Sunday 11th November 1973
Remus fell awake, spluttering and shivering. The room was gloomy, and his breath blew out in white plumes above his head. Everything hurt. He raised his hands in front of his face and found his fingertips blue and bloody. There were splinters under his nails, and more blood somewhere else – he could smell it, but he couldn’t see very well in the dark and he didn’t have the energy to lift his head. His bones felt like they were made of chalk. He was so, so tired.
Still, if there was as much blood as he thought, it probably wasn’t a good idea to sleep. He ought to stay awake at least until Madam Pomfrey could arrive – which shouldn’t be long. Remus lay still and focussed on his breathing. There was a Gryffindor game on today as well, another thing he’d be missing. Not only that, but his friends would be too busy to visit.
He turned his head and heaved. He hoped he wouldn’t be sick, it was so embarrassing being sick. He didn’t have his wand with him, so he couldn’t clean it up.
“Good morning, Remus,” Madam Pomfrey finally entered the room. “Oh dear, bit of a mess, eh?”
He raised his head, and promptly threw up.
* * *
“I’m not sure I like all this reading you do.” Madam Pomfrey tutted as she brought him a healing draught. “I know your studies are important to you, but you need rest.”
“I slept all morning.” He replied, “And I get so bored, otherwise. Do you know how the quidditch match went?”
“I’m afraid I don’t,” the medi-witch smiled. “I’m sure Mr Potter will be up here to tell you as soon as he can, though.”
That wasn’t very likely, if they’d won – there would be a victory party, and Remus had made James promise not to miss it on his account. He accepted the potion he was given, and swallowed it all without complaint. It was bitter, but he’d grown used to it now.
He had to read, because if he didn’t, he would have nothing to do at all, except think about his fresh scars. This month the wolf had torn at his torso, which was better than his arms or face – at least he could hide the marks easier.
Remus rarely undressed in front of anyone; even once the marauders had found out about his furry little problem. No one but Madam Pomfrey had seen the true extent of the damage (well, Sirius had, once, early in second year, but neither of them had since acknowledged that strange encounter). Still, Remus wasn’t naïve, and he knew that one day, however far away it might be, someone would expect him to take his top off – at the very least. It didn’t bear thinking about. Perhaps he’d just have to avoid girls forever.
“Mr Lupin!” A cheerful voice boomed across the hospital floor, making Remus jump. It was Professor Ferox, holding two large jars of clear liquid in his arms.
“Oh, hello,” Remus gave a small wave.
“Murtlap essence, as promised, Poppy,” the professor set down the jars. Don’t come over, don’t come over, Remus thought frantically as Professor Ferox strode across the room towards his bed. “Been in the wars, our kid?” He asked, kindly.
“Um…” Remus wanted to shrink and hide under the bedsheets. He hated the thought of strong, energetic Ferox seeing him in his weakened state. “I’m ok.”
Ferox sat down beside Remus’s bed. Remus resigned himself to his fate.
“Second time in here this year, eh?” The professor said, looking concerned. Remus nodded, even though it was his third moon this term. If Ferox hadn’t noticed one absence, then perhaps he wouldn’t connect the dots. “You know, if you need some more time for your homework, you only need to ask.”
“I’ve never handed anything in late!” Remus protested.
“No,” Ferox’s eyes twinkled, “You certainly haven’t.” His eyes moved to the bandages poking out of Remus’s pyjama vest, covering a new cut that snaked up his collar bone. Something registered in the older man’s eyes, and Remus knew almost instinctively that Ferox knew.
“I can do anything anyone else can.” Remus said, looking his teacher in the eye.
“I can see that.” Ferox now eyed the pile of books on the bedside table. “Are these all for school?”
“Some of them.” Remus replied, “Some are for fun. I like finding out new stuff. I like knowing stuff.”
“Yes, I can tell that from your essays,” Ferox was smiling again, which made Remus relax a bit. “Do you fancy a career caring for magical creatures? Or maybe something more like your father?”
“Er… I hadn’t thought about it.” Remus lied.
Ferox laughed. He tapped the book at the top of the pile. It was borrowed from Sirius – a muggle philosophy book.
“Know thyself, Remus.” Ferox said.
“Plato.” Remus said quickly.
Ferox laughed again, standing up.
