“Come on, Remus,” whispered a weary Harry Lupin on New Year’s Day morning. “It’s alright.”
Harry was kneeling down in the knee deep snow in his backyard, trying to bring a passed out Remus back to reality. He had conjured a small patch of blue flames contained in a jar to keep his son warm. He gently tapped Remus’s uninjured cheek and he groaned quietly, his head shifting ever so slightly, but, otherwise, he remained still. Mr. Lupin frowned, an anxious look in his eyes. Ever since Remus found out he was going to Hogwarts his transformations had been getting better, as if he had a small piece of hope to grasp onto. He couldn’t understand why his transformation had been so violent the night before. His son’s screams had pierced the night.
“Remus?” he said again, his voice quiet. He put his hand on his son’s forehead, the heel of his hand coated with blood as it grazed a gash above Remus’s right eye. He felt the heat coming from his son and frowned, he was going to have a fever. Harry looked over his son’s tattered clothes and performed a number of mending spells. “Come on, Remus, it’s your dad.” When Remus didn’t respond, Harry stood up and called for his wife.
Anna Lupin hurried through the open doorway and joined her husband. “What is it, Harry?” she asked concernedly.
“He won’t wake up,” Harry explained hopelessly.
“Can’t you wake him magically?”
“You know I can’t. The Healers always told me it’s best if he wakes on his own.”
“Maybe he’s just tired?”
“I don’t know… it’s never taken him this long before.”
“Give him some time, Harry. He’ll wake.”
Harry nodded solemnly at his wife. He knew she was right. Remus had a hard time the night before; he had to take his time. He watched as Anna went inside, readying Remus’s bed for him when he needed it. Despite what his wife had said, he did not leave his son’s side until Remus tiredly opened his eyes. Remus gazed dazedly at his surroundings, seemingly unable to figure out where he was. Harry turned when he felt movement and smiled at the sight of his son’s open eyes. Remus’s eyes were glazed over, not really staring at anything, but moving about nonetheless.
“Good morning,” Harry said, keeping his voice light.
Remus’s eyes stopped darting around and fell on his father’s tired face. He tried to say something, but his vocal chords argued against it. Harry nodded understandingly, and moved to help his son up. Remus flinched; his eyes squeezed shut in pain, as his father’s hand moved towards his back. Harry quickly withdrew his hand.
“What is it?” he asked, stooping down again. Remus said nothing, his eyes still closed in pain. “Remus, you have to talk to me.” He had said it louder than he had intended to, and Remus seemed to shrink back. Harry had nearly forgotten how timid Remus came off after a full moon. Harry closed his eyes for a moment, sighed, and looked back at his son. “What hurts, Remus?”
“My back,” Remus replied, almost in a whimper.
“You know I can’t fix it. The Healers said they’re the only ones who could.”
“I’ll help you, Harry,” said an unexpected voice. Harry glanced up and was shocked to see his father standing above him, his wand in hand. John Lupin had been a Healer in his day and still was adept at the skills he had obtained.
“Dad,” Harry said, evidently surprised.
“Here you go, Remus,” John said, bending forward and giving his wand a complicated wave. Remus’s eyes scrunched up more, as though the spell had done nothing but increase the pain. Then, slowly, his face relaxed and he let out a small breath of relief. “Do you feel better?” Remus nodded. “Good…” John straightened up and turned to Harry. “Will he be okay?”
“Yes… yes,” Harry said, still coming to terms with the fact that his father was there. “By the end of the day, he’ll be feeling better.” He blew air out of the corner of his mouth and looked around, wringing his hands together. “Where’s Mum?”
“Oh, she had to go into town and pick up a new table for the living room. I thought I’d come and see how Remus was doing.”
“Would you like to stay with him for a few hours? Anna and I have to speak with someone at St. Mungo’s about… a matter.” Harry did not want to actually voice what he and his wife were going to St. Mungo’s for. The Healers were forever bringing up possible cures for Lycanthropy, none of them ever having any effect. Despite this, they always tried something in the vain hope that something would relieve Remus of the suffering he had to endure.
“Wouldn’t you bring Remus there?” John wondered.
