“Sirius, be careful!” Remus hissed, “If you miss, you could really hurt him.”
Sirius kept his wand hand steady, “Don’t worry. I won’t,” he muttered under his breath, “But honestly, Moony, would it be so bad if there was one less slimy git in the world?”
They were in the middle of their potions lesson and supposed to be concocting a Draught of Peace, a potion used to relieve anxiety and agitation. Remus had considered taking a swig of his after he found out what James and Sirius were plotting. However, as the liquid in his cauldron was still a dark green instead of the preferred turquoise blue, he decided against it and watched apprehensively as Sirius closed one eye to get a better aim at his target.
Peter leaned over the table to whisper, “You got a good angle?”
Sirius turned to grin at his best friend, who’s eyes were also screwed up in an effort to zero in on his target. He quickly focused back on his wand. Just a little bit to the left and... “Now!”
“Diffindo!” Thin streaks of white light shot from their wand tips. Severus Snape, who had been concentrating on dropping the exact amount of Hellebore into his potion, froze as he felt the spells graze the sides of his head. Long locks of greasy black hair fell into his lap and he put down his bottle of Hellebore to feel the damage before glaring at the roaring table of Gryffindors across the dungeon.
“Thought it was time for a haircut, Snivellus!” James laughed.
“Yeah! This one suits you much better,” Sirius said, loudly. Snape’s hair now looked like he had a small frayed rug balanced atop his beet-red face.
“You’re going to pay for this,” he growled, his hands already balled into fists.
Remus chuckled at the sight of Snape’s new hair then immediately felt guilty. As much as Severus was a git, he really didn’t deserve to be harassed every day of his life. He looked to the only person he knew wouldn’t be laughing. The fact that Lily Evans had a disgusted look on her face while everyone else jeered wasn’t surprising. She’d always taken Snape’s side, trying to protect him from whatever schemes James and Sirius had in mind. The only reason she wasn’t presently screaming at the two was that she and Snape had had a falling out recently. What did surprise him however was that her scowl wasn’t directed at James, as it so usually was, but at him, Remus. She must have seen him laugh and Remus felt even worse. He and Lily had always been on good terms even before they were both appointed prefects at the start of the term. As Slughorn tried to calm the class down and awarded James and Sirius double detentions, Remus tried to shoot an apologetic look at her. She ignored his gaze, instead, picking up her knife and chopping up her valerian root into careful pieces. She didn’t so much as glance at him for the rest of the class.
“That was brilliant!” Peter said as they headed to the Great Hall for lunch. “I bet he won’t be able to grow it out for a week!”
“Thanks, mate,” James said, twirling his wand between his fingers. Remus noticed him push back his hair as Lily strode past them. He wondered if he should run after her and try to justify why he acted like such a prat.
Sirius looked as troubled as Remus felt, although it seems for a completely different reason.
“James, mate, we should’ve used Calvorio.”
“You’re right!” James smacked his head in disbelief, “Why didn’t we think of that? Hair loss!”
“His head would’ve been a perfect surface to use as dungbomb target practice.”
“Well, it still is.”
“There’s always next class,” Peter said excitedly, “I’ll buy the dungbombs if you do it.”
“Peter, they don’t need any more detentions. Especially you, James,” Remus reminded, as they sat at the Gryffindor table and began passing dishes around, “Professor McGonagall will kick you off the team if you keep this up.” James rolled his eyes, but Remus caught him glance at the high table where Professor McGonagall was chatting with Professor Slughorn.
“Nah. Minnie knows she can’t afford to lose her star chaser.” Sirius grinned, nudging James.
“I dunno,” James said, grimily. His eyes were still fixed on McGonagall and Slughorn. “She seemed really upset the last time we got detention.”
“You have to admit, Remus, he did deserve it,” Sirius plopped a large glob of mashed potatoes on his plate. “I mean after what he called Evans.”
James’s expression turned sour, “Ugly git.” Taking the potatoes from Sirius, he slammed a load of it onto his plate, “Oh sorry, Wormy.” Peter wiped a bit of potato off his round face and gave him a thumbs up. James then handed the potatoes to Remus, who immediately passed it on to Peter on his right. He did the same with a bowl of roasted corn, a plate of sandwiches, and a pan of toad-in-the-hole.
“Oi! What’s all this then?” James said as Remus passed Peter a basket of rolls, whilst taking none for himself. “Why aren’t you eating?”
Remus shrugged, “Just not hungry today.” His friends looked concernedly at him, way more than he thought was necessary. “I’m fine.”
