Title: Being There

Author: Erika

Rating: PG

Summary: Padfoot spends his first full moon with Moony.

Timeframe: Remus, Sirius, James, and Peter are fifth-years.

Spoilers: For PoA

Category: Angst, H/C, POV

Disclaimers: Hogwarts and all of its characters belong to JK Rowling, I'm only borrowing them to have a little fun and I promise to return them unharmed (well, at least mostly unharmed =0).  I'm making no money from this and this is written for entertainment purposes only.

Feedback: Both positive feedback and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated and will be cherished!

Archive: Please ask first. =)

Author's Note: This story takes place in the same timeline as "Moonlit Perdition."  It's not necessary to read that story but certain things will make more sense if you do.

Being There


I couldn't help but laugh.  Peter had a tail!  This was even funnier than the time he had sprouted rat ears though not quite as amusing as when James had grown a set of antlers.  I would never forget how he had fallen flat on his face because of how badly his balance had been thrown off!

Peter's cheeks went red and he turned to glare at me.  "Shut up, Sirius!"

"I think I know what your nickname should be, Peter," I chortled.  "If we're going to call James 'Prongs' because of the antlers-incident, then you should definitely be 'Wormtail.'"

"I agree," James pronounced with a snicker, apparently trying his best not to laugh as Peter vainly struggled to reverse his botched transfiguration.

"What do you think?" I asked Peter, who, far from getting his tail to disappear, had only succeeded in making it absurdly large.

James lost the silent battle he had waged and practically collapsed in gales of laugher, his entire body shaking as he pointed at Peter's super sized rat tail.

Peter, pointedly ignoring James, shrugged.  "I guess it's all right."

"Great! Now we each have a nickname."  Moony.  Padfoot.  Prongs.  Wormtail.  Together, we'd be the Marauders.  It'd be brilliant!

"Each?" Peter's eyes narrowed.  "What's yours?"

"Padfoot, of course!" I exclaimed, smiling.

"Padfoot?" he repeated, bemused.  "When did we come up with that?"

"We didn't," I shook my head, "I did."

"Why did you get to choose your own nickname?" he pressed.

"Well…" I struggled to think of a good reason.  "Because I'm the first one that can successfully transform into my chosen animal."  It was as good a reason as any and quite true, actually.  Two weeks ago I had finally become an Animagus, having successfully transfigured myself into a large black dog.  Since then, I had completed three other transformations.  James, and especially Peter, were still struggling.

Peter looked at James, who had managed to quiet down even though he couldn't quite keep a smirk from quirking his lips.  My best mate shrugged.  "Fine with me.  Though I think that 'Fleabag' suites you better," he grinned deviously.

Faking anger, I advanced on James and playfully punched him in the shoulder.

James melodramatically clutched at the 'wound' and staggered backward, groaning.  "You've killed me, Sirius!"

I simply grinned and shook my head.

James frowned, his expression clearly puzzled.  "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine.  Why?"

"You've just been…acting weird.  That's all."  He shrugged, as if to brush his concern aside, but his eyes remained pensive.

I sighed.  James was right.  I had been acting strangely.  Normally, he and I would have ended up in a half-serious wresting match after an exchange like the one we had just had.  Instead, I had smiled and backed off.  It wasn't just tonight, either.  I had been troubled for the last two weeks, ever since I perfected my transformation into Padfoot.  It was ridiculous for me to think that James wouldn't notice.

I had thought that becoming an Animagus would make me happy.  And it had.  It was an amazing achievement.  The joy hadn't lasted though.  It had faded as soon as I had considered the next full moon.  Despite their best efforts, it had become clear that James and Peter wouldn't be ready in time to transform for it.  It was tonight, after all.  I had to stop hoping for some miraculous turn of luck.

