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Chapter 41 : Perspective.
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Every joint and muscle in my body was aching painfully as I lay there - it had been a bad night. Given it was just getting out of winter there were still long nights and clear skies had been hanging around, I’d spent hours and hours in my wolf form – running, hunting, howling and generally acting like the wild animal I was. It hadn’t helped that Sirius hadn’t come down to the shack, not that I’d expected him to with everything going on with Mary, but still... it made things difficult.
I was sure James would be sporting a lot more bruises and scratches than he usually did and I knew that the guilt would be unbearable – just as it always was.
I’d dragged myself to the hospital wing at around seven this morning – with James under the invisibility cloak helping me out – and I’d fallen straight asleep onto my usual bed and fallen into a deep unconscious state without notifying Nate of my return. There was not much he could do – heal a couple of bruises and cuts, dose me up with painkillers, give me some sleep potions and leave me to it. I hadn’t wanted to wake him up, especially when I had Mary to deal with... and a pregnant wife. It wasn’t fair for me to be absorb all of his valuable time.
I’d been too exhausted to bother anyway.
No one could ever explain how painful transformation was. Imagine: every single one of your muscles and cells stretching to become bigger; your bones breaking, mending, lengthening and changing into something new; skin tearing apart as your whole body increased in size and a thick layer of fur breaking through the surface of your skin. It’s like being doused in acid, thrown into a fire and having your eyes pricked out by needles at the same time. Your whole body explodes and changes into this new being and on the way everything breaks, hurts, and fixes itself again. Then you have to experience it again on the way back.
Nothing could prepare you for that sort of pain. Nothing. I hadn’t expected it the first time round, and each time it still came as a shock.
The first time, and at the beginning, I had screamed so hard that I could barely speak for a week... now I bit down on my lip as hard as I could in an attempt to stop any noise from escaping my lips. I’d yet to manage it and instead just ended up with a bloody lip, but I still thought it was worth trying.
When I really thought about it I could feel the phantom of the pain settle over me. I could remember how it had felt to break out of my own skin and become something different, new. It was painful beyond thought or reason and the most horrible thing I’d ever experienced and yet... there was a very small subdued part of me that knew, for those few hours every month, it was completely liberating. I’d never tell anyone how it felt before the guilt and the worry set in.
Now though I just ached. I ached and I was tried, unbelievably tired. Given the extreme trauma my body had been put through in the past few hours, it was completely illogical that now... I was awake again. Conscious. I could sense it was still early by the scent of the morning air which mingled with that typical hospital stench that my wolf senses picked out so easily... The exhaustion I’d felt this morning was far from gone, and had in fact increased in the few hours I’d been asleep...
So why, in the name of Merlin’s saggy balls, had I woken up?
I breathed in another lungful of air and felt something else within it. I could taste the fear, the panic, so vividly that I forced my eyes open and sat up. Panic was too distinctive for me to mistake it. As a wolf I relied on the delicious sent of panic to let me know where my prey was... it was a natural predatory instinct, but that didn’t make me any happier about it.
What was happening? Nate was nowhere to be seen and, although there were now several bottles of potions and different coloured liquids placed on the bedside counter, nothing seemed to be amiss or even remotely different to how it had been early this morning.
Then I heard the footsteps, running....
“Mr Peacock! Mr Peacock!” Peter’s voice yelled. He was the source of the panic. His voice was thick with it.
“What is it Peter?” I asked, pulling myself out of the bed and grabbing my cloak from the floor.
“It’s Mary!” He yelled. My heart sped up a little in my chest. “She’s fallen down the stairs; Sirius yelled and told me to get Nate as -”
“NATE!” I yelled over the top of the rest of his words. If something had happened to Mary... “Nate!” I yelled again. The energy it took to push the words out drained me to the extent that I could feel myself going slightly dizzy.
Nate appeared, his face shocked and worried.
“It’s Mary,” Peter breathed, and the expression on his face increased ten-fold.
Her legs had taken the weight of her fall, that much was clear by the way they were bent at strange and uncomfortable angles, but she had still managed to hit her head against the stone of the floor. Sirius had his wand out, but he appeared to be shaking too much to do any good. James was bent over her form too, and he appeared to be doing a mediocre job at healing her worst wounds.
They only reason they’d learnt those spells were because of me. They’d all – even Peter – leant mediocre healing spells so that they wouldn’t have to come to the hospital wing if I’d hurt them during full moon’s. At first it had bothered me that their slightly less sophisticated healing methods had left nasty scars and lines behind... until James had clapped me on the back and told me that they were perfectly capable of doing it properly... the scar’s were an added bonus. I never really believed them, but it did make me feel a lot better about the whole thing.
“Sirius, mate, let me.” Nate said kneeling down beside her body and pulling her head up into his lap. Sirius nodded and stepped back, warily, staring at her. She looked bad. Really bad.
James took a step back too, staring at the steadily spreading pool of blood. He’d been sitting in it. He swallowed and shut his eyes for a brief moment.
Lily was stood half way up the stairs and seemed frozen. She had one hand clutched to her mouth in horror and she was staring at everything that was going on in complete shock. She must know, I decided. She was completely white and the horror radiating off her far surpassed that which encompassed James, Alice and Peter – they didn’t know. They didn’t get it. Bones could be healed with a wave of a wand. Blood could be replenished with a potion. Things like this – little accidents – could be healed, just like that.
I stared at her form and found myself tensing. The panic had let out another spurt of adrenaline, which was keeping me awake, but my thoughts were confused and tangled.