“We were going to, and we will if you can’t stay.” He glanced over his shoulder at Remus, who was not taking in a word of the conversation. “Besides, the Healers say it won’t be ready until the summer anyway. We’ll bring him, if you really can’t stay.”
“No… no, I’ll stay with him. You and Anna go on ahead.” John bent down and carefully slid his arm under Remus’s, fully aware of the other wounds his grandson may have. He gently lifted his grandson to his feet and began leading him towards the house where he could fix his other injuries.
“Dad?” Harry said, a smile growing on his lips.
“That is brilliant, bloody brilliant!”
“I told you I wasn’t full of just stupid ideas.”
“But how did you even think of this?”
“It wasn’t hard.”
Operation Get Crane Back was to be put into action soon. James, Sirius and Peter had been sitting up for hours, feverishly discussing their plans for revenge on Crane. Their plans had been put on hold with the death of Professor Flitwick’s sister weighing on their minds and then the Christmas holidays. They had been keeping their voices low, as Remus was passed out on his bed and Frank was sleeping, but they could not keep their voices down when Sirius had announced his new idea. He finally realised that showing Crane’s knickers in broad daylight was easier said than done.
Sirius claimed that he had spent the better part of his break thinking up prank after prank, making it so that nothing could be linked back to them. He also had to ensure that it was something the older students would be willing to help them with. He had come up with the perfect scheme – they would get the older students to buy a large box of fireworks when they went on the next trip to Hogsmeade and they would set them up in strategic points in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. Midway through class the fireworks would have to be ignited, a job Sirius would only entrust to an older student.
“What else would we do besides the fireworks?” James asked, lying back on his bed and tossing the model Golden Snitch Sirius had given him in the air.
“I was thinking about hexing everything in the room,” Sirius explained, his eyes twinkling with mischief as he bit into one of the Chocolate Frogs he had received from Peter. “Make the chairs spin around on their own, the chalkboard erase itself, make everything just go crazy!”
“How would we do that?” Peter questioned.
“It’s not that hard, just look up the hexes and learn them.”
“We’re only first years.”
“Which is why we get other people to help us.” Sirius grinned. “Trust me; it’ll be so bad that Crane will be crying by the time we’re through with him. Besides, the older students might have ideas that we can use.”
“I hope it works, I can’t stand another year with Crane,” James said, standing up and moving towards the bathroom. “It’ll be murder.” He shook his head and disappeared inside.
“We have to get Frank in on this too,” Peter reminded Sirius. “He wants Crane out just as much as we do.”
“Frank will have his part, have you seen how good he is with that Levitation Spell? And I was thinking we use those Biting Teacups I got from James too or maybe the Frog Spawn from Remus.”
“Yeah that sounds good and if we’re going to use charms then maybe we should get Evans to help us.”
“Oh she wouldn’t want to get in trouble.”
“But she hates Crane.”
“So does Remus, and he’s not helping.”
“He can’t risk getting Crane madder at him.” Peter folded his arms across his chest and looked at the curtains drawn around Remus’s bed. “Is he okay? I haven’t seen him since we got back.”
“I saw him, he was looking pretty sick.”
“You don’t think it has to do with his mother again, do you?”
“No, I think he’s got a bug or something.” Sirius neglected to mention the ugly looking bruises that were fading on Remus’s face, or the difficulty with which he walked. He knew Remus didn’t want his pain being advertised. And when Sirius had asked Remus if he was okay, he got very defensive, saying that it was none of Sirius’s business. “He’ll be fine.”
Just as the words came out of Sirius’s mouth they heard a small yelp of pain from behind the curtains. Peter raised his eyebrows at Sirius. Sirius shrugged and began edging slowly towards his roommate’s bed. Sirius looked at Peter, wondering if he should bother Remus, as Remus had not been in the best of moods earlier. Peter nodded his head. Sirius tugged on the curtains.
“Remus, are you okay?”
They heard nothing for a moment. Then, very quietly, they heard a whimper of pain.
“Are you alright, Remus?” Peter asked anxiously.
“Fine,” said Remus’s almost inaudible voice.
