hufflepuff who better not hurt Drommie or there'd be hell to pay!

"I don't like him!" He blurted for probably the fifteenth time that day.

"He's a nice guy Sirius, you've stalked him on and off for nearly two weeks now."

"And you've dodged my questions for two weeks!"

"And you've dodged talking to your cousin for two weeks." Sirius wanted to scream in his face, but seeing how Remus often exhibited extreme restraint when Sirius knew he was being obnoxious he figured he ought to show him the same courtesy.

"Fine. Then how about a harmless dung bomb."

"Sirius." Remus had said in that tone he got which all his friends knew meant they weren't going to get to do something fun and or dangerous. So instead they had walked onwards to potions. Even after the courtyard incident, ever since Sirius had successfully helped Remus pass the potions exam, he had been less reluctant about letting Sirius sit with him instead of Peter.

In fact, they took turns, well James and he did, Peter struggled nearly as much as Remus so he was useless about the whole thing. However, James and Sirius had to keep taking turns because it was quite a task making sure Remus didn't fail. They had tried to ask Remus what the heck happened to him in potions but he had muttered allergies and avoided them for two days so they didn't push it.

That was another thing that wasn't fair. Anytime they tried to ask more things or get to know Remus more he magically transformed to the beginning of the year Remus for a day or a few days until they could show him they weren't going to question him further. Unbeknownst to him they had used this to their advantage and would occasionally ask questions, knowing they were getting warmer to whatever it was Remus was still hiding if he ignored them for a day or two.

They had already realized it wasn't his mother or even his father, though he never talked about them. However whatever it was definitely had something to do with his disappearance. This confused them to no end because if his disappearances were because of his mom then what more was there to hide? None of them would entertain the idea that he was the one dying because such a thing was preposterous. After a few weeks of tossing back and forth different dumb theories they were well into February with Valentine's day around the corner, and they became distracted by other things.

Because they all had other things on their mind, James was more determined than ever to beat Lily in grades which was proving difficult and meant he actually had to study for exams, Peter was just trying to keep his grades up which was a great deal due to Remus who was a fantastic tutor and who also helped James and Sirius though Peter reported he was much more hesitant with them around.

Then, of course, Sirius had Drommie on his mind. He knew Remus, at least partly, was only using the subject as a shield to avoid discussing him. But Sirius also knew that as infuriating as it was his friend was also right, he had to talk to his cousin. He just didn't know how.

The past two times they hung out together he couldn't bring up the topic. Often times they were just having fun and reminiscing on past happy memories, most of them when both their families had hung out together and therefore been more tolerable. Anytime Sirius asked about Ted his cousin changed the topic with as much skill as Remus and a great deal more attitude when he tried to push it.

So Sirius felt like quite the failure, not helped by the fact the Regulus still hadn't been allowed to write him. He still hadn't heard from his parents either. It's not like Sirius was getting in too much trouble at school, although he did get his fair share of detentions. But he was one of the top students in almost all subjects, except Astronomy and History of Magic. But no one got good grades in History of Magic and every sense Remus fell off the tower, he hadn't been able to focus much on Astronomy.

But even in second term his mother and father didn't write, not even a howler! His mother's last words to him before getting on the train after winter break was that he better keep his nose clean, and that was all he had heard from her in months. It left an ache in his chest and he had to remind his friends that he didn't care if his lousy parents wrote to him, even if he looked sad at breakfast when the owls came. It wasn't because he didn't get mail from them but because, well because he was expecting something cool and top-secret in the mail from his uncle.

If his friends knew he was lying they all pretended not to for his sake, though he was pretty sure Remus was the only one who realized this as the other two kept excitedly asking him when his gift would arrive. s

At least he had a great distraction from it all, Remus had finally told them about the passage he discovered from Lily and her friends of all things, that lead to the kitchens. So their nights had been filled with sweets and midnight snacks, and actually, sleep since Peter had gotten very good at slipping Remus a sleeping potion about half of the attempted times.

Then, of course, Valentine itself was dumb but it left such wonderful opportunities to prank stupid couples and certain stupid Hufflepuffs. It also helped that weeks had passed with no attacks and while the daily prophet continued to report muggle disappearance at an increased speed, Hogwarts had once more become a safe place. But there was still tension.

There had been several talks about unity amongst the whole school and all the houses adding something unique to Hogwarts. But with the disappearance of muggles more and more common Sirius could have sworn the Slytherins open disdain of muggle-borns was becoming worse, though they kept it mostly to themselves. At least as the weeks passed the Slytherins around Remus had dwindled down to only one again. However, that one was the worst of them all and Sirius was still adamant Snivellus was guilty somehow.

But the lack of Slytherins around their friend meant James and Sirius didn't have to keep a lookout so much and could resort more of their time to coming up with future pranks to make unsuspecting Slytherins pay. Because even if they couldn't use Remus as an excuse for revenge it was easy to spot a Slytherin mocking a muggle-born or harassing them. So the few days before Valentine's resulted in much planning and many disapproving glances from Remus, though he seemed to realize that getting them to stop was a lost cause.

Because come Monday the 14th of February, James and Sirius weren't going to be satisfied until havoc was wrecked.

…..

"Remus!" He shouted rushing over to his roommate, who as usual was up before them all and nibbling on some toast, his head stuck in a book.

"No," Remus responded sounding vaguely amused, though he didn't even bother to look up from the book he was reading, the swat.

"But…"

"No Sirius."

"Oh come on Remus."

"No James."

"But…."

"No Peter." He shot each of them down and by his tone, it was clear he would keep doing so. James gave Sirius a look that said: "he's a lost cause."

"Oh come on Lupin don't be such a wet blanket." Remus looked up from his book surprised, and four startled looks turned to Patricia who sat next to Remus ruffling his hair fondly and laughing at the annoyed look she got. It was kind of cute really as Patricia seemed to view Remus as her little brother though it filled James with a bit of jealousy and a strong impulse to prove "he didn't care about Patricia".

"We never see you anymore." James protested and Patricia scoffed but ruffled his hair as well. James did an altogether terrible job at proving he didn't care about Patricia and often ended up sounding like a stuck up child which amused the others a lot.

"That's because unlike you lot I've got exams coming out of my ears."

"Funny I only see earwax." Sirius teased easily. He for one was thrilled that Patricia had continued to train them, though the "lessons" had all but stopped since Remus' accident. Sirius knew she hung around Remus more but the boy hid it from his friends like he hid most things.

It wasn't until Sirius "accidentally" stumbled across them in a courtyard playing chess that he realized it wasn't just Severus and Lily that Remus was hanging out with besides them. Sirius knew he should be happy that their loner friend had a few other people to hang out with, however, he couldn't seem to be able to.

He was sure it was because when he had found Remus and Patricia it was on an evening when Remus was supposed to be exploring a way to get into the forbidden forest with his mates, so he had been rather cross with them both. But that was nearly a week ago and Sirius prided himself on being quick to forgive and on being just as mature.

"Har har very funny. But seriously, I had a lot to get done," she scoffed.

"That didn't stop you from hanging out with Remus." Sirius pointed out smugly, and just a tad bit crossly. Patricia gave him an amused look he didn't like at all followed quickly by Remus' "be nice" look.

"Well if you don't want to go into the forbidden forest with me fine." She responded nonchalantly, then attempted to get up.

"Wait no no you are always welcome here." Sirius quickly rectified the matter, swallowing his pride for a chance at adventure and danger.

"That's better. Now the forbidden forest can wait. We have pranks to play first." She responded excitedly with an eager gleam of mischief in her eyes that Remus noticed with exasperation.

"Oh not you too!" Remus exclaimed sounding stressed. Sirius laughed, maybe the three of them couldn't convince Remus to participate, but the four of them definitely could.

It took all of the rest of breakfast to catch Patricia up on their plans and to finally convince Remus to participate.

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty-One and A Half: Valentine's Day

Patricia had woken late for breakfast, as always. She groaned loudly and stretched sore from her late-night trip into the forbidden forest. She knew she hadn't been keeping up with her 'mentoring' of the first year swats but she had been working with the Care of Magical Creatures Professor Kettleburn, and occasionally Hagrid to document all the living creatures inside the forbidden forest. If she was being entirely honest she had become quite addicted to flying into the forbidden forest undetected. She knew most of her time, besides studying and keeping on top of her classes, had been spent among the dark damp forest that seemed to call to her in a way she couldn't explain.

Her best friends found her fascination with magical creatures, especially the beasts to be foolish, dangerous, or a waste of time. Even the Prewitt's who had taken her under their wing when she had been an angry first year, found her fascination with the Forbidden Forest rather strange. But she refused to stop going, she didn't have to think about anything or anyone in the forest. Even if the Prewitt's and Longbottom said it was "avoidant" and "she shouldn't be pushing her friends away," she was determined to figure out the Forbidden Forest.

Because it wasn't just the creatures that drew her, it was something else. But she still couldn't figure it out. Luckily she had four first years, two of which were eager to get into the forest and the other two who if she was careful would follow suit. She was sure with their help she could figure out what was hidden in that forest because she was confident there was something there. However, she had to be careful because of two reasons.

One, while she didn't care for the rules at Hogwarts, and had been working her way on breaking them all just because she could, she knew endangering younger students would earn her more than detentions. And two, other than Pettigrew who she found slow and a waste of her time, she had reluctantly grown to care about the first-year boys she had come to know. Sirius, James, and Remus were all as witty as her and had a tendency to get into trouble which is what she wanted in her protegees, even if Remus didn't consider himself one.

She quite enjoyed teasing them and training them, even if at times she found them annoying and beneath her. But she couldn't deny they were all interesting in their own ways. Like Sirius, who had a darkness in his heart, a bitter dislike for certain people that she could certainly respect and reminded her of herself. Plus, a Black in Gryffindor had certainly intrigued her from day one.

James, well he was rather simple to figure out and she may have written him off like she had Peter if she didn't find his little crush amusing and flying skills useful. Then there was Remus, she wasn't sure how to feel about Remus. Mostly she liked him a lot, but he wasn't as easily used as the others. She wasn't used to not having people bend to her will and or charm. She had manipulated at some time or other all of her friends, but something about Remus told her that would be different. His overall distrust of everyone, and of course the many secrets she could tell he was hiding, resonated with her as well, once more reminding her of herself.

It had all been a game at first. See how far she could push them. As a small child, she would bend her toys until they broke and while she had, after a few incidents, learned she couldn't behave that way with people. She still liked to figure out how they worked and what made them tick. For example, Frank was a people pleaser to a fault and his growing fascination with Alice who was several years younger than him was the perfect way to drive him nuts if he ever annoyed or upset her, and the perfect thing to hold over his head if she needed to. It's not like she was malicious, or didn't care about anyone, unlike what her mother kept telling her, she just liked knowing.

If she said anything, she needed to know how each person would respond. If she let something slip who would spread rumors and who would keep her secrets. Then, and most importantly, how she could use each and every person to her advantage because Patricia always had and always would consider herself number one. Which was why Remus getting hurt had bothered her so much. She was worried about him, of course, she was, but more than that she didn't know what happened. What on earth had the sickly little boy done to gain so many enemies? It took her a long time to realize that Remus wasn't more like her than she initially thought. He hadn't actually sent those letters, he had no desire to manipulate anyone, and was upset at the mere thought of getting revenge on those who hurt him.

She didn't buy it though. She had been hanging out with Remus, as much as the skittish boy would allow her too, trying to figure him out. She could appreciate Sirius' frustration at the boys' secret nature and knew that if she twisted and turned Sirius the right way he could assist her in finding out what Remus Lupin was hiding. But like most things it required patience, skill, and calculation.

"Patricia I've already been to breakfast and back again. Get up someone is waiting for you downstairs." Came Ameelia's laugh. Patricia stuck a finger up at her which just got another laugh and forced herself out of bed.

"Are the boys in the Great Hall?" Ameelia gave her a disapproving look then nodded.

"Honestly Pat you're going to get them in trouble teaching them all those awful pranks you pull." She scolded with the tone of one who had become accustomed after four years to her roommates' antics.

"Life isn't fun without a little trouble Ameelia!" She shot back. It took two years before she realized she couldn't drag her roommate into her antics, and she had tried. However, they got along as well as two people who were completely opposite could. It helped Ameelia wasn't the brightest but what she lacked in the brain, she certainly made up for in heart. She was the only person Patricia could be completely honest with, both about her motivations and her desires.

"Oh please, Pat! You already told me you plan to use those boys to help you find whatever it is you are looking for in the forest." Patricia felt herself color in anger, up until this year Ameelia had never bothered to call her out on anything, and her recent disapproval especially considering the forest had been causing a gap between the two as of late.

"Then report me why don't you!" She snapped eyes blazing as she glared at the dark-skinned, dark-haired girl whose green eyes stared back with amusement rather than defiance.

"Because silly you aren't a bad person no matter how much you try to be." Patricia didn't bother to listen to the rest of the nonsense her roommate spewed. Back in the first year, Patricia had done a terribly cruel thing to Ameelia, to get her to admit she was as bad as her mother constantly reminded her she was. But Ameelia never had and Patricia both hated her and loved her for it, torn between annoyance at her roommate's naivety and hope that she was right. She slammed the door behind her cutting off Ameelia's soft voice and reassurance she wouldn't do anything to hurt those boys. She shook off the old impulse to do just that out of sheer spite and to prove Ameelia wrong and headed down to breakfast.

"Oi Patricia!" She stopped having forgotten Ameelia telling her someone was waiting, not one person but two.

"She can't possibly think she'll get away ignoring us the cheeky brat."

"Surely not, our little Patricia is much smarter than that." She rolled her eyes as the Prewett brothers fell into step beside her, sandwiching her.

"Piss off." She replied casually grinning at them.

"Piss off she says!" Gideon chortled, the sixth year boy whacking her head lightly. Patricia had always been an only child, much to her parents' disappointment. However, if she had brothers she imagined Gideon and Fabian would have been them.

"She's grown awfully arrogant Gideon."

"Someone ought to teach her a lesson."

"Teach whittle Patricia her place." She waved them off as they play attacked her laughing.

"Your both chipper today!" She regarded the twins, both of them with hair as fiery red as hers. Beaters for the Gryffindor Quidditch team they were muscular and handsome, already their arms full of Valentine's cards. Similar in some aspects Fabian was certainly the more chaotic of the two, who dragged along Gideon the sixth year prefect, into mischief they never ever got caught at.

If Patricia was a legend it was all thanks to the two boys linking their arms in hers and preceding to explain excitedly their older sister Molly had sent them a long letter about their nephew William (also known as Bill). He was a few months old and Patricia was subjected to the two sixth years gushing about him as if he was their baby. Patricia envied the Prewetts and how close they were, especially Molly and her brothers.

She had met Molly on several occasions and found her nice though was secretly envious of her for her siblings, even if the young woman often complained about her mischievous little brothers.

"Oi Gideon she's not even listening!"

"Let's hex her then she'd pay attention."

"I am paying attention. It's just my bloody ears are bleeding from all the talk about Bill." She sighed pulling away from them and their mock offended looks.

"Just wait till you ave one of your own Patricia!"

"Absolutely not I hate kids!"

"Well, you've been spending an awful lot of time with James and his lot."

"That's because she's passing down our legacy Fabian."

"Oi, you better be giving us credit you hear! If not we'll haunt you long after we've graduated."

"No, wait until we are graduated then spread are legacy."

"Then we won't be adored by icky firsties, Gideon!"

"I'm not risking getting detention, Fabian. We've had our fun I'm a prefect now."

"Bollocks! You Knobhead Tosser!" Patricia sighed heavily, she liked the twins but they had a tendency to forget others when they were together, and it was hard-pressed to find them apart from one another even if their interests had been diverging all year.

"You thumb sucking wanker!"

"Oi! Boys enough!" She bellowed, one of the few people capable of splitting apart the Prewetts when they started having a go at one another. The older boys shot glares over her head, a good three inches taller than her then crossed their arms and turned away from one another.

She rolled her eyes at them and was about to tell them what she thought of their bickering when they entered the great hall and several girls, and one or two daring boys crowded around the Prewetts forcing her to walk away quickly before her own admirers could attempt to give her Valentine's gifts, a practice she hated.

Irritated at the Prewetts and avoiding Frank who had been supportive about Remus' coma but kept trying to get her to discuss her 'feelings' which she loathed, she had to reassess who she'd sit with for the last half of breakfast. Ameelia left breakfast early like usual and even if she had been there Patricia doubted she would have sat with her. She was about to resign herself to sit amongst her fellow fourth years, most who were paired off or soon to be what with it being Valentines and all, when she caught Remus fending off three boys' desperate attempts to no doubt get him involved in mischief.

"Oh come on Remus." James pleaded his hair messed up as if he'd just rolled out of bed. She caught Lily giving him a dirty look and laughed to herself. She was sure the two would end up together in the future but for now their blatant frustration yet hypervigilance and competition with one another were far too amusing not to stir the pot.

"No James." She was glad Remus sounded amused, it meant that it wouldn't take too much effort to get him to partake in whatever the four were planning if the right strings were pulled.

"But…" Came Peter's annoying simper. How that jittery coward got into Gryffindor was a mystery to her, he still couldn't even meet her eyes with his little beady ones. Which was fine by her since his stare gave her the willies.

"No Peter." Remus sighed his tone taking on the usual edge of stubbornness which meant the three would need help convincing him after all.

"Oh come on Lupin don't be such a wet blanket." Remus looked up from his book surprised, his amber eyes quickly filling with a wariness. She laughed and ruffled his hair, much like the Prewetts often did to her when she had been a grumpy kid way back when. His look of annoyance was predictable and she glanced around at the other three. Peter quickly looking away and biting into his muffin with a nervousness that was only dimmed by his desperate attempts to keep up with the other three who were by far superior to him.

James looked jealous, a slight pout on his childish features. Sirius looked amused but there was a slight edge of jealousy in his gaze, different from James' who was jealous of Remus, but rather as if he was jealous of her. She grinned and sat down, yes the boys certainly were amusing. As she grabbed a muffin from the table she couldn't shake Ameelia's assurance that she wouldn't do anything to get them hurt, she guessed they'd just have to see about that.

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty-Two: Memory Madness

Detention with McGonagall was much less confusing and worrisome than detention with Professor Blatvnik. That being said Remus still did NOT appreciate being there. Even if it was in the company of his dumb roommates, Patricia, and Dorcas who had joined in, last minute.

"Of all the irresponsible….." On and on went the lecture from their reasonably stern Professor. A week from now was the full moon but it could have been tomorrow for how irritated Remus was with all his so-called friends.