The problem was that we had agreed, years ago, that even if one of us learned the process first we would wait until we were all ready.  I couldn't wait, though.  Remus was transforming again in just a short while.  Within twenty minutes, pain would cripple him as his humanity was ripped away.  If I didn't do something, within twenty minutes I would be watching him tear himself to shreds.  Again.    

Only I couldn't.  I wouldn't.  I wouldn't stand idly by as Moony viciously turned on himself, not while I had the means to make things better for him.  And I did have the means.  As Padfoot, I could help, if only by giving him something to attack that wasn't himself.   Remus had told me that his full moons were a little easier to bear because of me.  He said that somehow, just knowing that I was in the shack helped.  It didn't lessen the madness or the pain but it gave him something to hold onto.   I had to believe that if I could actually be there, in the same room with him, it would help more.

It came down to a simple choice.  I could break my promise to James and Peter and hopefully lessen the nightmarish quality of Remus' full moon, or I could do what I had always done.  I could wait in the hallway, watching my friend's body twist, elongate, and shrink while hearing bones break and reform.  I could watch as he shook in pain and fear and I could watch as the wolf devoured his humanity.  Then, embarrassingly, I could cry as Moony nearly killed himself.  Cry for Remus.

There was no choice, really.  Peter would be angry that I hadn't waited until all three of us were successful Animagi.  James would be furious at my recklessness.  Alone, I might not be able to handle the wolf.  Moony might tear me to shreds.  None of that mattered though.  Being there for Remus was simply more important.  After all, how could I let him suffer more than he had to simply because of an ill-advised promise I had made to my two other best friends?

I met James' eyes.  His gaze was intense upon me and surprisingly unreadable.  Did he suspect?

"I'll be ready to transform for next month," he told me slowly, eyes never leaving my face.  "If we help him, Peter will be ready too."

My heart sank.  He did suspect.  I remained silent but steeled myself for the inevitable argument that would follow.  There was no way he'd willingly let me do this by myself.  Not because of the promise but because of the risk to my own life.  James was brave and had as little regard for the rules as I did.  He wasn't reckless, though.  That…attribute was solely mine.

"It would be easier with the three of us," he tried to reason with me, almost resignedly.

"It wouldn't be easier for Remus.  Not tonight."  My words were soft and tinged with sadness.

James nodded.  "I know.  Just…" he sighed helplessly, "be careful, all right?"

Surprised, I stared at James.  I had expected him to be more forceful in his attempt to stop me from going in as Padfoot.  Maybe he had simply realized the futility of arguing with me.  Once my mind was made up there was little hope of changing it.  James knew that.

"Yeah, of course."  I would be as careful as someone who was about to spend the full moon as a dog trapped in a room with a werewolf could possibly be.  We had to stay in the shack, though.  Without James' help, there was no way I'd be able to keep Moony from the people he so desperately wanted to maim and kill. 

"Er…guys?" Peter interrupted before I could answer.  He sounded confused.  I knew he had no idea what James and I had been talking about.

"Yeah?" James and I responded together.

"It's getting rather late…do you think you could help me with this…?" he gestured miserably down at his tail, "I need to get back to the dorm room.  I've still got to finish that essay for Defense Against the Dark Arts."

"Late?" I repeated, suddenly even more somber.

James, Peter, and I were in a secret passage accessible via a bookcase in one of the many empty classrooms.  We had taken to coming here to practice our transformations.  It was one of the only safe places we knew of.  The dorm room was out of the question because it would be too easy for someone to walk in on us, especially Remus, whom we wanted to surprise.  That, of course, was rather insignificant now.  I was about to ruin the surprise.  At least, I was about to ruin it in the sense that James and Peter would no longer be included in it.

I bit my bottom lip.  I had almost allowed myself to completely lose track of time and it would take nearly ten minutes to get from here to the shack.  There was no way I'd make it before moonrise.  How could I have been so stupid and careless?  On time, I would have been able to explain things to Remus.  Now, I'd have to go in after he had already transformed.  I'd be leaving him completely alone for the most excruciating part of the night.

