I'm torn between the light and dark
Where others see their targets, divine symmetry
Should I kiss the viper's fang?
Or herald loud the death of man
I'm sinking in the quicksand of my thoughts
And I ain't got the power anymore
Wednesday 4th December 1974
They were all given three weeks detention with McGonagall - which meant lines and extra homework - and were banned from Hogsmeade until the new year, much to Peter’s horror. Poor Miss Lewis would have to wait.
This also meant that Remus wouldn’t be able to buy any Christmas presents for his friends, but he was grateful for that excuse. He had so far amounted a small fortune (in his eyes, anyway) of ten galleons and twelve sickles. It wasn’t anywhere near James’s inheritance, of course, or even Sirius’s bequeathal from his uncle - but it was more than Remus had ever had, even in muggle money.
He’d already started making plans for the moment he turned seventeen. Learning how to apparate was key - he had to be sure to get that right. Then, he would buy enough supplies and begin his search. And he thought he knew where to start.
This term, ever since he had been back at Hogwarts, Remus had been reading The Daily Prophet cover to cover. He borrowed James’s copy, and made notes privately - usually in the library, where the other marauders wouldn’t bother him. He was looking for anything; attacks, sightings, rumours. Anything related to werewolves or ‘unidentified dark creatures’. There was very little in there - James maintained that this was because the ministry didn’t want to frighten anyone.
But there were still clues. Sometimes there were stories about Aurors breaking up ‘illegal gatherings’ or meetings - always in distant, far flung places; the outer Hebrides, or the Brecon Beacons. And they were always the night before the full moon. This was solid evidence, as far as Remus was concerned - Greyback was gathering followers, and no one else seemed to care; even the Aurors were being casual about it. Just like they had been with Lyall.
By early December, Remus was concerned enough to consult Ferox.
This year’s Care of Magical Creatures syllabus had proved to be just as fascinating as the year before, and Ferox’s dedication to teaching had not waned. He had even hinted at bringing in a real demiguise as a Christmas treat, though Remus had no idea where he was going to get one.
The teacher had taken them all down to the lake for one lesson, where Ferox had held a long, high pitched conversation with one of the merpeople who lived there. No one had the foggiest clue what they were talking about, but it had been interesting nonetheless, and Remus had made some very useful diagrams.
It was armed with these diagrams, and the accompanying essay, that Remus approached Ferox’s office one gloomy afternoon in December. Since both Sirius and James were now on the quidditch team, it was much easier for Remus to sneak away and conduct his own personal business - lately either werewolf hunting or as Hogwart’s premiere tobacco supplier. Lily had asked if he wanted to go to the library with her - he thought she must be feeling a bit lonely this term, as she was often asking if he wanted to go here or there with her. He hadn’t noticed that she was spending any less time with Mary and Marlene, but who knew with girls?
Anyway, having extricated himself from all other responsibilities, Remus knocked purposefully on the door to Ferox’s office.
“Come in,” the familiar liverpudlian sing-song voice called out. Remus smiled and stepped inside.
“Hi, professor,” he said, clutching his papers.
“Lupin! Sit down, sit down,” Ferox beamed up at him from behind his desk. He appeared to be making repairs to a very large golden cage; his desktop covered with tools and wire and other oddments which didn’t seem to belong in a teacher’s office.
“I’ve got my merfolk essay here,” he put it down on the only free bit of surface space.
“Blimey, Remus, you’re keen!” Professor Ferox smiled, tidying away his tools into a leather pouch. “That wasn’t due until the last day of term.”
Remus shrugged, secretly thrilled,
“I had it finished, so I thought I might as well hand it in now.”
“Very good. Fancy a tea?”
Ferox pushed the large cage to one side and waved his wand, casually. Ferox’s wand was shorter than Remus’s, and thicker, made of some knobbly type of wood, as if snapped directly from a tree branch. A teapot appeared from nowhere, closely followed two cups and saucers which clattered noisily onto to the table. They were quite old and chipped in places.
“Oops,” Ferox grinned, bashfully, “Never had much finesse with charms. That’s my Nan’s old set, too.”
Remus smiled politely, and used his own wand to pour the tea. He found levitation very easy, and Ferox looked impressed. “Nan used to drink it from the saucer and everything,” He murmured, nostalgically, lifting the cup to his lips, “Thought it was elegant, bless ‘er.”
Remus never knew what to say when people started talking about their relatives. It had taken him four years to learn that people who had families did not really want to hear about the experiences of people without them. It made them uncomfortable. Ferox seemed to notice Remus’s polite reticence and changed tact, “At this point my Nan would offer a biscuit and a cigarette, but I’m afraid I’ve run out of both.”
