Chapter 50 : Stand Off
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It would have been highly appropriate for the Funeral March to be playing loudly in the background as Sirius made his seemingly unending trek, alone, down the hallway in the direction of the Hospital Wing. He felt as if he was walking into a raging battlefield, on the front line with the colourful and bright jets of spells hurtling at him from every direction. He felt as if he was walking straight into the arms of his executioner, who was holding a rather large and shiny blade. James had not spoken one word to him since the night before, when he said he no longer trusted his best friend. Sirius had done his best to pretend that James’s words had not struck a chord within him. Yet they had, they had struck a great chord. James’s trust meant everything to him and one stupid move had ruined it all.
He knew what James had told him would be not be nearly as bad as what Remus would tell him when he learned of the previous night’s events. It had taken Remus a year and a half to find it in himself to trust his best friends with his secret and Sirius had used the secret against him. Sirius had used Remus as an object of his own angry vendetta against Snape. What kind of friend was he? James would never use someone like that. He felt safe saying that Peter wouldn’t either. They would both die before they told someone that Remus was a werewolf. Sirius had hoped that Peter might find it in himself to still talk to him, but he had sided with James on this. Sirius honestly couldn’t blame him. If he had been the innocent one and James the guilty one, he would have lost his trust in his best friend as well.
The door to the infirmary was ajar ever so slightly. Sirius paused outside and listened carefully through the crack in the doorway before he decided if he was going in. Madam Pomfrey was not bustling about, muttering like a madwoman as she usually did on the days following the full moons. This meant one of two things. The first possibility was that Remus was not as bad off as Sirius had initially imagined he would be. The second possibility was that she had already dealt with his injuries and was waiting to check on him. If it was the latter, Remus may have been just as bad as Sirius was predicting. Either way, however, he did not have to deal with a nurse who was likely to bite his head off if he said an innocent hullo. He slowly pushed the door open and instantly spotted his friend.
Remus was lying with his back facing Sirius, but there was no denying that the mass of sandy brown hair he saw belonged to Remus. The nerves warring within Sirius’s stomach calmed a bit at the sight. If Remus was well enough to lie on his side, he couldn’t have been hurt too badly to begin with. Then Sirius reminded himself that Madam Pomfrey had been at work for hours already; she would have seen to it that he could lie in the bed comfortably in any position he chose. The nerves returned and this time they brought reinforcements with them. Sirius tentatively stepped lightly over the threshold. He had to do this now if he ever wanted any of his friends to trust him again.
He sat down on the bed opposite Remus and flinched as he saw the red lacerations running down the length of his friend’s face. They would, without a doubt, turn into nasty scars. Last night had been brutal for him. The feeling of self-loathing increased tenfold within Sirius. Why was he such a terrible friend? If he was any friend at all, he would have known this would happen. There were dark, purple circles underneath Remus’s tired eyes, which were glazed over, giving off the appearance he was not thinking at all, or else was too sick to think a bit. Sirius waited patiently for Remus to notice him, which didn’t take long at all. Mere moments after Sirius took his seat, Remus blinked and his eyes darted over to him.
“’Morning,” he greeted Sirius tiredly, offering him a small smile.
Sirius’s stomach clenched. Remus’s voice should have been hard and accusing, not tired and unassuming. Remus should have not been smiling at him, he should have been glowering. “’Morning,” he replied hollowly.
Remus must have been too exhausted to notice the deadened tone of Sirius’s voice. But he wasn’t too exhausted to notice the change from the night before. He knew he had been alone when he shouldn’t have been. “Where were you guys last night?” He knew they weren’t there because he didn’t know anything that happened. He may not remember every detail from the nights when they were with him, but he remembered a fair amount. The fact that he remembered nothing unsettled him. And the way he was battered… that hadn’t happened in ages, not since the summer.
Sirius felt himself pale. How could he explain this? How could he say it? “Remus, I did something stupid!” That was it – just jump right into it. Get it over with before the opportunity to chicken out presented itself.
Remus blinked confusedly. It was then that he realised Sirius was alone. James and Peter were nowhere to be found. This was not a good sign. The three boys always visited him together after the full moon. If Sirius was by himself, obviously he had done something to anger the other two. That would explain why he was on his own. A feeling of nausea that had nothing to do with the full moon swept over him. “W-what did you do?”