James' brow furrowed.  I knew he was thinking the same thing.  "You should go now," he said.  "You'll probably miss moonrise as it is."       

"You'll help Peter get rid of his tail?" I asked, already moving to leave.    

"Yeah," James replied, not sounding at all thrilled at the prospect.  "If we finish in time, we'll come by the shack just after moonset to see how things went."

I nodded but I knew it wasn't likely.  When James had grown the antlers it had taken us the better part of a day to get rid of them.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if James and Peter were still here come morning.  Transformation could be a nasty business.

"Great.  I'll see you tomorrow." I hesitated.  James needed to realize that I wasn't doing this because keeping my word to him was unimportant.  "James, I–"

 "It's all right, Sirius.  I know," he interrupted, offering a small smile of reassurance.  "Now leave.  You're already late."

I wasn't going to wait for him to tell me again.  "'Night Peter," I called over my shoulder as I rushed down the hallway that would lead me out of the secret passage.

I was running late.  Not quite as late as James and I had thought, but late enough.   Judging by the dark tint of the sky, moonrise would strike in only a couple of minutes.  When I came upon the Whomping Willow I found its branches immobilized.  Madam Pomfrey and Remus were already inside.  There was no way that the nurse would let me enter the shack this close to moonrise and I didn't have James' invisibility cloak to sneak by her.  I would have to transform now.

Hastily, I looked around.  No one was in sight.  Closing my eyes, I concentrated on Padfoot.  Almost immediately, I felt myself changing.  Unlike Remus' transformations, it didn't hurt.  It did feel strange though.  It prickled, like being submerged in freezing water.  For a few disconcerting moments I couldn't tell how many legs I had or how many arms, everything was in a state of flux. 

Fortunately, it didn't take long for the tingling to stop and for things to settle down.  Soon I was left standing there, on four legs.  I was a dog!  Also unlike Remus' transformations, I was a person in a dog's body.  At least for the most part.  There were…emotions and impulses running through my mind that I knew were not my own.  For example, I couldn't say that it was me who felt it necessary to 'mark' my territory or that I was the one who wanted to bark at every living thing that moved.  These urges were minor, though, and easy to suppress and control.

What wasn't so easy to ignore was my sense of smell.  It was amazing!  I could smell everything, including the two very distinct scents of Madam Pomfrey and Remus.  I could even smell the aroma I had left as a boy.  It was a marvel that the human sense of smell was so pitiful!  How could I never have realized how limited human noses were before becoming Padfoot?  No wonder Muggles used hounds to track people down.

Forcing myself not to get lost in the marvel of being a dog, I quickly slipped through the opening in the Whomping Willow's trunk…and very nearly landed on a startled Madam Pomfrey, who was climbing her way out.

The nurse let out a shocked yelp but before she could further react I bounded down the dark passage.  As I suspected, Madam Pomfrey did not try and follow me.  Saving a dog's life was not worth the risk of getting mauled by a vicious werewolf.  Good.  That left me free to join Remus, who was no doubt already in wolf form.

Scurrying through the tunnel as a dog was much more comfortable than walking through it as myself.  As a human it was rather cramped and I had to duck down to avoid hitting my head.  As Padfoot I had no such concerns and soon found myself nearing the Shrieking Shack.

A loud, desperate sounding howl nearly stopped me in my tracks.  It was Moony.  Remus had already changed.  Just as I had suspected.   Grimly, I quickened my pace and easily leapt through the opening at the end of the tunnel.  The miserable room was dimly lit but I was practically overwhelmed by the odors that filled it.  I could smell Remus, Madam Pomfrey, and the pungent musk of the wolf, but only barely.  No, what suffused this boarded up dungeon was blood.  In reeked of Moony's blood.

