A/N: Oh my, this chapter bugs me. I don't like it. AT ALL. Ugh. Oh well. I'm just gonna get over it, and post it anyway. Woohoo. Enjoy the chapter!
"Absolutely not," was my immediate reaction. "I'm not about to let you lot put your lives in danger just to keep me company."
"Oh, please, our lives won't be in danger," James scoffed.
I got to my feet in a huff, feeling dizzy and nervous. How could they suggest something like that? "They will be! You don't know what I'm like when I'm…"
"We don't care!" Sirius shouted me down. "We want to make those times easier for you!"
"I'll be worried sick that you guys will get hurt! It won't be easier, it'll be even more stressful than it already is!"
"But animals are safe from werewolves." James had sat, but he still looked excited. "Come on, Remus, it'll be great!"
"Either way, it takes years to become an animagus!" I went on, trying to convince them of their stupidity. "And you've got to register with the ministry and everything!
Sirius' laugh was more a bark than anything. "There is such a thing as doing it without registering. It's been done before."
"What exactly is an animagus?" Peter squeaked, looking frightened.
James sighed. "An animagus is someone who can turn into an animal at will."
"Oh," Peter sighed, looking ashamed that he hadn't caught onto this already.
"It's not going to happen," I hissed, my hands unwillingly balling into fists. "I can't let you guys put yourself at risk like that!"
"Oh, come on," Sirius said with frustration, rolling his eyes. "We'll be careful!"
"I'm sure you would be," I pressed, "but I can't trust myself in that situation!"
"But we'll be animals," James reminded me, "not ourselves, either. We'll be in the right state to be safe around you, and even help you not hurt yourself." His eyes looked pained, and I could tell he was remembering the scars I had revealed to him last night. Before that, I had changed in the common room as subtly as possible, concealing the gashes I bore all over my body as best I could.
Silence held. I was at a loss for words. Perhaps it was because half of me was so touched by this proposal, and rather eager to let them do it. That part of me wanted them to do it, for it felt like too offer such a thing was to offer me a promise of eternal happiness and friendship. It was the ultimate sign of devotion, and I wanted it.
The other half of my mind was logical: "Don't let them do it!" it was screaming, but I was suddenly ignoring it.
"Do what you want," I told them gruffly, "just… be careful about it."
James whooped with mirth, punching a fist into the air. Sirius ruffled my hair and shook my hand madly as though it was the first time we had met. "This is going to be excellent," Sirius told me happily. "Right, guys?"
Peter was still looking confused. "So… we're going to teach ourselves how to transform into animals?"
"That's right, Peter!" James said with a laugh. "Good of you to catch on at last." Though Peter blushed furiously at this crack at his intelligence, he was smiling. Even I couldn't resist the grin itching at the corners of my lips.
I was still uncertain, but the bit of me that was rebellious seemed to have taken over, and it possessed me, making excitement build at the thought that I might never have to be alone again—not even during the full moon.
James and Sirius were eager to start this adventure right away. Already they were gathering books they thought might be useful and flipping through them excitedly. Much of the next few weeks were spent shut up in James' room, searching for helpful information about becoming animagi.
"It's not going to be easy," I reminded them on the night of the 18th of August. Tomorrow night was a full moon—my first away from home or Hogwarts, and I was very nervous about it.
Sirius laughed. "I know it won't be easy," he said, his eyes twinkling, "but it'll be worth it."
"But it can take years," I said for what felt like the hundredth time in the past few weeks.
"Then we'll work at it for years!" James snapped. "Stop trying to convince us not to do it, Remus. No matter what you say, we're going to. And it's all for you," he added, seeing the look on my face, "so stop complaining!"
"Yeah," Peter agreed, turning some pages in a book he was poring over.
I sighed. "Sorry," I grumbled. "I'm just kind of paranoid right now."
"Is it because the full moon is tomorrow?" James asked, looking almost delighted by the idea. I glared at him suspiciously.
"You really shouldn't be so keen on it," I said, my voice low and dangerous. "The way you talk about it, you'd think I become a cute furry animal once a month. I'm a monster," I spat. "Get used to it."
A moment of awkward silence hung over us all, until Peter finally squeaked, "It's really kind of late. Maybe we should go to bed?" and we parted to our separate beds.
The next morning I awoke with a violent headache. I groaned, turning over, a hand at my forehead, attempting to assuage it. "You alright, Remus?" James asked when he saw me. "You look terrible."
