Remus didn’t know what context it was in when he had overheard James saying to Sirius “let’s just give it a while, yeah?” before quickly turning back to his book when he came into sight, like they had never been talking. Probably another prank they had planned, Remus reasoned; he tried not to sell his friends short but it almost always came down to that when they were found with heads together, muttering amongst themselves.
At the time it had seemed inconsequential. Just like how whenever he found himself on his own at his lowest, a friendly black dog always seemed to find itself at his side.
The first time had been at the Shrieking Shack. He’d taken his potion consistently and transformed with cognitive function fully intact, and curling up all dozy and docile looked over to the door to see the little black mass inching its way unsurely towards him.
He wouldn’t hurt him, not when he knew better and the creature seemed to know that as he caught his eye and closed the distance. He laid down next to him, one arm crossed over the other in front of him and rested his chin on the floor.
When Remus woke up, human and uncomfortable and feeling incredibly rough, he was alone. Probably for the best, he had thought at the time. The logical part of him argued that there was no point becoming attached to a stray dog; he ignored the subtle ache of sadness that accompanied it.
The second time sparked the routine of him curling up on the floor in his transformed state, listening to the gentle pads across the floor to him and the plonk as he laid down with him; each time he got a little closer, until he was laying alongside him, fur-to-fur.
Being in wolf form was a horrendous thing to remember, until he stopped remembering the loneliness and horror, and started remembering the company.
The first time he heard the padding before he had transformed, he told him that he was naming him Paddy and he thought it was funny that the dog seemed genuinely put out by the name for the first little while, until Remus had given him head a stroke and has strolled into the other room to resume his usual position on the floor, ready to transform.
Since he found out what he looked like as a human, Remus reckoned that Paddy was actively seeking him out whenever he took the time to wander the grounds on his own. Sometimes he'd prance up to him and encircle him a few times before running off and others he'd stay to sit by his side and watch the world go by with him. Remus had never been allowed a dog growing up; the idea of having a pet at all was as ridiculous as having friends. Just something else to get attached to, someone else to get hurt by his condition.
Paddy was making him realise how starved he was for company... not just mid-cycle him, studious and a little mischievous him. In the week leading up to his transformation when he habitually pushed everyone away from him, on the night when he laid the evening through on the cold floor of the rotting shack him, in his bed the days following too exhausted to move and too stressed to sleep him. All of him. Every horrible, broken, adverse part of him.
The month he forgot to take his potion was the worst he’d had by far… because he knew that Paddy would be there for him as much as he knew that Paddy couldn't understand why he would suddenly be against him. He felt sick and sad, and all things at once when he made his way to the medical wing and collapsed on the bed. It was like losing a friend... worse, it was like losing a best friend, the best friend who pulls so close to you when you're at your worst that being at your worst no longer feels like it might kill you.
“Well, you look like shit.” Sirius laughed from the bed next to him.
“Thanks mate.” He replied. He wanted to tell them that this time it wasn't just the transformation, but he didn’t.
“Rough night?” James added from in between the two of them.
“You know it was.” He laughed in reply, but the humour wasn’t there. His eyes looked vacant, and Sirius looked sad in return “I forgot to take my potion…” and quickly, as quickly as he could managed with the heavy ache over his body, turned his attention to his friend “What happened to you?”
“Fell off my bloody broom, didn’t I? Right before the match as well, properly messed up my ankle.”
“It’s just a sprain Mr. Black. Just keep off of it for a few days and you’ll be fine.” Madam Pomfrey remarked with an exasperation which made Remus think that it definitely wasn’t the first time. “Back to the dormitory with you, you have no reason to be taking up one of my beds.”
He chuckled as he laid his head back, listening as Sirius pleaded his case to the matron over his horrifying Quiddich injury. Even that after a while was slipping away from him. His mind returned back to his stray friend he’d told himself not to get attached to.
When he emerged next, it was by the side of the black lake, where Remus had gone to isolate himself from the claustrophobic conditions of the library during his study hour. He was limping, but he was alive. Remus couldn’t quite recall a time he was ever as relieved as he was then.