I had already seen what Moony had done to this place, I had already seen the crimson stains and the torn and destroyed furniture.  I had watched the wolf hurt himself and had then stood there as the bloody fur become bloody, bruised skin.  The smell of blood was certainly no worse than that but it still made me feel sick.  I didn't need this.  I didn't need another testament to how horrific this was.  I already knew.

Moony was growling.  This time at me.  When I turned to look at him I was met with the chilling golden eyes of a ferocious monster.  Blood mated Moony's long snout and there were gashes on his sides.  In the time it had taken me to transform and enter the Shrieking Shack, the wolf had already hurt himself.

The snarling intensified and I watched as the silver fur of Moony's back rose to stand on end.  Simultaneously, the wolf crouched low to the ground and his muscles tensed.  He was getting ready to pounce.

The dog in me was whimpering and entreating me to run but I stood fast and held my ground.

In a blur of motion, Moony was on me, fangs bared and claws gleaming.  Before I knew exactly what had happened, I found myself lying on my back with sharp teeth tearing into the flesh of my neck and bloody paws ripping open fur covered skin.

I was being split apart.  It stung and burned.  I could feel the abrading gashes and sharp claws digging into me.  The hard cold edge of incisors against my pulse was a counterpoint to the soft warmth of a tongue lapping at my blood.  Everything seemed to be going dark and I was distantly aware of the wolf's deep growling and my own more subdued whining yelps.  I couldn't think.  My heart was racing and I couldn't control the pain or the terror that pulsed through my veins.

Instinctively, I struggled against Moony but it was no use.  The wolf was stronger and more brutal than me.  He had a death grip on my flesh that couldn't be loosened.  Just when I thought that in the absence of humans he meant to feed on me instead, the pressure against me vanished.

Dazed and surprised, I stumbled to my feet.  Blood was dripping from my black fur and the stale air of the shack smarted against my open wounds.  My vision was dark and everything seemed to wobble slightly.  I was dizzy.

What had happened? The wolf was sitting on the opposite end of the room, watching me with intense, vivid eyes.  He seemed to be waiting.  Waiting?  Waiting for what?  Before I could answer my silent question, the wolf was moving again.  This time though, he wasn't howling and his fur was flat against his back.  Instead of pouncing, he ran up to me and pushed his cold nose into the fur of my nape.  Then he sprinted back into the corner and continued to silently observe me.  He was waiting again.  Again, I wondered for what.

Suddenly it occurred to me.  Moony was waiting for me to pounce on him.  He was waiting for me to chase him around the shack.  He was waiting for me to play with him, which was exactly what he had been doing with me.  Granted, the werewolf's version of playing was a little more…vicious than a dog's but what about Moony wasn't?

Growing impatient, Moony rushed forward once more.  With a  mischievous yowl, he knocked me to the ground and nuzzled at my neck, licking up the blood that still oozed from the wound.  Brushing his nose against my snout, he quickly retreated and howled.

Yes, he was most certainly trying to have fun with his new canine companion.  After all, if he wanted to kill me I would already be dead.

I quickly rose to my feet as Moony cried out to me again.  If I had been able to, I would have smiled.  The wolf wanted to play and he wanted to play now.  And if that was what he wanted, who was I to argue?

Barking, I wagged my tail and easily trotted across the room.

Maybe, for the first time, the full moon might turn out to be enjoyable.

The rest of the night passed in a similar fashion.  I would leap on Moony and gently bite at his neck and underside.  He would throw me off and I would chase him around the room.  Suddenly, he would turn around and pin me to the ground.  In what must have been a placid manner for a werewolf, he would sink his fangs into my flesh and draw forth blood and clumps of fur.  Then he would release me and the whole cycle would begin anew.

By the time moonrise rolled around I was covered in scratches and suffering from several deep gashes and bite marks.  My every muscle ached and I was in a serious amount of pain.  A few times, I had had to stop and wait for the world to stop spinning before continuing the game.  I was utterly exhausted.

