"I'm worried about Remus."
James looks up at him, a weird look on his face. Any other time Sirius would have laughed at James' clueless look complete with a smudge of ink on his nose. Sirius shifts on his bed, putting his homework to the side to focus more on James.
"In what way?" James asks, biting his lip gently, shifting to sit up.
Sirius pauses for a moment to get his thoughts in order, "Don't you think it's weird, him going home every month and-and looking like he does when he comes back?"
James furrows his brow, clearly confused about what Sirius is getting at. Sirius sighs, he has been thinking about Remus' unusually regular trips home for quite sometime in the last few weeks. Less so about the trips but more about afterwards. Who looks that exhausted, that ill after going to visit their mother? On top of that, there's been countless times that Sirius is sure he heard Remus hiss in pain from some unseen injury that he won't talk about. Something just doesn't add up.
"He's exhausted! Did you not see him yesterday? He looked like a dead man walking and he was in pain, he wouldn't admit it when I asked him but it was obvious," Sirius explains, agitated that his friend hadn't paid a lot of attention.
"I think you're looking too much into this, Sirius. I mean he is visiting his ill mother, I'd be very exhausted too if I do had to deal with that," James reasons, looking back down at his homework, unconcerned, "Leave him alone, mate, he'll talk when he's ready."
Sirius nods his head, slowly, sparing his charms homework a fleeting glance before getting up and leaving, pretending he doesn't hear James' inquiry of where he's going. He runs into Peter on his way through the common room, almost sending them both toppling to the floor. Sirius' instincts kick in, immediately grabbing Peter's arm to right his balance but not succeeding in stopping the book that Peter was holding from falling to the floor.
"What's got you so..." Peter starts, cutting himself off when he sees Sirius' thoughtful face, "everything alright?"
"Yeah, sorry, Pete, just thinking," Sirius answers, crouching down to pick up Peter's book and letting out a laugh, lacking it's usual enthusiasm, "James is in the dorm and if you see Remus can you tell him I can't help him with Transfiguration today like I said I would."
Peter looks confused but nods anyway, "is there-"
"I'll talk to you later, Peter," Sirius dismisses, moving last his friend and setting off through the portrait hole and to the library only feeling a fleeting stab of guilt for dismissing his friend.
Remus hisses softly, cursing himself for stretching in the particular way that pulls on his new injury. Shifting his grip on his three books, that are balanced on his hip, Remus climbs through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room. It's unusually quiet for a weekend afternoon but, Remus muses, it's a very warm day so everyone's probably outside. He needs to find Sirius, the slightly older boy had promised to help him with a part of their transfiguration essay that Remus can't seem to understand.
James and Peter are sprawled out on the floor, throwing a paper ball to each other and chatting away animatedly. They look up when he enters, eyeing their still unfinished homework almost guiltily. Remus huffs out a laugh, shaking his head at his friends, gritting his teeth when the gash in his side twinges painfully.
"Alright, Rem?" James asks, looking concerned.
"Yeah, yeah, why wouldn't I be?" Remus answers, pushing down the pain and focusing on the others, when James shrugs he asks, "have either of you seen Sirius? He said he'd-'
"Oh yeah, I did. Told me to tell you he couldn't help today, whatever that means," Peter pipes up, taking the distraction to throw the paper ball at James' head, laughing when the other boy glares at him.
"Do you have any idea what's up with him, mate? He's been acting really strange recently, since Christmas break really," James looks at Remus who just furrows his brow, "it's like he's stuck in his own head most of the time, not seen him like that since after Christmas holidays last year."
Remus shakes his head, moving to sit on his bed, "No idea. Perhaps somethings happened at home, with his parents or something."
James laughs, shaking his head, "He hates his parents, why would it effect him this much?"
"Your guess is as good as mine."
Sirius glides along each shelf, searching for the books he's been looking for, for just over three hours now. Finally he catches a glimpse of it, pulling it from the shelf along with the volume next to it, thanking Godric that most of the other students are outside in the sun so he has the library all to himself minus a few stressed seventh years studying for their NEWTS so he doesn't have to explain the choice of book to anyone.
Sirius finds himself a secluded table at the back of the room, spreading the books and a piece of parchment on the table carefully. His gaze lingers on the front of the book 'Abuse - Symptoms and Ways to Help', he hopes he's wrong but what else could it really be. Remus goes away every month and comes back looking worst for wear with the only excuse that it was a 'Family Thing'. Sirius is determined to help.
Trekking through pages and pages of symptoms and causes and undeniable signs, Sirius gets less and less confident with his theory. Withdrawal from friends? Not really, Remus always seems present with them, never stuck in his head or avoiding them. Behaviour changing a quickly? Certainly not, Remus is the most cool, calm and collected person Sirius has ever known. Rebellious or defiant behaviour? This is starting to sound a lot more like Sirius himself than Remus Lupin. He doesn't dwell on that thought. But from pages and pages of information, only a handful of things fit Remus, unexplained injuries appearing on this body and nightmares.