"It's nice to see you Pads." He admitted as Paddy gave a single spin round before plonking down beside him, pressed into his side a little. Remus wracked his fingers over the top of his head lightly as his companion shifted to get comfortable.
“Will you let me look at your paw?” The emphasis was strong, but it wasn’t unfriendly. He wasn’t angry at Sirius, he has to remind himself, even though it was starting to feel like it sometimes.
Sirius was far better at hiding the limp than the dog. He supposed that Sirius didn’t want people to worry about him or, at least, worry about him enough to ask questions. He found out early on with Sirius that he was excessively private for someone who was so outlandishly open about everything. Sirius wouldn’t allow him to help him even if he tried so he hadn’t. Maybe that’s why he overcompensated with Paddy when he wondered to his side. Tucking his cloak tighter around him, he gave him a gentle smile.
The dog gave a little whimper as he rested his head down on the ground.
“I thought not.” He sighed into the air.
The dog stretched his leg out then, only a little bit, and Remus gave a small smile in return.
He knew a little about healing; that came from a violent, unavoidable condition and an overabundance of kindness. Sometimes as a child he had found himself wondering the same paths he presumed to have taken during his transformation, and some of those trips brought him to the resting place of some horribly hurt animals.
He wanted to be an animal healer at one point. His mum had called them ‘vets’, but he wasn’t so sure if that was their name or something unpleasant they were called, he’d been too cautious to ask. He’d read about all the spells and potions and the history… he knew a little in practice and a little bit more in theory but he couldn’t use magic outside of school so he’d ask his dad, telling him what was wrong with them and what to do.
“It’s a sprain.” He said softly. “You need to rest it. None of this gritting your teeth and powering through it like some people, okay buddy?”
His companion gave no indication that he understood him, even when his ears picked up and his eyes trained on him gently.
“Here…” Remus flicked his wand. The fabric of his jumper silently unknitted and started to re-knit itself in the space in front of him.
Paddy watched, eyes flicking between Remus and the floating mess of wool until a little sock, long and thin and brick orange in colour floated down into Remus’ hands. Surprisingly, he was still as Remus put it on him.
The next time, once the sun had started to rise and he’d ended the slow transformation back to human he’d turned to his companion, all weary and watery-eyed “Wish you could be with me for the next bit, boy” he tried to smile… but he couldn’t even bring himself to do that.
The medical wing could do much to patch him back together and sponge away the sickness and fatigue, but it could do very little to lift him back up. Paddy did that, to a certain extent but even Paddy could only do so much. With the day to himself to recuperate by order of Madame Pomfrey, he collapsed back into his bed.
Like almost every occasion before it, Remus found himself caught in that groggy place between awake and asleep. Every creak and echo of the room and attached corridors stirring him enough to make sleep impossible, regardless of how heavy it weighed down on him.
Pipes rattling and the fire crackling in the rooms below them, the wind howling outside, the rustling of his sheets with every involuntary twitch of his muscles. All completely homely and overwhelming. The foreign pads on the floor alerted him at first. He looked out from behind his curtains.
“Paddy? Hey buddy.”
The dog panted in reply.
He pushed back his curtain fully, swinging his legs over the side of his bed. For a moment he sat eyebrows slightly knitted in thought as he wondered how the creature had made it into the castle at all, let alone into the Gryffindor common room and then the boy’s dormitories.
Remus listened over Paddy’s panting for another student, maybe one of the seventh or eighth years in a panic over losing 80lb of contraband pet. There was nothing, not even a hushed chatter and clatter of someone searching.
“Come on then.” Remus said, swinging his legs back onto his bed and patting down on the blanket beside him.
Paddy trotted over, planting himself down on Remus’ chest with a gentle thud once he pulled the curtain over.
"How is it you know what I need better than I do, huh?" He chuckled. Maybe it was the weight on his chest, or the warmth, or that for the first time since he could remember when he didn’t feel completely alone, but Remus had no problem drifting to sleep after a transformation.
When he woke up it was with a start, not only because of the sharpness of James voice calling for Sirius just behind the dormitory door but with the abruptness at which Paddy heaved himself up and jumped between the curtains and off of Remus’ bed.