Yet even though my entire body throbbed with pain and all I wanted was to collapse and sleep for the rest of the day, I was ecstatic.  Moony had never fared so well on a full moon!  His only injuries were the ones he had inflicted upon himself before my arrival and most of the blood that matted his fur was mine, not his.  His eyes were glowing and his tale was wagging constantly.  Instead of having worn himself out due to brutality and bloodlust, he only sank down to the floor when the spell of the waning moon overtook him.  The last few minutes of the full moon always rendered Moony motionless.

Padding over to where my wolf-friend was lying, I pushed my snout into his soft fur and began licking at the few wounds that peppered his body.  It was a dog instinct, I realized immediately but didn't stop.  Instead, I carefully cleaned the tangy blood from the gashes, not at all minding the coppery taste that filled my mouth.  Then I moved to his paws, which were stained with Padfoot's blood, and lapped up the crimson liquid from there as well.

I was about to apply the same treatment to his bloody snout when I realized he had begun to change.  I leaned back on my haunches and watched the nightmarish process.  As his arms and legs elongated and the fur disappeared from his pale skin, Moony let out a half strangled mewl that quelled my happiness and replaced it with grief.  No matter how well the full moon went, the transformation was always excruciatingly painful for Remus. 

It was never easy for me to watch or listen to.  Even after over four years it hadn't become any easier.  The sounds of fracturing and reforming bones and the haunted look that appeared in my friend's emerald eyes as the last traces of the wolf vanished from his body were heartrending.  I hated it.  I hated that he had to go through this every month for the rest of his life.

Remus' features were contorted by pain as he sat there, in a sort of dazed trance.  Inadvertently, he drew his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, virtually huddling into himself.  His eyes were wide and unmoving.  He was looking at me but not registering my presence. I knew from experience that it would be a few minutes before his awareness of reality returned.  For now, he was busy recuperating and regaining enough strength to move.

Whimpering softy, I lay my head over his knees and waited.  I couldn't transform back now because if Remus came out of his stupor and saw me covered in blood, claw marks, and bites, he would panic and think he had turned me into a werewolf.  Remus was always excitable just after a transformation.  It would be best to wait until I was sure he was entirely himself again.  I didn't want to frighten him.

I started wagging my tail when a hand settled on my head and began scratching behind my ears.  Neither James nor Peter had ever petted me and I found it surprisingly enjoyable.  It was rather like getting a massage.  It I had been a cat I would have purred.  As it was, I licked at Remus' fingers when they moved towards my snout.

Remus giggled tiredly.  "And how did you get in here?" he asked kindly but in a strained voice.

Unfortunately, I couldn't respond.  Being a dog was fantastic but didn't offer much in the way of conversational skills.

"Must have been an unhappy accident for you," he mused as he continued to ruffle the fur on my head.  "Look at what I did to you."  He sighed then.  "I'm sorry."

Lifting my head to look at him, I barked and shook my snout, trying to tell him that it wasn't his fault.

"I'm sure that Madam Pomfrey will be able to heal your wounds, though."  Slowly, he climbed to his feet and walked over to the cupboard that stood against the far wall of the room.  Deftly reaching over the top of it, he grabbed the key that was kept on a hook in the wall and used it to unlock the cupboard doors.  His clothes and some healing supplies were stored inside.  A few moments later, Remus was fully dressed and turning back towards me.  Only he wasn't looking at me.  He was looking past me, into the empty hallway where I usually spent the full moons.

He seemed sad.  My heart clenched when I realized why.  He was looking for me.  I had spent every full moon here ever since figuring out that Remus was a werewolf, including this one.  Remus didn't know that though.  He thought I hadn't come.  He thought I had left him to suffer alone.

"Where's Sirius?" he wondered out loud, sounding hurt and resigned.

I barked loudly, as if to say, 'I'm right here!' but of course Remus couldn't understand me.

"Come here," he requested with a melancholy smile, shaking his head.

