A/N: First posted fic in a long time. Do I take something I've been working on, putting my sweat and blood and soul into, revamp it to the very best of my abilities and proudly display the product of months of feverish toil? No, duh. I write something in approximately twenty minutes and slap it up here like a take-out order. But such is me.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, just all the books and a certain amount of cheap memorabilia. (I got a Snape chocolate frog card!)
Note: Sirius Black was a jerk when he was young. I'm just going to assume he wasn't completely horrible to his own friends.
"I'm sorry I got you into this, Padfoot," said Remus forlornly. He did not dare turn his head towards his comrade. He was afraid to meet his eyes, as he had been for the past two days. Also, an intense and much focused pain had developed at the base of his neck, so the action would have been very uncomfortable.
The two boys lay side by side on the dirty, wooden floor; each sprawled out on his back with his eyes turned heavenward as any two stargazers might. But there were no stars above them. Only a stained and crumbling ceiling, held up by moldering support beams that cast eerie shadows through out the entire house. It was an incredibly unpleasant view, but Remus had insisted they lay down.
"It helps," he had explained briefly. "You just end up falling over anyway, once your back legs give out."
Sirius had no problem with turning his gaze to his friend. He was grinning, but for a moment it faltered when he saw how drawn Remus's face was. He seemed to be in pain, but was apparently trying his very hardest not to show it. Remus was like that, he reflected, when something bothered him he wasn't the sort to run off ringing the bells about it. He let it sit, raging within him, and all the while smiling until the thing calm down or died.
"I don't blame you, you know," he said after a moment. Remus's eyes flickered towards his briefly. Sirius did not even flinch to discover that they had become a rather shocking shade of gold. "I mean, I should have known better than to startle you like that, especially so close to the full moon."
"No, no," Remus insisted, "I shouldn't—"
"Shouldn't what?" Sirius asked his eyebrow quirked in a familiar manner. "Be a werewolf? Don't be stupid, that's nobody's fault."
They lapsed into silence once more. Remus gave a jolt at one point, his back arching and he exhaled quite suddenly and audibly. Sirius tensed, but did not let his anxiety into his voice. "Is it happening?" he asked quietly.
His friend relaxed once more and shook his head. "No, the moon won't have completely risen for another five or ten minutes, I should think." His voice was oddly calm, Sirius noted. He'd replied to his question as if he were explaining an arithmacy problem.
"You are a nerd," Sirius murmured conclusively. Remus smiled, though of course he could not have known what thoughts had brought on this sudden statement.
"I suppose so," he replied, completely un-offended.
Sirius noticed a rather large spider making its way across the ceiling above them. He'd never had a fondness for spiders, though he was not afraid of them, and couldn't help but wonder if the thing might drop down on top of him at any moment. He immediately felt guilty for worrying about something so stupid, what with his current situation and one of his best friends beside him, in pain and defiantly refusing to show it.
"Do you really think I'll change too, Remus?" he asked, trying not to sound too serious. He very rarely spoke without a teasing or candid hint in his tone, and did not want to worry his already troubled friend.
"I don't know," Remus replied tiredly, reaching up an oddly tense-fingered hand to massage his left shoulder. "I've never really heard of something like this happening before."
"Come on, bookworm," Sirius pleaded jokingly, "You've got a whole library about dark creatures stored under your bed, doesn't anything say whether a werewolf's bite is contagious in human form or not?"
"You will not be surprised to know," Remus replied dryly, "That much information on werewolves, or specifically werewolves in their human form, is shall we say, less accurate than it could be."
"How so?" Sirius asked with genuine interest. Remus heaved a great sigh, casting a sidelong look toward one of the house's boarded up windows. The cracks remained darkened, and so he knew he had a few moments yet before the transformation began.
"Let's see… well, from what I've read, apparently werewolves are usually very noticeable amidst normal people. What with their great, hunching shoulders, claw-like hands, elongated eye teeth, furry faces, and yellow eyes…"
"Moony" Sirius pointed out gently, "your eyes are yellow now."
Remus appeared startled. "Really?"
"Yes. It's exceedingly attractive."
