Saturday 5th January 1974
Sheets of rain battered against the Hogwarts Express like a volley of enemy arrows, covering the usually green hillsides in a gauzy veil of mist and drizzle, darkening the sky.
“Feels rubbish going back to school, doesn’t it?” Sirius said sulkily, glaring out of the window.
Remus glanced over at Peter, who was staring at Sirius in disbelief. Sirius didn’t notice. Remus sighed,
“How was your Christmas, Pete?” He asked politely.
“Ok.” Peter replied, dully, “Thanks for the sweets.”
“Seen my broom?” James asked, pulling it down from the luggage rack. Peter got up to look, perking up a bit. Remus rolled his eyes and returned to his book.
He wasn’t really reading it. He hadn’t been able to concentrate properly on a book since the Potter’s Christmas party. In fact, he hadn’t been able to concentrate on anything at all. Not flying, or games, or conversations, or James and Sirius’s animagus planning. So he pretended to read, hoping they’d leave him to it. At St Edmund’s he might have just skulked off by himself into town, but that didn’t seem like a very good way to show gratitude to James’s parents, who were sure to worry.
It was as if there was a list of questions in his head that he had no way of getting the answers to, so they just played on repeat, around and around. Where was Greyback now? Who was ‘you know who’? Had Lyall Lupin hated his son that much?
Remus had already known that his father had killed himself because he’d been bitten. He’d always assumed that Lyall had been motivated by guilt. But now… well, what Remus had been wrong? What if the real reason had been hatred – or even worse – shame?
For the past three years, Remus had been working hard at school, using his father’s wand and taking the subjects his father might have taken. He didn’t think about Lyall all the time, but in the back of his mind, it had still meant something. Since the Christmas party, he wasn’t so sure any more. Ferox had said ‘know thyself’, but Remus was failing to see the wisdom in that now. He’d been much happier not knowing.
These dark thoughts were interrupted by a quiet tapping at the carriage door. Marlene poked her head around,
“Hiya McKinnon,” James grinned, “Evans with you?”
“Um… no.” She squeaked, fiddling with her hair nervously, “Sirius, can I talk to you?”
“Me?” Sirius sat up, looking confused, “Er… what is it?”
“Mary um… Mary asked me to tell you something.”
“Tell me what?”
“She’s… I don’t think I was supposed to say it in front of this lot.”
“Er… ok…” Sirius got up and followed her outside into the corridor. The other three exchanged amused looks while they waited. Ugh, Remus thought, had he been mistaken about the Mary and Sirius thing?! Was it Sirius and Marlene, now?
Moments later, a stunned looking Sirius re-entered the compartment alone.
“Well?” James asked.
“Mary’s got a boyfriend, apparently.” Sirius said, confused.
“You mean… you got dumped?”
“I dunno.” He sat down, scratching his head, “Was I going out with her?”
“Well, apparently she thought you were.”
“Why don’t girls just say what they mean?!” Sirius ran his hand through his hair in a good imitation of James, who nodded in a sympathetic way.
“Girls are a nightmare.” He agreed.
Remus celebrated, inwardly. Thank goodness all of that was behind them.
* * *
Sunday 6th January 1974
He later learnt that Mary had started going out with a muggle boy she knew from home.
“We grew up in the same block,” she confided in him, excitedly, “His flat’s just across from mine. I properly fancied Sirius, and he’s nice and everything, but… well he’s a bit posh. I don’t think he even knows what a council flat is.”
Remus had to agree on that one.
As for himself, he warmed to Mary once again, and didn’t even mind her going on and on about her new boyfriend, and how he’d taken her to the local dance hall, and the pictures, and how her mum loved him, and her dad thought he was a ‘good boy’. Marlene, however, looked terminally bored as they sat around by the fire doing their last bits of holiday homework together.
This did not escape Mary’s notice.
“Don’t be jealous, Marls.”
“I’m not.” Marlene frowned. “I just think you’re being horrible to Sirius.”
“Dumping him like that! You… you hurt his feelings!” Marlene’s cheeks had turned an uncharacteristic shade of pink.
“No, she didn’t,” Remus snorted.
Both girls glared at him, as if he had completely misunderstood.
“Oh my god!” Mary stared at her friend, “Marlene, do you fancy Sirius?!”
“No!” Marlene stood up, bright red now, “Oh, you’re such a bitch, Mary!” She stormed up to the girls dorm. Lily sighed, glancing up,
“That wasn’t very nice.” She said, reproachfully.
“Her problem, not mine.” Mary shrugged. “Does she fancy Sirius?!”
“Does it matter?”
“I’m going too.” Remus stood up, trying not to heave a sigh.
“Oh no, don’t go, Remus!” Mary said, “We’ll stop talking about boys, I promise.”
“I’m tired,” he lied, “And I’ve finished mine. See you tomorrow.”
As he walked away, he heard Mary whisper, very loudly,
“Oh my god, maybe he fancies Marls!”
Remus reminded himself that he was trying to like Mary again, and didn’t react. He climbed the stairs and went to sit in the dorm room alone. James, Peter and Sirius were all in detention for a prank they had pulled before Christmas.
He wasn’t tired at all. It was two nights before the full moon, and he was beginning to feel the usual tell-tale restlessness in his limbs, the familiar quickening of his heartbeat. Left to his own devices, Remus returned to the troubling thoughts that had been bothering him for weeks. Again, they seemed to just swirl through his brain in a big soupy mess, without beginning or end.
