A little while passed before they agreed the coast was clear and left the cupboard to tiptoe back to bed. Remus lay awake a long time after Sirius had settled down.
It was the strangest Remus had ever felt. Certainly, weirder than learning that he was a werewolf, or that despite this, he was allowed to go to Hogwarts. A touch odder than befriending a dragon.
It was the night's effects and the lack of sleep, Remus told himself firmly. He would never have let himself become so open to anybody ever before.
But then, he realised that certainly it hadn't been Remus who'd been the one to make himself vulnerable – it was most definitely Sirius. Remus shifted uncomfortably in his bed, thinking about all that Sirius had said. It had seemed that these thoughts had been living in Sirius's mind for a long time.
Why had Sirius told Remus those things so freely? He couldn't possibly enjoy or like Remus. Did Sirius have particularly loose lips, prone to spilling out everything that he knew, thought and felt? Remus shuddered at the thought of Sirius telling people what Remus had disclosed, but then remembered his adamant resolve to keeping what went on between them a secret.
Remus, despite himself, felt something in his stomach for Sirius akin to how he felt about Archie – a need to pity, to support, to defend.
Remus shook his head against his pillow and the thoughts were shaken away. This was definitely not what he should be focusing on. Archie's health was severely declining. He could be dead in a matter of months, and Remus needed to do something about it.
"Hey, Severus?" said Remus, after the first years were filing out of the Potions dungeons.
Severus shot him a suspicious look, but then his face relaxed. He had since gotten over his anger, to Remus at least. Perhaps Lily had convinced Severus that Remus had no part in the breakfast incident. Remus, still weary, walked over, his books held to his chest defensively.
"Hello, Remus." Severus paused as Remus made his way over to him, and he bid goodbye to his Slytherin friends. "What do you need?"
Remus hesitated. It had taken Remus a lot of courage, more than a week's worth of debating with his own self on whether it was a good idea. He eventually reasoned that asking for help in this instance wasn't letting himself be vulnerable – it was for a good cause.
He would've asked Lily, but Lily was not like Severus. While Lily was book smart and knew lots of potions and their properties from listening in class, Severus had natural talent. He was up to his eyes in Potions.
Remus, though he did want to work on it himself, found himself drowning in schoolwork. Really, his visits were Archie were pretty much filled with him finishing off the new Transfiguration quiz he had to study for – or the new Charm that they were expected to perfect.
And so, he came to the conclusion that Severus was the best choice.
"I was wondering," said Remus, "if you knew the recipes to any good potions for curing, you know, gashes. Infections. Stuff like that."
"Is it for the cuts on your arm?" Severus asked.
Remus was so startled he almost dropped his books. "Sorry?"
"The cuts," he said impatiently. "You have cuts all over your arms. Scars, granted, but still cuts."
Remus was momentarily stunned by the blunt observation. How–? When had he noticed that about Remus? Not even Sirius, who was always curious about Remus, had brought that up. Severus, he thought sincerely, must have a very sharp eye.
"Oh, yeah, you're right," said Remus, recovering quickly. "Not just my arms. I'm really injury prone."
Severus did not look entirely convinced, but however did offer to find any potions that would hopefully help Remus. He thanked Severus a bunch and then left to go to dinner. He took a seat next to Lily at the Gryffindor table, but gave Sirius a little wave hello.
Remus was pretty sure that they were friends now, but he was extremely suspicious of Sirius. He wondered if that whole conversation they had had together was a ruse, a big, long-running prank to make Remus seem like he had friends. Lily, he thought, was safe. Sirius, not so much.
"Saw you talking to Severus earlier," Lily said in between bites.
"Thankfully he's over that whole breakfast incident," said Remus, grabbing a knife and fork on the table.
Lily hesitated. "I don't think he is. I think maybe he's just not mad at you anymore."
"Well, I didn't do anything. Anyway, he'll make it up to me. I asked him to research a potion for me."
"Oh?" said Lily curiously. "What for?"
Remus squinted at her. "I was curious."
"I see," she said, and nothing more of the topic was mentioned.
"Yes, well, anyway," Lily continued, "I finished Moon at Noon."
Remus raised his eyebrows. "Well?"
"I'm very happy with the ending," Lily admitted, and he groaned. "I knew Cynthia would end up with Eric. I'm so glad."
