After the landmark Gryffindor vs. Slytherin game, it felt as though time was speeding up for Remus. Part of this was down to the balance having been restored to their dorm room. James was once again the hero, Sirius’s rebellious streak was back in full flow, Peter was no longer treading on eggshells around either of them, and Remus had no peace and quiet at all – though could hardly complain about it.
As if trying to make up for lost time, James and Sirius tore through the final weeks of winter with a renewed zest for pranks and mischief. They spent half of their time under the invisibility cloak, casting hexes at unsuspecting students in the halls, raiding the kitchens and causing upset in the dining hall. At least three or four nights a week they crept out together with Remus’s map to plot the castle – though most of the time they returned with armfuls of sweets from Honeyduke’s instead. Peter often tried to tag along, but Remus needed all the sleep he could get.
His January and February full moons were not good. Neither was quite so bad as the December moon that had left him so obviously scarred, but neither were at all pleasant. Madam Pomfrey was relentless in her quest to find a solution – in January she tried vanishing his fingernails (‘only temporarily, you understand, you’ll have them back in the morning’) but it did not stop his claws from growing in once the transformation took hold. Remus was somewhat relieved by this, as she’d had plans to vanish his teeth next.
In February, she tried securing his arms and legs with magical manacles to stop him from hurting himself. She was extremely apologetic about these measures – even more so when she returned in the morning to find that he had dislocated both shoulders breaking free of the shackles. He was too tired to care very much.
While engaging in less pranks than he had the year before, Remus chose to throw himself into his studies. Secretly, Remus hoped to take advantage of Sirius and James’s determination not to focus on their schoolwork. He wanted to come top in History of Magic again, and knew he had a good chance – not just that; his marks had been getting better and better in Transfiguration, Herbology and Astrology too, and he at least had the chance to be in the top three.
Charms and Potions still belonged to Lily Evans, but he wanted to close the gap between them as much as possible. As such, he finally overcame his fear of the library, and spent almost every free hour he had in there, completing essays and revising. His reading had improved a fair bit – he was still slow if he didn’t use the spell, but he found that his constant practice helped him recognise the letters much faster than before.
Lily was often in the library too, and after a few days of nodding politely to each other across the desks, Lily gathered up her things and came to sit next to him. They got along very well together, either reading quietly or querying each other on various points.
Inevitably, Lily was the second person after Sirius to discover Remus’s secret.
“Why do you do that?” She asked, looking at him curiously.
“Every time you open a new book, you put your hand on it and scratch your head with your wand.”
“No I don’t.” Remus put his wand down, guiltily.
“Yes, you do.” Lily said, calmly, a small smile playing on her lips, “You muttered something, too. Was it a spell?”
“Oh go on, tell me – is it something to do with the books? Is it how you figure everything out quicker than me?!”
Remus was so pleased by this compliment that he dropped his guard for once.
“Promise you won’t tell anyone?”
“It’s to help me read. I’m not… I can’t… um… well I find it harder than everyone else. Reading the normal way.”
“Wow! How does it work?!” Her eyes grew wider, as they always did when she was excited about something. Remus was surprised – she didn’t seem at all interested to hear that he couldn’t read normally.
“Like this,” he showed her. She copied him, but looked disappointed,
“It didn’t work.”
“It’s really hard to do.” He explained, “Took me ages to get it right.”
“Where did you find out about it? That’s really, really advanced stuff!”
“I didn’t – Sirius did. I don’t think it’s written down anywhere, it sounded more like he bunged a few different spells together. Probably why it’s a bit clunky.”
“Really?!” If Lily’s eyes got any wider they were in danger of falling out of her head. “I knew he was cleverer than he acts in lessons! Ooh, that git! Show me again!”
As well as Lily, Remus often found that he was joined by her friends, Mary and Marlene. At first he was unsure about this arrangement – he usually tried to avoid the other girls in his year purely out of instinct. Plus, the two M’s were generally to be found giggling at the back of the class or fawning over some wizard celebrity in the common room. However, he was pleasantly surprised to find that both girls took their studies just as seriously as he did – and in fact that their interest in wizard pop stars was hardly different from Sirius and James’s obsession with their favourite quidditch teams.
Mary was particularly nice to talk to – she was muggleborn and from south London; her accent made Remus feel strangely at home. She was unpretentious and had a broad smile and a loud, infectious laugh. Marlene was slightly quieter, but hysterically funny and able to mimic almost anyone in the school – including the teachers. Her McGonagall was spectacular; Remus actually cried with laughter.
The three girls were exceptionally kind to Remus, and he knew this was mostly because they thought he was ill. He didn’t mind though, because he was learning plenty of interesting things from them. For one, Mary had a spell for covering up blemishes – which didn’t completely vanish his scars, but noticeably reduced their appearance. He’d never even thought to look in a beauty magazine for a solution.
They introduced him to various other girly things – Mary had a crush on Sirius, and Marlene on James. Remus thought they were both completely mad and wondered if they’d feel the same way if they had to share a bathroom with Potter and Black.
