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All the Young Dudes

Chapter Text

Saturday 7th August, 1971

He woke up in the dark. It was too hot in the little room they’d put him in, being early August. Though he supposed that could be the fever. He always had a high temperature, the morning after. They used to put him in a room with a window, but a few months ago he’d been able to smash one of them, and if it hadn’t had bars anyway then he’d have escaped. He’d heard them talking about restraining him as he got older. He tried not to think about it.

He remembered the feeling of hunger, so intense it transformed into rage. He remembered howling and keening for hours, circling the cell over and over again. Perhaps they’d let him off lessons today, and he could sleep. It was the summer holiday’s anyway, and not fair that he had to do lessons when all the other boys were allowed to spend all day dossing about, playing football or watching telly. Sitting up, he stretched carefully, paying attention to every ache and pop of his joints. There was a fresh claw mark behind his left ear, and a deep bite in his right thigh.

He rubbed his hand over his scalp, where his hair was shaved very close to his head and bristled against his fingers. He hated it, but every boy at the children’s home had the same severe buzz cut. It meant that when they were allowed out in town on weekends everyone knew they were St. Edmund’s boys – which was probably the point. The shopkeepers knew who to look out for. Not that the boys themselves did anything to subvert expectations. They had been told so often that they were the dregs of society; left behind and unwanted – so why not cause a little havoc?

Remus heard footsteps at the end of the hall. It was Matron; he could smell her, hear her heartbeat. His senses were always amplified after one of his episodes. He stood up, pulling a blanket around himself despite the heat, and padded towards the door to listen harder. She was not alone, there was a man with her. He smelled old and somehow… different. A thick, iron scent which reminded Remus vaguely of his father. It was magic.

“Are you sure it’s worth your time?” Matron was asking the stranger, “He’s really one of our worst cases.”

“Oh yes,” The old man replied. His voice was rich and warm like chocolate. “We’re very sure. Is this where you keep him during…?”

“His episodes.” The matron finished in her clipped, nasal voice. “For his own safety. He’s started biting, since his last birthday.”

“I see.” The man replied, sounding thoughtful, rather than concerned. “May I ask, madam, what it is you know about the young man’s affliction?”

“Everything I need to know.” Matron replied, coldly. “He’s been here since he was five. And he’s always been trouble – not just because he’s one of your sort.”

“My sort?” The man replied, calm and unperturbed. Matron lowered her voice almost to a whisper, but Remus could still hear.

“My brother was one. Haven’t seen him in years of course, but he occasionally asks me favours. St Edmund's is a very special institution. We’re equipped for problem cases.” Remus heard the jangle of keys, “Now, you must let me see him first. He often needs patching up. I don’t know why you wanted to see him after a full moon in the first place, if you already knew.”

The old man did not reply, and Matron walked towards Remus’ room, her patent leather heels clicking on the stone floor. She knocked on the door three times.

“Lupin? Are you awake?”

“Yeah.” He replied, pulling his blanket tighter. They took his clothes off him to stop them getting torn.

“Yes, Matron.” Matron corrected him, through the door.

“Yes, Matron.” Remus muttered, as the key turned in the lock and creaked open. The door was plain wood, and he knew he could easily smash it during an episode, but it had been fitted with silver plating after the window incident. Just the smell of it made him feel queasy and headachy. The door opened. Light poured in like water and he blinked wildly. As Matron entered the room he automatically took a step back.

She was a birdlike, pointy sort of woman, with a long thin nose and dark beady eyes. She regarded him warily.

“Need any bandages, this time?”

He showed her his wounds. They weren’t bleeding any more, he’d noticed that the injuries he inflicted upon himself, though deep, healed faster than any other cuts and scrapes; he never even needed stitches. The scars never faded, however, and left silvery slash marks across his body. Matron knelt before him, dabbing him with antiseptic and wrapping him in itchy gauze. This done, she handed him his clothes and he dressed quickly in front of her.

“You’ve a visitor.” She said, finally, as he pulled his t-shirt over his head. It was grey, like all of their clothes.

“Who?” He asked, looking her in the eye because he knew she didn’t like it.

“A teacher. He’s here to talk to you about school.”

“Don’t want to.” He replied. He hated school. “Tell him to get lost.”

Matron clipped him around the ear. He’d expected it, and didn’t flinch.

“Less of the lip.” She snapped. “You’ll do as you’re told or I’ll leave you in here for the rest of the day. Come on, now.” She grabbed his arms and pulled him forward.

He scowled, thought about fighting her off, but there was no point. She really might lock in him again, and he was curious about the stranger now. Especially as the scent of magic grew stronger as they moved down the shadowy corridor.

The man waiting for them was quite tall and dressed in the strangest suit Remus has ever seen. It was velvet, a deep maroon colour with elaborate gold embroidery at the cuffs and lapels. His tie was midnight blue. He must have been very old indeed – his hair was white as snow, and he had an incredible long beard which must have reached his navel. Strange as he looked, Remus didn’t feel intimidated, as he did with most grownups. The man had kind eyes, and smiled at Remus from behind half-moon spectacles as they approached. He extended a hand,

“Mr Lupin,” The old man said, warmly, “A pleasure to meet you.”

Remus stared, entranced. No one had ever addressed him with such respect before. He felt almost embarrassed. He shook the man’s hand, feeling a an electric burn as he did so, like battery acid.

“Hi.” He replied, staring.

“I am Professor Dumbledore. I wonder if you would join me in a turn about the grounds? It’s such a lovely day out.”

Remus glanced up at Matron, who nodded. This in itself was worth having to talk about school with an oddly dressed stranger – she never let him outside during a full moon, not even with supervision.

They carried on down a few more corridors, just the two of them. Remus was sure he’d never seen Dumbledore at St Edmund’s before, but he certainly seemed to know his way around. Once they were finally outside, Remus breathed deeply, the warm summer sunlight washing over him. The ‘grounds’, as Dumbledore had called them, were not extensive. A patch of yellowing grass the boys used for football and a small patio terrace with weeds growing up through the cracks in the crazy paving.

“How are you feeling, Mr Lupin?” The old man asked. Remus shrugged. He felt the same way he always did afterwards. Sore and restless. Dumbledore didn’t snap at him for insolence, merely continued to smile down at him as they walked slowly around the perimeter fence.

“What d’you want?” Remus finally asked, kicking a stone out of his way.

“I suspect you already have some idea,” Dumbledore replied. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a brown paper bag. Remus could smell sherbet lemon, and sure enough, Dumbledore offered him a sweet. He took it and sucked.

“You’re magic.” He said, plainly. “Like my dad.”

“Do you remember your father, Remus?”

He shrugged again. He didn’t very well. All his memory could ever drag up was the shape of a tall, skinny man wearing a long cloak, looming over him, crying. He assumed that had been the night he was bitten. He remembered that, well enough.

“He was magic.” Remus said. “He could make stuff happen. Mum was normal.”

Dumbledore smiled at him, kindly.

“Is that what your Matron has told you?”

“Some of it. Some of it I knew. He’s dead, anyway, topped himself.”

Dumbledore looked slightly taken aback by this, which pleased Remus. It was a point of pride, having a tragic backstory. He didn’t think about his father often, other than to consider whether he would have killed himself if Remus hadn’t been bitten. He carried on.

“Mum’s not dead though. Just didn’t want me. So I’m here.” He looked around. Dumbledore had stopped walking. They were at the furthest edge of the grounds now, by the tall back fence. There was a loose board there which no one knew about. Remus could slip through it if he wanted to, and get onto the main road into town. He never really went anywhere in particular; just wandered around waiting for the police to pick him up and bring him back. It was better than doing nothing.

“Do you like it here?” Dumbledore was asking. Remus snorted,

“’Course I bloody don’t.” He side-eyed Dumbledore, but didn’t get in trouble for swearing.

“No, I didn’t think so.” The old man observed, “I hear you’re something of a troublemaker, is that right?”

“Ain’t any worse than the others.” Remus said. “We’re ‘troubled boys’.”

“Yes, I see.” Dumbledore stroked his beard as if Remus has said something of extreme significance.

“Got another sweet?” Remus held out a hand expectantly. Dumbledore handed him the bag and he couldn’t believe his luck. The old fool was a complete pushover. He chewed the lozenge this time, feeling it crunch like glass between his teeth, sherbet exploding on his tongue like fireworks.

“I run a school, you know. The same school your father went to.”

That threw Remus for a loop. He swallowed the sweet and scratched his head. Dumbledore continued.

“It’s a very special sort of school. For wizards, like me. And like you. Would you like to learn magic, Remus?”

Remus shook his head, fervently.

“I’m too thick.” He said, firmly, “I won’t get in.”

“I’m sure that’s not true at all.”

“Ask her,” Remus jerked his head back towards the tall grey building where Matron lay in wait. “Can’t hardly read, even. I’m stupid.”

Dumbledore looked at him for a very long time.

“You haven’t had a very easy start in life, Mr Lupin, and I’m sorry about that. I knew your father – only a little – and I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted… anyway. I am here to offer you something different. A place among your own kind. Perhaps even a way to channel all of this anger you have.”

Remus stared at him. What difference did it make, if he was in one home or another? Matron never gave him sweets, and didn’t smell like magic. The kids at Dumbledore’s school couldn’t be worse than the St Edmund’s boys, and if they were then at least he could hold his own in a fight, now. But. There was always a ‘but’.

“What about my episodes?” He asked, folding his arms. “I’m dangerous, y’know.”

“Yes, Remus, I know,” Dumbledore replied, sadly. He placed a hand on Remus’ shoulder, very gently. “We’ll see what we can come up with. Leave it with me.”

Remus shook him off and chewed on another sherbet lemon. They walked back to the building in silence, both satisfied that they understood each other now.

Chapter Text

Remus rubbed his scalp again, then his nose, which kept running. It had been bothering him since dinner the evening before, when another boy had punched him. To be fair, Remus had kicked him first. But the boy – Malcolm White – was fourteen and twice the size of eleven-year-old Remus. Malcolm had made some crack about Remus going to a special school for backwards kids, and he’d had to retaliate. He had a black eye now, which he regretted. Everyone at the new school would think he was a yob. But then, he supposed he was a yob.

Matron slapped his hand away from his head and he scowled up at her. They stood in the huge ticket hall at King’s Cross staring at two platform numbers. There was number nine, then number ten. Matron looked at the letter in her hand again.

“For goodness sake.” She muttered.

“We have to run at the barriers.” Remus said, “I told you.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Matron said, “I’m not running at anything.”

“I’ll go, then. Leave me here.”

Remus had only half believed Dumbledore when he’d explained how to access platform 9 ¾. But then packages had started arriving for him, delivered by owls and containing strange books and weird clothes and all sorts of oddments like quills and parchment. Dumbledore had been unfailingly generous over the past month. He’d presented Remus with a list of things he would need for his new school, and promised to send him as much of it as he could from the second hand supplies at Hogwarts. Now Remus was willing to believe almost anything the old man said.

He’d never owned so many possessions before, and was actually glad when Matron had locked everything in her office so it wouldn’t get pinched by the other boys. Now it had all been crammed into a battered old charity shop suitcase which he had to hold in a very particular way so it didn’t fall apart.

“I’m not leaving you anywhere, Lupin. Just wait there while I find a guard.” Matron clipped off towards the ticket office, her big backside wobbling as she went. Remus glanced about furtively, then licked his lips. It might be his only chance.

He ran at the barrier at full pelt, squeezing his eyes shut tight as he approached the metal turnstiles. But he didn’t hit anything. The atmosphere changed, and he opened his eyes to find himself standing on a completely different platform, surrounded by people. Not people. Wizards.

The train itself was huge, gorgeous and old fashioned. ‘The Hogwarts Express’. He clutched his suitcase with both hands, biting his lip. There were lots of other children, his own age and older, but they were all with their families, some of them crying as they were hugged and kissed by protective mothers. He felt very small and very alone, and thought it best to just hurry up and get on the train.

Inside he couldn’t reach the luggage rack to stow away his things, so he chose an empty carriage and sat the suitcase on the seat beside him. He watched the people on the platform through the window, pressing his forehead against the cold glass. He wondered if they all came from wizard families too. He wondered of any of them had episodes like he did. He didn’t think so – none of them seemed to have scars. A lot of them were wearing normal clothes, like he was (albeit with fewer holes and patches), but some were wearing long dark robes and tall pointed hats. Lots of the other kids had owls, or cats carried in baskets. He even saw one girl with a tiny lizard perched on her shoulder.

Remus was starting to feel even more nervous, his stomach roiling as he realised that despite everything Dumbledore had said about being among his ‘own kind’, he would be just as out of place at Hogwarts as he was everywhere else.

Just then, he realised that someone was staring back at him from the platform. It was another boy, his own age. He was tall and slim, but not skinny like Remus. He had dark hair, much longer than any other boy he’d ever seen, curling gracefully to his shoulders. He had fine high cheekbones, a full mouth and startling blue eyes. Seeing Remus staring, the other boy arched one perfect eyebrow in a gesture that clearly said: ‘and what are you looking at?’

Remus stuck his tongue under his bottom lip so that his chin bulged, pulling an ugly face. The other boy smirked, slightly, then threw up two fingers at him. Remus almost laughed.

“Sirius, what do you think you are doing?! Come here at once.” A rather severe looking witch with the same angular eyebrows as the boy stepped into view, yanking her son away from the window. The boy rolled his eyes but obeyed, and they disappeared further up the platform.

Remus sat back in the beaten leather seat and sighed. He was getting hungry, he hoped the journey wasn’t too long. Matron had packed him two dry cheese and pickle sandwiches and an apple, but he didn’t fancy them much.

After a few more minutes, the door to his compartment burst open, and a girl came rushing in. She ignored Remus, flying to the window, pressing her hands against the glass and waving frantically at her family standing on the platform. She was small and pale, with bright red hair pulled back in a tight plait. Her face was blotchy from crying.

She kept waving as the train drew away, and her parents waved back, blowing kisses. A sour faced girl stood beside them, her arms folded. Once the train had completely left the station, the red haired girl sat down opposite Remus, sighing deeply. She looked at him with huge green eyes, glistening with tears.

“It’s so horrid saying goodbye, isn’t it?” She had a high, middle class accent.

“Uh, yeah, I s’pose.” Remus nodded, self-conscious. He didn’t really like girls. St Eddy’s was single -sex, and the only contact he had with women was the Matron and the school nurse – they were both mean old bitches. The girl was looking at him curiously.

“Are you from a muggle family, too? My name’s Lily.”

“Remus,” he replied, awkwardly, “My dad was a wizard, but I didn’t know him… well I grew up with muggles.”

“I couldn’t believe it when I got my letter,” she smiled, warmly, cheering up, “But I can’t wait to see what it’s like, can you?”

Remus couldn’t think how to answer her – but he didn’t have to. The door slid open once more and a boy poked his head in. He had long black hair, like the boy Remus had pulled faces at, but it was poker straight. He had a long nose and wore a deep frown.

“There you are, Lily, I’ve been looking ages.” He said, giving Remus a dirty look, the sort Remus was quite used to.

“Sev!” Lily jumped out of her seat and threw her arms around the other boy, “I’m so glad to see you!”

He patted her shoulder, shyly, his cheeks slightly pink.

“Come and sit in my carriage, there’s plenty of room.”

“Oh…” Lily looked back, “Can Remus come? He’s all by himself.”

“I’m not sure,” The other boy, Sev, looked Remus up and down, taking him in piece by piece. The thuggish haircut, the fraying jeans, the worn out t-shirt, the second hand suitcase. “There might not be that much room.”

Remus slouched down in his seat, propping his feet up on the bench opposite.

“Get lost then. I don’t want to go to your stupid carriage.” He looked out of the window, purposefully.

Lily and the other boy left. Remus let his feet drop back to the floor. He sighed. It was noisy, outside his little compartment. He could hear shrieking and laughter and owls hooting and a few younger students still crying. Once again, he found himself locked away from everyone else. He was starting to wonder if that was just his lot in life. Perhaps once he got to this Hogwarts place they’d force him to sleep in a cell all by himself too.

There was a sudden rap at the door – a short, cheerful tune – and it opened once more. Remus slouched even further down in his seat, as a friendly faced boy with a mess of dark hair and large round glasses entered, grinning.

“Hiya,” He held out a hand to Remus, “First year? Me too, I’m James.” He nodded his head back to a short boy who had followed him in. “This is Peter.”

Remus shook James’ hand. It felt easy and comfortable. For the first time, the tight coil in his stomach began to unwind.

“Remus.”

“Can we sit here? Everywhere else is full and Peter’s getting train sick.”

“Am not.” Peter murmured, taking a seat opposite Remus, eyeing him warily. He did look a bit green. He rubbed his hands together in his lap and stared at the floor.

“Know what house you’ll be in?” James asked Remus, directly. Remus shook his head. He didn’t know anything about houses. Was that where they’d be sleeping? “What were your parents in?” James persisted. “Did they go to Hogwarts?”

Remus nodded, slowly,

“My dad did. I dunno what house though. My mum didn’t. She was nor—a muggle.”

Peter looked up suddenly,

“You’re a half blood?”

Remus shrugged helplessly.

“Shut up, Pettigrew,” James chastised the boy next to him, “As if it even matters.”

Remus was just about to ask what a half blood was, when the door opened yet again. It was the good looking boy who’d sworn at him in the station. He glanced about, furtively,

“None of you are related to me, are you?” He drawled. He had the same high, upper class accent that Peter and James had. Remus disliked them all at once, knowing that they’d think he was common – and a half blood, whatever that was.

“Don’t think so.” James replied, grinning, “James Potter.” He held out a hand again. The other boy shook it, easily,

“Oh good, a Potter. Dad told me not to talk to you.” He sat down next to Remus, grinning, “Sirius Black.”