Did all wizards feel the same way as Darius? As Lyall Lupin? Were his father’s actions really justifiable? Remus couldn’t ignore the fact that his mother had also abandoned him – which had to mean something. His friends certainly hadn’t treated him any differently after finding out… but then how could anyone truly know what their friends thought of them? The marauders liked anything dangerous; perhaps sharing a room with Remus was simply another exciting risk.
What he really needed was to speak to somebody impartial. James was so lucky, having two parents always willing to listen. Sirius was lucky to have James. Remus wasn’t sure if Peter had problems or not. Probably did. Probably told James too.
There was McGonagall, Remus knew that they were supposed to go to her with their problems. But she was so stern and difficult, and she liked James best anyway. Madam Pomfrey of course; she’d been supportive before. But she wasn’t one to let you feel sorry for yourself; she’d just try to come up with a common-sense solution, or else tell him not to worry so much. Then Dumbledore – but Remus had no idea how to talk to him, and he wasn’t even sure he wanted to.
As far as people who knew the complexities of Remus’s problem, there was also Professor Ferox – Remus was ninety-five percent sure he knew, anyway. He pondered this as an option.
Remus felt a sort of unidentifiable kinship with his Care of Magical Creatures professor. He had a very reassuring presence, and Remus thought he might feel better if he could speak to him, somehow sure that Ferox would lend a sympathetic ear. There was a funny flutter in his stomach, like excitement, and Remus thought that was a good sign. He glanced at the clock in the corner. It was only five o’clock, the other boys wouldn’t be out of detention until six and curfew wasn’t until eight.
Remus pulled the marauder’s map from under his pillow. The basic outline of the castle was complete, now; they just needed to finalise the grounds, animate the staircases and add the secret places that only they knew about. Then Sirius’s tagging idea could come next, though they still weren’t very sure how to go about it. Remus had discovered one spell that would locate a single person, but nothing of the magnitude they required.
Still, he cast his locator spell now, and found that Professor Ferox was walking from the Great Hall to the staff room. Remus got up, quickly – if he was fast, then he could make it look like a chance encounter. He grabbed James’s cloak before leaving, just in case Mary and Lily were still in the common room.
He was just reaching for the door knob when he had a sudden flash of sense.
What on earth was he doing? Going to see Professor Ferox – and then what? Whinge to him about his dead father? Cry to him about how nobody would ever understand him, because he was a murderous dark creature with a working-class accent? Moan about how his friends were all going girl mad, and he felt left behind?
Remus retreated back into the room.
What on earth would Ferox think of him? That he was a big wuss, that’s what. You couldn’t just go crying to teachers whenever something bothered you; you couldn’t just expect everyone to feel sorry for you. No one owes you a happy life, Matron always said.
He lay on his bed and stared up at the canopy. He felt worse, now. He didn’t know what had come over him – he was never normally one to act on impulse – not anymore, not since his first year. He’d just felt so strongly that he ought to see his teacher. Ah! There it was again, that flutter in his midsection. It wasn’t excitement at all – it was… well, he wasn’t sure yet what it was. He felt hot and flushed and oddly prickly. It was something… animal.
Oh god. Remus let out a groan. It must be the transformation. The wolf was creeping in earlier than usual, maybe. It probably liked the smell of Ferox, or it caught the scent of his kneazle. Did wolves eat cats?
Only good beast’s a dead beast. That’s what Darius told him. At the time, Remus had felt it was a little unfair… after all, he’d never actually hurt anyone. Dumbledore wouldn’t let that happen. He definitely didn’t want to hurt anyone, either, except occasionally Snape, and that was just normal, wasn’t it?
Perhaps Remus was more dangerous than he thought he was. He’d learnt to control his temper most of the time now, he’d learnt to control his magic. He just had to learn to control whatever this was, too.
When James, Sirius and Peter returned, Remus had made up his mind.
“I’ve had a think,” he started,
“No wonder you needed a lie down,” Sirius smirked. Remus threw a pillow at him.
“Piss off, I’m serious.”
“No, I’m Siri-”
James slapped him around the head,
“Shut up, Black.”
“Thanks.” Remus smiled. “Er… the whole animagus thing.”
“Yeah?” Sirius looked eager now, still rubbing his head, “Had an idea? I love Moony ideas!”
“Um… not exactly,” Remus felt awkward now. Still, it had to be done. He’d made a decision. “I… I don’t want you to do it.”
“Do what?” Peter looked confused.
“He doesn’t want us to become animagi.” James said, looking at Remus with those clear, honest eyes. “Is that right?”
Remus nodded, feeling horribly guilty.
“I’m really grateful, I am. I just… I don’t think any of you really understand how dangerous it would be. I could hurt you. I could… I could kill you. I’ve got no control over it.”
“But it’s going to work!” Sirius protested, “I did all the research, James, did you show him?”
“Leave it, mate,” James said, “It’s Lupin’s decision.”
“Thanks.” Remus smiled at James. He felt terrible for letting them down – but it was for their own good, and he had to be the mature one.
Sirius looked like he wanted to say something else, but James gave him a hard look that was so like Mrs Potter that it silenced the shorter boy at once. They didn’t say much for the rest of the evening, and Remus had to pretend to read his book again.
Later that night, after lights out, Remus heard Sirius creep over to James’s bed and cast the silencing spell for the first time in a long time. He wished they would invite him, just once. He wished he wasn’t always the one left out, he wished he knew how it felt to have a friend as close as James. More than ever, he wanted someone to talk to.
Suddenly overwhelmed, Remus quickly cast his own spell, so the others wouldn’t hear him crying.