-—James realizes that he needs to do more for his friends.
Twelve-year-old James Potter can't stand it.
He, Sirius, and Peter are clustered near a hospital bed stained scarlet with their friend's blood, staring on with wide eyes as Madame Pomfrey works to heal his wounds. She has assured them that Remus will be fine, that this has happened before, that he'll wake up by dinner, ready to swap jokes and catch up on what he's missed—
But James can only think that he's been doing this alone for a year and a half.
It's January of their second year; only yesterday did the three of them discover where Remus disappears to every month. He's a werewolf. A monster. Something not to be trusted. But James pushed those doubts, those fears away and pulled Sirius and Peter to the Hospital Wing that morning. He needs to know firsthand, to see for himself that one of his best friends is the monster he has always been taught to scorn...
Peter resisted for a moment, terror in his eyes, but eventually came along. Sirius—stubbornly loyal to the end—agreed without question.
Any doubts the three of them had are washed away, now, as Remus lies in that bed. Peter's trembling violently, but then, so is James; Sirius is leaning against the wall, looking for all the world like Medusa's victim, locked in place forever with horror frozen on his face.
They thought they had been prepared—they thought they would be able to handle anything Remus was hiding from them. They're friends; they're the Marauders; nothing can stop them when they truly put their minds to it.
But James' world is falling to pieces all around him as Madame Pomfrey straightens up, cleaning the sheets with a flick of her wand. The look on her face tells them that Remus will be fine—they shouldn't worry—he's been through this before.
But it's that simple fact that is tearing him apart. Nobody should have to live through that. Nobody should have to call innumerable, gaping wounds a good night, let them all heal halfway, bounce back to clueless friends as if nothing ever happened.
As if he hasn't literally torn himself apart.
As if he deserves it all.
The three of them are at Remus' side before James has even realized they moved. The nurse warns them against it—he won't wake for several hours—but they owe him this much. They need to be there for him when they have not in the past, to make up for the Hell they've surely put him through.
He will brush it off, will say it is nothing, but James cannot shake the horrible guilt as he stares down at the bandaged face of his best friend. He can barely stand to look; Remus is far, far too still; his face is expressionless. If James didn't know better, he would assume he is dead.
The idea is far too terrifying to think of.
So they can only sit there for countless hours, waiting for him to wake up. Their lives have shattered with this terrible realization; now, it is their responsibility to set them right, to start building themselves up anew.
But, James decides as he looks down at his friend, Remus comes first. Their own anxiety is nothing compared to his suffering. They will make it better, make it right, because Remus is worth so much more than he's been dealt.
They will do whatever it takes, because they are brothers.
Nothing will ever tear them apart.