A total of fifty points from Gryffindor which put them last in house points, and a week of detentions for all of them. Of course, after detention, Patricia seemed a little put-down but by the time they reached the common room declared proudly it was "so worth it." Dorcas wasn't much better and of course, James and Sirius found the whole thing outrageously funny.

Remus did not, he did not find the public humiliation of one Severus Snape remotely funny, and even less funny was upon entering the common room he was yanked to the side by Lily who seemed irate. True to her word, she wasn't about to ignore Remus again when mad at him, but he almost would have preferred that.

"It got in his eye…stained pink…...unbelievable…irresponsible...Dorcas…..too but I'll deal with her later…...expected better….." He found himself drifting in and out of focus of her stern lecture, quite lectured out by Professor McGonnagal and feeling rather off today.

"Remus, are you even listening?" He almost said no but nodded instead casting his eyes on the floor.

"Lily I'm sorry I didn't…I didn't want to."

"Then why did you? At least Dorcas seems to think Severus is some sort of bad person but you're his friend Remus!" That was the problem wasn't it, why he felt so annoyed at his roommates, why he felt particularly awful about this, Severus really had become a sort of a friend...sort of.

"I don't know...I didn't know…...I wasn't feeling good today and they dragged me into it." It was the truth! During a break from classes and before lunch when the prank had occurred, Remus had gone back to the library and poured through old newspapers from around the time he was found from being kidnapped. He wasn't sure of the exact dates but he knew, vaguely remembered there being a big argument with his father and a ministry official about not posting Remus' picture.

In the end, his father had won and Remus' name hadn't even been released, the picture instead of being him being sole of Greyback. At least that's what he was hoping for. He'd be at a dead-end if the picture was of a wolf.

He had been scanning through paper after paper of that year for weeks, as Remus had forced himself not to get upset and paranoid about it. He still had class and friends and blowing off steam with them which was partly why it was taking so long. Also, he knew he was dragging his feet, more than a little afraid to see the picture, afraid it may make him remember things he tried to forget.

So he wasn't really expecting a different outcome earlier during the day but had found, at last, Greyback's picture.

Of course, his response to Lily that he went along with the prank since he felt off sounded more like an excuse, and it probably was one. Since he being in a fog the rest of the day really didn't excuse what happened to Severus.

"Remus Lupin that's no excuse! Do you even feel sorry?"

"Of course I do."

"You don't sound sincere."

"LIly I really don't feel good…." He shuddered, feeling for hours as if unpleasant memories were trying to claw their way to the surface. Memories that he didn't want to remember, and yet was starting too. Flashes and glimpses of very unpleasant memories. Finally Lily seemed to calm down enough to actually look at him.

"You do look paler than usual." She said softly. "But this better not be an excuse." She finished sharply.

"It's not." He whispered hoarsely. He knew his roommates had abandoned him to his fate so he dared to look up at her face. He could feel the tears in his eyes, and he didn't want to cry in front of Lily anymore than he did anyone else. But he really wasn't feeling good and he didn't think he could brave walking to Madam Pomfrey's alone.

"Remus, what's wrong?" Suddenly any disapproval or frustration vanished and she gazed at Remus with the utmost worry. He was already regretting his decision, it's not like Lily was any less nosy than his roommates. She was just subtler and often more respectful about it.

"Not…..feeling…..good." He struggled to find the words thinking for one instant he wasn't in the common room at all but back in that underground bunker with the shadow ...with Greyback leering at him.

"Come on, I'll take you to Madam Pomfrey's. I want to visit Severus anyways." Remus nodded and flinched as she took his hand. He was only vaguely aware of being led through the halls and of Lily rambling about what classes would be tomorrow, and material she hoped was covered.

"Now that you mentioned it you really did seem out of it during dinner. Not that I was staring, only, well, I was trying to find a good time to give you and Sev and your presents without people around who'd laugh." Remus nodded vaguely his head throbbing.

"Remus you aren't listening…." Lily sighed sounding worried again. All he could manage was to nod weakly, didn't she realize he had to focus really hard on breathing and not crying? Finally, they reached Madam Pomfrey who seemed startled to see them both there. Even more so to see Remus pale and shaky, a good week away from the full moon.

"I assume you are here to see Mr. Severus then right this way Miss Evans. And Mr. Lupin I'll be right with you." They both disappeared momentarily further down the room and Remus swayed dangerously without Lily physically holding him to reality. His breaths became short gasps and by the time Madam Pomfrey came back, she found him on his hands and knees gasping for breath.

"Oh dear. Right, this way dear." She ushered him quickly into his little room, after making sure the drapes had been firmly tugged around Severus' cot. He could hear angry whispers but whether they were actually too quiet to make out, or if he was just so unfocused, he couldn't tell. Madam Pomfrey sat him on his bed checking his temperature.

"You don't have one. Remus, what's wrong? What happened?" She asked calmly, crouching down beside the bed so she could stare into his glazed over eyes fearfully.

"Have you been poisoned?" He shook his head.

"Hexed?" Again he shook his head.

"I heard you and your little friends got into trouble, does it have to do with that." He shook his head.

"A werewolf thing then?" She asked quietly, sounding a bit exasperated now. He hesitated for a moment then shook his head. She seemed to decide she wasn't getting any accurate information this way because she changed course.

"Do you want a tonic?" He nodded and this seemed to make her even more worried. In the almost half a year he had known her he'd never openly agree to a tonic. She often had to coax him into it, and here he actually wanted one. She inhaled sharply and touched his face gently.

"Remus focus on me, dear. A sleeping tonic?" He forced his mouth to open, he wasn't too familiar with all the tonics there were, but he was sure there was something that could help him.

"Greyback…...memories…." He stammered hoarsely only vaguely realizing Madam Pomfrey might not have the slightest clue what that meant. But she seemed to indeed know what he meant for her eyes widened and then she straightened and walked away. Remus vaguely thought she might have decided to finally up and leave him for good but she came quickly with a tonic.

"Here dear drank this. That's a good lad. Every last drop, you know the drill." He wanted to ask her how she knew who Greyback was to him, but he quickly became too tired to fear how much she knew.

She helped him lay down and tucked him in. He felt an immense sense of relief as the pounding headache almost disappeared immediately. He seemed able to breathe again and the memories that kept threatening to poke through seemed to settle down in his head once more.

"I'll get Dumbledore." He heard her whisper but before he could even wonder what Dumbledore had to do with this he was falling asleep.

"He has never accepted a tonic so easily, his friends have to sneak it to him, bless their hearts. I gather he's been sleeping terribly by how desperate they initially seemed to get their hands on it. I haven't said anything to them about it but it seems to have worked. I was planning to ask Remus about how he had been sleeping next time he came but you know the stubborn dear, I doubt he would answer me honestly."

"I fear I may have made it worse Poppy. I told him the man who kidnapped him was Greyback."

"I don't see what that has to do with anything?"

"His memories were repressed, Poppy. Because he was so young, his parents decided it was for the best, so he didn't have to face certain truths."

"What truths? Kidnapped? Dumbledore I thought he was bitten by Greyback. Oh, don't tell me it's worse than that!" The usually calm matron cried, her devastation apparent as she paced back and forth in the headmaster's office. Her affection for the boy also plain.

"Poppy I don't know the whole story myself. Only memory suppression is very tricky magic and when Lyall Lupin reached out to me explaining bits and pieces I didn't have the heart to say no. The first time I saw Lupin, he wouldn't even look me in the eyes he was so scared and upset he wouldn't look anyone in the eyes. I wasn't always sure I did the right thing but after seeing him many years later ...well I confess it was probably for the best."

The old headmaster explained patiently, a gleam of guilt and sadness behind the usual twinkling eyes. His affection for the boy was also apparent, for the small child he had visited multiple times before casting advanced and dangerous magic on such a young creature.

"Then it's breaking? Albus the poor boy can't handle anything more!"

"When I cast it Remus was five I predicted it would last ten years."

"But he's not even twelve!"

"I believe our clever student has accessed the database of newspapers and sought out the face behind the name Greyback, that would certainly lessen the effect of the memory suppressant. The recipient of the spell can't be faced with certain reminders and it's bad enough Lupin's monthly transformations are already a constant reminder."

"Can't you reset it?"

"The danger of messing with his memories when he was that young were considerable. Doing so again while he's still so young would end in terrible consequences even despite my skilled application."

"There must be something?" The matron exclaimed, her voice rising in frustration. After all the students who had come and gone from her medical ward, Remus Lupin was indeed a special one.

She had never expected to grow so fond of him, she had actually been quite afraid at first. Having her own biases about werewolves instilled in her growing up she had pictured Remus would be someone completely different. But then she had met the shy polite boy and all those stereotypes had quickly been put to shame.

"I will message Lyal Lupin." A heavy sigh escaped the Headmaster. He had been preoccupied with the murders of muggles all year and the growing hate rising in their country. He could feel there was a war coming, something dreadful coming with as much certainty as he knew one wizard was behind this.

One particularly powerful wizard, a wizard he suspected was a past student of his, a student he discovered at an orphanage, who had unnerved the headmaster even as a small boy. He knew this matter deserved more of his attention though, despite how difficult it was proving to contact Lyall Lupin, a matter he had been trying to do ever since the feral fiasco despite Remus' wishes.

"That man! A fat lot of good that will do" grumbled the matron who did not know Lyal and did not care too. Very angry with the man since he never showed up once at the bedside of his son who had been in a coma.

"He is Remus' father and he is ultimately the one who has a say in this. In the meantime, I cannot cast another memory suppression but I can attempt to repair the old one. Let us go to Remus at once." The matron was forced to walk back to the ward and when she arrived she found Dumbledore straightening up from Remus' bed.

"I have mended the tear. But if Remus keeps digging I will be forced to talk to him."

"Albus, what is it that is so terrible that you can't simply talk to him?"

"It's his father's wishes Poppy and I believe it would better for Remus to focus on his school and friendships. He can face his past when he turns fifteen. And….." The headmaster turned his sad eyes to the peacefully sleeping boy. "And even then it may be too much…."

A heavy silence fell around the headmaster, the matron, and the sleeping boy blissfully oblivious to this all...for now.

….

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty-Three: Kiss and Make-Up

When Remus woke a few hours later he was feeling much better, courtesy of the tonic, which Madam Pomfrey mentioned several times. She seemed relieved he was feeling better and Remus decided he must have just gotten a headache from all the reading he was doing. Sure Greyback's picture was weird, especially since he couldn't place the face, but the werewolf wasn't his professor so there really was no reason for him to be physically sickened by it.

Not like how he had felt, it was very weird, and when he hesitantly brought it up to Madam Pomfrey she just huffed that he was too stressed and probably working too hard so he quickly shut up worried she'd keep him longer if he didn't.

She was, in fact, reluctant to let him go but he convinced her it was best he slept in his dorm and get there before curfew. He was surprised when she didn't try to offer the usual sleeping tonic she offered him but didn't think much of it. Maybe the calming tonic he had just taken negated the other one somehow.

"Yes, I promise I'll sleep Madam Pomfrey."

"And if you start feeling even a bit sick or out of sorts you come back here right away understand?"

"Yes, Madam Pomfrey." He responded respectfully despite the impatience he felt at wanting to leave. Her gaze softened and she pulled him into a hug he had only come to expect on full moon nights. He flinched at the contact but it wasn't unpleasant and he hugged her back briefly.

"Is there anything you want to talk about dear?" He wanted to know how she knew Greyback but knew that was a dangerous line of questioning so instead he shook his head offering her a convincing smile.

"No, I feel better now. Sorry for bothering you."

"It's not a bother at all dear. Goodnight."

"Goodnight." Then he was leaving the ward feeling relieved until he saw Lily huddled outside waiting for him, crying.

"Lily, what's wrong?" He asked, his turn to sound concerned as he quickly went to her side.

"Sev hates me now Remus. He says I laughed but I didn't! I swear I didn't." Remus believed her, he hadn't laughed either, and though he was in the minority he was sure Lily was as well.

"Lily I'm sure he's just upset in general." She nodded but didn't look convinced. Remus sighed, he didn't really want to go back into the medical ward but he knew Lily wasn't going to calm down until she knew her best friend didn't blame her.

"Come on, let's go talk to him again. Maybe he's calmed down by now." She seemed nervous but was in the ward again before Remus could say 'only if you want to'.

"Sev ...Sev please talk to me."

"I told you to go away Lily!" Came an angry response from poor Sev whose skin was pink and sparkly and who had a bruised eye from where the corner of the letter had hit him. A letter he had thought was from Lily.

"Please, Sev. I didn't laugh, you know I'd never laugh."

"I don't care I ...YOU!" Severus suddenly shouted just now realizing Remus was standing slightly by the curtain. He hesitated then approached the angry boy.

"Severus I'm really sorry." He responded sincerely, truly feeling bad for the boy's humiliation and how he couldn't stop it.

"Sorry! SORRY!" He screamed his pink face turning purple and blotchy.

"Sev…."

"He was a part of it. He's a part of THEM Lily! Don't you see he's the enemy!"

"Not Remus! He's sorry Sev. He wasn't feeling well and ..."

"Don't defend him. How can you possibly defend him? I thought he was different too Lily but he's a part of Potter's gang. He's just like them!" Remus flinched at the accusation, he had let his friends influence him quite a bit, but he didn't think he'd ever be comfortable with their bullying of the Slytherins they deemed bullies.

"I'm sorry Severus. There's no excuse. You're right. I didn't help them but I didn't try to stop them."

"Don't lie! I saw you pointing your wand!"

"That wasn't to hurt you it was to help you." He explained feeling sad again, if only he hadn't been so out of it he could he levitated the envelope away from Severus who then never would have opened it.

"Yeah right! Like I'd buy that Lupin! You know I don't even feel bad about what happened to you anymore. You deserved it!" Severus hissed angrily, betrayed and embarrassed. Remus stiffened feeling that was taking it too far. He was surprised to find Lily thought that too.

"Severus that's a horrible thing to say." She scolded in a similar fashion to how she had scolded Remus a few hours before.

"I don't care, Lily. Quit defending him! It's always Lupin this or poor Lupin that I'm sick of it!" He snapped and Remus felt his face grow hot, he had never wanted to cause trouble between Lily and Severus, even if he didn't always think Severus was the best friend.

"You ...YOU…." Lily stammered her face also red. Then she threw something at Sev and stormed away. Remus watched her go surprised and was about to follow when Severus hissed at him angrily

"Don't pretend you don't know what we did to you Lupin. I don't know what game you are playing but ..." He trailed off suddenly seeming to realize the small bag of chocolates Lily had chucked at him before storming off.

"What do you mean?" He dared to ask wondering if James was right and the Slytherins were behind what happened with the tower. But Severus had gone very pale, still the color pink though, and Remus realized his eyes were filled with tears over the chocolates in his hands so he left. Perhaps he should have stayed to console Severus but he wasn't sure he could at the moment with the boys taunts ringing in his ears, and he was more concerned about Lily.

"Lily wait." He called after her glad the doors were swinging behind him as he heard Madam Pomfrey bustle up from the back asking Severus loudly what the commotion had been. If the matron saw him she didn't call after him so he was able to rush after his friend and catch up to her fairly quickly.

"Are you going to yell at me too?" She snapped at him. Remus went pale, he didn't understand why she was mad at him.

"No. I was going to thank you ...and see if you're ok." Lily looked over at him her eyes dry and shining with determination.

"No I know, sorry Remus I'm just so frustrated at Sev." The last thing Remus wanted to do was defend Severus, but he felt he had to, considering it had been, at least partly, his fault.

"He's humiliated, Lily. Most of Hogwarts were laughing at him not that long ago. He seemed thankful for the chocolates and seemed upset at how he'd been treating you after you left." Lily stopped walking and gave Remus a warm smile.

"You really are very kind Remus. Especially after what he said to you….. I'm still angry but I guess...I'll hear him out tomorrow." She sighed then turned back and continued walking, surprisingly in silence for a while. It wasn't unpleasant, but it did feel a little strange without her usual constant talking which was quite comforting to Remus. He watched her closely but she seemed more lost in thought than anything so he let her be.

When they reached the common room which was deserted, as they had only made it back with a minute to spare, she stopped him again.

"Thank you, Remus, for being a good friend." Then before he could respond she shoved a bag of chocolate in his hand. More surprising still, she leaned over and quickly kissed his cheek before rushing off with a high pitched "goodnight."

Remus stood there stunned for a while, surprised and confused by both gestures. He finally pulled himself together and went to his dorm where his friends greeted him with laughter and taunts about how he must have been snogging his "girlfriend" to take so long.

"I guess it's good you kissed and made up Lupin." James laughed and Remus rushed to his bed before they could see his blush.

"Goodnight you berks." He muttered fondly and he fell asleep to their quiet laughter and responses of goodnight.

Remus was thoroughly relieved that things didn't get awkward with Lily as he was worried they might. But she seemed the same as ever and he realized he was being stupid and he probably just didn't know friends kissed each other on the cheek, except maybe it was just a girl thing since none of his friends ever did.

He decided not to dwell on it much preferring to focus his energy on studying and his own private investigation, unbeknownst to his friends. Because with the weight of Professor Blatvnik not being Greyback lifted off his shoulders he was actually looking forward to the full moon, watching his professor carefully leading up to it.

However, as Remus got pale and sickly his Professor seemed fine and by the time he disappeared for his monthly routine, he was pretty sure that either his professor wasn't a werewolf or was impossibly good at hiding it.

After he returned to his roommates and found that during the two days of class he missed Professor Blavtnik assigned a lot of homework, he realized it was impossible that his professor was a werewolf. Which bode the question of who it was. For the next few weeks, Remus slowly made his way through his other professors, going through past assignments and memories to slowly eliminate them as possible werewolves. That left a student and with that realization came a stab of sympathy and a thrill he felt bad about. He had never met many werewolves, and he had never met any his age.

Of course, if Madam Pomfrey wasn't helping them, and he couldn't understand why she wouldn't, it meant his defense against the dark arts professor was hiding them. But to hurt the student or help them was the real question that plagued his mind. He even purposely brought up a discussion on werewolves that left him shaky and certainly leaning more towards the worrying conclusion his professor was trying to hurt this student whoever they were.

Of course, there was no way to figure out who this student was unless the student was a first-year like him. Nor was there anything Remus could do about it unless he let Dumbledore know which he was wary to do so. Because it was possible Remus got it wrong and come the first of March he realized this had indeed been the case.