“Exactly.” He ruffled Remus’s hair before turning to leave, “I hope you feel better soon, Lupin. See you on Wednesday.”
It was all very cryptic, Remus thought, realising he’d been holding his breath for almost a minute as Ferox left the room. He hadn’t started the Plato yet, only skimmed it – it wasn’t the sort of thing he was usually interested in, but he’d committed to try a bit of everything.
Secretly, he wanted to be able to show off to Sirius that he had read more books. Sirius hardly spent any time reading any more – his single-minded mission to fulfil his role as the Black family black sheep meant that he had little time for anything other than causing trouble. He’d regret that, one day, in Remus’s opinion. Remus had seen plenty of boys at St Edmund’s trying to push their limits like that – the problem was, some limits weren’t fences. Sometimes they were edges; with nothing on the other side.
* * *
He healed pretty well, despite the brutal scarring, and Madam Pomfrey sent him back to Gryffindor tower that evening, with the understanding that he did nothing but rest. He walked slowly, as promised. When he finally reached the common room, he did not find the victory party he had expected, but a rather subdued atmosphere, and the marauders were nowhere to be seen.
Remus furrowed his brow, and headed up the stairs to find the bedroom also empty. Puzzled, he went back downstairs. Marlene and Mary were playing snap by the fireplace.
“Hiya,” he went over.
“All right, Remus? Where’ve you been?” Mary asked, not looking up from her cards.
“Been sick. Stomach bug. How was the game?”
“We lost,” Marlene sighed, “James was bloody brilliant as usual, and I must have blocked at least twenty bludgers, but Ramsay caught the snitch right at the wrong time.”
“Ah, sorry McKinnon.” Remus rubbed the back of his head. That was odd – if they’d lost, and there had been no party, then why hadn’t the others come to see him? He tried to ignore the stabbing feeling in his stomach. “You seen James since? Or Sirius or anyone?”
“Nope.” The girls said in unison. Marlene slammed down a card, then winced as it blew up. She looked up,
“Want to play?”
“Er… nah. I still feel a bit funny. Going to lie down. Thanks, though.”
He trudged back up the stairs, feeling an uncomfortable mix of anxiety and anger. He’d said they shouldn’t put off celebrating just for him, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to see them at all. They didn’t have to leave him on his own like that, without so much as checking to see if he was ok. For all they knew, he could be in the infirmary still, at death’s door and with no one but Madam Pomfrey for company. Were they bored of the whole thing? Was it less exciting now? Was he less exciting?
Remus lay on his bed on top of the covers. He felt like he’d only been out of pyjamas for an hour, he didn’t want to get back into them, no matter how tired he was. He considered reading, but he didn’t have the energy. He could listen to a record, but that would mean getting up. In the end, he stayed put, lying in the dark with the curtains drawn.
At St Edmund’s, before he could read, before he had magic, or friends, Remus had grown used to boredom. He would make up stories in his head, run through song lyrics he had memorised, or try to come up with the longest words he’d ever heard. Now, as he waited for sleep to come, Remus pondered on what Ferox had said to him earlier.
Know thyself. He couldn’t remember the context for Plato having said that – it had to mean ‘know who you are’.
Remus knew all about his friends. He knew that James was a natural leader, a quidditch god who would do anything for anyone. Remus knew that even though they all teased James for being infatuated with Lily, James had a clearer understanding of love than anyone, and if he said he was going to marry her one day then he probably would. Remus knew that Peter was ashamed of his family, especially his older sister who he’d once looked up too, and that fitting in meant more to him than anything else in the world. Remus knew that Mary’s parents were born in Jamaica, and that she was the only witch in a family of seven, and that she never, ever cried, even when she was furious. He knew that Lily cried every time she got a letter from home, and that she wrote to her sister every week and hadn’t once received a response. He knew that Marlene didn’t get on very well with her dad, who was a muggle, and who drank too much sometimes.
Then there was Sirius – but it took nothing special to know Sirius. He thought he was aloof and mysterious, but the truth was that Black wore his heart on his sleeve, and kept nothing back. He felt everything so strongly, and his happiness was as chaotic as his misery. Sometimes you had to take a step back, in case you got dragged under his wheels.
Who was Remus, then? An orphan – but not quite. A wizard, but only half-blood. A monster, but not every day. What else was there? No need to flesh out supporting characters too much.
