Chapter 18, Absolution
The Healers couldn’t understand it.
The boy had been savaged by a werewolf; he had been brought in looking like a something you would expect to find in an abattoir or after a hippogriff attack.
Now he was awake. He was talking to his parents; his mother was clasping his hand and crying, even his father had tears in his eyes.
The most amazing thing was though; the lycanthropy test results had come back negative. There was a clear bite on the boy’s leg, but the results were negative.
They had run the test five times.
Not only that, but the wounds were healing up already too. Werewolf inflicted wounds took weeks if not months to heal, even with the latest discoveries. Yet the boy now only had scarring on his face and the wounds on the rest of his boy had closed. Even the scarring was visibly fading each time they went in to check.
It was clearly a werewolf attack; Dumbledore said he had seen the beast, and the only a werewolf’s claws could do that. But what they were seeing was impossible, a miracle, surely. The boy wasn’t just going to live; he was going to make a complete recovery.
‘You throw a hell of a punch, Moony; three broken ribs, punctured lung, cracked jaw, splintered cheek bone as well as numerous lacerations across the upper torso.’
James sounded like he was reciting a medical form, but there was a grin plastered across his face.
The three boys stared at him, they hadn’t expected this.
His chest was swathed in bandages, but his face was completely clear of any of the dirt, blood and terrible wounds of the night before.
James sighed, ‘You’re going to have to come closer guys; I can’t bloody well talk to you from over here, can I?’
‘Prongs!’ Sirius seemed to have found his voice and yelped, ‘You’re bloody well alive! How are you alive?’ he came forward, awe written across his face.
‘Why aren’t you…?’ Remus asked softly.
They gathered round his bed, ‘All scarred?’ James finished.
He lowered his voice, ‘Werewolves only affect humans; that was the whole point of the Animagus thing, you idiots. Remus would be able to play rough and we’d be fine, because we’d be animals.’
His eyes shone, ‘Now, no hugging or kissing or anything! The ribs have only just been set, and it’s a tad uncomfortable.’
Sirius barked laughter, his mood completely reversed; James was alright, he was okay, he was completely fine.
Even Remus couldn’t help but grin, despite the turmoil in his mind.
James could see what was happening though; Sirius would adapt and go back to his usual ebullient self, perhaps a lesson learned; Remus would need convincing, need watching and encouragement. Peter; Peter just looked awed that they were all going to be alright.
Twenty minutes later, Sirius and Peter sat in the corridor outside; Remus, James and his parents were inside, talking.
Sirius shook his head, ‘Only James,’ he said with a breezy laugh, ‘Only James bloody Potter could take on a werewolf and walk away.’
He suddenly wondered what the rest of the school was thinking, he vaguely remembered Evans sobbing on Mary MacDonald’s shoulder. Did she…?
The door opened and Remus stepped out, there was a strange gleam in his eyes.
‘You alright, Moony?’
‘Yeah, fine… absolutely fine…’ he muttered vaguely. He had the sort of dazed expression someone got when they were told everything they had ever known wasn’t quite true.
He sat down beside Sirius and stared at the wall.
Sirius knew he would probably be taken in next, and the thought of seeing James’ parents made his stomach turn. There was guilt there, terrible, knowing guilt of what could have happened to their son.
Peter watched Sirius open the door slowly and step out, he sat down beside Remus.
He didn’t know what they had been told or what had been said, but both boys looked as though someone had hit them with Confundus Charms.
‘I… did they?’ Sirius asked Remus.
‘It’s fine, it’s completely fine. They said it doesn’t matter. They… they want... me and Mum and Dad to go over for Christmas.’ Slow tears were rolling down Remus’ face.
He’d never felt so grateful in his life; James’ parents hadn’t been angry at him, they hadn’t shouted or told him he was liar, they had offered him and his parents something they hadn’t had in years; company.
‘Guess we’ll be together then.’ Sirius muttered, still uncomprehending that the Potters had forgiven him, said that it wasn’t his fault. Charlus had almost mentioned his parents but James’ Mum had given him a very pointed look; Sirius knew that they blamed his parents. There was something incredibly loving and sorrowful he had seen Dorea Potter’s eyes when she looked at him; something he had never seen in his own mother’s eyes.