“That’s what you said two days ago and then you almost passed out in Charms!” Sirius exclaimed, “C’mon Moony, have a sandwich or some potatoes.”
James nodded in agreement and Wormtail placed a roll onto Remus’s plate with a “You need your strength, Moony.”
They, of course, knew why he wasn’t eating. The full moon was drawing closer. In five days, Remus would have to go through the excruciating pain of turning into an ugly, foul, loathsome beast. Recently, dread had often kept him from eating or sleeping. A part of him was fine with that as he hoped, maybe after he transformed, he’d be too weak to do anything rash. He hadn’t confided this to the other Marauders, but they were smart enough to figure it out on their own. More than once he’d awoken from a dream where he was standing over the dead bodies of a rat, a dog, and a stag. And more than once each Marauder had taken turns calming Remus down: James would try to beat him in Wizard Chess, Peter would pelt him with questions about their lessons to distract him, and Sirius would turn into a big black dog and curl up in Remus’s lap, letting Remus pet him until he felt better. On the worse days, when he would dream that the boys themselves lay mangled at his feet, Sirius and Peter would distract him by making him practice spells on them (mainly Peter) while James snuck out under his invisibility cloak and returned with Honeyduke’s best chocolate. He always swore that he left money on the counter before he left.
Remus picked up the roll and, watching his friend’s hopeful faces, took a small bite out of it. It was warm and soft, but it felt like a rock in his stomach. He put the rest of it down. “I think I’m going to go back to the common room. Try and finish up Binns’s essay.”
“But you finished it last night!” Sirius said indignantly, “Two rolls of parchment more than he wanted.”
“Then I’ll start on Transfiguration.” Remus grabbed his bag and, ignoring the others’ dismay, headed out of the Hall. As much as he loved his friends, he didn’t feel like being around anyone at all right now. His head was pounding and a sudden wave of exhaustion fell over him. He wanted nothing more than to curl up in a corner on the floor and take a nice nap. But he would, of course, look extremely stupid if he did that so he quickened his pace.
He was about halfway to the Common Room when he turned a corner and ran headlong into someone, who toppled backward pulling him down with her. The contents of his bag flew out and Remus heard the sound of a couple of ink bottles smash as he collided with the floor. “Ouch! Remus!”
“Sorry!” he sat up, surveying the scene. Lily had evidently been on her way to the feast when he’d crashed into her. Dark black ink damped their robes and broken glass was strewn across the floor. Remus realized with a pang of guilt that Lily’s hands were cut badly from the glass, crimson red mixing with black ink. “Lily! I’m so-”
“Mobilicorpus!” he heard someone shout behind him and he was slammed hard into the far wall. He heard a cry from Lily and plunged his hand into his robes to retrieve his wand. But no sooner had he touched the hilt when the voice shouted again, “Sectumsempra!”
Everything happened so fast. His legs buckled as he felt large gashes slash themselves into his arms and chest. Blood seemed to be blossoming from every inch of him and the hallway was quickly growing darker by the second. He caught a glimpse of Lily rushing towards him screaming for help and a dark figure shooting past her. Tears pricked his eyes as the pain rushed in; white-hot lightning shot through his veins and he was reminded terribly of his transformations. “It’s alright, Remus. You’re going to be okay.” Long red hair obstructed his vision and he felt shaking hands press down hard on the wound on his chest. He wanted to tell her not to worry, that he had gone through much worse, but instead, he felt his eyelids droop and darkness consumed him.
“We should take some food up with us. In case he gets hungry later.” James suggested, watching Remus retreat from the Great Hall. Peter nodded and began dutifully wrapping sandwiches and chips in napkins.
Sirius just stared at the roll Remus had left on his plate. “I can’t believe him. Not eating, not sleeping. I’d thought he’d feel better now that we’re with him every time.”
“I’m sure he prefers it over being alone but you know Moony. He worries.” James skewed a large piece of chicken onto his fork and popped the whole thing into his mouth. “I meauff we shouff try maffing hiff sleff.”
Peter shot him a puzzled look but Sirius understood, “You mean like slipping him a sleeping draft. I don’t know. It’d be tough trying to knick some from Madam Pomfrey.”
James swallowed and shook his head. “We don’t have to knick it. We could just tell her he hasn’t been eating or sleeping.”
Sirius looked aghast. “What? And have him imprisoned in the hospital wing until the end of term? He hates it there!”
“It’d be for the best Sirius,” James said, solemnly, “I mean, obviously he’s not going to listen to us.” He nodded at the roll. “And we’ve done all we can trying to get him to sleep again.”
