Disclaimer: Haven't we done this before? Oh well. I claim nothing, make nothing - you don't sue, OK? Right!
Alright gang, here it is! You've been awfully patient, and for that I thank you - you would not believe how many dozens of papers I've had to write since I last updated. University's killer, I'll tell you, but I love it. As a reward for your patience, I present The Chapter that has Haunted Lone One's Waking and Sleeping for Almost a Year Now. Otherwise known as (Welsh Word of the Day), Darganfyddiad. Anyone know what that means, eh? No? Discovery! Yep, that's right, this is the big one. It's taken me a long time to write, but I'm happy with the results, for the most part. I'm not certain yet whether I'm taking the story any farther than this; I have lots of other ideas that fit in here and there in the future, and I'd like to work more with the Marauders, Lily, and Romulus (I'd really like to figure the guy out). Anyway, not sure yet, but I'll let you know at some point. :) I really hope you enjoy this one. ~Lone One.
Sirius woke from a deep sleep, to the sounds of Peter yelling loudly -sounded more like squealing, Sirius thought grumpily. Apparently, from the indistinct words he could make out in Peter's angry squawks, James had thought that waking Peter up by dumping a large amount of icy water on his head would make an excellent start to their last day of classes before Christmas break. It was the 18th of December, and the last day of the term; the Hogwarts Express would be taking them all home for their Christmas Breaks the very next day. Fortunately for Sirius, he was going to be staying with James the entire break; while he and his family had never gotten along overly well, ever since he had been Sorted into Gryffindor, his relations with family members had grown considerably colder (always excepting Andromeda, of course, but he rarely saw her anymore).
Of course, Sirius reflected, burying his head under two pillows, a coverlet and the nearest textbook he could reach, in hopes of drowning out the argument continuing between Peter and James, they would not all be leaving. They had discovered the day before, quite by accident, that Remus was staying at Hogwarts over the break. They had been shocked, to say the least; they had believed he was leaving with them, and a rather strange scene had ensued.
"So holidays start in two days!" Sirius crowed, grinning broadly as he collapsed into an armchair in front of the fire in the Gryffindor Common Room, his friends already seated comfortably already.
"I can't wait for classes to be over" Peter agreed. "I've been working so hard, I could really use a break." The others looked him for a moment before they all broke out laughing; everyone knew that Peter did the bare minimum of work possible to keep up in his classes.
"So, any big plans for the break, Rem?" James asked. Remus looked up from the book he was currently reading - "How to Win Battles and Influence Dark Creatures" - and smiled quietly.
"No, not really. It will be a nice break from the work, though."
"Looking forward to seeing your parents?" Sirius asked. "They're great, really they are. Tell them hello for me, would you?"
"Ah, well-" Remus said hesitantly. "I'm not really going to be seeing them this break." At the surprised expressions of his friends, he continued. "They're out on some secret mission for Dumbledore right now, and it's not really safe, and they'll be busy during break. So, I'll just be staying here." Remus was perfectly calm about it, although he seemed sad that he would not be seeing his parents.
"What?" Sirius exclaimed. "You're staying here for the whole break? Remus, why didn't you say anything? You could have come with any of us!"
"Don't worry about it." James put in calmly. "You'll just come with Sirius and me to my house, that's all. My parents won't mind a bit, and it'll be loads of fun." James smiled confidently, obviously sure he had solved all of Remus' problems.
"That's very kind of you, James, but I've already made arrangements to stay here. I'm sort of looking forward to the quiet, you know." Remus remained as calm as ever.
"Rem.." Sirius started, but was cut off.
"No. Thank you, guys, but I'm staying here. I have to be here over this break. Maybe some other time, James." And with that, Remus stood, gathered his books and his bag from next to his chair, smiled at his friends, and walked out of Gryffindor tower, presumably heading to the Library.
Sirius frowned as he recalled the conversation; it just wasn't right for someone to be alone for Christmas! Since everyone else from Gryffindor was planning on leaving over break, Remus would be quite alone. Sirius found he didn't like to think of Gryffindor tower that empty- it didn't seem right for the tower, usually so noisy and full of life, to be occupied by only one small, quiet boy. Blast it, why wouldn't Remus come with them to the Potter's house? It would have been so much fun!
The noises from outside Sirius' cocoon of pillows and blankets had finally subsided, and he risked peeking out from beneath his protective covering. Peter was sitting on the edge of his own bed, wet and sulking, while James was obviously considering sneaking up on Remus to try the same ice water trick to wake him.
Splash! James began to laugh again, loudly, as he threw water all over the sleeping Remus, who woke suddenly, and (thankfully, Sirius thought) quietly. He took in the scene before him without speaking, nodded his head once in James' direction, and reached for his wand. Before James could even stop laughing, Remus had levitated a full glass of water from beside James' bed, and upended it over James' head. James suddenly stopped laughing, dripping wet, and looked at himself in shock. Remus grinned, scooted himself to a dry section of his bed, and promptly went back to sleep, as his friends stared at him in amazement. Sirius broke the silence by laughing loudly, and Peter joined in, glad that James had received a taste of his own medicine.
Finally, a rather large amount of time later, the boys had all managed to dress and eat breakfast without further major incidents, and had managed to arrive barely in time for class. Their first class was Transfiguration, which pleased all of the boys except Peter - he was not one of Professor McGonagall's favorites. She seemed to think him rather talent-less, but worse, she was frustrated that he refused to put the effort into his work that she wished him to. She routinely spent long periods of classtime, while the students were supposed to be Transfiguring things, staring disapprovingly at Peter, until she shook her head sadly and moved on to another student. The others all greatly enjoyed the class, and thought McGonagall a good teacher, if rather strict. Nevertheless, they were all glad to finish their work and leave, glad to be done with the class until after break.