Chapter Text

Remus was fairly sure he was dreaming. Or he’d drowned getting over that awful lake and this was just his brain making things up before he died. He was standing in an enormous stone hall, the size of a cathedral. It was full of students, all dressed in identical black robes – apart from their ties – and lit by candles. Not just any candles – these candles were actually floating. He might have been able to live with that; it could be a clever trick of the light, something to do with wires. But when he looked up he almost yelled. There was no ceiling – just the vast night sky hanging above them, pendulous grey clouds and glittering stars.

No one else seemed interested, save for the red haired girl – Lily – and a few other kids Remus assumed must have muggle parents too. Remus had on his uniform now, and felt a little better to be dressed the same as everyone else. All of the other students sat on long banquet tables, under their house banners. James had excitedly explained the differences between each house, much to the chagrin of Sirius and Peter, both of whom were convinced they’d end up in the wrong place. Remus didn’t know whether to be nervous or not. He couldn’t see how much it would matter to him; he’d probably get kicked out after his first lesson anyway. The more time Remus spent among wizards the more he convinced himself that he couldn’t actually be one.

Professor McGonagall, a thin, stern faced witch who had led all of the first years into the hall was now standing beside a stool, holding a mangy old brown hat. This was the test James had told them about. They had to put on the hat, then somehow they would each be sorted into one of the houses. Remus looked up at each of the banners. He already knew he wouldn’t end up in Ravenclaw; not if you had to be clever. He didn’t think much of the one with the badger – they weren’t exactly exciting animals, especially compared to snakes. He liked the colour green, too, if it came down to picking a tie. But then, James and Peter had both been keen on Gryffindor, and seeing as they were the only people who’d been very friendly so far, he wouldn’t mind going with them.

A boy called Simon Arnold was the first to be called forward. The hat was placed on his head, covering the top half of his face. Remus wondered if it smelled as bad as it looked. Matron was always maniacal about head lice, and he hoped none of the kids who went before him had them. Simon was promptly sorted into Hufflepuff, the badger house, to tumultuous applause.

Sirius Black was the first of their group to go, and he looked positively queasy as he approached the stool. There was some catcalling from the Slytherin table – some of the older students were calling out to him. Two young women with masses of dark curls and the same high cheekbones and full lips at Sirius, who was now trembling on the stool. The hall was quiet for a few moments as the hat came to rest on Black’s head. Then the hat screeched,

“Gryffindor!”

A few moments of stunned silence before the clapping came this time. McGonagall gently lifted the hat from Sirius’ head and gave him a small, rare smile. He looked completely horrified, casting a desperate look at the Slytherin table, where the two girls heckling him were hissing, eyes narrowed. He got up and walked slowly over to the Gryffindors, where he was the first new student to take his place under the red and gold banners.

The sorting continued. Lily was also placed in Gryffindor, and sat grinning next to a very miserable looking Sirius. When it was finally his turn, Remus still couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. He didn’t much like having everyone’s eyes on him as he pushed to the front, but his did his best to ignore it. He would have shoved his hands in his jeans and slouched, normally, but in his weird new uniform it wouldn’t have had the same effect.

He sat on the school, McGonagall looking down her nose at him. She reminded him a bit of Matron, and disgust rose in his throat. She lowered the hat over his eyes. Everything went dark. It didn’t smell at all, and the peace and quiet was actually a bit of a relief.

“Hmmm,” A soft voice spoke in his ear. It was the hat. Remus tried not to cringe as it purred quietly, “You’re an odd one, aren’t you? What shall we do with you… perhaps Ravenclaw? There’s a good brain in here.”

Remus flinched, feeling as if someone was playing a joke on him. Not bloody likely.

“But then,” the hat considered, “You might go further… much further, if we put you in… GRYFFINDOR!”

Remus ripped the hat from his head as soon as it had sorted him, not waiting for McGonagall to remove it. He hurried over to the Gryffindor table, barely registering the cheering and clapping as he passed. He sat opposite Lily and Sirius. Lily shot him a pleased smile, but he just looked at his empty plate.

By the time the ‘P’s’ came around, Remus had somewhat recovered and was able to watch with some interest as Peter, a small, pudgy looking boy hurried towards the sorting hat. Peter was the sort of boy who wouldn’t last five minutes at St Eddy’s. He had a perpetually nervous, twitchy look that other boys always singled out. Remus was surprised that James – who was the polar opposite of Peter; relaxed and self-assured, brimming with confidence – was being so kind to someone so obviously inferior.

The hat took a very long time over Peter. Even the teachers seemed to be getting nervous, as the minutes ticked by. Finally, he was sorted into Gryffindor, and much more quickly so was James, who strode over to the table with a huge grin on his face.

“How great is that!” He addressed the three other boys, “We all made it!”

Sirius groaned, his head in his arms on the table.

“Speak for yourself,” He replied, slightly muffled, “My Father’s going to kill me.”

“I can’t believe it.” Peter kept saying, eyes wide. Though he’d clearly got what he wanted, he kept wringing his hands and shooting looks over his shoulder as if someone might come over at any moment and ask him to try again.

McGonagall did come over, but she placed a bony hand on Remus’ shoulder.

“Mr Lupin,” she said, quietly, but not so quietly that the other boys couldn’t hear, “If you would come to my office after dinner? It’s next to the Gryffindor common room, one of the prefects can show you.”

Remus nodded, mute, and she left.

“What was that about?” James asked, “McGonagall wants to see you already?”

Even Sirius looked up now, curious. Remus shrugged, as if he didn’t care either way. He knew what they were thinking – the rough kid was already in trouble. Sirius was looking at his black eye again. Fortunately, the food had appeared, distracting everyone. And it really had ‘appeared’ – the previously empty places were suddenly laden with an actual feast. Golden roasted chickens, piles of crispy roast potatoes, plates of steaming carrots, peas swimming in butter, and an enormous jug of rich dark gravy. If the food was going to be like this all the time, then Remus wondered if he could ignore talking hats and snobbish house mates.

He paid very close attention as one of the Gryffindor prefects, who introduced himself as Frank Longbottom, led the first years to their common room in one of the towers. Remus hated getting lost, and tried hard to cement the journey into his mind as they went. He made a mental note of the size and shape of every door they entered, each portrait they passed, and which staircases moved. He was so tired and full of good food that the moving portraits and staircases no longer seemed out of place.

Once they reached the right corridor, Remus saw McGonagall’s office, marked with a neat brass plaque, and decided to get the meeting over with. He paused outside the door and was just about to knock when James appeared,

“Want us to wait for you, mate?”

“Why?” Remus asked, eyeing the dark haired boy suspiciously. James shrugged,

“So you don’t end up on your own.”

Remus stared at him for a moment, before slowly shaking his head,

“No. I’m fine.” He knocked.

“Enter.” A voice came from within. Remus pushed open the door. The office was small, with a neat little fireplace and rows of books against one wall. McGonagall sat behind an immaculately tidy desk. She smiled thinly and motioned for Remus to sit down in the chair opposite. He did, sniffing and rubbing his nose.

“I’m pleased to meet you, Mr Lupin.” The teacher said in a reedy Scottish accent. Her hair was grey, pulled back in a severe bun, and she wore deep green robes secured with a golden clasp shaped like a lion’s head. “I’m even more pleased to have you in Gryffindor house – of which I am the head.”

Remus didn’t say anything.

“Your father was in Ravenclaw, you know.”

Remus shrugged. McGonagall pursed her lips.

“I thought it best to speak with you as soon as possible about your… condition.” She said, quietly, “Dumbledore has explained that you have had minimal interaction with the wizarding world so far, and I feel it is my duty to let you know that people with your particular problem face a huge amount of stigma. Do you know what ‘stigma’ means?”

Remus nodded. He couldn’t spell it, but he knew the word well enough.

“I want you to know that as long as you are in my house, I will not tolerate anyone treating you differently or unkindly. This applies to all of the students under my care. However,” She cleared her throat, “It may be prudent for you to exercise caution.”

“I wasn’t going to tell anyone.” Remus replied, “As if I want anyone knowing.”

“Well, quite.” McGonagall nodded, looking at him curiously. “That brings me to my next point. Arrangements have been made for the full moon – which next occurs this Sunday, I believe. If you could report to me after dinner, I shall show you where to go. Perhaps you could tell your friends that you’re visiting someone at home?”

Remus snorted. He rubbed the back of his head,

“Can I go now?”

The professor nodded, frowning slightly.

Outside, Remus found James still standing there, alone, waiting for him.

“Told you I’d be ok.” Remus said, annoyed. James just smiled,

“Yeah, but you missed Longbottom giving us the password. Didn’t want you stuck out here all night. C’mon.”

James led him to the end of the corridor, where hung a large painting of a voluptuous woman wearing pink.

“Widdershins.” James said, and the portrait moved away, swinging out like a door. They entered the common room.

There had been a rec room at St Edmund’s Boys Reformatory, but it was nothing like this. That room had been sparsely decorated, containing a black and white, too small TV and a few board games. The decks of cards were always incomplete, and most of the chairs were broken or damaged.

The Gryffindor common room was warm, comfortable and cosy. There were huge squashy looking sofas and armchairs, a thick maroon rug in front of the blazing fire, and even more paintings adorning the walls.

“We’re up here,” James said, leading Remus to a winding staircase in one corner. At the top, there was another door which opened into a bedroom. Again, this was nothing like the facilities at St Edmunds. There were four beds, all enormous, hung with thick red velvet curtains with gold trim tassels. There was another fireplace, and each boy had a heavy mahogany trunk and set of shelves by their beds. Remus saw his sad little suitcase propped up against one of the trunks. He moved over, assuming that was his bed.

Peter was rifling through his own things, pulling out clothes and magazines and books, making a terrible mess.

“I can’t find my wand,” he wailed. “Mum made me pack it so I wouldn’t lose it on the train, but it’s not here!”

“Pete,” James grinned, “Your mum asked me to look after it, remember?”

James and Peter, Remus had learnt since the train, had grown up as neighbours and knew each other quite well. Though two boys couldn’t be any more different, and Remus still didn’t understand why James didn’t want to beat the shit out of Peter.

Sirius was sitting on his bed, his trunk still packed.

“Cheer up, mate,” James said, going to sit next to him, “You didn’t want to be in Slytherin anyway, did you?”

“Five hundred years.” Sirius replied, stonily, “Every Black at Hogwarts has been sorted into Slytherin for five hundred years.”

“Well, it’s about time someone tried to be different, eh?” James slapped him on the back jovially.

Remus opened his trunk. Inside there was a large pewter cauldron – another item Dumbledore had scrounged up from the second hand bin, he imagined. There was also a long thin box at the bottom, with a note on top.

He unfolded the note and stared at the elaborate swirly script for a long time, trying to make sense of it. He only recognised the word ‘father’, and guessed that it was also from Dumbledore, but had belonged to his father. Opening it eagerly, he found a long, polished stick. It was a wand. He hadn’t thought about wands yet, but he took it in his hand and squeezed the wood firmly. It was warm to the touch, like his own flesh, and felt supple as he turned it in his hands. It felt good.

Sirius had finally started to unpack, pulling book after book out of his trunk. Those that didn’t fit on his shelf he stacked beside his bed. James stared, having just finished pinning a poster next to his own bed. It showed a lot of little people zooming about on broomsticks, throwing balls to each other. Remus thought it looked only mildly more interesting than football, which he hated.

“You know,” James said to Sirius, still stacking books, “There is a library here.”

Sirius smirked,

“I know, but these are mostly muggle books. My Uncle Alphard left them to me, and mum would set them all on fire if I left them at home.”

Remus’ ears pricked at that. What was wrong with muggle books? Not that he had any with him. He hated reading more than anything in the world. He didn’t think about it for long, though, because now Sirius was lifting an actual record player out of his trunk, followed by a box of brand new looking records in shining bright sleeves. He went over to look straight away,

“Is that Abbey Road?!” He asked, peering into the box of vinyl.

“Yeah,” Sirius grinned, handing it to him. Remus wiped his hands carefully on his robes before taking it from him, handling it carefully. “You must be muggle born.” Sirius said, “Never met a wizard who knows the Beatles – except my cousin, Andromeda. She bought them for me.”

Remus nodded, forgetting himself for a moment,

“I love The Beatles, one of the boys in my room at home’s got at least ten singles, but he never lets me touch them.”

“Boys at home?” Sirius arched an eyebrow. Remus thought he seemed very grown up, “You mean your brother?”

“No,” Remus shook his head, handing back the record and shrinking away, “I live in a children’s home.”

“Like an orphanage?” Peter asked, wide-eyed. Remus felt anger rising, his ears growing hot.

“No.” He spat. He felt all of the boys’ eyes slide towards his bruise again and turned around to unpack the rest of his things in silence.

Eventually Potter and Black started up a conversation about something called quidditch, which soon became a very heated argument. Remus climbed onto his bed and drew back the curtains, relishing the privacy. It was dark, but Remus was used to the dark.

“You’d think he’d try harder to make friends,” Peter whispered loudly to the other two boys. “Especially if he’s muggle born.”

“Are you sure the hat wasn’t supposed to put you in Slytherin?” Sirius drawled. Peter was quiet after that.  

Chapter Text

 

Sunday, 5th September 1971

Remus got through the rest of the week by ignoring the other boys as much as he could. This was a technique he’d picked up at St Edmund’s – it was better not to be noticed, and best if no one knew anything about you at all. (He still got the odd dead-arm or his head shoved in the bogs, but on the whole no one ever made an effort to bother him.) James, Sirius and Peter were not at all like St Eddy’s boys, of course. They were what Matron would call ‘well-bred’.

Sirius and James especially seemed to come from money, he could tell from the way they talked about their homes, as well as the way they spoke – every vowel and consonant clearly pronounced. Remus listened carefully and resolved to stop dropping his ‘H’s’.

It wasn’t just their accents, but what they said. Remus had grown up with adults constantly telling him to ‘be quiet!’, and with boys who picked on you for being a swot if you said any more words than necessary. James and Sirius spoke like characters in a novel; their language full of descriptive metaphor and scathing sarcasm. Their rapid fire wit was much more intimidating than a punch in the face, Remus thought – at least that was over quickly.

He’d so far avoided the other boys by going for walks around the castle. At St Edmund’s he’d had very little personal liberty, and spent much of his time locked in rooms. At Hogwarts it seemed there was nowhere you couldn’t go, and Remus was determined to investigate every inch of the bizarre landscape.

They’d been provided with maps to help them find their classrooms, but Remus found his sorely lacking and overly simplified. It did not list, for example, a secret passageway he had found which led from the dungeons to the first floor girl’s loos. He had no idea why on earth anyone would need to get between the two, and the first time he used it he was accosted by a particularly irritating ghost who squirted him with hand soap. It would also have been helpful, Remus reasoned, to animate the map in the same way the paintings were – then at least you could keep track of the ridiculous moving staircases. He was sure one of the rooms moved as well, it never seemed to be in quite the same place.

By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around Remus was dreading Monday, which would not only be the first day after the full moon, but the first day of lessons. After dinner – which Remus spent alone, a few seats away from Sirius, James and Peter – he made his way quickly to McGonagall’s office. She was waiting for him, along with the school nurse, who he’d been introduced to already. She was a kind, pleasant sort of woman; if a little fussy.

“Good evening, Mr Lupin,” McGonagall smiled, “Thank you for being so prompt. Come along.”

To Remus’ surprise, the two women led him not to the dungeons, as he’d thought they might, but outside the castle, towards a very large twisted tree. The whomping willow was a recent addition to the grounds – Dumbledore had explained in his speech at the beginning of the year that it had been donated by an ex-pupil. Remus thought that whoever had donated it must have really hated the school, because the tree was not only terrifying in aspect, but mindlessly violent.

As they approached, Professor McGonagall did something so incredible that Remus almost cried out in shock. She seemed to vanish – shrinking down suddenly, until she was no longer there at all. In her place was a sleek yellow eyed tabby cat. Madam Pomfrey gave no sign that she was surprised, as the cat ran forward towards the tree, which was flailing its branches like a child having a tantrum. The cat was able to run right up to the trunk of the tree, escaping injury, and pressed a paw against one of the knots in the bark. The tree fell instantly still. Remus and Madam Pomfrey continued on, walking into a hollow beneath the tree which Remus had never noticed before. Inside, McGonagall was waiting for them, a witch again.

The passageway was dimly lit by torches giving off a greenish glow, and at the very end was a door. This opened into a small cottage, which looked long abandoned. The windows were boarded up and the doors bolted.

“Here we are.” McGonagall tried to sound pleasant, though it seemed a very grim place. “Now I hope you understand that we cannot stay with you, but if you would like Madam Pomfrey to wait outside until the… transformation is complete?”

Remus shrugged.

“I’ll be ok. How do I get back in the morning?”

“I’ll pop by as soon as the sun rises,” Madam Pomfrey assured him. “Patch you up and have you off to your lessons before anyone even notices you’re gone.” She smiled, but her eyes looked sad. It made Remus uncomfortable. But then, it was getting to that point in the evening when everything made him uncomfortable, his hair itched, his skin felt too tight, his temperature rose.

“You’d better go.” He said, quickly, retreating into the bare room. There was a little cot against one wall with clean sheets. It looked as though it had been put there for him.

The two women left, locking the door heavily behind him. He heard McGonagall muttering again and wondered what sort of spells she was placing on the house. Whatever they were, it was better than that awful silver plating.

He sat on the bed for a moment, then got up again, restless. He paced the room. Sometimes it felt as though the wolf crept into his mind before it got hold of his body, and as darkness fell outside his senses became sharper, the hot swell of hunger beginning in his belly. Remus removed his clothes quickly, not wanting to rip them. A dull throb started up in his joints and he lay down on the bed. This was the worst part. His heartbeat was thudding in his ears, and he could swear he heard his tendons creaking as they stretched, his bones and teeth grinding against each other as they elongated, his skull splitting and reshaping.

He groaned and hissed until the pain grew too much, then he screamed. He could only hope that he was far enough from the school that no one could hear him. All in all, it took about twenty minutes – though he’d never actually timed it. Things became foggy afterwards, he couldn’t always remember what happened once he became the wolf. That first night at Hogwarts was a blur, and he woke up with less injuries than usual. He suspected that he had sniffed around the unfamiliar territory, testing its boundaries. He must have tried to throw himself at the doors or windows at some point, because he had a patchwork of bruises down his left side for days afterwards.