Sirius struggled desperately with his words. The explanation wanted to come out, but he forced it back in. This could be the moment when he would lose every friend he had made since he started Hogwarts. It would be all because of one stupid prank. One prank that he had done to hurt Snape had backfired so completely. He hadn’t hurt Snape at all; he had only hurt himself. And now, as a result, he had hurt someone who had never intentionally done anything to upset Sirius, someone who would never dream of intentionally hurting him. Naturally they had their spats, but they were always in good fun. They had never really gone at it before. Sirius had to restrain himself from laughing – there was a first time for everything.
“I… you know how Snape’s always been interested in where you go?” Now why was he bothering to stall? He could just blurt it out and be done with it.
Remus nodded slowly. He knew this, of course. Every time he came in close contact with Snape after a full moon, there was always a look in his eyes that made Remus feel as if he knew what he was up to. Snape always asked questions about why he would disappear from the school once a month. Remus could feel his heart slowly begin to sink. If this was how it started, he was afraid to know where Sirius was going with this. “Yes,” he said quietly. He dreaded the next words Sirius would utter.
“I… well, I… I told Snape about it… No, I didn’t tell him exactly about it…” The last thing he needed to say to further incriminate himself was that he went and told Snape right out about Remus’s lycanthropy. Remus would never forgive him if that was what he had really done. “I told him how to get where you go every month.” Sirius really wanted to find a nice big hole and drop into it.
Remus’s eyes went alarmingly wide. “You… you told…?” He couldn’t even complete the question. The only thing that would make this worse would be for Sirius to say that Snape had actually followed the instructions. Sweet Merlin, what would happen if Snape saw him? He would tell Dumbledore. But Dumbledore already knew! Would Dumbledore kick him out of school for carelessness? But it hadn’t been his fault!
“I’m so sorry, Remus,” Sirius said sincerely, his voice all but begging. He was praying Remus could find it in himself to believe that. He knew forgiveness was out of the question, but Remus had to know that Sirius was truly sorry. “Snape… Snape went down the passage under the Whomping Willow. He… he saw you.”
“He… he saw…?”
“Dumbledore made him swear not to tell anyone and Snape knows to listen to Dumbledore. He didn’t get hurt; you never even touched him. James stopped him just before you could do anything.” Sirius hated to see Remus flinch at his words. Sirius could only guess the scenarios running through his friend’s mind. Remus did not like Snape, but he would never want to harm him or worse – condemn him to the cursed life he had to lead. Remus firmly believed that no one deserved such a fate.
Remus’s voice was so small now that Sirius could hardly hear him. “Was James in on this?”
“No!” Sirius was quick to defend James. Even without his best friend’s trust, Sirius would never betray him in such a way. Why hadn’t he thought this way last night? If he had, he would not be in this situation right now. “James found out what I did and went to stop Snape. He couldn’t stand to think of what would happen to you if you hurt Snape.”
“I could go to Azkaban.”
Sirius wasn’t sure if Remus was telling him this or merely talking to himself. “I know.”
“But you told Snape?”
“And he saw me?”
“But he promised Dumbledore he won’t tell anybody what I am?”
Remus was silent for a long time, too long for Sirius’s liking. If Remus was going to shout at him, he’d rather he just get it over with. He didn’t want to wait for the storm. He knew he had no right to have a preference on when Remus would yell, but he couldn’t help feeling that way. He couldn’t take the not knowing. If Remus wanted nothing to do with him… he could never quite hear that. But he would rather hear it sooner than later. Ever since second year when he saw his friend lying on the floor of the Shrieking Shack, he always felt he had to protect him. He was the worst protector a friend could ask for.
But when Remus finally opened his mouth to speak, he neither yelled at him nor declared his hatred for him. He only said, “Sirius… could you go now? Please? I don’t feel well.”
“Remus, are you alright?”
“I’m fine, James.”
“Then why are you eating by yourself?”
“I just needed some quiet, that’s all.”