Remus raised and eyebrow and fished inside his pocket,
“Here, sir,” he said, offering a box of marlboro’s.
“Ah, so the rumours are true, eh? Our resident bootlegger.”
Remus shrugged again, carefully trying to mask his excitement as Ferox actually accepted a cigarette and lit it neatly with his wand point.
“How’d you do that?!” He asked, trying it with his own wand, to no avail. Ferox chuckled,
“C’mere,” and Remus leaned across the desk to allow Ferox to light his cigarette. “I better not teach you,” the teacher winked, “It’s a terrible habit.”
Remus grinned through the cloud of smoke, taking a long drag.
“So,” Ferox said, leaning back in his chair, “I take it this is more than just a social visit, young Lupin?”
“Erm… yes, sort of,” Remus nodded, clearing his throat, “I just had a few more questions about… well I didn’t know who to ask, and you said last year I could always come to you.”
“Of course. Is this about your father?”
“Oh no,” Remus shook his head vehemently, “Not him.”
He may have sounded a bit more forceful than he meant to - but he was sick of Lyall Lupin, and the awful, hollow, guilty feeling he got when he thought about the man. He didn’t want to know any more about the past - this was about the future.
Remus took another puff, letting it steady his nerves. “It’s about Greyback.”
“I deserve to know.” He said, darkly, losing his smile. “It’s my life.”
Ferox looked at him for a long time, before sighing.
“Just like your dad. Ok, what do you want to know? Not that there’s much I can tell you, mind. Far as anyone knows, he’s still a wanted fugitive.”
“The articles you gave me, one of them said that the ministry thought he was trying to raise an army, that’s why he likes… children.”
“That’s just a rumour.” Ferox said, brows knit together, “There’s no evidence.”
“ I’m evidence.” Remus said, unconsciously pressing a hand to his side, where the worst scar of all was hidden under his uniform.
“It still doesn’t mean… well, if he’d been trying to do that in the sixties then you’d think we’d know about it by now, eh?”
That was a spurious line of reasoning, in Remus’s opinion, he waved a hand,
“There’ve been attacks, if you read the papers properly. The Dark Lord, he’s the perfect person to encourage Greyback, from what I’ve heard. Something needs to be done to stop people joining them. To stop… people like me from joining him.”
“I don’t know what you know about the so-called ‘Dark Lord’,” Ferox replied, stiffly, “But he’s only interested in blood purity. He would consider someone like Greyback a half-breed. Beneath him.”
Remus thought of Snape, and the other Slytherins, and immediately dismissed this theory too.
“He might not respect him, but as long as Greyback gets the job done - and if he gets enough followers--”
“You’re overestimating his power - both of them. The Dark Lord is just a political upstart, feeding off some perceived oppression; no one takes him seriously. No one who matters . And Greyback - well, he’s practically a derelict, a raving lunatic. Neither of them have anything substantial to offer their followers.”
“Yeah, well the ministry doesn’t exactly have much to offer me, except for a collar and a barred cell.”
“Remus, that’s not true,” Ferox sounded distressed. Remus didn’t care.
“Yes it is! I’m nearly fifteen, I’m not a little boy. My job prospects are only slightly less shit as a muggle than they are as a wizard. Can’t help but notice I’m the only one at Hogwarts, can’t help but notice I’m not s’posed to tell anyone - oh wait, until I’m seventeen, then I have to tell EVERYONE, right? Then everyone else knows to avoid me in case I get a bit peckish. Greyback might not have much to offer us halfbreeds, but when you haven’t got a lot else going for you…”
“Remus, you’ve got--”
“No! I’ve READ the laws, and the statutes, and the bullshit fucking registry!”
He stubbed out his cigarette in the dregs of his teacup, furiously. The full moon was weeks away, but his temperature was rising, his heart pounding as he glared at Ferox, challenging him to answer. Ferox himself looked quite shaken, struck dumb. This in itself cooled Remus’s temper - he had meant to have a rational discussion, he had wanted to learn things; not yell at his favourite teacher. He pulled out another cigarette and lit it with the matchbook he carried, then pushed the box across the desk to Ferox.
“Keep it.” He said, quietly, inhaling, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to shout.”
“It’s ok to shout, Remus,” Ferox smiled, weakly, “Especially when someone isn’t listening, and you need to be heard.”
Remus looked at him, quizzically. Ferox relaxed a bit, “I think you see anger as a weakness, but it isn’t. It’s good to be angry - and you’ve got bloody good reason to be. You’re right. We all need to worry about Voldemort, and Greyback, and the rest of the pureblood crowd. If the ministry is prepared to treat good, clever, thoughtful wizards the way they treat you, then people like the Dark Lord will always have followers.”