"What other explanation can there be?" Sirius asks himself, looking down at the notes on his parchment, trying to push away the fact most if not all seem to relate to him over Remus. By this is not the time to assess his own home life in comparison to others.
Sirius glances at the shelves beside his table, looking over the titles with little to no goal. That is before one catches his eye. Werewolves. After a beat of silent contemplation, it dawns on Sirius. Monthly absences. Scars appearing. Unexplained injuries. Nightmares, about being bitten maybe? Merlin, how had he not seen it? Before he can think about it, he's on his feet pulling the book from the shelf and the crumpled astronomy notes from his bag. Sirius can't afford to get this wrong, it's not like it's a small accusation. But lo and behold, everything lines up perfectly. Their very own Remus Lupin is a werewolf.
Closing the books, Sirius stuffs them into his bag, even the ones on abuse for later...self-exploration. It's not a nice thought but he can't deny the familiarity of the words. He doesn't bother checking them out, it's not like he's about to nick them anyway. They'll be back tomorrow.
On his way back to Gryffindor tower, Sirius turns over his next actions. How do you go about addressing the elephant in the room, or rather the werewolf in the room? Sirius pushes everything he's previously been told about werewolves by his tutor back at home to the back of his mind, Remus is anything but a dangerous beast. He wears sweaters and folds his socks, for Merlin's sake, forgive the raven haired boy if he's not quivering in his boots.
He doesn't even notice he's got back to the tower until he hears James' voice.
"And so he returns," James comments, inclining his head to Sirius as he strides into the common room, "good wander? We were worried you'd been cornered by the Slytherins for a moment there."
"Like I couldn't take them," Sirius answers, confidently, flopping down on the sofa next to James.
"You see? That's what I said!" James exclaims, turning his smug gaze to Peter and Remus' who are sat on the floor by the fire. It has, Sirius realises, almost gone dark outside and the temperature has dropped considerably.
Remus rolls his eyes, "I never said he couldn't take them, but with all due respect I doubt you could outsmart ten, Sirius."
Sirius looks at him hard as he speaks, trying to assess his own reaction to being mere centimetres away from a werewolf. Remus gives him an odd look, clearly uncomfortable and confused by his pointed gaze. He looks far from dangerous. That being said, why should it matter what he turns into every month AGAINST his own will? It's not like he goes around hurting wizards and witches every month, does he? No, Dumbledore wouldn't allow that. That settles it then, he offers Remus a smile and shakes his head. Remus still looks confused, bless his cotton socks.
"I was at the library. Pause for gasps," Sirius says, dramatically, grinning when his friends all roll their eyes and laugh, "doing some self-discovery and all that fun stuff."
"Do not tell me you got off with a girl in the library," James laughs, grinning at his friend and raise his eyebrows.
"I wouldn't give any girl the satisfaction of finally pulling Sirius Black!" Sirius answers, sending a wink to a fourth year girl watching them from the other side of the common room, grinning when she giggles and turns to whisper with her friends, "no I mean finding out things about myself and researching things I've been wondering about for a while."
"Why didn't you take Rem with you, you could have been nerds together?" James jokes, moving to lay down on the sofa, his feet on Sirius' legs.
"Next time. What do you say, mate, want to learn all about Thestrals, Hippogriffs and Werewolves next time we go to the library together?" Sirius looks Remus straight in the eyes as he says the word, watching the look of realisation dawn on the slightly younger boys face, Sirius raises one eye brow before turning back to James, "you're right, never thought about it. Wanted some space, you know how I get."
James gives him a searching look and Sirius wonders whether this is how Remus' felt moments ago, "Yeah, I know. Right drama queen, when you want to be alone."
Remus suddenly gets up from the floor, drawing the attention back to him, "I'm-I'm gonna go to b-bed. We've got classes in the morning so..." With that the sandy haired boy walks from the room abruptly.
"What's up with him?" Peter inquires to no one in particular.
Sirius shrugs, pretending to be just as clueless as them, "Probably still tired after seeing his mum."
"Did your hunch get you anywhere then?" James asks, using his wand to levitate a ball of paper above his head with onto a muttered incantation, "you seemed pretty dead set on there being more to his frequent visits then met the eye."
Sirius contemplates telling them very briefly but decides against it, "Nah, reckon I was looking for something that wasn't there. Anyway, young ones, I'll bid you goodnight my brain has been worked and now it needs a rest."
"You say some funny things, Sirius," Peter remarks with a small laugh.
"Funny is my middle name."
"I thought that was Orion."
"Shut it, Pete!"
Sirius leaves them with laughter in his wake, wondering how he and Remus can address this issue. Perhaps he can have some fun teasing him before everything gets too serious (no pun intended).
"Remus?" Sirius says, strolling into the dorm room with a cocky smirk on his face.
Remus is sat on his own bed, looking lost in though and almost terrified. Sirius feels a stab of guilt for how he bluntly revealed his knowledge in front of the others. The young werewolf looks up at his name before looking down and not meeting the Black heir's eyes.