Transforming back was just as unpleasant – a crushing, tightening feeling all over which left him breathless and aching. He wiped the tears from his eyes and crawled into the cot, grateful for a quiet hour of sleep before the sun rose completely.

Madam Pomfrey returned, as promised. Speaking in soothing tones, she lay her cool hands on his fevered brow.

“I don’t like the look of you,” she said, as he opened his sleepy eyes, “It’s madness, thinking you can start a full school day like this. You’re exhausted!”

No one had ever expressed such concern for him before, and it struck him uneasily. He pushed her away, pulling on his clothes,

“I’m fine. I want to go.”

She made him drink something before letting him get up – it tasted cold and metallic, but he did feel better afterwards. He hurried up to Gryffindor tower to get his uniform on as fast as possible – he didn’t want to miss breakfast, he was famished.

“Where were you?!” James accosted him as soon as he burst into their room. The three other boys were all up and dressed, looking immaculate – apart from James’ hair, which always stuck up at the back.

“Nowhere.” Remus pushed past to get to his things.

“Are you ok?” Sirius asked, glancing away from the mirror where he was smoothing down his own hair.

“Yeah,” James added, watching Remus carefully, “You look a bit weird.”

Remus scowled at them,

“Piss off.”

“We’re just being nice.” Peter said, hands on his hips. The three of them stared at Remus, who was about to remove his t-shirt when he remembered his bruises.

“What?!” He growled at them, “You all gonna watch me get dressed? You posh boys are all a bunch of poofs.” He marched into the bathroom with his clothes and slammed the door. After a few moments he heard Peter whining that he was hungry and they all left.

Chapter Text

Friday 10th September 1971

By the end of his first week of lessons, Remus had lost ten house points, learnt one spell, and gained another bruise; this time on his chin.

The first few lessons were ok – they were introductory, and while Lily Evans spent each class furiously scribbling down pages and pages of notes, nobody else seemed too bothered. They were set a few simple pieces of homework, but Remus made a plan to pretend he’d forgotten to make a note of it if anyone asked.

Charms was the most exciting – the tiny professor enchanted a pile of pinecones to whiz around the room, to everyone’s delight. After a few goes at the spell themselves, Lily had levitated her pinecone at least three feet in the air, and Sirius got his to spin like a top – until it got out of control and smashed a window. James, Peter and Remus had less luck, but Remus was sure his had jumped once or twice.

Transfiguration was just as interesting, but much more serious, as it was led by Professor McGonagall. There would be no practical work at all during the first week, she explained, but she would be setting lots of homework in order to gauge their ability levels.

History of magic was absolutely dire, and the less said about it the better. Remus struggled not to fall asleep as the ghostly Professor Binns floated up and down the aisles, reeling off dates and names of battles. He too set homework – two chapters of reading from the set text. Sirius rolled his eyes at this and muttered to James,

Surely everyone’s already finished ‘A History of Magic’? It’s kids stuff.” James nodded, yawning. Remus felt sick. He hadn’t opened even one of the books in his trunk yet, except to rip the first page from ‘Level One Potions’ to spit his chewing gum into.

He’d actually been looking forward to Potions, hoping to at least see something blow up, like in chemistry. But that turned out to involve a huge amount of reading too, and even worse, they had to share the class with the Slytherin first years. The Professor leading Potions was annoyingly cheerful and took almost half an hour just to read the register.

“Black, Sirius – aha, there you are! Quite surprised at the sorting my boy, quite surprised! I’ve had every one of the Blacks in my house since I started teaching! Shan’t take it personally, young Sirius, but I shall be expecting great things!”

Sirius looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him up. Slughorn continued calling out names,

“A Potter and a Pettigrew, eh? Well, well, along with Mr Black here this class has quite the pedigree, eh? Let me see… Lupin! I knew your father; not one of mine, but a damn good dualist. Nasty business…”

Remus blinked. He wondered if Slughorn knew he was a werewolf. The whole class was looking at him – they knew by now that he had been raised in a children’s home, and that his father was magical (Remus suspected that Peter had told them), but no one had dared ask him much more. There seemed to be another rumour going around that he was violent and possibly in a gang. He was sure that James and Sirius were encouraging it, too, though he found he didn’t mind too much.

Fortunately, Slughorn wanted to get them started on practical work as soon as possible,

“Best thing is to just get stuck in!” He smiled, “Now, if we all work four to a cauldron, you can all take it in turns to follow the steps…”

Everyone clamoured to pair up – James, Sirius and Peter immediately claimed the cauldron at the very back of the room, and were joined by Nathaniel Quince, a Slytherin boy who knew Potter and Pettigrew from home. Remus decided he would just wait until everyone had grouped off then see if he could get away with just hovering at the back for the rest of the lesson.

No such luck.

“Remus! You can join us!” Lily’s grabbed his wrist and pulled him over to a cauldron she was sharing with Severus Snape – her long-nosed friend Remus had met on the train – and Garrick Mulciber, a brutish, snub nosed boy who Remus was a bit afraid of.

Lily was already chattering away, laying out all of the ingredients and heating up the cauldron carefully. She was looking at Severus’ book, which already had notes scribbled all over the margins.

“Here’re the desiccated snail-eye stems.” Lily shook a tiny jar. “I think we need quarter of an ounce…”

“You can be fairly liberal with them, Lily, they don’t add much overall.” Severus drawled, sounding bored.

Lily measured them out anyway and tipped them into the bubbling brew. Mulcibur then took the book and stirred for five minutes, taking instruction from Severus on how fast to go and in which direction. Then it was Remus’ turn. Lily gave him the book. He stared at the page. He could see that they were instructions, he could make out maybe half of the words. But every time he thought he had a grasp on it, the letters seemed to shift on the page and he was lost all over again. His cheeks grew hot and he felt slightly sick. He shrugged, looking away,

“Oh hurry up,” Severus snapped, “It’s not as if it’s difficult.”

“Leave him alone, Sev,” Lily chided. “The book’s covered in your notes, no wonder he can’t find his place. Here, Remus,” she flicked open her own, brand new potions book. But it was no good. Remus shrugged,

“Why don’t you do it, if you’re so clever.” He spat at Severus.

“Oh Merlin,” Severus’ lips curled, “You can read, can’t you? I mean, even muggle schools teach that, surely?”

“Severus!” Lily gasped, but the smug dark haired boy didn’t have a chance to say anything else – Remus threw himself over the desk and into Severus, fists flying. He only had the element of surprise going for him – Mulciber grabbed his collar and yanked him back, punching him square in the face in three seconds flat.

“Stop!” Slughorn boomed. Everyone froze. The portly potions master stormed over, “Get up, both of you!” He shouted at the two boys on the floor. Snape and Remus climbed to their feet, chests heaving. Snape looked worse off by far, his hair ruffled and blood oozing from his nose.  Remus had a rather sore chin where Mulciber had hit him, but other than a rumpled uniform he was fine.

“Explain yourselves!” Slughorn shouted. They both looked at their feet. Mulciber was grinning. Lily was crying. “Very well,” the teacher said, crossly, “Detention for both of you, two weeks. Ten points from Gryffindor and ten from Slytherin.”

“That’s not fair!” James said, suddenly from the back, “Should be twice as many from Slytherin, it was two against one!”

“From where I was standing it was Mr Lupin who started it,” Slughorn replied, but shook his head anyway, “Still, you are quite right – Mulciber, five points for punching Remus. Violence does not solve violence, you know, as I’ve told your eldest brother on a number of occasions. Miss Evans, please take Mr Snape to the hospital wing. Lupin, you can clean up the mess you’ve made.”

Remus didn’t know any cleaning spells, so he had to mop up by hand. Slughorn even made him clean Snape’s blood off the flagstones. Unfortunately, it being so soon after a full moon, the rich, iron smell of it made his stomach growl. James, Sirius and Peter were waiting for Remus outside after the lesson was finished.

“Bloody brilliant, mate,” James punched Remus lightly on the arm, “The way you just went for him!”

“Mulciber was out here bragging afterwards, told everyone what Snape said.” Sirius added, “You were right to do it – what a prat.”

“Told… everyone?” Remus moaned.

“Don’t worry, they’re all on your side.” James said, “Well, except the Slytherins.”

“Yeah, and who gives a toss about the Slytherins?” Sirius grinned, “C’mon, it’s dinner soon – hungry?”

“Starving,” Remus grinned back.

Chapter Text

“So.” James said on Sunday evening, “How are we going to get them back?”

“Get who back?” Peter asked without looking up, searching through his notes for something.

They were in the Gryffindor common room, trying to do their homework for McGonagall. Fourteen inches on the basic laws of transfiguration. Sirius and James had finished theirs, Peter was at least six inches in, and Remus hadn’t started.

“The Slytherins.” James hissed, “Keep up, Pete.”

“Not all of the Slytherins,” Peter asked, sounding worried, “Only Snape and Mulciber, right?”

“All of them.” Sirius confirmed. He had just appeared from under the desk they were sharing, and presented a piece of parchment, “This what you were looking for?”

“Thanks!” Peter grabbed it, relieved, “I’ve nearly finished…”

“Have you done it, Lupin?” Sirius looked over. Remus had opened his book, but hadn’t so much as looked at it. He’d considered cloistering himself away in the library one evening and trying to read it properly – he could read if he really, really focussed. But the opportunity hadn’t presented, and if he was honest; he just didn’t want to. Ever since the Potions lesson the four of them had become real friends, and Remus didn’t want to miss out.

“Nah,” He shrugged in response to Sirius. “Can’t be bothered.”

“Let us know if you need help.”

“You can copy mine if you want.” James pushed his across the desk. Remus pushed it back, gritting his teeth.

“I’m fine. I’m not stupid.”

“No one said you were.” James replied, casually. Sirius was looking at him, though. Remus wanted to hit him, but he was trying not to lash out so much – James and Sirius sometimes play wrestled, but they never actually tried to hurt each other, like he had with Snape. Forcing himself to swallow his temper, Remus opted instead to change the subject.

“We could put itching powder in their beds.” He offered. Someone had done that to him once. He had a rash for a full week, and on the night of the full moon had torn at his skin more than usual. “Or on their clothes… if we could figure out who does the laundry, anyway.”

This had been a matter of great concern to Remus – their dirty laundry appeared to just vanish and then resurface, cleaned and folded in their trunks. He’d never caught anyone else in their room, and couldn’t understand it at all.

“I like it.” James replied, chewing his quill, “Anyone got any itching powder, though?”

The three boys shook their heads.

“Could order some from Zonko’s.” Sirius put in. “If you let me borrow your owl, James, Mum confiscated mine after the sorting.”

“I s’pose,” James replied. “Wish we could do it sooner, though. You know, strike while the iron is hot.”

“Don’t need to buy itching powder,” Remus said, suddenly, having a brainwave, “Do you reckon they have rose hips in the greenhouse?”

“Yep,” Peter spoke, head still bowed over his homework, “For healing potions – arthritis, I think.”

“The hairs inside make you itch, really badly.” Remus explained, excited, “Matron – the woman who runs the children’s home – she grows them, and if you get in trouble she makes you seed them without gloves on.” His fingertips itched just thinking about it.

“That’s awful.” James said.

“Good idea, though!” Sirius grinned. “Next break, we’ll go and get a load of them. Then we can seed them – with gloves on – and put them in the Slytherin’s bedsheets. Excellent!”

“How are we going to get into the Slytherin dorms?” Peter asked, finally finishing his work.

“Leave that to me,” James smirked, mercurially.

* * *

Getting the rose hips was easy. They sent Peter, who was the only one of them who hadn’t been given a detention yet, and was therefore under the least observation. Peter was small and good at going unseen; he crept into the green house unnoticed during morning break and returned red faced and gleeful, with a jar full of rose hips under his cloak.

Then they’d all locked themselves away in their shared bathroom to seed all of the buds. Under Remus’ close instruction, they all wore their heavy dragon hide gloves to do this, taking extra care not to touch the seeds or fine little hairs.

“I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces.” Sirius was grinning, sitting cross legged on the floor next to James.

Remus watched, sitting on the edge of the bath tub, James and Sirius’ two dark heads bowed over the work. He was a little bit jealous of their friendship. They had so much in common – being raised into magic, both growing up wealthy, both completely mad about quidditch. In addition, it was clear that after only three weeks James and Sirius had managed to secure a reputation as joint kings of the first years. Everyone listened to them when they spoke. Everyone laughed when they were funny. No one even got annoyed if they lost house points.

“I still don’t know how we’re going to get into the Slytherin dorms – even Peter isn’t that sneaky.” Sirius glanced at James. He’d been trying to get him to reveal his plan ever since the bespectacled boy had mentioned it.

“Let me worry about that,” was all James said.

The seeds and hairs were then decanted into another jar, while the boys ended up eating the leftover rosehips over the course of the week.

It was Tuesday evening when they finally had their chance. James decided that they would have to do it before everyone went to bed. He also decided that they ought to go to the Slytherin dorms separately, to avoid being seen together and discovered. Remus personally thought this was overkill, but went along with it, not wanting to ruin the other boy’s fun.

They ate dinner much more quickly than usual that evening, before getting up from the table one at a time and leaving the hall. Peter looked so nervous Remus thought he might panic at the last minute and give them all away. He made sure to stay close to the smaller boy, just in case he had to cover his mouth or pull him back at some point.

Sirius and James went first, of course, heading towards the girl’s loo’s on the second floor which Remus had told them led to the dungeons. He’d thought about keeping that particular passageway to himself, but as he’d already found a few other good hiding places by then he reasoned that letting them know about this one wouldn’t hurt. After all, how often would he want to get to the dungeons?

The ghost who lived in the toilets was fortunately in a quiet mood, though Remus could hear her sobbing softly in the last stall.

“Lead the way then, Lupin,” James gestured grandly, once Remus and Peter arrived. Sirius grabbed his arm,

“Wait, show us what you’re planning, first.”

James smirked that annoying grin he’d been sporting since Sunday.

“Oh… ok then, here, hold this,” he thrust the jar of rosehip seeds into Sirius’ hands, pulling back his robes.

He produced a very long, voluminous cloak, woven from the strangest looking fabric Remus had ever seen – silvery grey and shimmery.

“No.” Sirius gaped, “You haven’t, Potter, you bloody haven’t…”

James was grinning so broadly now that Remus thought his face might split in two. The gangly boy winked at them all, then, with a flourish, swept the cloak over his head, so that it covered him top to toe. He vanished.

“You jammy bastard!” Sirius whooped, “How come you never told me?!”

“You never told me, either!” Peter squeaked, “And I’ve known you forever. Where did you get it?”

James pulled the hood of the cloak down, so that his head appeared to float in mid-air. It made Remus feel a bit queasy.

“Been in the family for years.” He said, triumphantly, “Dad let me bring it, as long as I don’t tell mum.”

“Lucky git.” Sirius said, grabbing for some of the invisible material and rubbing it between his fingers, “My parents would do anything for an invisibility cloak.”

“I reckon we can all fit under it,” James demonstrated, pulling it apart and raising his arms like a bat, “C’mon, let’s all get nice and cosy…”

They all shuffled underneath the cloak, then tried waddling up and down the room a few times until they were able to walk comfortably together. Finally, trying not to giggle or whisper too much, the four invisible boys made their way to the dungeons. Remus showed them which tiles to tap in order for the floor to open up in the third stall from the left.

“How’d you find this, Remus?” James whispered, “It’s genius.”

“You come out behind one of them rugs they hang on the walls, in the dungeons,” Remus replied, “I just looked behind it.”

“Do you mean a tapestry?” Peter asked,

“Um… s’pose so?” Remus was glad none of them could see his face.

“Shut up, Pettigrew.” Sirius snapped. Remus felt a sharp kick hit the back of his ankle,

“Oi,” he hissed, kicking back twice as hard “Bugger off.”

“Sorry!” Sirius yelped, “Meant to get Pete, not you.”

“Be quiet, all of you,” James snapped, “We’re almost there.”

They waited quietly on their side of the tapestry, listening for footsteps in the corridor outside. Once James was satisfied that it was quiet, they all clambered out of the passage. The dungeons were cool, dimly lit and cavernous. There was a strange dripping sound coming from somewhere – perhaps the pipes.

“Where’s the entrance?” Sirius murmured.

“Behind that wall,” Remus pointed, hoping they could see where he was aiming. It was a plain brick wall.

“How’d you know?”

“I’ve seen them go in before,” Remus said, hurriedly. He wasn’t going to tell them that he knew there were two hundred Slytherins on the other side because the scent of their blood and their magic so strongly he could almost taste it.

“D’you know the password?”

“Nope.”

“Damn.”

“It’s not curfew yet, let’s just wait.”

So they did, rather uncomfortably. Though the corridor was dank, it was unnecessarily warm underneath the cloak, especially with all four of them so close together. Fortunately, two seventh years came hurrying through in the next few minutes. Unfortunately, Sirius knew them.

“Let’s see the ring again, Bella!” Narcissa Black pleaded with her elder sister. Remus felt Sirius stiffen, pressing himself backwards into the wall.

Bellatrix preened, extending a long, ivory arm. On her bony finger was an enormous, ugly silver and emerald engagement ring, which she’d been flashing about since the start of term. Everyone in the school knew that she would be marrying Rodolphus Lestrange, some wizard politician, as soon as she completed her NEWTs. Sirius had to go to the wedding.

Narcissa squealed when she saw it, though she’d probably seen it more than anyone else.

“Gorgeous!” She gushed, “Oh, I can’t wait to get married…”

“Wait your turn,” Bellatrix replied, with a voice like nails on a chalkboard. “Once Lucius has a better position with the ministry I’m sure Mummy and Daddy will agree to the match.”

The two young women were standing before the brick wall now. Bellatrix was the taller of the two, but they looked very alike. They had long, black curly hair – much like Sirius himself, and that same perfect Black family bone structure.