“Are you sure?”
Peter shrugged and announced that he was going down to the common room to find his Transfiguration essay. Sirius declined the offer of going down with him to help, saying that he was tired and wanted to get ready for bed. Once the door shut behind Peter, Sirius wheeled around and yanked the curtains back around Remus’s bed. He saw Remus curled up, his face stuffed into his pillow, and he was furiously rubbing at his wrist. Through the creases between Remus’s fingers, Sirius could see a nasty looking bruise. He must have rolled over onto it when he was sleeping and the shock had woken him up.
“What happened?” he asked.
Remus turned his head so that one eye was looking up at Sirius and the other was still forced into his pillow. He shook his head; he didn’t feel like talking about it. His grandfather had managed to heal most of his injuries, the major ones at least, especially his back. His back had felt like a thousand fiery knives were piercing through his skin; the pain was so unbearable he could barely form two words. His grandfather had left the minor injuries, allowing them to heal on their own.
“Remus, what’d you do to your wrist?”
“Nothing,” Remus muttered into his pillow. “Hey, thanks for framing that picture of my dog for me,” he added in hopes of deterring Sirius from the problem.
Sirius, however, was not going to be deterred so easily. “You must’ve done something.”
“Was it your dog again?”
Sirius didn’t believe this for a second. “Come on, Remus. What-?”
“What do you want from me?” Remus asked angrily, visibly cringing from the shooting pain he received in his head.
Sirius looked taken aback. What was wrong with him? Sirius was doing nothing except being a good friend; a good friend would want to know why one of his mates was sick. “I want to know what keeps happening to you that you’re always sick! But if you don’t want me to know, fine! Suffer on your own!”
James, Sirius and Peter sat in the courtyard during break the following day, observing possible candidates for their plot against Crane. Once the holidays had ended and Professor Flitwick returned, Crane had taken on his usual methods of tormenting Remus. It seemed like he was making up for lost taunting, as he hardly ever left Remus alone. They had to admit that Remus was taking it quite well; he had begun a process of simply ignoring the professor, letting the comments bounce off him. He sat quietly at his desk, writing patiently in the leather notebook Peter had sent him. The only problem with his method was that Crane gave him detention, which he was now discussing with the professor.
“How about him?” James asked, pointing at the Gryffindor seventh year they had originally asked, back when Sirius had his knickers scheme.
“Finley?” Sirius said. “He told me my idea was stupid.”
“Your first idea,” Peter corrected. “This one actually isn’t stupid.”
Sirius huffed and grudgingly conceded. “Hey! Finley!”
The seventh year stopped in his path and looked over his shoulder. A confused expression fell upon him as he wondered why these first years could possibly want to bother him again. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to see what they wanted, maybe they had revised their revenge plan and it was no longer stupid. “What is it?” he asked as he approached them.
“We have a new idea,” James said proudly.
“Actually, I have a new idea,” Sirius said quickly.
“What is it?” Finley asked interestedly.
“Want to make Crane think his room is haunted?”
Finley said nothing as he mulled over Sirius’s idea. It was not nearly as bad as his original one; it actually had some good charm to it. It would be easy to execute if they had a little more help. In fact, they could make it so bad it would drive Crane out of the school. He grinned mischievously.
“How do you want to do it?”
And so it began. Finley enlisted the help of two of his fellow Gryffindor seventh years – Julie Kramer and Andy Green – while James, Sirius and Peter got Frank in on the plot. They worked relentlessly after class that day, holed up in the library under the suspicious glare of the librarian, Madam Pince. They pored through book after book, searching for every spell that could wreak absolute havoc in Crane’s classroom. Finley found a particularly helpful spell that timed all the rest. They had to decide on a time when pandemonium would commence. It was difficult, they weren’t sure if they wanted it to happen when they had classes with Crane. It would be too easy for him to pin down the culprits if they did it during their lessons.
