James cursed loudly. Monte was heavier than he looked. He was having trouble keeping him uplifted, but he supported his weight the best he could.
A trail of blood and water was being left behind, dripping from Monte.
“Danyeal… save me…”
When he was literally dragging him or when he stopped calling for the Danyeal person, James squeezed his waist, not sure of he was losing his consciousness, or ... Shit!
The halls in Hogwarts never seemed so long and daunting. James just wanted to get there and get it over with. This was too much for him.
It was yet another side to the boy; one that he’d rather not see.
The trembling Monte clawing at his flesh, screaming at nothing, sobbing like a child.
When James got to the hospital wing – kicking open the door without a hint of reservation – Madam Pomfrey shrieked at the unruly entrance. Upon seeing the bloody mess in James’ hands, she sprang into action with efficiency, pryng off the hysterical boy who had along the way attached himself to James with his arms around his neck tightly.
“What happened?” she demanded.
“I-I don’t know,” James stuttered. “He just started going crazy!”
“Hmpf.” She examined Monte’s face before giving James the, it-has-to-your-fault-somehow, look. True, he was no stranger to the Hospital wing. After ingesting so many of Sirius’ experimental potions and challenging the womping willow many times before they discovered the charm to immobilize it, it was a wonder he – or any of the marauders – were still alive.
James assisted Madam Pomfrey in placing him on one of the beds. This was a difficult task. He began to writhe and scream again. Holding his shoulders, Madam Pomfrey tried to guide him down but he was refusing, his back arching up as he was still trying to cling to James.
“Try to get him to lie down, Potter,” Madam Pomfrey said, dashing off.
“No, Danyeal! Don’t let me go!”
He leapt onto James, his vice grip squeezing his chest. “Okay, I’m not leaving. N-Not so tight.”
James tried to squirm away but nothing he did worked. Monte was not going to let go if he thought he was this Danyeal person. He would have to play the part which meant...
James swallowed a lump in his throat and slowly put his arm around Monte’s waist, returning the hold.
Monte reacted by tightening his arms, pleased by what James did. He began to cry into his shoulder.
James put a knee on the bed and laid him down; moving down with him, afraid that if he tried to pull him off again it could be troublesome.
It worked, he wasn’t fighting back anymore, but he wasn’t letting go either and James’ couldn’t have felt more awkward.
He was practically – definitely, in the eyes of anyone who had eyes – straddling Monte. One of his knees was between his legs, the other on the outside of his thigh and they were close. He was still hugging him! Monte was staring up at him with big, watery, doe eyes, tears beading on his eyelashes and trailing down his cheeks, nose red and sniffing, and something about him and the way he was looking at James, made him wish – for a second – that he was able to help him.
“Save me, Danyeal,” he whispered.
“I can’t,” James whispered back. He couldn’t. He didn’t have whatever Danyeal had.
“I’m not, Danyeal. I can’t save you.” It was easy to pry him off now that he had relaxed enough.
“Save me, save me!”
He kept saying one thing over and over. Madam Pomfrey returned and poured something down his mouth that James was told would ‘calm’ him. It worked fast. Monte’s eyes closed, his mouth going slack.
She looked to him, sympathetic. “You need some of this too. Drink up.”
“N-No, I’m fine,” he lied, concealing his shaking hands behind his back.
Dinner that night was –for lack of a better word – odd, albeit James was happy to see both Sirius and Remus there sitting waiting for him when he stood at the door to the great hall fifteen minutes late.
As soon as he entered, Peter called him over enthusiastically. Remus greeted him with best he could muster at a smile and Sirius looked him up and down suspiciously. Things weren’t back to normal, but it was okay. They were there. That was enough.
Sighing, he squeezed in the spot beside Sirius that they’d saved for him.
“What’s wrong? You look terrible?” Sirius asked before James even settled in.
James waved it away, not wanting to talk about the day or anything that would remind him of it.
“Skipping class? Didn’t think you still had it in you! Where were you the whole day? Should’ve told me if you wanted company.” Sirius clapped him on the back, grinning.
Was he better?