Somewhere behind the grogginess, Remus felt the panic start to creep into his chest. He could trust James with anything but a giant, black dog jumping at him from his friend’s bed was enough to give anyone a fright.
He only just managed to pull back a strangled hiss to call the dog back when the door opened and he pulled the curtain back to find James stood, hand still on the door, with eyes trained heavily on a dishevelled and equally as groggy Sirius near the foot of his bed.
“Guys, the dog…” Remus started, both look towards him.
He prepared himself as well as he could for a bombardment of questions, when a confused smile broke across Sirius’ face. “What dog?” He laughed.
“The dog…” Remus started. “The big black dog that’s just ran off my bed. I... I have a pet dog now, sort of. Long story."
“There was no dog Moony.” James smiled back. “What’s Poppy been giving you?”
The dog existed, Remus was completely sure of that, but Sirius sounded so confident that for a moment he doubted himself. He thought back on what Madam Pomfrey had given him and the spells she had used that morning.
“Come on Sirius, we’ve got Charms.” James said, smiling back at Remus. “We’ll let you sleep, Remus.”
Sirius would admit later on that James had given him the verbal thrashing that Remus would have given him himself had he been on the other end of the situation because it was obvious that the black dog was Sirius. James knew and Peter knew, and Remus had more than enough chance to pick up the clues and realise himself if it wasn’t for the fact that he was caught up in the companionship that all common sense appeared to have gone out of the window.
They both knew it, and that was exactly James’ point when they had both made it down to the common room and found themselves alone.
“What are you doing?” The other hissed “I told you!”
“Well I chose not to listen to you.” Sirius replied, the usual humoured charm missing from his voice.
All Sirius knew was that he seemed to be helping Remus in some way or another, and sure he hadn't exactly thought about the long-term the first time he decided to join him on full-moon night but now he was far too preoccupied with juggling being there for Remus with his own existence to worry about it at all.
“This isn’t a game. You could get caught. This was only meant to be for the full moon, out on the grounds. We haven’t even perfected it yet; we haven’t had the chance to tell him.”
“He fell asleep James.” Sirius jumped in, summoning all of this energy to keep his voice quiet. He placed a hand on James shoulder, moving them further from the stairs. “No sleeping draft or anything just-” Sirius clicked his fingers somewhere above his head “-asleep. No tossing, no turning, no muttering, no frowning. He was out like a light.”
James seemed taken aback for a moment. “Yeah?”
James rubbed a hand over his face, resting his fingers against his lips in thought for a moment. “Just… like that?” He started “No sleeping draft? You’re sure?”
“Nothing like that. It was the most peaceful I’ve ever seen him. I think he actually rested until you came and woke him up.”
“You’ve got to tell him.”
“Yeah, probably… at some point but just…” Sirius sighed, running a hand harshly through his hair “Just give him a little longer.”
“Until the next full moon is over Sirius.” James said. “Then you tell him. We all tell him."
Paddy, or Pads as he had taken to calling him, always knew when to show up; Remus was starting to think somewhere in the back of his mind that it was all a little too convenient to not be some sort of trick. He considered briefly that it might be his own mind but quickly disregarded it along with the rest of those thoughts.
If Paddy was a prank, and right now that seemed most likely, then he was a dedicated one,and while he always seemed to show up at the side of the Black Lake when he found himself disappearing into himself from staring into its icy darkness or beside his bed when the night was becoming suffocating, he couldn’t bring himself to care about the inevitable gut-punching sadness that came with a humiliating reveal.
Of course there was the chance that Paddy was just a stray dog he’d managed to pick up and smuggle into the castle, and by the grace of the four founders had managed to stay undetected. Unlikely but still possible.
Regardless, it all came down to one thing: Remus was in a perpetual state of loneliness that Pads alone seemed able to lift. He’d seen him at his worst as a human and otherwise, and he still came back- something he’d grown up understanding never happened to people like him.
The week before the moon, he showed up every night beside his bed to say goodnight. Sometimes just to have his head patted and trot away to who knows where, and other times to accept an invite up onto the bed.