The rest of their classes that day flew by as well, leaving them happily in the Common Room that evening, with no homework to be done. Seated in front of the fireplace again, the four boys enjoyed a quiet evening for once - Sirius had been voted down; his idea had been to spend the evening sneaking around the grounds (in James' invisibility cloak, but he hadn't mentioned that bit to Peter and Remus, as he had been sworn to secrecy by James on the matter) and look for "interesting things." However, Remus had expressed a desire to remain inside, as he was starting to feel ill - "probably just a cold, but I'd rather not make it worse, Sirius," and Peter had agreed quickly, probably due to his fear of the dark, and of the caretaker. Even James had abandoned him, saying that he did not want to go wandering outside when it was so very cold and wet.
Sirius had sulked for a bit, but when Peter and James had struck up a game of chess, and Sirius and Remus were both curled up in armchairs, watching the game and reading, respectively, Sirius decided that he was in favor of a quiet evening for once. It was just so nice to spend time with one's best friends, especially in as nice a place as the Gryffindor Common Room. It was warm and cosy there, and seemed even nicer when contrasted with the cold and wind outside. Sirius looked down at James and Peter, arguing in a friendly way over their game; Peter was grinning broadly, glad to be beating James at something for once. James kept pushing his glasses up in frustration, and absentmindedly running his hands through his hair as he attempted to avoid losing his chessmen; his pieces were nearing mutiny, yelling at him shrilly as he lost every piece. Sirius looked over at Remus, reading again - or rather, not reading. Sirius looked carefully, and determined that Remus had fallen asleep, curled up comfortably in the squashy armchair he always preferred. He looked rather pale, and Sirius sighed; he would probably be ill again in the next few days, and have to spend a few days in the Infirmary. That was the way it usually went with Remus, and he couldn't figure it out. It frustrated Sirius to no end, being unable to find the answer to a problem that bothered him.
"Alright, that's it." Sirius said, but not impatiently. It was nearly eleven o'clock, and while James and Peter looked as though they could continue playing until the end of the world, Sirius was ready for bed, and obviously Remus needed to go to bed as well. He dragged himself from his chair, and walked over to Remus's chair; placing a hand on Remus's shoulder, he shook him gently. "Wake up, Remus! C'mon, wake up -it's bedtime!"
James and Peter started laughing. "That's a reason to wake up - wouldn't want to miss going to bed!" James snorted. Sirius glared at him, and continued to shake Remus until the latter began to move. Remus yawned, stretched a bit, and looked quizzically at Sirius.
"What is it? Why do I need to wake up? I was sleeping."
"Yeah, but you have to wake up now, Remus, or you'll miss going to bed and sleeping." Peter told him, straight-faced but attempting not to laugh. Remus merely nodded, and stood, heading towards the stairs. With goodnights said all around, Remus and Sirius went up the stairs silently, both yawning. Neither spoke as they got ready for bed, but Sirius was growing more curious and impatient as every moment went by, wondering what on earth was bothering Remus, and why he wouldn't say anything. Finally, he had had enough, and turned to his friend, who was kneeling by his trunk putting his books away for the night.
"Right, Remus, enough of this. I really want you to answer my questions this time, it's important, I know it is, and you've just got to tell me!" Remus looked up, startled, his eyes wide and frightened. Why? Sirius thought desperately. Why should he be afraid to tell me something? What could be so wrong that he can't tell any of us?
"W-what are you talking about, Sirius?" Remus asked, his voice still calm, but his face betrayed his fear.
"Why do you get sick so much? Why does your mum get sick all the time? Why can you go visit her when she gets sick, but not over Christmas break? What, in short, is wrong with you?"
"Sirius, I've answered these questions dozens of times before, you know the answers."
"No, no I don't. All I know is what you've told me, and frankly, Rem, you're a pathetic liar. Your face goes all twitchy and pale when you lie to any of us - not to teachers, but to me and Petey and Jamie. You can't even lie about birthday presents without getting all weird, and you certainly can't lie about whatever is wrong with you. Come on, just tell me!"
"Sirius," Remus said, still quiet, still calm, "we've discussed this before. Can't you accept that this is something I can't tell you about? Please, could you drop it?" But Sirius was insistent.
"No. This has gone on long enough. I'm your friend, Remus, and I don't appreciate being lied to. You're supposed to be able to trust your friends. Haven't we always trusted you with everything?"
"Yes, but that was different. Your secrets have always been about things like - like how to blow up Snape's potions, or who James has a crush on. This is not a joke, Sirius, it's bigger than you know, and I cannot tell you, I just can't!" Now Remus was upset, his face flushed, his eyes bright. His hands were clasped together tightly, wringing each other until his fingers were white and red.
"Remus, come off it!" Sirius said, also getting upset. "Whatever it is can't be that bad, honestly. I mean, if you've got some sort of disease you're embarrassed about or something, the world's not going to end if you tell us! We're not going to stop being your friends or anything! It's not like you're a - a werewolf or something!" Sirius had intended his werewolf comment to show Remus that there were things in life worse than whatever it was that bothered him, but it seemed to have the opposite effect. Remus turned white, and looked ready to faint. He stood from where he had been kneeling, and took a few shaky steps backwards, away from Sirius, until he was backed up against the wall.
"W-werewolf?" Remus' voice was a shaky as the rest of him, sounding choked and desperate. "And - and if I was, are you saying you wouldn't be friends with me anymore? Is that it?"
