Friday 6th September 1972
Once the initial ice had been broken, the questions came flooding in. That evening, after dinner, all four boys sat on Remus’ bed,
“When did it happen?”
“Does Dumbledore know?!”
“Have you ever, y’know, attacked anyone?”
“What’s it like?”
“Where do you go, when it happens?!”
Remus gnawed his bottom lip. He’d never talked about his condition before, not to anyone – except for his conversation with Madam Pomfrey last year. None of the muggles he’d grown up with would have believed him, and he’d been led to believe that wizards would shun him.
“Er…” he tried to work out where to start, “I was five years old, when it happened. I don’t really remember much before that. Yeah, Dumbledore knows. I don’t think I’ve ever hurt anyone. I think I’d probably know, if I did.”
“So when you turn, you can remember what it’s like?” Sirius asked, eagerly, “Being a wolf?”
“Um… not really?” Remus thought hard, “Maybe I can remember feeling stuff, but I don’t think I have a human brain while I’m like that. It’s more like a really bad dream.”
“I always thought werewolves were more…” Peter looked at him thoughtfully, “I dunno, scary?”
“So is that what happened to your dad?” Sirius asked, abruptly, “Did he get killed by the werewolf that bit you?”
Remus flinched. Not because of his father, but because he wasn’t used to hearing that ‘w’ word quite so much. He never said it, himself.
“No,” he replied, “My dad, he… uh… well, he killed himself. After I was bitten, so I s’pose it was because of me. My mother – you know, she’s a muggle, I think it was probably a bit much for her, so she packed me off to St Edmund’s.”
There was an uncomfortable sort of silence.
“Have you ever met—“ Sirius began, but James gave him a sharp look,
“That’s enough, Black, leave him alone.”
They eventually split off to start their homework, and James went for a run around the grounds before it got dark. Quidditch trials were coming up and he was becoming more obsessed with fitness and endurance by the day. He tried to get Peter and Sirius to go with him, but they begged off.
“Bloody slave driver,” Peter muttered, as he left. “I’ve told him I’m not even trying out.”
“I think I probably will,” Sirius said, casually, “They need a beater, anyway.”
Homework was eventually cast aside in favour of a particularly aggressive game of exploding snap between the three of them, with a record spinning on its needle – The Beatles, because Peter pleaded for a break from Bowie.
Later, after lights out, Remus sat up reading a book Sirius had lent him. It was a muggle paperback – science fiction. He’d seen a few films like it at the local cinema back at St Edmund’s, but he didn’t know there were books too. It was just getting exciting when he heard the tell-tale creak of the floorboards that meant Sirius was paying James a visit. He heard the curtains rustle, and low whispering, before a sudden unnatural void of sound which meant someone had cast a silencing spell.
Remus ignored it, scrunching down into his duvet and focussing on his book. It was perhaps twenty minutes later that he heard the silencing spell being recalled – it was as though he had been deaf in one ear and could suddenly hear again. He listened to the curtain rustle again, as Sirius climbed back and padded softly back across the room.
This time, however, his footsteps came closer, and much to Remus’ surprise, his own bed curtains cracked open. Sirius long, pale face peered in on him,
“Hiya,” he whispered,
“Hi…” Remus replied, “What’s up?”
“Saw your wandlight,” he nodded, “Can I come in?”
Sirius grinned and slipped inside easily, kneeling on the bed in front of Remus, who drew his legs up to his chest, setting his book aside.
“Sonoro Quiescis,” Sirius whispered, casting the sound proofing charm so that they would not disturb the others. “How’s the book?” He looked at the paperback resting on the pillow next to Remus.
“Good,” Remus replied, noncommittally. “What’s up?” He repeated.
“I was just talking to James.” He said, settling down, sitting cross-legged, “He reckons I’ve upset you, asking questions about your dad.”
“Oh,” Remus cocked his head, surprised, “No, I’m ok. It doesn’t upset me; I’m used to it.”
