September 1975

"Even a man who is pure of heart,

and says his prayers by night,

may become a wolf,

when the wolfbane blooms,

and the Autumn moon is bright."

The early morning sunlight threw itself across Remus Lupin's eyes. The desire to bury himself deep within the stinking rags around him and protect his now human skin against the bitter cold was overpowering. The sound of birds tweeting merrily as they went about their morning chores filled the empty space. This was the moment which always pervaded his mind after a transformation. In the second between wolf and wizard, between nonexistence and actuality the wolf was bound once again within its living cell of flesh and bone, always waiting, always hungry, but jailed beneath a human face until the full moon rose again. It was as if time, for a prolonged moment stood perfectly still as the wolf departed and Remus Lupin returned, before the pain.

The pain always began in his fingers. His nails, which less than 24 hours ago had been clipped and clean, were now snapped completely, replaced by solid clumps of blood which vibrated with itchy infection. Remus pushed on the palms of his hands to prop himself up, careful not to touch the ends of his fingers for fear he might pass out from the pain. He cradled his dishevelled hands into his chest, as the pain, as it always did, spread across his body.

Remus tried to scream as the pain reached his broken rib cage, but was silenced as the pain spread to his freshly broken jaw. The tweeting in his ears became a high pitch ring. The ever comforting darkness consumed him as he passed out. Remus and darkness were now old friends, and embraced each other as though no time had passed. Remus hoped, as the burning, itching pain bore down into his brain that the darkness would one day swallow him totally, with no journey back into consciousness.

Remus' mind drifted, as minds tend to do, within the darkness. Flashes, as quick as lighting danced within his mind. The smell and feel of the forest beneath him as his friends, the Padfoot, Prongs and Wormtail tried to keep up. The cold spray of the lake, as he lapped to catch his breath, the soft whistle of the trees melted within the scratching and scurrying of the insects deep within forest.

Mmmmter ooooopin

mmmmmmmmter loooooopin

mmmmiissssster LOOOOPIN

These sounds within the darkness were recognisable. Remus wanted to pull away from them, to sink deeper into the painless shadows but felt he could not.

"Mr Lupin, can you hear me?" The soft voice of Poppy Pomfrey repeated as she draped a hot wet towel across Remus' forehead.

"Don't worry, I'm alive." Remus replied, as he barely managed to open one eye. The pounding inside his head wanted to pull him back into the darkness, encouraging him to hide from the pain and noise, to escape the inevitable crash of shame upon his pathetic shoulders.

"I can see that you're alive, but I've been trying to wake you up for twenty minutes! Honestly between you and those friends of yours I'm going to go grey by the time I'm forty!"

"At least you'll have fun stories to tell the children Poppy." Remus attempted to laugh as the darkness retreated to the corners of his eyes, but the pain in his legs laughed harder.

"Please stay still Remus, I haven't finished healing you yet. Thank Merlin I healed your jaw before you woke up." And so began another monthly ritual, a well-trained wand swept over Remus's naked body, bones snapped into place, nails were regrown and cuts were sealed. The pain retreated like a wounded animal, deep inside Remus' mind. If the pain was denied its pound of flesh, it would take payment in the subconscious.

"I'll leave you alone to get dressed," Poppy, as she always did, pointed to a pile of clothes, folded neatly upon a destroyed dressing table, "Then you can take a potion for the pain before breakfast." Poppy, clipped and ever efficient swept from the room, her grey cloak damp and trailing behind her leaving thick watermarks upon the floor.

Remus stood shakily to his feet, anticipating his legs collapsing beneath him, even though they never did. The morning after the first transformation of the school year always was a shock to Remus. At Hogwarts, Remus had Poppy Promfrey, a dab hand at healing the teenage werewolf. At home, although his father was no slouch when it came to tending to his son, the morning after was always more severe. Remus silently wondered if it was the sorrow in his father's eyes which made it worse, the look of guilt…and something else…perhaps disgust? Or fear? Poppy never looked at him that way, she ran the morning routine like a military general, albeit with a soft hand. Her eyes didn't brim with unshed tears or revulsion, but sparkled with empathy. Remus didn't honestly know which one was worse.

The cool splash of water against his face numbed his cheeks as Remus finally assessed the damage in a cracked and filthy mirror on the wall. An angry red scar was already forming along his jawline. His skin had faded into a chalky white, the only colour being the deep purple circles beneath his eyes. Remus quickly rinsed the congealed blood from his newly grown nails and swept a hand through his hair in a vain attempt to tame it. His eyes stung as the deep bruising on his ribs groaned in protest. Remus stared into his own eyes as the tears began to creep down his face, leaving tracks on his dirty cheeks. The pain or darkness would be better than the tears. They came in droplets and rose into a tide of grief. Remus sobbed as he stared into his own contaminated image, the memories of last night with his friends offering little warmth his soul. Remus snatched up the painkilling potion and emptied it onto the floor, where it sizzled and smoked as it hit a puddle of Remus' own urine. He would take the pain of his body as penance for his malformed being.

