Remus’s bad start to the year did not improve when the train drew into the station. They arrived in Hogsmeade with only twenty minutes or so until sunset, and Remus found Madam Pomfrey waiting for him, looking anxious.
“Good luck, Moony,” Sirius said under his breath as they parted ways amidst the throng of excited black-robed students. Remus nodded grimly, and Sirius gave his shoulder a nudge with his own; a show of adolescent solidarity.
Remus only had time to glance wistfully back as the three marauders climbed into one of the horseless carriages, one blond head, two dark – before Madam Pomfrey seized Remus by the elbow, and without warning apparated to the shrieking shack.
There was a blue and white plate sitting on the dusty mantelpiece with a thick chicken sandwich on top.
“In case you’re peckish,” the nurse explained, “You’ve still a bit of time.”
He was starving hungry, but couldn’t bring himself to eat it. Instead, he just sat down on his cot and waited to be locked in, wishing there was at least a bit of light in the dingy room. Remus thought about the feast – arguably his favourite part of the first night, other than sleeping in his big, comfortable bed. Neither would be happening tonight.
He could smell a rabbit outside, snuffing the grass, and his stomach gave a fierce growl. He looked at the sandwich again and considered it, but as pain shot through his shoulder blades he realised he had waited too long; the wolf was on its way.
* * *
Monday 2nd September 1974
One might assume that a hungry werewolf would quite fancy a chicken sandwich, but apparently only raw meat would do, and Remus awoke to find that the little meal remained intact, while his arms and legs were ripped to shreds. He sighed heavily, hauled himself to his feet, and went to sit on the bunk again. His hip had gone funny for the third time, and his limp was exaggerated as he staggered across the room. His left shoulder felt dislocated – thank god it wasn’t his right, because he had a lot of homework to catch up on.
Closing his eyes, Remus slouched back against the wall to wait for Madam Pomfrey. It was dawn, and the marauders probably wouldn’t be up for a few more hours, unless James decided he needed to squeeze some flying in before lessons. Remus knew that it was Harpreet Singh’s final year at Hogwarts, which meant that the position of Quidditch Captain would be open next year, and James was not messing about.
“Accio sandwich,” Remus rasped, finding his wand under the bed. The entire plate came flying towards him at such a speed that it hit the wall and shattered only inches away from his head. Groaning, Remus brushed away the shards of porcelain and began to pick hungrily at the stale bread.
Madam Pomfrey soon arrived and set to work patching him up before accompanying him back to the castle. He insisted on walking, rather than having her conjure a stretcher.
“I’m really not that bad,” he cajoled, “You’ve done a great job on my shoulder… I reckon I’m fine to go to lessons.”
“I don’t like the look of that limp,” she replied, “Hospital wing first, we’ll see how you are at lunchtime.”
“But it’s my first day…” he knew he was whinging, but he had to try.
“I’m sorry, Remus. Anyway, look at you, you’re dead on your feet. A few hours’ sleep and you’ll feel much better.”
Much to Madam Pomfrey’s dismay, James, Peter and Sirius were waiting outside the hospital doors for Remus – meaning that sleep would have to be put off a little bit longer.
“How’d James get you two up this early?” Remus grinned at them.
“It wasn’t easy,” James grinned back, Sirius stifling a yawn behind him. “I had to resort to threats of violence.”
“And actual violence,” Peter said, rubbing his arm, which looked very red.
“You ok, Moony?” Sirius asked, blinking a lot as if to look more alert.
“Fine, cheers,” Remus nodded, as Pomfrey ushered him into the room.
The marauders waited patiently while Remus undressed behind a screen and climbed into his usual bed at the far end of the ward.
“Five minutes!” Madam Pomfrey snapped, carrying over a sleeping draught, “He needs his rest, boys.”
“We can’t stay long anyway,” James said, “Lessons and everything. We brought you your new timetable, Moony.” He handed over the sheet.
Remus studied it carefully. Ferox’s lessons were at the end of the week, so at least he wasn’t missing those. But he had McGonagall and Runes, and History today,
“Could you—” he started,
“We’ll get your homework, Moony, don’t worry,” Sirius said, amused. “Nice to see you back to normal.”
“Yeah,” Remus raised an eyebrow, stretching out a bare arm to display his fresh claw marks, “Can’t get much more normal than me.”
* * *
He did feel much better once he’d slept the morning away. The anger which had torn him up for the past few months was still very present – but in some small way it had shifted, and he was able to think about other things. At Hogwarts, he felt better equipped to control his temper, he felt grounded and somewhat saner. As much as he didn’t like to admit it to himself, Remus was beginning to feel more at home in the wizarding world than the muggle one.
In addition, he felt surprisingly positive about having given Sirius the newspaper clippings. They had been burning a hole in his pocket all summer, and he was glad to be rid of them; to let someone else in on the secret.