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty-Four: Human Wolf Brother

Remus was walking to defense against the dark arts class, Sirius' arm draped over his shoulder his face close to Remus' as he whispered plans for James' birthday. James made a big show of trying to hear which resulted in Sirius mock attacking him. So they were all smiling and laughing as they entered the classroom, Remus relieved none of his friends had figured out his birthday was on the 10th. As they walked into the classroom, Remus having been forced to sit next to them ever since he had told them his suspicions about their professor, he felt something was off.

It wasn't until he sat down between James and Peter that he realized what precisely was off. He jumped out of his seat all eyes going to him and went dark red making a big show of dusting off some nonexistent prickly item in his seat before sitting once more heart hammering. In a large covered up cage at the front of the room was a large wolf, he knew it instinctively just like he knew it was no ordinary wolf.

"I have a special treat for you, today class. Of course, you have the older classes to thank but I figured there's no harm in all my students benefiting. After all, we have been covering a lot of dark creatures and while we won't get into werewolves in detail for awhile I figured a practical demonstration would make a more...lasting impression." If Professor Blavtnik didn't have the whole class's attention before he certainly did now. A chorus of gasps and scraping chairs as people either learned forward or back, echoed around the class. Then the cage was uncovered and intelligent gold eyes were staring directly at Remus.

Thump, thump, thump went his traitorous heart. He had to calm down or one of his friends would notice, but he realized everyone was staring at the wolf.

"Anger. Cage. Human brother. Help. Cage bad, cage bad." Remus nearly toppled out of his chair. He blinked a few times never looking away from the golden eyes that stared at him. He had to be going insane, but the words in his head were becoming clearer.

"You hear me."

"Yes." He thought back hardly daring to breathe. He briefly caught Professor Blatvnik asking the class if this was a werewolf or regular wolf.

"Release me." Remus inhaled sharply as the wolf laid down in the cage never looking away from Remus but nodding its head towards the door merely requiring opposable thumbs to unlatch.

"I can't." The wolf seemed to huff.

"I know human-wolf brother. Cage is bad though."

"Yes, it is." Remus thought back feeling sympathy for the wolf, after all, he sort of knew what it was like.

"My father was like you." Remus couldn't believe it. He had never heard anything about werewolves having any children let alone wolf children. It left him feeling sick.

"Where is he?"

"Dead."

"I'm sorry. Where are you from?"

"Forest." The forbidden forest, Remus felt a chill run up him. He vaguely heard Lily finally being called upon and responding logically that the wolf was normal even with the slightly shorter than average snout and tail which looked a bit peculiar because it wasn't a full moon and the wolf wasn't being aggressive.

"Incorrect Ms. Evans. This was a trick question. It is neither a regular wolf nor a werewolf." Remus forced himself to stare away from the wolf going cold when he realized Professor Blatvnik was staring right at him.

"It's the result of two werewolves mating on the full moon. They create quite fittingly, a beast, the only difference is that it supposedly has high intelligence. While oafs like Hagrid may believe such a thing. I think this is a clear example of why a werewolf is a beast and nothing else seeing as they produce one. All of you remember this for the future. Class dismissed."

"But Professor there's so much time left."

"Do you want me to unleash this beast upon you." Their professor snapped sounding downright hostile. No one else complained and chairs began scraping. The wolf stood on its paws again making the girl closest to it scream and several boys raise their wands in mock bravado.

"Don't leave me." Remus wanted to cry, scream, and puke all at once. He felt James nudge him, hard.

"Come on mate I know it's cool but I'd rather not get eaten today." James laughed but sounded a bit uneasy, none of them 100% sure or not if their professors' threat held any truth to it or not.

"I can't. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry but I can't." He thought back frantically.

"Get Hagrid." The wolf commanded him though it finally looked away and bowed its head in a gesture of respect that left Remus dazed.

"Geez Remus come on!" Sirius grabbed him and James pushed and they finally managed to get him outside of the classroom and away from the wolf, though Remus had a strong desire to return to it. No, not it, her, Silverstream, named because of her affinity for running in steams bathed silver in the moonlight, even as a small pup. He wasn't sure how he knew this only that he did, images of a small wolf pup dashing through reflected moon water flashing briefly through his head.

He had to save her because he wasn't sure if Professor Blatvnik would simply release her or not. The thought of him hurting her made him feel physically ill. Hagrid, he had to get to Hagrid, quickly!

"Guys I have to study with Lily." He shouted already taking off running. He ignored their questioning shouts which became jeers about his "girlfriend" and he took off bolting through the halls with detention earning speed.

"Lupin slow down or that will be a detention." He heard Professor McGonnagal call to him from across the hall beginning to become crowded with students. Remus didn't slow down and nearly tripped over a third year, jumping across the pile of papers he caused her to spill with an apology.

"Mr. Lupin last warning if you don't slow down there will be detention for you." His head of house shouted though she sounded more concerned than angry, he hardly cared. He had received a detention from Professor McGonagall and even the prospect of sitting alone in detention with her was less scary than failing to save Silverstream. Really trying not to dwell on how he knew her name as she had never told him, he flung open the door and sprinted down the ground at a neck-breaking speed.

"HAGRID!" He shouted loudly his whole body slamming hard into the gamekeeper's door as he tried to stop. He choked back a sob slamming his fists against the door again. He nearly hit Hagrid as the door opened and instead toppled onto the floor, or would have, had the gamekeeper not caught him with a strong hand.

"Remus? What's the matter yer not usually so worked up." Hagrid responded only mildly concerned, almost sounding amused. Remus didn't care if it was suspicious that he cared so much about a werewolf spawn, nor did he stop to consider the fact he should use "it" instead of "she" he just rushed to tell Hagrid before it was too late.

"Professor Blatvnik has one of the forbidden forest's wolf in a cage and he might hurt her." He shouted tears streaming down his face.

"You have to help her!" Hagrid's eyes went wide and then a dark expression crossed his normally gentle features which caused Remus to feel a stab of fear before he reminded himself it wasn't him the gamekeeper was mad at.

"That's why e wanted directions for the forbidden forest? I'm going to ave a word with Dumbledore. ALBUS" The gamekeeper's voice boomed angrily across the grounds. And just like that, the headmaster appeared taking in the two of them with twinkling eyes though he didn't smile.

"What's the matter Rubeus? You may want to set Mr. Lupin down now." He responded mildly and Hagrid seemed surprised to find he had a child in his hand. He set Remus down who nearly buckled feeling ill and weak. Dumbledore steadied him with a gentle hand on his shoulder, though he kept his eyes on Hagrid who quickly explained what Professor Blatvnik had done.

"I see. I will have a word with him immediately. Do not worry Hagrid, Silverstream will be returned unharmed to her home." Professor Dumbledore responded assuredly. He never looked at Remus besides an initial glance and was gone as quickly as he came. Remus was both relieved Dumbledore reacted so quickly and a little upset the headmaster hadn't met his eyes.

It almost seemed intentional and after shaking off Hagraid's profound thanks, the groundskeeper not even questioning why he had been so upset, he pondered on why Dumbledore hadn't even said 'Hello Mr. Lupin.' Every time Remus had seen Dumbledore in the halls, which was quite often though brief, he was greeted by the headmaster. Perhaps it was him reacting quickly for Silverstream's case but Remus couldn't help feeling the Professor was upset at him.

Perhaps he was upset because of how careless Remus had been. So he worried if this was the case and if he had somehow given himself away during class, remembering Professor Blatvnik's eyes on him which made him shudder. It wasn't until he reached the common room to find Dorcas, James, Sirius, and Peter all recounting their most recent wonderful prank in which Severus was only one target, that Remus wondered how Dumbledore had known the wolf's name.

"And they'll be smelling like daisies for weeks won't they Potter?"

"Absolutely and several of them have vines coming out of their a….."

"I assume you four aren't openly admitting to a punishable offense that was committed yesterday?" Kingsley asked in his deep and disapproving tone. Dorcas grinned but shook her head.

"Course not Kinglsey. We are merely discussing what hypothetically would have caused plants to sprout from the Slytherins...ahem..extremities. Besides first years never could pull of such a thing" Which most likely meant Patricia had helped this time. James and Sirius hid their snickers behind their hands, amused by Dorcas' boldness in addressing the ever strict Kingsley.

Ever since Valentine's Day in which Dorcas had discovered her love for pulling pranks she had been occasionally helping with plans, as well as Patricia when she wasn't busy. Unlike the younger boys, who were all still struggling to hide their laughter, Kingsley did not look impressed, scrutinizing the four unruly Gryffindor's a moment longer before shaking his head and walking away.

"Go on then, tell us what happened next." Exclaimed Jeremiah Cattermole, one of the three boys on the seventh floor across from their dorm. It seemed the whole of the first years were in the common room, usually dominated at this time and day by the older students. It was an odd site but not the first time the boys had gotten together. Though with no birthday he could think of coming up, besides his own, he wondered how they all came to be here.

Gary Thomas elbowed Jeremiah in response.

"He's getting to it! Give him a second will ya."

"Oi Remus come over here," James called suddenly spotting him.

"Come back early from snogging Lily have ya?" Sirius teased and Remus felt himself go red. It was one thing to have his friends teasing him about it when it was just them, but another thing to tease him about it in front of the other first-year boys, who were now gawking at him with a sort of reverence. He was just grateful that Dorcas was the only girl, knowing that despite being Lily's best friend she wouldn't say anything, not one to spread needless gossip and drama.

"Sirius we are just friends." He protested loudly, a bit of irritation in his voice. Sirius shrugged but his expression suggested something was bothering him, but what that could be Remus didn't know. He only hoped his friends had bought his excuse about meeting up with Lily.

"Thought you were going to be busy for a while?" Peter asked innocently.

"Couldn't find her."

Dorcas turned to him and he knew she knew meeting up with Lily was an excuse.

"She must have forgotten, she's been up in our dorm writing the paper on the property of mandrakes." James and Sirius groaned. They had clearly forgotten all about it, Herbology often being deemed too 'boring' for them.

"Well come here and help us plan James' party," Sirius called impatiently. Remus almost laughed, James' birthday was on the 27th, nearly a month away.

"Shouldn't James be gone for this then?" He responded amused trying to meet Sirius' eyes but found the boy had already looked away. He was definitely upset about something.

"I'm not gonna let you tossers mess up the preparations." Gary laughed in response to that. Remus knew that he had been trying to hang out with James and Sirius more, practically idealizing them as much as Peter for their evergrowing ease with communicating with the Quidditch team, but never seemed successful.

Sirius had outwardly stated when James pitched the idea of letting him hang out that five was too many and four was a perfect number. To which James had jokingly said they'd just swap Gary, who was much more well mannered, with Sirius, which resulted in another pillow fight. Remus often felt bad for the house-elves who always had to replace their pillows.

James grinned at Gary always liking the attention and stuck his tongue out at Sirius.

"See it's not a ridiculous idea."

"Yes, it is." Sirius shot back with mock outrage.

"Absolutely ridiculous." Remus assured James.

"Peter?" James ventured, used to Peter always taking his side. However this time the boy seemed hesitant and didn't answer causing James to groan.

"Fine. But if you lot botch it up I'll be really cross about it." He huffed and stormed off. So Remus spent the next two hours, two whole hours in which he should have been doing homework dragged into a useless discussion about what type of cake to get the house elves to make and what activities to have.

Sirius loved birthdays as much as he loved any excuse to throw a loud rowdy celebration which he never got at Grimmauld Manor. Remus finally was able to slip away when Dorcas and he began arguing about whose birthday party between the two of theirs had been better.

"Remus wait." He stopped surprised as Gary approached him, never exchanging more than a few words with the boy before.

"Everything ok?" He asked wondering if Gary Thomas had broken another quill and needed one of Remus' loaned to him again.

"Yeah, I was just wondering ...well, how do you do it?" Remus blinked surprised having no idea what Thomas meant. His confusion must have been clear because Gary hurried on.

"How do you stay such good friends with them? I mean Peter follows them around but you aren't with them as much and you hardly ever join in on the pranks, and yet they still seem to like you so much." He explained quickly in one breath. Remus wasn't sure whether to feel insulted or just amused.

"I mean it probably has to do with the fact that I'm in their dorm. We aren't really super close or anything… It's just…. I don't know." He finished lamely and Gary looked disappointed and a bit upset, no doubt feeling Remus was hiding some secret skills to himself. The disappointed boy quickly rushed back to the small group who was now wondering if they could sneak brooms into the common room. Remus shook his head and climbed the stairs nearly forgetting James was waiting in the room.

"Oh good! Have you come to tell me all the plans?" James asked eagerly.

"No. Though I'm sure you can get Peter to later." He teased going to his bed. He couldn't believe it wasn't bedtime yet, he had been feeling so tired lately, even without the moon being high in the sky.

"Great idea. I'm sure he'll tell me loads." Remus rolled his eyes but said nothing taking his already completed paper on mandrakes out of his bag to review it. A silence fell that James seemed to find uncomfortable, he and Remus were not often alone together.

"Do you ...want to play a game of exploding snap?"

"No, I'm looking over my herbology assignment."

"Oh, bloody hell I haven't done that yet." James groaned. "I meant to do it right after defense against the dark arts but then we had that really cool but weird class."

"Do you want me to help you?" Remus cut in before James could ask what he thought about the wolf. James quickly agreed and an hour past in which Remus succeeded in avoided the wolf topic. Until Peter and Sirius came back in, the later clearly annoyed.

"Remus you were supposed to help!"

"I didn't have any good ideas."

"Bollocks you always have good ideas!"

"Lay off him Sirius he was helping me with my paper and didn't want me to be all by myself up here. Unlock SOME people he's a good friend." James said, immediately coming to Remus' defense.

"Fine, I'll just send back your expensive present." Sirius shot back and James had to admit defeat. Since James was already on Remus bed, once more they all piled onto it and soon the topic Remus had been so desperate to ignore was brought up again.

"That wolf was so cool though."

"Nah, I thought it was lame. Pretty sure Professor Blatvnik was lying about the whole bloody thing." Sirius retorted.

"Yeah maybe, but I swear it was staring right at me," James said thoughtfully. Remus flinched and was very glad Sirius, James, and Peter all habitually gave him more space than they gave each other by now. They didn't seem to notice, but he didn't think he could keep up this topic much longer without letting something slip.

"If only you could get Patricia to stare right at you." He teased lightly and was oh so glad when the topic changed. He convinced himself he only imagined Sirius' sharp gaze on him for a moment.

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty-Five: The Stolen Letter

….

Time passed and James' party planning became more concrete. It was going to be a loud and exhausting event and Remus was a little sad he wasn't going to be missing it since the full moon was five days prior. Of course, James would kill him if he didn't come so he figured it was probably for the best.

Things were pretty uneventful as far as classes and his friends, although Sirius still seemed to be treating him just a bit cooler than usual which was confusing. Remus also spent more time with Lily and Severus, who after much convincing had begrudgingly "forgiven" Remus if only so Lily would stop pestering him about it.

Then, of course, was the trips to the kitchen and trips to Honeydukes which always resulted in holding Sirius back from exploring more of Hogsmeade. There was also defense against the dark arts class where he seemed to get called on more than usual, and potions which was bearable now that James and Sirius took turns helping him, and lastly there was flying which Remus had come to dread.

Everyone else was thrilled when their old professor, who hardly let them do anything on a broom, took maternity leave and was replaced by a very young professor, whose eager smile was as dangerous as Sirius', and who let the class run free. What used to be a boring class on the mechanics of brooms, the history of quidditch, and any other topics their Professor had used to keep them on the ground rather than in the air, was now just flying.

"This is the beeeeest!" Shouted James, who true to his bragging, kept on demonstrating a real talent for flying. Sirius was nearly as good as him, and now that they could just fly around they spent the class showing off and trying to one-up each other. It wasn't until Sirius nearly fell from his broom that their new professor warned them to be careful.

But other than the difficulty of flying, which was a relatively small matter, Remus was feeling pretty great. His worries about Greyback being at Hogwarts now seemed silly and his worries about Professor Blatvnik hiding and mistreating some poor werewolf ended when Dumbledore had a talk with him and made him release Silverstream back into the forbidden forest.

Even when Remus' birthday came and went, he had no complaints, quite relieved none of his friends knew and only mildly disappointed when he got no letter from his father. He wasn't even worried about the full moon about two weeks away because he had gotten used to the shrieking shack, and while the thought people could hear him still repulsed him, he had finally relaxed in the knowledge that no one would somehow get in.

Things really seemed to be going fairly well until he actually did get a letter at breakfast. A great large barn owl swooping down and dropping a plain envelope in front of Remus. He stared at it not really thinking anything of it and attempted to hand it to Peter, sure there must have been a mistake. James stopped tearing into his own weekly letter from his parents and gaped.

"Remus it has your name on it." He pulled it back towards him, Peter had not even attempted to read it, just getting a letter of his own from his mom two days prior. Sirius also looked up from his letter from Regulus who had begun writing him again.

"Really? Who's it from?" He asked barely audible from a piece of toast in his mouth. Sirius had a habit of talking with food in his mouth, apparently a habit he developed just to annoy his parents. So they had all gotten quite good at deciphering what he meant even if all they really heard was refff whoem ish ferm.

"It doesn't say," Remus responded carefully opening the letter. He knew it was too much to expect his father to write, he'd be lucky if his father even let him stay at the house after the several letters that had been sent to him concerning Remus' comma and detentions. He read it through once, then once more feeling sick. He must have gone pale because they were all staring at him then before he could stop Sirius he reached over and snatched it from his hands.

"Sirius don't that's mine!" He shouted angrily but Sirius was already running out of the Great Hall followed quickly by James, and then Remus who wasn't about to let Sirius read that letter!

"Guys wait up." He heard Peter call shoving one last bite of eggs in his mouth before he too abandoned his breakfast. There were shouts of "Slow down" but none of the boys listened. Remus sprinted as fast as he could down the aisles almost catching up with Sirius as he burst out the Great Hall doors, James right on his heels.

"What does it say?" James called clearly thinking this was some kind of game, perhaps expecting it to be a love letter. But Remus knew that Sirius didn't take the letter because of that and that Sirius' line of thinking about it was no doubt much closer to the truth on what was written inside.

"Sirius please!" He begged sounding hysterical. James stopped abruptly just now realizing how upset Remus was. With James no longer blocking him from Sirius, Remus made a desperate leap and tackled him to the ground. They both fell hard the letter sliding across the floor.

"Ow Remus.."

"Give it back!"