“That’s what I told James.”
Sirius didn’t leave, he just kept looking at Remus. It was making him uncomfortable, he was only wearing a thin vest to sleep in, which displayed a number of red and silver marks criss-crossing his bare arms and shoulders. Sirius stared, openly.
“How did you get your scars?” He asked, quietly. Remus frowned, pulling the bedsheets up to his neck,
“How did you get yours?!” He snapped. He instantly regretted it; Sirius stopped gazing at his skin and recoiled, eyes full of hurt and surprise.
“I… from my parents. The Lacero curse, it’s how they discipline us.” He said, his voice a little robotic.
“Sorry,” Remus dropped the duvet. He sighed, extending his arms so that Sirius could see better, “I do them to myself, when I’m… when I change, see?” He pulled down one shoulder of his vest and twisted slightly to show him four long white claw marks.
“Wow,” Sirius breathed, on his knees again, leaning forward with his lit wand to get a better look. “Why do you do it?”
“I don’t know, I’m not exactly myself. Madam Pomfrey reckons it’s frustration – because it’s in my nature to attack people and I don’t have anyone to attack.”
“Where do they put you?”
“There’s this old house… McGonagall and Pomfrey take me there every month, there’s a passageway under the Whomping Willow.”
“Does McGonagall watch you?!”
“No! It’s too dangerous. I think they use spells to keep me locked in.”
“Nah, it’s not as bad as back at St Eddy’s, they have a cell for me there, with a silver door. When I first got there – Matron thinks I was too little to remember, but they put me in a cage.”
Sirius looked up at him sharply,
“I dunno,” Remus was surprised by his reaction, “It was to keep everyone else safe. And I can only have been the size of a puppy.”
“Cub.” Sirius said, promptly.
“A baby wolf is a cub. Dogs are puppies.”
“So where did you get bitten?” Sirius had swapped concern for curiosity once more.
“Oh, um, here.” Remus patted his left side, just above his hip. Sirius looked at him expectantly. Remus sighed again, “Do you want to see?”
Sirius nodded, eagerly, leaning forward again as Remus lifted his shirt at the hem. He barely noticed the bite-mark any more, though it stood out as much as it ever had. It was a huge scar, evidence of an unbelievably large jaw. You could count every tooth, if you were so inclined; the deep dimples marring Remus’ soft skin. Sirius got very close now, so that Remus had to lean all the way back to stop their heads from bumping.
“Oh wow…” he breathed, lost in his observation like someone who’d unearthed a great archaeological treasure.
Remus felt Sirius’ long hair brush his skin, and the warmth of his breath, and pushed him away quickly,
“God, Black, you’re so weird.”
Sirius just grinned that Sirius Black grin.
* * *
Friday 13th October 1972
“So what exactly are we doing here?” James whispered, sounding amused.
“And why did we have to bring the stupid cloak?” Sirius said, slightly muffled under the fabric, “It’s hours until curfew.”
“I’m hot,” Peter complained.
“Shut up, all of you.” Remus commanded, “I’m trying to concentrate.”
“Concentrate on wha—ouch!”
Remus kicked Sirius in the shin.
“I said shut up.”
“Bloody oik,” Sirius muttered – but he was quiet after that.
Remus sniffed. It definitely smelled like chocolate. The whole corridor – only a faint whiff, as you turned the corner, but richer and sweeter the further you walked towards a statue near the middle. The scent had been driving Remus mad for weeks – since he noticed it late last term. It had to have something to do with the statue – a witch with a hunched back and an eye patch. It was a horrible portrait, he hoped that the artist had just been particularly unkind, and the poor woman hadn’t really looked like that.
“Have you brought us here to meet your new girlfriend, Lupin?” James asked, smirking as Remus continued to stare at the one-eyed witch.
“Why’d you keep sniffing like that?” Sirius whined, “I don’t want to be this close to you if you’re getting a cold.”
“Can’t any of you smell that?”