"What - er, well, what I meant was-" Sirius was lost for words, mumbling cluelessly. He had no idea why Remus was reacting this way, and was seriously worried his friend would have a heart attack if he kept on this way. "Remus..."
"And what do you know about werewolves?" Remus cried suddenly, stunning Sirius. Remus never yelled, never! "Only what Muerno taught in class, 'werewolves are monsters, Professor!'" His voice had taken on a harsh, mocking tone as he repeated the phrase, his face contorted with what? Rage? Grief? Sirius found he couldn't tell. "So if you were to meet a werewolf, a monster, what would you do? Kill it? What?" He was shaking fit to fly apart.
Sirius tried to move towards him, but Remus flinched away, moved along the wall out of Sirius' reach. Now Sirius was starting to get angry. "Well, that's what we've been taught, isn't it? Besides, I'm not trying to say you're a werewolf or anything, Rem, that would be ridiculous, I was just trying to make a point. Why are you so upset, anyway? Are you a closet supporter of the 'Dark Creatures Equal Rights Lobby" or something? This is ridiculous, you yelling at me- it's not like this even matters!"
"Doesn't matter?" Remus said quietly, darkly, his voice almost a growl. "Doesn't matter? Let me tell you a story, Sirius Black. Once there was a little boy named Aidan. When he was 10, he was bitten by a werewolf, and was infected with lycanthropy. So Aidan, who had done nothing wrong, was a werewolf himself now - one of those monsters you want dead. Aidan lived through every full moon, in pain, knowing that everyone hated him and would like to see him dead. He didn't get to go to school, although he had been supposed to go to Hogwarts. One full moon, when Aidan was only 15, he broke out of the place where he was locked when he transformed, and - and he bit someone else, another little boy. When the neighbors heard the next day, they were outraged. Everyone had liked Aidan, before they found out that he was really a monster in human disguise. The next full moon, several of the strongest, bravest wizards in the area broke into his hiding place and killed him, while he was still in wolf form." Now Remus was crying, tears streaming down his face silently as he continued the story. "The officials did nothing, merely wrote it up as an accidental death, and forgot about him. The other little boy who had been bitten and his family were forced to leave, because no-one wanted to be around another such monster. And you, Sirius Black, you can stand there and say that it doesn't matter, you can repeat the stories of monsters that Muerno fed you, but I knew Aidan. He was like an older brother to me, before they killed him, and I tell you, it does matter. Life's not as rosy and happy as you would like to see it, Sirius, and not all secrets can be told."
Sirius stood motionless. He knew his mouth was hanging open, and that he most likely looked like a Stunned fish, but he did not care at the moment. Remus, yelling? Remus, saying that life was not as happy as he, Sirius, saw it? Remus was the one who usually attempted to look at the bright spot in every situation. The two boys stared at each other for a moment, neither knowing what to say. Sirius cleared his throat nervously; Remus continued to cry, but without a sound.
"Remus, I - I had no idea. I'm sorry, I-" Sirius had nothing to say. He put a hand out to Remus, hoping that somehow Remus would take it, that they could shake hands and everything would be alright. Remus stared at the hand for a moment in shock, then shook his head slowly, still looking as though he was about to fall apart, literally.
"No, I - don't, Sirius, I..." Remus could not stand still anymore, and dashed over to his four-postered bed, threw himself on it, and jerked the curtains shut all the way around. As Sirius stood, hand still outstretched, he could hear Remus sobbing from inside the curtains. As Sirius slowly collected himself, and lay down on his own bed, the heart-broken sobs continued, until it finally seemed that Remus had cried himself to sleep. Sirius felt truly awful, and had no idea what he was going to do about any of the mess he had created.
After the room had been silent for about an hour, Peter and James having come up and gone to sleep almost directly after Remus had fallen asleep, without hearing any of what had gone on, Sirius rose silently from his bed. He tiptoed over to Remus' bed, and carefully pulled back the nearest curtain; he had to be certain that nothing else had happened to Remus, as silly as that thought seemed to Sirius. Remus had indeed fallen asleep, curled up in a miserable little ball around his pillow, which almost looked larger than the boy. His cheeks were still streaked with tears, and even in the dim light, Sirius could see that his face looked miserably sad, as though someone had indeed broken his heart. Sirius cursed himself silently, feeling like the lowest person on earth. Carefully, he grabbed the edge of Remus' coverlet and pulled it up over his friend, who was shivering slightly in his sleep. Sirius tucked the blanket around his friend, hoping not to wake him, and then let the curtain fall, returning to his own bed. It took him a long time, but Sirius finally slept.
The next morning dawned cold and clear, but Sirius did not wake until about fifteen minutes before the three second year boys had to leave for the train.
"You were sleeping, and you always yell at us when we wake you up, so we thought we should let you sleep, even though James said that sleeping was all you would do all break, but I brought you some toast because you missed breakfast, and do you know where Remus is because we can't find him to say goodbye and come on, Sirius, the train'll leave without us!" Peter's opening monologue was a bit more than Sirius could handle the first thing in the morning, and so he scarfed the toast as he hurried to dress; his trunk had already disappeared, as he was taking it with him to James' house over the break.
"Wait, where's Remus?" Sirius asked suddenly, as Peter and James were attempting to shove him out of the Common Room, on their way to the train.
"We told you, we don't know! He was gone before we woke up this morning, and we haven't seen him!" James said, poking Sirius with his wand. "Move it! We're going to be late!"
"But I have to talk to him, you don't understand!" Sirius protested, but he couldn't hold out against both of his friends.