"Nooo. I hate that they got engaged. I almost threw the book down – I can't believe she left Tate."
Lily stuffed her mouth with pudding smugly. "Definitely not. Eric is so much more of a better fit."
He shook his head. "They're too safe."
"She needs safe if she's going to be defeating the Cult of Azulan in the next book."
Remus disagreed thoroughly. "She and Tate fought off the Gregorian Gorgons together."
"By the way," Lily said, her voice taking an apologetic tone. "I couldn't finish The Sea and Its Song. The one by Melody Marin."
"It's too boring for me. Doesn't have enough action. Not like Moon at Noon."
Remus shrugged, disappointed. The Sea and Its Song was one of his new favourite wizarding novels.
The next day, Severus had a piece of paper for Remus with a long set of instructions for a potion called Cure-All-Cuts Cream. At first glance, they seemed difficult. In fact, as Remus read over them during History of Magic, the instructions seemed almost impossible to follow.
First, Severus had a small, untidy scrawl. Second, the ingredients to the potion were not only a foot long, but also were very specific. Cycles of the moon – Remus gagged – had to be taken into account, and certain stirring techniques needed to be remembered. Third, Remus was not that great at Potions in the first place.
Well, if it was for Archie, then Remus would do anything.
Thus, Remus put aside his schoolwork for now, and instead went to the Room of Requirement every afternoon to continue brewing the Cure-All-Cuts Cream. Thankfully, the room Archie was in had plenty of cauldrons stored in cupboards, but Remus had to venture a bit to be able to find the right ingredients for the potion.
Another blessing was that Remus could pretend that the ingredients he was collecting from the Professor Sprout's greenhouses, like Vicious Vine extract, was also for the Wiggenweld Potion he was supposed to be brewing for the end-of-year assessment. Remus winced at the thought – he really should be getting started on that potion.
Finally, after about a week of gruelling and intricate work, with very specific measurements and stirring, Remus finished the Cure-All-Cuts Cream, which ended up being a thick, green, shiny potion that, honestly, looked a bit like jelly. Remus had poured the potion into a little container and set it aside for the next day.
"Hey, have you started the Wiggenweld?" Sirius asked the next morning. It was a Saturday morning and they were inside their dorm, not having gone down to breakfast yet.
They talked more nowadays, but still not too much. Sirius, of course, had closer friends to hang out with and talk to. And Remus, of course, was still wary about Sirius, still sure that he was playing some huge practical joke on him.
"No, but I really should."
Sirius slumped down next to Remus on his bed, which slightly irritated Remus, who had just made his bed.
"Wanna go and start on it?" Sirius asked. "I swear I'll make it fun."
Hmm. Remus had been planning on taking the Cure-All-Cuts and attempting to apply it on Archie's belly, but he did also need to start the Wiggenweld. And, well, Sirius was quite fun to be around.
"Don't think anyone can make Potions fun," said Remus, but he was grinning as they made their way down from Gryffindor tower all the way to the bottom floor of the Hogwarts castle, chattering casually.
"Looks like we'll need Wiggentree bark from Professor Sprout," said Remus, reading off the ingredients list in his hand.
"Hey, mate," said Sirius as they walked down the long staircase out the school. "I agree with you, you know."
They had started walking down the lawn, which, as winter began to depart, and spring began to arrive, looked a lot nicer. In fact, it was a lovely day – the sunlight shone on the cold day, and trees had begun to slowly gain their greenness again. Today the Whomping Willow looked nice and harmless, though Remus knew from the full moon a week ago that it was far from harmless. If Remus squinted he could see the dark, threatening Forbidden Forest in the distance, which marred the beauty of the day. Remus shuddered – he hoped he never had to go near there.
"Cynthia should've ended up with Tate," said Sirius simply.
Remus almost dropped his jaw. "Right? He's–"
"–so much more–"
"–cool," they both finished, and then laughed.
"Remember when he and Eric were stuck with those Inferi in the Gruesome Garden?"
Remus nodded. "And he saved them by Summoning his broom. Eric wouldn't stop whining the whole time, even when they escaped."
"What a git." Sirius rolled his eyes.
"Yep. Cynthia made the wrong choice."