Obediently, I crossed the room and walked over to Remus.  As I approached, my friend knelt so that he could look at me better.  "Looks like I injured you pretty badly," he proclaimed wistfully after closely examining my various wounds.  "You must have been here all night.  Maybe that's why I'm doing much better than usual."

Remus' eyes flitted past me and back towards the empty hallway.  He seemed distant and troubled, even hurt.  Silently, I cursed myself for not having arrived with time to explain about being an Animagus.  I wanted him to know that it was me, that I had come, that I hadn't just disappeared without letting him know.  Had enough time passed or would changing back now still overwhelm him?

"You don't have a collar.  You're much too friendly to be a stray, though.  Maybe," he sounded excited and hopeful, "if we can't find who you belong to, I can convince Professor Dumbledore to let me keep you.  I've always wanted a dog."

If I could have laughed, I would have.  Remus was already making plans to acquire me as a pet.  I couldn't wait to see the look on his face when he realized it was me!

"I could call you 'Snuffles'.  When I was a little boy my favorite stuffed animal was a black dog.  His name was Snuffles and I loved him," Remus explained, a peculiar smile on his face.  "You have no idea how much I cried when his tail came unsown!"

Snuffles?  Remus wanted to call me Snuffles? I was trying hard not to be offended.  It wasn't as if I expected him to miraculously come up with 'Padfoot' but still…Snuffles?  It sounded like something a five-year old girl would name her dog!  Of course, it was the name of a stuffed animal he had had when he was little so maybe that explained it.  I should probably have been touched that he wanted to name me after his prized childhood toy.  I just couldn't get over it, though.  Snuffles!

Remus had probably left his post-moon excitability behind by now.  I was about to transform and put an end to this nonsense when my keen ears picked up the sound of footfalls.  Madam Pomfrey was approaching.  The last thing I needed was for her to walk in on me mid-transformation.  I could just imagine how much trouble I'd be in if it was discovered that I had become an Animagus illegally.  I'd probably be expelled.

"Good morning, Remus," the nurse called as she entered the shack.

"Good morning, Madam Pomfrey," Remus replied, rising to his feet.

She looked around the wretched room.  "Where's Mr. Black?" 

Madam Pomfrey had been aware of my keeping Remus company on the full moons since the very beginning.  When I had discovered that Remus was a werewolf I had borrowed James' invisibility cloak and followed him and Madam Pomfrey to the Shrieking Shack.  There, I had witnessed my friend's gruesome transformation for the first time.  After moonrise I had revealed myself to Remus and assured him that I was still his friend and that I wanted to do everything I could to help him. 

The nurse had found me there the next morning when she came to tend to Remus.  She, of course, had informed Dumbledore who had, in turn, surprisingly allowed me to continue accompanying Remus during his transformations.  As long as I stayed safe.

"I don't know," Remus breathed dejectedly as he slowly rose from his kneeling position.

Madam Pomfrey gave him a sympathetic look and smiled reassuringly.  "I'm sure he'll be here next full moon."

Remus nodded glumly.  He didn't seem sure of that fact himself.

The nurse came over to examine the extent of Remus' injuries.  "It looks as if you had a very mild full moon," she sounded surprised and relieved.  "The dog, however, seems to be in a worse state.  It's better than I expected when I saw him run in here, though.  Nothing that a few good healing charms won't do away with."

Immediately, she pulled out her wand and put action to words.  Three healing charms later, most of my wounds were mending and I was feeling very little pain.  I was still sore and worn out though.  I couldn't believe that Remus attended classes the day after the full moon.  My transformations didn't hurt at all and I still wanted to do nothing more than sleep for a good half-day.

It was amazing that he was so strong.

Remus' injuries had been so uncharacteristically minor that after tending to them Madam Pomfrey had left him to return to the dorm room by himself.  Usually she would have accompanied him to make sure he arrived all right.  This worked out well because otherwise Remus would have had to try to charm the nurse into letting him bring me inside the castle.  As it was, we had no trouble getting back to the dorm room.  After all, not too many people were up and about just after moonset. 

