Saturday 23rd October 1971
“Did you just never get taught?”
Remus shrugged, tired and frustrated. It was a week after the flying lesson, and Sirius had caught him on his own again. He’d been sitting quite happily on his bed, flicking through one of James’ quidditch magazines – he liked the moving pictures, even if he still didn’t understand the rules, and it was the closest thing to telly they had at Hogwarts.
“I got taught.” He replied, turning the page, hoping Sirius would take the hint and get lost. He didn’t. Remus closed the magazine. “I got taught.” He repeated. “Just didn’t learn properly. When I look at the words, I don’t think I see what everyone else does. It doesn’t make any sense; all the letters keep jumping around and changing. Teachers said I was just thick.”
No one had made much of a fuss about his problems with schoolwork at St Edmund’s. They’d barely had any homework, since no one did it anyway. Lots of the boys had problems; either they couldn’t or wouldn’t be taught. It wasn’t as if anyone expected much either way.
“But how have you been doing it?” Sirius was like a dog with a bone.
“Well… everything! All your work, here, at Hogwarts.”
Remus looked at him as if he was the one who was stupid,
“Sirius, I haven’t been doing it. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m in detention every night.”
“Well, yeah, obviously,” Sirius waved a hand, “But the other day, in Potions, I saw you – you didn’t take any notes, didn’t even look at the book, or the blackboard, and you still prepared all of the ingredients for the cure for boils perfectly – Slughorn gave you five points!”
Remus felt himself blush at the memory. He wasn’t used to getting praise from teachers.
“Oh, that was easy,” He shook his head, “Sluggy told us how to do it in the lesson before, I just remembered it.”
“Bloody hell, you must have a brilliant memory, then.”
Remus shrugged. He supposed that was true. His teachers at St Edmund’s had remarked more than once that he knew an awful lot of words for somebody so dim witted.
Sirius was staring into space now, clearly deep in thought – Remus could practically see the cogs working in his mind. Sometimes Sirius was an entirely closed book. Other times he was so easy to read it was almost funny.
“If you could read, you’d be as good as me and James. Better, probably.”
“So modest, Black.”
“Well, you would!” Sirius missed the sarcasm completely, still looking thoughtful, “Your wandwork is much more natural, and if your memory is as good as you say it is…” He chewed his lip, “I bet there’s a spell for it.”
“You’re going to cure me with a spell?”
Remus had thought about it already; of course he had. But he was more aware of the limitations of magic than anyone. After all, he had scars which would not heal and a monthly nightmare which nobody could prevent.
“Magic can’t fix stuff like that.” He replied bluntly. “Why else does James wear glasses?”
“I think there are spells for eyesight.” Sirius said, “Maybe they’re just not worth the effort, or too dangerous, or complicated or something.”
“It’s not just the reading,” Remus countered, “My writing’s crap too; I’m too slow, and it comes out all messy.”
“There are definitely spells for that.” Sirius said, confidently, “You can bewitch your quill, I’ve seen my father do it on official documents. His handwriting’s really scratchy, normally.”
Remus was at a loss. Sirius clearly wasn’t going to give up. He chewed his lip.
“Why are you so interested, anyway?”
“You’re my fellow Marauder! We can’t have you in detention every day, what if the Slytherins strike back? We’ll need your evil mind for pranks.” His eyes glittered. “Speaking of, I’m assuming you haven’t done your history homework yet?”
“Ok then, let’s get started.” Sirius jumped off the bed and began rooting around in his trunk.
“No. You’re not doing my homework for me.” Remus protested, standing up himself, folding his arms.
“Too bloody right, I’m not,” Sirius replied, withdrawing a heavy book. It was A History of Magic; Remus recognised the size and shape. “I just fancied refreshing my memory, that’s all. So, I’m going to sit here and read it aloud – because that helps me study – and if you happened to retain some of it in that enormous brain of yours, then there’s not much I can do about it.”
“Haven’t you go something better to do? Where’s James, anyway?”
“Watching the Gryffindor quidditch practice,” Sirius settled down on his bed, opening the book. “Reckons he’ll get on the team next year, so he’s trying to pick up some tips. Peter’s followed him, obviously. Now, be quiet please, I’m trying to work.” He cleared his throat, “A history of magic, by Bathilda Bagshot. Chapter one, Ancient Egypt; the rights and rituals of Imhotep…”
And on he went. And on, and on. Remus stayed standing for a while, trying to decide whether or not to just walk out of the room and slam the door. But he found that he really wasn’t that angry – it was difficult to stay angry with Sirius, no matter how annoying he was. So Remus sat down, and listened. It turned out that history wasn’t that boring after all, not when you understood the basics. Plus Sirius was considerably more animated than Professor Binns.