In the end they decided it would be best if they did it during a Slytherin class; if they didn’t mind anyone getting in trouble, it was the Slytherins. They weren’t sure when they would do it; everything had to be carefully planned. In the meantime they would look up what they needed and figure out how they would use the spells. It was long work, but the thought of the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor’s misery sustained them. Lily Evans and Alice Gordon, who openly detested Crane, even chose to help them, a shock to James and Sirius, who had both been convinced that the girls wouldn’t want to risk the numerous detentions awaiting them. In fact, the only person who was not joining in was Remus.
True, they had suggested that Remus not take any part in it, they had at least expected him to show some amount of interest. He never said anything about it, when they discussed it he was either staring into space or reading. They couldn’t figure out what had caused him to become so detached, maybe he thought Sirius was still mad with him. But that couldn’t have been the reason because Sirius was being friendly to him. James assumed it must have had something to do with his mother. Maybe she was getting worse?
“Hey, Remus,” he said one night when it was just him and Remus in the dormitory. He had gone to the dormitory to deposit the new chess pieces Peter had given him with his chess board and saw the curtains were, for the first time in a while, not drawn around Remus’s bed. Sirius and Peter were busy serving detention for accidentally dropping a few Dungbombs outside Filch’s office.
Remus rolled over onto his side and looked at James. “Hi.”
James sat down on his bed and observed his friend. They had been in school for a week and a half and he could not help but notice how pale Remus was when he had gotten back, and that had not changed. “Are you okay? You’ve been really quiet lately and you don’t look too good.”
“I’m fine,” Remus answered, biting back a yawn.
“Are you sure? Because if you’re not, then you really should go to Madam Pomfrey.”
“I’m okay, James.” Remus rolled onto his back and gazed sleepily at the ceiling above his bed. In truth, he wasn’t sure what was wrong with him. It never took him this long to recover from a full moon, unless he was coming down with something completely unrelated. He didn’t feel like going to Madam Pomfrey, though, she would make too much of a fuss over him.
James sighed and looked around, searching for another topic. “How’s your mum?”
“Err… fine… she’s fine.”
“So, about the Crane thing…”
“Sirius has a good idea.”
“You don’t want to help at all?”
“I dunno… I really don’t want Crane to find out I was involved with it.” He grimaced as a sharp sensation filled his head. “He’ll never leave me alone.”
“It’s alright, you don’t have to. I was just wondering if you maybe wanted to. You’ve been so… I dunno… quiet, you don’t ever say anything about anything.”
“It’s nothing, James.”
“Okay, then,” James said, standing up and heading to his trunk to grab some homework. “G’night.”
As it turned out, Remus had been steadily developing a stomach virus. James, Sirius, Peter and Frank were rudely awakened to the sounds of retching coming from the bathroom the following morning. Remus was in there for a good fifteen minutes before emerging, green and sweaty. Sirius frowned and offered to help his friend to the Hospital Wing before he got dressed and went to class. Remus shook his head, muttering that he didn’t want to get any of them sick. He trudged out of the dormitory, not noticing that he was barefoot. Peter saw this, grabbed a pair of his friend’s socks that were sticking out from under the bed, and hurried after him.
When Peter returned, announcing that Remus would be spending the next few days in the Hospital Wing, they set off for first period Transfiguration. They entered the Transfiguration classroom to see Professor McGonagall flipping furiously through several sheets of parchment on her desk. She clicked her tongue irritably and looked up when she saw the boys entered. She surveyed them through her square spectacles and saw that someone was missing from their ranks.
“Where is Mr. Lupin?”
“He’s sick in the Hospital Wing,” James responded promptly.
Professor McGonagall nodded and made no further mention of the subject. The boys took their usual seats in the back of the room and waited patiently for Lily and Alice to get there and the lesson to begin. They needed to discuss the part of the plan that Lily and Alice would play. They were to locate the necessary hexes for the windows in Crane’s room. They wanted them to bang open and closed repeatedly. They had come across the correct hex while looking up something else and needed to tell the girls that they just had to learn how to perform it.