Remus started at him, stunned.
“But.” Ferox said, “There will always be people working against them, too. And as long as we stay angry, they won’t win.”
“They won’t win.” Remus repeated. He usually felt embarrassed after an outburst like that, but now he actually felt calmer - relieved, even.
“And don’t you think for a minute that you have shit prospects.” Ferox raised an eyebrow, “If you think Dumbledore moved heaven and earth to get you an education just to see you end up no better than a squib, then you don’t know Dumbledore, my boy.”
* * *
Friday 20th December 1974
As December drew on and the nights grew longer, the castle became engulfed in fairy lights and a heavy blanket of snow. Everyone seemed in higher spirits than usual, and more excited to celebrate Christmas than ever before. Owls swooped through the halls at lightning speed, delivering packages and brightly enveloped cards; the Herbology teacher had enchanted holly and ivy to weave itself around every chandelier and bannister; Professor Flitwick could be seen most evenings teaching the portraits to sing carols, and Sirius Black ended the term dressed head to toe in tinsel.
This hadn’t actually been Sirius’s idea - James had started it, using an everlasting sticking charm to affix the decorations to the collars and cuffs of Sirius’s robes while he was asleep. If he’d thought this might embarrass Sirius, he was sorely mistaken - Black adored his new look, and wore it with pride. In fact, by the last day of term, at least fifteen other boys had copied him, as well as a group of girls who had lately taken to following Sirius around.
It seemed that every girl in the school had now found out about the Great Snogging Race - and the effect was not what Remus had hoped for. While Marlene had acted sensibly in rejecting Black’s advances, there were plenty of girls in their year - and even in the year above - who were hoping to help Sirius win the bet. He’d thought this great fun at first, but after almost a month of being followed by a pack of giggling teenagers, receiving heavily scented love notes and being interrupted at almost every turn, he had enlisted Mary as a bodyguard.
Mary was perfect for this - bolshy, ready to speak her mind, and not interested in Sirius at all.
“You’re such a wuss,” she sighed, on the last evening of term, as they all sat around the fireplace together. James was playing with a golden snitch he’d nicked from the games shed, trying to impress Lily, who had her head down and was frantically finishing her Christmas cards.
Peter was nowhere to be found, Marlene was playing a game of chess with Remus, and Sirius had just called Mary to sit closer to him, cautiously eyeing up a group of girls watching him from the corner.
“I’m not a wuss,” he replied, dryly, loosening his tie, “I just like my privacy.”
“You could always just snog one of them,” Mary shot back, stretching out on the couch and draping her legs over Sirius’s lap. He let her. “Wasn’t that the whole point of the bet?”
“Well yeah,” Sirius replied, in a measured tone, “But they weren’t supposed to know about it, I was supposed to win them over with my charm and roguish good looks.”
“You’re not scared , are you?” Mary purred.
“I’d be mad not to be scared of girls.” Sirius laughed, “You’re all mental.”
“Mary, what’s Darren’s surname?” Lily asked, looking up from her stack of cards.
“Harvey.” Mary said, “Gawd, you’re not sending him a card, are you? You’ve only met him once!”
“It’s nice to get cards at Christmas.” Lily smiled, returning to her writing.
“All right, but don’t send it by owl, he’s a muggle.”
“How have you been writing to him all year?” Remus asked, genuinely interested.
“I send the letters to mum, and she pops them through his letter box. He only lives across the hall. And there’s a phone box just outside Hogsmeade, so we’ve chatted once or twice.”
“I didn’t know there was a phone box!”
“Yeah, it’s a bit ancient - one of the Ravenclaws told me it was a portkey once during the war, but it still works.” She stretched again, “I can’t wait to see him,” she sighed. Sirius pushed her legs away, pretending to lean over and watch the chess game.
“Where are you for Christmas, Remus?” Lily asked, licking her final envelope. “Not staying here, I hope?”
“Lupin and Black are at mine again,” James said, eagerly. Lily gave him a withering look.
“Oh, of course.”
Remus was really looking forward to the Potters this year. He’d only be staying a week, as the full moon fell on the twenty ninth, but that was fine by him - he just couldn’t wait for the presents and the decorations, and Mrs Potter’s cooking.
“I’m starving.” Sirius yawned, lazily, “Where’s Pete? Can we send him to the kitchens for us?”
“No idea where he is actually.” James said, “Haven’t seen him since dinner.”
“Is he packing?” Lily suggested.