"You can owl him when we get off the train, Sirius, now come on!" Finally, Sirius acquiesced, and the three ran for the train, and barely made it on time. Having had only a few hours of sleep, Sirius was exhausted, and spent much of the trip asleep, while James and Peter continued their chess tournament from the night before. Sirius was deeply disturbed by the events of the night, and couldn't help thinking that he was missed something important.
When they finally reached Kings Cross Station, the three got off of the train slowly, and James and Sirius said goodbye to Peter right away, as his family was waiting to meet him right away. The Potters showed up shortly after, and in the busy hugging and fussing and transporting of trunks, Sirius had little time to think about anything until they had reached the Potter's house, where they spent the rest of the afternoon and evening alternately eating and talking. James and Sirius were full of stories of the fun they had shared at Hogwarts, and James' parents were eager to hear everything, and not afraid to share tips on making mischief there. By the time they were ready for bed, Sirius was feeling considerably better than he had that morning. In fact, Sirius was considering how very nice it was to just spend some time with James again. He liked Peter and Remus a great deal, but James had been his best friend for years, and it was nice to spend time with just James and the Potters, who had practically adopted him.
Although he had no trouble falling asleep, Sirius' night was anything but peaceful. He dreamed of a dark forest, lit only by the cold white light of the moon - the full moon. In his dream, he and James and another boy, all of them small, ran through the woods, laughing and chasing each other, the light creating mysterious patterns on the tree trunks and the cold ground beneath them. Sirius knew, in his dream, that they were not supposed to be there - the adults were yelling for them to come back, but the boys just laughed, and ran on, farther into the woods. The forest became darker and thicker as they ran, but all three knew the area well - hadn't they played there every summer, splashing in the little stream that ran beside them, climbing the smallest of the trees? Hadn't they piled the leaves high when they fell in the autumn, and built themselves castles and fortresses of the dead leaves? The three ran on; it was cold, obviously winter, but the boys ran so fast that they kept themselves warm. James' glasses flashed in the light, his grin bright and carefree. The other boy's hair was light brown, and his eyes shone brightly as he laughed with the others, as happy and careless as his friends.
And then something changed. Suddenly, it was not their parents they were running from, but a monster. Something was chasing them, coming closer behind them; Sirius ran faster. The monster behind them growled, and the boys would have screamed, but they didn't have the breath to waste.
"Quick!" James shouted to the others. "Climb up a tree, now!" Sirius and James both started to climb furiously, sure they would be safe if they could reach a branch above the monster's reach. The other boy was smaller than they were, however, and though he tried to climb, he couldn't reach any branch low enough to give himself a boost. Seeing this, James and Sirius both cried out - the monster was getting closer, louder, it's growls more frightening than ever. With a quick glance at each other, James and Sirius both hurried back down from their trees, running back to the other boy. His face was pale in the moonlight, his eyes unnaturally wide in terror.
Sirius realized they would all be killed, and shook uncontrollably; he couldn't help but whisper in terror "help us! Someone please help us!" But no help came. The monster finally came into view - a wolf. As tall as the little boys, wide and grey, with bright eyes and sharp teeth, it was a monster from anyone's nightmares. It slowed as it saw them, and bared its teeth in a terrifying approximation of a smile as it advanced slowly. Sirius and James, standing slightly in front of the other boy, both screamed in terror; the other boy seemed to frightened even to breathe.
The wolf approached, was almost on them, and Sirius heard a scream - "No! Go away! James, Sirius!" The littlest boy screamed, flinging his hands up in front of him as if to ward off the beast - and then it was gone, and so was the boy, and only he and James remained - but now they were standing on the front steps of a house that Sirius knew belonged to his own parents. And James and Sirius stared at each other, and screamed.
Sirius woke suddenly to find himself lying in a cold sweat in the Potter's guest bedroom, the room he always used when he visited. Shaking himself, he stood and moved to the window, trying to forget his dream; somehow, though, it didn't really feel like a dream, but more like -like a memory. Sirius shook his head, trying to clear it of the disturbing images. If it had been a memory, why couldn't he remember it as more than a dream? And if he and James had been there, who was the other boy? And where had he and the wolf gone? Sirius drew back the curtains and looked outside; the sky was bright and clear, and lit by the moon, which was almost completely full, like the moon in his dream-
The moon in his dream had been full. The wolf that had come so close to killing them - what if it had not been a wolf, but a werewolf? Sirius felt as though he was being pelted in the head by Bludgers as his ideas came fast and furious. If it had been a werewolf, on the night of the full moon, it would explain why the adults had been screaming for them so frantically - they would have known the danger. And the other boy - Sirius closed his eyes and thought hard, trying to recall the face of the boy. Brown hair, light eyes in a pale face, the look of terror at the approach of the wolf - Remus!
Sirius sat down on his bed with a thump. It had been Remus in his dream, a much younger Remus, but he was certain of it. What if -what if it wasn't just a dream? What if it had actually happened? He and James had somehow gotten away, but what if Remus hadn't? That wolf- werewolf- would have torn him to pieces! But assuming it hadn't, assuming he had survived, he would almost certainly have been bitten, and that would make Remus a werewolf. Sirius felt sick. It all made sense- far too much sense. Remus' disappearances, his reaction the previous night, his appearance after disappearing, the way the teachers treated him - it all made sense, falling into place like pieces in a gruesome, tragic puzzle. Suddenly Sirius could no longer stand keeping the ideas to himself; he jumped to his feet and dashed to James' room.