"Don't worry," Sirius said. "Read tons of romance novels before – my mum made me – and I know in all the ones with the love triangles – the girl always looks like she's going to choose one of them, but then at the end she chooses the other."
"I'm surprised you read it," admitted Remus.
"What, you thought I just forgot about it?
Remus confessed that he had in fact thought that.
"It was a birthday present," said Sirius, appalled.
"Not really," Remus said dismissively. "It was a library book."
"A good one, though."
Their conversation was interrupted once they arrived at the greenhouses. Professor Sprout was there, tending to a garden of shaking flowers that spat an awful-smelling, clear liquid if anyone got too close. Professor Sprout commented that Remus had come down to the greenhouses a lot more often, which made Sirius give Remus a suspicious look; Remus innocently managed to deflect this.
"I can't believe you read books, even if your mum makes you," said Remus, laughing. "Would've thought it'd be too nerdy for you."
Sirius said, "Wait. I have to admit something. Secret for secret?"
"Okay. My mum doesn't actually tell me to read anything, she doesn't give two rat's arses what I read. Don't know why I kept it a secret." Sirius admitted. "Well, actually, she might call me a poof for reading romance novels."
Remus twisted his mouth. "That's not nice."
Sirius shrugged, but his expression was defensive. "Doesn't matter. Your turn."
It took Remus a second to realise that Sirius was talking about a secret. "Oh, well, okay, fine. I have gone to the greenhouses a lot, but not to make the Wiggenweld. I'm actually making a potion that Severus gave me the instructions for. Not sure why I kept that from you either."
The other boy made a face. "Severus? Wouldn't trust that git with a Knut."
"He's not that bad–"
The rest of the day they spent talking about books and compiling their ingredients together. In fact, Sirius had also read The Sea and Its Song but didn't really remember it, and Remus made him promise that he would read it again. Really, with lessons, Severus's instructions, and now Wiggenweld, Remus had done quite a lot of potion-making. Too much potion-making for a lifetime.
Remus realised at the end of the afternoon that Sirius had spent the entire day with Remus. Not once had they seen James and Peter. He came to this conclusion while boiling salamander blood for the Wiggenweld.
They were probably busy doing something, and you were the only one left for Sirius to hang out with, a voice in his head whispered to him. Don't feel special.
Remus sighed, and, in his lack of focus, he forgot to remove the glass vial containing the salamander blood from the fire in time. The vial suddenly exploded. "Oh, no!" The glass shattered everywhere, and both Remus and Sirius yelled out in shock.
The blood was sizzling, spilling everywhere. Sirius was cradling his arm; some glass had cut his arm, but he didn't look in pain at all. "Don't worry, it doesn't hurt."
Sirius began to pick up the shards.
"Oh, I'm so sorry – stupid me –" Remus was rambling as he went to clean up the salamander blood, staring at the little cuts on Sirius's arm. "You know, I have just the thing."
After they'd cleaned up the classroom they went back to the dorm. James and Peter were there, and they greeted James in particular looked curiously at Sirius and Remus as they walked in together.
Remus hurriedly got out the little container that had the Cure-All-Cuts Cream. "Here, made it myself," he said and passed it to Sirius, who took it.
The boy applied it to his arm slowly, getting a thick bit of the paste and rubbing it on his forearm.
"It feels nice," Sirius said, just before he yelled out in excruciating pain as fire-red boils burst into life on his skin.
"Well," Lily said, inspecting the instructions list that Severus had given Remus, "it's definitely a healing potion."
"A shoddy one," James shot back.
"See!" said Severus, ignoring James. "I gave him proper instructions!"
"But…" added Lily hesitantly. "It's definitely complex. Too complex for up to a fifth year to do properly – definitely not a first year."
James crossed his arms. "So! You gave it to Remus knowing full well that he couldn't brew it properly! What a foul git you are!"
Madam Pomfrey shushed them sternly. "Quiet down or leave, children."
Remus was with quite possibly the oddest group he had ever been a part of, inside of the Hospital Wing. Under different circumstances he would be here to be escorted to the Whomping Willow with the matron and McGonagall, but today he stood next to hospital beds with James, Peter, Lily, and Severus. Sirius was in the hospital bed that Remus was standing next to, presumably sleeping. He was covered with loads of blankets, probably due to the horrible pimples that had grown all over his skin.
