In the end, it is Sirius that figures out why Remus is gone so often. Very quickly it becomes apparent that no one’s mother is that consistently ill without their child being pulled from Hogwarts altogether. The school fees were nothing cheap after all. The rest of the time that he is at the school, Remus is a perfectly normal student and even if he doesn’t get on with his mother, like Sirius, surely he would have showed more signs of worrying about her? It just didn’t fit, and with the Black family being so obsessed with constellations and the importance of the stars, Sirius soon makes the connection about the full moon. He double checks star charts and his textbooks, thinks about the private tutoring lessons his mother had insisted on, and confirms his suspicions before sharing them. Of course, he doesn’t go to Remus with this information but to James.
Sirius has few enough friends at Hogwarts without alienating another by responding how his family would see fit, by outing him to the entire school and branding him a beast and a monster, even if that is what Sirius was afraid he might be. James has a calmer response, figuring that Remus seems perfectly nice the rest of the time so it would be better to research werewolves before saying anything and they find themselves in the library. It makes Sirius feel uncomfortable. The library at Hogwarts is large and densely packed with dust covered tombs that block out the light in places and remind him too much of home.
Peter takes longest to reassure that Remus is no danger at any other time, and James is the one to notice that if they could perfect the animagus transformation Remus would be no danger at all. Of course, it is theory and hope, and more serious than anything that Sirius has ever dealt with in his young life. It doesn’t sit well with Sirius who has to balance what he has been raised to believe and what he is finding out for himself. Not agreeing with his parents over things he didn’t really know about was one thing, but this was different.
Sirius points out that even if they do attempt the transformation, it will take years to perfect and James just smiles. He is confident that they can be there for Remus until then anyway. It is all about friendship and emotional support he says, and Sirius doesn’t quite understand because he wasn’t raised that way.
They tell Remus that they know and Sirius has never seen someone go so pale so fast without the use of magic. He tries to flee and it is Sirius that reaches out and grabs him by the arm, telling him it is ok. It is not that they understand but they are here and that is not going to change. Remus says that their plan is ridiculous, impossible, and he would never want to test it to see if animals can calm the wolf, because he could hurt them. James smiles and says he needs to live a little, and then Peter promptly changes the subject and checks everything they need to keep away from Remus to keep him safe. They have already read all about it, know there is nothing else, but Sirius appreciates the distraction because now that he has thought about it, becoming an animagus does sound awesome. He doesn’t want to be talked out of it, doesn’t want anyone to try until it has sunk in and his stubbornness takes over, as he still isn’t sure.
The first full moon after they know about the disease is strange. Remus has already explained about the tree, the shack, the way he sneaks down to the hospital wing and out into the grounds with the school nurse. They watch from the dorm as he disappears out of their sites and when the moon rises their usual chatter fades away as they are consumed by their own thoughts. Each of them itches to say something but just doesn’t know how It seems impossible to imagine what their friend is going through, and the words of his mother, father, and twisted family haunt Sirius for the rest of the evening. Remus is not a boy right now but a monster. He could kill them without even realising what he was doing, rip the flesh from their bones for no other reason than the wolf can.
Remus and the wolf. The wolf and Remus. They are the same and yet so different.
When Remus returns the following morning, all three of his friends notice things that they had never picked up on before. He still looks pale, tired, and he moves gingerly. Sirius gets angry with himself for having missed those things for months and stabs his beacon angrily while James moans about their mass of homework. As soon as the night falls, Sirius is mentally counting down the days until the next full moon. James reads books about human transfiguration in History of Magic and Sirius scowls and thinks that no transformation will be enough if he is a tiny animal that can’t control a werewolf if it did get angry. For a fleeting moment, he imagines that his fate might be to get eaten by his best friend and promptly brushes it aside because it turns his stomach. Gryffindors are supposed to be brave, but there is brave and there is stupid, and at the end of the day Sirius was raised to be a Slytherin by a house of snakes. Remus expresses his surprise that they stand by him, having expected them to abandon him as the realisation of where he had been that night sinks in, and Sirius tells himself he doesn’t recognise that feeling. He realises that if his friends can hear the name Black and still give him a chance to be more than the stories told by others, than he can give Remus a chance to be a man and not a beast and he can believe in a dream that might make that just a little easier for him.