"Sirius come on…"

"What's this?" Three boys froze, two on the ground in a mess of limbs as each tried to overtake the other in the fight towards the letter, and James in the process of trying to yank Sirius away no longer finding this funny. Peter choose that moment to catch up to them, and they all simultaneously stared in horror at Bellatrix holding the letter in her hands. Her heavy makeup covered eyelids lowered as she scanned the first sentence of the letter quickly then laughed.

"Look like you are in for it when you get home, little icky Sirius, filthy little blood traitor." She taunted and Remus felt sick, she thought it was about Sirius…. He begged her silently in his head not to read it, just not to read it out loud, but she seemed delighted to do just that.

"You are twelve now and you better start acting like it. Your consequences for your actions this year will be severe when you get home and will certainly include physical punishment. Your father has grown ill with worry. It sounds like you have made friends and have clearly forgotten our little talk before school. I will be sure to hammer the lesson into you when you return for the break. Your father doesn't want to see you and has agreed that I am more likely to impress upon you the reality of your situation. He told me to write to you happy birthday, but we both know that each year older you get is just more of a burden you place on my poor brother."

She paused sounding confused and Remus nearly forgot how to breathe. He could feel Sirius stiffen then he was scrabbling away from Remus, who had lost all energy, and strode over to his older cousin with a dark expression.

"Uncle Orion doesn't have any siblings though." She responded in a tone that was much too similar to her cousin, a tone that hinted she would figure out this puzzle.

"It's not to me." Sirius snarled ripping the letter out of her hand. Bellatrix seemed surprised then recovered her haughty expression and sneered.

"Well, it will be soon enough. Just watch your back, Sirius." She threatened darkly then walked away with a cruel laugh escaping from her lips. Despite the din of the Great Hall just through the door the area suddenly felt far too quiet to Remus.

"Remus….." James began sounding sad and worried.

"Just...give it back." He hissed through clenched teeth forcing himself to his feet, wavering badly.

He stared at the ground, the last thing he wanted to do was meet Sirius' eyes but held out his hand hoping he would just be given his letter back so he could go cry in private. He should have known better by now though.

Sirius gripped his hand tightly and pulled him into a hug. It was only because Remus could feel he was shaking slightly that he didn't immediately pull away.

"I think we need to call an official Floor 7 room 1 meeting." James echoed quietly. Remus heard a noise of agreement from Peter.

"We really need a better name for ourselves," Sirius said with a shaky laugh that sounded closer to a sob, and let go of Remus still holding his hand tight.

He was dragged, gently, but still dragged to their common room. James and Peter flanking Remus as if they either expected him to run or expected someone to attack him until they were safely through the fat lady's portrait. When they reached their room no one said anything for the longest time and Remus had never wished so badly for it to be a weekday in his entire life.

"So….I guess we missed your birthday?" Peter asked sounding disappointed. Remus was just glad the suffocating silence had finally been broken.

"Dammit and here I thought I'd be the second oldest of the group. Guess it makes sense with you being so mature and all." They were all standing close to him, Sirius still holding his hand tightly.

"What about me?" The boy asked in a poor attempt at his usual fake outrage. They were all trying too hard and it didn't feel right. It felt wrong and bad and hard to breathe.

"No, you don't count."

"Hey!" Sirius responded, a very poor attempt at a grin on his face.

"You don't. You're the most immature out of all of us."

"Please stop." He whispered and they all did. He could almost feel their gazes, full of care and worry piercing him through.

"Can we talk about the real issue then?" Sirius asked seriously, finally loosening his grip. But he still didn't let go, just interlaced his fingers in Remus' which made his heart clench.

"I don't ...suppose we could just ignore it?" He ventured sadly. He knew they'd say no which they all did really quickly, and also knew there wasn't any way out of it.

"I'll go first," Sirius said and Remus almost looked up in surprise, almost. His friend sounded determined but his voice was wobbly. Surely he didn't mean…..he wasn't really going to tell the others about himself, was he?

"What do you mean you'll go first?" James asked sounding a little annoyed. "You're the one who always wants to know about Remus the most and now you're trying to distract us."

"No. Just shut up Potter." Sirius snapped sounding close to tears, Remus felt him sway slightly against him.

"We should all sit down." He interjected quickly positive either he or Sirius was going to collapse if they kept standing before this conversation was over.

"Fine," James said still sounding irritated, but an edge of worry was now in his voice. They all piled on Remus' bed although he wasn't alone at the headboard this time, Sirius squeezed next to him tightly as if trying to both hide behind him and gain courage from contact with him.

"Bella thought the letter was for me."

"Yeah because she's a bloody insane person," James replied scathingly, his dislike for Bellatrix evident.

"No…..becuase…..um…." Remus squeezed Sirius' hand gently, never having more respect and admiration for his friend than he did in that moment.

"It's because my family bloody beats me sometimes ok?" Sirius replied in a tone that dared Peter and James to challenge him. There was a long silence.

"B…..badly?" Peter squeaked sounding close to tears himself.

"No Peter they beat me with a pillow what do you think?" Snapped Sirius angrily.

"Sirius lay off him. We're just ...trying to wrap our heads around this." James whispered sounding like he had when he was at Remus' bedside the first night he had been in a coma.

"Yeah…...yeah I know ...sorry Peter."

"And ...Remus…..you too?" Remus felt Sirius squeeze his hand gently and he nodded still not looking up, dangerously too close to tears to do so.

"So…...when...in about a month when we go home for two weeks…." James' voice broke and Remus was surprised he was the first one to start crying, he was sure it would be himself. Somehow hearing James' tears calmed Remus down so he wasn't in danger of shedding his own. He sat a bit straighter and forced himself to take a deep breath.

"It…..it's only two weeks."

"Two whole weeks!" Peter exclaimed sounding horrified, and he too was crying now that James was which made it ok to.

"Then you two will come to my house," James said composing himself quickly, actually sounding delighted at the idea.

"Or mine." Peter offered not wanting to be outdone.

"Look I'm going on a vacation to Spain for two weeks to visit some influential cousins. My mom might whack me over the head a few times if I do something dumb but it won't be any more than that." Sirius explained and Remus was shocked that out of all his friends the only one not yet crying was him. He sat up further and took them all in, their watery eyes directed at him with worry. He had never felt so loved in his life by so many people before.

"If they knew what you were though…," he thought to himself miserably. He quickly shook the thought away, not now, he couldn't think like that right now.

"I'll write and convince my dad to let me stay with him."

"Yeah, but what if you can't? Besides is your father any better? Remus, maybe we should tell someone." Sirius offered, sounding desperate.

"It won't do any good." He said firmly and they all gave him looks of varying degrees of disbelief.

"Remus…"

"Sirius you of all people should understand." He urged him quietly. Sirius scowled and looked away.

"Your family isn't a rich pureblood family with strong ties high up in the ministry." No, but I'm a werewolf he almost said. He could feel his frustration rising. Even if Dumbledore was kind enough to do something about it, which Remus currently doubted since he seemed mad at him, there was still the issue of what he could possibly do about it.

"My dad and my uncle are both friends with the head of defense in the ministry." He lied convincingly. James closed his eyes and pinched his nose in frustration. Peter suddenly looked scared as if Remus suddenly had the authority to sentence him to Azkaban. And Sirius…..and Sirius, Remus felt another pang, at his friend who was hunched over sobbing.

"What do we do?" Sirius asked in a high pitch voice that drew all eyes to him. That was the question, wasn't it? Even James, strong-minded always seeing the logic of things James, seemed to be at a loss.

"Come to my place," Peter repeated again. Remus gave him a sincere smile truly touched at their care, it wasn't necessary, but it was really nice.

"They won't let me."

"Remus, why don't they want you to have friends? What situation was your uncle referring to?" James asked seemingly clinging to the questions as if they might hold the key to preventing Remus from getting hurt. Remus was just glad he hadn't asked why his uncle said he was a burden to his father.

"My uncle doesn't like goofing off much ...the situation was just him telling me not to have friends. He thinks Hogwarts is for education only and that having friends will get in the way of my studies. When he sees how good I've done grade-wise he'll calm down. He's just..really strict." He lied easily and nearly started crying from relief when they all seemed to believe him, even Sirius.

"No wonder you were so freaked out about your grades that one week. It makes sense why you were such a nightmare ..." James responded thoughtfully. Remus nodded, that hadn't really been what he was so upset about, but it helped his case to agree, so he did.

"So ...when you go back for the break, in about a month…" Peter began uneasily and three pairs of wide eyes looked at him imploringly for the answer they wanted to hear, needed to hear.

"It will be fine because I have top marks." Remus forced a small smile on his face knowing if they all kept serious about this his friends would die out of worry. None of them could handle this, they were all just kids after all.

"I'm even beating you in history of magic and herbology James." He teased lightly. For a second it looked like James wasn't going to smile, like Remus' attempt to break the heavy atmosphere would fall flat, but then he cracked a grin.

"And Transfiguration though only by a hair," Sirius added quietly, a hesitant grin of his own.

"Don't forget...well it would also be defense against the dark arts if Professor Blatvnik didn't have it out for you. And your also really good at charms" Peter added wisely. Remus tried not to blush, he wasn't actually trying to brag about the classes he just wanted to cheer everyone up. James rolled his eyes.

"The first few are rubbish subjects anyways. Besides my competition is with the infuriating Lily Evans not any of my mates."

"That's only because you couldn't actually beat us." Sirius taunted, a shaky tone in his voice, but ultimately sounding relieved they had moved on to much more pleasant topics.

"Would too!'

"Would not." Remus joined in trying to hold back the tears. This was good, he assured himself, his friends wouldn't be worried about him. They wouldn't think he'd be in a lot of trouble for spring break, but it didn't change the fact that he would be.

"Well, the real challenge is Lily."

"Careful Potter almost sounds like you're complimenting her."

"Eww, no girls are gross!"

"Except for Patricia." Sirius teased in a sing-song voice looking mighty pleased with himself when James went red in response.

"She's different," James responded in a clipped tone like suddenly they were all much too young to understand the inner workings of an almost twelve-year-old mind.

"Ever notice how Patricia looks a lot like Lily, she could be her sister." Peter pointed out thoughtfully and James started gagging.

"Ew no! Lily is just a little eleven-year...er twelve-year-old snot and Patricia is a woman." He puffed out his chest proudly. "I'm just that mature." He explained seriously then went red as his three friends burst out into laughter at him.

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty-Six: Sneaky Sassy Slytherins

They continued talking, homework forgotten until it was time for lunch. After lunch, Remus convinced them he had to focus on his homework, a tense silence for a moment as his three friends thought they realized what a significance this held. They let him, with much complaining, go to the library to study with Lily. Only Remus didn't really want to see anyone so he went to the owlery, an almost guaranteed place to be alone at this time and day, to think and respond to his uncle.

But once he got up there he realized with a pang that the owlry wasn't empty, Lucius Malfoy was just finishing tying a letter to an owl's leg. He whipped around sharply as if expecting to get in trouble for what he was doing then narrowed his cold grey eyes at Remus.

"Well well well if it isn't a filthy little half breed, come to jump out of another window." Lucius drawled in an almost bored tone. Remus took a step back feeling very uneasy with the older Slytherin and bumped into Severus who looked worried for a second then his eyes hardened.

"There you are, Severus," Lucius responded with more warmth than Remus had ever heard in his voice.

"Should I escort Mr. Lupin back downstairs sir?" Severus asked with an almost reverence to his voice.

"Yes I believe that would be best, wouldn't want him sticking his large nose where it doesn't belong." Lucius sneered then Severus was dragging him back down the steps before Remus could, perhaps unwisely, point out anyone could use the owlery. He was quite done dealing with Slytherins today and frustrated by the turn of events. Events that didn't at all make sense to him because it had looked like Lucius was done sending his letter. How many letters could he possibly have to send?

"What are you thinking?" Severus hissed angrily nearly throwing Remus down the last step. "Stay away from Lucius or you'll wind up hurt." Remus was surprised to hear a hint of worry and perhaps guilt in Severus' voice besides annoyance.

"Severus, why do you hang out with him? Lily would be really worried about you if she knew." Remus dared to respond in a quiet whisper. He felt the need to point this out as everyone knew Lucius' views on blood status, especially on muggle borns like Lily. The sixth-year certainly made it very well known his views on any sort of "blood impurities" in the magic community.

It didn't make sense the friendship he had heard between the two, or perhaps a better word for it would be more like an apprentice and a master. But what on earth did Lucius have to teach Snape? Nothing good he was sure.

The older boys' expression grew very dark, all concern gone from his eyes now. He sneered at Remus in a Lucius like fashion that he felt very hurt by. He thought he had patched things up with Severus.

"You don't know anything Lupin if you knew what was to come….." Severus looked him up and down looking disgusted, "not that you'd be allowed to take part in the greatness, but you'd be wise to keep your head down. You're smart ...for a muggle-born." Remus almost pointed out he was half-blood but Severus' comment made him feel sick for another reason altogether.

"What about Lily?" He asked and felt relieved when Severus' eyes softened, looking gentle and even regretful at once.

"She's ...different. Look ...don't tell her about this. It's not…..you don't understand." He hurriedly explained true worry in his voice. For a second Remus wondered if he really should tell Lily but Severus looked so nervous that he knew couldn't bring himself too, not after causing the last fight between the two of them.

"I won't I just ...I'm worried about you Severus." For a second it looked like Severus was going to say something, he had a peculiar look in his eyes of surprise and sadness, but then Lucius shouted down to him and his eyes hardened once more.

"I'll talk to you later." Remus nodded stunned by the two sides of Severus he was beginning to understand existed. There was the side with Lily, the almost vulnerable boy who would do anything for her friendship, and then there was the side he seemed to have more often, the side that lied to impress his fellow Slytherins. At least Remus hoped it was lies. He didn't want to think about what it would mean if Severus was actually lying to Lily if his views on blood status truly began to turn into the same as his fellow Slytherins. No Remus didn't want to think about that at all.

…..

Sirius watched Remus closely throughout the day when he wasn't with Lily that was. But as far as he could tell the boy seemed to be telling the truth. There were occasional awkward moments now when grades or Sirius' family was brought up, but for the most part, it was ok. Things went back to normal, sort of. They tried to convince Remus to let them throw a party for him but he declined the offer. They basically had to shove the presents they got him down his throat and there was a hesitance about him, not quite as bad as him denying their friendship, but just a slight...off-ness about him that stressed Sirius out.

But they still went to their secret passages, or the kitchens, though they were all starting to itch to find another one. Sirius was delighted when he realized Remus was keeping a slight sketch of where the passages were, trying to determine if getting a whole layout of the school would somehow help them find others.

James and Peter both seemed interested in the idea and they were all given a part of the school to map before they realized that only Peter was actually good enough at drawing to really make it worth their while. This led to a bit of an argument as James wasn't used to being bad at things he tried to be good at, especially not to be beaten by Peter out of everyone. So they all dropped the matter, though it lingered in their minds.

They had James' party to plan anyways which Peter was very excited about. Sirius could sometimes force Remus to partake in preparing for the party, though he seemed to become more and more withdrawn as the month went on. It was like his friend was preparing himself for something bad and Sirius didn't like it one bit. He tried to corner Remus alone a few times to figure out if the boy had been lying about the whole grade thing. But Remus kept evading him, leaving Sirius to ponder on his friend's words that one night when he let slip "he thinks I'm someone else."

That didn't sound like it had anything to do with grades and when Sirius brought it up to James since there didn't seem to be any need to keep what he discovered about Remus secret anymore, he pointed out it probably did have to do with grades. That "someone else" referred to someone who didn't try at school, and while this seemed plausible it didn't seem right to Sirius.

"Come on Sirius now you're just torturing yourself over nothing." James pointed out causing Sirius to crumble up the piece of paper he'd been scrawling "someone else" over and over like it would make sense.

"Oi piss off Potter!" He grumbled feeling even more stressed as spring break loomed ever closer.

"You know Remus isn't the only one acting a little off Sirius." James pointed out, a slight edge to his voice. They hadn't talked about the night both Sirius and Remus confessed to their families being shit, but he knew that James was hurt Remus found out before him. He could glimpse the jealousy in James' eyes every time it was Sirius' turn to help Remus with potions. As if James thought the two of them were whispering more secrets to each other.

"I'm just stressed…"

"Because of Remus, we know we know you've mentioned it a hundred times." Grumbled James whacking Sirius gently on the back of the head.

"You've got to let it go, mate. Remus explained his situation and it makes sense, so there's no need to rack your brain for information we've already been given." Sirius huffed in defeat knowing James was right.

"Yeah I guess ...it just doesn't feel right. I mean...if he comes back after the break all banged up I'm gonna be pissed."

"If you come back banged up I'm also going to be bloody cross as hell." James pointed out with a look Sirius didn't like at all. He shifted in his seat uncomfortably.

"I already told you we don't have to worry about me until summer. It's Remus that's the bloody problem. Do you really think he's telling the truth?" Sirius demanded not wanting to talk about himself, no matter how many times James tried to subtly bring it up.

"I already told you it makes sense."

"James that's not what I asked. Do you believe him?" He pleaded and decided if James said he did he really would drop it.

"...no...I guess not really." James admitted looking away from Sirius looking uncomfortable. "But I'm not sure I believe you either. I wrote my parents and…."

"YOU TOLD!" Roared Sirius nearly leaping at James who knew him well enough to retreat back to his bed quickly, plenty of space between them now.

"Calm down will you! Not names! But my mum and dad want me to tell someone." James was looking at him now pleadingly. "They say the adults can do something about it Sirius, that they can help you and Remus!" Sirius was torn between screaming and crying, then saw the tears in James' eyes and started doing the later.

"I told you that it won't do any good. Just drop it."

"Then promise me you'll come over to my place for the summer. My parents already said any of my friends can stay as long as they want." James gave Sirius a sheepish grin wiping his eyes.
"We certainly have a lot of money to go around."

"...I'll ask over break...I'll be really good and maybe they'll let me." He promised though he didn't leave out much hope for this. Going to the Potter's sounded like a dream come true but he couldn't in a million years imagine his mother letting him even visit the house of a "blood-traitor" let alone stay the whole summer there.

"Can I stay?" Peter chimed in having been watching the whole thing nervously from his bed. Peter seemed unsure how to talk to Sirius and Remus anymore and it really pissed him off.

"Maybe Peter but won't you miss your family." James pointed out with a grin. "Besides I want to come to visit your house."

"But if Remus and Sirius are both there then I'll be all left out," Peter whined looking at James imploringly with his little beady eyes.