"James! Come on, wake up James, this is important, wake up! James!" Sirius was almost crying as he frantically tried to wake his friend. James finally grunted, and rolled over, looking blearily in Sirius' general direction; without his glasses, he could see very little.
"Sirius, what? Why do you have to wake me up now?"
"It's Remus - I think I know what's wrong with him, but Jamie, please tell me I'm wrong!"
James sat up, put on his glasses, and looked seriously at Sirius. "OK, so tell me."
Quickly, Sirius told him about the dream, and about Remus' explosion the night before, and about how he reached his awful conclusion. As James realized that the symptoms all fit, he turned white as well, and looked ill. Finally, Sirius fell silent, and James climbed out of bed and grabbed a small calendar from his desk, which was almost completely covered with junk. Flipping through it quickly, he became progressively more upset, until he finally threw it down on the bed and sat down suddenly on the floor beside the bed, and put his head in his hands.
"They all match." He said, his voice rough and quiet. "Every time Remus goes away, it's a full moon. Merlin, Sirius, Remus is a werewolf." The two sat in silence for a few minutes, there being, in fact, nothing to say.
"Well, now what?" Sirius finally asked, when he couldn't bear the silence any longer. "Now what?"
"Well, Dumbledore must already know, and he let Remus come to Hogwarts anyway. And I suppose the teachers all know as well. I don't know, Sirius, I really don't know what we're supposed to do."
"Do you think - well, do you suppose there's any way we were actually there, the way I dreamed? I don't know, but it was so real, James!"
"I don't know." James was quiet and subdued; when he raised his head, it looked as though he had been burdened by the weight of the world. His face was worried and more serious than Sirius had ever seen it before; he suspected that if he looked in a mirror, he would see the exact same thing on his own face. And the two sat in silence, staring out the window at the moon.
"It's not full tonight, is it?" Sirius asked after a while. "I mean, he's not - not tonight?"
"No." James said. "Tomorrow. It's full tomorrow, and that means that they'll take him away to wherever he goes, and then he'll be alone, and he'll turn into a raging wolf and-" James' voice was choked off by tears, and he buried his head in the side of his bed and wept silently. Sirius felt his own throat grow tight, and he couldn't stop the tears from coming to his own eyes either; he didn't really know what he was crying for, whether for Remus or for James and himself, bearing the weight of the knowledge, or for their perfect friendship, which suddenly seemed years past. Neither of the boys spoke again that night, but neither of them slept, either.
"James! Sirius! Time to get up - breakfast is ready!" Mrs. Potter's voice drifted up the stairs, and the boys jumped, coming back to reality with a start. A moment later, when neither of them had moved or responded, James' mother came into James' room to check on him. "What - Sirius, what are you doing in here? And you two look awful - haven't you slept? You look as though your best friend had died!"
"He as good as has!" Sirius cried, trying hard not to start crying again. James didn't respond at all, still staring out into space. Mrs. Potter looked shocked, and moved closer to them, sitting down on the edge of the bed next to James, and put an arm around each boy.
"What's this? How about explaining it to me?' In choked voices, and with a few tears, the boys told her about their suspicions about Remus. When they had finished, her face was sad and worried, and all she said was "Come with me, you two. Downstairs. We need to talk." Wiping their faces on their sleeves, the boys followed her. When they reached the kitchen, she gently pushed each of them into a chair, and set plates of food in front of them. They ate mechanically, not even noticing that they were doing so. James' mother left the kitchen silently, and returned with his father; they both joined the boys at the table, but did not eat anything.
"Your mother tells me you have some concerns about Remus Lupin." Mr. Potter said quietly. "She says that you have discovered that he has lycanthropy." James and Sirius nodded dully, and both pushed their plates away. "We knew that already, but we did not feel that it would be beneficial for you to know."
"What? Why?" James exploded. "You didn't think I needed to know that a friend was a - had a -was a werewolf? I told you we were worried about him, I told you he was sick, and you just said it was regrettable!"
"James, Remus was bitten when he was a very little boy. It was not his fault, and there was nothing that could be done about it. It would have done no good to tell you - there was nothing you could have done about it anyway, and we didn't think you needed to deal with this at your age." Mrs. Potter smiled sadly at the boys as she explained, but neither of them was in the mood to smile back.
"I suppose that you deserve the whole story now." James' father said. "When you two were born, we lived right here, as we do now; Sirius' family still lived across the street," Sirius shuddered, "and the Lupin family lived just down the road. The three of you boys grew up together, and were best friends, even though Remus was a year younger than either of you. He would often come and stay with us here when his parents were called away on Auror business, and he was something of a little brother to both of you."
"He was such a sweet child, never any trouble at all." Mrs. Potter said sadly, tears forming in her own eyes. Mr. Potter took her hand gently, and continued his story.
"On your fifth birthday, Sirius, Remus' fourth, the Lupins had a party for both of you, and the three of you were to spend the night at Remus' house. Unfortunately, you all decided it would be more fun to run away into the woods - on the night of the full moon. By the time anyone noticed you had disappeared, we couldn't find you; we searched desperately, until the two of you showed up suddenly on the Black's steps, screaming your heads off. By the time we found Remus, it was almost too late to save him; he spent two months in St. Mungo's, and they were shocked that he lived. It seems that Remus' first occurrence of magic served to throw you two away from danger, and sent you back to safety - powerful magic, especially for such a young boy. When he was healed, the Lupins had to move away quickly; the community would not stand for another werewolf in their midst, not after the last accident."