The morning after transformations were the worst, when I was too tired for my brain to work properly, and still had the vague wolfish feeling which seemed to possess me. The next few days, and the ones preceding full moon, were the days when I was prone to snapping, violence, breaking out of the castle to take night time walks and eating a lot of steak. These weren’t the sort of days that I could deal with things like this happening.
I found myself next to Sirius with a hand on my shoulder without thinking. His eyes were wide and horrified, and he looked straight through me. He shook as he tried to open his mouth and speak. “I froze up.” He said in a horribly emotional soft whisper. “I just... froze. She was falling. She took a step too far and I... I just watched her! I just watched her fall all the way to the bottom! She bounced, Remus, she bounced down every single step and..! Oh, God!” The words didn’t make sense in my brain. He took a step backwards and sat backwards on the stairs that, only minute ago, Mary had tumbled down in a rush of limbs and flesh.
“Leave me alone.”
It wasn’t a request.
The smell of blood polluted the air thickly. The air was stagnant and heavy. I needed to be asleep.
Nate was busy waving his wand over Mary’s body. He had potions, spells and enchantments at his fingertips and yet... she didn’t seem to be getting any better. There was just blood – crimson red blood seeping out over the stone.
It smelt so good. I couldn’t help it. I was too wolfish this morning. I needed to sleep. I shouldn’t even be conscious, let alone be put into a situation where one of my friends was lying there, bleeding, in front of me.
James was looking at me worriedly. Alice was standing to one side, eyes fixed on Mary, but looking quietly confident that Mary was going to be all right. Peter was standing next to me, shifting his weight from foot to foot. They didn’t get it... They didn’t understand.
That wasn’t fair.
I gestured for them to follow. They did so willingly. I stopped just round the corner – not wanting to go far unless I could help – and turned to face them all. It wasn’t my place but they had to know.
I couldn’t pretend my motives were entirely selfless, not at all; I needed to do something to occupy me and get me away from that smell, and the sight of her there... lying. Dying. I had to do something that would keep me occupied. I was used to being practical if nothing else – the one people turned to for help – and now there was nothing I could do. The edginess mixed with my panic and left me utterly lost.
“Remus, mate, are you all right? I didn’t expect to see you for awhile... given how ill you are.” James said looking pointedly at Alice. In any other situation I would have hit him – the blatant obvious way that the others referred to ‘my furry problem’ was usually the thing that made me snap around the full moon, but now I didn’t have the energy for it, nor the time.
“You do look ill.” Alice added, and I realised how long it was since I’d spoken to her. I missed her. “You’re always ill.” She sighed and I tried not to let myself get sucked back into her again. I blinked and swallowed down some of the things I’d like to say to her.
Alice. Alice is the perfect girl to settle down and have kids with. I’d always known that those sorts of those things – marriage and kids – were not going to be part of my future, which only made her all the more attractive to me. She’s accepting, nice and, well... lovely. I was more rough around the edges but there was always the niggling feeling that she was soft and lovely enough to make up for my being a werewolf.
That’s why I always kept it a secret from the others. I always knew that going near her was dangerous territory which I should have avoided at all costs, and I didn’t. I was ashamed of the way I was pulling her along in secret like that when she should have a wonderful guy who’d show her off to the world, tell everyone how beautiful and lovely she was, and settle down and have kids with her as soon as possible. I couldn’t stand the thought of their expression as they glanced each other, each wondering ‘is this really a good idea?’ I’d gotten too involved. Fell in love with her, and not just the idea of her and the dream that came with it. Then I’d panicked and retracted myself immediately. I’d just thought, for those few weeks, that maybe I deserved someone like Alice...Now it was painful just to look at her and it made me curse the day I’d ever been bitten, again and again.
But now, wasn’t the time. Mary could be out there dying, and they might not even know. I could smell her blood and the accumulated fear that belonged to Sirius, Lily and Nate – three people that might be forced to go into mourning, any minute now...
“I’m not ill.” I said clenching my fists as Alice began rambling on about how I should eat more vegetables or something – like it would make a difference. Of course Alice was sweet like that, but I couldn’t think about that now when there was a much more pressing issue. James looked at me, completely startled, but I ignored him. My heart was beating a little too fast in my chest and I realised I had no idea what to say.
“What do you mean you’re not ill?” Alice asked sounding confused and concerned. I ignored her. For once I needed her to shut up so I could talk properly. I took a deep breath.
“I need to explain.”
“Are you sure?” James asked looking at me nervously.
“Not about that.” I said, cutting across him. “About Mary.”
Then there was a silence. It was stupid of me to think that they hadn’t had their doubts about what had just happened. It was not normal for someone with wizarding blood (which was still reeking the place out) to fall down the stairs and have such catastrophic injuries.
Now, when it was too late to turn back and stop talking I couldn’t think of the words. They clogged up in my throat and a whirl of tiredness. I couldn’t do this, I shouldn’t do this, and now I had too.
“She’s... she’s...” I began choking out the words. Then I stopped. I’d never even told someone I was a werewolf, how was I supposed to tell someone that their friend, classmate, was dying? “She’s got a condition.”
“What kind of condition?” James asked, there were lines of confusion on his forehead and all traces of humour had gone from his face.
“It means that she’s ill, weak, that her body can’t take much. And she’s...” I looked at Alice for a second – her warm blue eyes and saw the uncertainty within them – and then I looked at James. They were waiting for me. I took a deep breath. I had to speak. I just wanted to sleep. “She’s going to die.”