Pomfrey allowed him to leave for dinner, and he tried to slip into the Great Hall without too much fuss. This plan was scuppered, however, as he was rugby tackled by three very excitable girls,
“Reeee-mus!” They all shrieked, capturing him in a tight hug.
“Hi!” He gasped, trying not to wince as Marlene squeezed his freshly mended ribs.
“We didn’t see you on the train!” Mary said,
“And you weren’t in Runes!” Lily added,
“Did you have a good summer?” Marlene asked, her voice slightly muffled under Mary’s arm.
“Yeah, great, thanks!” Remus straightened his clothes as they finally released him, standing back and grinning at him. “I wasn’t feeling well, but I’m ok now. How were your summers?”
“Great!” Mary pulled him towards the Gryffindor table, where the marauders were watching on with a mix of amusement and envy. He shrugged at them, helplessly, as he was manhandled into a seat. “Wait til you hear what me and Darren did—”
“Not at dinner!” Lily said, sounding exasperated, “Remus doesn’t want to hear what you got up to with your boyfriend!”
Remus’s eyes widened – her certainly did not want to hear – and he flashed a grateful look at Lily, who smiled back.
The girls all looked a little bit different. Remus was so tall now that he hardly noticed other people growing, but Mary, Marlene and Lily definitely had. They looked less like the kids he remembered from first year, and now reminded him of the girls that Ste and his gang whistled at when they were out in town. Mary, particularly, had developed noticeable curves at some point, and Remus couldn’t ignore the fact that half the boys on the Gryffindor table were staring at the way her white school shirt pulled across her chest.
“Oi, ladies,” Sirius called from further up the table, “Can we have Moony back, please?”
“No.” Mary replied, sticking out a pink tongue. She turned back to Remus, “I really like your hair! Avni said she saw you on the train and you were dressed like a skinhead – you haven’t actually joined a gang now, have you?”
Remus shrugged. Fortunately, the food appeared at that moment, providing a decent enough distraction. Unfortunately, girls were not like boys when it came to eating – while the marauders would have simply tucked in, heads down until they’d finished, Lily and Marlene picked at their food slowly, chatting about school and who was going out with who, and their new favourite actors.
“Marlene fancies a Slytherin,” Mary said, slyly.
“I do not.” Marlene turned bright red.
“You do so, I saw you watching him in Potions!”
“Are we doing Potions with Slytherin again, then?” Remus asked, his stomach sinking.
“Yep,” Lily said, brightly. “I think it’s better, don’t you? Slughorn always gives much more detail when his own house is in the classroom.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot,” Mary cocked an eyebrow, “Lily has had a crush on a Slytherin for years.”
“Severus is my friend.” Lily replied, witheringly. “You’re boy-mad, you.”
“I can’t help it if I’m more experienced than you lot,” Mary raised her chin in a very dignified, mature sort of way. Marlene covered her ears dramatically,
“If you’re going to start talking about Darren doing… that again, then I’m leaving!”
“Fine, fine,” Mary laughed, lightly. “I’ll shut up.”
She didn’t, though. She and Marlene ended up in a very intense debate over who was more attractive – David Essex or Donny Osmond. Remus took the opportunity to whisper to Lily,
“You’ve seen Sniv—Severus today, then?”
“Erm… did he say anything about… seeing me on the train?”
“No,” Lily sounded surprised, “Why? What happened?”
“Nothing!” Remus said quickly, “Just the usual, you know. Him being a prat.”
“Mm.” Lily replied, looking down at her food and playing with her fork. She seemed uncharacteristically nervous. “He can be a bit of a prat, I s’pose.” She looked up again, at Remus, and lowered her voice even further, so that he had to lean closer to hear her at all over the din of the dining hall,
“It was just a theory lesson today, Potions,” she whispered, “We didn’t have to partner up. So… if you wanted to work together again this year?”
“Oh, you don’t want to do it with Snape?”
Lily looked very pink indeed and shook her head,
“No, I think… well, you’re a lot less bossy, and we study together so much anyway, I just thought.”
“Yeah, sounds ok to me,” Remus shrugged, returning to his food. He really was starving hungry. That pleased him, too – James and Sirius always paired up, so did Marlene and Mary.
There was Peter, of course, but he had lots of friends in Slytherin, and tended to make mistakes when he was anxious, which annoyed Remus, who was a perfectionist. Lily was a nice, sensible sort of girl with a sense of humour, and she could always explain things to him so that they sounded easy. Plus, it would drive James bonkers.
The Snape incident still bothered him, slightly. He had half expected McGonagall to be waiting to pounce as soon as he was discharged from the hospital wing – Severus almost always went running to a teacher, if he could get away with it. And Remus had been absolutely, 100% in the wrong this time, he knew that much – Snape hadn’t so much as laid a hand on him, Remus had just humiliated him because he felt like it.