“I’ll go and check,” Remus stood up, stretching. “I’m hungry too, I think there are some cauldron cakes in my trunk…”
“You don’t say…” Sirius got up too, following him. Remus sighed. Sirius spent half his time begging for sweets off the rest of them. Not that he wasn’t generous with his own - he just very rarely seemed to have any.
Peter was not in the dorm room, but the cauldron cakes were.
“Wonder what’s happened to him.” Remus rubbed the back of his head.
“Check the map,” Sirius said, spraying crumbs everywhere, mouth full of cake. Remus raised an eyebrow but said nothing, and retrieved the map from his bedside table.
He cast the locator spell, and the map quickly highlighted a small flag with the name ‘Peter Pettigrew’. It looked as though he was in a broom cupboard near the Charms classroom.
“ Wossee doon therr ?” Sirius mumbled, stuffing another cake in his mouth. Remus tutted this time, folding up the map.
“I dunno. You don’t reckon the Slytherins got him?”
“Maybe?” Sirius swallowed, “If they put a binding spell on him he might be stuck there all night. Let’s go and get him, then.”
“Shall I get James?”
“Err…” Sirius glanced at the door, and Remus knew at once that he was dreading having to pass the gauntlet of girls waiting down there. “Nah, let's take the cloak and sneak down - it won’t take long, and only two of us fit anyway.”
Remus shrugged by way of consent. If it didn’t take too long to rescue Peter then maybe they could go to the kitchens afterwards. Sirius had finished his cauldron cakes. They huddled under the cloak together and hurried quietly downstairs, past James and the girls, out through the portrait hole.
“Bloody typical of Peter,” Sirius huffed, under his breath, “Four years as a marauder and still crap at defensive spells.”
“Maybe they attacked from behind,” Remus suggested, “Or maybe there were a lot of them.”
He didn’t know why, but he loved contradicting Sirius. James called it bickering, but Sirius had never given any sign that it bothered him. On they went, through the shadowy stone hallways, towards the Charms corridor.
“Here, is it that one?” Sirius whispered, as they reached a door.
“Yeah,” Remus replied, “He’s in there.” He could smell him.
“Ok, wand ready?… One, two, THREE!”
Sirius yanked open the door quickly, much to the surprise of Peter - who was very much not in danger - and Desdemona Lewis, who shrieked,
“Who’s there?!” She stared around, pale and wide eyed, her hair mussed up and her lips very pink and wet. Pete stared about as well, slightly more suspiciously, but just as rumpled,
“Probably just Peeves.”
Sirius began to shudder with laughter, and Remus quickly clamped a hand over his mouth, trying to pull him away from the cupboard. Poor Peter.
“I’m going back to my common room, I’ll get in so much trouble if I’m caught out of bounds again,” Desdemona was saying, straightening her blouse. She kissed Peter dainty on the nose, “See you tomorrow, Petey? On the train?”
“Yeah… ok…” Peter replied, very distracted, still staring about, looking for their invisible assailant. Remus thanked whatever god there was for his superior strength, as Sirius fought madly to get free and cause even more mischief.
Remus did not let him go until Desdemona had disappeared around the corner. Peter was wise to the situation by then anyway.
“All right, show yourselves!” He pulled out his wand just as Remus released Sirius and they both burst out from under the invisibility cloak.
“I KNEW IT!” Peter yelled,
“YOU SNEAK!” Sirius crowed, laughing so hard he was holding his stomach, “How long had that been going on?!”
“A week,” Peter replied, turning red, “How did you find me?”
“A WEEK?! Merlin, Pettigrew! What do you think you’re about, lying to us for a whole week?!”
“You would have teased me!”
“We tease you anyway.”
“Can we please go to the kitchens now?” Remus sighed.
“Wait ‘til James hears about this!” Sirius said, sounding awestruck, “I can’t believe it. I really can’t. Peter Pettigrew: Ladies Man.”
“Oh, shut up.” Peter sulked, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I’m going to the common room, I’m not hungry.”
“Well, the way you were eating Lewis’s face off…”
“Shut up!” Peter disappeared around the next corridor.
Sirius laughed all the way to the kitchens, and was still slightly hysterical on the way back, even laden with treats and goodies from the house elves.
“At least this means that stupid snogging race is over.” Remus said, pleasantly, as they approached the portrait of the fat lady. Sirius stopped dead in his tracks, causing Remus to bump into him, nearly dropping his bottle of butterbeer.
“Ugh, I didn’t think of that!”
“Well, you don’t have to think about it now,” Remus snapped, rubbing his elbow where he’d banged it, “Pete won.”
“You’re right Moony. Ugggh! That means that if I don’t get a snog by the end of this year then I’m more of a loser than Pettigrew !”
Remus sighed, heavily.