Mundus sanguine,” Bellatrix announced. The wall slid aside to let them in, and the four boys hurried after, as fast as possible before it closed.

For the first time since he had been at Hogwarts, Remus was truly glad he had been placed in Gryffindor. The differences between their warm, comfortable common room and that of the Slytherin’s was stark. It was built like an enormous banquet hall, rather than a sitting room. The walls were richly decorated with yet more elegant tapestries, the fireplace was huge and ornately carved, and a ghoulish green pallor hung over everything. More than that, the place felt somehow wicked. Remus tried not to shudder.

The other boys seemed as uneasy as he was, and they all froze still until James prodded them forward, up a flight of stairs which they all hoped led to the boy’s dormitories. On their way they passed Severus, sitting alone in a corner, hunched over his potions textbook. At the top of the stairs, they entered the first open door which was, thankfully, a bedroom.

James threw off the cloak,

“Keep a look out, eh Petey?” He said, hurrying into the room, “Reckon one of these is Snape’s bed?”

“This one might be,” Sirius pointed, “Sheets look greasy enough.” All four boys snickered.

“Quick then, lads, gloves on,” James whispered, unscrewing the jar. Remus and Sirius pulled on a dragon hide glove each, grabbed a handful of seeds and began scattering them underneath the bedclothes.

“They’ll see them!” James said, sounding disappointed. It was true, the bright red little seeds stood out clearly against the white sheets, even in the dark.

“Well… they’ll still get it on them trying to brush them out,” Sirius offered.

“Hang on…” Remus had a sudden idea. He didn’t know how it had occurred to him, or why, but somehow he was just sure it would work. He pulled out his wand, bit his lip and waved it gingerly over the bed he had just scattered with seeds. “Obfuscate.” He whispered.

And just like that, the seeds were gone. Well, he knew they were still there; but no one would be able to see them now.

“Blimey!” James stared, “How’d you do that? Flitwick hasn’t taught us that charm yet, has he? Was it in the reading?”

“Nah,” Remus shrugged, “I saw some of the fifth years doing it yesterday to some sweets they bought in the village. S’not hard to copy.”

Sirius and James immediately attempted it themselves, over the seeds they had just scattered. It didn’t work the first time – or the second, but after the third, James had managed to vanish most of his.

“You’d better do it, Lupin, or we’ll be here all night.” He decided.

“Yes, please hurry up!” Peter hissed from the doorway, white with fear.

Sirius tried a few more times before giving up and letting Remus take over.

“You’re going to show me exactly how to do that as soon as we’re back on neutral territory.” He said. Remus nodded, though he wasn’t sure how to explain it. He really had just done it because he thought he probably could.

“Next room,” James announced, pulling them back to the entranceway.

“Do we have to?” Peter asked, hopping from foot to foot, “Isn’t that enough?”

“Not even close!” Sirius replied with a laugh, tossing his head, “What if we haven’t even got Snape’s bed yet? We have to get them all, Pete. Are you with us or not?”

“All the boys, anyway,” James said, as they entered the next bedroom, “I don’t fancy our chances getting into the girl’s – remember what happened to Dirk Creswell last week?”

They worked quickly and managed to get every single boys room. Even the last one, which had three sleeping students in it – sixth years. Even Sirius had begged off going in there, but Remus was giddy with the excitement of the prank now, and threw on the invisibility cloak to go in himself. He even scattered the rosehips over the pillows of the sleeping boys.

By the time they had finished, it was getting late and more and more Slytherin’s were heading upstairs for bed. Barely able to contain their glee, the four Gryffindor’s hid under the cloak and slowly crept back down the stairs, flattening themselves against the wall anytime someone was coming, then through the enormous stately common room and out through the wall they’d come in.

As James had instructed, they all kept as quiet as possible until they were within spitting distance of Gryffindor tower, and it was finally safe to remove the cloak once more.

“Widdershins!” They all chanted at the fat lady, who swung open for them.

It was bliss to be back in the warm, bright Gryffindor common room, and they all threw themselves into the nearest available sofa, grinning inanely at each other. Frank Longbottom called to them from his desk, where he was tidying up revision notes,

“Cutting it fine, lads, been somewhere interesting?”

Peter looked uncertain, but James just waved a hand,

“Library, obviously.”

Frank shook his head, though he was smiling,

“I’m sure I’ll hear about it soon enough.”

“I wish I could be there when it all kicks off!” Sirius whispered, his eyes shining with joy, “And I wish even more we could have got my cousins.”

“It’s just the beginning, Sirius mate,” James replied, slapping the other boy’s knee, “Between the four of us I reckon we could go even bigger next time. Excellent first mission, men!”

Peter whimpered,

First mission?!”

Chapter Text

Wednesday 15th September 1971

The next morning James and Sirius could barely contain their excitement and hurried their dorm mates down to breakfast before any of the other Gryffindors. They were the first students to reach the great hall, other than a few Ravenclaws bent over their NEWT revision books with huge mugs of black coffee.

“Perfect,” Sirius beamed at the empty benches, “Front row seats!”

“Bet no one shows up for hours.” Peter groaned, half asleep, propped up on his elbows.

“Oh cheer up,” James poured them all large mugs of tea, “Don’t want to see the fruits of our labour?”

“Not at six in the morning.” Peter replied, slurping his tea. Sirius winced at the sound and pushed a plate towards him,

“Have some toast and stop whinging.”

Remus took some toast too and cut it into four pieces. He spread marmalade onto one quarter, jam onto another, butter on the third and lemon curd on the last. He ignored the look of amusement Sirius was giving him. Remus had never had so much choice before, and was determined to make the most of every meal.

Fortunately, they did not have to wait too long before the other students began to trickle in for breakfast. The first Slytherins arrived just as Remus was finishing his toast. Three boys and two girls; third years. They walked over to their table, quite unaware of the four eager Gryffindors watching them intently. For a few moments it was as if nothing was different. Sirius sighed with disappointment. But then. The tallest boy shuffled slightly in his seat, rubbing his arm. Another seemed to be looking for something in his pocket, but from Remus’ viewpoint he was clearly scratching his leg furiously. The third kept using his wand to rub behind his ear.

“It worked!” James whispered, breathless with excitement. Even Peter looked cheerful now.

As more and more Slytherins filtered in, their problem became more obvious – and more hilarious. By seven o’clock the Slytherin table was full of squirming, writhing, scratching boys, and horrified looking girls. Amycus Carrow, a burley sixth year, eventually ripped off his robes, his school jumper and even his tie to claw at his chest which Remus could see was already red raw. He almost felt sorry for them.

But then Snape came in. Whether it was karma or sheer luck, Severus seemed to have reacted particularly badly to the rosehip seeds. He walked in with his head bowed, hair falling over his face, but his nose was still visible and clearly bright red.

“Oh Merlin!” Sirius wheezed, laughing so hard he was holding his stomach. “Tell me we got his face!”

“Oi, Snivellus!” James yelled out, suddenly, to get the other boy’s attention.

Snape spun around, looking up; his hair parted. The left side of his face was covered in an angry red rash, from his temples all the way down to his neck, disappearing under his uniform. His left eye was red too, the lid swollen and irritated.

“Looking good!” Sirius crowed, and all four boys dissolved into giggles as Snape stormed out of the room.

By the time breakfast was over, the entire castle was buzzing with rumours about what exactly had come over the Slytherin boys. Sirius and James looked as though all of their Christmases had come at once, and even Peter had cheered up remarkably – reminding them all that he had kept lookout, after all, making the entire venture possible.

“It was all Lupin’s idea, though,” Sirius returned, slapping Remus heartily on the back, “What shall we do to celebrate, eh? Exploding snap? Raid the kitchens?”

Remus shook Sirius off, smiling politely.

“Well, whatever you do, you’re doing it without me,” he replied, “I’ve got double detention.”

“From Slughorn?”

“Yeah, and McGonagall. And Flitwick, but that’s tomorrow. Then my Herbology detention is over the weekend.”

“Bloody hell mate,” James frowned, “You going for a record or something?”

Remus shrugged. He was always being punished at St. Edmund’s – all the boys were. Detention didn’t bother him. Though exploding snap did sound like a lot of fun.

“Maybe you’d better start doing your homework?” Sirius said, gently. Remus rolled his eyes, getting up from the table.

“C’mon,” he said, “It’s Defence Against the Dark Arts first, thought you two loved that.”

* * *

Later that day, Remus was on his way to his detention with Slughorn, when he ran into Lily Evans. He was perfectly happy to keep walking, but she smiled and fell into step with him.

“Hiya Remus,”

“Hi.”

“Are you going to the dungeons?”

He nodded.

“Me too. I have to tell Slughorn that Severus can’t make his detention.”

“Oh, right.”

“Did you hear what happened to the Slytherins?”

“Yeah.” Everyone had heard – it was all they’d been talking about all day, even during lessons. Fortunately no one had a clue yet who’d done it. It had been a good idea, attacking the entire house at once. Who could guess who the target had been?

“Crazy, isn’t it?” Lily continued, “Poor Sev was allergic to whatever they used. Madam Pompfrey gave him a sleeping draught while the swelling goes down.”

Remus sniggered, without thinking. He glanced at Lily, who was looking back at him with reproachful green eyes. She shook her head.

“Look, I know he wasn’t very nice to you. The other day in Potions or on the train. He’s… well he’s a bit of a snob, ok?”

Remus snorted.

“But I wanted to say sorry.” Lily pressed on, “I need to stand up to him more. Shouldn’t let him get away with it. He’s actually a really nice person when you get to know him.”

“If you say so.” Remus stopped walking. They were outside Slughorn’s office now. The door was closed, and there were raised voices on the other side.

“Horace, whoever it was, they must have been a Slytherin!” It was Professor McGonagall, “Who else has the password?”

“Why would a Slytherin attack their own house, Minerva?!” The Potions master sounded very frustrated.

“You did say it was only the boys dorms affected. Perhaps it was one of the girls.”

“Really!”

“Well, who else? Peeves? He never enters the common rooms – doesn’t enter the dungeons, either, come to that – too frightened of the bloody baron.”

“We ought to place a ban on all Zonko’s products.”

“From what Poppy says it wasn’t a Zonko’s product. Rosehip, from the greenhouses.”

Lupin felt as trickle of fear run down his spine. If they knew that much, would they be able to find out who’d done it?

“Rosehip eh? Very clever.” Slughorn actually sounded impressed. McGonagall sighed,

“I suppose you’d like to blame the Ravenclaws now?”

“I just wish I knew who’d done it!” He sighed, heavily. “Perhaps the truth will out. I suppose it does seem more likely that it was one of the Slytherin girls than…”

“Than a gang of marauders creeping into the dungeons under the cloak of night with malicious intent?”

Remus could hear Slughorn’s chuckle at that.

“Yes, quite.”

“Now, I must be going.” McGonagall was saying, her footsteps approaching the door. “You will let me know if you catch the culprit?” The door swung open. Remus and Lily stepped back, guiltily. McGonagall looked down at them through her spectacles, “What are two Gryffindors doing so far from their tower?”

“Please, Professor, Remus and I were only—“

“Ah!” Slughorn cut off Lily’s nervous rambling, “Lupin, my boy – and Miss Evans! Come to offer Snape’s apologies, eh? No need, dear girl, no need. With everything going on today I think we can cancel the boy’s detentions, for now.” He came to the door and looked down at Remus severely, “If it is understood that there will be no more fighting in my classes? Or any classes, for that matter, hm?”

“Yes, Professor.” Remus nodded, solemnly, trying not to look too pleased.

“Excellent.” Slughorn beamed, locking the door to his office, “Then if you’ll excuse me, I’ve some enquiries to make.”

Remus and Lily had almost made it to the end of the hall when McGonagall suddenly called out,

“Mr Lupin?”

Remus’ heart sank.

“Yes, Professor McGonagall?”

“That isn’t to say that your detention with me has been cancelled. Come along now, we’ll get an early start.”

* * *

McGonagall had him doing lines for an hour – not too bad, considering he was used to canings at St Edmund’s. He didn’t mind copying and repetition; it was soothing. I will complete all assignments set. Perhaps he’d swallow his pride next time and copy James’ homework. Or Peter’s, if he didn’t want to look too suspicious. But he knew that James would eventually want to know why Remus never read the set text. And if he told him, then he was equally sure that James and Sirius would try to get him to explain to McGonagall – both boys had unerring faith in the teachers of Hogwarts. Remus, however, had never met an adult he trusted. She’d have him sent back to St Edmund’s at once. What good was an illiterate wizard to anyone?

Once his detention was finished, he climbed through the portrait hole and into the common room to find his three roommates waiting for him. Peter and James were engaged in a very serious looking game of chess (of course the pieces are moving. Remus thought to himself, everything has to bloody move in this castle.) while Sirius was listening to one of his records through a very posh looking set of brand new headphones. Remus was dying to have a listen, but he hadn’t worked up the courage to ask yet.

He sat down next to Sirius quietly. The long haired boy pulled his headphones off at once,

“That was quick!”

“Only had to do one in the end,” Remus explained, “Slughorn let me off, too busy trying to sort out the itching powder thing.”

Sirius grinned broadly, leaning back on the couch with his arms folded under his head,

“That prank is just the gift that keeps on giving.”

“Snape was allergic and everything,” Remus said, smirking, “That ginger girl said he’s been in the hospital wing all day.”

Sirius laughed even louder. His eyes grew bright when he laughed, Remus had never seen anyone exhibit such pure joy. It made you want to punch him and be his friend all at the same time.

“Which ginger girl?” James looked up suddenly,

“Check MATE!” Peter cried.

“You know, the annoying one. Evans.”

“I don’t think she’s annoying.”

“Ok.” Remus shrugged.

“Let’s not talk about girls.” Sirius rolled his eyes, “This might be the most important day of our lives! This is the day we became legends; the day our friendship was forged in the fire of itching powder!”

“They don’t know it was us, do they?” Peter asked, nervously, tidying away his chess set. Remus shook his head.

“Slughorn reckons it was a Slytherin girl. Or a gang of marauders.”

“Marauders!” Sirius sat up, suddenly, “That’s it! Raise your glasses, boys!”

“We don’t have glasses.” James replied, amused.

“Well, just pretend.” Sirius shook his head, irritably, “From this day forward, we are The Marauders!”

He said this with such a dramatic flourish that it could only be followed by stunned silence. James was grinning, Peter glancing at him for direction, not quite understanding what was going on. Remus burst out laughing.

“What sort of poncey gang name is that?!”   

Chapter Text

Tuesday, 5th October 1971

The next full moon passed much as the first had. This time the wolf had clearly grown restless, because Remus awoke with a number of deep scratches.

“They heal fast with a bit of antiseptic.” He advised Madam Pomfrey, who fussed over him in the chill morning light.

“And faster still with magic,” she smiled, with a flourish of her wand. The cuts closed up almost instantly, Remus stared, amazed.

“Can you get rid of the scars, too?” He asked, eagerly. She shook her head sadly,

“No, Remus, not these ones, I’m sorry.”

“S’ok.” He sighed, dressing for school. This time he’d brought his change of clothes with him and left them in the tunnel just outside the shack to avoid having to go back to the tower this time. He’d meet the other boys in their first lesson, and let them wonder where he’d been.

“You don’t have to go to school today,” Madam Pomfrey was saying, “Not if you’re too tired. I can write you a note.”

“I want to go.” He replied, “It’s not that bad, honestly.”

Pomfrey looked at him with serious eyes,

“Not that bad for now. I’m afraid the transformations may start to take their toll as you grow up.”

“Have you looked after other kids like me, then?” He’d been wanting to ask for ages, but wasn’t sure how.

“No, dear, you’re the first Hogwarts student that I know of who’s been…”

“Bitten?”

“Who’s been bitten.” She accepted, gratefully, “But I promise I know what I’m doing. I’ve done plenty of reading on the subject.”

“You mean there are books? About people like me?”

“Well, yes.” She sounded surprised. She sat down on the bed as he finished dressing. “You could borrow one of them, if you like?”

He thought about it, then shook his head.

* * *

They had Transfiguration first thing, but McGonagall didn’t give him detention for not bringing his homework – she had obviously decided to be more lenient around the full moon. She did make him promise to bring it with him next time, and he agreed, hoping he sounded sincere. James, Sirius and Peter spent half of the lesson trying to get his attention, but he steadfastly ignored them until McGonagall threatened to separate all four of them.

In the halls on their way to Charms, Remus knew there was no escape. It was a good five minute walk.

“So? Where were you?!” Sirius blurted out, walking on his left hand side.

“Nowhere.” He replied, trying to hurry on,

“Oh, go on,” James pleaded, coming up on his right side, “Tell us! Was it the same place you went last month?”

“Maybe.”

“Were you in detention again?” Asked Peter, struggling to keep up. Remus cursed himself for not having thought of that – detention would have been the perfect cover.

“Nope.”

“Then where—“

“Watch it, half-blood!”

Remus had been too busy evading questions to look where he was going, and had run smack into Snape, who was coming around the corner. Already wound up, Remus squared his shoulders and attempted to push past, roughly,

“Watch yourself, Snivellus.”

Snape didn’t move, and pushed him instead, Mulciber appearing at his left shoulder, looming menacingly over the smaller boys.

“I know it was you that broke into our dorms the other night.” He hissed, “All of you.”

“Yeah? Prove it.” James smirked, folding his arms.

Snape’s lips curled,

“I can’t, yet. But I will. I’ll get you back too, I promise.”

“We’re quaking in our boots,” Sirius replied, leaning against the wall as if he was bored. “Now would you kindly move it?”

“Your idea, was it, Black?” Snape drawled, “Or yours, Potter? Had to have been one of you. Pettigrew doesn’t have the guts and dear Lupin here clearly hasn’t got the brains…”

Remus clenched his fists. He could see Snape’s hand on his wand – Severus probably knew all sorts of curses and hexes. James had taught Remus one or two, but he was too blind with rage to remember any of them now.

“Move along now, gentlemen.” A sharp voice suddenly rang out over the corridor. It was Professor Flitwick, stepping out of his classroom to see what the holdup was. “Severus, you’re clogging up the halls, and you four are supposed to be in my class. Come along.”