His voice was clear and steady, never stumbling over the more complicated words or phrases, as if he had read the book a hundred times. Remus had once heard him tell James that he was fluent in Latin and Greek – the Black family apparently took pride in that sort of thing.
On he ploughed, chapter after chapter, from the gory Egyptian resurrection charms to cryptic Greek oracles, to magical Mesopotamian priestesses. The ancient world opened up in Remus’ mind, and he found himself lying back on his bed, arms behind his head with his eyes closed, letting Sirius lead him through time.
Eventually, the other boy’s voice was almost hoarse, and he spoke just above a whisper. Evening had closed around them, and the common room was bathed in a golden orange glow as the sun set. Halfway through ‘chapter five; Tiberius and the advancements of Roman battle magic,’ Sirius let out a quiet cough, and put down the book.
“I don’t think I can study any more today,” he croaked.
Remus’ eyes snapped open. He sat up, blinking.
“That’s ok,” He said, quietly. “It’s dinner now, I’m starving.”
They both got up, stretched, and headed downstairs.
James and Peter were waiting for them at the Gryffindor table in their usual seats.
“How was practice?” Sirius asked, after draining a goblet of pumpkin juice. His voice had almost returned to normal, only sounding slightly strained.
“Cracking.” James replied cheerfully, spearing a sausage on the end of his fork and using it to scoop up some mashed potato, “How come you didn’t come?”
“Homework.” Sirius replied, pouring gravy over his own mash.
As they finished their dinner, James regaled them with a blow by blow account of the quidditch practice, listing every player on the team, their strengths and faults, their techniques and what he would do to improve them. Peter interjected occasionally with his own opinions, which barely differed from James’.
Pudding was millionaire shortbread, which neither Sirius or James liked. Remus thought they were mad, and took their distaste as evidence of their snobbery. He’d have eaten theirs too, but Peter got there first, scoffing the lot.
“I’ve got some sweets,” the smaller boy offered, digging in his robe pockets and withdrawing a bulging brown bag, “Mum sent them, help yourself.”
“Cheers Pete!” They dug in, munching their way through fizzing whizzbees, chocolate frogs and flavour changing gobstoppers happily. Remus helped himself to a few as well, until they all felt quite sick.
“What homework were you doing?” James asked, scratching his chin, distractedly, “I thought we’d finished everything for this week.”
“Yeah, um, I was behind on history. Had to go back and check something.” Sirius was scratching too, near his collar bone.
Watching them made Remus start to itch. The back of his hand tickled as if a small insect was crawling over him. He suddenly thought of the itching powder and looked down.
He nearly screamed. The back of his hand was growing thick dark hair, at an alarming rate. He was transforming! It wasn’t anywhere near a full moon – how could this be happening? He stood up so suddenly he nearly fell over backwards. He had to get out of there – fast!
“What’s up, Lupin?” James stared at him, startled.
Remus looked back at him, then at Sirius. They were both growing hair too – dark curls sprouted from their faces, their hands and arms – every bit of exposed skin. He gaped, speechless. He ran his tongue over his teeth – they weren’t getting any longer.
“Oh bloody hell…” James said, looking down at himself, then at the other two boys, “What’s going on?!”
“Peter,” Sirius growled, his face now almost covered in hair, “Are you sure your mum sent those sweets?”
Peter, who hadn’t had any sweets yet, stared at them both, and turned red, spluttering,
“Well, I mean… I thought they were from her… they arrived this morning…”
“Pete!” James roared. People were looking at them, now, turning and nudging each other. Soon, the entire dining hall was whispering and pointing at the three incredibly hairy boys at the Gryffindor table.
Plenty of people were giggling, too, but of course no one was laughing louder than Severus Snape, over at the Slytherin benches.
“Come on,” Sirius stood up, sticking his furry nose up with an air of aristocratic dignity that was nothing short of hilarious, “Let’s get to the hospital wing. We can plot our revenge later.”
As they left to howls of laughter from the rest of the great hall, Remus cringed in shame, covering his face with his hands. Every inch of him was now covered in the same glossy black hair. He didn’t find it as funny as James and Sirius seemed to.
“Told you they’d strike back,” Sirius muttered.