On those nights Remus would pull the curtains shut around them and Paddy would curl up at the end of the bed with a contented huff, crushing his feet, and he’d wiggle to get comfortable before falling asleep without once realising that from that moment until he woke up he wouldn’t move once in discomfort.
Remus looked up from his breakfast. Any other time and he would have just waited for Sirius to start, the boy needed very little motivation to speak if he wanted to, but this time he actually looked anxious… unsure, like he knew what he wanted to say but was unsure of how to say it.
It wasn’t the first time this week he’d been this way either. Remus had meant to ask James and Peter if they were experiencing something similar or if he should be expecting something... because it was Sirius coming to him of all people, he guessed it was studying trouble. That left him with more questions and concerns. What could be this nerve-wracking for Sirius Black?
After a moment of Remus looking at Sirius to continue, and Sirius staring back like he was lamenting his choice to draw Remus attention to him to begin with, he asked “What?”
“I’ve got something to tell you, show you…” he quickly corrected, “…but tomorrow, right? When you’re feeling a little better? Probably a better idea, really. Not such a good time for you right now.”
He considered arguing his case for usefulness, but Sirius had already shifted his attention towards something else briefly, before abandoning breakfast altogether, leaving Remus sat on his own amongst the other Gryffindors. “Yeah, alright.”
He didn’t think he needed the hospital wing the following morning, but he opened his eyes up to it regardless. When he arrived at the common room breakfast was well underway and he was relieved to think he wouldn’t have to face anyone for a while yet.
A part of him wondered if Paddy would show up and another part of him hoped that he did, but he didn’t have to think about it for long. He never did, Paddy was there.
The big, black dog, as docile and tired as him took his place as he had the month beforehand: between his legs, up his chest with head resting against his breastbone.
The weight, the warmth, the companionship… Remus didn’t know he had drifted to sleep at all until he woke up with the weight against his chest doubling.
He expected to see Paddy shifting, or accidentally standing on him in an attempt to leave. Of all the things he could have looked down to see and would have, in some way or another, expected, Sirius Black laying on his chest was not one of them.
It took a moment for his head to catch up with the thumping adrenaline in his ears and the rapid pounding of his chest. His breath caught in his throat, and when he finally pushed through it and started breathing again he could say the thoughts finally clicked together.
Everything rushed through him then: the anger, the betrayal, the hurt, the sadness all fighting against the contentment and tenderness, and overpowering fear above all else that now it was over. A part of him felt stupid for not realising, but all-in-all he didn’t feel like someone discovering something new, just someone discovering something about an old friend.
When he finally got his head together enough to speak, all that came out was “Pads…?”
Sirius’ eyes flicked open, as glassy with fatigue as they were large with panic as the subtle roll of his shoulders and soft breath in made him aware of his form. “Hey Moony,” was all he managed in reply.
“That thing you wanted to show me…”
“Yeah, um- Animagous.” Sirius muttered, lifting his head off of Remus’ chest enough to look him in the eyes… and it was hard, Remus could tell. Fear never looked at home on Sirius’ face and Remus hoped as he saw it flash across him again, that it never would. Sirius was undeniably scared: scared of what Remus was going to say, what he was going to do… worse, what he was going to think.
“Did I hurt you that time… the night I fully changed?”
The question hung in the air for a moment as it sunk fully in for Sirius, still expecting a blow in one form or another. Not expecting anything soft, and definitely not expecting anything nearly as warm in sound and intent as what came out of Remus’ mouth.
“No…” He finally replied, “…walked right past me.”
“I genuinely fell off my broom pratting around with Peter.”
Remus would have smiled fondly, he wanted to, but it didn’t reach his face at all. Numbed with sleep and buzzing from the after-effects of pain. “Idiot.” Luckily, it came through in his voice.
There was a moment of silence. Neither moved and everything around them was still.
“Pads?” Sirius looked up to see Remus looking up at the canopy above his bed, his breath hitched somewhere in his throat. “Not to be rude but you’re a lot heavier as a human.”
His full body weight on Remus or not, he just had enough energy and enough adrenaline left in his veins to take full offence, and that’s what he was going to do.