Alice gasped as if I’d just stabbed her. James eyes widened. Peter’s jaw was slack.
“When?” James asked – his voice sullen and serious in a way that it rarely was.
“I... don’t know.” I said clenching my fists. “It was supposed to be another month. But now... I don’t know.”
Alice took another breath inwards. She blinked several times in surprise. Then she turned around – back in the direction of the corridor – and ran. I didn’t blame her. There was nothing I’d rather do than run, run, run away.
“You should go after her.” James said. There was no teasing, arrogant or humorous note. Just a simple statement. I shook my head. It made me dizzy. “Shit.” He muttered. “Pads.” He said, thinking deeply, “That’s why... Shit. I can’t believe this.” James said. He was seeking some kind of assurance, comfort, words of wisdom, but for once I had nothing I could give to him. I stayed silent. My lips shut.
I was too tired, too impossibly exhausted in every single way to be there for him. I could see myself slipping out of my position as emotional specialist. If today had been any other day, I would have been there immediately. I would have ran for Nate – faster than Peter – I could have explained to the others in a more emotionally sensitive way. I could have ran after Alice – I could have been there for her like I longed to be. I might have had some incredibly words of truth that would make everything seem that little bit brighter, but I was too tired.
“We should...” I began, no longer able to piece together a full sentence. My head was spinning. I felt drunk with tiredness. James nodded, Peter swallowed and we stepped back round the corridor.
This time the stench of the blood – so rich and poignant – was too much for me to manage. A hand went up to my throat and then I was driving towards the toilets, leaving my dignity behind me.
I threw myself into a cubical just in time to throw up. James and Sirius sometimes taunted me with tails of exactly what I’d hunted the night before – unicorns, centaurs, theastrals... most of it was a pack of well fabricated lives but I could never be sure. Now I was faced with the regurgitated content of my stomach and it was beyond anything I ever wanted to see. The toilet water was tinted pink with blood and it was enough to make me wretch again. Chunks of flesh – red and raw – were accompanied by the dinner I’d had in the hospital wing the night before.
“I never had you down as squeamish.” James said, opening the door behind me with his foot. His gaze was sympathetic and tried. I wanted to help, but I felt like I was on a different planet. A planet where all that remained was aching muscles and tiredness. “Throwing up at the sight of blood?” He joked weakly.
“It’s not that,” I said flushing the toilet quickly just in case James glanced in that direction. He’d probably seen whatever living creature it was that I’d killed with my claws and ripped apart with my teeth when it was still running away from me terrified, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t horrified at myself. “It’s...” I stopped. I couldn’t really tell him what was wrong. He’d be horrified. He’d probably throw up himself.
“What?” James prompted.
“I’m... I’m still a bit... wolfish.” I said, pulling myself up and blinking. “And blood smells good to wolves.”
A wave of disgusted understanding passed across his face before he could stop himself. I didn’t blame him, I’d be disgusted, but it still stung. James lifted a hand up to my shoulder and looked at me seriously.
“You really need to sleep.” He told me, and I couldn’t have agreed more.
When I woke up again, things were calmer. I was in my usual bed in the hospital wing, and I dragged myself up immediately to face the other beds in the hospital wings. I didn’t know what I was hoping for – empty beds would definitely not be good news, but another encounter with unconscious Mary wasn’t going to ease my nerves either.
In the first few seconds, I saw neither. Sirius was stood at the far side of the hospital wing, looking out of the window with his arms crossed and his muscles tense. Lily seemed to have chosen the exact opposite course of action, and was bent over a bed – in which I assumed Mary was in – clutching her hand and bending do close to her that they were practically face to face. She was crying silently. Alice was on the other side of the bed, sitting back on her chair and staring. James was slumped on the edge of the bed behind Lily, glancing between all of them, whereas Peter stood awkwardly to one side.
“You’re awake,” James commented, nodding in my direction. The normal features of amusement were gone from his face and instead he looked as if he’d aged several years.
I nodded in return and pulled myself out of my own hospital bed. It felt wrong to be feeling ill and sorry for myself, when Mary was lying there – possibly never to wake up again.
“I’ll get Nate.” Alice said, refusing to look in my direction. I walked forward gingerly (my legs felt weak and feeble beneath me) and took her seat beside the bed.
Mary looked better: she wasn’t quite as pale before and now I couldn’t see the blood and the way her legs had twisted she looked almost peaceful. I swallowed painfully.
“Here,” Nate said, thirty seconds later, handing me a couple more potions. Nate tried his hardest to make full moon’s as painless as possible using a wide variety of potions – some of which he’d brewed himself – and staggering them throughout the day. Normally I felt like I deserved all these potions to take the sharpness away from the pain and tiredness, but I felt selfish and greedy to be taking them in Mary’s presence. Mary had been right, in comparison to dying – I was well off. Yet here I was, insensitively accepting potions when there wasn’t a single potion in existence that could help her. “Take them.” Nate instructed.
James nodded at me; Sirius remained staring out of the window unresponsively; Lily didn’t seem aware of anything else but Alice’s light blue eyes were look straight at me. Absorbing.
I took them as quickly as I could, placing the bottles down on the counter as quietly as I could and trying my very hardest to remain unnoticed. The clink of the glass against wood was still enough to make James wince and Sirius’s shoulders stiffen further.