"Yeah, I'm sure I'd be the most popular kid in school if I was like this all the time." He lifted his hands in front of his face. Sure enough, his finger nails had begun to get thicker, and longer, and a certain amount of hair had appeared around his knuckles.
"What were you dreaming about, anyway?" Sirius wondered, though not quite sure why he bothered asking. He supposed he wanted to distract his friend from what he was going through in one way, but also he was genuinely curious.
Two nights before he had woken suddenly in the middle of the night. He'd sat up and in the darkness had discovered Remus thrashing back and forth in his bed so forcefully it was only the tangled sheets that kept him from sliding off altogether. Sirius had approached him quickly and pushed both hands on his friend's shoulders, forcing the dreaming boy back onto the mattress and trying his best to keep him still. Remus had stirred, and with an astonishingly feral look in his eye, bitten Sirius's hand hard enough to draw blood.
He'd been incredibly embarrassed about it afterward, and could not seem to stop apologizing; no matter how many times Sirius merely brushed it off and assured him he wasn't at fault.
It had been Peter who had brought up the question: Was a werewolf's bite contagious when they weren't in wolf form?
Not keen on finding out the hard way, Sirius had trailed silently after Remus and Madame Pomfrey as they took their normal route down to the Whomping Willow—a vicious tree that guarded a secret entrance to an abandoned old house in Hogsmeade—concealed beneath James's invisibility cloak. In many ways he was dreading what might happen in that house. If he transformed, his life would never be the same again. This, he reflected, was not necessarily a bad thing. Who knows? Maybe his family would kick him out of the house and that wouldn't be a bad thing at all.
Or, he realized with forlorn certainty, they'd sick me on the neighbors.
Remus did not answer Sirius's question. He had begun to writhe now, and strange sounds emitted from his throat. It was clear he could no longer pretend he was not facing extreme discomfort. Sirius held his breath and tensed, expecting any moment to feel something. His fingers becoming claws, his nose bursting out in front of him, a tail splitting his trousers from behind. And a sudden inability to control himself, which was (considering that the claws and tail bit was old hat to him) what scared him most. Most people, especially anyone who had ever taken disciplinary action against him (which was quite a lot of people), would be surprised to find that Sirius very much valued self control. In an unforgiving household where one word spoken against the wrong thing could result in dire punishments, self control had always been something Sirius heavily relied on.
"Padfoot," Remus gasped, and Sirius shook his head clear of his thoughts. He sat up and gave his friend a startled look. Remus always insisted that his friends remained outside the house while he transformed, as if he were embarrassed for them to see it. Sirius could sort of understand why, as he gazed down at the changes his friend was undergoing. His very bone structure began to shift beneath his skin, and course, ugly looking fur burst forth at random intervals throughout his body. It was not at all flattering, but Sirius did not have a weak constitution and certainly wouldn't register any disgust while his friend was still conscious enough of himself to notice.
"Sirius," Remus called again, his voice sounding oddly strangled, "I think if you were going to change it would have started by now… don't you?"
Sirius looked rather startled, as if he'd forgotten why he'd accompanied Remus to the house in the first place. So he wasn't to become a werewolf after all. He wasn't sure how he felt about this, now that the matter was decided. Relieved, he supposed, though somehow the idea of Remus not having to go into the house alone every month, of the two of them facing the same trouble, together, had been oddly comforting to him.
"Padfoot!" Remus cried, and afterwards it was clear that the capability of human speech was lost to him.
"Oh," Sirius muttered needlessly, as if awakening from a daze, "Right." In moments a large, black dog replaced the teenaged boy. The same dog was there to tackle the wolf before it could attack him. The wolf snarled and fought back. He was strong, but the dog was bigger with a human's mind to guide his animal instinct. It wasn't long before the wolf, though very apparently not keen on giving up, subsided.
Padfoot stood on all fours and threw the wolf a doggy-grin, which of course, was not returned. Still, when he jerked his head toward the exit, the wolf followed.
Wormtail and Prongs had been waiting, uncertain whether they were to be accompanied by one or two wolves that night. But when Padfoot bounded towards them with Moony close on his heels, all uncertainty ebbed away. Together they set out, four strange princes beneath an adventurous moon.