Remus awoke to a great amount of pain. It was not a foreign feeling to him, but it was much more intense than normal.
He could not see the room he was in; something—most likely a bandage—was obscuring his vision. There were more than one or two voices surrounding him, though, and he realized with a start that he recognized none of them.
He tried to shift himself slightly on the bed, and three things happened at once. The voices around him grew louder, intense pain shot through his chest, neck, and arms, and he realized the lower half of his body would not move.
What the hell?
"Mr Lupin! Can you hear me?" an unfamiliar voice said loudly near his ear. Remus jumped—more pain—and nodded. The voices sounded relieved, yelling things across the room. Remus wondered if the whole school was in the Hospital Wing, watching him. So much for keeping it secret.
Then, finally, a familiar voice arrived. "Remus! Thank God!"
He could only wonder for a second why his mother was at Hogwarts before he was embraced in a gentle hug.
"Ma'am," a voice said above them. "He's still injured. You shouldn't—" He stopped suddenly for some reason.
What the hell is going on?
He opened his mouth to ask, but his mother spoke first. "You can't talk, dear. The Healers said you hurt your neck badly, and it's not completely healed yet."
Healers? What's going on? Where am I?
"You're in St Mungo's. It's Wednesday," another familiar voice explained from nearby.
Greta? She should be in class!
"We thought you'd never wake up! You really scared us for a while there." His sister's voice cracked.
Remus smiled, hoping she understood he was sorry. "But thank God you'll be all right!" his mother continued. "They've fixed most of your bleeding and a lot of your organs, so you'll probably be out of here in a few days."
"We have to keep working, Mrs Lupin," a kind voice said from above him. The pressure of his mother's arms disappeared. Two pairs of footsteps walked away, and Remus felt several people surround him again.
"We might as well work on his throat, now that he's awake," a deep voice said. "Schaller, go get…"
Remus stopped paying attention to the people above him and began wondering about his other injuries. If his neck had been so low on their list of priorities that the Healers had not started on it until now, what else had the wolf done to his body?
He blinked hard a few times, trying to determine if his eyes were injured or if there was a wound on the back of his head. They seem fine to me…
He then turned to the more pressing problem: why his legs would not respond. Are they still there? he wondered in panic. He thought he could still feel their presence, but he had heard of phantom limbs. But they would have told me, right…?
"Remus," the same deep voice snapped him out of his thoughts. "These spells may hurt a little. As long as you don't move, we should only have to do them once."
Remus nodded and then held his head perfectly still. Relatively, the pain in his neck was not much, and the spells were finished within a few minutes.
"See if you can say your name," the deep voice said.
Remus did so, and a sort of hoarse rasp replaced his voice. He barely recognized the word he was saying.
"It'll be like that for a little while," a different voice said soothingly. "You should be able to talk normally by tomorrow or Friday. Just try not to say too much."
Remus nodded again; he seemed to be doing that a lot. "Legs?" he tried to say, but he could barely understand it himself.
"What?" the kind voice said. Remus swallowed and tried again, gesturing with his heavily bandaged arms toward the appendages he was talking about.
"Oh, your legs? They won't move?" Remus nodded. There was a pause, and the deep, professional voiced continued where she left off.
"You broke your back. We'll be able to fix it, but we want to fix the rest of the internal damage first, so you'll be healthy other than your spine when we work on it. It's safer that way."
Sirius was sure Madame Pince was very wary of him by now, but once again he ventured to the library with his friends. They had been searching the Transfiguration section with little success, and Peter seemed to be losing hope. He had voiced his opinion—more than once—that perhaps there was a better course of action than trading off full moons with their friend. Sirius could see his point; he knew Remus would never agree to it. However, James had been researching like a madman. Trying to make it up to him.
It was Thursday, and their friend had not yet returned from St Mungo's. Sirius was starting to worry; McGonagall would not tell them anything about his condition, and Madame Pomfrey was no help either. And James seemed to be getting more and more desperate as the days wore on. They had not yet found anything of value in the Transfiguration section of the library, and Sirius was tempted to start looking in the Potions section. James seemed reluctant, as Transfiguration was his best subject, but he was running out of options.
Friday afternoon found the continuing absence of both their friend and a spell. Sirius drifted into the Potions section, hoping he would have better luck. He picked up several promising-looking books and brought them back to the table. The three boys wordlessly split the pile and continued searching.
Several hours later, they had found absolutely nothing. "We should go back," Sirius said, shutting his book decisively. "There's nothing in here, James."
"There has to be something!" James looked crazed as he read through yet another book.
Sirius put a hand over the page, blocking his view. "Let's wait until he comes back. Maybe you won't have to make anything up to him after all."
Saturday morning found Remus almost perfectly better—except for his spine. The Healers had taken off his head bandage the evening before and dressed him a set of Gryffindor robes Greta had retrieved from his trunk. His family spent almost all of their time with him, despite Remus' insistence not to worry.
Two Healers came in early that afternoon to check on him. He did not recognize them immediately—he knew them all by voice rather than sight—but the nametag of the woman sparked his memory.