“She’s going to wake up.” Nate said. The other seemed neither reassured nor surprised by this news, so I assumed they had found this out whilst I was asleep. I was relieved. The relief wasn’t as poignant or strong as it would have been any other day of the month – the pain of last night had brought me to saturation point – but I knew that I was relieved. Even if I didn’t really feel like it.
“Yeah,” Sirius said, turning around and glaring. “She’s going to wake up, and then she’s going to die.”
“You knew it was going to be like this,” Lily said quietly. The silence of the hospital wing gave the impression that Sirius had been just short of yelling (and the aggression hadn’t helped) but Lily’s voice was so deathly quiet that, for a second, I thought I’d imagined it.
Sirius’s reaction made it quite clear that I hadn’t.
“Be quiet,” Nate said coldly in Sirius direction. “I will not tolerate that language here.” Sirius turned back to the window, and returned to ignoring everyone. “Also...” Nate began before stopping himself.
“What?” James prompted him.
“It’s just... well, I can’t let any emotional...” He stopped again. “I didn’t want to bring it up, especially not now, but the fact is I can’t cover for you all and...”
Suddenly I was alert and looking up at Nate in surprise. He couldn’t mean... he couldn’t know? They’d only been one time when Peter had been quiet badly hurt and had to go to Nate to get it fixed, and we’d all thought he’d more or less brought the story that Peter had been savaged by a fanged Frisbee. Even if he hadn’t believed it, he’s next guess surely wouldn’t be that they were illegal animagi could it? James looked at me anxiously. Even Sirius turned back to face us.
“I shouldn’t have mentioned it, not now,” Nate said. “It doesn’t matter... I just, if I waste potions on things like...” He shook his head.
“Potions?” James questioned.
“Well, I would have used magic, but... it was quite a bad a break.”
“What?” Peter asked.
“Snape’s nose.” We all stared at him blankly for a few seconds before the cogs in my overly tired brains kicked back into action. When had I last seen Mary? What was she doing? Looking for Snape.
“Mary,” I said under my breath.
“You don’t...” James said. Sirius was suddenly alert.
“Snape had a broken nose?”
“Yes,” Nate answered. “Didn’t you... I was sure it was you?”
“Yesterday?” Sirius questioned.
“Yes, yesterday, and I had to use some of-”
“A bad break?” Sirius asked, cutting Nate off curtly. Nate nodded in response.
Then Sirius was up, striding over to Mary’s bed side and looking straight at her. “Mary McDonald, you are...” He said in the softest voice I’d ever heard Sirius use. Whatever it is that he was about to say stayed firmly inside Sirius’s brain as he picked up Mary’s right hand and traced his finger over an ugly blue bruise that had blossomed over her skin.
He bent even closer, his lips so close to the skin of her hand in such an intimate way that I felt awkward watching. I looked away and noticed that James, Peter and Nate had all done the same. Lily and Alice, however, were staring at him and drinking in the strange intimate moment as if they needed it to function.
Then, when I risked looking backwards, he was magically sticking a piece of parchment above her bed side table.
I leaned forwards to read it... Things to do before I die...and looked at the adjustments Sirius had just made with fresh ink. Now, next to 9.) Make it up to Sirius the word DONE was written in large capital letters.
“She broke his fucking nose.” He said before pulling up a chair and sinking into it looking exhausted and broken.
James, who was reading the list, swallowed and glanced down at the floor.
This was all so much to deal with. Mary McDonald, someone who we’d known for seven years, had been dying since before we knew her. She’d lived with it. She hadn’t told any of us. She just lived, and now things were beginning to make an unbelievable amount of sense... I hadn’t even realised there was a mystery to solve until she’d gotten involved with Sirius and now...
Now she was on her deathbed.
“How did she make it up to you?” Alice asked Lily in a soft voice.
“She... She gave me all her memories, in Dumbledore’s pensive.” She whispered. “I didn’t know that I’d...” She stopped, hung her head, and cried a little more. James made an involuntary movement, like he wanted to put his arm around her and wipe her glistening tears of her face, but stayed where he was. “Yesterday we...” Stopped and shook her head.
“Yeah,” Sirius said with a nod. “I know exactly what you mean.” He offered before returning to his sullen state of silence. James nodded and swallowed. Alice sniffed from behind me, and I took it that she’d succumbed to tears. Peter made a tiny head movement.
I had no idea what she meant, and just like that I was a strange outsider to this weighty grief.
“Lupin?” Nate asked, pulling the curtain around my bed. “I’m sorry about this,” He said. He looked to have gained years of stress overnight and that aura of having just got back from his honeymoon had definitely evaporated. It reminded me that I’d never, ever, want to be a healer. Not that I’d be allowed anyway.
“Don’t be sorry,” I told him. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” He said – closing his eyes – “This isn’t anyone’s fault. The others have gone. James told me to give you this and that you should go join them when you feel fit,” He said passing me a piece of parchment I knew to be the Marauder’s map. “The McDonalds are here.” He supplied. “And, Alice is waiting for you outside.” He added. He looked as exhausted as I felt but still made the effort to raise an eyebrow at that.
“I...I’ll be going then.” I told him, grabbing my cloak and wand. “Don’t want to intrude.” Nate nodded and offered me a very forced smile. Poor Nate.