Remus felt overheated and agitated for the rest of Charms, which was usually his favourite lesson. It relied more on practical work with his wand than reading or writing, and he often did better than even James and Sirius. Finding it difficult to calm down, he kept shooting his cushions across the room like missiles rather than guiding them carefully through the hoops Flitwick had hung from the ceiling.

They’d been working on levitation charms for a few weeks now, and Peter was the only one still struggling. In Remus’ opinion, Peter’s problem was a lack of imagination. James and Sirius were both unerringly confident; and he’d found that confidence was all you needed to complete most basic spells. Remus himself generally felt able to complete any task if it looked simple enough. Peter, on the other hand, worried about everything. He read and re-read his textbooks, trying to copy the complicated diagrams there rather than just copy what Flitwick showed them.

“I expect you all to be able to levitate this book by the end of the week,” Flitwick said at the end of the lesson. The book was enormous, about half the size of the tiny professor, and looked as though a fully-grown man might have trouble carrying it very far. “So come prepared for a quick test of your abilities.”

Peter groaned as they collected their things to leave.

Remus had managed to calm down by lunch time, but still had trouble controlling his magic later in the afternoon and was glad they only had Herbology and History of Magic. He wondered whether it was his temper – which had always been short – or whether it was the full moon. He always had a lot of energy after a transformation, even before he knew he could do magic. Now his wand buzzed in his hand like the static in a TV aerial. He tried a quick ‘Lumos’, hiding in a toilet cubicle between lessons, and nearly burnt his retinas out.

Perhaps the book Madam Pomfrey had mentioned might tell him more about it, but he’d never know now. There might be other books in the library, but he hadn’t checked. He knew the word, well enough, and could spell it out if he concentrated hard. But he didn’t dare. Remus lived in fear that if he wrote it down, or said it out loud, then somehow everyone would find out his secret. And it was just better to keep stuff like that in your head.

* * *

Thursday 7th October 1971

It was especially important to keep his secrets to himself now, because Remus was being watched. By McGonagall, who still raised an eyebrow when she saw he wasn’t taking notes, by Madam Pomfrey, who was always trying to get to him stop by the hospital wing for a quick check over, and by Snape, who was still furious that he couldn’t figure out how the itching powder incident had happened. Remus might have been able to bear all of these interferences, if it wasn’t for a fourth person observing him.

This stalker was much subtler, much less direct in his surveillance, but noticeable nonetheless. Sirius. At first Remus had thought the other boy was just nosy – part of that entitlement he and James shared. They had to know everything about everybody. They were constantly telling Remus and Peter other people’s business – so-and-so’s father was turned down for a promotion at the ministry years ago, and that’s why they have that chip on their shoulder; Miranda Thrup’s great-aunt was once under investigation for the illegal use of a love potion, and now no one ever drank tea at the Thrup’s house; Professor Slughorn knew more about the dark arts than he let on, and the Slug Club was notorious for turning out dark wizards with influence.

Of course, neither of them knew anything at all about Remus, and in the beginning, he assumed that this was why Sirius was so watchful. But he never asked any direct questions, and if he was curious about Lupin’s family or upbringing then it was a private interest that James did not share. James rarely watched other people, Remus had noticed – he preferred other people to be watching him.

No one else seemed to notice, thankfully. Sirius was sly in that respect. Only very occasionally, Remus managed to catch him unawares, staring intently with those deep blue eyes. He didn’t even have the shame to look away when he was caught – only softened his gaze into a friendly smile, which Remus was obliged to return.

That Thursday they were finishing their homework in Gryffindor common room – well, James was finishing Remus’ homework, having completed his own. He’d offered to do it in return for Remus teaching him the ‘Obfuscate’ spell, and despite his pride Remus had acquiesced. He really didn’t want another detention with McGonagall, and James was good at imitating other peoples’ handwriting.

Sirius was completing his own essay, and had already written three inches extra on the uses of lacewing flies in transformative draughts – plus diagrams. There were books strewn all over the table they’d claimed for themselves, along with inkwells and scrunched up rolls of parchment. Peter was trying to levitate an apple and get it into a waste paper basket four feet away. So far he could get it up in the air, but then it wobbled and fell back down again.

Frazzled, Peter ran his fingers through his hair again and consulted his text.

“You’ll get it, Pete, don’t worry.” James murmured, not looking up from Remus’ paper. “Keep at it.”

“I’m trying,” Peter whined, “I’m sure it’s the movement I’m getting wrong… the book says to use a ‘smooth, serpentine action’, but I’m not sure…” he swirled his wand in the air. Remus tutted,

“It’s not like that.” He said, bluntly. “It’s like an S shape on its side. Look.” He performed the spell, effortlessly lifting the apple into the air and sending it sailing into the bin neatly.

“An S shape, are you sure?” Peter frowned. He aimed his own wand at a scrunched-up ball of paper from the table, “Wingardium Leviosa!” He chanted, waving his wand in the same way Lupin had. Sure enough, the paper flew shakily upwards then flew with slightly less grace into the bin, bouncing off the sides as it fell to the bottom and landed beside the apple. Peter stared wide-eyed, “I did it!” He gasped, “An ‘S’ shape, why didn’t it just say that in the book?!”

“Well done, Pete.” James said, looking up and smiling. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, “You should be a teacher, Remus.”

Lupin snorted, looking away bashfully. James continued,

“I’m nearly done with this, just need to check something – can you pass me Magical Theory? The Waffling book?”

Remus felt a cold shiver run down his spine. Trying not to panic, he looked down at the pile of books James was pointing at. One of them was definitely about potions – it had a cauldron on the cover. The others; it was anyone’s guess. The gold and silver lettering on each cover seemed to shift and swirl before his eyes. Was it better to just pick one up, even if it was the wrong one? He looked back at James, desperately, who was reading over what he’d written. Peter was too busy levitating more balls of paper to notice Remus’ turmoil. He looked down again, biting his lip.

Sirius cleared his throat quietly and leaned across the desk. He silently tapped one of the books with his forefinger, without looking at Remus. It was a big black leather-bound tome which Remus recognised vaguely. Gratefully, he snatched it up and handed it to James.

“Cheers mate.” James said, absentmindedly, returning to his work. Sirius carried on as if nothing had happened. Remus felt his cheeks burning.

Chapter Text

Friday 15th October 1971

Remus had to spend the next few days avoiding Sirius – or at least avoiding being alone with him. This wasn’t easy, the boys spent all their time together, especially on the weekends. They all got through the Friday Charms lesson with no trouble; even Peter. Flitwick was thrilled that the entire class had mastered levitation so early in the year that he let them all out early for lunch.

Sirius made himself unavoidable the very next week, during their flying lesson.  If Remus hadn’t hated History of Magic so much, then Flying would have been his least favourite subject. Twenty minutes into their very first lesson with Madam Hooch he had learnt that he was afraid of heights, and the rest of the classes had been miserable for him.

James was the star of the class, of course, and even the other Marauders found him insufferable as he flitted around the quidditch pitch, throwing loops and feints as if he was born on a broom. Sirius was excellent too, and most of the other kids in the class had grown up playing on broomsticks; even Peter was competent.

It had rained the night before, and the ground was soft and muddy. They’d changed out of their usual lace up shoes and into thick boots and scarlet flying kits before squelching out onto the pitch. They picked up their brooms and awaited instruction. The brooms were provided by the school. First years weren’t allowed to bring their own, but James would tell anyone who stopped long enough to listen that he had a top of the line model at home.

“Right, mount your brooms please, ladies and gentlemen,” Hooch bellowed at the group, “Nice strong wind today, so I want you all to take good care. Potter, no showing off!”

Remus clambered onto his broom, swallowing hard. If he could manage not to be sick then it would be a victory.

“I’d like five clean laps around the pitch, then a good landing back here from each of you. Mind the puddle and remember to lean into the wind where possible. Use it to your advantage. Five points to whoever’s back first.” And with barely any warning, the silver haired witch blew her whistle hard.

Remus and Lily, the only two muggleborns in the class, were the last off the ground. Once the redhead was in the air, however, she streaked ahead with ease.

“Bit higher, Lupin! Come on now!” Hooch boomed from below, shouting through a megaphone. He wanted to ignore her, but there was no escape – at least back at St Edmund’s when they made you do cross country you could hide around the corner and skive off in town for the afternoon.

He pushed himself higher, trying to look ahead and not down; trying to think about anything other than the empty space between himself and the ground. He could see Lily’s bright red plait flashing ahead like a fox’s tail, Peter’s shining blond hair somewhere towards the middle of the group. Though he couldn’t see that far ahead, he knew that James and Sirius were almost neck and neck. Remus just ploughed on grimly, not wanting to go any faster. Who cared if he was last, if he didn’t break his neck getting there. As he rounded a corner at the end of the pitch, the wind really hit him and he tried not to slow down too much, leaning forward. It was so cold, and the grey morning air battered his face.

The second lap was as bad as the first. By the third, he noticed that James had taken to circling each of the towers in the empty spectator stands, despite Madam Hooch’s admonishments. On the fourth lap, Remus had company.

“Having fun?” Sirius grinned, cruising along beside him. He looked so comfortable, as if he could raise both hands over his head, spin upside down and fly backwards without any trouble at all.

“What are you doing?” Remus frowned, trying to ignore him. “Trying to lose?”

“James is gonna win,” Sirius shrugged, “Might as well let him have his moment. Thought I’d hang out with you.”

“Why?!” Remus replied, through gritted teeth.

“Thought you might want the company,” Remus didn’t need to look at him to know that he was grinning that irritating Sirius Black grin. “Plus we’re about to land, and I know you hate landing.”

“Piss off.”

“No.”

“I’m warning you, Black…”

“You can’t punch me up here, Lupin, unless you want to let go of your broom.”

“God, you’re annoying.”

“Yep.” Sirius flew up in front of him, then all the way around, a perfect orbit.

“Piss off.” Remus tried to dodge him, wobbling dangerously.

“Time to land... remember to stick your legs out and lean back… then bend your knees as you hit the—oi!”

Remus had grabbed the tail of Sirius’ broom and given it a hard yank. Laughing, Sirius righted himself, then flew back to Remus’ side and gave him a hard shove back. Remus shook, but held on tight, making his descent. It was much smoother than before, he leaned back, then twisted quickly to push Sirius again.

“Out of my way!” He yelled, going faster, “You can be the last down for once!”

“Oh no you don’t!” Sirius now grabbed Remus’ broom tail, laughing, tugging him backwards. This was perhaps a step too far, as they were both quite close to the ground now. The two wrestling boys tumbled towards earth, brooms flying out from beneath them they both crash landed into a huge muddy puddle, skidding and rolling forwards, soaking their robes in the process.

“Black! Lupin!” Madam Hooch marched over to the two boys sprawled in the mud.

The other Gryffindors gathered around, giggling and pointing. Sirius leapt to his feet with all of the grace his nobility blessed him with, and pulled Lupin up roughly by the hand. They both looked up at the teacher, blinking water droplets from their eyes.

“What did I say about minding the puddle?” Madam Hooch raised an amused eyebrow. She usually saw the fun in things. “A point each from Gryffindor. You’d better go and wash off in the showers. Off you go.”

They both waddled towards the quidditch changing rooms, holding out their heavy, waterlogged robes.

“Bloody ridiculous kit.” Remus grumbled as they stepped into the squat littler stone building. “How we ever going to dry it?”

“The house elves will take care of that.” Sirius replied, shaking his off and dumping it in a pile in the corner.

Remus couldn’t be bothered to ask what on earth house elves were. He pulled his own robes off and kicked away his boots, then entered a shower cubical to continue undressing. There were towels laid out already, and the water was deliciously warm. He leaned forward into the stream, letting it warm his blood, watching the mud and rogue blades of grass swirl down the drain. At least he’d got out of forty more minutes flying.

He scrubbed his hands roughly over his hair. Without Matron’s monthly haircuts his hair was getting longer and softer, sticking straight up most of the time, as messy as James’. He could finally see the colour of it, but was disappointed – it appeared to be a bland mousy brown.

Remus finished in the shower before Sirius and got out, looking around for his uniform quickly. He was half dressed once Sirius finally emerged, his long hair swept back, wet and shining like oil. He was already fully dressed and looked impossibly cool and grown up, while Remus had realised he’d missed a button on his shirt and had to begin all over again.

“What’s that?!” Sirius said, suddenly. Remus looked up, then back down. Sirius was pointing at a long silver stripe which stretched from the left half of his collar bone down diagonally across his chest to his right nipple. He fumbled with his buttons, trying to close the shirt faster.

“A scar.” He muttered. There was no point saying anything else now. He barely noticed them anymore. They were just there, as much a part of him as his freckles, or the fine hairs on his arms.

“It’s… did it happen to you at the home? Where you grew up?”

There was something odd in Sirius’ voice. Remus found he couldn’t speak, so he just nodded. Sirius nodded too. “I’ve got scars.” He said, so quietly that Remus thought he’d misheard at first.

Sirius bent down, and pulled up his trouser leg, turning his ankle to show Remus the marks there. His scars weren’t like Remus’ – which were big and rough and jagged, full of rage and hunger. The silver stripes on the backs of Sirius’ legs were thin and straight; uniform in their cruelty. Remus stared for a few seconds, before Sirius dropped the edge of the fabric and straightened up.

They stared each other down for a full minute. Remus feeling very hot, Sirius’ eyes cool and calm. Then it broke.

“Shall we go and watch James making a prat of himself?” Sirius asked.

Remus nodded again, and they both stepped back out into the cold autumn air. They took their seats on the hard benches in the spectator’s stands and watched the rest of the class flitting back and forth across the pitch, red robes fluttering behind them. Lily, though lacking James’ formal technique, was giving him a run for his money when it came to speed, beating him in two out of three races between goal posts.

“Remus?” Sirius said, suddenly, as their classmates came in for their final landing.

“Yeah?”

“You can’t read, can you?”

Remus sighed. He had enough secrets to keep as it was. And Sirius had shared one of his.

“Nah.”

“I won’t tell anyone.”

“Cheers.”

That Sirius Black grin.

Chapter Text

Saturday 23rd October 1971

“Did you just never get taught?”

Remus shrugged, tired and frustrated. It was a week after the flying lesson, and Sirius had caught him on his own again. He’d been sitting quite happily on his bed, flicking through one of James’ quidditch magazines – he liked the moving pictures, even if he still didn’t understand the rules, and it was the closest thing to telly they had at Hogwarts.

“I got taught.” He replied, turning the page, hoping Sirius would take the hint and get lost. He didn’t. Remus closed the magazine. “I got taught.” He repeated. “Just didn’t learn properly. When I look at the words, I don’t think I see what everyone else does. It doesn’t make any sense; all the letters keep jumping around and changing. Teachers said I was just thick.”

No one had made much of a fuss about his problems with schoolwork at St Edmund’s. They’d barely had any homework, since no one did it anyway. Lots of the boys had problems; either they couldn’t or wouldn’t be taught. It wasn’t as if anyone expected much either way.

“But how have you been doing it?” Sirius was like a dog with a bone.

“Doing what?!”

“Well… everything! All your work, here, at Hogwarts.”

Remus looked at him as if he was the one who was stupid,

“Sirius, I haven’t been doing it. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m in detention every night.”

“Well, yeah, obviously,” Sirius waved a hand, “But the other day, in Potions, I saw you – you didn’t take any notes, didn’t even look at the book, or the blackboard, and you still prepared all of the ingredients for the cure for boils perfectly – Slughorn gave you five points!”

Remus felt himself blush at the memory. He wasn’t used to getting praise from teachers.

“Oh, that was easy,” He shook his head, “Sluggy told us how to do it in the lesson before, I just remembered it.”

“Bloody hell, you must have a brilliant memory, then.”

Remus shrugged. He supposed that was true. His teachers at St Edmund’s had remarked more than once that he knew an awful lot of words for somebody so dim witted.

Sirius was staring into space now, clearly deep in thought – Remus could practically see the cogs working in his mind. Sometimes Sirius was an entirely closed book. Other times he was so easy to read it was almost funny.

“If you could read, you’d be as good as me and James. Better, probably.”

Remus snorted,

“So modest, Black.”

“Well, you would!” Sirius missed the sarcasm completely, still looking thoughtful, “Your wandwork is much more natural, and if your memory is as good as you say it is…” He chewed his lip, “I bet there’s a spell for it.”

Remus laughed,

“You’re going to cure me with a spell?”

“Why not?”

Remus had thought about it already; of course he had. But he was more aware of the limitations of magic than anyone. After all, he had scars which would not heal and a monthly nightmare which nobody could prevent.

“Magic can’t fix stuff like that.” He replied bluntly. “Why else does James wear glasses?”

“I think there are spells for eyesight.” Sirius said, “Maybe they’re just not worth the effort, or too dangerous, or complicated or something.”

“It’s not just the reading,” Remus countered, “My writing’s crap too; I’m too slow, and it comes out all messy.”

“There are definitely spells for that.” Sirius said, confidently, “You can bewitch your quill, I’ve seen my father do it on official documents. His handwriting’s really scratchy, normally.”

Remus was at a loss. Sirius clearly wasn’t going to give up. He chewed his lip.

“Why are you so interested, anyway?”

“You’re my fellow Marauder! We can’t have you in detention every day, what if the Slytherins strike back? We’ll need your evil mind for pranks.” His eyes glittered. “Speaking of, I’m assuming you haven’t done your history homework yet?”

“Nope.”

“Ok then, let’s get started.” Sirius jumped off the bed and began rooting around in his trunk.

“No. You’re not doing my homework for me.” Remus protested, standing up himself, folding his arms.

“Too bloody right, I’m not,” Sirius replied, withdrawing a heavy book. It was A History of Magic; Remus recognised the size and shape. “I just fancied refreshing my memory, that’s all. So, I’m going to sit here and read it aloud – because that helps me study – and if you happened to retain some of it in that enormous brain of yours, then there’s not much I can do about it.”