"Remus, Is everything alright?" Poppy called up the stairs, her voice warm with concern.

"I'm fine, nearly ready." Remus replied, clenching his jaw so she wouldn't hear the last of his tears. It was bad enough so saw him naked once a month covered in his own blood, shit and piss, she would never see him cry. No one ever would.

"Well come along then, best get you in the warm. I'm sure those friends of yours are waiting for your help plan their next big prank." Poppy half laughed as Remus finally made his way downstairs.

"Quidditch Try-outs today Poppy, all the staff can sleep soundly in their beds tonight. The Marauders are well distracted, for now at least." Remus still felt strange after all these years by calling the matron by her first name, but she had insisted that during wolf time, she was Poppy, not Madame Pomfrey. Remus supposed that once you had peeled a naked teenage werewolf off the floor, formalities didn't really make any sense.

"Well if you're going to the try-outs, wrap up warmly. This blasted cold won't do you any favours while you're still healing. Now off to breakfast!" Poppy instructed as she walked off towards the greenhouses, no doubt to enjoy an early morning cup of tea with Professor Sprout before they joined the rest of the staff.

"Moony! Finally, what kept you?" James Potter's voice echoed through the nearly empty great hall, his usual exuberance only slightly marred by his tired eyes.

"Been having your wicked way with Madame Pomfrey?" Sirus smiled, handing Remus a steaming cup of tea.

"Oh yes, between Poppy and McGonogall, i'm quite the busy boy these days." Remus retored, before gulping his tea down in one go. The scent of the english breakfast leaves filled Remus' nostrils and a soothing heat bloomed into his chest. It reminded Remus of home, and the fact his mother was convinced that no problem, no matter how big or small was unsurmountable when armed with a cup of tea and some rich chocolate. A werewolf who drank tea and saved cocker spaniels, Remus mused.

"Poppy and McGonogall! Lupin you old dog! Shagging about like a wolf with two d-"

"Padfoot!" Remus warned, conscious that the few students that were in the Great Hall could hear them.

"Fair play Moony," Sirus softened and looked penetratingly into Remus' eyes, the dark pools of onyx seemed to bore into Remus's soul and he felt himself blush, "How was it this morning?" Everything alright?"

"I'm fine. Few broken ribs...broken jaw...Nothing Poppy couldn't mend." Remus explained, finally dropping his gaze from the intense look Sirius was giving him.

"Doesn't sound too clever at all mate. If you weren't so pig-headed we could have stopped you hurting yourself." James slid a toasted bacon sandwich towards Remus and poured him another cup of tea.

"I've told you all one hundred times. I appreciate you all transforming and keeping me company during the night but you can't sleep in the shreiking shack with me afterwards. I've got to have some privacy, you know."

"Its not like i'm eager to see your pasty arse first thing of a morning Moony, but lets face it sharing a dormitory we've all seen eachother naked at some point anyway. Don't you remember that time you walked in on James with that copy of PlayWizard?" Sirius smiled, his eyes sparkling with mischief.

"I've managed to block it entirely from my memory," Remus smirked, "But those last couple of hours. You don't know what its like. I just need to be alone, i don't want any of you seeing me like that." Remus was surprised at how easily the truth had fallen from his lips.

"Well Moony, if you ever change your mind, we don't mind a few more hours making you chase us through the forest."

"James you look as if you haven't slept!"

"We haven't," Sirius laughed, "Peter has been snoring to high heaven since we got back, so we decided to talk tactics until breakfast."

"Ah yes, the Quidditch Tryouts, nervous Padfoot?"

"Nervous? Me? How dare you suggest such a thing Moony!"

"You should be Pads; bit of nerves isn't always a bad thing. You and Nick have got some competition this year." James explained, spearing a sausage with his fork and brandishing it in front of Sirius's face.

"Not exactly a guarantee that you'll make the team either, Prongs. Especially if Evans is there with Remus, pulling your already limited focus." Sirius replied, before snatching the sausage and shoving the whole thing into his mouth.

"That's duelling talk."

"Anytime Prongs, anytime."

Remus smiled to himself as his best friends continued to trade barbs at each other, each insult getting louder and more extravagant until all three were in hysterics. Warm tears ran freely from Remus' eyes as his laughter filled the hall. The darkness and pain were forced temporarily into retreat, as they always were by the warmth of his friends.

