TITLE: Enigma

FANDOM: Harry Potter – James

CHARACTERS: James, Remus

PROMPT: (045) Moon



A/N: Hooray for the cliché! Also, bonus points for whoever spots the famous quotation, and who said it (triple points if you know what it was about!).

James was exceptionally good at understanding people, and how they ticked. He knew intrinsically how to deal with Sirius' flippant cruelty, Peter's insecure hero-worship, Snape's reflexive snobbery. Even Evans, the girl of his dreams (quite literally), was not beyond his comprehension, though he couldn't help but tease her.

Remus Lupin was different.

Remus Lupin was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, hidden by a floppy fringe and a shy smile.

Remus Lupin was a constant, niggling puzzle, like a splinter that he couldn't work loose. No matter how closely James looked, no matter how much he analysed, understanding Remus was beyond him.

It all came down to his consistency, James mused. Sirius and Peter, and everyone else, had moods. They reacted to things differently. Sirius got angry a lot; you could tell how angry by the amount of damage he caused. Peter sometimes cried, though he locked himself in the bathroom where the others couldn't make fun of him.

Remus never raged, never cried, never laughed, rarely frowned, rarely smiled. It was like a mask had been placed over his face, a veneer of serenity that was painfully difficult to disturb.

He woke up before everyone else. He always did his homework on time, and read ahead of class. He pretended to disapprove of the pranks James and Sirius played, but he joined in regardless. He was very quiet about his life at home, and never mentioned friends before Hogwarts.

It was frustrating for James. He prided himself on understanding his friends. It was part of what made him a good leader; he could predict how they would behave. Not knowing the reasoning behind Remus was insufferable. He had to find out. James made sure to watch closer.

The truth came as something of a shock, though it illuminated quite a bit. A bit of after-dark Quidditch practice meant that James and Sirius, with Peter watching from the stands, easily spotted the dark figure hurrying to the Whomping Willow. It was Sirius, with his better vision, who identified it as Remus. With a cry, he made to fly off, but James blocked him. There was a gnawing suspicion growing in his mind.

Gently the two landed to meet Peter, and set off towards the Whomping Willow. Its branches flailed, thumping threateningly against the ground. Undaunted, they hunted for a way in. It was actually Peter who noticed the little protruding knot, picked out amongst the shadows by the light of the risen moon. James was not as surprised as Sirius, because he knew not to underestimate Peter.

As quick as that, they were in a tunnel, giddy with excitement, which soon turned to sick nerves when they neared the end. They could hear howling; loud, haunting bays that sent shivers down their spines.

"What if Remus is in there?" Peter asked fearfully. Sirius immediately charged forward, but James clamped onto his arm.

"Let go! We have to save Remus!" Sirius cried. James shook his head.

"Don't you get it?" he asked quietly; he tried to ignore his voice quavering. "That is Remus. He's a …" But he couldn't finish the sentence. Sirius was pale, eyes wide.

"Werewolf," he said. James could read the conflict in Sirius' mind, because it was happening in his own mind too. On the one hand, it was Remus, for Merlin's sake. Remus Lupin, lover of libraries and Honeydukes chocolate, who would rather throw a spider out the window than kill it.

The creature yowled again, bloodcurdling in its intensity.

On the other hand, there was a Dark Creature roaming the halls of Hogwarts, and any Wizard worth his salt knew that Dark Creatures were dangerous, vicious animals that should be executed.

Peter's hand clutching James' arm brought him back to sense, and hurriedly they ran back down the tunnel, the wolf's howls echoing in their ears. The moonlight was a welcome relief as they burst out into the night air, and they didn't stop running until they reached the Fat Lady. Breathless, they collapsed in the empty Common Room, the magnitude of their discovery still swirling around their heads.

"But … it's Remus!" Sirius exploded at last. Peter was still shaking in his seat next to James. "I mean, how is it even possible? How could we not have known?"

James thought on this, cleaning his glasses. It seemed obvious, in hindsight. Monthly disappearances for all manner of weird reasons (how often could Remus' mother be sick? how many of his relatives had died in the two years they had known him?), an aversion to Sirius' silver jewellery, the few scars they had seen that had been quickly hidden. "I don't know," James said. The fire crackled in the heavy silence that followed.

It all seemed to make sense, now. Everyone had problems, secrets that shaped who they were. Sirius had his family; Peter had his obesity and being one of many children. Finally, there was a motive behind Remus' behaviour. James couldn't believe he hadn't noticed it before.

James snuck into the Hospital Wing the next day. Peter was suddenly anxious about being near Remus, and Sirius was still caught between wanting to see his friend and the thought that there was a werewolf at Hogwarts. But when James pulled back the curtain to find more bandages than boy, he suddenly didn't care that they'd spent two years living with a Dark Creature. From the bloodstained gauze, the revealed scars, the rasping breaths, it was clear that Remus went through agony when the curse manifested.

Amber eyes slit open when James approached, unfocused and glassy. For once James was unsure as to what to do. He pulled up a chair, sat, twiddled his fingers. One glance at Remus' ashen face revealed the sheer terror that gripped him. James tried to smile reassuringly, but his mouth twitched into a vague grimace before giving up. Carefully, he lifted Remus' bandaged hand and held it in his own.

"We won't tell," he murmured; Remus flinched, then blinked. "I'll make sure they won't tell. Not a soul." James squirmed under Remus' unwavering stare, but managed to look him in the eye. Slowly, Remus relaxed, until he fell asleep, his hand still cradled in James' own.

James felt the niggle fade, now that he had a better understanding of Remus. He was glad now to know all his friends; he felt more secure with that knowledge. James liked to know what was going on in the minds of others. Nothing could blindside him now.