I grunted in response. "Day of the full moon," was all I said. I noticed Sirius exchange an anxious look with James. They had never really thought about the true horribleness of my change until this moment, I could tell. This made me angry, and I growled involuntarily, pushing passed James, who had already stood. Sirius climbed down the bunk bed I had just left, jumping halfway down to land on his feet beside James. Peter was just rising, yawning.
"Morning, Remus!" he squeaked happily, getting out of bed. I did not respond.
The four of us left the room, and made our way downstairs. At the kitchen table, gleaming piles of bacon were already waiting for us. Mrs. Potter looked utterly delighted to see us enter. "Oh, good morning, all!" she said, waving her arms excitedly. While everyone else mumbled their good-mornings, I grunted, feeling oddly queasy as I stared at the bacon. "Remus," she said directly to me, "later today, I can show you our basement, and you can tell me if it's adequate. I could always make it more comfortable for you, if you want…"
"Don't worry about it, mum!" James said happily. "We can show him!" I felt grateful to hear this. It felt awkward to me to be shown the place I would transform by a woman I really didn't know well.
"Thank you, though," I told her kindly, and she smiled at me, her eyes shining with sympathy that I didn't want.
After breakfast, we ran back upstairs to get dressed. James and Sirius grabbed their broomsticks to have a fly around James' small yard behind his house, and Peter and I followed, choosing instead to sit on the sidelines and watch, chatting lazily about one thing or another. It took effort to stay focused on what he was saying about a recently discovered plant, for I didn't really care all that much, and my mind kept wandering to the growing aches in all my joints. I felt sore all over. I knew I must look pale, because soon Peter was telling me, "Wow, Remus, you look really awful."
"Thank you," I snapped, doubling over where I sat so as to ease the pain in my ribs. I breathed deeply.
Sirius and James landed beside us, and looked nervously at me. "Remus, should we, uh… show you the basement, now?" James asked cautiously.
"Uh…maybe that's a good idea," I agreed.
James led us down a flight of stairs in his house that led to a large, dark space. He clicked the dusty lamp on, and a dull light flooded the place. "This is all it is," he said, looking awkward.
I cleared my throat. "You might want to take out that lamp," I told him, pointing. "If I knock it over, I could start a fire." James looked terrified, but nodded.
"So," he said, "should we go back upstairs now?"
I shook my head. "You go," I told him. "I'm really not feeling well. I think I'll just…"
"If you're staying here," Sirius cut me off, looking stern, "then so are we. We'll stay with you 'till the moment you chance, you hear?"
"No," I snapped stubbornly. "I—"
"Oh, shut it," James hissed. "We're staying if you are. All afternoon, and all evening if we have to, no matter how restless we get."
"You're sure you don't just want to come back up with us, Remus?" Peter asked, sounding concerned.
I shook my head. "I don't… feel well…" And as though to prove my point, my knees gave in, and I fell to the floor, breathing deeply. "It… gets worse… as I get older," I panted. "Something to do with… puberty."
James actually laughed, though his expression was kind. "Aw, ickle Remus is becoming a man."
Sirius and Peter chuckled, and James was grinning broadly at me. Even I couldn't resist a slight smile. "You guys…" I breathed, "…are really great… y'know that?"
"Of course we are," Sirius said happily, joining James in dragging me to a wall that I could lean against. "We're the best there is."
"You are," I panted.
My three wonderful friends were true to their word. James left once during the late afternoon to retrieve a deck of cards so that he, Sirius, and Peter could entertain themselves while I slid in and out of consciousness. I watched them with a lazy smile on my face as I sat, feeling sore and tired. Occasionally one of them would look over at me, notice me watching them, and smile back. I had never felt more loved.
I had no way of keeping track of time then, and I felt too weak all afternoon to possibly get up and find a clock. How I managed through these days at school without going to the hospital wing, I couldn't figure out. My insides were churning, and my bones felt suddenly on fire. I let out a groan, doubling over, clutching the hard ground beneath me. "You okay, Remus?" James asked, his voice full of concern. I looked up at him.
"I'm…" I tried, but a choking sound escaped me instead of the rest of my sentence. My throat felt closed up, and I could feel every inch of me contorting, suddenly, with agony. I had fallen to the floor without realizing it.
"Remus!" Sirius barked, leaping to his feet. "What's…?"
Peter squeaked with fright. "You guys?" he said tentatively. I glanced up at him. He was looking at his watch anxiously. I knew what was happening.