"Well, Remus might not even be there so shut your twitchy little mouth!" Sirius snapped regretting his outburst immediately, he knew it wasn't Peter's fault. He wouldn't want to be left out either if Remus and Peter were at James' place all summer, but it annoyed him to no end that he was missing the point about all of this.

"I was just saying…" Peter mumbled looking sullen.

"Sirius didn't mean it Peter he's just stressed about the spring break," James assured the sniveling boy kindly, giving Sirius an exasperated look.

"Why do you have to take it out on your mates though? You know we're all trying to help you." Sirius nodded still feeling particularly moody, considering Remus still hadn't returned to the dorm and it was almost curfew.

"But why is he so stressed if he said his family is going to ok during it?" Peter asked awkwardly, once more demonstrating his notion at not getting it at all! Sirius wanted to scream at Peter again but then the door opened and all his attention went to the ill-looking boy who walked into the dorm. He looked up at them as if he wasn't really seeing them, his amber eyes dull, but he gave them a weak smile that hurt Sirius' heart.

"Am I interrupting something important?"

"No mate we were just complaining about Professor Binns' essay on the oppression witches faced in medieval times." James covered easily and Remus must really not of been feeling good because that essay wasn't due for another week and he should know how little his friends cared about it.

"You look dreadful Remus you should get some sleep," Peter added glancing from Remus to Sirius and James looking at them questioningly.

"Yeah we've got a full day of classes tomorrow and astronomy class which will probably just be us staring at the stars or the moon or something." Sirius noticed Remus flinched but he chalked it up to the fact that the news about his coma was delivered while they were on the astronomy tower.

"It's the planets. Year two is the moon and year three is the stars." He explained quietly already shuffling along to his bed, looking like he might fall asleep where he stood. Sirius forced himself to scoff despite wondering why Remus sounded so upset about this, did he have something against astronomy?

"Of course you know what our syllabus will be for the next two years you swat."

"Course I do... it changes everything." He mumbled collapsing onto his bed. But before Sirius could ask what the bloody hell that meant he had already curled up, sounding like he was fast asleep.

"He didn't even take his trainers off," Peter whispered and Sirius got off his bed and tugged them off Remus' feet who really was already fast asleep. He chucked them over Remus' bedpost tying them up there because he knew it would annoy the boy in the morning. He stepped away from Remus' bed after drawing the curtains around them and looked at James and Peter, gesturing to their sleeping friend.

"As I said, the immediate issue right now is Remus. Can we at least agree on that?" Peter nodded and James sighed then nodded as well.

"You think we ought to consult Lily?" He asked and if Sirius didn't see his mouth move he wouldn't have believed the words actually came from him.

"What?"

"Bloody hell he's lost his bloody mind he has."

"Shut up you tossers. I just...well she spends a lot of time with Remus...perhaps she'd have an idea is all." Sirius rolled his eyes to show James what he thought of his "brilliant" idea and James shrugged letting it go.

They all sat on their respective beds in silence for a while longer before deciding to go to bed. But Sirius laid in the dark on his bed for a long while just listening to the soft breathing of Remus Lupin, reassuring himself over and over again that his friend would be ok.

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty-Seven: Becoming What One Hates

….

The next day it took both James and Sirius to get Remus through classes and by dinner, which he wasn't eating a single bite of, it was clear that he wasn't hearing a single thing any of them were saying.

"Remus Lupin is a real wanker. And his deepest desire is to snog Lily Evans." James teased waving his hand in front of the pale boys' face.

"I'm beginning to think that's your deepest desire." Sirius scoffed quite pleased when James' neck went a bit pink. Poor Remus seemed to just be trying not to pass out where he sat, his face nearly falling into the bowl of soup he'd only taken a bite of the whole time they sat there.

"Guys think we out to take him to the matron?" Peter asked for the third time that evening glancing at Remus with wide eyes.

"Mn no not time yet," Remus whispered with a pained expression which caused Sirius to slam his cutlery down, a bit too loud, wondering what the hell that meant. When Remus didn't even flinch at his nonverbal outburst he motioned to James to try to help Remus up as inconspicuous as possible. It was much harder than it should of been, considering despite being quite out of it the bloody stubborn fool seemed to be fighting them to stay.

"What's going on here you four?" Frank Longbottom asked coming over with a concerned Alice and Patricia on his heels. Sirius immediately felt protective of Remus and didn't want any of the three to know what was wrong with him, but James seemed to have a different idea.

"Hi, Frank. Remus isn't feeling well." Patricia looked alarmed then worried, but James had said this with such a matter of fact openness that Frank merely nodded thinking nothing of it. He went over to Remus hunching down some and placing a hand on his arm.

"Not feeling good huh? Come on then let's take you to Madam Pomfrey.: Remus looked like he was going to protest but at Frank's gentle tug he followed his lead and the two of them left the great hall Patricia stopping them when they tried to follow.

"Why can't we go? Alice is going!"

"That's because she's Franks girlfriend, besides more than four is a crown. Remus sure gets sick a lot huh?" Sirius glowered at her wanting to go along. James sighed and nodded.

"Yes, he sure does…" Patricia seemed a bit surprised that James didn't sound like a lovesick puppy and she nodded ruffling his hair.

"Cheer up. I'm sure he'll be feeling better in no time." She looked them all over as if making sure they weren't keeping something from her, which they were, and for a second Sirius considered telling her about Remus' uncle. I mean Patricia was quite a bit older than them, but he said nothing and she gave them a few more words of encouragement before going back to her half-eaten dinner.

As Sirius watched her leave he realized he did have an older student he was close to, someone he could trust, someone nearby. Someone who would probably know what to do considering she'd be a mother soon and that meant some sort of innate wisdom, or so he'd been told. He sat back down and leaned in, Peter and James following suit.

"I'm going to talk to Drommie. I mean ...I think she'll know what to do."

"Better than nothing I suppose." James sighed still looking upset and Peter nodded eagerly.

"Yeah, it's better than nothing." He echoed feeling hollow.

….

Remus didn't return that night, or the next day, or the day after that, or the day after that. It was two days before James' birthday and they were all beginning to worry he wasn't going to make it. It was also the Saturday that Sirius sought his cousin out deciding he really needed to talk to her.

"Shhh, Ted stop that!" He found her where he gambled she'd be. In that courtyard, where he had first seen her and Ted snogging. Where he had first found out he was going to be an uncle, well close enough to one, since if he considered any of his cousins his sister it was Drommie.

"Drommie can we talk?" He asked not even bothering to make it seem like he stumbled across them accidentally. Andromeda looked at his sad eyes and kissed Ted on the cheek whispering something to him before they both walked over.

"Alone." He muttered shooting Ted a dark look. Ted didn't seem at all surprised or bothered really instead he stuck his hand out with a wide friendly grin.

"I don't think we've been properly introduced. I'm Ted Tonk,s your cousin's boyfriend."

"I know." He muttered darkly.

"Sirius…" Drommie said in her warning tone. But he didn't want to behave, not in front of the idiot who would cost Drommie her family.

"I'm not shaking his hand. Not after what he did to you!" He shouted upset at himself for thinking this was a good idea. He ignored the look of shock then horror on Drommie's face and took off running out of the courtyard. Running to the lake as fast as he could, tears blurring his eyes. He heard Andromeda call his name but he didn't listen, didn't want to listen. It was Drommie that was supposed to be the one who would listen, who would make this all better because Sirius didn't know what to do about any of it and he hated it.

"Sirius Orion Black!" She shouted now almost caught up to him. He stopped at the water's edge wishing he had some food to throw to the giant squid.

"We need to talk." He heard Drommie say softly and seriously from behind him. He shrugged his shoulders a bit feeling moody, even though he knew she was right.

"You didn't tell me." He muttered trying to keep the childish hurt out of his voice and failing.

"I didn't tell anyone Sirius but I was going to tell you." She put a hand on his shoulder which he quickly shrugged off, he wouldn't be consoled so easily. He heard the frown in her voice as she continued clearly worried.

"Which begs the question of how you found out." She put a hand on his shoulder again but this time it was firmer and she used her hold to spin him to face her, eyes narrowed in a way that Sirius was accustomed to meaning he was in trouble with her. Despite being mad at her himself he folded quickly unable to stand the mild look of anger, but even worse disappointment in his dear cousin's eyes.

"It was an accident. Remus and I were in the courtyard I found you in one night you were talking about it…" Drommie gave him a weird look but seemed to calm down, the disappointment had gone as soon as she could tell he wasn't lying.

"What were you two doing? Surely you weren't snogging were you?" Sirius felt his face get hot and quickly pushed away from the slight fascination he felt. A mere second and he convinced himself it was because he was sort of becoming curious about that stuff, now that he was twelve. But if he was going to snog anyone it would be a respectable pureblood female to produce heirs with so that his mother wouldn't disown him completely from the family. He wouldn't even consider snogging one of his mates!

"Ew! Gross Drommie no we were just talking!" Drommie looked at him a bit skeptical then shook her head.

"I suppose you being in the kissing courtyard was a mere coincidence then. You didn't tell anyone did you, either of you?" Sirius shifted guilty and her stern look was upon him once more.

"Only James and Peter but they won't tell anyone they're my good mates." He explained having utter faith in them to keep this secret. Drommie gave him an exasperated look then sighed heavily. Excitement bubbled up in Sirius now that his cousin knew he knew and gave her a grin and a quick hug.

"Congratulations! I'm going to be the best uncle there ever was!" His outburst made her chuckle slightly but then her expression grew sad and serious, and Sirius knew exactly why. It was the same reason that almost more than being happy for her, he was scared. It was the same reason why he couldn't feel pride and actually felt more than a bit of shame he'd never admit to.

"Sirius you know what this means right? Ted isn't "good enough" for our family."

"You could always…" He began but knew that wasn't an answer at the disgusted look Drommie gave him.

"I would choose Ted over them always!" She saw Sirius flinch and her gaze softened.

"But that doesn't include you, Sirius. I want you to be apart of my life, of this baby's life. But I'm not going to put you in that position because it's not fair to you." Her voice was sweet and soft and it felt like a knife through Sirius' heart.

"No! I want to be apart of your life. I'll even be nice to Ted. Please, Drommie oh please don't leave me when you leave them." He was quite proud of himself for not crying, even though he felt really close to doing so.

"Sirius I can't ...not with how your mother treats you. Not with how angry they are you're in Gryffindor already."

"I don't care!" He shouted and now Drommie was crying slightly, quickly wiping the evidence of tears away with her sleeve in a much more elegant fashion than Sirius ever could.

"They'd beat you so badly! You'd end up in St. Mungo's again, or down in the basement." He flinched at that and she pulled him into a hug, this time a long one so that he could bury his head into her chest and cry privately.

"Please." His voice broke, he couldn't lose Drommie he just couldn't. She was one out of only two, sometimes three if he counted Regulus, which made his family bearable. Without her….he wasn't sure how he'd survive family functions, let alone day to day life in that grisly manor.

"Look ...I'll send you pictures and letters while you're at Hogwarts and I promise as soon as you are away from the family you can come to visit. But I know they will react badly to this and I don't want you getting hurt more than you already do."

"They won't find out!"

"Sirius…."

"Please!" He begged shamelessly gripping her hands in his, eyes widening in earnest. He could tell he was wearing her down, that he was winning, and it relaxed him some.

"I'll…..I'll think about...about it." Drommie relented carefully.

"When are you leaving?" Sirius asked quietly letting go of her hands, surprised when Drommie took one of his hands, interlacing their fingers tightly.

"Soon as I get my part of the inheritance." She said honestly swinging Sirius' arm like she used to do when they were little, he wouldn't be surprised if she broke out into the little nursery rhyme she used to sing him when he would cry to her. They'd walk around his aunt's grounds so that one of the nannies didn't see and report Sirius' shameful weakness back to his mother.

"I'm done crying." He assured her in a similar fashion to how he would've back then, both his way of saying thanks and that the coast was clear for them to return. Drommie gave him a small smile.

"Still let's stay like this. I don't know how much time we have left." Something about her tone made Sirius stop dead in their walk around the lake.

"Drommie….when are you leaving?"

"Over break." She whispered not meeting his eyes. Sirius pulled away from her feeling betrayed.

"Aren't you going to finish Hogwarts?" He hollered even though this was only the beginning of the many problems he saw with this. Drommie rubbed the back of her neck and sighed.

"Yes of course. But I can't bear it anymore Sirius. I'll announce everything at the end of spring break that way when I graduate I don't have to go back there. Unless...unless of course, they accept me, Ted, and the baby." There was a gleam of hope, ridiculous unearned hope in her eyes that hurt Sirius' chest. He looked away from her.

"They never well." He said quietly finding it kinder to break her heart now rather than let the hope continue to grow over the next few weeks. He certainly was aware of how easy it was to hope their family would be better and to have that hope crushed painfully. She sighed straightening her posture.

"I know." She responded coolly and Sirius felt both relieved and bad that the faint glimmer of hope in her eyes was gone.

"Where will you stay? After Hogwarts?"

"Ted's parents. They already know and are supportive. They are going to help us get married as soon as Hogwarts is done. That way the baby will be born into a proper loving family." Her tone had softened and she truly seemed happy about her prospective future. Sirius knew he should give in and just be happy for her but he felt a lot of worries about it all which made it impossible just to be supportive.

"When is the baby due?"

"Early September."

"Can this Ted guy provide for you? I mean ...you won't just be living off the money you nicked from grandpa?" Drommie colored slightly and put her hands on her hips.

"Now see here Sirius Orion Black, Ted is a good man who will provide for us but I'm not exactly helpless either. And the money I OBTAINED was mine, to begin with, the money I convinced grandpa was going to be partly spent on a business prospect I ran by him. That I'd run my own patisserie." Sirius gaped at her finding it impossible that their strict grandfather gave Drommie her money over such a stupid proposal.

"He bought that?"

"With my mother's persuasion yes." She gave him a sly smile that didn't reach her eyes. "I may have agreed to actually meet some marriage proposals. But mother got grandfather to see the wisdom in the idea. Afterall a lady has to have her proper hobbies and little tea and baked good shops seemed to qualify." Sirius wasn't sure whether to feel horrified that Drommie had lied so successfully or impressed that she had pulled off what very few Blacks had done, getting their inheritance before getting married. He found himself smiling and shaking his head and Drommie smirked and shrugged her shoulders, though Sirius could tell she was upset about having to do so, more than she would ever let on.

They continued their walk around the lake discussing possible baby names, and what sort of pastries Drommie would make for her pretend shop, and even what sort of terrible dates her mother had set her upon. By the time they had made a whole lap around the lake, the sun just beginning to set, Sirius had forgotten all about why he had come to talk to her in the first place.

"Well, I should probably get back to Ted. It was good getting to talk to you Sirius. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. Just please don't tell anyone else." Sirius reassured her he wouldn't for the hundredth time that day. She gave him a brief hug and made to leave but Sirius grabbed her arm tightly, the real reason for all of this coming back to him like he'd been hit with a quaffle.

"Drommie wait. I…..I have something to ask you."

"Sirius I told you I'd think about it." She sighed misunderstanding the sudden hesitance and sadness on his face.

"No not that. Listen ...one of my mates…...he…..well his family situation is quite a bit like mine minus the dementor….."

"You mean he gets beat when he acts up or causes trouble?" Sirius flinched at her rather neutral tone about it, he could basically hear her saying "then he should behave better," as she had said to him in the past so many times. But Remus was different, Sirius often deserved the beatings he got because he had ultimately done something wrong or stupid. But Remus, he really doubted that his friend was the kind of kid to cause trouble at home, he didn't deserve the treatment he got, not one bit.

"NO, it's different. Drommie he does nothing wrong. He gets really good grades but if he messes up his grades even a bit they get really mad at him. He recently told us all and we don't know what to do?"

"Sirius if he gets good grades he should be fine. Pureblood families often put such pressure on their children. Perhaps James should spend less time goofing off with you if he's going to get whacked for low marks."

"No that's not ...I mean….just,...can't I help him somehow? Should we tell someone?" Drommie's eyes narrowed and she lashed out gripping Sirius' arm hard and pulling him towards her.

"Did you tell anyone Sirius?"

"What? No...I mean only my mates but…." He was surprised at the anger in Drommie's eyes and she shook him a little looking stressed.

"You better hope they don't tell anyone. You know that won't do any good and you'd end up in a lot of trouble. A Black doesn't air their dirty laundry, our family is too good for that." Sirius bit back the sorrow rising in him, he thought Drommie would be sympathetic. She had always seemed to be supportive of him, only telling him to shape up for his own good. Not only did she see anything wrong with it, but she was also mad at him for saying something! The disappointment in him churned and churned inside him and soured into cold bitter anger.

He yanked away from her, his eyes just seconds before filled with tears, now hardened in anger.

"You mean MY family. They aren't yours, not anymore. You aren't really a Black anymore you threw that away for your mudblood baby daddy" His harsh words did the trick and seemed to hurt Drommie almost as much as she had hurt him. She raised her hand her eyes flashing, looking more like her mother than Sirius ever saw her. He was sure she was going to slap him, was entirely ready for it, expected it really. But her hand which lashed out towards his face stopped mid-swing. She gave him a look of utter betrayal which hurt more than a slap would, and turned and stalked away.

Sirius watched her go realizing with a heavy heart they had both acted more like their parents than they ever had before. He felt gross and contaminated and jumped into the lake screaming obscenities into the water until he finally calmed down and felt the influence of his family seep away from him, sinking into the depths of the lake.

…...

It took him a long time to trudge across the ground back into the castle. He didn't think anything could cheer him up but that was before he found Remus sitting on his bed reassuring Peter and James over and over that his dad didn't hurt him when he went to see his mom. Sirius didn't think, merely leaped onto Remus' bed hugging him tightly.

"You should have told us you were leaving to see her!"

"Would you have let me? Sirius, you're soaked, what happened?" He let Remus go realizing he was indeed still very wet, and now so was Remus looking at him with a mix of irritation and concern. Sirius grinned and shook himself like a dog all over Remus and his bed.

"That's what you get for leaving!" He said smugly, James and Peter laughing as they walked over to join them, staying on Sirius' bed though which was dry. Remus was trying to look stern but Sirius was pleased to see his lips twitch in amusement.

"Did you just decide to go swimming in the lake?" He asked incredulously. James gave Sirius a confused look clearly wanting to ask how his talk with Drommie went, but a subtle head shake from Sirius kept him quiet.

"Actually yes. You should try it sometime it really increases one's ability to focus on homework."