“…chocolate. Definitely chocolate.”
“Chocolate? Where?” Peter suddenly perked up.
“I can’t smell anything.” Sirius said.
“Me neither,” said James.
“It’s coming from the statue,” Remus continued, unperturbed by his friend’s teasing. He reached out and touched the stone carefully through the cloak.
“What? Reckon the old bint’s hump is packed with sweets or something?” Sirius was starting to sound bored and irritable. It bothered Remus a little bit, sometimes. He and Peter got dragged along on all sorts of stupid ‘missions’ by the other two, but if he and James weren’t in charge then Sirius always acted up.
“No.” Remus said, “I reckon it’s one of those secret passages from that book of yours.”
“Really?!” Now Sirius was paying attention. “Can you actually smell chocolate? Is that some… special thing you can do?”
“It doesn’t lead to the kitchens,” Peter said, knowledgeably, “They’re on the ground floor, a Hufflepuff told me.”
“How can we get in?”
“Password?” James suggested, “Like the common room.”
“Scallywag!” Peter shouted at the witch, eagerly. Nothing happened.
“I didn’t mean it would be the exact same password, Peter.” James said. He was being kind, but Sirius and Remus were already in fits of laughter.
“What about Alohomora?” Sirius suggested, recovering. Remus tried it, but nothing happened.
“That’s for locks, anyway,” James said, “Isn’t it something else for revealing unseen entryways?”
“Oh yeah!” Sirius nodded, getting excited, “Yeah there is… umm… Dissendium!” He tapped his wand on the witch’s hump.
Immediately, the hump opened, sliding away leaving a gap easily big enough for them to file inside, one at a time. The smell of chocolate grew even stronger, and now Remus could also smell earth, fresh air and other people.
They lost no time slipping inside, and the hump closed behind them.
“Lumos!” they all said in unison, throwing off the cloak. James folded it up under his arm and immediately assumed leadership.
“C’mon then,” he said, holding his wand ahead of them, lighting up the dark passage, “Let’s go!”
They all followed. Remus didn’t mind – he’d done his bit.
It was a long walk, down a flight of cold stone stairs, through a tunnel that was earthy and damp. But the scent grew stronger, and when they finally reached the end, there was another staircase, leading to a wooden trap door. They looked at each other and silently agreed that James should go first. They watched him ascend, push open the door, and poke his head through. Remus felt that they were all holding their breath, watching James’ torso disappear up into the unknown.
“I don’t believe it!” He laughed above them, “You have to see!” He hauled himself upwards, vanishing altogether. Sirius scurried up after him, not wanting to miss anything. Remus went next, but Peter dithered behind them.
“Where are we?” Sirius was asking, staring around at the dark little room. They were surrounded by neatly stacked boxes and crates. The smell of confectionary by now was overwhelming.
“I think we’re actually in Hogsmeade!” James said, excitedly, “This is the storeroom at Honeydukes!”
“The sweetshop?” Remus asked, thought it was pretty redundant at this point. Sirius had ripped open a box which looked to contain at least five hundred boxes of chocolate frogs.
Remus had heard all about Hogsmeade from the other boys – they’d all visited on family holidays before; it was one of the only entirely magical villages in Britain. Older students were allowed to go on their weekends, and often brought back paper bags bulging with sweets from Honeydukes. Standing in the cellar at that moment Remus could not have been happier with the outcome of this mission.
They finally coaxed Peter up, and spent a good hour exploring the shop, marvelling at their own brilliance. They chose a little bit of everything, with Remus directing them, as the only one with any kind of shoplifting experience. James thought Remus didn’t see him slip a bag of sickles and galleons from his robes and leave then on the counter as they were leaving.
The marauders returned to the Gryffindor common room with their pockets heavy and huge grins on their faces. A prefect took points from all of them for missing curfew, but they couldn’t care less. When they all lay in bed hours later, pretending not to have stomach aches, Sirius called out,
“That’s definitely going on the map.”