However, when the girls finally came in they did not have the opportunity to speak, as Professor McGonagall was calling them to attention. They were to be learning how to transfigure small dishes into small cups, a dull but manageable task. James successfully completed the task on his first try, earning five points for Gryffindor. While everyone else was trying to figure it out, James sat back in his chair, leafing through the book of jinxes he had gotten from Remus and thinking of what else they could do to Crane. He didn’t think what they had at the moment was enough to drive Crane out of the school, though it would annoy him greatly. They needed something else, he just couldn’t think of what.
The class ended soon enough and the Gryffindor first years began making their way out onto the grounds for Herbology. They trooped down the grassy slope towards the greenhouses, discussing the homework that Professor Grines had assigned them. It was a long and lengthy essay about the plant of their choice. They had all spent three grueling hours working on them, not quite sure what would be sufficient. In the end they all ended up with two sheets of parchment, a feat that they never thought they could accomplish. As they were nearing the greenhouses they saw a group of Slytherins standing a few feet away, talking and laughing rudely.
“What do you think they’re doing?” James muttered out of the corner of his mouth to Sirius, who shrugged in response. As they neared Sirius saw, with dread, that one of the students was none other than his cousin, Narcissa. Instinctively he fell behind James, hoping that his friend would shield him from view.
“What’s up?” Peter asked when he saw this. Sirius had not gotten around to mentioning to his friends that he had a cousin in the school. He had spent the majority of his time trying to forget that very fact.
“That’s my cousin,” he replied, jerking his head towards the tall girl with blonde hair. She was standing next to a boy of equal height with similar hair; Sirius had no doubt that he was her boyfriend Lucius.
“Well, why don’t you say hullo?” Lily wondered, unaware of how much Sirius wanted to avoid saying anything to them.
“I don’t exactly like my family.”
Lily said nothing, but nodded and pressed the subject no further. As they approached, Narcissa turned and grinned in a slightly malevolent way. She was nothing compared to Bellatrix, but she held her own quite well. She casually walked over to Sirius, pausing for the briefest of moments to cast another grin over her shoulder.
“Hullo, Sirius,” she said in a voice dripping with false cheer.
“Cissy,” Sirius replied, using an old nickname the family had given her a long time. She hated it only when Sirius used it, but chose to overlook that for the time being.
Narcissa was silent as she gazed over her cousin’s companions. “Interesting… group… you’ve assembled here. I take it Aunt Walburga was right when she said you’re busy with Mudbloods and blood traitors.”
“Take that back,” Sirius hissed, his wand out and raised. Narcissa smirked and did not take back what she said, nor did she draw her own wand. “I said ‘take it back’.” Sirius realised how pointless this was, his cousin would never take back what she said. She would eat dung before heeding his demand.
“What’s going on here?” asked a mildly interested voice. The group turned and saw that Lucius Malfoy and his cronies were making their way over. Sirius groaned; the last thing he needed was for this to blow up in his face, which it undoubtedly would.
“Oh, Lucius,” Narcissa said, her tone changing dramatically, “this is my cousin, Sirius.”
Malfoy looked thoughtful, as if he was trying to recall something from long ago. “Sirius?” he repeated. “Isn’t he your disappointment of a cousin?”
“In so many words, yes,” Narcissa replied cheerfully.
Sirius glanced over at his friends with his eyebrows raised, what were they doing? James shook his head, signaling that Sirius should not rise with their taunts. He loosened the grip on his wand and let his arm drop limply to his side. “Let’s go to Herbology, guys?” he said instead, focusing on his friends rather than the several hexes he had just thought up. His friends hastened to the greenhouses, Sirius hurrying along in their wake. He could not shake what Narcissa had said out of his mind. He had never been a particular fan of his parents, but he had always known that they loved him; he had never been referred to as a disappointment before that year.
As Sirius settled himself in his spot between James and the one that usually held Remus, he still could not drag his mind away and force it to listen to Professor Grines. He didn’t understand why his family couldn’t see that people like James and Remus and Peter and Lily were not bad people just because of their bloodline or their upbringing. He couldn’t fathom why he had turned out different, why he seemed to be one of the few Blacks who could look past such a trivial matter. He knew it was for the best though, if he was not the way he was then he would not be surrounded by the people he was. He wouldn’t have the friends he did, and he probably wouldn’t be happy.
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