When we reached the room I wasn't surprised to notice that James and Peter weren't there.  James was obviously having trouble getting rid of Peter's tail.  They were probably still in the secret passage.  If they hadn't returned after breakfast I'd go and check on them.  Maybe offer my assistance.

Remus sat down on his bed, looking just as exhausted as he did after any full moon.  The transformations in and of themselves took their toll.  Running around all night did not help. "I hope that the others don't mind me keeping you here."

All right.  That was it.  There was no one here and the door was shut.  It was time to transform back into myself and rid Remus of the ludicrous idea that I was now his pet.

Closing my eyes, I concentrated on returning to my human form.  Again, I felt the strange cold tingling against my skin but, as always, it didn't last long.  Less than a few moments later, I was crouching on the floor and looking up at a very startled Remus.

Letting out a strangled cry of alarm, my friend instinctively scrambled away from me.  He very nearly fell off the other side of his bed before catching himself and scooting forward slightly.  His mouth was agape and he was struggling to form words but failing. 

If I hadn't read the shocked fear in my friend's eyes, the look on his face and his utter lack of a verbal response would have been hysterical.  As it was, I rushed to reassure him.  "Remus, it's all right," I soothed, slowly standing up.  "It's me, Sirius."

"S-Sirius?" he finally managed to stutter.  "But…how?  It was a d-dog and then…then it was you…"

I smiled at my friend's unusual inability to eloquently express himself.  "You're not a Muggle, Remus.  Haven't you ever heard of Animagi?" I teased gently.

"Of course I have," he responded immediately, looking affronted.  "But Animagi are usually older, experienced wizards.  The transformation is far beyond the ordinary Wizarding Level."

I moved to sit next to Remus on his bed but froze when my friend stiffened and pulled back slightly. 

"Hey," I murmured, "it's just me, Remus.  I'm sorry that I scared you.  I didn't mean to."

Remus regarded me silently for a few long moments, his eyes intense and questioning as he searched for something in my gaze.  When he nodded, apparently satisfied, I settled myself next to him and lightly touched his arm so that he would feel, as well as see, that it was really me.

"I'm sorry I scared you," I repeated more softly, squeezing his arm.

"It's all right," Remus responded, calmness having returned to his mild tone.  "I just don't understand," he shook his head bemusedly.

I smiled.  "Then I'll explain.  Near the end of second year, I suggested to James and Peter that we become Animagi.  Obviously, the transfiguration isn't a simple procedure.  We couldn't ask for help because underage wizards aren't allowed to be Animagi.  So, the three of us spent hours every week doing research in the library. 

"Finally, near the end of third year, we had learned enough to start attempting the transformations.  We each picked an animal and took turns trying to successfully become it.  There were a lot of mishaps," I smiled, thinking of James' antlers and Peter's tail, "but nothing too serious.  Two weeks ago I was able to turn into a dog for the first time.  James and Peter should be ready by the next full moon."

Remus still looked mystified.  "I don't understand why you wanted to be Animagi in the first place.  Couldn't you wait until you were legally old enough?"

I opened my mouth to answer but was interrupted by Remus and one last, softly spoken question. "And why didn't you tell me?"  What he was really asking was why I hadn't wanted him to become an Animagus too.

"It wasn't that I wanted to exclude you," I assured him kindly, hating the hurt look in his eyes.  "I wanted to become an Animagus so that I could be with you during the full moons.  When I told James and Peter about my idea, they immediately agreed for the same reason.  We didn't tell you because we wanted to surprise you."

Remus was clearly taken aback.  For a few moments he didn't speak, he just looked at me, his eyes unreadable as he processed this new information.  "But Sirius," he began slowly, "You've always been there for me.  You haven't missed a single full moon since you found out about me."