James sighed exasperatedly and took the empty space on the bench besides Remus. It was two days after Sirius had told Remus what he had done and the two had not said so much as said a word to each other or looked at each other, at least not at the same time. James and Peter had visited both boys on separate occasions, trying to get either to talk about what was going through their minds. Sirius refused to say anything on the subject, and Remus was just as silent. James was furious with Sirius, there was no denying this, but he couldn’t stand to watch Sirius and Remus walk in opposite directions whenever they found they were about to cross paths. James knew how badly Sirius felt that he betrayed Remus in such a way. Throughout the three years they spent trying to become Animagi; Sirius had been the most devoted. He was the one who kept pushing them to continue working when they felt as though they were never going to get it. Sirius was the first one to ever see Remus after a full moon and it affected him terribly. He had a protective gene inside of him that would not be ignored.
Sirius was now sitting with Peter at the opposite end of the table as dinner went on. James could see Peter speaking swiftly to Sirius in what seemed like a pleading manner, judging by the expression on his face and the way his hands were folded on the table. But Sirius didn’t seem to be hearing any of it; he didn’t seem to want to hear any of it. He was shaking his head the whole time Peter talked and was staring determinedly into his plate of uneaten roast chicken. This was so frustrating; neither boy would listen to reason. James knew Remus had every right to be upset with Sirius, but he would usually at least listen to the other person if it was someone who meant anything to him. Sirius would never let someone’s deaf ears deter him.
“Look, I know you’re mad at Sirius, but-”
Remus shook his head quickly. “I’m not mad at Sirius.”
Someone could have just slapped James three times in a row for the look on his face. It was one of complete surprise. If Remus wasn’t mad with Sirius, what was preventing him from speaking with him? “Then why won’t you talk to him?”
Remus shrugged as he spooned some more vegetables onto his plate, though he doubted they would ever meet his stomach. “I don’t have anything to say to him.”
“Couldn’t you just…?”
“No, I couldn’t. I have nothing to say to him. I may not be mad at Sirius, but I can’t pretend that I’m not upset with him.”
“What’s the difference?” To James, being mad and upset with someone meant exactly the same thing.
“There is a difference, James.” Remus stood up and stepped out from his bench. “I don’t think I have to explain it to you.” He glanced over his shoulder to where Sirius and Peter were sitting, Sirius still staring into his dinner while Peter spoke. “If Sirius didn’t knowingly do what he did, though I don’t know how that’s possible, maybe I could forgive him. But… I dunno, James… Just forget about it.”
Remus nodded swiftly to James and took his leave. He really wasn’t mad at Sirius; he was disappointed in him. More than anyone, Sirius had proved again and again that he did not care that Remus was a werewolf and that he would never used this information against him. Then, in just one night, Sirius changed at all in just one night. He used his knowledge and fed it to the single person who should never hear it. Snape may have promised Dumbledore that he would never go right out and tell someone that Remus was a werewolf, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t allude to it until the person figured it out on their own and devised ways to use this information against him. Remus knew Sirius hated Snape, and he accepted that fact, but Sirius had taken it one step too far this time.
The Gryffindor common room was quiet at half past midnight on a Wednesday night. The House Elves had come and gone when they finished their nightly cleaning of the room and it appeared as though everyone had gone to bed. Sirius was inexplicably glad for this. He had been receiving enough curious looks when he returned extremely late from his multiple detentions. No one knew why Professor Dumbledore had issued him such a harsh punishment or why he had taken so many points from Gryffindor and Sirius wasn’t telling. As a matter of fact, he was, to some extent, grateful for these late night detentions. It drew him away from the never ending tirade of questions he was not willing to answer.
Where were you? Why are you coming back so late? What did you do? It was enough to drive anyone absolutely mental.
The Fat Lady was not happy with Sirius when he woke her up from a deep slumber, though Sirius didn’t know why; she should have been expecting him. For a moment, she almost refused to let him inside, forcing him to sleep in the corridor. Finally, with a decent amount of begging in which he almost had to get down on his knees, the woman swung her portrait open for Sirius and he stepped sleepily into the common room. One hundred points from Gryffindor and countless detentions later, Sirius wasn’t sure this would ever end. Not that he was complaining. He would complain if he thought he didn’t deserve it, but he knew he deserved every horrible thing Dumbledore threw at him.