I didn’t count on how it would feel to walk across the hospital wing and have to see the Mary’s family’s grief. Her little brother, I didn’t know his name, was crying loudly. Becky was silently staring, a little like Sirius had done, and Karen was clutching her heavily pregnant stomach and weeping silently. Worst of all though, was her Dad. There was something horribly heartbreaking about seeing a grown man weep and knowing that there was nothing you could do. I hurried across the hospital wing, feeling at least one pair of eyes on my back, and finally escaping the bright hospital lights and onto the third floor corridor.
I was too tired for this.
I leant back against the wall and tried to compose myself.
Alice stepped into my view, her arms wrapped around herself to stop herself from collapsing. I smiled weakly in response to her greeting, but couldn’t manage anything more.
“You looked like you’re thinking deeply.” Alice commented. I could see her red ringed eyes from her crying, and as I watched her she sniffed ungracefully. I felt nothing – no desire to help, no urge to comfort her.
“What about?” She asked. This was possibly the first time in the history of forever I couldn’t be bothered to deal with Alice. I was too tired, to bloody exhausted – shouldn’t she be with Frank or something?
“Mary.” I answered. Alice let out a lung full of air and frowned.
“You said you weren’t ill.” She said. Her voice was like satin, even though it was slightly hoarse from crying. The familiarity of her voice didn’t even register with my half dead brain. I couldn’t be bothered with her. This conversation was unnecessary and another drain on my brain.
“I... I meant that I wasn’t as ill as Mary.” I corrected myself.
“No you didn’t!” Her tone was accusatory now. “Don’t lie to me; I’m so fed up of everyone lying to me!”
“Look, Mary only told Sirius a couple of weeks ago and Lily must have only found out last night. She’s been lying to everyone.”
“But why?” Her voice cracked again and for the first time ever she sounded like a stroppy teenager, or maybe even just a child. She was irritating me.
“I... I don’t know Alice, why don’t you ask Sirius?” I suggested.
“You seemed to know her pretty well.” Alice said, sniffing in a way that it clear she was annoyed about something.
“I suppose.” I answered gruffly.
“Very well, actually.” She said primly.
“You cannot be serious.” I muttered under my breath. “You don’t actually think -”
“Well, why have you been spending so much time with her? Why did you know? I’m not getting at you, I just want to know.”
“Well, it’s really nothing to do with you -”
“Because if Sirius thought -”
“Sirius doesn’t think anything.”
“But do you?” Alice asked.
“Do I what?”
“Do you fancy Mary?”
“Do you know what Mary is?” I asked. “A great big dose of perspective which, somehow, you missed.”
“It hasn’t really sunk it yet,” Alice said softly. I was vaguely aware that I should at least be feeling sympathetic towards her, but I didn’t. I couldn’t be bothered. “You still haven’t answered my question.”
“No, Alice, I don’t. Now can you please stop pestering me? I’m bloody exhausted: I’ve been up all damn night running arou...” I stopped suddenly.
“One of your midnight escapades?” Alice questioned. “Part of the made up Marauder code?” She questioned. I sighed. “I know for a fact that was a lie, Sirius wasn’t out last night, was he? Or is he allowed to bend the rules considering everyone likes him more than you?”
“Is it necessary for you to be such a...”
“Such a what? At least I’m not a liar.”
“I’m not a -”
“I’m going to work it out, you know.” Alice said defiantly. “I’m going to work out what’s really going on with you.”
“I highly doubt that.” I laughed humourlessly.
“Are you insinuating that -?”
“That you’re not exactly perceptive? Yes. Maybe you should get Lily to help you or something.” I told her flippantly. I’d probably feel bad about it tomorrow. Right now I couldn’t give a toss. I just wanted to go back to bloody sleep.
“Has Mary been giving you bitch lessons or something?”
“Mary’s on her fucking death bed Alice, so now probably isn’t the best time to slag her off behind her back.”
“I’m not!” Alice protested. “She wouldn’t want you to pretend that she’s a freaking saint you know.”
“What are you even doing here Alice?”
“I... I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”
“That I’m okay...?” I questioned disbelievingly. “And you care because?”
“Because, Remus, we used to be close.” She snapped. Her round cherub like face scrunched up and flushed pink. I stayed silent. “You’ve seemed a little... I don’t know, worried.” I rolled my eyes. “What are you worried about?”
I kept my lips tight shut and decided not to start listing the things I was worried about. There was hardly a point in bothering her with all my complaints, and after all, she wasn’t likely to understand / really care about most of the points on my ever growing list.
Obviously I was worried about Mary (I didn’t appreciate Sirius throwing the responsibility at me, but now I’d been landed with it and now I’d actually got to know Mary a little more I was worried sick about her oncoming death).
Then there was Sirius (his tendency to be temperamental meant I hadn’t got a bloody clue what he’d do when Mary died. I did know that Sirius wasn’t likely to ever go down the whole ‘love’ path thin again, after Mary, which would probably result in him becoming even more of a complete twat when it came to how he treated girls and I’d probably have to sort it out).
Then there was Lily. I didn’t know her well enough to predict how she was going to deal with it, although I was leaning away from turning to alcohol or some other disruptive crutch although I supposed it could happen, but I was pretty certain that Mary’s looming death was going to make her even more resistant to the idea of James. That meant James would have to deal with a fucked up Sirius, and upholding his persistence even longer (and abstinence), or... giving up on Lily Evans completely.
If that happened then the world would definitely implode.
I hadn’t a sodding clue what was going to happen to Peter in all this mess. Or me, actually. It basically meant everything had to change, and I doubted it would be a good thing – although obviously death can never lead to good things, and perhaps even thinking about how everyone was going to react was an insult to the still living Mary, like I was just waiting for her to die... I didn’t mean to.