And Snape did not like being humiliated. Remus didn’t know much about the troubled Slytherin boy other than bits and pieces Lily had confided, but he did know that Severus Snape could hold a grudge like no one else. He would have his revenge, and if it wasn’t by getting Remus into trouble with the teachers, then it was going to be something far more unpleasant.
* * *
“So, what were the girls talking about?” James asked, once they were all in their dorm room for the evening. He was trying to sound casual, but Remus saw through it.
“Oh, nothing interesting,” he replied, unpacking his trunk, “Boys, mostly, and snogging.”
“Snogging?!” Sirius sat up on his bed.
“Yeah, I know,” Remus scrunched his face up to show his distaste for the topic, “It’s all they’re interested in, these days. Mary and her muggle boyfriend did something over the summer.”
“What did they do??” Sirius looked very interested now – not disgusted at all, Remus realised.
“Er…” he faltered, “Well, I don’t really know. Lily wouldn’t let her talk about it while we were eating.”
“Ah,” James nodded, proudly, “Too clever for all that nonsense, Lily.”
“How’d you know it’s nonsense?” Sirius asked. “S’not like you do any snogging.”
“Oh, and you do?!” James frowned.
“Could if I wanted,” Sirius said, lying down again, arms behind his head, “Plenty of girls fancy me.”
“If you wanted,” James smirked, “So, what, you’ve got girls lining up for a cheeky snog and you’re just… not interested?”
An almost imperceptible look of panic crossed Sirius’s face, only for the most fleeting of moments, before it returned to its usual impish cheek.
“Jealous, are you, Potter?”
“Eugh, of you?!” James teased back,
“Bet Lily fancies me…” Sirius said.
“Take that back!” James roared, launching himself at his friend, wrestling him into a headlock.
Peter sighed, heavily and looked at Remus,
“They were like this all summer.” He said, glumly, “Everything’s a competition.”
* * *
Some hours later, Remus was just drifting off to sleep when his ears pricked, and he heard those familiar footsteps crossing the room. Shortly, his bed curtain twitched aside and Sirius whispered,
“Moony? You awake?”
Sirius crawled inside. Remus sat up, nervously. Sirius had only ever paid him a visit once before – usually he went to James if he wanted to talk about… well, Remus didn’t know what they talked about, but he assumed Black family drama. The only time Sirius had sought out Remus was early in their second year, just after the marauders had discovered he was a werewolf. Remus thought back to that night, occasionally, and the memory was tucked away in a safe, calm part of his mind. He remembered lifting his shirt so that Sirius could inspect his scars – long dark hair brushing his skin.
“Muffliato,” Sirius whispered, casting the silencing spell.
“What’s up?” Remus asked, rubbing his eyes as Sirius lit his wand.
“The articles,” Sirius said, pulling the clippings from his pyjama pocket. “I read them.”
“Oh.” Remus felt a trickle of shame run down his spine. “Right.”
“I know you said you didn’t want to talk about it.” Sirius said, quickly, “But I just… well, I wanted you to know I’ve read them, I s’pose.”
“Ok, thanks.” Remus nodded.
“And… I understand why you’re angry.”
“Anyone would be,” Sirius said, fervently, his eyes huge in the darkness, twin blue flames, “It’s… it’s… it’s just such a shitty hand to be dealt, Moony.”
Remus didn’t know what to say to that. He could hardly disagree.
“I won’t tell James, or Pete,” Sirius said, “Not unless you want me to.”
“No, please don’t.” Remus said, “I’m not… I’m not ashamed, it’s just… private, you know?”
Sirius nodded, pursing his lips.
“It’s safe with me.”
Remus, still feeling a bit shaky, gave a weak smile,
“God, you’re so dramatic.”
Sirius laughed too,
“James’s mum says I wear my heart on my sleeve.” He nudged Remus with his toe, “We can’t all be master secret-keepers like you, Moony.”
“I thought I wasn’t ‘me’ without secrets?”
“Yeah, but if you have to have them, I’d rather I knew.”
“’Cos you’re so special, Black.”
“’Cos if I don’t know, I’ll just try to figure it out anyway. Like you and your little cigarette selling enterprise.”
Remus’s mouth dropped open,
“You looked in my trunk! You wanker!”
“How dare you!” Sirius replied, haughtily, “I would never stoop so low. One of the sixth-year lads came ‘round asking for you. See if you were still selling this year.”
Remus groaned, slapping his forehead,
“Was it Dirk Creswell? Bloody moron.”
“How much did you make?”
“Enough. Please, don’t tell James, you know what he’s like about stealing…”
“You stole them?!”
“Bollocks.” Remus groaned again at his own stupidity.
“I don’t know how you do it, Moony,” Sirius said, awed, “But you surprise me every time.”