"How did you find out?" Remus asks, so quietly Sirius might not have heard him.
"With difficulty and a stroke of pure luck," Sirius answers moving to sit on his own bed, facing Remus and taking out the books on werewolves and throwing them on the floor, he notices how Remus flinches, "turns out none of these books has a very accurate description, or probably even a RIGHT description. Believe it or not, i never found one saying werewolves wear sweaters and fold their socks. Or even a statement from a real werewolf."
"I'll leave, okay? Please don't tell the others or- Merlin you probably already have. You don't need to see me again, I'll be gone by the morning. Please just-" Remus' words hitch, the boy bites his lips to stiffen a sob. Sirius' heart shatters, "I'm a monster, I'm so sorry."
Sirius is by his side immediately, disgusted by the slight tang of fear that he feels. Remus flinches beside him when he reaches out but Sirius doesn't back down. He's never seen someone cry before, not really. Regulus would cry when he was little whenever their parents would yell too loudly at Sirius but after one too many times of the sharp voice being turned on him, he'd stopped crying. They're told that crying made them weak but nowhere in Sirius' mind could he put Remus and weak in the same sentence.
"Rem, no, you're not. You don't need to go, why would you?" Sirius soothes honestly, "I'm not scared, look," he grabs Remus' hand gently, he drops his voice and says quietly, "you fold your socks, mate, forgive me if I'm not quivering in my boots."
Remus chokes out a laugh, wiping at his eyes, "You're really not- Why are you being nice?"
"Have you hurt anyone?"
"No, we-I take precautions so I'm away from people when I-i turn and-"
"Exactly, Remus. You're harmless. Screw what people say, screw what those books make out. You were bitten, that's the only difference between you an me-" Sirius says, trying to convince his friend that being a werewolf doesn't make him less human.
"You don't turn into a beast at full moon," Remus snaps, pulling his hand away from Sirius', "you don't have to go through a agonising transformation every month. You don't-"
"Remus, I know and I'm sorry. Come here," Sirius pulls Remus into a hug, surprising himself, he's never actively hugged anyone before but he puts all his might into making Remus feel better, "I've not told the others, you can do that yourself or don't, your choice. I'm not going anywhere, Lupin, werewolf or not, you're still my friend."
Remus buries his face in Sirius shoulder, still crying silently, "Thank you, thank you so much-"
"You're at the infirmary every month, aren't you? Alone?" Sirius pulls back to see Remus' nod, "not anymore, you won't keep me away."
"The others they'll-"
"You miss judge my ability to disappear without a trace," Sirius grins when Remus huffs out a laugh, "it wasn't my first conclusion you know?"
Remus wipes his eyes, watching Sirius with an amazement that makes Sirius' heart hurt, "what was your first thought?"
"You were so tired, like you were ill and you were in pain as far as I knew you were going home so I though-i though you're parents were hurting you, abusing you. That's where I was today, researching abuse and connecting signs. Turns out there wasn't any."
"Really? Never would have guessed," Remus quips, rolling his eyes.
"You're too sarcastic for your own good, Rem. Anyway, it was quite confusing so I was just scanning the shelves for ideas and-"
"You found the books."
"I found the books," Sirius agrees, moving to pick up and put away the books, "it was quite interesting as well. Kind of hammers home that my parents have a close-minded opinion about everything and so does a lot of the Wizarding world."
Remus nods, having relaxed a lot more in Sirius' presence by now, "Learn anything else?"
Sirius pauses for a second, pondering the idea of telling Remus about his parents fitting the description of abusers and him of the abused, "Nah not really. Only that you're the bravest person I know."
"No, it's true. How old were you? When you were bitten?" Sirius asks, watching Remus' face.
"Almost five," Remus admits, softly, "spent my fifth birthday in St Mungo's."
"You see, brave. I'm sorry people make you think you're a monster," Sirius says, knocking his shoulder with Remus', "but hey, the Black heir can see past it, there's hope for everyone."
"Difference is, you're not like your family," Remus answers, Sirius looks at him unconvinced, "you're not. You're different to most people, Sirius. Not many would accept this, accept me."
"People should, everyone should. You've done nothing wrong by being-"
"We though you two were going to bed?" James and Peter push the door open, looking at the two of them confused, "what's wrong, Remus? You look like-"
"Leave it, James," Sirius says, standing up and going over to his best mate, and whispering to him, "he's upset about his mum, leave him be."
James nods, looking over at Remus, concerned.
The four of them go to bed that night with different thoughts. Remus feeling accepted for the first time in a long time even within Hogwarts. James concerned about Remus and determined to make the sandy haired boy laugh so hard tomorrow that his worries will be gone for at least a second. Peter with a similar worry, vowing to get some chocolate from the elves in the kitchen for Remus tomorrow.
Sirius spends the night reading a book on abusive families, trying to ignore the memories of sharp words, violent hands and painful curses. By the time morning comes, his hands are shaking so much he can't see the book. The worst thing is that he doesn't feel as tired as he usually does after his nightmares.