"Aidan." Sirius muttered quietly. "Remus told me something about a werewolf named Aidan - he was the one who bit Remus, wasn't he? And they killed him?" The Potters nodded sadly, and Sirius slammed his fist down on the tabletop, making the plates jump.
"Yes, we couldn't get anyone to see reason. The Lupins disappeared, and we heard nothing about any of them until you went to Hogwarts and returned with news of Remus. Isn't it rather strange that you all became such good friends again?"
"Wait." James said sternly. "If all of this is true, why don't we remember any of it? I have no memories of Remus before meeting him on the Hogwarts Express."
"Well, I'm afraid that one is at least partially Mr. Black's fault." Mrs. Potter said. "Afterwards, he insisted that Sirius have no memories of the events of that night, or indeed of Remus at all. He persuaded us that it would be better for both of you to not remember that night, or Remus - we didn't think you would ever see him again. Perhaps we were mistaken, but we wanted to do what was best for you, and we didn't think that letting our five year old suffer nightmares every night, and have to mourn for his friend, was the best course of action. We had an expert perform the Memory Charms on you both, to avoid problems, and we all were very upset about Remus, but we really thought we would never hear about him again - the Lupins wanted to disappear as much as possible."
Sirius and James sat in silence for a few minutes, thinking about everything they had learned. James spoke first.
"What about Remus? I mean, we learned about werewolves in Defense Against the Dark Arts, but Remus isn't anything like what Muerno said! He's not bloodthirsty or sneaky or conniving or out to kill humans or anything! He's been our friend since we started at Hogwarts, and we've always trusted him."
"And I suppose he figured that if he told us, we wouldn't trust him anymore, or be his friends." Sirius added quietly. He looked up, and looked straight at James. "I have to tell you, James, I've been wondering what we're going to do now. I mean yes, he's been our friend, but what if Muerno's right? And what if something happens? Accidents do, sometimes - you didn't see him the other night when he was angry with me - he was scary, James!" James looked at him, angry himself.
"And what are you suggesting, Sirius? Do you think we should abandon him because of what he is? It was partially our fault that he got bitten in the first place; if we abandon him now, what kind of friends are we?" Sirius flushed, and shook his head.
"No, you're right. I was just thinking aloud. We need to talk to him, though- let him know that we still like him, still want to be his friends." James nodded in agreement, and looked at his parents.
"How do we get to Hogwarts today?"
"Today?" Mr. Potter looked surprised. "Why the rush?"
"Because the full moon is tonight." Sirius said firmly. "We need to talk to him before he - before he has to go through it. We have to tell him today." The Potters nodded understandingly, and Mrs. Potter looked thoughtful.
"I'll have to make inquiries, but we may be able to Floo directly to Hogwarts. It's not usually permitted, but Dumbledore may make an exception in your case. In the meantime, I think the two of you need to go and take naps - you're both dead on your feet, and you won't do Remus any good if you can't stay awake to talk to him. Go on now!" She shooed the boys away, but James stopped before leaving the kitchen.
"I want my memories restored." James said firmly. "If you got an expert to put the Memory Charm on, they are required by law to leave a way for the effects to be removed. I want to remember everything." Sirius nodded in agreement, and the Potters looked at each other.
"You'll have to let us look into that one as well, dear. Now go on - we'll wake you when we have answers for you." The two boys finally left, each going to his own room, where they fell asleep quickly. They were woken in the mid-afternoon; James' father told them to come back downstairs to talk everything over.
An elderly woman stood downstairs, and smiled at them when they appeared.
"Ah, and here they are, the little loves! You've grown so much, I would hardly know you!"
"This is Estamilla, who put the Memory Charms on you to begin with. She has agreed to undo them for you, if you're certain that is what you want." James and Sirius both nodded, and sat down in the chairs provided for them. Estamilla was quick and efficient, and within a few moments, the boys were beginning to sense the Memory Charms lifting.
"You'll want to be careful there, loves." She told them gently. "These are some powerful memories you're getting back, and ye don't want to upset yourselves." The Potters paid her and thanked her, and she left; James and Sirius were still sitting quietly as the memories rushed back.
Sirius found himself recalling scenes with his parents that had disappeared; when he was very small, they had been much more kind and caring, certain that their little Sirius would grow to be the pride of the Black family. He remembered playing with James when they were very small, riding their first brooms, playing with the Black's house-elves. He remembered some of their first meetings with Remus, a happy toddler; the three had been virtually inseparable. By the time he reached the memories of his fifth birthday, a wide grin had spread over Sirius' face as he remembered what mischievous children they had been. He found that his memories of the awful night in the forest were almost the same as those he had seen in his dream; he could only suppose that the Memory Charm had slipped, somehow, allowing him to dream his memories. Beside him, James was having worse reactions to the traumatic memories of the night Remus had been bitten; he was pale and looked frightened. It took both of the boys a few hours to adjust their minds - it was very strange, recovering several years of lost memories in a matter of minutes.
By the time they were back to normal, the afternoon was wearing away. James hurriedly asked his parents if they had found a way for the boys to return to Hogwarts.
"We've spoken to Dumbledore, and he has given you permission to Floo directly into the fireplace in Gryffindor Tower. You can go at once, and just keep us informed of everything. If you need any help, please let us know- and do see if you can't convince Remus to come and spend the rest of the Christmas break here. We would love to see him again!"
The Potters gave the boys a generous amount of Floo Powder, and they made their way to the fireplace, where they looked nervously at each other. They hadn't actually considered what to tell Remus, but they expected that he would respond badly, considering how hard he had worked to keep his secret. With a deep breath, Sirius threw his Floo Powder into the flames, stepped in, and yelled "Gryffindor Tower!" He enjoyed traveling by Floo, and stepped out into the Common Room with very little fuss. James followed right behind him, and they looked around the Common Room. It was completely empty, and looked desolate.