“Frank keeps complaining he hasn't had a good night’s rest since September,” Peter said, wrapping up a fourth sandwich. “I honestly can’t blame him.”
“Longbottom can sleep in the Common Room then,” Sirius growled, glaring at a tall dark-haired boy further down the table. “So can you Wormtail,” Peter withered under the look Sirius gave him, “It’s not like Remus can control what he dreams.” They ate the rest of their meal in silence, occasionally pointing out certain dishes that Remus would like and storing portions of it in napkins or in their pockets. Finally, as the second round of desserts appeared on the tables, James got up and stretched.
“Come on. I’ve had enough. Let’s take this lot back to Moony.”
They gathered up the food and headed for Gryffindor Tower, contemplating their next prank on Snivellus. They were halfway to the Common Room when they stumbled upon the caretaker, Argus Filch, muttering to himself, his cat lounging next to him as he scrubbed a large black stain on the floor in front of them vigorously. “Students making messes. Making me clean up after their filth. Ooh, we’ll show them one day, my sweet. One day, they’ll pay.” Sirius nudged James and pointed at smaller black spots that led away from Filch to a much larger dark red splatter on the opposite wall.
“What happened here?” James breathed.
Filch looked around at the noise. “What are you doing lurking ‘round here?” he sniffed. His eyes fell on the sandwiches, cakes, and crisps in their arms. “Oh no, you don’t. You’ll not be smudging your greasy fingers along my hallways and leaving cream and crumbs all around the castle for me to clean up. In!” He pointed to a nearby bin and when the boys didn’t move, he grabbed the piles from their arms and lobbed them in. Sirius took a step forward, but James held out an arm.
“We’re just passing by Filch,” James said. “Just needed to get back to our Common Room.”
“Then keep moving,” he snarled, gripping his brush firmly in his hands as he watched them pass. He didn’t go back to scrubbing until after they’d disappeared around the corner.
“What a prat. Now, what are we going to give Moony?” Sirius grumbled.
“I still have a couple sandwiches in my robes.” Peter offered.
“Nobody wants to eat anything that’s been in your robes, Wormtail,” James said as they reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. “Hippogriff.” The portrait swung open and they climbed in. The Common Room fell silent at their entrance, all eyes upon them. They noticed that the majority of the Gryffindors were crowded around one of the squishy armchairs by the fire and Frank Longbottom, one of the closest to it, was holding a box of tissues. “What?”
A girl got up from the armchair and pulled them aside. Strands of her red hair were blackened and she smelled strongly of ink. James took in her swollen eyes, red nose, and heavily bandaged hands. “Who did this to you, Evans? Was it Sniv--Snape?”
For once, she didn’t look upset or angry at him. In fact, she looked almost sympathetic. That was new. Sirius and Wormtail were watching them, faces plastered with concern. Everything about Lily’s demeanor suggested that this was a grave matter. “James, it’s Remus.” And James felt his heart sink in his chest.
“Sirius!” he heard James yell from behind.
He didn’t care. He did not care what anyone said or did. He knew exactly where he needed to go to make that bloody stinking scum pay for what he did to Moony. He dashed down hallways, impatiently pushing people that got in his way, and, at one point, actually slid down the stairs. “There were huge slashes on his chest and his arms,” Lily had said through tears, “and I couldn’t stop him from bleeding.” Sirius thought back to the red stain in the corridor Filch had been cleaning. All that blood had been Moony’s, and from the looks of it, he didn’t even have time to react. If he’d just stayed with them through dinner... Unexpected tears welled up in his eyes and he brushed them quickly away before skidding to a halt in front of the library.
And there he was, a couple meters down the hall, arms laden with books and his hair almost back to its original length. Sirius whipped out his wand, “Flipendo!” Snape went down, his books cascading around him as Sirius ran up to him, grabbing a fistful of his robes in the process, and slammed Snape against the wall. He then took a couple steps back, pointing his wand between Snape’s eyes. “You’ve really crossed the line now, Snivellus.”
He saw a flash of panic in Snape’s eyes but it was quickly replaced by a look of determination. “If you and your stupid friends-”
“Remus never did a thing to you and you know that.” Sirius snarled. He was so angry he was having trouble thinking of a good hex that would inflict the same amount of pain that Snape had done to Moony. “He was the only one that put up with you shoving your big ugly nose in other people’s business. James and I would have jinxed you a long time ago if it wasn’t for him.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt him,” Snape hissed.
Sirius gave a humorless laugh. “A likely story. What were you trying to do? Give him a massage?” His wand hand trembled with anger and he forced himself to steady it.