In return, Remus helped them with History of Magic, since he was apparently the only student in the whole school who actually found Professor Binns interesting. Marlene was excellent as Astronomy, and showed him how to plot his constellations using some clever mnemonic devices.
“You’re so nice, Remus,” Mary said, in her usual blunt manner one evening as they walked back to the common room together, “Marlene and Lily were proper scared of you in first year.”
“What?!” Remus almost dropped his books in surprise.
“Mary, don’t be so rude!” Marlene hissed.
“You were pretty aggressive,” Lily explained, “And James started telling everyone you were really rough, and that you were in a gang.”
Remus snorted with laughter.
As they entered the common room, he quickly spied Sirius, James and Peter huddled in a corner, pouring over a very large, very thick book. Marlene and Mary burst into fits of giggles when they saw them, and ran upstairs. Lily shared a knowing look with Remus before following them.
The marauders looked up as their friend approached, and Peter very conspicuously covered the book they were reading with some sheets of parchment.
“Alright lads?” Remus said, craning his neck, “What you doing?”
“Nothing!” James said, brightly, “Where’ve you been?”
“In the library,” Sirius stated, before Remus could even open his mouth, “With his fan club.”
“Piss off Black, I know when you’re jealous.” He had elected not to tell his friends that Marlene and Mary fancied them. Their egos might not be able to handle much more inflating. Anyway, he didn’t want to change the topic, “Seriously, what you hiding there?”
All three looked at each other guiltily, and Remus felt a sting of hurt. They were all up to something without him – he ought to have known. He supposed it was only fair – he had refused to take part in any pranks for so long that now they didn’t want to include him at all.
“Your birthday!” Peter suddenly burst out. “It’s coming up.”
“Yeah,” Remus scratched his head, thrown, “Next week.”
“We’re planning a surprise!” Peter said, grinning widely, clearly very pleased with himself. Remus did not miss James’s look of annoyance, and he knew at once that Peter was lying. Fine. If they didn’t want to tell him.
“Oh, right,” He swallowed, forcing a smile, “Well you’d better not be planning to embarrass me like last year.”
“Oh no, never!” Sirius grinned, standing up, gathering the book to his chest, title still hidden, “Are we the sort of friends that would want to embarrass you, Lupin?”
“Yeah, you are.” Remus nodded, slowly, narrowing his eyes, “No singing. No big parties. Nothing that’s going to—“
“Get you into trouble, we know,” James finished, standing up too. “Hey, why don’t we invite your new friends, eh? Do us good to mix with the fairer sex, don’t you think?”
“Right,” Sirius tossed his hair, “More like you want a chance to get Evans on her own.”
“How dare you.” James replied, cheeks slightly pinker than usual.
* * *
“So if you’re not in a gang,” Mary mused, a few days later. They were checking each other’s Herbology essays and Mary was the fastest reader so she’d already finished. “Where’d you get all the cuts and bruises?”
“Pet rabbit,” Remus replied, still reading Marlene’s essay, “Vicious temper.”
Lily grinned at him.
“Oh yeah? I thought you lived in a home?”
“I do.” He said, coolly, “We’re allowed pets.” That was somewhat true – there had been goldfish, for a time, until the tank got overturned by one of the older boys in a rage.
“Oh, in a children’s home?” Mary looked up, “Are you muggleborn too?”
“No,” Marlene said, promptly, “’Lupin’s’ a wizard name – your dad?” She looked at him for confirmation. He nodded, unsettled.
“Yeah, how did you know?”
“I saw the name on a trophy.”
“Yeah. Can’t remember what for, I think it was outside the Ravenclaw common room.”
“Oh, right.” He had never so much as glanced at any of the trophies except for the Quidditch Cup, which James stopped to pay homage to at least once a week. He was suddenly filled with an irrepressible urge to run all the way to the Ravenclaw corridor, and dropped the essay he was reading.
Lily was watching him.
“Go, Remus,” she said softly, taking the parchment from him. The other two girls were looking at him too, somewhat pityingly. They nodded. He practically leapt up.
He wasn’t sure exactly what he’d expected. He could barely read for a few moments; he was so out of breath from sprinting up three flights of stairs. The case was mahogany and glass, regularly polished by Filch – or the house elves, he supposed. It was stuffed full of trophies and awards for a hundred different achievements. Wizard Chess Champion, Triwizard Tournament Victor, Droobles Best Bubble Gum Blowing Finalist.
And there it was. A huge, golden statuette depicting a wizard raising his wand in a silly looking stance, as if he was serving a tennis ball. Lyall Lupin, Hogwarts Duelling Champion, 1946.
He stared at it for a very long time, reading and re-reading. He tried to think logically. This only confirmed things he already knew. His father was in Ravenclaw – McGonagall had told him that in his first year. He was good at duelling – exceptionally good, apparently. Both Slughorn and drunken old Darius had told him that. Really, all this did was confirm that his father had been at Hogwarts – he had belonged at Hogwarts. Had probably touched that very trophy. Remus pressed his fingers against the glass as if he could break through and grasp it.