Then, naturally, there was sixth year. I’d gotten so behind by missing classes due to full moons that I was really behind. If I had any hope of getting a job after Hogwarts I needed to have top grades and an exemplary record. I’d managed to stay out of trouble for the most part – given on the few occasions I’d been brought to Dumbledore’s office I’d felt so incredibly guilty that I couldn’t look at him – but I was getting increasingly closer to completely losing my temper which would probably result in murder. With James, Lily, Sirius and a lack of Mary to deal with – with no crutch left withstanding – I found myself getting more and more frustrated and it was all I could do to not to lash out.
On top of that there was the fact that I was still sure I was going to end up killing someone every full moon or that someone was going to find out and start blackmailing me about it. Lying to everyone seemed not to faze James or Sirius, but it didn’t exactly thrill and excite me like it did for the others.
My future was looking bleak and becoming increasingly more impossible to manage as some bitch at the ministry made more legislation against me so that there was literally no way I could get a job without going muggle – and that would feel completely morally wrong – and the fact that I’d never be able to uphold a relationship with anyone for fear of killing them. Actually, all that I had going for me, was the fact that I had three great friends.
But how long were they going to stay that way when we didn’t share the same dormitory? I was always the one being a downer on the group with all these rules and regulations... they’d be getting jobs and starting lives whilst I was stuck, unable to move forward, because – years ago – I was bitten by a werewolf.
The conclusion was the same whatever way you looked at it – I was completely and utterly fucked.
“Remus?” Alice asked. Alice with her small innocent smile, her angelic face and her sodding perfect life. I imagined what she’d say if I listed it all out to her, if I told her I was a werewolf...
She’s blink in surprise, reach out and touch my shoulder. She’d frown for a few seconds before smiling her little smile and offering some positive and encouraging thought (if she could think of one, that is). Then she’d probably thank me for telling her and rabbit on like the cheerful nice person she is. She should have been in Hufflepuff.
“I’m fine Alice.” I cut back. “Go find Frank or something.”
The thing that got me is that I could tell her and she’d accept it, just like that. Alice wouldn’t think I was a monster, and if she did, she’d swallow it down and neglect to mention it all. She’d offer me sympathy and would probably arrive at the hospital wing with a mug of steaming hot coco every single full moon. And I didn’t want to: I didn’t want to tell her, I didn’t want her opinion, I didn’t want any of it.
“I will in a minute.” She said. “I just wanted to say... Remus, you can’t just keep doing this to yourself – pushing people away. I mean...” She paused. “I’m really happy now – with Frank I mean, and... I just wish that you’d find someone. I want you to be happy,” She said. “Don’t give up on yourself just yet.” Alice said before smiling at me sadly. “Bye,” She added, waving a hand at me as she disappeared down a corridor.
“Hey,” James greeted me as I found the classroom that they were all residing. James came to great at the doorway and shut the door behind him softly. “Did Alice catch up with you?” He asked. I nodded. “Must be really hard to see her and Frank together,”
“Am I only the one who seems to have realised that Mary is dying!” I exclaimed. “Why is everyone acting as if this is normal and fine and just dandy??”
“Because it’s healthier than banging your fists on the wall and screaming.” James retorted. I swallowed and realises that I was acting just as temperamental as Sirius. I pushed it back and took a deep breath.
“I couldn’t care less about Alice and Frank, actually.” James raised an eyebrow. “I’m serious James, sometimes people move on.”
“Yeah,” James said, “And sometimes they don’t.” He said glancing back over his shoulder. Through the small window in the door I could see Lily curled up in Sirius’s arms. Both of them were crying.
“Don’t worry about that, Mate, you know Sirius wouldn’t...”
“I’m not stupid,” James said. “Mary’s in hospital, they need each other right now. They were yelling at each other before, so I’m pretty glad that they’ve moved on from that.”
“What were they... actually, I don’t...” I trailed off. “Where’s Peter?”
“I’ve sent him to Hogsmeade to get some fire whiskey. He should be back pretty soon.”
I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to question James’s new found authority by asking whether getting Sirius drunk was really the best way to go about things... Anyway, I was still too groggy to think of a decent alternative.
“We need to stop them from going to dinner.” James informed me. “I figured drunkenness might be a good distraction from the time.” I sent him a questioning look. “Well,” He began. “I’ve been to see Dumbledore, and I said that he’d probably need to make an announcement about well, Mary, to stop the rumours and to make sure that people only go to the hospital wing if there’s an actually emergency so that Nate can try and sort her out. He asked me when I thought would be a good time, and I said that if I kept Sirius and Lily out the way then it would be best to do it today.”
I nodded trying not to show how incredulous (and a tad jealous) I felt considering James had told Dumbledore – Albus freaking Dumbledore – what to do. And, apparently, Dumbledore had asked James Potter for advice.
“And,” James said. “I’ve seen McGonagall and she said she could get all the teachers to give extensions on work and stuff, and excusing Sirius and Lily from classes.”
“When did you..?” I began feeling overwhelmed and shocked. James was there to piss off Sirius, (and occasionally deal with his emotional breakdowns), play Quidditch, annoy Lily and piss around. James didn’t take initiative and sort things out... he just, didn’t.
That’s what I was supposed to do.
“When I was seeing Filch about blocking the corridor off, it hasn’t been cleaned up properly yet and some third year girls had a bit of a fright.”