"Where do you suppose he is?" James whispered; somehow, it seemed wrong to speak aloud in the quiet room. Sirius shrugged, and led the way towards their dorm room. They thrust the door open carefully, and looked in. Remus was there, sound asleep on his bed, looking even more haggard and exhausted than he had the last time they had seen him. The two looked at each other, and then moved over to stand beside his bed. Sirius put out a hand, and gently shook Remus' shoulder.
"Hey, Rem? Time to wake up!" Sirius spoke gently, but Remus reacted strongly, sitting bolt upright and throwing off his hand. He looked at them for a moment, confusion clouding his gaze.
"James? Sirius? What are you doing here? You left for break yesterday!" Remus rubbed a tires hand across his pale face as he stared at his friends.
"Yes, well, we thought we'd come back to bug you!" James said jovially, although it sounded hollow and forced to Sirius. "You can't get rid of us that easily, and besides, you never said goodbye. We had to come back."
"Actually, Remus," Sirius began, feeling ill again, "we came back because we really needed to talk to you." At that, Remus began to look worried and stood up, and frowned. James didn't let him speak, though, and jumped in, speaking quickly.
"Look Remus, we've figured it out - actually, Sirius did, he remembered - and well, my parents told us the details, and we should have seen it before, really we should..." Remus, by this time, had gone as white as a sheet, and had backed up until his back was firmly against the wall. His eyes were wide and panicked, and he was looking from one of his friends to the other, practically begging them to tell him that they were not talking about what he feared. Sirius wished they could just get it over with - he hated seeing Remus so scared.
"What he's trying to say, Rem, is that we know that you - that you're a werewolf." At that, Remus seemed to collapse, his knees buckling beneath him. He slid to the floor, buried his head in his hands, and bent in two, his head obscured by his knees. James and Sirius looked at each other in alarm, and rushed over to Remus. He was sobbing silently, his slight body wracked by sobs. James and Sirius tried to tell him all of the comforting things they meant to share with him, to let him know they were still his friends, but it was obvious that the could not hear them; he seemed to be in a state of shock. Finally, they ended up sitting on either side of him, waiting for him to calm down; it took a long time. When his silent sobs finally stopped, he did not lift his head or look at either of them. After a long pause, however, he said quietly, brokenly,
"I - I suppose I'll speak to Professor Dumbledore tomorrow. I've been told I may transfer to Slytherin, but if you would prefer, I can just leave Hogwarts all together. I think - I suppose I shouldn't have come - I knew it would never last, but I wanted - I just wanted to be normal." Here, his self-control faltered again, and his shoulder shook with barely repressed sobs. "I just wanted to thank you for - for being my friends. You'll never know how much that meant to me." Before either of them had a chance to react, Remus shot to his feet and bolted from the room, the door slamming behind him. Sirius swore, and they picked themselves up, and gave chase.
Remus was awfully fast when he ran, and he had a head start on them; also, they had no idea where he was running. Consequently, they lost him completely, and ended up searching every place they could think to look for him. Finally, they stopped, panting for breath, in front of a large window that looked out on the grounds. Sirius, gazing out the window, gave a small shout of excitement.
"Look, there he is! Jamie, look!" James looked where Sirius was pointing, and saw a familiar little figure heading across the grounds, accompanied by Madam Pomfrey. The two approached the Whomping Willow, where the matron did something that apparently froze the fierce tree where it stood. Remus turned to her, appearing to hold a conversation for a while, before ducking away, out of sight, disappearing somewhere among the roots of the great tree. As they watched, the tree came back to life, and Madam Pomfrey began to walk back to the castle. James and Sirius both looked up at the sky, which was almost completely dark.
"Must be almost time for moonrise." James noted quietly. Sirius nodded his agreement. "So I guess that's where they put him, then, when he's transformed - under the Willow! That's amazing!" Sirius nodded again, not feeling up to doing much more.
"So now what do we do, James?" He asked. "Should we just wait until he gets back, and talk to him then?" James thought, then made a suggestion.
"Maybe we should take my Invisibility Cloak, and hide out in the Infirmary. That must be where they take him -you know, after. Then we'll know right away when he gets back, and we can talk to him. Maybe he'll listen better then." Sirius nodded in agreement.
Hours later, as the morning approached, the two were woken where they slept, hidden, in the Infirmary, by Madam Pomfrey, who bustled around for a few moments around the last bed in the ward, then left the room again. The two knew that she must be leaving to get Remus and bring him back, and moved to better position, near the last bed, so they would be able to see. It took the nurse a very long time to return; when she did, she was preceded by a floating stretcher, upon which Remus lay, covered by a warm blanket.
Remus looked awful, paler than they had ever seen him, and covered with blood. The matron was flustered and near tears, and kept muttering about it being "the worst yet." When Remus was transferred to the bed, unconscious, Madam Pomfrey set to work healing him, quickly and efficiently. She set several obviously broken bones, healed the largest, deepest gashes first, and worked on the large knot on Remus' forehead, likely the cause of his unconscious state. His friends watched in horror as the matron healed the innumerable cuts and gashes all over Remus' body, some created by claws and others by huge, razor-sharp teeth. James and Sirius were both dismayed and shocked at the sheer numbers and the fierceness of the wounds; neither could move or speak. After a great deal of work, Madam Pomfrey had finally finished her work, and Remus lay still, bandaged and bruised, but no longer lacerated. The matron finally left her patient, with one last soft touch to the forehead, and then the three were alone.