Sirius flung himself into one of the empty squashy armchairs; he wasn’t ready to go to bed yet. His mind was wired and not keen on shutting down any time soon. Why didn’t he just let Snape go on thinking whatever it was he was thinking that they were doing? No one knew Peter, James and he were Animagi. No one had ever seen them sneak down to the Whomping Willow. If Snape had brought it to Dumbledore, Dumbledore would tell him it was nothing he should concern himself with. There was nothing unusual going on that involved the Whomping Willow. But Sirius had to open his big, stupid mouth and tell Snape exactly how to get past the bloody tree and he almost led him to his death.
He didn’t care about Snape’s death, really. He only cared about it because it would have been brought about by Remus and would doubtlessly lead to his imprisonment in Azkaban and his own mind. Remus would never be able to live with himself if he killed, or simply hurt, someone while he was a werewolf. If he didn’t go and viciously murder Snape, he would have bitten him at the very least. If Sirius had learned anything about his friend from the disaster that was the previous year, it was that the thought of contaminating someone terrified him. Remus would believe he had become the second Fenrir Greyback. Sirius could never forget the look of horror in his friend’s eyes at the end of the year as he grudgingly explained what had occurred between him and that beast. And if Sirius’s plan had succeeded, that look would never leave Remus’s eyes.
Why was he so bloody stupid?
Sirius jumped in his seat and instinctively looked towards the staircase. But no one was there. He then directed his attention towards the couch and saw Remus lying there, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, looking as if he had just woken up. His Charms textbook was open on his chest, marking the page he was on; he must have fallen asleep while he was studying. Sirius braced himself for whatever was coming; he knew he deserved it. Remus was always at the height of his irritability when he was just waking up. If any rage was coming, it would come know. He knew Remus was furious with him and he was only waiting for the outburst. It was killing him that Remus hadn’t shouted at him yet. Remus was being civil to him. Sirius didn’t deserve that; he deserved Remus’s anger to boil over and result in a shouting match.
“Hey,” Sirius said quietly. “Sorry I woke you.”
“’S okay.” Remus sat up straight and marked the place in his book, setting it down in his lap once he had. “I had to get upstairs anyway.” He collected his textbook and slid off the couch. “’Night,” he said as he passed Sirius.
“Wait a moment.” Sirius couldn’t take it. He really couldn’t. Remus was being so damn civil to him. It was maddening.
Remus stopped with one foot on the first step. He looked over his shoulder. “What?” He didn’t feel like talking. He was tired; he just wanted to get to bed.
“Why are you being so damn nice to me?” Sirius asked with a tone of heavy pleading. It was infuriating!
Remus blinked rapidly, trying to keep his vision from blurring as sleep took over. Unless he was mistaken, Sirius wanted him to be mad. “Would you rather I yell at you?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’d like!” Sirius couldn’t believe it. Why could Remus stand there and look at him without so much as an accusation in his eyes? He wanted the look to be red with fury. “I want you to just yell at me and tell me how much you hate me!”
Remus sighed, his shoulders tensing as he fought the urge to just fall asleep where he was standing. “I can’t do that, Sirius.”
“Why the bloody hell not?”
“Because I don’t hate you!”
Someone could have punched Sirius in the face and he would not have noticed. “You – you don’t?”
“No. I wish I did.” Remus exhaled slowly and leaned against the wall. He didn’t hate Sirius; he wanted to hate him so he wouldn’t have to feel as though something was missing every hour of his life for the past few days. “There’s never been anyone I’ve trusted outside of my family with my secret except for you, James and Peter. I don’t trust people easily, you know that.”
“And James and Peter have never done anything to make me think I couldn’t trust them and, up to a few days ago, you hadn’t either.”
“I know, and I feel like a complete git for what I did.”
“Why did you do it, Sirius? Why didn’t you just leave it alone?”
Sirius didn’t answer right away. His answer sounded so trivial now that he had had time to think about it. He sounded like a child, but a child wouldn’t send someone to a werewolf to get him killed. What he did sound like was a spoiled brat who didn’t like that things weren’t going his way, so he decided to do something irrational to fix it. He sounded like a fool when he thought about it. He finally settled for the most honest response he could think of. “Because I didn’t think.”
Remus raised his eyebrows. “And if you had thought about it?”
“Maybe I would have done something else to take my anger out on Snape. I didn’t think of what would happen to you if I sent Snape your way.”