Did they make up?
Questions clawed themselves up his throat but he kept silent for fear of ruining any concord they may have established.
Remus, who was sitting opposite James, pushed over a plate he had put out for him. They were already having dessert.
“Thank you, Moony,” he said softly with a smile, in his own way maybe trying to soothe a pain he imagined he was seeing in his friend’s eyes.
Remus tensed and smiling sadly, nodded, accepting James’ subtle sentiment.
“What’re you two getting all googley eyed at?” Peter asked, breaking the moment.
James smiled to himself.
The great hall was decked out for the Halloween feast, the house elves outdid themselves with the food – he could tell by looking -- and Remus had given him double portions of all his favorites, but James’ hands wouldn’t stop shaking enough for him to pick up a fork so he placed them on his lap.
When Sirius commented on his lack of appetite, he put on quite a show of eating. He didn’t want them worrying about him.
He wasn’t sure if the others talked or if the atmosphere was tense. His body was there, murdering scalloped potatoes, but his thoughts … Even with his hands washed off all the blood, the sensation of it trickling between his fingers, running over his skin, staining his hands, still remained.
It was truthfully a frightening thing to see.
His share of food went untouched, not having an appetite.
Later that night, when they were the only ones left in the common room absorbing the warmth of the dying fire, there was still an underlying tension in the air that James didn’t like. It was more noticeable now that he wasn’t shook up anymore. Peter was curled up in his favorite armchair, pretending to be sleeping.
That left him to try and remedy the situation.
Next to him, Remus was penning away at his History of Magic essay that he grew tired of chastising him about and decided to do himself. Sirius was over in his self declared chair staring moodily into the fire. Remus’ eyes darted over to him ever so slightly but they said nothing to each other.
The first step was to get them talking.
“Have you come up with any ideas for tonight?” he directed at Sirius, picking a random subject that Sirius would have a chance of finding interesting enough to discuss.
“Oh. Haven’t given it much thought,” Sirius responded dully.
“Strange, by now you be clamoring with possible black masterpieces.” Not entirely wrong but over exaggerated certainly.
“I’ve had… a lot on my mind,” he answered cryptically.
“Maybe we could do something to Snape again?”Remus offered, quick to distract.
James placed a hand over his heart and gasped in mock astonishment. “Remus? Suggesting something? Who are you and what have you done with our, moony?”
Remus didn’t look up from his parchment but there was a small smile on his face. “I’m not allowed?”
“We did that last year,” Sirius interrupted.
“Snivelly, huh…” It was hard thinking about Snape now without the progression of thoughts going directly to Monte.
“That never gets old,” Peter added, inserting himself in the conversation.
“You don’t seem very enthusiastic James.” Remus’ abnormal perception saw through his hesitation.
Sirius turned to face them.“Maybe that is kind of worn. What about Monte. Wormtail tell us you’ve got something on him.”
James shot Peter a disapproving glare which Sirius caught. “Something we mustn’t know?”
“Sorry James. They demanded to know what you were up to lately and you know me. They insisted… I couldn’t refuse-”
“S’alright wormtail.” If you go on like that they’ll think I’m hiding it. “I didn’t share because I didn’t think it was anything worth using. It’s nothing.”
“You never know,” Sirius said.
James hesitated. All eyes were on him, curious and waiting.
What’s this… Why I am protecting that prick? I’m seriously considering not telling them…
He had no obligation to keep Monte’s secret but he had an obligation to tell them. His family. “I used some stuff– turns out he’s… afraid of water.” James took a long sip of juice he’d brought with him.
Sirius burst out laughing. “Water? He’s having you on mate.”
“It’s true,” James confirmed gravely. Why couldn’t he just let it slide! Was it because he saw it firsthand? Did seeing up close how scary and serious it could be, make him see that it wasn’t something to be taken lightly?
“Does that mean he doesn’t shower?”
“Not like that Sirius. Most likely it’s hydrophobia,” Remus explained. He was met with silence.
“Put simply, the fear of water. Deep bodies of water like lakes and the ocean or simply large amounts like a filled bath tub.”