Thrusting a shaking hand toward the door in an indistinct gesture, I tried to tell them to leave. They got the gist of it. "Remus," James said sadly as they backed away from me, "if… if you need anything, we're…"
"Out," I hissed furiously, feeling it happen… feeling my bones shifting inside of me, and my fingernails elongating. If they didn't leave now…
"We're out, yes, you're right," Sirius said quickly, grabbing James by the back of his shirt and dragging him up the stairs. "Come on, James." Peter had already scampered, taking the only lamp with him, but James was hanging back, looking after me as though he had never seen anything like me before. My eyes were popping. I could smell him, and for the first time in my life, I felt what I had never wanted ever to feel: I wanted to kill James. His blood was fiercely tempting as it pulsed through his veins… so soft… so tender… so easy to tear open.
I thrashed about in agony and self-disgust, throwing myself toward the base of the stairs. He backed up then, staring at me as a sudden burst of pure anguishing torture shot through me, and I screamed. My lungs grew sore as my voice reached a deafening volume, but I couldn't help it; I was in too much pain.
"LET'S GO, JAMES," Sirius roared, finally yanking the boy unwillingly out of the basement. The door slammed loudly just as I gave a furious cry of agony and rage, and threw myself at the staircase's railing. The wood splintered in my grasp as I clutched it, and blood spilled down my changing hands and arms. My scream was strangled and painful as I crushed several steps easily, writhing about madly. I could feel my claws piercing my own skin as I clutched my sides in agony, and soon, I was gone, and nothingness overpowered the violent pain.
Morning came with soreness, stabbing pains, and the taste of blood in my mouth. The door to the basement opened with a loud slam. I was delirious. I had no strength to fully understand what was happening as anxious shrieks met my ears. I tried my best to return to sensible thought, and opened my eyes.
"Oh god, no wonder he didn't let us see him right after a full moon."
"Wow… oh, poor Remus…"
"Remus? Can you hear us, Remus?"
The scared voices sounded far away. I could not move, but I looked up at the faces leaning over me. "Hi," I croaked, a tiny smile on my face as my friends' kindness came flooding back.
"Oh, Remus! You're okay!" Peter squealed happily, looking like he was resisting with all his might not to throw his arms around me. James looked very white, and his face was terrified.
Sirius just beamed, his expression one of complete relief. "God, Remus," he said, "you really scared us, y'know?"
I gave a feeble laugh. "Well… I'm pretty scary on the full moon."
"You were screaming so much," James said, his voice trembling. "We were so worried." He looked absolutely horrified.
"That's normal," I said quietly, trying to push myself upright.
"God, I can't believe you go through that every single month," Peter said sadly, shaking his head.
Sirius handed me a pile of clothes, his face concerned. "So you really scream that much?" I nodded, and his brow creased in sympathy. "You sounded like you were being tortured. It was awful."
James cleared his throat. "I should, uh… call my mother in to heal you."
I gave a little groan in response, and shot him a kind smile. I could feel blood pouring sickeningly from a new cut across my cheek, and there was another on my shoulder. When he left, I closed my eyes, breathing deeply. It was definitely awkward to be lying here, completely naked, surrounded by my friends. At this thought, I ignored the pain to sit up at put on the pants Sirius had handed me. He and Peter were nice enough to help me, not making any jeering comments about the strangeness of the situation, like I knew they would have done if I wasn't a werewolf. Sirius' fingers traced the cut on my shoulder. "Wow," he whispered. "You really beat yourself up."
I gave a hollow laugh, lying back once my bottom half had been covered. "Yeah," I said weakly. "Are you still so sure you want to spend time around a thing that can do that, even if you would be animals?"
"Hey, 'that thing' is my friend, and I'll spend time with it if I want to." His smile was warm. "We're going to do it, Remus," he stated. "Stop convincing us otherwise."
At that moment, James returned, with his mother following behind him. "Oh, Remus," she said sadly, looking over the bleeding wounds. She knelt over me. I could feel the wounds closing up—bit by bit. Peter had to look away, for the process was slow. Werewolf-induced injuries never heal fully, so it always took a particularly long time to even just close up a single cut caused by one. A half an hour later, I had regained some strength as the gashed sewed themselves precariously back together.
"Congratulations," James told me with a weak smile when his mother had left, "you've survived another full moon."
"I can't believe… every month for the rest of your life?" Peter squeaked, sounding terrified. He was chewing his nails anxiously.
I grinned wryly. "Every month, forever."