"In that case Sirius you might want to go swimming a lot more." James teased and Sirius stuck up one finger to show him what he thought of that comment, a signal that wasn't in their secret language so even Peter understood.

"You can't be rude to me Black it's almost my birthday."

"Correction Potter I'll only be the most respectable gentleman on your birthday, and not a single day more." James laughed and Remus, who still seemed pretty pale and tired stifled a laugh.

"Sirius I doubt you could even pull off a day." Sirius stuck a tongue out at him but laughed along with the others, he was so glad Remus was back safely, so glad indeed.

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty-Eight: The Snitch

James' birthday was on the 27th, a Monday. The plan was on the 26th, a Sunday, and James had no idea. It was a good thing Remus returned when he did because they all had their roles to play. Sirius had asked Remus after the other's had fallen asleep if he was ok with a big celebration. He could tell Remus wanted to say no but he really was a good friend and he nodded and said he'd come through tomorrow morning without fail.

So when Sirius woke the next morning to find both Remus and Peter gone he knew the plan was officially in motion. Their plan truly was brilliant, the party that would follow would be downright legendary, thanks a great deal to Remus' influence with older students like Patricia, and Sirius' personal pull with the Quidditch team who knew both him and James would be star players next year.

Step one was simply making sure James slept in which wasn't at all difficult. In fact, it took Sirius blasting his Beatles music at top volume to wake up the berk.

"Ugh come off it Black it's the day before my birthday I need my beauty sleep." James groaned trying to pull the blanket back over his head. Sirius could not let that happen, he wasn't sure how long the whole of the Gryffindor house would wait for them. So he did the only reasonable thing he could think of.

"OUCH…..ouch Sirius get off me! Blimey, you're heavy!"

"Yeah well, you're going to need a lot more than a few more hours of beauty sleep to be beautiful." The lump underneath him that was James moved in protest but didn't laugh or make another snarky comment. Sirius was beginning to feel worried if James was sick all the intensive planning would go to waste!

"Come on mate what's up?" He asked sliding off his friend and giving him a gentle shake. He was surprised when James poked his head out from under the blankets, his hair so messy he normally would have laughed at him, if it wasn't for the tears in his friends' eyes.

"What's wrong?" He asked concerned. James regarded Sirius, his hazel eyes looking angry for an instant.

"You're gonna laugh. You aren't going to get it at all and you're going to laugh." He huffed sounding more like whiny Peter than himself. Sirius' concern grew though he also felt a little irritated James was ruining his plans.

"I won't laugh. I solemnly swear I won't laugh!" James regarded him once more then sighed and pulled the blanket over his unruly black hair, looking like he had on some sort of granny shawl, but once more Sirius did not laugh.

"Fine. Well ...it's just...my first birthday without my family here…" He muttered his cheeks going slightly pink. Sirius didn't laugh but he didn't get it, not in the slightest. His best birthday was this year, precisely because of the absence of his family, and his mates actually being around. But James really seemed upset about it and Sirius remembered how homesick he seemed at first mentioning his parents every day, just about, with a sort of longing in his eyes. However he also knew James' loved it at Hogwarts and loved his mates, and he highly suspected the best way to cheer him up was simply to remind him of that fact.

"Don't sulk about that. Listen I know something that will cheer you up. Come on!" James seemed a little put-out, though Sirius couldn't understand why. But by the time he realized Sirius was pulling him away from the Great Hall where breakfast was just wrapping up James seemed to recover some, his curiosity getting the best of him.

"Where are you taking me, Black?" He asked torn between irritation and intrigue. Sirius stopped at the door leading outside and straightened his friend's cloak attempting to smooth his hair which made James laugh and duck away.

"Look mate I don't need you acting all motherly to cheer me up. It's not that big of a deal."

"Oh shut up you moron and just follow me." He chastised fondly, grabbing James' elbow and tugging him along. There was a long silence, James' patience wearing thinner and thinner.

"Sirius if this is just some sort of…" James stopped his complaint as Sirius shoved him into the Quidditch field over half of the Gryffindor house yelling "Happy Birthday!"

Sirius was the best friend ever, well Remus and Peter too, but mostly Sirius as the whole having a party on the Quidditch pitch was his bloody brilliant idea. An idea James loved wholeheartedly. They had cake and he opened his presents, Sirius having helped Remus pick something out besides a bloody book and paying for it for him. Peter whisked away from the presents James received that weren't altogether allowed too much laughter and a few dirty looks from Kingsley and Lily who looked like they wanted to quickly collect the joke products. Hence Peter hiding them so that James wouldn't have his presents nicked by people who were stuck up.

Then they played, all sorts of flying games and dares. The Quidditch team held scrimmages and let James and a few other first years, Sirius included, participate who could actually keep up. It was a wonderful time and James' smile widened as he earned another goal for the gold team to the mock boos from the maroon team.

"Blimey, I reckon we stand a chance next year with him!" Someone from the crowd shouted and James' chest puffed proudly. By the time lunch came around they were all starving and the group of sweaty Gryffindors all ate six to seven sandwiches courtesy of the house-elves. Even Remus who had also been flying around and seemed to be having a surprisingly good time ate some.

It made Sirius wish that they had actually thrown a party for him but Peter assured him that next year they would. He also made some comments about, how unfair it was his birthday was over the summer, but Sirius ignored him, instead, rushing over to the man of the hour and giving James a big hug.

"Am I the best friend ever or what?"

"Hahaha, the best the best! You really are, now get off me, you old oaf." He laughed, all homesickness blown far away from James' mind.

"How did you manage such a thing anyway? I can't imagine Professor McGonnagal is happy."

"Oh, we let the older students handle them." Sirius laughed and with perfect timing, Patricia came over holding up her glass to cheer with James. He followed suit grinning so much he nearly spilled his drink as he took a sip.

"So the older students got permission?"

"Well, I wouldn't say "permission" per se. But Kingsley looked through the rules and nowhere does it say that nearly the whole of Gryffindor house couldn't book the Quidditch pitch as long as the whole team agreed, and of course, this special 'practice' was mandatory for the team so they all had no choice but to agree." James beamed and hugged her, then ran off to go thank Kingsley.

"Sirius our little friend is fading away again," Patricia muttered trying to pass her job off to him, a job Remus didn't know about. A job that consisted of Lily, Sirius, Dorcas, and Peter to tag team and make sure Remus didn't leave the party. There was no way any of them were about to let that happen. Sirius was terrified he'd sneak off, a very Remus thing to do, and something he had already tried several times despite admitting to having fun.

If he snuck out while the majority of their house was here Sirius was more than a little afraid something bad would happen again, a mindset shared by Remus' other friends as well. Of course, it proved no easy task as their friend kept retreating to the bleachers to simply watch from afar, seemingly content. But in too perfect of a place to slip away if he decided to.

That's where he currently was again, wearing an expression of concern as his eyes looked far off, not seeming to realize there were two people staring at him.

"I'll go talk to him." He sighed grinning as Kingsley turned James around and gave him a shove in the opposite direction so he could go back to talking to the Quidditch' seeker privately. James stumbled a little grinning bashfully as three third years girls giggled at him. Lily Evans who was talking to Marlene said something that made James blush and rush over to Peter who was failing at blowing up some balloons.

Realizing everyone was having fun and hanging out with people besides Remus he went over to his friend sitting down.

"This was your doing," Remus replied curtly sounding a bit cross to Sirius' surprise.

"The party? Yeah, but you know you think it's brilliant."

"No not the party, having me tailed." Sirius should have realized Remus would figure it out but he forced a confused look on his face, feigning innocence until he no longer could. Remus didn't have any proof after all.

"Don't look at me like that you know exactly what I'm talking about." He sighed giving Sirius one of the weary yet begrudgingly amused looks that he was so familiar with receiving.

"Isn't it possible that your friends just want to spend time with you?"

"Not when said friends look panicked every time I start heading towards the exit." He gave Sirius a rather wicked looking grin that Sirius wished he gave more often.

"I tested it out multiple times. I must say Peter rushing after me shouting not to take another step since my shoes were tied together really gave it away." Sirius made a face wishing he hadn't included Peter now, but at least Remus seemed amused.

"You could of just talked to me you know." He suggested softly and it was Sirius' turn to grin wickedly.

"I would mate but that sure doesn't seem to go over too well!" Remus frowned looking away from Sirius and he realized with a pang of guilt, once more, he had gone too far.

"I was only joking."

"But you weren't."

"But I was!"

"Then why didn't you just ask me not to leave?" Now Sirius was starting to get a bit frustrated. It's not like he had done anything wrong in not trusting Remus not to leave, he shouldn't be made to feel bad because of it.

"Would you have?" He asked sharply his anger disappearing immediately as Remus flinched slightly and looked at him his honey-colored eyes serious, and filled with determination.

"Yes. For James, I would have. Especially if you explained it was because you were worried I'd get hurt again."

"You didn't figure all that out on your own did you?"

"Peter explained it to once I confronted him about his lousy excuse."

"I knew I shouldn't have trusted him!" He shouted, more than a little upset Peter had snitched to Remus.

"It's not his fault. I'm glad he was honest with me." Remus scolded crossly. Sirius sighed heavily, realizing begrudgingly Remus was right, he really should have just talked to him. But he still felt frustrated because it's not like he hadn't tried to in the past.

"It's not like you're honest with me." He muttered instead of simply apologizing because of his dumb pride instilled in him as a Black. No, instead of apologizing, he had to make it worse like he always seemed to, at least with Remus. His friend quickly looked away clutching one of the novels Sirius had given to him tighter. A heavy silence stretched between them getting worse and worse and Remus had just opened his mouth, most likely to apologize when a shout came from down the field.

"Quick someone catch it!" Sirius didn't see what "it" was but he had a pretty good idea based on the way everyone was running about and grabbing at something seemingly invisible.

"We should go help," Remus said quietly walking away despite not knowing what it was exactly that needed help. Sirius watched him go and muttered curses under his breath, most aimed at himself.

He never considered himself the type to beat himself up, not counting getting in trouble with his family because that was his fault. But that was just another way Remus had changed him. He rather hated the taste of guilt that he kept getting doses of because of Remus, a small part of him kept wondering why he tried so hard.

But as he walked down towards the crowd of laughing Gryffindor's all trying to get the escaped snitch, a prize now being initiated, he knew he knew exactly why. Because every time he tried not to care so much about Remus, he kept picturing his friend's wide amber eyes filled with delight a sincere smile on his face that seemed to warm Sirius' heart in a way none of his other friends could. Only because it was much rarer than his other friends' smiles he assured himself.

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty-Nine: A Prize for the Winner and a Curse for the Loser

Remus still felt really hurt by Sirius' action, though he wasn't sure he knew why he felt quite so hurt. It's not like Sirius' actions didn't make sense, not like he particularly blamed him. Still, something about Sirius not trusting him, which again made sense, bothered Remus in a way it hadn't before. He felt really scared by how much closer all his friends had gotten to him.

It was because they knew, he realized, and that was why what Sirius had done had bothered him so much! Because if Sirius just assumed he was acting in Remus' best interests by doing something like this, how many more times of seeing Remus hurt would he take before he assumed he was acting in Remus' best interest again and tell someone.

He knew it was silly, that both things were entirely different but ever since Peter and James had found out about both his past and Sirius' he had grown increasingly worried. Because he would keep seeming hurt and ill, not because he was being beaten every time he "went home every month", like his friends currently thought, but because of his transformations. Not only was he worried they'd tell because of this but he also felt terrible because of how much he was worrying them.

He had never considered more seriously telling them the whole truth about him than he had been these past few weeks. Wouldn't it be easier for them to hate him rather than keep worrying about him? Wouldn't it be better for them not to be driven sick with worry like he had done to his mom? What if he ended up killing them too! Tears filled his eyes and the field swam in his vision before him. He could hear the laughter as the Gryffindor students all kept trying to catch what he realized after a few minutes in was a snitch.

An older year bumped into him apologizing immediately and he quickly wound his way around the chaos as skillfully as he could without being able to see much through the tears clouding his eyes. He managed to reach the stands again, this time the ones on the opposite side of the field.

He hardly noticed the dark green banner labeling it as the Slytherin section as he ducked inside planning to take the stairs leading up behind the stand which would keep him hidden from the crowd below. He realized this might be causing Sirius and his friends more grief but he rationalized it would take a while for them to notice he was gone with everyone trying to catch the snitch, especially with the reward of some mystery prize promised by one of the older students.

Remus fantasized rushing back outside, simply enjoying the moment, catching the snitch, and receiving a big pile of Honeyduke's chocolates as a reward. It was so tempting he really was going to walk back outside but the tears kept falling down his cheeks, helped along by the fact that spring break was just around the corner.

He had been doing a good job of pretending not to care about going home when he was with his friends, much like Sirius was doing a good job at the same thing. But he was getting more worried by the day. He honestly didn't know what his uncle had in store for him, to put him in his place, and he didn't want to find out.

"Ouch careful Severus you nearly stepped on my foot."

"It's hard to see in these hoods."

"Yes well, do you WANT to get in trouble?" Remus froze the worry building into a panic, now sinking into irritation. Slytherins. Why couldn't they leave things alone? Surely they weren't planning to ruin James' party? But as much as he knew Sev tolerated him, he knew he loathed James.

He quickly wiped his eyes knowing he had to stop Severus before he did something stupid and caused Lily to get mad at him again. He was about to call out to Severus not particularly intimidated by either him or the other first-year Slytherin boy whose name he couldn't recall. But before he could a third voice joined in and he felt himself go cold, a deep fear rising in him again although he wasn't altogether sure why. Maybe his fear was simply because a first-year was one thing but taking on the sixth year by himself was another thing altogether.

"Will you two both shut up or us as well as the others will be in trouble." Others? Remus took a deep breath and tiptoed forward keeping himself close to the massive support that would keep him hidden. He finally caught a glimpse of six, six Slytherins climbing the stairs of the tower to the top of the stands. Six! Remus turned around ready to run out onto the field to at least warn everyone but found himself in the shadow of a very large Slytherin, Vance Moore, a six-year with nearly the build of a professional sumo wrestler.

He dodged quickly as thick muscled arms reached out for him, and scrambled out of the way of the hulking boy.

"Lucius." He called in his deep naturally booming voice.

"Oh do let me. I quite like playing with this little mouse." He also knew that voice and it brought even more fear into him than Lucius. Bellatrix, a young woman who should have been graduated, a young woman who had made his school year far more difficult with her presence than it was supposed to be.

Suddenly, hardly without thinking he whipped out his wand. But he was to slow, a twelve-year-old again a twenty-year-old was hardly fair.

"Exp...

"Dolor Fluctus." Remus's knees wobbled a bit at the pain that suddenly hit him but he was honestly surprised by how little it bothered him, expecting something worse from her.

"Expelliarmus!" He shouted and Bellatrix looked surprised then livid as her wand flew out of her hand toward his. He caught it truly surprised it worked so well. She let out a snarl and Remus had enough sense to shout loudly for help, but before he could he was rendered unable to by a Silencio spell cast by Vance.

"MMMMMMM" He felt himself seize in fear as Vance's strong arms locked his small ones behind his back and he forced him to his knees. He never should have left, he should have run back immediately. But he didn't think, never would have thought in a million years this many Slytherins would come just to take down James' party.

"Why is it always this little snoop? Don't you learn your lesson boy." Lucius drawled, now down on the ground level regarding Remus with disdain.

"It's like he's asking to be killed."

"OOOOOO That spell should have sent him crumbling. Then we also know he broke through a body bind. It makes me really really want to see my traitorous cousin's friend writhe on the ground in agony~."

"Dumbledore would expel you. He's not worth it." Severus cut in nervously and Remus watched as Bellatrix slapped him across the face with as much viciousness as Remus suspected Sirius' mom slapped him. Severus stumbled back and ducked his head but not before shooting Remus an irritated and scared look. Luckily he wasn't the only one that thought Bellatrix was taking things too far.

"Severus is right the filthy little mudblood isn't worth it." Remus had been silencio'd enough to know it would wear out, as long as the Slytherins could be distracted by themselves long enough to make it work.

"Well, we may already be, since he'll undoubtedly tell. I say we have a little fun and try out the unforgivables before we go. The Dark Lord will protect us after all." Since Remus was too afraid to look at the older students he kept his eyes on Severus who looked uncomfortable, and now very scared.

"He won't tell. He didn't tell about last time." Severus cut in again, his voice sounding remarkably like Lucius as he took on an uncaring drawl. Bellatrix turned her eyes on him then sneered.

"That's right he didn't. You won't tell will you Remus?" He looked up at Lucius and shook his head quickly, he would like to get out of this with as little pain as possible.

Bellatrix's eyes suddenly filled with delight, she looked at Remus as if he was a freshly wrapped present she now knew the contents of.

"Oh, now I see! That letter was about you wasn't it!" Bellatrix grabbed his chin, her manicured nails digging sharply into his skin, forcing him to meet her cruel amused eyes. He knew it was dumb but he just kept thinking about her torturing Sirius, who admitted she used crucio on him once, which gave him the strength to glare back at her.

"Your uncle and daddy beat you don't they icky whittle Remus!" She cooed mockingly, sounding utterly delighted by the realization.

"Bellatrix if we don't hurry we'll miss our window. Or someone will come looking for him." Narcissa, the sixth and last Slytherin, pointed out. Her tone that of someone used to calming down her eccentric sister.

"Silence Sissy! This boy is the mudblood our cousin associates with. Doesn't that anger you? Who does he think he is hanging out with a Black!" She slapped him across his face and she seemed to expect him to be afraid, but he wasn't, not of her, he'd face worse much worse.

"Come on just hex him or beat him up and leave him." Narcissa continued sounding nervous.

"Let's just do what we came here to do." Lucius urged his voice both commanding and unsure at the same time. Bellatrix finally looked away from Remus to shoot Lucius what must have been a dirty look.

"Do you think the Dark Lord would stand for this? Do you think he'd let this mudblood look at me with such disdain? That he'd stand there while he took my wand!" Oh, so that's what she was so pissed about. Would she feel better or worse knowing it was most likely a fluke? Knowing that Remus had read about the spell but never practiced it.

"No, he wouldn't. But we are at Hogwarts right now Bella. And you were the one who told me the Dark Lord honors the importance of time and place." Narcissa pointed out sharply, seemingly the only one who could get away with speaking in such a manner to her sister.

"Hm fine." She turned back to Remus looking a little less crazed but still considerably pissed and leaned close to him whispering angrily.