He did not recognize her face, but the name "Rebecca King" reminded him that she was the kind Healer who had explained his condition to him six years before.
She smiled at him. "I was hoping you'd remember me! It's been a long time, Remus."
He grinned broadly. "Yeah. You were wrong, you know—I did get to go to Hogwarts!"
"Oh, well, I'm glad that's what I got wrong!" she replied cheerfully as she walked over. "Well, are you ready to walk again?"
He nodded eagerly; laying in bed for a week with no feeling in his legs was an unsettling experience. "Your dad and Healer Belby here will be fixing it for you. I'm just here to supervise." The two men walked over to the bed. "Now, we're going to have to flip you over so they can have a better shot at your spine, all right?"
He nodded, and soon he was laying on his stomach, unable to see anything except the encouraging faces of his mother and sister next to him. He wondered briefly if this Healer Belby was related to the Damocles Belby in his class before the man spoke; he was the deep voice who had talked with him all week. "This may feel strange, but you mustn't move, or we'll have to start over again. All right?"
Remus nodded quickly, and the two men began saying long, complicated spells that made his back tingle. Slowly, the feeling began moving from halfway down his back to down his legs, and after several minutes the spells were finished.
"Can you feel anything different?" his father asked. Remus considered the question, and realized that he could indeed feel his legs properly. He nodded, and all the faces he could see split into smiles. "See if you can wiggle your toes."
Remus did his best, and he thought he succeeded. "Good!" His father seemed incredibly relieved. "You won't be walking right away, and we'll get you a walker for a few days before you go back to school. There's no way you'd be able to bring it to Hogwarts with all the stairs, so we'll try and get you on your own as soon as possible."
Remus nodded. "When can I start?"
Healer Belby laughed. "Maybe in a few hours. The spells take time to settle in completely."
After two days of walking around the first floor with his red and gold walker (Greta had charmed it for him), Remus felt confident that he could walk around Hogwarts on his own. "If I stay any longer I'll miss classes!" he argued with his father Monday morning. "I've already missed more than a week!"
He thought a moment. "If you can walk down the hall and back with no assistance, I'll let you go," he said finally, looking reluctant. "Just don't carry too many books at once—your back won't be able to take it for a while yet."
Remus nodded and stood up slowly from his bed. He walked toward the door and then turned to face the hallway. It was rather long, he realized, but he was not about to give up. The hall was empty, so he walked, determined, down to the far wall, then laboriously came back. It took him several minutes, but Greta cheered all the same.
"I'll get the papers, then," his father said, turning toward the stairs. "Make sure you get everything from the ward and meet me in the lobby."
The stairs proved to be a bit of a challenge, but Remus was able to traverse them with the help of the handrail. "You're sure you'll be all right?" his mother asked, worried. "If you want to stay another day I'm sure it'll get better…"
"I want to go back to school," he replied decisively. "I've got Charms this afternoon. I don't want to miss it!"
"What will you tell everyone?" she asked anxiously. Remus considered the question.
"Did I fall down three flights of stairs or fall out of a tree in the forest?"
"The tree," Greta said immediately, "and we couldn't find you for a while, until some animal thought you were lunch and you screamed."
"Greta!" their mother said, horrified.
The seventh year shrugged. "It fits pretty well with his injuries. That's what I'll tell Amelia and Dorcas, all right? And you tell anyone else that asks."
Remus nodded as they slowly approached the receptionist, who smiled down at him as she accepted the papers from his father. "Hopefully your back heals quickly," she said. "Hogwarts'll be hard to get around if you can't do stairs!"
"That's what secret passage are for," Remus replied, grinning. He hugged his parents gingerly and took some Floo Powder from the jar.
"I'll go first," Greta said, "so I can catch you if you're off balance. Go to the Hospital Wing, okay?" She disappeared in a flash of green flame, and Remus followed after a few more goodbyes.
"How are you feeling?"
Madame Pomfrey tried to pull him to a nearby bed, but Remus resisted. "I'm fine, really! I want to go to class!"
The nurse shook her head immediately. "Your back was just healed two days ago—there's no way you can—"
"I can," Remus assured her. "Someone can carry my books if I can't. And I have to talk to all my teachers and see what I've missed!"
"Oh, that reminds me," the nurse said suddenly. "Those boys have been in here at least once a day, asking after you. I don't know what happened, but they really seemed to want to talk to you…"
"I'll find them later," he promised. "Do you think I have time for lunch before class?"
"It's about noon. Class won't end for another half-hour," she said grudgingly. "If you start walking now you might make it in time for the start."
"But there's that secret passage!" Remus said quickly. "We'll go to the Tower, get our books, and then head to lunch. I'll come back if it starts hurting, all right?"
Sirius sighed heavily. Will he ever come back?
Defense, usually his favorite subject, was dragging on and on Monday morning. As soon as the bell rang, he and his friends ran quickly to the Hospital Wing. "Is Remus back yet?" he asked the nurse, rather out of breath.
She smiled at him for the first time in weeks. "He arrived about half an hour ago. He's probably down at lunch right now."