I shook my head.  It still wasn't sinking in.  "I wanted to really be there, Remus, not in the hallway…watching.  Don't you see?  Werewolves are only dangerous to humans.  As a dog, you can bite and scratch me without having to worry about my turning into a werewolf.  I'll be able to really make things better for you, like I did last night."

Remus was clearly speechless but I could see in his eyes how touched he was by what I had done for him.  He looked as happy as when I had told him that his being a werewolf didn't change anything between us, and just as amazed.  "Sirius, I–" he tried to speak but the words broke off into silence.

Shaking his head, my friend leaned forward and loosely wrapped his arms around me.

At first I was slightly surprised – Remus and I had never embraced – but I recovered quickly.  Smiling slightly, I returned the hug and felt him relax against me when he realized that he hadn't made me feel uncomfortable.  "Thank you, Sirius," he whispered fiercely.  "You're a brilliant friend."

"You're welcome, Remus," I responded earnestly, overjoyed that I had made him this happy.

Remus quickly pulled back, flushing slightly as a shy smile touched his lips.  "You'll never know what everything you've done means to me."

This time, it was my turn to blush.  Embarrassed, I ducked my head.

I didn't look up again until I felt Remus tentatively tracing a scar on my left arm.  Madam Pomfrey had done a wonderful job on my wounds but some of the deeper gashes would never completely heal.

"I hurt you," he whispered, eyes going dull.

"It was my choice, Remus.  It's not your fault," I stated firmly, not wanting him to carry any guilt for what he had done to me.  "I knew what I was doing.  I knew the risks."

Remus nodded.  He realized that what I was saying was true but it didn't make him feel any better.

"It won't always be this bad," I tried again.  "When James and Peter join us, we'll be able to go outside.  Together, James and I will divide your attention.  We'll also keep you away from people."

"Why didn't you wait for James and Peter so that it'd be safer and so that you could all surprise me next month?" he asked, eyes fixed on the scar.

"I've seen what you go through during the full moons," I explained, my voice not as steady as I would have liked.  "I knew that it'd be easier with me there as a dog.  I didn't want you to suffer more than you had to…"

Remus nodded and lifted his gaze.  His eyes were sad, tired, and happy all at the same time.  He hated that he had hurt me, albeit unwittingly.  For now, he wasn't going to press the matter.  Later, when he had more energy, he would try to convince me to be more careful.  He would try to make me promise to not transform into Padfoot if it was going to be only the two of us.  I would never agree.  Eventually, he would accept it.  Hopefully, when he did, he would stop feeling bad for what Moony had done to Padfoot.

Remus yawned.  There were dark circles around his eyes and he was rather pale.  He needed to recuperate.  "You're tired.  Lie down and get some rest before class starts."  Rest sounded like a good idea.  I tended to have trouble falling asleep this late in the night – or early in the morning, depending on one's point of view – but I was definitely drained enough to try.

Without protest, Remus stretched out on his bed and closed his eyes.   Within moments, he was already drifting off to sleep.  "Thank you, Sirius," he mumbled, nearly incoherently, just as his face relaxed and his breathing evened out.

Looking down at my friend's mostly pleased and calm expression, I immediately realized that what I had given as my reason for transforming into Padfoot tonight wasn't entirely true.  Of course I had wanted to help him as soon as possible but…there was more to it than that.  Part of me was happy that James and Peter hadn't been ready to join me this month.  Part of me was glad that things had turned out the way they had.

I was reasonably certain that I knew why.

Years ago, I was the one who had befriended Remus.  I was the first one to discover what he was and spend a full moon in the shack.  I was the one who had promised to help him and never let him pass another full moon alone.  I was the one who had thought of becoming an Animagus.  So maybe, I had always wanted the first person that could stay with him, really stay with him during the transformation, to be me.  And me alone.  Because I cared about him.  I was his best friend.  I liked having that place in his life.