“I’m back!” Peter squeaked breathlessly arriving back on the scene with two bags full of clinking bottles. “I did what you said! I got some girly drinks too!” I stared as Peter came into view. He was purple. At first I thought he was purple from the effort of running, but then I realised that couldn’t be it because he was completely purple – a spectacular shade of violet. “And some cheering chocolate, and, and.... I didn’t use all of your emergency savings.”
“Good job Peter,” James said. “You go give that to them before Sirius gets any ideas,” He said gesturing to where Lily still had her arms around Sirius’s neck, and was still sobbing away.
“Emergency savings?” I questioned with a raised eyebrow.
“Money I nicked off my parents at Christmas,” James supplied. “They can’t honestly expect me to survive on an allowance.”
“And why exactly is Peter purple?”
“Well,” James said, messing up his hair with his left hand, “We’ve both been running around after you all night, and it takes ages to get to Hogsmeade... so I slipped him a potion to make him run faster.”
I breathed an internal sigh of relief – James Potter was still in there somewhere.
“You joining the party Remus?” James asked with a sad smile.
“Well,” I said, “As long as you promise not to be a downer, James.” I said returning the same expression. Then we walked back in, ready to take the grief head on as only a couple of teenagers could – armed with alcohol and confectionary charmed to make you happier.
“Maybe,” James began, “We should have been more extreme and brought some drugs or something.”
“No.” I answered closing my eyes and pressing my hands to my forehead. “Even if you cast cheering charms on them, and dosed them up with liquid euphoria I’m pretty sure it would have dissolved to this.”
“See, why didn’t I think of that?”
“Liquid euphoria and cheering charms?”
“Are you serious?”
“No,” James said. “He is,” He said gesturing towards Sirius. I sent him a look. “What?” James asked. “I’m only trying to lighten the mood.”
“Sorry,” I said, “It’s so heavy that I must have missed it.”
“That’ll be it,” James said, pushing himself off the desk and over towards Lily. “Lily?” He said softly. I’d thought that it would be hard to persuade Lily that it would be a good idea to have a drink, but she seemed pretty open to the concept and after a few drinks had curled herself into a little ball and was now just crying and crying.
Sirius was much more painful to watch simply because, well...
I’ve always thought that female friendships and male friendships have completely different dynamics. In female friendships it is a given that you’ll be there to comfort them when they cry. In male friendships is a given that, if one is upset, the other one will perform impressive distraction tactics (get them drunk, introduce conversations about sex/boobs/girls, suggest a game of Quidditch ect...) or leave them alone and let them deal with it.
Distraction tactics – presenting Sirius with fire whiskey – wasn’t exactly helping much and no one in their right mind would leave Sirius alone whist he was in this state. Instead I watched. Every so often he stood up and made out like he was about to say something, yell at someone, punch someone in the fact. Then he’d stop, loose heart, sit down, put his head in his hand and shake.
None of us had a fucking clue what to do. The only one who could have done anything was Mary, and if she was here to deal with it then there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place.
Instead I decided to watch as Lily slumped her head on James’s shoulder and mutter something that I could hear. James nodded and rested his chin on top of her head, holding her closely. Suddenly I felt incredibly lonely. What had Alice said? Don’t give up on yourself just yet. I hadn’t even realised that I had.
I glanced around at the mess the room had become. The only thing left untouched was the cheering chocolate. Sod it, I thought, breaking it in to pieces and shoving one in my mouth. I doubted it was going to make a difference anyway.
I wasn’t sure how it happened, but we ended up playing dares. The original suggestion, from Peter, had been spin the bottle but no one was quite up for that. A game though – that sounded like a good distraction. Truths, I reasoned could get on to sticky ground, and so we’d just decided on dares.
Lily had been dared to fly. We could all remember the flying lesson in first year and Lily’s disastrous attempts to get off the ground. I hardly blamed her for being scared, she’d come from a muggle background after all, and I hadn’t been much better – I’d just not allowed anyone to see that I was shit scared.
The second the dare had left James’s lips we’d all expected Lily to flat out refuse and start screaming. Instead she stood up defiantly, still clutching a bottle of what Peter had deemed a ‘girls drink’ and drew herself up to hell full height.
“You don’t have to -” James began, evidently regretting even mentioning it. Lily and flying was a seriously sensitive issue.
“Lead the way.” Lily said, throwing her hair back over her shoulder and staring straight back at James with a tight-lipped expression.
“Excellent,” Sirius said pulling himself off the floor. “To the pitch,”
The walk down was grim. Lily was marching as if she was about to enter some sort of battle. James was walking behind with a worried expression. Sirius now seemed to have return to suppressing emotions altogether and Peter was feeling just as misplaced and awkward as I was.
“I’ll get my broom shall?” Sirius asked. “I left it in the changing rooms.” Everyone was silent. Sirius strode off with some new found incomprehensible confidence and came back clutching his broom. “Catch,” Sirius said, throwing it the broom in her direction.
James reached out and grabbed it out of the air, before it hit Lily in the face (who was still clutching the bottle in her hand and had no chance of catching it whatsoever). “Here,” James said softly. Lily snatched it out of his hands and took another swig out of the bottle.
She pressed the bottle into his hands, swung her leg over the broom and took in a deep breath.
“Let’s do this shit,” Sirius said with a satisfied smirk that scared me – I was all for repressed emotions but, honestly, he seemed to be enjoying Lily’s displeasure a little bit too much.
