Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
An exhausted Remus Lupin made his way from the hospital wing back to Gryffindor Tower. Two nights ago, it had been a full moon, and it hadn't been a pleasant one. He had done some damage to himself, and Madam Pomfrey had kept him confined to the hospital wing so as to heal his injuries.
But now, he felt well again except for the exhaustion, but that was to be expected. The change from boy to wolf and wolf back to boy always did that to him. As usual, he hardly remembered anything of the night itself; all he could remember was the pain.
A smile came to his tired face, however, when he thought of seeing his friends again. But it quickly disappeared when he remembered the strange looks they'd been exchanging lately when he gave them the excuses about his mother or another relative of his being ill. He'd have to think of some more; they seemed to no longer be buying it with such acceptance. The last thing he wanted to happen was for his friends to find out what he was. They'd abandon him just like everyone else, and he didn't want that to occur. For once, he had friends, real friends: James, Sirius, and Peter.
His thoughts carried him back to the portrait of the Fat Lady. It was now evening, so he figured that his friends would be in their second-year boys' dormitory. So he climbed in through the portrait hole and headed upstairs.
Once he got to the dorm, he opened the door and went inside. "Hi, guys," he said tiredly, but smiled at the sight of his three best friends sitting on their beds. It faded, however, when he saw that they all had solemn looks on their faces.
"Hey, Rem," James Potter said. "How have you been?"
"We missed you, mate," added Peter.
"Thanks, I missed you guys too," Remus said guardedly. "I'm fine, and so is Mum. She's feeling better now."
His three friends were silent at this. Remus wondered what they were thinking, for he usually got a "That's good," from at least one of them when he told them his mum or whatever relative he said was ill was better.
James suddenly raised his wand and pointed it at the door. "Colloportus," he intoned.
"James, what are you ... what are you doing?" asked Remus, his face draining of color.
Instead of answering, James went over to his trunk, put his hand inside it, and fished out a large book. He held it up so that Remus could see the title:
A STUDY OF WEREWOLVES.
Remus's heart plummeted into his stomach as that one, tiny word escaped his lips. He sat down on his bed, putting his head in his hands.
"We know, Remus," Sirius said, speaking for the first time. "We know your mum wasn't ill."
"We worked it out," James added. "We worked out that you're always away on the full moon. We thought it was strange that your mum and your other relatives got ill so much. Surely there couldn't be that amount of sickness in your family."
Remus suddenly jumped up from his bed, going over to his own trunk. He felt tears sting his eyes but blinked them back furiously. He should have known that coming to Hogwarts was too good to be true, that his horrible secret wouldn't stay a secret. He hurriedly started opening drawers and placing his possessions inside the trunk.
"Remus, what are you doing?" Peter's voice pulled him out of his task, and he turned around to face what he was sure now were his ex-friends.
"Packing," he said in a monotone.
"And why on Earth would you do such a thing?" exclaimed Sirius.
"You know why!" Remus exclaimed. "Because you know what I am now! I'm a monster, and I'm sure you want nothing more to do with me. It was a mistake for me to come to Hogwarts. I knew it all along."
Peter, James, and Sirius's eyes all widened. "Remus, stop it!" James cried. "You're not going anywhere!"
"James, don't make this harder than it already is!" Remus cried, deeply ashamed as the tears he'd tried to blink back began to fall. "Just admit it, you hate me now!"
Sirius's face filled with sudden fury. "Remus Lupin, how could you think so low of us?" he growled.
Remus stopped in his tracks, staring at Sirius in confusion. "What do you mean?" he asked.
James went over to Remus and placed an arm around him. "Rem, don't cry," he said softly. "We don't care."
"You ... what?"
"We don't care," said Sirius, putting a hand on Remus's shoulder. "I can't believe you'd think we'd abandon you!"
"Wha ..." Remus gasped, his mouth opening and closing in shock.
James laughed gently. "Don't look so shocked," he murmured. "We're not like those other dweebs in the wizarding world who think werewolves are monsters."
"You're Remus, our Remus," Sirius said, his voice softening. "You've been our friend for over a year. You're harmless."
"No, I'm not," Remus said agitatedly. "I'm a monster."
"That's not true," Peter said, joining the group. "You may be dangerous once a month, but the rest of the time, you wouldn't hurt a fly."
"How could we abandon you?" James asked, "after all we've been through? Our pact from the end of last year still holds true: we said we'd be friends forever, and we meant it."
"And we're going to do all we can to help you," Sirius vowed adamantly. "We read all about werewolves, and we know the transformations are very painful. We're going to do everything we can to make things easier for you."
"There's ... there's nothing you can do," Remus said, his face still white with shock. "But ... but ... I can't ... I can't believe ..."
"Close your mouth, Moony," Sirius quipped. "Or a Muggle truck may be able to fit in it."
"M-Moony?" Remus stammered.
"Yeah, Moony," Peter said. "Our nickname for you. Moony, our best friend."
And it was then that Remus lost control completely. Tears streamed down his face as he looked at these three boys who were willing to still be his friends despite what he was. Finally, after years of longing, he had acceptance. James, Sirius, and Peter crowded around him, pulling him into a group embrace as sobs shook his frail body.
"Please, don't cry, Rem," James soothed as he rubbed Remus's back gently. "We're so sorry for all you've been through. But you've got us now, okay? Always have and always will."
After a while, Remus pulled away from the embrace and wiped his eyes with his sleeve. "S-Sorry," he muttered ashamedly.
"Don't be," Peter murmured. "It's okay." The other two nodded in agreement.
"Now, enough of the waterworks," said Sirius, but his eyes were smiling and Remus knew he was joking.
"Yeah, and enough of the hugging," James grinned. "Otherwise everyone'll think we've gone soft. And we don't want that, do we?"
A laugh escaped Remus as he stared gratefully at his friends. "Nope," he agreed.
"How about some Exploding Snap, then?" inquired Peter.
"Yeah, and I'm going to beat the heck out of Moony here," said Sirius, shoving Remus playfully.
"You wish," said Remus as he sat down on the floor with his three best friends. As the game was set up, he couldn't stop grinning. Life had never been more wonderful.