Later that morning, as the frost had finally melted and the castle was abuzz with its usual Sunday activity, Remus Lupin sat in the Quidditch stands with Lily and Ryan waiting patently for the flying to start. Lily had the good sense to bring a thermos of tea and Ryan had wordlessly conjured small jars of blue flames which floated in the air in front of them.

"Remind me again, why am i here?" Lily asked, her hands shaking as she handed the boys a cup each.

"Because you like the sight of James all sweaty and competitive?" Remus took the cup greatfully.

"Who like the sight of James all sweaty and competitive?" Sirius flew into view and hovered in front of them in the stands.

"Who doesn't like the sight of James all sweaty and competitive?" Ryan's smirked, his eyebrow arching as he met Sirius' eyes.

"Lancaster! I thought you only had eyes for me?" Sirius pouted as James and Nick flew up to the stands.

"You and Lancaster? About time Padfoot, always had my suspicions, " James laughed as he slapped his friend on the back, "Alright, Evans?"

Remus heard the slight hope in his voice, not matter how nonchalant James tried to seem. The marauders had talked at length about Lily Evans since she had told James off. As all good friends would, they nodded in his agreement, fumed at the sheer gall of her words, commiserated about James' hurt pride until finally, as with most conversations which revolved around James and Lily, the gang had agreed that she was right and James was wrong. Remus noticed that James especially had made a concerted effort to be nicer to Ryan, including being the one to invite him to the try-outs. Remus hated to admit that this sometimes transparent attempt to win Lily's favour seemed too obvious, but then again, James never did anything without being obvious.

"Not bad, bit cold for flying isn't it?"

"We'll sharp warm up once the balls are in the air!" James stated confidently, before the group burst into laughter causing him to blush a deep shade of crimson.

"Oh Prongs you are priceless!" Sirius had doubled over onto his broomstick, and struggled to breath between guffaws.

"Come on, we best get started before McLaggen shits himself with anticipation." James tried to recover as he eyes the waiting players on the ground.

"Honestly James, you've got to learn to think before you speak," Nick smiled, trying to keep his face straight, "Lancaster, James says you might be able to help with something?"

"Oh?"

"Yeah, Beaumont here is going to be kicked off the team before he even gets on it if McGonagall has her way." James nodded seriously, as if the thought of being forced out of Quidditch was a particularly solemn matter. Remus supposed that to James, it probably was.

"What can I do? I'm not very good at Quidditch, or flying for that matter." Ryan stated simply as he cleaned his glasses with the hem of his sleeve. Remus noted that Ryan always seemed surprised to be included or asked anything by his peers. To professors, he spoke with the confidence and maturity of a wizard far beyond his years, but to his contemporaries he seemed insulated and shy. Lily and Remus had discussed that they both noticed that Ryan had lost a lot of weight since the start of the year, and his naturally pale skin seemed gaunter and chalk white.

"It's not flying I need help with to be honest," Nick raked his hand through his long dark hair and averted his eyes, "It's my Charm work. If I don't improve by the first Hogsmeade trip, I'm spending the entire season sitting in the library."

"Yeah so we all thought, you could be his tutor part time or something, you'd be doing us a massive favour." Sirius explained, his eyes taking on that puppy dog hopefulness that always made Remus cave into whatever he wanted.

"There is no greater honour than helping your house win the cup!" James declared.

"I'll be tutoring Nick in Charms, James. I'm not preparing him for war." Ryan stated, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

"So, you'll do it then?" Nick looked up sheepishly, a small smile playing on the corners of his lips.

"Of course I will. Its revision at the end of the day and with OWLs coming up it can't do any harm, can it?"

"Just go easy on me Lancaster, not all of us have a big brain like yours, especially when I've taken a few bludgers to the head. I'll see you after try-outs in the tower?"

"You two can arrange it then, come on, we've got to start." James said before all three of them sped towards the goalposts.

Remus watched with fascination as his friends soared across the pitch. Sirius looped the loop and laughed as he belted a Bludger with all his might. Diving and climbing, Sirius turned into the wind as effortlessly as a swooping bird. Remus felt a pull in his stomach as Sirius broke into a steep dive, only to pull up at the last second and send a Bludger hurtling towards the opposite side of the pitch. A crowd of girls in the stands whooped and cheered their vapid fawning over Padfoot stuck deeply into nerves. The dormant wolf inside him growled as a realisation struck Remus with the force of a thunderbolt.

Oh shit. Remus thought to himself, as he started to feel hot beneath his collar and robes.

A tea drinking, cocker-spaniel-saving werewolf with a crush on one of his best friends.

Shit. Shit. Shit. SHIIIIT!