James sent an uncomfortable look in his direction, before anxiously looking back to Lily. He was in way to deep. Hell, we all were.
Lily pushed off the ground. The fact that she’d had a couple of drinks added to her shakiness. She was pink in the face – with fear or with some twisted sense of achievement I didn’t know. The broom wobbled dangerous in the air. James’s fist tightened at his sides. “Go higher,” Sirius ordered. She pulled her wand upwards. “Round the goalposts!” Sirius yelled.
Lily nearly fell out of the air.
“Oh, sod this.” James muttered. He shoved Lily’s bottle into my hands. Then he was running in the direction of the changing rooms. A few seconds later he mounted one of the school’s brooms and was shooting off in Lily’s direction. They exchanged some kind of conversation that none of us could hear, and then Lily flew a little better and managed a few shaky loops around the goal posts before flying down in great big jumps that genuinely scared me. I finished off Lily’s drink for her.
She threw the broom on the floor, which caused Sirius to wince, and then folded her arms.
James landed a few seconds later.
“Well,” he said over the awkward tension which had settled over us. “Lily’s dare,”
“Sirius,” She said turning to glare at him. “I dare you to do a lap of the lake.”
“Naked.” She added.
“No one wants to see that,” James said quickly. “Why don’t we come to a compromise?”
“Boxers.” Sirius said. “From the wall to the castle.”
“Fine.” Lily said, glaring at him. I glanced at James. He shrugged, swallowed and resigned himself to the fact that somehow his distraction task had ended just shy of skinny dipping. Well, it was one way to deal with things.
“JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!” Nate yelled running in our direction. “What the hell do you think you’re trying to do?” He asked staring at where Sirius was treading water a couple of meters away from the bank of the lake.
“Dares,” Peter answered stupidly. James sucked in a breath of the cold air. Lily looked down at the floor. I swallowed. Sirius carried on treading water.
“Just what I need!” He yelled. “Having to treat someone for hyperthermia. Get out.” He said gesturing to Sirius. “Get out of the fucking water.” Sirius obliged, swimming to the edge as quickly as he could and shivering violently. “Fucking hell,” Nate cursed when he saw Sirius was clad only in his boxers. “Dry yourself off and put some clothes on,” Nate instructed. “Alice has been looking for you for hours. Hadn’t a bloody clue where you were – had the whole school searching. Then someone says they’ve seen you down at the Quidditch pitch and I thought, no way – the might be Quidditch obsessed but even they wouldn’t... Then I find your brooms, empty bottles... Do you have any idea how irresponsible you’ve been!? Mary could have died while you were here frolicking around the lake with no clothes on! Or is this some kind of death wish – drowning and freezing yourself to death?”
“We didn’t know what to do.” Lily said back through gritted teeth. I was surprised at her – she was the last person I’d have expected to talk back.
Nate seemed to melt. “Shit,” He said sighing. “Sorry, I guess I forget that... that you’re just kids. God you must be freezing.” He said to where Sirius was now shivering in his clothes. “Fuck, just get inside okay? I need to talk to you,”
“Yeah,” Nate nodded. “About Mary.”
I don’t think I’d ever felt as childish as I did on the walk back to the castle. We’d all delusioned ourselves into thinking that we were, well... not quite mature, but that we had a fairly decent grasp on what life was about. We’d figured that we got it, that we were almost adults... now, faced with such a huge adult problem we didn’t know what to do with ourselves.
I was more to blame than the others. I thought of myself as responsible. I thought, given I was a werewolf; I knew a little bit more about hardship. That I had a perspective. That I was sensible, adult...
I didn’t so much as look at the others on the way back – I felt so ashamed that I hadn’t thought to stop it, to suggest something a little more sensible...
“Okay,” Nate said, leading us into the charms classrooms and sitting himself on the edge of the table. “I’ve got to tell you how everything stands. We... we’re going to move her to St Mungo’s nearer the time but it’s not safe to move her now, and it means that you guys won’t have to miss as many classes. Mary’s family are with the headmaster now, he’s going to see if he can set some rooms up for them so their close too – although they’ll probably have to go home occasionally.”
“So she’s staying here?” Sirius asked.
“Yeah, I know most about her medical history so, well, we’ve decided it’s for the best.”
“When’s she going to wake up?” James asked.
“That’s... that’s the complication.” Sirius made an involuntary movement and Lily clenched her fists. “Did you notice what she landed on?”
“Her legs.” Lily said. “She landed on her legs,”
“I thought so,” Nate said. “She’s been lucky, considering...” He stopped and looked down at the floor. “Her legs took the weight of the fall and she’s broken them in multiple places and I’m afraid... her legs aren’t going to heal.” There was a long silence. “It doesn’t make much difference – she probably won’t be very mobile when she wakes, anyway, but now it means that... well. She’s not going to be able to feel or move her legs from now on.”
“So she won’t be able to walk?”
“No.” Nate said. “And she’ll probably find that hard when she wakes up,”
“When’s she going to wake up?” Lily asked weakly.
“If all goes well,” Nate said, “It should be about a week.”
“Then how long will she have left?” Sirius asked.
“Two weeks.” The words reverberated around the classroom and carried a huge heavy weight. Two weeks.... two weeks...
I remembered Mary’s words from only the day previously – “At least you’re going to live to the next full moon.” And she was right, she was so, so right – about everything. I didn’t know anything. My life wasn’t ruined – just dented. I was selfish. And I didn’t know jack shit about lives being ruined.
A/N - Reviews for your author friend :)
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