“Why do you care?” Snape sneered, “Or have you got a soft spot for Lupin?” Sirius’s face turned a light shade of pink and Snape’s mouth curled into a sickly grin. “How...touching.”
“You shut your filthy mouth.”
“I know you’re all up to something.” Sirius noticed Snape’s hand inching towards his pocket, reaching for his wand. “You, Lupin, Potter and Pettigrew. Creeping out in the middle of the night under that blasted cloak,” his fist closed over his wand, “When I find out what it is, I’m going to make sure you’re all expelled!” He raised his wand. “Incarcerous!”
But Sirius was ready, “Protego!” Ropes sprung from Snape’s wand only to be repelled by a large, invisible barrier now surrounding Sirius. “Petrificus Totalus!” Snape’s limbs snapped to his side and he fell forward. Sirius strode over, angrily, and flipped him over. He narrowed his eyes at Snape’s frozen scowling face and his bruised purple nose and gave him a couple firm kicks in the ribs to let out his remaining anger. Then he squatted down and said, in a low voice, “You’re never going to find out, Snivellus. You can snoop around all you like, but you’ll never find anything. Not even if you managed your way into the tunnel under the Whomping Willow. Never.” He leaned in to make sure Snape heard the next part clearly. “And if I ever hear that you’ve laid a finger on Remus again, I’ll make sure you never see the light of day.” And with that, he pocketed Snape’s wand, stood, and made his way to the hospital wing.
Remus awoke and instantly drew his blankets closer to him, shivering slightly. He didn’t need to ask where he was; he knew the hospital wing well enough to recognize the plush bed that was beneath him and the sound of Madam Pomfrey’s soft humming somewhere in the distance. His body was still aching, however, and for a brief panic-filled moment, he wondered if he’d transformed in the hallways. Then he remembered that the full moon was still days away and he heaved a sigh. It just meant that more pain was to come. His senses caught up with him and he heard low voices muttering around him.
“Do you think Professor McGonagall will mind if we ditch today’s lesson?”
“Don’t worry about Minnie, Wormtail. She’ll understand. And stop fidgeting Sirius!”
“Well look at him, Prongs! He’s all curled up and pale and sad looking.”
The way that his friends were talking made him feel like he was an old man on his deathbed. Remus felt the back of a hand press against his cheek. “He’s freezing,” Lily’s voice sounded to his left.
“I got it,” he heard James say and Remus felt himself being tucked in. Yes, he was a very old man indeed.
He felt James sweep his hair off his face and stifled a grin. Whenever James was really concerned, he instantly turned into his mother, Euphemia Potter. Both became stern, fussed about straightening anything from hair to bed covers, and fetched everything to their knowledge that could possibly help the situation. When Sirius broke his arm last year, James had made him drink ten bowls of chicken soup and offered to help him use the bathroom three times. After Sirius’s third refusal, he had stood outside the bathroom stall and kept asking if Sirius was done yet and to “make sure you wash your hands.” Overall, they were nice gestures, if not a little stifling, that eventually served as blackmail for James. However, nobody wanted to make fun of him for it at the moment. It seemed like whatever Remus looked like presently was preventing them from their usual cheeky selves.
“Maybe I should go down to the kitchens and get him some soup,” James said, “He’s barely eaten.”
“Keep babying me, Potter, and I’ll hex you,” Remus grumbled and he cracked his eyes open slightly to see their anxious faces staring at him. “Come off it. ‘m fine. Go to class.”
“Don’t be stupid.” Sirius had straightened himself from a chair to Remus’s right. “We’re staying with you. Minnie can do without us for a day.”
“And we’ve already made sure that Longbottom’ll take notes for you,” James said, perching himself at the edge of Remus’s bed. “So stop your worrying.”
“You’re more important to us than schoolwork, Remus,” Peter squeaked. Everyone around him nodded. Remus felt a rush of appreciation for his friends. He was probably one of the luckiest boys in Hogwarts to have people that cared so much for him that they were willing to miss one of their favorite classes in the world just to make sure he was okay. They were going to be in so much trouble though. James and Sirius had already lost a significant amount of house points because of their pranks and if James was taken off the Gryffindor Quidditch team, they’d never make it up.
Remus’s thoughts were interrupted by Madam Pomfrey, who, upon seeing that he was awake, grabbed a small goblet next to his bedside table filled with an orangey brown liquid. “Drink!” she said, forcing it into his shaking hands. The color reminded Remus of pumpkin juice but it certainly didn’t taste a thing like it. It was bitter, gritty, and sour, making Remus shiver as soon as he took the first sip. “Drink it all up! It’ll make you feel better and help heal those nasty cuts.”