"You better watch yourself little mudblood the walls of Hogwarts won't always be there to protect you." He wanted to point out that he wasn't a mudblood and that her breath stunk, but he still couldn't speak, and he wouldn't be that stupid to actually say that to her anyway. Though he had to admit it was tempting.

"MoraStimulusa!" She shouted and Remus suddenly felt stinging, as if a bee had stung him over and over, all along his arms. He winced but that must not have been the level of pain she wanted to see because he heard her whisper something to Vance. As the five Slytherins left Vance shoved Remus to the ground and began kicking him, hard, really hard.

He was used to getting hit and beat, but Vance was stronger than any of his other attackers had ever been and he found himself whimpering after only ten well-aimed kicks.

"You really do have a high pain tolerance you filthy mudblood. Well, perhaps you'll enjoy watching your fellow blood traitors and mudblood Gryffidor's get hurt." He laughed sounding positively gleeful at getting the Gryffindor's back. Remus had tried to warn James and Sirius about the Slytherins but they wouldn't listen and just kept on pranking them, and now this was the result.

"SLYTH...MMMRPH….." Vance's large hand clamped tightly around his mouth cutting off his second attempt to shout a warning and the large boy dragged him to the edge of the stands. There the tarp concealed them from the bright field where only a few people were still trying to get the snitch now, and it was peeled back just enough Remus could see.

He struggled against Vance with everything he could but he was thrown to the ground and sat on, the big Slytherin pinning his arms with one hand and muting him with the other. He could feel tears prick his eyes, he didn't want any of them getting hurt, especially Sirius who he had a feeling would be specifically targeted.

"OHHHHHHHH!" He thought for a second the shouts were of pain and in his mind, he could vividly see Sirius writhing on the ground as Bellatrix sneered down at him as she had with Remus. But instead, he realized the shouts were of excitement, that someone had caught the snitch.

…..

Sirius couldn't find Remus, forget the stupid snitch the others had become preoccupied with, he just wanted to find his dumb friend. He was getting really worried when a shout distracted him. Someone had finally caught the bloody thing maybe the others would help him look now, instead of saying Remus is probably just hiding and reading a book.

"James gets to be kissed by the winner." Shouted an older Gryffindor student, sounding a lot like Fabian Prewett, who rumor had it was better at pranks than anyone which is how he never got caught. Now Sirius didn't mean to but the thought of James getting kissed by any of the contestants sounded like a good time. There were shouts and laughter and whoever won seemed to be trying to escape, their protests unable to be heard through the roar of the crowd. Personally he was hoping the winner was Patricia since it would be hilarious to see James go all red, he might even run away rather than face her.

But no it was just stupid Lily Evans, this wouldn't be fun at all. James and Lily both didn't like each other. Although it was a little amusing to see Lily bicker with her roommates clearly not pleased.

"Absolutely not! I am not even kissing the arrogant asshole on his cheek!" She shouted her face all red and blotchy. Maybe this would be entertaining after all. Then he realized James seemed to be putting up less restraint now, though he kept pretending to. This was weird because if there's anyone he expected James to not want to be kissed by it was Lily Evans!

"Potter not in your wildest dreams!" She shouted clearly angry, though Sirius could hear the embarrassment in her voice as well.

"Like I'd ever dream about you Evans. But we can't very well get out of this. A prize was promised and as the birthday boy it's my responsibility." James sounded quite cocky, enjoying irritating LIly, which he realized now was the only logical explanation for why his best mate was going along with it. After all, James couldn't just back down from a challenge in front of his whole house and future teammates. Besides, he certainly seemed to be soaking in the attention his chest puffed out. Sirius laughed, by far not the only one, as James ran a hand through his hair giving LIly what would be a winning smile with nearly anyone else.

"I'd rather get detention." She responded dryly and the laughter increased. Sirius saw Marlene push her towards James who caught the stumbling girl, who nearly slapped him in response.

"Hands off me Potter! Close your eyes I don't want you looking at me." James seemed a bit put out by this development and Sirius realized he was going to have to have a serious talk with his dumb friend about playing along too well. At this rate, the whole of Hogwarts would think he liked Lily rather than despise her, as Sirius had heard multiple times over and over. In fact, he talked about Lily quite a lot to Sirius, unable to talk to Remus since he was Lily's friend and Peter was, well Peter.

Then Lily leaned forward quickly pecking James' red face, hers nearly as red. There were whistling and egging on by the younger students, while the older ones either seemed bored or faintly amused.

Then the light atmosphere, filled with good company and friendly teasing was shattered by a loud scream filled with hate.

"LEVICORPUS!" Suddenly James who had been egging on the cheers and taking dramatic bows as Lily stormed off looking livid, was high in the air dangling upside down! Sirius rushed towards him immediately, the older students all pointing their wands to the top of the Slytherin stand where the shout had come from. Sirius heard several "Stupify" and "Expelliarmus" spells shouted as sparks flew into the stands. A group of hooded figures darted away, unbeknownst to the Gryffindors their carefully planned sneak attack ruined by the jealousy of a seething boy.

Sirius was slower than the older students to stretch out his wand and he both felt important doing so in the midst of older students and rather dumb as he realized the vast difference in skill between them and him. I mean his older cousins hexed him sometimes, but he really thought he could do the same back to them once he had his own wand. However, though he'd never admit it, in the heat of the moment he stumbled on his words and the spark of the scourgify spell he shouted fizzled before it could even attempt to reach the retreating Slytherins. A shame as he really would have liked to fill their mouths with soap, among other worse things he'd like to do to them. Sirius was sure his cousins were involved, well at least two of them, and he was very irritated when the Slytherins successfully got away, and with it their chance at proving they were the ones behind it.

Sirius honestly hadn't realized the retreating students fired back until he looked around and saw several students clutching their heads or on the ground either covered in boils or bleeding slightly. His vision blurred red and he wanted to chase after his cousins, and any other slimy Slytherins with them. But James' indignant shout, from high in the air still dangling, drew him to his poor friend instead.

"Go get Madam Pomfrey." He heard someone shout and Dorcas took off running with Lily at her side, Frank pointing out no one should go alone. The prefect was hunched over on the grass groaning in pain from the burning boils that kept multiplying across his forearms.

"Oi SOMEONE GET ME DOWN!" James shouted, his knickers revealed as his robes had fallen over his head leaving him blinded and disoriented. Two older students who weren't hit were muttering amongst themselves pondering on how to get him down.

"James I'm right below you mate just hang on!" He called up to his friend who made a joke he was in the danger zone to be thrown-up on, though Sirius could hear the frustration and humiliation in his voice. He knew James well enough to know his mate would rather be on the ground in pain rather than high in the air showing off his undies to anyone who looked up at him. James was struggling desperately with his robes trying to push them back onto his legs, a clearly useless affair.

Then Sirius realized he could do something to help his friend and got on the nearest broom he could find flying up to him. He struggled with James trying to pull him onto his broom but had to resort to simply holding his robes in place since James wasn't budging.

"Who was it?" He demanded, sounding angry, Sirius couldn't blame him, he was angry for him.

"Pretty sure it was Snivellus! I mean he thinks he owns Lily so the evil little toad probably was the one to curse you."

"Is she ok?" James asked a sharp edge of worry in his voice.

"You really are losing your marbles mate. She's fine but ...bloody hell!" He ignored James' questions and scanned the grounds from his broom.

"James I can't find Remus!" He called unable to keep the distress out of his voice.

"You don't reckon the Slytherins did something to him again?" James asked worriedly trying to shoo Sirius away with his hands.

"I thought we agreed it was Professor Blatvnik. But I don't know ...maybe.."

"What are you here for still? Go find him, Sirius!"

"Right. Lacebettotera! There I've practiced the sticking charm loads so that should hold your robe in place. I'll come back once I find him."

"Sirius?"

"Yeah James."

"The Slytherins are going to pay for this!"

"I solemnly swear they will!" He shouted already quickly descending to the ground, trying to ignore the sick twist in his gut that came from worrying something may have happened to Remus.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifty: The Aftermath

Remus was let go after Severus ruined the Slytherins surprise. He heard shouted spells and saw blasts on both sides. He hoped the Gryffindors hit the Slytherins as much as they hit them.

As soon as he was released, his captor rushing off with a grumbled threat, 'you better keep your mouth shut', he struggled to his feet. It took a while and it was only thanks to the support structures that he was able to.

Once he had his balance it was harder to ignore his pain, but he was used to pain, so he dusted himself off wincing and inhaling sharply as his hand brushed his rib cage. Realizing this wasn't working well he used magic instead pleased with the results, and that the Slytherins had actually given his wand back unharmed. He knew he'd have to go to Madam Pomfrey, the trick was not letting his friends know.

He braced himself scolding himself again for getting into such ridiculous positions. But in some terrible way this had been a good thing because he was now certain that it was the Slytherins that caused his tumble off the tower, he just wasn't sure how.

Peeking through the flap, where he had glimpsed poor Lily being forced by her friend towards James who looked both abashed and pleased, he saw the aftermath of the attack. It was over pretty quickly and he hoped that Sirius would never let James let down the kiss, and they could just forget and get over what the Slytherins did. He sighed heavily, a mistake on his part, and walked into the blazing sun.

"Remus!"

"Peter are you alright?" His friend jogged over to him from where he'd been hiding behind one of the goalposts. His hair was ruffled, robes disheveled, and he was a bit dirty from when he had fallen during his hasty retreat, but otherwise he was unharmed.

James, oh poor James was a different story.

"That's him up there isn't it?" He asked trying to see but the bright sunlight making his head and eyes throb in protest, so he quickly looked away.

"Yeah one of the blasted Slytherins did it and no one can figure out how to get him down. Where were you hiding?" He asked innocently enough scanning the field as if trying to find Remus' brilliant hiding spot. He no doubt looked better than most as he had 'Scourgify-ed' his robes, finding out quickly how useful that spell was to him.

Remus wanted to say he wasn't hiding, that he never would have hidden, but knew that would make his friend who had hid feel bad. It's not like Peter was the only one who hid. A few of the younger students had come out of the ordeal unscathed but were pink-faced at their natural reaction to perceived danger. However they, unlike Peter, didn't look proud of the fact.

"Peter…." He was going to explain to him, gently as possible that he shouldn't point out he hid. That it was ok he did but that the older students might be upset if they knew. But before he could get a word out Sirius rushed over to him looking ready to launch himself at Remus. Not at all wanting this, he quickly sidestepped using Peter as a human shield.

"I'm not mad honest. Just glad you didn't get hexed." Sirius encouraged, his hands raised as if Remus may try to run. Glad Sirius mistook his gesture, but didn't seem offended, he nodded slightly.

"You aren't hurt either? Who is hurt?"

"Well James's Pride was hurt and he might be hurt if we don't get him down soon."

"All the blood will rush to his head. Has someone gone to fetch Madam Pomfrey?"

"Yeah, Lily and Dorcas they should be back any minute."

"Those Slytherins are...are just terrible!" Peter exclaimed, both him and Sirius gazing up at James with nearly identical scowls of worry.

"You two stay here I'm going to fly back up to James and let him know I found Remus."

"And me," Peter said quietly but Sirius was already rushing off. Remus could tell Peter felt hurt, his lip quivering slightly, so he quickly changed the subject.

"What does he mean 'again'?" Peter looked up at him with a look that suggested he knew what Remus was doing. For a second he thought Peter was going to confront him, demanding why the other two were only worried about Remus getting hurt. Then the boy sighed and looked back up at James with his flexible neck that was currently functioning right, unlike Remus'.

"Well, he was hanging upside down so his ...well his robes were hanging over his head and…well it was humiliating so Sirius flew up and did something so his robes didn't fall."

"Please tell me he was at least wearing underwear." He groaned with mock horror glad that Peter laughed at his comment, looking like he was feeling better now.

"Yeah bet he's really glad he didn't go commando today considering he didn't know we'd be playing Quidditch." Peter laughed, Remus, smiled in return but didn't dare laugh, knowing the pain it would undoubtedly cause him.

Finally, Madam Pomfrey bustled into the Quidditch pitch, took one look at James, then called for the Headmaster loudly.

Before Remus realized what he was doing he was getting closer, he hadn't seen Dumbledore in a while and he still was worried he was mad at him.

Crack

Then Dumbledore was there about to ask Madam Pomfrey what the matter was when James let out a strangled shout clearly getting really dizzy.

"Oh my! Well, you do seem to be in quite a pickle, Mr. Potter. Don't worry we'll get you down in a jiffy. Oh and Happy Birthday Mr. Potter. " Dumbledore responded mildly and cheerfully, giving James a little wave.

"Get me down!" James called swinging himself around though his feet remained unmoving. Remus watched as Dumbledore pondered the situation, rolled up his sleeves, and waved his wand once, causing James to plummet with a high pitch scream, and twice to slow his descent.

"I assure you all that this will be looked into. All those who aren't injured or helping someone who is should return to the common room. Run along now, pip pip." Remus watched Dumbledore look at all the students, except for him. He was sure he wasn't crazy, that the headmaster wasn't meeting his eye!

He swallowed his disappointment knowing he had no right to expect anything more. Dumbledore was letting him stay, that was enough for Remus, it had to be.

Dumbledore turned his attention to James winking at the boy whose face was rather red.

"Quite the birthday eh Mr. Potter? Your bravery at staying calm in a potentially dire situation will no doubt be the talk of the school." James went from looking miserable to looking delighted. Dumbledoresure sure knew how to spin situations, and was able to successfully save the day for James.

"Are you alright?" He heard Madam Pomfrey ask and turned his attention to her, forcing himself to stay standing. Though now that he knew everyone was safe was much more difficult to do so.

Madam Pomfrey was slowly making her rounds of those who hadn't made a move to leave. She sent students, that were fine but stayed to help carry those who weren't, up to the hospital wing with the injured students. She stopped briefly by Remus scrutinizing him closely as he hadn't made to leave either. With all eyes on Dumbledore and James, she stepped closer.

"You alright dear?" Remus wanted to say no but Peter was right by his side, and thinking Pomfrey was talking to him he shook his head.

"I got all scraped and hit my head."

"Then up you go Mr. Pettigrew, Remus dear why don't you take him." Remus nodded slightly giving Madam Pomfrey a relieved look. He wasn't sure how she knew he was hurt, maybe in the way he was standing, but she knew and was being subtle as always. He appreciated her so much and slowly started walking with Peter who was showing him a scrape on his arm speaking loudly how a spell nearly nicked him.

"Nicked you? I saw you run off as soon as it started." Scoffed Sirius rushing towards them with James at his side, still a bit embarrassed but otherwise fine.

"So did Remus!" Peter protested going red in the face. "I wasn't the only one!"

"Well, Remus was gone beforehand. I didn't run and I stayed calm despite dangling so high in the air." James bragged a cocky gleam in his eye.

Sirius scoffed no doubt about to point out James didn't get a chance to run but Remus shot him a look and thankfully he closed his mouth. It was James' birthday tomorrow after all.

"Yeah, you sure were," Peter responded instead, eyes gleaming with admiration.

"I would have been screaming but you hardly did."

"Oh please, you would have pissed yourself, Pettigrew."

"Like you wouldn't be screaming Black." James retorted coming to Peter's defense who looked most pleased by this. Sirius blushed slightly and shrugged shooting a look at Remus.

"Well, I bet Remus would have stayed calmer than you did."

"Not if I was dangling from my feet like that in front of everyone." He responded quickly and James laughed, beaming in his victory.

Sirius didn't want to ruin James' mood but Remus could tell he wanted to ask where he went, could see him practically vibrate with curiosity at the matter. But he wasn't the only one. After bragging all the way to the castle James finally stopped and looked at Remus.

"Where did you go? I thought you'd stay the whole time, I mean we're mates." He whined giving Remus an accusing look that Sirius quickly mirrored.

"I just needed to use the loo." He muttered embarrassed and they all laughed at him, a friendly relieved sort of laughter that made him realize just how worried they had been. He swallowed down his guilt. If he told them what had happened, he had no doubt Sirius would stalk off to confront his cousin, and Severus would no doubt suffer the consequences his cousin couldn't use on them.

"You could have said something!"

"And have one of you follow me there not a chance," He teased. Sirius looked worried and sad for a second wondering if Remus was still upset at him, then he realized Remus was grinning mischievously and rolled his eyes grinning.

"Well, you missed the best part of the day mate." Sirius laughed giving James a grin that made him go red.

"Oi, shut it Black."

"Make me Potter!" Then the two rambunctious boys were running through the hall, James chasing Sirius with mock outrage.

"Come on Peter I'll take you to the hospital wing."

"No that's ok. James and Sirius would laugh if I went now." He mumbled tugging his sleeves back down.

"But you're bleeding."

"I got bandages in my trunk. I can handle it myself." He grinned. "Besides I want to hear what James has to say for himself about getting kissed by Lily! His face got so red it was brilliant! Guess girls really do still have cuties," Peter sounded so relieved that Remus decided not to point out that James' red face might mean the opposite.

"Oh well. I'll hear the story later. I'm going to check on Lily. I'll catch up with you three later." He assured Peter who shrugged and ran off to catch up to the other two.

Remus quickly slipped away making a b-line for the hospital wing.

…..

"Sev please tell me you weren't involved with this!" He heard Lily plead and Remus stopped just short of turning the corner leading to the hall outside the hospital wing.

"I already told you, Lily, I didn't! Don't you believe me?" Severus snapped, sounding really defensive.

"Of course I do I just had to be sure. Oh, Severus, I had to…." She trailed off no doubt remembering having to kiss James' cheek.

"What? What did you have to do?" Severus asked, and knowing he was there Remus could hear the slight edge to his voice.

"Nothing...just never mind! It….it was just a dreadfully boring party." Lily lied quickly, a hint of nervousness in her tone. Remus could just picture Severus seething in jealousy, irritated Lily wasn't telling him the truth. He sighed and rounded the corner just as Severus opened his mouth to say something that probably would have led to an argument between the two.

Bracing himself for Severus' reaction, which was immediate and expected, he stood awkwardly near them. Severus' eyes had widened and he had paled considerably, no doubt wondering the same thing Remus was. Was he going to tell Lily?

He considered it, felt he would be justified too but Severus was looking at him pleadingly again. So, even though Remus was hurting a lot due to the Slytherins' actions, he figured he best listen to what Severus' explanation was, before outing him to Lily, one of the boy's few if not only real friend.

"Oh Remus there you are! Sirius couldn't find you and he was getting all bossy." Lily huffed after a few seconds of awkward silence in which she watched Severus' puzzling expression before she had seen him. As soon as she had turned and realized he was there though she had looked very relieved to see him alright. At least outwardly alright.