Sirius swallowed hard, and moved out from under the cloak. They were hidden from view by the tall white curtains surrounding the bed, so unless they made loud noises, they should not be disturbed by the nurse. James followed, and they both approached Remus' bed. Before they mad e a sound, he twitched, moaned softly, and opened his eyes. They were bleary with exhaustion and pain, or at least the memory of pain, but filled with something like horror when he took note of his friends. He tried to sit up, but James pushed him back gently, hoping not to hurt him. He slumped back on the pillows, looking drained, and Sirius put a finger to his mouth, indicating that they ought to be quiet.
"Remus, can you listen to us this time?" James whispered, his eyes dark with concern. Remus nodded tiredly, his face radiating abject misery. He still thinks we're going to abandon him, Sirius thought, and grabbed hold of Remus' un-bandaged hand.
"Rem, you're our friend. You're smart and kind and caring, and you keep us from getting our necks wrung more often than they are. We are not about to give up on you just because you happen to be a werewolf." James nodded vehemently in agreement, and Remus' face began to show some hope for the first time.
"You - you mean it? You really don't hate me?"
"Hate you! We'd cover our heads in grease, transfer to Slytherin and pretend to be Snape's long-lost twins - er, triplets- first! We're a group- we're a pack, Remus. We're your pack, and we're not going to abandon you, not for anything, and certainly not for this. Besides, it was partly our fault anyway, and if you hadn't saved us, we'd have been werewolves too, or worse, dead." James was serious now, so the broken, rasping laugh that Remus emitted came as a surprise to him - he hadn't been trying to be funny.
"Better a werewolf than dead? No. It's a thousand times worse, believe me. And don't ever say it's your fault again, understand? It's not - I was the one who was so stupid, and it's my own fault." His face was bitter now, and sad beyond his years. "It's not your fault that people are prejudiced, or that I can't help tearing myself to shreds every full moon. None of it's your fault." Now he was near tears, but kept talking. "I never expected that you would be able to accept me - no-one else ever has, and I figured that as soon as you found out, you'd hate me, and I'd lose your friendship - again." Finally unable to control himself any longer, Remus allowed tears to fall, but they were tears of joy now. He smiled waterily at James and Sirius. "I'm sorry, I'm a real watering pot, aren't I?"
"Don't worry about it!" Sirius said cheerfully. "You should have seen the two of us last night, bawling like a bunch of spoilt babies! Although I blame the onions James' mother had been peeling," Sirius added conspiratorially. James smacked him on the shoulder.
"She had peeled those over six hours earlier, you idiot!" Sirius shrugged nonchalantly, and grinned at Remus.
"So, ready to go home for Christmas?" He asked, still grinning. At Remus' look of confusion, he explained. "You're coming back to the Potters' house with us, as soon as we can get you out of here. Someone once told me that no-one should be alone at Christmas, and that includes silly, self-abasing little werewolves who don't know that they can trust their friends! The Potters want you to come, and we're not leaving without you, so you have to say yes."
"Well, how's that for blackmail?" Remus asked drily, but he looked happy nonetheless. "But it might not be for a while; I hurt myself fairly badly, and Madam Pomfrey -"
"Will have no difficulties in letting you leave immediately." The soft, kind voice startled all of them, and they spun around to see Albus Dumbledore smiling at them, his eyes twinkling merrily at them. "You see, Remus, I knew that James and Sirius were coming to visit; James' parents told me about their discovery, and that their Memory Charms had been lifted. I've already spoken to Poppy, and you are to be transferred to the Potters' care as soon as possible. Your trunk has already been packed and transported to their house, and as soon as you are able to withstand the journey by Floo, you may leave."
"There, see?" James crowed, exultant. "When can you go?"
"Now." Remus said firmly, and sat up slowly. "I want to go now."
With assistance, Remus made his way to the fireplace; James left first, to be ready to catch Remus at the end, if need be. Remus looked up at Dumbledore, and smiled happily. "Thank you so much sir, for everything!" Dumbledore smiled back, and placed a gentle hand on Remus' shoulder for a moment, and then stepped back. Remus left via Floo, and Sirius followed directly on his heels, emerging to see James supporting an extremely shaky Remus. They yelled loudly for James' parents, who came running into the room. When she saw Remus, Mrs. Potter gasped loudly, and knelt down, embracing him.
"Remus, dear, it's so good to see you again! But dear, you look terrible - should you really have Flooed over here so soon?" Remus smiled gently at her.
"I wanted to be with a family again, and as mine is unavailable, there's no-one I would rather be with than your family." Mrs. Potter and James assisted him to the bedroom they had prepared for him, and he was soon in bed, and drifting swiftly towards sleep. As Sirius looked in to check on his friend, he was struck by the thought that he had never seen Remus look so peaceful or happy before; it was a comforting thought to know that he could still be so content after everything that had happened.
While Remus slept, the others worked furiously to prepare a surprise for him; when he next woke, Sirius watched with a grin as he met first his father's, then his mother's gaze. Yes, Sirius thought, watching his friend's gleeful meeting with his parents, we are a pack. Maybe not exactly Remus' pack, but our own pack. We are a pack though, and we'll be together, like this, forever. Remus'll be alright -we'll make certain of it. James came to stand beside him, and they shared soppy grins; Mr. and Mrs. Potter came up behind them, and placed their arms over both boys' shoulders, and Sirius felt, for once in his life, that he was truly at home. Nothing was missing; Sirius would treasure this perfect moment for the rest of his life. We're a pack.