Remus huffed,

“Haven’t you go something better to do? Where’s James, anyway?”

“Watching the Gryffindor quidditch practice,” Sirius settled down on his bed, opening the book. “Reckons he’ll get on the team next year, so he’s trying to pick up some tips. Peter’s followed him, obviously. Now, be quiet please, I’m trying to work.” He cleared his throat, “A history of magic, by Bathilda Bagshot. Chapter one, Ancient Egypt; the rights and rituals of Imhotep…

And on he went. And on, and on. Remus stayed standing for a while, trying to decide whether or not to just walk out of the room and slam the door. But he found that he really wasn’t that angry – it was difficult to stay angry with Sirius, no matter how annoying he was. So Remus sat down, and listened. It turned out that history wasn’t that boring after all, not when you understood the basics. Plus Sirius was considerably more animated than Professor Binns.

His voice was clear and steady, never stumbling over the more complicated words or phrases, as if he had read the book a hundred times. Remus had once heard him tell James that he was fluent in Latin and Greek – the Black family apparently took pride in that sort of thing.

On he ploughed, chapter after chapter, from the gory Egyptian resurrection charms to cryptic Greek oracles, to magical Mesopotamian priestesses. The ancient world opened up in Remus’ mind, and he found himself lying back on his bed, arms behind his head with his eyes closed, letting Sirius lead him through time.

Eventually, the other boy’s voice was almost hoarse, and he spoke just above a whisper. Evening had closed around them, and the common room was bathed in a golden orange glow as the sun set. Halfway through ‘chapter five; Tiberius and the advancements of Roman battle magic,’ Sirius let out a quiet cough, and put down the book.

“I don’t think I can study any more today,” he croaked.

Remus’ eyes snapped open. He sat up, blinking.

“That’s ok,” He said, quietly. “It’s dinner now, I’m starving.”

They both got up, stretched, and headed downstairs.

James and Peter were waiting for them at the Gryffindor table in their usual seats.

“How was practice?” Sirius asked, after draining a goblet of pumpkin juice. His voice had almost returned to normal, only sounding slightly strained.

“Cracking.” James replied cheerfully, spearing a sausage on the end of his fork and using it to scoop up some mashed potato, “How come you didn’t come?”

“Homework.” Sirius replied, pouring gravy over his own mash.

As they finished their dinner, James regaled them with a blow by blow account of the quidditch practice, listing every player on the team, their strengths and faults, their techniques and what he would do to improve them. Peter interjected occasionally with his own opinions, which barely differed from James’.

Pudding was millionaire shortbread, which neither Sirius or James liked. Remus thought they were mad, and took their distaste as evidence of their snobbery. He’d have eaten theirs too, but Peter got there first, scoffing the lot.

“I’ve got some sweets,” the smaller boy offered, digging in his robe pockets and withdrawing a bulging brown bag, “Mum sent them, help yourself.”

“Cheers Pete!” They dug in, munching their way through fizzing whizzbees, chocolate frogs and flavour changing gobstoppers happily. Remus helped himself to a few as well, until they all felt quite sick.

“What homework were you doing?” James asked, scratching his chin, distractedly, “I thought we’d finished everything for this week.”

“Yeah, um, I was behind on history. Had to go back and check something.” Sirius was scratching too, near his collar bone.

Watching them made Remus start to itch. The back of his hand tickled as if a small insect was crawling over him. He suddenly thought of the itching powder and looked down.

He nearly screamed. The back of his hand was growing thick dark hair, at an alarming rate. He was transforming! It wasn’t anywhere near a full moon – how could this be happening? He stood up so suddenly he nearly fell over backwards. He had to get out of there – fast!

“What’s up, Lupin?” James stared at him, startled.

Remus looked back at him, then at Sirius. They were both growing hair too – dark curls sprouted from their faces, their hands and arms – every bit of exposed skin. He gaped, speechless. He ran his tongue over his teeth – they weren’t getting any longer.

“Oh bloody hell…” James said, looking down at himself, then at the other two boys, “What’s going on?!”

“Peter,” Sirius growled, his face now almost covered in hair, “Are you sure your mum sent those sweets?”

Peter, who hadn’t had any sweets yet, stared at them both, and turned red, spluttering,

“Well, I mean… I thought they were from her… they arrived this morning…”

“Pete!” James roared. People were looking at them, now, turning and nudging each other. Soon, the entire dining hall was whispering and pointing at the three incredibly hairy boys at the Gryffindor table.

Plenty of people were giggling, too, but of course no one was laughing louder than Severus Snape, over at the Slytherin benches.

“Come on,” Sirius stood up, sticking his furry nose up with an air of aristocratic dignity that was nothing short of hilarious, “Let’s get to the hospital wing. We can plot our revenge later.”

As they left to howls of laughter from the rest of the great hall, Remus cringed in shame, covering his face with his hands. Every inch of him was now covered in the same glossy black hair. He didn’t find it as funny as James and Sirius seemed to.

“Told you they’d strike back,” Sirius muttered.

Chapter Text

Fortunately, Madam Pomfrey was able to undo the hex with a few flicks of her wand. She still lectured all of them on misuse of dangerous magic.

“As if we all wanted to look like bigfoot!” James complained as they left the hospital wing, skin still tinging from the hair growth.

“It had to be Severus. He coated the sweets in one of his potions, I know it.” Sirius seethed.

“Yeah, we all know it, mate.” James replied, “Don’t worry, we’ll get him back.”

“I’m so sorry!” Peter wailed, for about the hundredth time. “I really thought they were from my mum!”

“It’s fine, Peter,” James patted his shoulder, “Just wish you’d given them to us first thing on a Monday – then we could have at least bunked off Transfiguration.”

“I demand retribution!” Sirius shouted, raising his wand dramatically. Remus laughed, James did too,

“And you shall have it!” He replied, pushing his glasses back on his nose, “Patience is a virtue, Black. Vengeance like this takes time. Don’t suppose you’ve got any other brilliant ideas, Remus?”

 “Sorry,” Remus shook his head. His heart was still pounding from the terror of it. If he had seen Snape at that moment he would have throttled him; never mind pranking him.

“I’ll help you, James,” Peter piped up, “I’ll do anything, I won’t be scared this time, I’ll…”

They were just turning the corner which led to Gryffindor tower when somebody behind them called out,

“Sirius.”

All four boys turned. Sirius made a small shocked noise. It was Bellatrix Black.

“Whaddyou want?” He asked, looking down and scuffing his shoes on the flagstone floor. It was the most un-Sirius posture imaginable, Remus thought. He also noticed that James stepped forward, standing shoulder to shoulder with his friend.

“Come here and address me properly.” The seventh-year witch snapped in response.

Sirius didn’t move. Bellatrix withdrew her wand – Remus was shocked, and for the first time since he’d been at Hogwarts, he felt frightened.

“Come here,” she said, in a low voice, “Or I’ll make you. And it won’t be a childish little hair growth charm, I promise.”

Sirius walked forward, shaking his head at James, who tried to follow. They all watched the cousins speaking in quiet voices at the end of the hallway for long, uncomfortable minutes. Sirius barely looked up from the ground the whole time. Finally, she patted him on the head, then turned on her heel and left. They all exhaled, relieved. Sirius walked back to them shakily.

In silence they all entered the portrait hole and sat down at their usual sofa.

“Alright, Sirius?” James asked, first.

“Yeah.” He nodded, looking paler than usual, “She um… she wanted to invite me for tea. On my birthday. I think my mother must have made her, probably held a family conference. Try to bring me back into the fold.”

“Just because you’re in a different house?”

“And the company I’m keeping,” he smirked at them all. 

“So when’s your birthday?”

“Two weeks. The third. I have to go to this tea, though, Bella’s not joking about knowing some really vile curses.”

“We’ll do something afterwards, then. Something good, yeah?”

Peter and Remus nodded enthusiastically, but in the back of Remus’ mind he remembered that the third was the night of the full moon.

* * *

Sirius turned twelve and Remus wasn’t there to celebrate it, though he didn’t think anyone minded. James was Sirius’ best friend, after all, and Peter still liked to think that James belonged to him a little bit, too. So Remus would have been the odd one out, even if he hadn’t been locked away in a shack trying to tear himself apart. Madam Pompfrey tried him with a sleeping draught this time, before the moon rose, but it apparently had no effect. What was worse, he managed to give himself his biggest scar yet – right across his back.

Pomfrey made him stay in the hospital wing all day afterwards, which was actually fortuitous – it meant he could just tell his friends he’d been suddenly taken ill. They were still a bit confused as to why he hadn’t told them anything about feeling sick beforehand, but went along with it. They probably already thought he was fairly odd, and by now accepted mostly anything he told them.

He wouldn’t have enjoyed the birthday. James talked to Madam Hooch and arranged a lunch time flying session for the three of them. After dinner, before Sirius had to go and change for tea with his cousins, James and Peter led the Gryffindor table in a round of ‘Happy Birthday’, followed by ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’. According to the students Remus heard from afterwards, they had sung ‘and so say all of us!’ over and over, getting louder each time until Professor McGonagall had to threaten them with detention if they didn’t stop.

As November marched on, the days grew shorter and the castle darker. They spent less of their time outside, and more of it huddled by the fire in the common room, playing card games and plotting revenge against Snape. The first term was drawing to a close, and the teachers seemed to be piling on more homework than ever.

Whenever Sirius and Remus were away from Peter and James (usually when the other two were in the library), Sirius was reading to him. They finished A History of Magic in just under two weeks, and then alternated between A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration and Magical Drafts and Potions for the rest of the term. When the marauders worked on their homework as a group, he even took to reading aloud, as if to himself, claiming it helped him think. This was very much to James’ annoyance, who preferred silence.

Though they couldn’t possibly cover the entire syllabus in such a short time, to everyone’s amazement (including his own) Remus’ marks were improving at an astonishing rate. Sirius had apparently had the right idea; Remus’ ability to retain and recall information was remarkable, and he found himself raising his hand in lessons for the first time in his life.

Sirius’ marks, on the other hand, began to fall. He spent so much time trying to secretly assist Remus, that he apparently no longer did any of the extra reading he’d prided himself in all year. As it was, his own homework became average, passable and fell behind James’ for the first time. James was oblivious, of course, and merely assumed that he was actually improving.

“But you spend so much time in the library!” Remus whispered to him once, after Sirius had received an ‘Acceptable’ mark on his Charms essay. “I thought you were studying.” Remus himself had still not worked up the courage to visit the library. The thought of all of those books horrified him.

“I am studying,” Sirius replied, cheerily, “Just not this stuff,” he folded the essay away, “I’m looking up cognitive interpretation spells – you know, so you can read by yourself. It’s really tricky, OWL level, actually, but I think I’ve almost got it. Don’t worry, Lupin, it’s not as if I’m failing. This is much more interesting, anyway.”

Remus felt horribly guilty, of course, as well as mildly ashamed that Sirius was devoting so much time to helping him. He honestly could not remember a time in his life that anyone had ever tried so hard on his behalf. It made him wish he could do something – anything in return. But, other than having a difficult family, Sirius Black seemed to want for nothing at all.

In fact, there was one thing Remus could give Sirius which even James could not – but it hardly felt worth mentioning. Something Sirius called ‘muggle insight’. It began when Remus finally plucked up the courage to ask about Sirius’ record collection. Sirius was only too happy to share; other than his racing broom, which was still at home, his albums were his dearest possessions.

Remus could easily see why – he had Introducing The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, as well as Abbey Road; Beggars Banquet and Sticky Fingers (“Mick Jagger has to be the coolest muggle I’ve ever seen,” Sirius gushed), two Led Zeppelin albums – Remus hadn’t listened to them before, but the older boys at St. Edmund’s were all obsessed – and a Simon and Garfunkle LP, hidden at the back.

Wizards, it turned out, did not generally think much of muggle music. All of Sirius’ records had been gifted to him by his cousin, Andromeda, who was apparently the first ‘black sheep’ of the Black family, having left school a few years beforehand and married a muggle.

“I hardly ever see her,” Sirius explained, “Not since the wedding, but she posts these to me every now and then. She sends them the muggle way, so mum doesn’t find out – she doesn’t understand how the post office works.”

So although he had an impressive collection by any eleven year old’s standards, Sirius’ musical passions existed almost entirely in a vacuum. He wasn’t aware of any other Beatles songs than the ones he already had, pressed into vinyl. He had never listened to the radio, or watched Top of the Pops, or even opened a copy of NME before. As such, he found Remus endlessly fascinating on the subject of music and muggle culture.

“You’ve actually seen them, though!” He said, awed, “You’ve seen them performing.”

“Not in real life, or anything,” Remus replied, uncomfortably.

“No, I know, on the telephone,” Sirius nodded sagely. Remus stifled laughter,

“On the television.” He corrected, “It’s more like those moving paintings you lot have. Only black and white. And only the Beatles – the Stones came on once and Matron made us turn it off, because of their hair.”

“What about their hair?”

“Too long,” Remus shrugged, “She said they looked dirty.”

“My hair’s much longer,” Sirius said, frowning.

“Yeah, it is. But muggle boys don’t have long hair, not normally.”

“Don’t tell him that!” Peter teased, “He’ll shave his head.” He threw a gob stone across the board on the floor – they’d been playing a lazy game off and on for the past few days, trying to teach Remus the rules. It rolled into one of Sirius’ stones and knocked it out of the ring, immediately squirting out a disgusting smelling liquid, which Sirius barely dodged in time. Peter grinned, “Ha, take that, muggle lover!”

Sirius swore, loudly, and left to change his clothes.

Chapter Text

“Lupin, perhaps you can tell me – what are the transfigurative properties of lapis philosophorum?” McGonagall called out, towards the end of their lesson one day. She gave him a very pointed look – the last time she’d asked him a question in front of the class he had shrugged and looked away.

“Um…” Remus wracked his brain, “Well, I think that’s the one that turns stuff into gold? If you use it right… and Cleopatra the Alchemist used it to turn lead into silver, I think.”

“Correct.” McGonagall sounded as if she was trying to mask her surprise. “Five points to Gryffindor. And another five for making the connection to Cleopatra the Alchemist – she’s not mentioned in Transfiguration for Beginners, did you read that in your history text?”

Remus nodded, aware that everyone was looking at him.

“Well, excellent. Some of my third-year students are incapable of cross-referencing their studies like that, I’m pleased to see you taking such an interest.” She addressed the class, “And we will begin discussing alchemy after Christmas. Which reminds me – with the holidays approaching, I’d like to ask any students planning to remain at Hogwarts over the break to let me know by the end of next week. Thank you, you’re dismissed.”

The class stood up to leave. A few people patted Remus on the back as they passed.

“Mr Lupin, if you have a moment?” McGonagall said, just as he was passing her desk. His stomach dropped. He’d gone two weeks without a detention from her; he should have known something was coming. He stood still, shoving his hands deep in his pockets and staring at his feet as the rest of the class filtered out.

Finally, the classroom empty, she walked over and shut the door (right in James’ face) and turned back into the room.

“Well done today, Remus,” McGonagall said, kindly, “You’ve really been doing well lately.”

He looked up at her, startled. She laughed,

“Don’t look so surprised! I’m very impressed. Professor Slughorn and Professor Flitwick have said the same. I wanted a quick word with you about Christmas. I’ve spoken with Mrs Orwell—“

“Who?!”

“The lady who runs St Edmund’s.”

“Oh, right, Matron.”

“Quite. As you know, the full moon will occur twice in December – the second,” (that was next week) “and the thirty-first. New Year’s Eve. Mrs Orwell seems to be of the opinion that you would be better off remaining at Hogwarts over Christmas for this reason. I hope you aren’t too disappointed.”

Remus shrugged,

“I’m not fussed either way.”

Professor McGonagall nodded, very seriously.

“I shall add your name to the list, then. I’ll see you next week, Remus.”

* * *

James invited Sirius and Remus to visit him over the break, knowing that neither of them were facing a particularly merry Christmas otherwise. Remus was forced to decline – even if he hadn’t been incredibly shy about visiting James’ home and meeting his parents, he was still legally in the care of St Edmund’s local authority, and needed written permission from Matron to leave Hogwarts.

Sirius, who would have loved the opportunity to spend two weeks mucking about with James, racing their brooms and eating chocolate, also had to refuse. His family had made it quite clear that they did not approve of him visiting the Potter family under any circumstances.

“Bellatrix, that bitch, has been feeding my parents information.” He explained, darkly, “Apparently, I’ve disgraced them enough already. If I go to yours then it’ll only get worse. Sorry, mate.”

Remus went to the edge of the grounds with the marauders all to wave them off on the last day of term.

“We’ll send you owls!” James promised, “See if you can come up with our next plan of attack on Snape!”

Remus grinned and promised he would try. He hoped that the letters James sent would not be too long. He was the only Gryffindor first year staying behind for the break, and trudged a lonely path back up to the castle.

The next day he enjoyed lying in – something they were never allowed to do at St. Edmund’s. He slept until ten o’clock, when Frank Longbottom poked his head around the door,

“Come on Lupin, you’ll miss breakfast at this rate!”

Remus liked Frank – he had a broad, friendly face and an easy-going manner. He seemed altogether solid and dependable, like an older brother. He understood that Remus was used to being an outsider, and tried to include him wherever possible without pushing too hard.

After breakfast Frank disappeared to the owlery and Remus sat glumly in the common room, feeling the next two weeks stretch before him, empty and lonely. He considered a walk around the grounds, but it had started to rain heavily. He played a few of Sirius’ records and flipped through a stack of magazines some fourth years had left behind, just looking at the pictures. They were mostly of pretty, glamorous witches and handsome wizards – he supposed it was a fashion mag.

The next few days passed in much the same way. Frank would get him up in the morning, he’d eat all his meals with the remaining Gryffindors in the Great Hall, but otherwise he was left to his own devices.