“Moony?” The whisper filled the room as loud as a klaxon. Remus did not reply. He was too grumpy.
The door opened, and three sets of footsteps entered. Even with the bedcurtains drawn, Remus knew it was James who approached first. “Psst, Moony? You sleeping, mate?”
He sighed, rolling over.
The curtains were pulled aside. Remus sat up to make room as James, then Sirius, then Peter crawled inside to sit with him.
“We went to the hospital wing, but she said you’d gone already.” James explained.
“Came up after dinner. Where were you?”
“How was it?” Sirius asked, “The full moon and everything?”
“Ok.” He gave the same answer every month.
“It wasn’t… I mean, you weren’t cut up, too much?” Peter asked, wringing his hands.
“A bit.” Remus nodded, “Not too bad. What were you doing in the library?”
“That’s what we wanted to talk to you about!” Sirius burst out. Obviously he was dying to say something, and Remus felt the last of his irritation melt away as his curiosity peaked.
“Sirius.” James said, in the voice he used to temper his friends. He looked at Remus, “We were doing some research, and it’s sort of about you.”
“Sort of!” Sirius scoffed, “It’s all about you, Moony, I’ve wanted to tell you since last term, but James wouldn’t—”
“I just wanted to make sure we could do it.” James elbowed Sirius, “Stop interrupting me, bloody hell. Remus. The thing is, ever since we found out about …um… your furry little problem, we’ve wanted to do something to help.”
“There’s no cure.” Remus replied, quickly. He didn’t like the sound of this. He felt horribly self-conscious as they all stared at him with the same mad look in their eyes.
“No no, we know that,” James waved a hand, “But we thought there must be something we could do – to make you stop hurting yourself, you know.”
“We found out that normal werewolves don’t do that,” Peter said, eager to have his own say, “So w--”
“Normal?!” Remus said, alarmed.
“Not normal,” Sirius kicked Peter, “Others. Others like you. Who don’t get locked up during the moon.”
“So you’re probably doing it to yourself because you’re trapped, and frustrated.”
“Well… yeah, I knew that.” Remus drew his knees up to his chest and inched back a bit. He wished they weren’t on his bed, they were all much too close. He could smell their blood; he could hear it rushing in their veins.
“But we thought if you had company--”
“Obviously not human company,” James explained, hurriedly, “Everything we’ve read says that if you even get near a human then they’re a goner,”
“But animals!” Sirius exploded, “Other animals would probably be fine!” His eyes shone with excitement, and Remus wished he could return it, but he was too distracted to be able to follow what they were saying.
“So what? I need a pet?”
“Sort of. But we thought… we could be the animals.”
Remus stared at him. He looked at each of his friends in turn. They were all barking mad.
“You’re going to be animals.” He said, flatly.
“Like McGonagall!” Peter squeaked.
“Like… but she’s an animagus! You have to study, and train, and get registered, and you can’t even start until you’re seventeen—”
“Moony, Moony, Moony,” Sirius shook his head, infuriatingly, “We’re marauders. We don’t need to bother with all of that.”
“Even if you wanted to break the law,” Remus caught James’s eye on that point, to confirm that this was definitely what they were talking about, “This isn’t some school prank. It’s serious magic – one of the hardest things to do!”
“That’s why we’re telling you about it,” Sirius said, “I wanted it all to be a surprise, but James reminded us that… well, it is really bloody hard, so the more help we get the better.”
“You really think you can do it, don’t you?” Remus frowned.
“If you help us.” James nodded, “We’re the best students in the year, except for Evans. Don’t see why we shouldn’t try.”
“What if it goes wrong?!” Remus chewed his lip, “What if I still… after I transform, what if I can tell you’re not really animals? What if I go for you anyway?”
“We’ll test it. We’ll test it over and over until we know it’s safe.” Sirius said.
“It’s so risky…”
“I know!” Black’s eyes were practically blazing in his head now, and Remus knew there was no point trying to be reasonable. He took a deep breath.
“Let me think about it, please?” He appealed to James. “Don’t do anything yet. Just… give me a few days.”
“Ok.” James nodded, “That’s fair.”
“Just think, Moony!” Sirius grinned, as if he hadn’t heard them, “Once we’ve done this, there’s nothing we can’t do. We’ll be unstoppable!”