"You didn't get hurt did you?" He asked trying to assess himself if she was ok or not. He knew most of the first and second years had been freaked out by the whole thing, none of them with any dueling practice, not formal anyways.

"Of course she didn't!" Severus snapped the sharp edge to his tone and piercing glare making it sound like Remus had just personally accused him of murder. Lily gave Severus a weird look who went pink quickly dropping the harsh look he was shooting at Remus.

"I just...I mean you would have told me if you did...right?" Lily scrutinized the guilty-looking boy a bit longer then turned to Remus with a frown.

"Of course Sev. But no I wasn't hurt, but it certainly was quite a fright. Everyone's saying it's Slytherins, that there's a group of them that serve the terrible person supposedly behind all the muggle killings?"

"Just rumors Lily," Severus responded, this time careful to remain calm. Remus remembered what he had heard about things to come and shuddered.

"Well even if they are, they are simply dreadful ones!" Remus nodded the gesture sending a sharp stab through his neck.

"Well, I need to go check on Frank whose in the hospital wing so I'll see you later?"

"Oh, I'll come too! I want to check on Emma, don't look at me like that Sev she's the nicest third year I know even if she can be a bit wonky." Remus didn't really know Emma nor did he care to. He wanted to groan in frustration at the fact that one of the few times when he was actually going to ask Madam Pomfrey for help it seemed less and less likely he'd be able to.

"You can check on her later Lily. Let's go study." Remus was surprised realizing after a moment that Severus was either trying to save himself from Lily finding out Remus was hurt or help Remus out which seemed much less likely and yet he had a feeling that was indeed what the Slytherin was doing. He watched Lily hesitate then invite him to join them after and head off with Severus.

With no other distractions, Remus made it to the hospital wing and Madam Pomfrey scolded him severely for getting messed up in this, ignoring his faint protests that all Gryffindor's had been there. She just pierced him with her stare and he suspected she somehow knew that, as was becoming a rather unfortunate pattern, Remus was once again undoubtedly in the middle of this drama.

"Now you lay down for a few hours. That's right young man hours, not minutes. No complaints you've got a fractured rib. Now lay down. That's a good lad." Remus just hoped his friends would be too distracted with exams and spring break to notice his disappearance, but of course, he knew that wasn't going to happen.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifty-One: Pensive Potter

Remus was right to assume he was going to be interrogated when he returned. However, they seemed to buy his lie about falling asleep and the rest of the evening was a peaceful day.

However, the next morning when he woke extremely early as usual in order to change and shower in peace, he found James waiting for him after the fact.

He was sitting on his bed, fully dressed, and seemed possibly bothered by something.

"Happy Birthday James. You ok?"

"Remus, can we talk?" James asked looking upset and definitely bothered by something, he could tell due to the way the boy was holding his chin like he always did when displeased by something he couldn't figure out.

"Um sure?" Remus was considerably confused rather than concerned thinking perhaps it was school-related as he didn't associate James with deep uncomfortable questions. In fact, out of all his friends, James seemed to give him the most space, either because he knew he needed to in order to balance Sirius or because he didn't know what to say.

So it didn't occur to Remus it might be different this time. He simply followed James, having dressed in the bathroom like always, and the two of them went down into the common room which was deserted. The remains of someone occupying the area earlier was evident by the roaring fire, candy wrappers, and pillows on the fur carpet rather than the couch.

It was only when James resumed his position that Remus realized with concern that he had been up before him.

"Why didn't you sleep last night?" James looked hesitant sitting up, hugging the pillow close to his chest, and leaning back against the couch. He patted the spot next to him, an invitation for Remus to join, and seemed to be thinking carefully about how to respond.

Remus hesitated but ultimately sat down, this was James after-all, not Sirius.

"Well...I'll tell you, but...can I ask you a question first?"

"Sure." He replied still drowsy and tired, not a morning person despite what they all thought. Besides he was used to James' questions, one more insignificant and silly than the next. James had recently been asking would you rather questions to all the boys in the dorm. Remus wasn't sure if James did it to ease tensions, cause people to laugh, or because he was actually curious about the answers, but he had come to expect such questions from James by now.

James nodded, he wasn't smiling nor was he frowning, he looked rather neutral as he sometimes did when he was in what Sirius called a 'Pensive Potter' mood. Remus was beginning to feel a little worried now, he wasn't used to James being so serious around just him like this.

"Where did you go, during my party? I was hanging pretty high up you know ..." James' tone was calm though he sounded hurt. Remus realized in horror that James had seen him exit the Slytherin bleachers, coming from exactly where the Slytherins who attacked had been.

"It's not what you think! I wasn't one of the attackers I promise!" Remus shouted terrified this would be like the letter fiasco all over again. He wasn't sure what he'd do if they all started thinking he was some sort of Slytherin supporter, they already gave him trouble over hanging out with Severus. What if they didn't see it as a big stretch? Then he saw James baffled look before the birthday boy burst out laughing.

"Blimey Luping that's not where I was going! You honestly think I'd think that. I'd trust you with my life mate." Remus was surprised to hear this, I mean he knew they were all friends but he had no idea how much James' trusted and valued his friendship. He felt his cheeks go red, and James' got a bit pink before he shook his head grinning.

"Even if you hang out with Snivellus because of Lily, I know that's because you're just a good person and not some sort of secret Slytherin supporter." James laughed again at the thought.

"But…..the letters…" Remus muttered feeling embarrassed and defensive. James gave him an apologetic look and put a hand on his shoulder his expression saddening when Remus habitually flinched, though he said nothing about this.

"We didn't know you then now did we. Besides…" He sat up straighter a very familiar cocky expression on his face now. "I was the one who thought something was off don't you remember? My mum says I have excellent deduction skills." The pride on James' face switched quickly to sadness and he slumped over, looking upset.

"What's wrong?" Remus asked concerned by the dramatic change. Why was the mention of James' mom making him sad?

"You first mate. I haven't forgotten you know." Remus looked at James' scrutinizing gaze and recalled all the times he had a calm demeanor. If he could tell anyone what happened it was James he realized.

"You can't tell Peter and you especially can't tell Sirius." James nodded like he had been expecting this.

"Promise."

"I solemnly swear." He answered immediately, raising his hand like he was taking an oath. Remus smiled at the dramatic ways of his friends. Then he took a deep breath and explained what happened. To give him credit James stayed calm to the end, making only a few outbursts, and his hair getting more messed up as he kept running his hand through it visibly stressed.

When Remus finished he gaped at him for a second then took a deep breath.

"I'm gonna kill them!"

"James you're supposed to be the calm one!" Remus exclaimed aghast, his friend was now on his feet, his eyes blazing with intensity.

"I am calm."

"Then be serious."

"I am."

"No Sirius is Sirius." James gave him an unamused look and he sighed realizing that while his friend before him was less likely to confront him on serious matters when he did he was much less likely than Sirius or Peter to be distracted after the fact.

"Well I won't actually kill them but on my pride, as a Gryffindor, I'll get them back for hurting you, and for dangling me in in the air." He added as an afterthought and Remus' chest hurt at how protective James was being of him.

"If you retaliate then they will and it will never end. Be logical James."

"I am being logical. And my logic is they need to pay for what they did."

"They could have done worse…"

"Remus don't do that. Please don't." James pleaded sounding pained and Remus shut his mouth, preventing himself from saying that it hadn't been that bad. James seemed to know that what Remus had told him had happened, which was most of the truth, was underexaggerating what had actually happened. Remus realized he wouldn't be able to stop James, but if he couldn't stop him he knew he could at least stall him.

"Not until after spring break."

"Why?"

"Because Sirius will join in even if he doesn't know why, which you can't tell him!" James reassured him he wouldn't then asked why Sirius couldn't participate in the revenge as it would be downright rude to leave him out of it.

"Because spring break is soon and...well he'll be around his family." James' eyes widened and he looked nervous.

"But he said they'd be on vacation and it wouldn't be a problem!"

"Well, that's true," Remus said quickly despite not really knowing that he hoped it was true though. "But if he gets in a bunch of trouble, especially for targeting Slytherins, well it's a sore spot for his family and he may get in a load of trouble ...which...would be bad…"

"Oh," James said dumbly looking pale now. Remus looked away from him feeling self-conscious. He could almost hear James' thoughts connecting more pieces of his friends' lives, realizing Sirius couldn't for sure say he'd be safe and neither could Remus.

"Remus…."

"It's your turn." He replied quickly, desperate for a topic change. If James' heard the high pitched desperation he was kind enough not to say anything.

"Fine. But I really need to talk to both you and Sirius about spring break. I…..I'm really worried about that. And don't say I shouldn't be because we both know that's a load of rubbish." He added sharply.

"As for my turn, well it seems sort of a foolish problem now…." He trailed off sounding self-conscious but believed Remus who assured him whatever it was it wouldn't be foolish.

"I told Sirius but I knew he wouldn't get it and he didn't And I didn't tell Peter because Peter is...well Peter he looks up to me so much I don't want him...well I don't want to let him down or anything him being the youngest and all. But ...um it's my first birthday away from my mum and dad. I know it's dumb and I've been away so long it's not like I'm a homesick baby or anything….but well I mean I miss them on my birthday. That's not crazy right? I mean you get it, not with your dad obviously but your mom... Oh, sorry. I shouldn't have mentioned her should I of?"

Remus wasn't sure if he felt more like laughing out of relief the problem wasn't a big one, which he never would because of offending James, or cry because his friend's problems seemed so normal.

"You can mention my mom it's ok...she...she's doing a bit better. But it's not stupid James. I bet loads of students felt that way during their first birthday away. You were telling us last night what big celebration birthdays are for your family so it makes sense you're feeling a little homesick and all. I'm sure they are missing you too. Have you floo'ed them yet?" He asked wondering why his simple words seemed to console James so much. As soon as he heard Remus say it wasn't stupid he relaxed considerably, and his suggestion to floo his parents made James smile brightly.

"That's a great idea. I was worried it would make me feel worse. But...well I wasn't even thinking about how they're missing me. It's my duty as a son to check in on them after all." Remus nodded agreeing as James continued to justify talking to his parents today. It took a while but he decided in the end he was going to floo them before everyone else woke up.

"They always get up really early. You'd really like my parents Remus and they'd love you! They keep telling me how proud they are of me and you're just as good a student as me if not better. You've gotta come see them. Maybe over summer. They really are the best."

"I'm sure they are James." He said simply since he was at a loss at what else to say. James was now so excited to talk to them that he didn't notice Remus growing upset, both at the mere thought of summer and because James' parents certainly wouldn't love him. For a second he tried to think about what it would be like for James with his parents if his friend was a werewolf. But that quickly became much too depressing and he tried to excuse himself so James could have privacy, only James didn't want him to leave.

"Oh just say hi real quick then you can go. I've told them all about you…...er not all." He amended this time noticing Remus get upset. He tried to get out of it but finally relented, because if he was being honest with himself he was curious.

James talked about his family only a little less than he talked about quidditch, his stories about both topics never boring the many people he told them too, even if they were being heard a second or third time. James was a natural storyteller as almost as much as he was a natural-born leader, his friends often looking to him for the final decision on things, even Sirius.

"Fine."

"Brilliant! You're the only one they haven't met yet since Sirius and Peter were here when I talked to them once before at the beginning of the year. It was hard not to floo them every day at first." He admitted with a sheepish grin. Remus nodded as if he understood since he sort of did. It took months before he stopped fretting over his father, and it was only the fact that he was too poor for floo powder that he didn't try reaching his father that way earlier.

Thinking of his father made Remus feel sick and he tried to ignore the thoughts reminding him consistently his father was sick, didn't want to see him, and knew him to only be a burden. He shook his head as James crouched down by the flames which quickly turned green and clearly announced his address. Then he stuck his head in and back out the flames becoming normal colored once more.

Remus expected James to be disappointed since he couldn't speak to his parents but the boy was grinning, and when he noticed Remus' confusion explained his parents would floo him back. Marveling at the fact the Potters were rich enough to waste floo on a few seconds of transaction, he waited for the fires to go green again.

There were a few moments where nothing happened and Remus felt bad that for a second he hoped James' parents wouldn't floo back because then he'd have to see them. He positioned himself at the edge of the couch out of sight just in time as the flames crackled and two heads appeared though Remus could hardly see them from where he was at.

"Happy Birthday James!" They cheered together and James laughed at their exuberance.

"I wanted to check in on how you two were doing without me there." If James' parents knew he called also because he missed them they didn't show it. They discussed how much the missed James to the point it would have seemed drawn out and fake if it wasn't for the sincerity that was somehow communicated clearly even through the flames.

James told his parents about his party and the Slytherins attacking. His parents both seemed strongly opinionated about the students, and it wasn't hard to figure out where James got his desire for justice and deep dislike of dark arts from. His mother seemed to think reporting them to Dumbledore was justice while James' father had hinted that the only way to stop a Slytherin was pranking them or event hexing them until they backed down.

He had said that he had a gift for James that would help with that but Euphemia Potter gave him a sharp look and the matter was dropped, despite James' persistence. Just as James started talking about school and Remus was thinking he could slip away, after all, the boy crouched by the fire remembered Remus was there and beckoned him over.

"Mom, dad I've finally got Remus here. I figured you'd want to meet him." They both assured James they very much wanted too and reiterated to James once more that any of his friends were welcome to visit.

"Remus come here." James beckoned again when he realized Remus wasn't coming over. Sighing heavily to himself he forced himself to walk closer to the fire now properly able to see what had before been blurry movements in the fire.

The Potters looked old, but it was hard to tell with floo. However, Remus knew they had James late as he had bragged about how special he was to his parents because of this many times. They both looked as kind as James described them being, though it also appeared a bit terrifying as their faces were currently made out of flames.

"It's nice to finally meet you, Remus," Euphemia responded with as much warmth as she had to her own son, it was rather unnerving. He tried to match the radiance of her smile though probably failed.

"The pleasure is all mine ma'am."

"You have such polite friends James," Fleamont responded sounding proud of that fact, his tone sounding all too familiar to his son's when James was proud about something. Remus was sure the older man had sat straighter and puffed up in a similar fashion to how James did when he was really proud of something. He supposed James' choice of friends was important to his parents, and they seemed supportive of his friends, which were both things Remus wished his father did.

"I'm so glad you recovered Remus. James was ever so upset." Remus was worried the adults would ask about what had caused the coma but they didn't. In fact, they moved on to talking about classes and interests, and somehow Remus felt included in the conversation with the Potter's in a way he never had quite felt before.

He felt rather warm as he listened to James and Fleamont jokingly argue about their generation of Gryffindor quidditch players being the best, and realized it wasn't just from the fire.

"No dad the current team is the best. There are still players from last year when Gryffindor went undefeated!"

"Yes, but their star player is gone. Perhaps I'll agree this current generation's team is the best when you're on the team son." James beamed and while he was a happy student, the joy on his face talking to his family was the sort of joy Remus had only ever seen him have while flying. By the time students were sitting and coming downstairs Remus felt he had gotten to know James better somehow, or at least understand a little more why his parents were so important to him.

"You two boys get a good breakfast, it's very important. Pay attention to your classes and have a wonderful week. Happy Birthday again love! Your father and I can't wait until you return home!" Euphemia called in farewell happily. Fleamont added stay out of trouble but winked when Euphemia wasn't looking.

"Bye, mom bye dad. See you soon." James seemed so much happier and he thanked Remus profusely as they climbed back to their dorm. He flung his arm around Remus and demanded to know his impression of his parents, satisfied when the only feedback was good as he had expected. Remus wasn't lying, he did like Mr. and Mrs. Potter a great deal, it also made him miss his family terribly, more specifically his mom.

When James fell back asleep, the 'only half an hour' turning into nearly two, he pulled out his mother's quilt. He sat in his bed with his curtain drawn and held it to his chest trying not to think too hard about how excited his mom would be to speak with him through floo, and how proud she would be of his choice in friends.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifty-Two: Spring Break

After James' birthday on the 27th they only had about a week to go before the break. Most students were absolutely thrilled and the attention spans naturally decreased so that professors were forced to give less work as the day the Hogwarts Express would arrive for them all drew nearer.

Sirius and Remus were not most students and despite their insistence they were fine, all four of them knew they were not. Peter handled it by offering to fetch snacks or whatever they needed at odd, and somewhat inconvenient times. Remus had to remind the anxious boy several times that leaving class to go get pumpkin juice would merely result in trouble. James handled it by asking Sirius and Remus rather insensitive questions about their home life and how they got hurt, trying to wrap his mind around a concept that was clearly foreign to him.

Remus handled it well, he'd like to think so anyway. He remained calm with Peter, though that proved somewhat harder the closer April 3rd got. He was also able to either ignore James' questions, who at least didn't press too much. Or he used the opportunity of James' questions to answer in a way that would lessen his friend's worries, though whether they believed him or not became harder to tell the closer April 3rd got.

Then there was Sirius. Telling their roommates the truth meant that Sirius could be honest with James as to why he had to cut back on the mischief before having to go home.

Of course, James felt terrible about giving Sirius a hard time about this months ago before Christmas break and things were awkward for a bit before going back to normal. ...Well, it would have been normal if it wasn't for Sirius' considerably shortening attention span and patience. What James called 'Spaz Sirius' became more and more consistent the closer spring break got. This either meant he was very irritable or he'd wake them at three in the morning to go explore the castle.

Both Peter and James had tried very hard to be patient and understanding, but unlike Remus, they didn't get it. This meant Sirius' actions were viewed by them not as a boy trying to distract himself from the inevitable but as an annoying twat who was determined to drive them nuts before they all left for home.

While Peter complained to Remus about Sirius it left James and Sirius to argue. The two of them arguing about literally nothing of importance. Remus had actually caught them arguing about socks the other day which had actually caused him to laugh at them, receiving dirty looks for his momentary amusement.

He had hoped at times to lighten the situation but failed everytime and had retreated, finding it increasingly difficult to break up the two's arguments. He realized he'd just have to wait it out because as much as James and Sirius bickered, and Sirius drove James' nuts, Remus knew without a doubt that those two would stay friends no matter what. Well, probably not if one of them were a dark creature, but Remus very much doubted there was more than one dark creature in their friend group.

Needless to say, Remus was almost looking forward to the break just to get away from his friends and so that upon coming back things could return to normal. At the very least so that he wouldn't have to be so exhaustingly patient and understanding with them all, especially Peter who had a hard time being so to James and Sirius.

"I swear they are more touchy than girls.