"It's not my fault," Severus sneered, "that Lupin can't brew potions. He asked for instructions, so I gave him them. I'm not to blame if he's bad at potions; I was only helping him."
Remus looked down at his feet shamefully. In truth, he did feel terrible. He couldn't believe that the Cure-All-Cuts Cream had gone so horribly wrong – and he felt bad that Sirius had been the victim of Remus's shoddy potionmaking. Surely Sirius wouldn't want to be friends anymore.
James made an indignant noise. "You sneaky, slimy –" He paused, breathing. "You know that Remus isn't great with potions. If you really wanted to help, you would've made it yourself. You tricked poor Remus!"
Remus glanced at him with surprise. He was shocked that James was defending him. It felt strangely good to be protected by someone.
Peter was nose-deep in a textbook for advanced potions.
"Aha! Here it is," he said suddenly. "Cure-All-Cuts Cream is a highly advanced potion that is difficult to brew. This is due to the very specific conditions of the ingredients. Most wizards and witches will be more equipped to brewing Riggleroot Potion or using Murtlap Essence. Godric, look at these instructions. Even Slughorn would be confused by this."
"No, he wouldn't," said Severus. "Just because you are all bad at Potions –"
James ignored him, and snatched the instructions list from Lily, who made a surprised noise. "Here, Pete, compare them."
Peter huffed as he inspected the paper and the textbook. "They're different! Flier wing flies on this, and fire wing flies on this one – Silkflower petals aren't even mentioned here –"
Remus looked up. Severus had given him flawed instructions?
"SEE?" James roared, making Remus jump a little. "What a dirty little trick! Apologise to Remus, now!"
Severus looked at Remus, and in the most simpering voice, said, "I'm sorry you can't brew to save your life."
"It was obviously an accident," Lily said, sounding incredibly flustered as James attempted to jump at Severus, held back by Peter. "Stop riling Severus up!"
"Snivellus here keeps talking about how great at potions he is," said Peter. "If he's so good, it can't have been an accident."
Lily finally huffed. She'd clearly had enough. "C'mon, Severus. We're leaving. Remus, I'm really sorry about Black, I hope he gets better."
She then left with Severus, who did nothing but give Remus a smug smile as he left.
Remus, feeling a sense of increasing horror, realised that Severus had done it on purpose. For what? To get back at him about – what? That stupid breakfast incident that Remus had had nothing to do with? The horror swirled into growing anger.
"Lily, let me talk to Severus for a bit," he said as they were leaving out the door.
Lily sighed. "I'll be waiting outside."
"You'll never find that dragon, you know," Remus said to Severus, because it was the most biting thing he could think of. "Never."
Severus looked affronted. "What–?"
"I know for sure you won't," Remus added, and then Severus stalked off.
Remus then came back into the Hospital Wing. James and Peter were now sitting next to Sirius's bed.
"What'd you say to him?" James said, looking cross.
"I told him off," Remus said, feeling equally as cross.
James's face softened. "Good. Nice one, mate."
Peter nodded. "Deserves all the telling offs in the world, that one."
Remus sighed and slumped into an empty chair next to Peter. "Sorry again for all of this."
James shook his head so hard it looked like it might fall off. "Not at all. Anybody who's wronged by Severus – or any Slytherin – is a friend."
Peter nodded, smiling.
Remus gulped, but it wasn't a bad feeling. It was strangely heart-warming how quickly and carelessly James handed out his friendship. If it had been the beginning of the year, Remus would've hidden at this proclamation, and never spoken to any of them again.
"Evans and Snivellus are gone now," James told Sirius. "You can take the sheets off."
"Don't wanna," came Sirius's mumbled voice beneath the blankets.
"Stop being such a girl," said James.
As if being a girl was the worst thing in the world, Sirius pulled off the sheets in an instant. "There, happy?"
His face was pockmarked with grotesque, pulsating warts. Even his hands, which were pulling down the blankets, were marred with bright red spots. His face was pulled into such an uncomfortable expression that Remus's heart panged.
"You don't look any different," Remus said, and the other three boys in the room burst into such loud laughter that Madam Pomfrey told them to shush once more.
For the first time in hours, Remus felt good, and for the first time in a good while, Remus felt as if he had friends.