He was so bored at one point that he even thought about doing some of the homework he’d been set. He’d been trying to improve his handwriting, but it was almost impossible with the ridiculous feather quills they were provided. No one would answer him properly when he asked why they couldn’t just use biro’s. Even pencil might have been better. He actually did try to read for a while, but after attempting a paragraph from his herbology text gave up in frustration. He copied out a few of the diagrams instead – Remus didn’t mind drawing; he liked the freedom of it.

Every day he walked around the castle for a few hours, with his map. The other boys had long since discarded theirs, having learnt all the classroom locations after the first week or so. But Remus hung on to his, still bothered by its incompleteness. He’d begun marking it up himself, adding points of interest, hiding places and the secret passageway he’d found.

 

The rest of the time he spent avoiding teachers who were concerned about his being alone. He wasn’t the only student left in the school, but most of the others were sixth and seventh years, who generally stayed in the library revising hard for exams, or working on their coursework. Slughorn was holding special extra Potions classes in the dungeons, but Remus hadn’t been invited and probably wouldn’t have gone anyway.

He practiced a few spells, and entertained himself for a good few hours trying to see how many objects in their dorm room he could levitate at once. He made a game of it, throwing various objects – books, gob stones, decks of cards – up in the air, and trying to stop them before they hit the ground. He had to stop that, eventually, when Frank knocked on the door and told him irritably to keep the noise down.

* * *

Saturday 24th December 1971

On Christmas Eve, Remus was woken earlier than usual – it was still quite dark. Heavy rain pelted the thick glass window panes, the sound of it loud enough to echo through the empty dorm room. But that wasn’t what had disturbed him. The door was creaking open, and someone stepped inside.

Sitting up and peering through the gloom, Remus expected to see Longbottom telling him to get up for breakfast. But it wasn’t Frank. It was a very soggy and dishevelled looking boy, with long hair and a haughty face.

“Sirius!” Remus leapt out of bed, overjoyed to see his friend.

Sirius pushed his wet hair out of his eyes – he’d clearly been out in the rain. He pulled off his heavy travelling cloak, dropping it in a pile on the floor.

“Alright, Lupin?” He grinned. “Freezing, isn’t it?” He pointed his wand at the fireplace, “Incendio.”

“What are you doing here?!”

“Had enough,” He said simply, pulling off his boots, which were caked in mud. “Got into an argument with Dad, then the whole family got into it. All the usual stuff. Called me a blood traitor, the shame of the family, et cetera, et cetera…” He flopped down on his bed. “So I left.”

“Wow.” Remus rubbed his eyes, awestruck. “How did you get here?”

“Floo powder.” Sirius shrugged, “To the pub in the village. Then just walked up.”

“Wow.” Remus repeated.

“I’m starving, they sent me to bed last night without dinner. Come on, get dressed! Breakfast!”

McGonagall was not as pleased to see Sirius as Remus was. The two boys attempted to take their seats at the table as if nothing was out of the ordinary, but she appeared at their side almost immediately.

“Mr Black.” She said, a note of warning in her voice which Remus recognised from his detentions. “What is the meaning of this?”

“I missed you too, Professor.” He grinned up at her.

The corner of the old witch’s mouth twitched, but she kept her composure.

“You were seen walking onto the grounds from Hogsmead at six o’clock this morning. Do you care to explain yourself further?”

Sirius shook his head,

“Not really, Professor. That’s pretty much all there is to it.”

McGonagall sighed, shaking her head lightly. She had the same look of pity she usually reserved for Remus.

“Very well, Mr Black. I shall have to contact your parents, of course, so that they know where you are.”

“No need.” Sirius replied, nodding at the flock of owls which had just swooped into the room. The largest of these birds, a huge, stately eagle owl, dropped a thick red envelope onto Sirius’ plate. He looked down at it, then up at McGonagall with a wry smile, “I think they know exactly where I am.”

He picked up the ominous envelope, and, without breaking eye contact with McGonagall, ripped it open. Almost immediately, the letter began to shriek. The voice was so loud that it filled the entire hall, causing heads to turn. McGonagall winced at the ear-splitting pitch of it. It was the voice of Sirius’ mother.

“SIRIUS ORION BLACK,” it shrieked, “HOW DARE YOU DEFY YOUR FATHER IN THIS MANNER!” Remus covered his ears. Sirius remained perfectly still, looking up at McGonagall, “CONSORTING WITH HALF BREEDS AND BLOOD TRAITORS! TURNING YOUR BACK ON YOUR FAMILY! IF YOUR GRANDFATHER WAS ALIVE HE’D HAVE DISOWNED YOU THE MOMENT YOU WERE SORTED! YOU WILL REMAIN AT SCHOOL UNTIL THE END OF THE YEAR AND THINK ABOUT THE SHAME AND DISHONOUR YOU HAVE BROUGHT TO YOUR NOBLE TITLE! DON’T THINK WE WON’T DISINHERIT YOU! YOU ARE NOT OUR ONLY SON!”

With that, the letter burst into flames, curling and shrivelling into a pile of chalk white ash. The silence that followed was deafening. Everyone was staring.

Sirius reached for some toast, put it on his plate, then began ladling scrambled egg onto it, nonchalantly. He glanced up at McGonagall again,

“You can send mother an owl if you like, Professor, but I doubt she’ll read it.”

“Very well, Sirius,” McGonagall nodded, “Just… try to keep out of trouble, will you?” With that, she walked stiffly back to the teachers table at the far end of the hall.

Sirius ate his breakfast in silence. Years later, Remus would always remember thinking in that moment that Sirius Black must be the bravest boy in the world.

* * *

Christmas day at St Edmund’s was usually an extremely noisy affair. Some boys got presents delivered – those with distant relatives who cared enough to send a new sweatshirt perhaps, but not enough to visit – others made do with the usual selection of donations from the locals, which Matron had wrapped up for them. Gift-getting was quickly followed by gift-swapping, and they often passed the morning bartering and trading the meagre items they’d received. They were made to smarten themselves up, then led in a long line down to the church, where they would sit through the Christmas service, bored and slouching.

Christmas morning at Hogwarts was a good deal more pleasant. Remus was almost touched to find that Matron had not forgotten him – the post had arrived overnight and at the end of his bed he found a card from her, as well as a lumpy package which contained a bag of nuts, an orange, and a tin of biscuits. To his amazement, James had also sent a present – his very own set of gob stones. Peter had even sent a box of chocolate frogs.

“Merry Christmas,” Sirius yawned, opening his own gifts. He had nothing from his parents, as far as Remus would see, but didn’t mention it. James had sent him an annual of his favourite quidditch team, the South End Scorchers, and he had a box of frogs from Peter too.

“Merry Christmas,” Remus returned, “I didn’t get anyone any presents,” He admitted guiltily. “I didn’t know they would…”

“Don’t worry about it,” Sirius replied, on his way to the bathroom, “No one expected you to.”

This troubled Remus, but he tried not to think about it. While Sirius was in the loo, another owl flew in the window and dropped a large, flat, square package on his bed. When Sirius came out and saw it, his eyes lit up and he ripped it open, eagerly,

“It’s from Andromeda!” He explained, pulling the record out, showing it to Remus, who hurried over excitedly.

It was another muggle album. The cover was black, printed with the silhouetted image of a man standing in front of a huge amplifier, playing a guitar. He had long, wildly curly hair, stood with his legs apart in a power stance, outlined in gold. Electric Warrior, the title blared, T-Rex.

“Ohh, T-Rex, I think I’ve heard of them,” Remus said, as Sirius flipped it over to read the track listing.

“Stick it on!” Remus encouraged, impatient. Who cared what the cover said?

Sirius did, sliding out the slick black disc and settling it onto his turntable. The record began to turn, and the room filled with music – a smooth, sliding throb.

Beneath the bebop moon/I wanna croon/With you-ooo…

They sat and listened entranced, stopping only to flip to the B-side. Once it was over, Sirius wordlessly turned it over and began at the beginning again. They alternated between sitting on the bed, swaying slightly to the melody, or nodding their heads as the beats quickened. They shared grins with each other at the catchiest riffs, and lay down to stare at the ceiling for the slower, dreamier tracks.

Eventually, halfway through the second listen, Frank came in,

“Merry Christmas lads – come on, breakfast!”

They dressed quickly and went down to the dining hall. The Great Hall had been decorated garishly by the teachers – glittering ropes of tinsel in red, green and gold sparkled from every rafter, hanging down like festive jungle vines. Twelve enormous trees twinkled with lights in every colour imaginable, and baubles the size of footballs hung from every branch.

After breakfast, the boys ran back upstairs to listen to the album again.

“It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.” Remus declared. Sirius nodded, solemnly.

Sirius’ favourite song was Jeepster – he loved the twanging chords, the aggressive thump of it. Remus like Monolith best; it was spacey and smooth, the words both nonsensical and meaningful at the same time. It made him feel like he was floating.

For the rest of the day they played music in the common room, ate their way through the chocolate frogs, nuts and biscuits, and played rowdy games of exploding snap. Meals at Hogwarts were always spectacular, and Christmas dinner was no different. By the time night had fallen, Remus had eaten so much he thought he might never be hungry again.

Though he didn’t say it to Sirius (who, after all, had been forced to run away from home for the first – if not the last – time), it was Remus’ best Christmas ever.

Chapter Text

Tuesday 27th December 1971

With Boxing Day over and done with, Remus and Sirius found themselves caught in those strange nowhere days between Christmas day and New Year’s Day, as they awaited their friends’ return.  Sirius was keen to plan their revenge on Snape – in fact, he was no longer interested in attacking all of the Slytherin’s anymore, wanting to focus his energies on one single nemesis.

Remus was inclined to agree. He had been too furious with Snape to think clearly about it for the past few weeks. He couldn’t shake the feeling that Severus had somehow hit upon the exact hex that would cause Remus the most upset. He didn’t know quite how the Slytherin boy had managed it – and it was very likely just a clever guess – but he didn’t care.

“We should just get James’ cloak, follow him around ‘til he’s alone, then beat the shit out of him.” Remus growled, as they sat in the empty common room one evening. He gripped the arm of the settee as he said this, feeling the leather creak under his grasp. It was getting close to the full moon and his temper was closer to the surface than usual.  

“Now, now, Lupin,” Sirius chastised smoothly, carrying a pile of books he’d brought from the library. “You’re thinking like a muggle. If we’re going to get him, we’re going to get him with magic.”

“Not more books.” Remus whined, as Sirius plopped down beside him, an enormous tome in his arms. He opened it, and it was so big that the cover rested across both of their skinny legs.

“Yes, more books.” Sirius replied, breezily. “You’ll love them once you get to know them, I promise.”

Remus wasn’t so sure about that. It was true, he’d grown to quite like their secret study sessions, and had been privately amazed at the amount he had learnt. But listening to Sirius was one thing – sitting down alone and staring at a block of text was another thing altogether. Still, Sirius kept promising him that he was getting closer to a solution.

“So what’s this one about?” Remus asked, resigned to his fate. If Sirius wanted to do something, there was very little anyone could do to stop him. You just had to hold on tight until it was over.

“Hexes and jinxes. A lot of them are really complex, though. I mean, we’re good – you, me and James, anyway – but I still think we should stick to the basics. Simplicity is key.”

“Ok.” Remus replied, dully. He still preferred the idea of a surprise beating.

“So I thought we could brainstorm all the stuff we can do, and see if that lends itself to any good jinxes.” Sirius continued, undeterred by Remus’ reluctance, “So, I’m really good at transfiguration – I got the best marks even after you started catching up.”

“Right.” Remus agreed,

“And James is a bit better than me at Defence Against the Dark Arts – which you’d think would be helpful when dealing with a slimy creep like Snivellus, but we haven’t really learnt any good spells yet, except disarming stuff, and that’s no use.”

He chewed the nib of his quill, considering. It wasn’t a new quill, and left a dark stain on Sirius’ bottom lip. Remus didn’t say anything. Sirius carried on, “James is good at flying, too, obviously, but I dunno how that’s going to be any help. Then there’s Pete… good at sneaking around and grunt work, I suppose…”

Remus thought that was rather unfair. Peter was never top of the class like Sirius and James, but he was generally perfectly competent, usually settling for a satisfactory mark. He lacked the competitive edge James and Sirius had, the desire to prove himself. Remus recognised this well enough – it was enough just to be friends with cleverer, more confident people, sometimes. You got a bit of their shine with none of the pressure.

“Pete’s good at Herbology,” Remus pointed out, “And Potions.”

“Both useless.” Sirius shrugged, “You were the one who came up with the rosehip thing, and we’re never going to best Snape at Potions – I hate to admit it, but the bastard’s too good. Anyway, then we’ve got you; you’re probably best at Charms.”

“Not best,” Remus said, hurriedly, “I’m good at levitation, I suppose, but that’s it.”

“Oh shut up, this is no time for modesty, Lupin,” Sirius waved an impatient hand, “You pick up spells quicker than anyone. If we find a sufficiently hideous hex in here, then I’m counting on you to figure out how to do it.”

Remus squirmed. He hated when Sirius talked like that – as if Remus was as clever, or as gifted as he and James were. He knew it wasn’t true, and it embarrassed him. He fought a sudden urge to push the big heavy book off their laps and walk away.

It was just the full moon, he told himself. He felt fidgety and too hot by the fire, too close to Sirius, who’s blood he could smell, mixed in with the unique scent of magic. He vaguely hoped that dinner would be red meat – something he could taste the iron in.

“It has to be something big,” Sirius murmured, flipping all the way to the back of the book – Remus let out a yelp as the full weight of it thudded against his thighs. Sirius ignored this, running a finger down the index. “Something much worse than the hair thing.”

Remus shuddered at the thought of Snape’s prank. Rage surged up in him again. Or was it hunger? He shook his head, pushing the book away and getting up, pretending he just had to stretch. His joints ached already as his body prepared itself for the coming transformation.

“I dunno why you think I’ll be any help.” Remus sighed, yawning now.

“Muggle insight.” Sirius grinned. “Like the itching powder. You can come up with stuff Snape won’t see coming.”

Remus scratched his head, wracking his brain,

“Can’t think of anything bad enough,” he said, “Once we got a bucket of water and propped it up over a door – which you have to leave a bit ajar, y’know, then Matron was supposed to walk through and get soaked. Except Matron didn’t walk through, the cook did, and we got served shit food for a month.” His stomach growled at the mention of food. “That’s a pretty tame prank, to be honest. Are you hungry? Can we go down for dinner yet?”

“Yeah, I s’pose,” Sirius closed the book. “We could get a bucket pretty easily, but it seems like there’s a lot of room for error. And I dunno if it would really strike fear into his heart the way we want it to. We’re marauders, we should be setting certain standards.”

Remus chuckled as they climbed through the portrait hole,

“Yeah, told you it was rubbish. Shame, ‘cause Snivellus could do with a good wash.”

Sirius laughed back. Then he froze, and gripped Remus’ shoulder,

“Oh, you genius! You bloody genius!”

“What?!” Remus replied, shocked and a bit annoyed to be shaken about like that.

“A good wash! That’s what we’ll do! It’s easy, I bet, it’ll be in one of those books… wait here!” He disappeared back through the portrait. Remus sighed, hungrily, and waited.

* * *

“So wait, explain it to me again?” Remus whispered, as they finished their plates. He used the remains of his roast potato to mop up what remained of the gravy. He might have seconds – he ate like a horse on the nights before the moon. “It sounds complicated.”

“It isn’t,” Sirius shook his head, “I reckon it’s easy. Weather spells are hard on a grand scale, but this only needs to be a cloud the size of this plate.” He tapped the porcelain in front of him.

“Would it be like the ceiling?” Remus asked, jerking his head up at the charmed rafters. It was raining, as it had been all Christmas, but the downpour vanished before it reached them.

“A bit,” Sirius replied, “But smaller. And without whatever charms are stopping us from getting wet.”

“But… couldn’t he just step away from it?”

“Not if we combine it with a binding spell!”

“But… we can’t mix spells yet. Well, I can’t. Can you?” He looked up at Sirius, who was nodding vigorously,

“Yeah, I’ve been having a go at it, for your reading thing. It’s actually not too hard; you just have to concentrate.”

“That’s what they say about reading,” Remus sighed.

“We’ll practice.” Sirius said, firmly, “We’ll practice loads, before James and Pete get back. They’ll be dead impressed.” 

There was no time for seconds after that, so Remus had to satisfy himself with the remainder of his Christmas biscuits as Sirius looked up weather charms. Once he’d found what he wanted, they both took it in turns to have a go, Sirius reading out the directions several times before they understood them.

It was the first time Remus had attempted a spell without having it demonstrated for him first. Daunting to begin with, he quickly understood how the wand movement ought to flow and twist, while Sirius was best at pronunciation. It did take a lot of concentration, and it was nearly midnight by the time either of them had produced anything at all. Finally, Remus managed to cast a small, grey cloud. It poured from his wand like smoke, then hovered between them for a few moments before bursting like a bubble, leaving only a faint trace of condensation.

Sirius grinned, broadly,

“This is going to work!”

* * *

Saturday 31st December 1971

It was hard to shake off Sirius on the night of the full moon. Remus even told him he was feeling sick, but then the other boy wanted to accompany him to the hospital wing. Eventually he managed to convince him that he ought to stay behind and keep practicing the raincloud charm.

“We’ve basically got it now, though.” Sirius complained. It was true, they’d both managed to produce satisfactory miniature rainstorms – the bathroom had almost flooded in the process. It was just a matter of maintaining concentration, and perfecting the binding aspect now.

“Find something else to do, then.” Remus snapped, halfway out the door, skin crawling, stomach growling. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“How’d you know she’ll keep you overni--?!”

Remus had escaped before having to answer any more questions. He was getting careless, he thought to himself as he knocked on McGonagall’s office door. Eventually he’d have to think of a decent excuse for all of his absences. They were sure to connect the nights he vanished to the full moon eventually – they all did astronomy together.

The shack was cold, the walls damp from the relentless rain. Remus wished he’d brought his wand; he’d learnt to cast a good fire charm now. But he supposed it would be no good if there was a fire blazing when he turned. He might burn the whole place down.