Peter gasped, and James quickly yelled his thanks as the three of them ran through the secret passage across the hall. They entered the Great Hall quickly.
Their friend was indeed sitting at the nearest end of the Gryffindor table, being welcomed back by Greta's friends. There were no empty seats nearby, though, so the boys had to settle with planning to talk to him later.
Their chance to talk to Remus did not come until that night in the common room. Sirius walked up to him at his sister's table and said, "Hey, Remus…could we talk to you for a minute please?"
Remus looked up, rather startled. "Uh…I guess."
Greta, Dorcas, and Amelia all looked like they wanted to object, but Remus stood before they could—leaning heavily on the table—and walked slowly over to their corner table with Sirius. We should have sat closer, Sirius thought suddenly, looking worriedly at his friend. Glancing up, he saw James and Peter realize the same thing. He shouldn't be walking too much, should he?
At last, they arrived, and Remus sat heavily in a chair. "Sorry, I can't walk too well yet," he said, looking calmly at the boys who supposedly hated him. "What do you need?"
Sirius felt an enormous stab of guilt at the boy's kindness. Even after being denounced as their friend—even after nearly dying because of them—he still talked to them like he would to anyone else.
We're horrible people, the black-haired boy thought for the umpteenth time. We don't deserve Remus' friendship!
Remus looked around the table at his former friends, who all looked very nervous. That's odd. Even James?
"I've been a complete arse," James said finally, in a strangled voice. Remus was very surprised; he had expected Sirius to start. "And I know you probably won't ever forgive me for—well—last week, but I want you to know I'm sorry, and I'd take it back if I could, and I'd do anything to make it better!"
This was the last thing Remus ever expected to hear from James. Sure, he knew the wolf nearly killed him because his friends had deserted him, but he had been expecting that for a long time.
"I don't blame you, at all. Any of you," he said honestly. "It's over. I'm better. And now that the shock of losing friends is gone, it'll never be that bad again. Don't feel guilty. You don't have to pretend to like me if you don't." He made to stand up, but Sirius gently pushed him back down.
"You're missing the point of this conversation," he said sternly. "Just listen a bit more. James' been rehearsing this all week—you can't let it all go to waste!"
James ignored the slight jibe and continued talking once Remus was settled in again. "I didn't know that it was my fault you were attacked and if I hadn't been stupid or if I had been bitten then you'd be fine—"
"I am fine," Remus insisted. Not entirely true, but close enough. "I told you, don't worry about me."
"No, you're not fine! You have to go through hell every month because of me and my stupidity—"
"That's not true," Remus interrupted. "I'm sure Dad would've written an article anyway. And I was the one who decided to go out that night."
James seemed at a loss for words. "Don't you hate me?" he asked in a broken, quiet voice.
Remus almost laughed. "Of course not! I knew since I started Hogwarts this would happen. Don't worry about me. Just get on with your normal lives."
"If a normal life is one without you as a friend, then I don't want one," Sirius said loudly, over James' stuttered objection.
Remus turned to him slowly. What the hell is going on? "You don't want to be friends with someone like me. I'll just slow you down. You're better off without me."
"I don't know where you're getting that from," Sirius said, looking irritated. "If it weren't for you, half our pranks would have blown up in our faces! And who would remind us to do our homework?" He shook his head. "I've always said you have no self-esteem. We'll work on that with you, if you'll let us."
Remus did not know what to say. Why would they decide out of the blue to stop hating me? That makes no sense.
"I saw you," James said suddenly, as if he had read his mind. "Last Sunday. I thought you were dead. There was blood everywhere and Madame Pomfrey couldn't stop it…I thought for sure you'd—you'd—nobody deserves that, Remus!" His voice cracked. "I realized how wrong I was, and I've been trying to think all week how to make it up to you."
"You don't have to make anything up to me!" Remus sad immediately. "I told you I don't blame you for anything. You need to stop worrying. I'm fine. I'm not angry. Just forget I exist, and your life will be back to how you want it to be!"
"But we don't want to forget you," Peter said quietly, speaking for the first time. "We want to be your friends again, if you'll let us."
Remus stared at him as he voiced what the other two were obviously trying so hard to say.
"You said you don't blame us or hate us, right?" Sirius asked.
Remus shook his head quickly. "Of course not!"
"So if we're willing to put up with your so-called uselessness, can we try the friendship thing over again?"
The young werewolf hesitated for a moment. "You're sure it doesn't bother you?" he said quietly. "I turn into a monster, just like all the books say. Just like what James saw."
"That's not you, though," Peter said earnestly. "That's just a—problem—that comes around once in a while and then goes away. And it won't change from what we've done for a year, except you won't have to lie to us."
Peter never talks this much, Remus thought, surprised. Does he really feel that strongly about it?
"If you guys are okay with it," he said finally.
"Of course we are," Sirius ruffled his hair gently as James and Peter nodded their agreement. "You git."
"And since we have no gold to give
And love alone must make amends
Our only prayer is, while we live
God make us worthy of our friends"