It was late on Monday evening, the Marauders had disappeared yesterday for a few hours with McGonagall and reappeared looking somehow, older. Lily assumed it was seeing James in Hospital, she wondered when he would be coming back. The Marauders said he was “getting better”.
That was all though, just “getting better”. People asked questions:
“Was he scarred?”
“Did he still look the same?”
“When would he be coming back?”
“Would he be coming back?”
The Marauders had replied with one answer; “He’s getting better.”
She wondered if she’d ever see him again; she felt so guilty of what she had thought of him. She’d always assumed that behind the smart-arse attitude and profound talent at hexing people, there simply lay a coward who shouldn’t have been in Gryffindor.
How wrong she had been. She vowed that she would give him a chance if ever she saw him again. No matter what he came back like, she’d wipe the slate clean and start over. No matter what.
Lily had seen Severus earlier in Potions; she had tried to talk to him, but he had ignored her. Not responding to her questions of “Are you alright, Sev?”
The Portrait Hole opened and she looked up from her Defence questions, it was boy coming in late. She went back to her essay, and suddenly gasps broke out across the Common Room and then there was a roar of noise.
‘HOW THE HELL?’
Lily jumped and looked up to see a crowd forming around the boy who had just walked in. There was no doubt, even under the mob of the Quidditch Team, girls and other years; it was James Potter, whole, entire and perfect.
He was ruffling Tommy Ransom’s hair, clapping George Hill on the back, hugging Dorcas, swinging little Sarah Huntly round; she was crying again and shaking hands with Frank Longbottom before he pulled him into a manly hug. Lily looked round and saw the three Marauders; lounging at the bottom of the stairs to the boy’s dormitories, Peter standing on the third step, pleasure shining through his whole expression. Black was on the right, leaning back against the wall; something in his usually unreadable face spoke of something similar to awe. Remus, on the left, arms crossed over his chest just looked as though he had never been as content with his life as of this moment.
Someone loomed over her; she looked up at hazel eyes.
She didn’t know what to say.
‘Look, I’m sorry about everything over the years-’
Lily stood up and hugged him.
James rocked back on his feet with the force of the hug, but he regained his balance, and slowly, tentatively hugged her back. It took him several seconds to realise she was crying and he heard, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ whispered again and again.
Then everyone else in their year was around him, in one huge hug. Sirius was grinning at him over Lily and Remus had an arm around him and Laura. Peter was in the middle, somewhere between Alice and Mary.
Suddenly Dorcas came tearing across the room and joined them at speed, and the whole lot of them overbalanced in a burst of laughter, gasps of fright and joyous tears.
‘Enough! Enough!’ James shouted as he landed on a sofa, ‘I’ve only just been repaired!’
There was more laughter and then people were gathering round to hear the story. James couldn’t forget Lily’s reaction though; never in five years had she ever willingly touched him and now she hugged him. He didn’t think he’d ever forget that moment.
Maybe the slate was clean. Maybe they could start over.
People were gathering round though, he was sat on the sofa and everyone wanted to hear the tale. He gave Remus the smallest of glances and Remus returned him the smallest of nods.
He took a breath and began a finely edited version of events, tuned to the version that Professor Dumbledore had told. Lily was sat next to him, wedged between him and Sirius.
He told of them the Forbidden Forest by night, of a vicious attack, of staying behind to hold off the beast, and of falling unconscious as Dumbledore arrived. He told them in a subdued tone, with no pride, no extraneous detail and almost no emotion.
His audience listened, spellbound as he spoke clearly, but quietly, looking down at his hands.
He finished with his list on injuries that had been miraculously healed, then he got up, pleaded exhaustion and turned to go to bed. He noticed that somewhere in the midst of the story, Remus had disappeared, he also noticed as he stood up the burning emotion in Lily Evan’s eyes. What that emotion was, he couldn’t tell, but he could hope.
For the moment, he was simply glad to be alive; he would wait to see what, if anything, had changed.
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