“Chocolate would make me feel better,” he grumbled over the goblet. Madam Pomfrey made a disapproval noise, taking the cup from him after it had been drained.
Sirius waited until she had disappeared into her office before tossing something into his lap, “Here.”
Remus looked at him in amazement. “How did you get Honeydukes at this time?”
“Don’t ask questions. Just eat it.” James smiled warmly. “But how did-”
“For heaven’s sakes, Remus, eat the damn chocolate!” Sirius said laughing.
Remus sighed, snapped off a big chunk, and bit in. Warmth flooded through his body. Chocolate could cure all, he thought, shoving more into his mouth.
“Madam Pomfrey said you lost a lot of blood,” Lily said, softly. “You’ll need to stay here for at least the next week.” Remus nodded solemnly. Just as he had expected. This meant it would be next to impossible for them to have a nighttime adventure this coming full moon. He would be stuck in that small little shack until his transformation was over, having to deal with the pain and the cravings all by himself once again.
“I’m sorry about your hands,” Remus said, nudging her bandages.
She laughed a little. “Don’t worry about them. Madam Pomfrey got all the glass out earlier.”
“Merlin’s beard, Moony. You’ve just been slashed to pieces and your first concern is Evan’s hands?” Sirius said incredulously. “That’s Prongs’s job!”
“You’re right! I’m sorry, Padfoot.” Remus folded his hands and looked pleasantly at Sirius. “How was your day?”
“He’s been in a right state,” Wormtail said, faking solemnity.
“And you haven’t? Don’t think we haven’t seen you stress eating those sandwiches you’ve been keeping in your robes.” Sirius gave him a look of disgust.
“Well, at least I didn’t go running after Snivellus as soon as we heard Moony was hurt.”
“You did what?” Remus said, slightly alarmed. “When?”
“About twenty minutes ago. It’s no big deal.” Sirius said, shrugging. “I just used the Full Body Bind curse on him and took his wand. Don’t worry!” he added, quickly at Remus’s shocked face. “I chucked it in Moaning Myrtle’s a while ago. The Slytherins always hang around there. He’ll get it back eventually.”
“Well,” Remus sighed, slumping back on his bed, “I guess it could have been worse.”
James nodded, “That’s what I said. Definitely not as bad as the time we-” He paused, suddenly remembering Lily’s presence, “helped him with his Charms homework?” He grinned sheepishly at her.
But she shook her head, a sour look on her face. “I don’t care anymore. He’s a completely different person to me now. I just can’t believe that Sev would do such a horrible thing to Remus. He’s always disliked you the least,” the boys quickly exchanged surprised looks, “And I’d never even heard of the curse that he used. I tried looking it up at the library earlier but I couldn’t find a thing on it.”
“Maybe it's something he and his little friends came up with and he decided to test it on Remus,” James said, speculatively. “Remember the first time he used Levicorpus?”
“Mate, nobody wants to remember seeing your drawers in midair,” Sirius said. They laughed and James kicked at Sirius from the bed but missed. However, Remus’s smile soon became a grimace. The memory of the spell cutting into his body had begun replaying in his brain and slashes of pain were digging themselves deeper and deeper into his skin. Exhaustion crashed over him once again and lowered himself back down, curling up instinctively.
“You alright, mate?” he heard Sirius ask.
“Yeah, I’m just- I’m just tired,” he replied in a strained voice. “It’s okay. Just let me sleep.” He didn’t want them to be there anymore. He didn’t want to worry them anymore. He just wanted everyone to go away and for the pain to stop and for him to just fall asleep. It was like every cut on his body was on fire. “Please just go. Just let me rest,” he fought to keep his voice steady, tears springing to his eyes.
The others seemed uncertain as to what to do. Finally, he felt James get up from the bed, “Come on, Wormy. You heard him. He needs his rest.” Wormtail patted his arm gently and he felt Lily’s hair tickle his face as she moved to leave. He heard their murmurs and footsteps all the way to the door of the hospital wing and then they were gone. The pain was subsiding now but Remus knew it would flare up again soon. He heard the chair that Sirius had been lounging on creak.
“You should go, Sirius.”
“No, I think I’ll stay here.”
A heavy weight suddenly pressed itself on the bed and, moments later, a big black dog had shimmed his way into Remus’s arms and lay there pressed against him. Remus pulled the covers over both of them and scratched Padfoot’s head. He was too tired to think about the consequences of Madam Pomfrey finding a dog in the hospital wing, too tired to worry about anything anymore. Burying his head in Padfoot’s warm matted fur, he shut his eyes and drifted off to sleep.