“Ooh, Moony’s so smart,” James cooed, making Remus blush and trying lightening the effect the startling information had on his own body.
“Problem solved we dump a bucket of water on him. Fun.”
“I wouldn’t advise that, Sirius—”
“What would happen?” James asked.
“It could have adverse effects seeing as it usually stems from a trauma. Severe shock or worse…”
“Yes, well it’s a very serious thing, James, a shock like that could even cause the heart to fail. It may be so much that he could lose his mind. It’s not that unheard of for those things to happen when someone is…”
The cup slipped in James’ numb fingers. He tuned Remus out, his mind hazy.
A shock like that could even cause the heart to fail. It may be so much he could lose his mind… Ismoony serious? Could he have actually died? But it was rain not some lake or something. It’d be alright if it was just that…
“Anyway, it’s not a very good idea. How about we just sit this one out?”
“What? But it’s our last!” James exclaimed, and he felt guilty the he hadn’t thought much about it either. Halloween was a highlight for them. To see who could come up with the most creative pranks among them. It was a tradition. It brought them together.
“Don’t waste your breath, prongs, not like he would understand. His head is always between a book.”
“How very childish, Sirius,” Remus hissed. James smacked himself mentally for allowing Sirius an opportunity to pick at Remus.
“Is it?” “It is, though I’ve come not to expect much where you are concerned.” “Fuck off, Remus.”
Remus winced, hurt by Sirius’s harsh words and James could no longer stay silent in the escalating exchange. He chose that moment to interject. “Oi, padfoot cool it.”
Sirius huffed, turning back to the fire.
“D-Did something happen?” Jams asked, careful to sound plainly concerned and nothing else.
“No,” Sirius snapped.
“Don’t lie to me Sirius.”
“I don’t want to argue with you, James, you’re my mate-”
“Isn’t moony your mate too? Don’t argue with him either!”
Remus and Sirius locked eyes before Sirius looked away again.
“I heard you this morning. Curious little conversation you had.” He would throw it out in the open if that’s what it took.
Sirius stood up. “C’mon, Pete. I’m going to bed.”
James stood too. “No you’re not! I will not allow us to continue like this! We are the Marauders. Whatever it is I’m sure it’s nothing we can’t solve.”
“Solve? Solve? How can it be solved when I can’t even fucking look at him!?”
“Padfoot… what did he do? What did he do that was so bad? Tell me,” James pleaded.
“Goodnight James.” Sirius’ face darkened, a sign that he was angry right now and at his most lethal.
“What happened to us? What happened to friends forever?!” James shouted after him, getting no response.
He sunk down into his chair, exhausted in every way. Was there really no way to fix them? No way to help any of them? He was really weak, wasn’t he? He looked down at his hands, unable to hold onto anything that he wanted. His vision blurred, like the rain rolling down the windows.
“James? James! For a moment there I there I thought you stopped breathing. You okay?”
Remus came a little closer, kneeling down to look into James’ face. “Prongs, is everything alright. You didn’t look well since you came to dinner. I’m worried. Have you caught a cold?” he asked softly, lifting up the stray strands of hair to put his hand on James’ forehead.
He hardly did anything today but he was so tired. So tired. His body ached, his head throbbed, and for his friends, his heart hurt.
“Stupid prat, worry about yourself.”
His head fell forward, resting on Remus’ shoulder. He felt him tense up beneath him from the sudden contact or maybe he thought he had fainted.
“James?” Remus whispered close to his ear tickling him, his hand resting on James knee, the other suspended in mid-air, unsure what to do with it.
“Sorry, moony, I just needed a shoulder right now.”
Remus smelled of something sweet, probably spilled desert, and James nuzzled his face within his worn robes.
His hand came to rest at the back of James’ head as he squeezed him tighter. And Remus was being so nice to him when he was obviously in no position to be healing the ailments of others when he had his own.
How could Sirius be unforgiving to moony, who was so fragile?
Normally, James took pride in being a sympathetic ear and a strong shoulder to lean on, but he had no worries with leaning on someone this one time.