“You know I can’t control myself when I’m like that. I don’t know what I do or why I do it.” If he had to hurt someone, he wanted to be in full awareness of what he was doing. That way, he may not make that decision. He didn’t like hurting people. Snape may have been the bane of their existences, but he didn’t have to die because of it.
“I know that, Remus. I know what you could have done.”
“Then why did you send Snape to me on the night of a full moon? I can’t be the one to get rid of your problems, especially if it involves someone dying!” Remus flinched as he realised the volume of his voice was rising alarmingly; he didn’t want to wake anyone upstairs. There would be too many questions he was unwilling to answer.
Sirius was relieved; this was what he had needed. He needed to hear Remus rage at him, tell him how childish he had been and how he had only thought of himself when he made the decision to tell Snape how to get past the Whomping Willow. As much as Remus tried to deny it, Sirius knew there was a part of him, however small, that was angry with him. There was a part of Remus that wanted to hex Sirius into oblivion and back. Sirius knew Remus had to get this out; he always had a penchant for keeping his anger inside and it wasn’t good for him. “I should never have done what I did.”
“No, you shouldn’t have. How would you like it if you were like me and I sent someone your way when you were dangerous and couldn’t control yourself?”
“I wouldn’t like it.”
“Then what made you think I would like it? Do I come off that viciously on the nights of a full moon?” Remus collapsed onto the stairs and stared at Sirius, waiting for an answer. If that was really how he came off on full moons, he wanted to hear it. Sirius could not truthfully think that Remus would normally enjoy ripping Snape limb from limb.
“I didn’t think you would like it,” Sirius said at once. “No… I thought you might find it funny, but I know that you wouldn’t think it was funny now.”
Remus planted his forehead in his hand and grinded his teeth together. “You thought I’d find it funny? Sirius, when have I ever laughed at someone else because they were in pain? Even if it was Snape, I could have done something much worse than giving him a scratch or two. I could have killed him or bitten him. I know we all hate him, but not even Snape deserves to be a werewolf!”
Sirius was disgusted with himself. He had been a fool to act on a whim the way he had. He had been a fool to suppose for the slightest of moments that Remus would take any pleasure in harming someone else. A hex or two, he would find that funny, but not a werewolf wound. He would never find that funny no matter who had one. He would get sick at the sight of one on someone else, knowing that he had put it there. Sirius was a fool.
Tentatively, he crossed the room and sat down in front of Remus. “You know you don’t deserve to be one either.”
Remus would not meet Sirius’s eyes and instead stared at the carpet to the right of his friend. “But I am one.”
“Yeah, but you’ve never once acted as if you were supposed to be one, that you’d done something to warrant it. You don’t even act like, because you are one, you deserve to be pitied. You don’t take advantage of others like Greyback! That’s why you’re taking this so badly, because you could never stand to hurt someone like that!”
“Then why did you almost make me do that? Why did you almost make me turn someone else into a werewolf?”
“Because I’m an idiot! You know that! You’ve known me for five years; you should know I don’t think!”
“Sirius, you think enough to know when something’s too dangerous to be done!”
“I know that now and I’ll do anything I can to show you how sorry I am that I took advantage of you and betrayed your trust. What do you want me to do?”
Remus finally tore his gaze away from the scarlet carpet and faced Sirius. There was a fierce determinedness in his face to show Remus that he meant every word he was saying, that he was not just trying to appease him. “I just want you to mean it.”
“I do mean it. If you can’t ever trust me again after this, just trust one more thing – that I will never do anything like this again.”
Excerpt from Chapter Fifty One: Grey Hair, Nicknames and The OWLs
“No, I just thought it sounded cool.” Sirius pulled the textbook out from under Remus’s hands and read through the pages. “You have all your notes from first year?” He shook his head; he didn’t even have notes, period.
“Yes.” Remus snatched the book back.
“I don’t even have notes.” He pulled the book back away from Remus and continued to peruse it. “Can I copy yours?”
Remus took the book back again and flipped to the page he had been on. “When I’m done with them.”
“When will that be?”
“When I’m done.” Remus copied down another fact about the Goblin Rebellion he needed to know. “Do James and Peter – err… Prongs and Wormtail - know about these nicknames?”
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