The transformation came on more suddenly than usual. Ever since Madam Pomfrey had told him they would get worse, he seemed to feel it more. He still fought not to scream, worried that McGonagall or Pomfrey might hear him on their way out of the tunnel. He didn’t need any more pity.

* * *

Sunday 1st January 1972

The next day, Remus could barely get up after he’d changed back. He pulled a blanket around himself instead, and lay on the floor waiting for Madam Pomfrey to arrive. Every inch of him hurt, more than ever. His head pounded as if a troll had stomped on it. Every tooth in his jaw ached, the tendons in his shoulders felt as if they’d been stretched so far they had snapped. He’d broken almost all of his fingernails. There were huge claw marks in the wallpaper.

“Remus?” Madam Pomfrey’s soft voice came through the door, “I’m coming in now, dear.”

He closed his eyes, unable even to groan.

“Oh,” She said, as she entered the room and found him on the floor, “Bad one, was it? Perhaps it’s the solstice, I’ll have to consult my books. Can you get up, Remus?” She touched his forehead with the back of her hand.

He opened his eyes and nodded weakly, taking her arm and hauling himself up. That was a mistake. As soon as he was on his feet his head swam and his stomach lurched. He bent forward and vomited onto the floor.

“Never mind,” Madam Pomfrey said, kindly, an arm around his trembling shoulder. She pointed her wand at the mess and it vanished in an instant, “No harm done. Let’s get you somewhere warm now, shall we?”

She wanted to magic a stretcher to carry him back to the castle, but he couldn’t bear the shame of it, no matter how early in the morning it was. They walked back, very slowly, and up to the hospital wing, where he finally collapsed into a clean, soft bed. The nurse continued to fuss around him, but he was already drifting to sleep.

He woke up feeling marginally better. His headache had left him, anyway. He blinked blearily, reaching for the glass of water beside him. Someone picked it up and handed it to him. He drank deeply, then set it down, looking up expecting to see Madam Pomfrey. He jumped,

“Sirius!” He rasped, his throat still sore. God, had he actually been howling? How embarrassing.

“Happy new year,” Sirius said, cheerily. He was sitting on the little wooden stool put there for visitors, clutching a book to his chest. “Thought I’d come looking when you weren’t at breakfast. You all right?”

“Fine,” Remus said, sitting up, hurriedly, rubbing his head, “I um… I get migraines sometimes. I’m feeling better.”

“Good.” Sirius nodded, “Because I’ve got your Christmas present ready.”

“My… what?” Remus stared at Sirius warily. His blue eyes were bright and full of mischief.

“Sorry it’s late,” He was saying, “I had a few last-minute tweaks to make. Here.” He handed over the book. It was Remus’ copy of A History of Magic.

“What..?” Remus wasn’t sure if he was just having a very odd dream. Why was Sirius giving him his own history book?

“Open it!”

Remus did. He had hardly opened the book all year, and the pages were still stiff and immaculate, except for the very first page. Below the title, Sirius had written something in his own neat cursive handwriting. Remus squinted at it, his mouth twisting with effort. He was already exhausted, he didn’t have the energy for riddles.

“Sirius,” He sighed, “You know I can’t—“

“Put your hand on it!” Sirius said, eagerly, stepping forward, “Palm flat against the page – yeah, like that. Now, give me a moment…”

He withdrew his wand from his pocket and paced the point lightly against Remus’ temple.

“Sirius, what are you doing?!” Remus was alarmed – he’d never had a wand pointed at him before, and he’d seen Sirius blow up bigger things than his head.

“Trust me!” Sirius shushed him. A look of concentration came over his face. He took a deep breath. Remus squeezed his eyes shut, preparing for the worst. At least he was already in the hospital wing. “Lectiuncula Magna!” Sirius said, forcefully.

Remus felt an odd jolt, as if he’d missed the last step on a staircase. It hadn’t hurt, exactly, and at least his head was still attached. He opened his eyes and looked at Sirius,

“What was that?”

“Look at the book!” Sirius pointed, practically dancing on the spot with excitement, “Tell me what it says!”

Remus sighed, and looked down at the book in his lap. It was exactly the same; a blank white page with Sirius’ slightly slanted thick black handwriting. He stared at it, not sure what he was supposed to be doing.

“Read it!” Sirius prompted.

“I…” Remus looked down, and looked at the first word.

‘Happy’

A voice in his head said. Remus blinked in shock – he’d never heard the voice before, though it sounded like him. It was almost like the sorting hat, only more familiar, less invasive. He looked again.

‘Happy Christmas,’

--it read;

‘Now you can do your own bloody homework. From your fellow marauder and friend, Sirius Black.’

Remus laughed. He looked at Sirius, then back at the page. He split the book open to a middle page, looking at the words printed there:

‘during the late sixteenth century, Cornelius Agrippa made his greatest advancements in the field of natural magic…’

“Oh my god!” Remus exclaimed. He flipped a page again, and read more. The voice continued, confidently. He could read. “Oh my GOD!”

“It worked, then?!” Sirius asked, beaming.

“Sirius! This is… you!... I can’t… How?!”

“Oh no,” Sirius chuckled, “Don’t tell me I’ve messed up your brain so much you can’t even form a coherent sentence?”

“Thank you.” Was all Remus could say. He could feel his eyes stinging with tears, and immediately rubbed them hard with his fists. Sirius looked away, politely.

“S’ok,” he replied, “Now you can help me research our next big prank.”

“We haven’t even got the first one off the ground yet,” Remus replied, sniffing hard, pulling himself together. “You have to show me how you did this… it’s… I mean, it must be really advanced magic.”

“Sort of,” Sirius shrugged, “I got the idea after Mother’s howler, actually. I thought if you can get a letter to scream at someone, then you can get a book to read to someone. Keeping the voice it in your head was the hardest part – I couldn’t tell if it was working on me or if I was just reading normally. Works on any book, though. I think. Not sure about other stuff yet, like potion labels or signs, but we can keep working on it…”

Remus couldn’t stop staring that the book, reading random lines and grinning to himself. He didn’t think he’d ever been so happy in his life.

Chapter Text

Sunday 2nd January 1972

“Brilliant!” James exclaimed, slamming his hand down on the bathroom counter, “Completely brilliant!”

“You’re so clever!” Peter gushed.

The four of them were crammed into the small shared bathroom. Sirius was standing in the bath, fully dressed, holding an umbrella over his head, while Remus pointed his wand at a grey storm cloud hovering just above that. It was pouring rain. Sirius shuffled up and down the bathtub, but the cloud stayed firmly above his head, following his every move.

James and Peter had arrived back from their Christmas holidays only two hours ago, and as soon as dinner was over Remus and Sirius had dragged them upstairs for a demonstration.

“Lupin gave me the idea, but I looked up the charms to do it,” Sirius beamed, proudly, “He won’t know what’s hit him!”

“When can we do it?!” James was jumping up and down now, ready to explode with excitement. “First thing tomorrow? Breakfast? Potions?”

“Dinner,” Sirius shook his head, “More of an audience.”

“Yes, dinner,” James nodded, wisely, as if the idea had been his own. “Seriously, you two, I’m so bloody proud.”

“Cheers,” Sirius raised an ironic eyebrow. Then he looked at Remus, “Um… Lupin? You can probably stop now. My feet are getting wet.”

“Oh!” Remus shook off the charm, seeing that he had produced more rain than the ancient plug hole could manage, and Sirius was now ankle deep in cold water, the bottom of his robes soaked. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Sirius laughed, stepping out of the bath and squeezing out his robes, “Just make sure you do the same to Snape.”

“So, Lupin’s doing this one?” James asked. Sirius shrugged,

“He’s better at it. I can do it too though, if we get interference.”

* * *

Monday 3rd January 1972

The first day of lessons after Christmas was a very strange one. James, Sirius and Peter were full of nervous energy in anticipation of the practical joke. Remus was looking forward to that too – though somewhat nervous as it was he who had to pull it off. But he had another reason to be excited. It would be the first school day in his entire academic career that he would be able to read.

Sirius had shown him how to perform the spell, and it was very difficult – in the end Remus just had the other boy perform it for him most of the time, deciding to devote more time to learning how to do it himself later. His magic was still slightly wonky following the full moon, liable to overreach and ‘go off’ if he concentrated too hard. It didn’t seem like a good idea to turn his wand on himself until the moon waned enough and he had more control.

The first half of the day was everything he had hoped it might be. He couldn’t read the blackboard, but Charms was mostly practice based, and it amazed Remus how much easier everything became when he could just consult his text without having to remember everything Flitwick had said about softening charms. He was the first in the class to get his brick to bounce – much to the consternation of Lily Evans, who was usually the top Charms student.

It was in the afternoon, during Potions, that things began to go awry. It began with Slughorn returning their essays on the twelve uses of dragon blood. Remus had completed his before Christmas with help from Sirius, and the marauders as a whole did fairly well. As usual, Snape got the highest mark and earned five points for Slytherin. Lily was second and got a point for Gryffindor. She had only beaten Sirius by a few marks.

None of this was at all out of the ordinary – but apparently the tension of anticipation had grown too much for Sirius, and he couldn’t resist getting a shot in,

“Wonder if it’s worth cosying up to Snivellus just for a one measly house point.” He grumbled, loud enough for Lily and Snape to hear. Lily spun around, two bright pink patches on her cheeks,

“Shut up, Black,” she hissed, “No one likes a sore loser.”

“Hardly losing when your boyfriend lets you copy his work.” Sirius whispered back, venomously.

“I do not copy him, and Severus is not my boyfriend!” Lily’s face was getting redder.

“You’re blushing, Evans,” Sirius smirked, pleased with himself. He nudged James, “Isn’t that sweet?” James sniggered, nodding along.

“Ignore them, Lily,” Snape whispered, without turning his head, “They’re just jealous.”

“Jealous of what, Snivellus?” James jumped in, still trying to keep his voice down, “Jealous of a slimy greasy git like you? Keep dreaming.”

Sirius laughed, pleased to have drawn James in. Peter laughed too, so as not to be left out. Slughorn was still oblivious, now with his back to the class as he scribbled instructions on the blackboard.

Severus finally turned in his chair. He turned his beady black eyes on Sirius,

“I hear you had a very quiet Christmas, Black,” he said, his voice low and full of danger, “Your family couldn’t stand to have you around for more than a few days before packing you off back to school, is that right?” His lips curled, cruelly, “All of the pureblood families are talking about it – the Black’s black sheep.”

Sirius clenched his fists, Remus saw his knuckles turn white.

“Shut. Your. Face.” Sirius growled, through gritted teeth.

“Yeah, watch it, Snape,” James was frowning, “You’d better be careful what you say. Never know what might happen.”

“Is that a threat, Potter?” Snape replied, sounding bored, “Forgive me if I’m not quaking in my boots. Going to set Loony Lupin on me again?”

Remus, who had been half-listening to the posturing and half-listening to Slughorn’s instructions, flinched involuntarily. He’d had that nickname before. It was actually impressive that no one at Hogwarts hadn’t said it yet, especially when he knew he had a reputation for being a bit odd. Had everyone been calling him that, behind his back?

Reflexively, he picked up his wand. Snape saw, and his smirk grew even meaner,

“Oh my, have you actually learnt some magic, Lupin? I’m impressed. Mind you, I’ve heard they can train some monkey’s to perform basic tricks, so I suppose it’s no real achievement.”

Remus raised his wand, but Sirius grabbed his wrist and pushed it down on the desk.

“Not yet,” he muttered.

Remus clenched his jaw and looked back at the blackboard, seething internally. Snape chuckled and turned away too. Remus heard Lily whisper angrily,

“There’s no need to be so horrid to him!”

Remus could barely concentrate on the rest of the lesson. He knew he shouldn’t care what Snape thought of him, or anyone, for that matter. But the Slytherin boy’s barbs dug in and could not be shaken loose. Sirius didn’t help; he kept murmuring ‘we’ll show him!’ under his breath, throwing dark looks in Snape’s direction.

By the time dinner rolled around, Remus was white hot with rage and the desire to prove himself. He barely ate a thing, and it was Shepherd’s Pie, one of his favourites. He glared at Snape from across the room. This did not go unnoticed, and Severus nudged the boys around him, pointing at the marauders and laughing. Remus thought he could make out the words ‘loony Lupin’. James and Sirius scowled at them. Lily noticed too,

“You lot just leave Sev alone, ok?” She squeaked, “This stupid fight is going to go on forever if none of you can be mature enough to—“

“Give it a rest, Evans,” James rolled his eyes, “Bad enough you have to be friends with the tosser, now you’re trying to defend him? Where’s your house loyalty, eh?”

“This has nothing to do with houses,” She snapped, “It’s a ridiculous spat over nothing.”

“He insulted Remus!”

“You all pick on him all the time!”

“He started it!”

“Oh yeah, so you have to finish it, right, Potter?!” She stood up, suddenly, picking up her bag, “God, you’re so full of yourselves!” She walked away, her patent shoes clicking angrily on the flagstones.

“Loves a fight, that one,” James grinned.

There was a yelp of laughter from the Slytherin table and Remus decided he had had enough. He stood up too, pulled out his wand and pointed it at Severus.

Ligare Pluviam!”

It was instantaneous and perfectly glorious. The raincloud shot from Remus’ wand with the speed of a bullet, so no one could even see where it had come from. It rested over Snape’s head, thick, grey and heavy. There was a low roll of thunder, and the downpour began.

He didn’t know what was happening at first, covering his head with his hands and looking up. The students sitting either side of Snape stood up and backed away, not wanting to get wet. Then Snape stood up, trying to dodge the cloud, but it followed him, hovering persistently, rain bucketing down.

People were laughing now, and pointing. Everyone was looking around, trying to see who had done it, but no one had seen Remus cast it, except for his friends. He sat down, but kept his wand trained on Severus, grinning as he watched the boy still trying to run away from the mini-storm.

“Yes!” Sirius’ hissed in his ear, “Bloody yes, Lupin, you beauty!”

The immense satisfaction Remus felt was compounded by the laughter echoing around him. Snape was such a nasty, spiteful boy, even some of the Slytherins looked pleased to see him get what he deserved. The more Remus thought about it, the more he wanted to punish him, and the harder it rained. In fact, the cloud seemed to darken and swell.

Snape was completely soaked now, his hair plastered to his head, getting in his eyes. His skin was pale and his robes shining with water, a puddle forming beneath him. Remus grinned as he watched Severus try desperately to escape, looking more and more like a drowned rat.

“Stop it!” Lily was screeching at James, “I know it’s you! Stop it now!”

James kept laughing and held up his hands to show that he wasn’t doing anything. Lily looked close to tears.

Severus made to run, arms over his head to stop the rain pelting him, but his robes were so heavy and so waterlogged that he half tripped, half slid and collapsed to the floor. Remus would have laughed, but his concentration deepened. The rain fell harder still, until it was difficult even to see Severus through the grey sheets. The cloud was bigger too, and crackling with thunder and lightning – it had never done that when he’d practiced on Sirius. But then, he hadn’t been as angry at Sirius.

“Stop it! Please!” Lily was sobbing now. James had stopped laughing. He touched Remus’ arm,

“Er… Remus? He’s had enough, mate…”

Snape wasn’t getting up. Remus realised that no one was laughing any more, and a few people were screaming.

FINITE.” A voice boomed out over the dining hall.

At once, the rain stopped. Everyone was silent. Dumbledore stood in the entranceway – Remus hadn’t seen him since Halloween. He looked perfectly calm, despite the chaos he had just ended. The headmaster swept into the room, vanishing all of the water with a wave of his wand, and bending over Severus.

Remus put away his wand and shrank into his seat, watching Dumbledore whispering over Snape’s prone body. Lily was still sobbing, and ran over to stand beside Dumbledore, trembling and frightened.

“Everybody to your dormitories, please,” Dumbledore spoke quietly, but was somehow heard by everyone in the huge hall, “Miss Evans, please fetch Madam Pomfrey.”

Lily ran from the room, and the other students began to file out, obediently. James, Sirius and Remus all shot nervous glances at each other before hurrying to join the rest of their house.

Chapter Text

Most of the Gryffindors hung around in the common room, gossiping and chattering, all wondering who could have done it. The marauders, usually keen to be at the centre of any debate, all crept upstairs, pale faced with guilt.

Remus sat on his bed, staring at the floor. He had gone too far; he knew that. It had felt good, for a little while, and nothing could convince him that Severus hadn’t deserved it. But now James was looking at him oddly, and he knew that Dumbledore would find out somehow – if Lily didn’t tell everyone as soon as she got back to the common room.

“What happened?” James asked, carefully, “Did you lose control of it? That was really strong magic.”

“It was amazing!” Sirius said, suddenly, “He’ll think twice about crossing us again!”

“But… I mean, we didn’t want to hurt him, did we?” James frowned.

“He’s fine, he was just pretending, to get us in trouble.”

“Will we get in trouble?” Peter asked, wringing his hands, “We didn’t all do it, did we? It was only…”

Sirius slapped him around the back of his head,

“You rat.” He said. “We’re marauders. All for one and one for all.”

“Whatever that means,” Peter muttered, rubbing his head and going to sit on his own bed, sulkily.

“I did it, you lot shouldn’t get in trouble.” Remus said, quietly, not looking up.

“It was half my idea!” Sirius said, “I did the research! Don’t worry, Lupin, I bet you anything he’s fine.”

“If he is,” Remus said, heavily, “Then it’s no thanks to me.” He finally met James eyes. They were deep brown, and much more serious than usual. “I did mean to hurt him.”

James held his gaze, and nodded slightly.

There was a knock at the door, diffusing the tension. It was Frank Longbotttom.

“You four are to come to McGonagall’s office, now.” He said, gravely.

They followed Frank down the stairs and through the common room, where everyone stared at them. Remus looked at his feet the whole time, but he heard the chatter go quiet as they walked through. It didn’t matter what happened next – everyone would know they were responsible.

McGonagall was not alone. Dumbledore stood beside her desk, his hands folded in front of him. He smiled pleasantly at the four boys who stood in a line before him.

“Good evening, gentlemen.” He said.

“Good evening, headmaster,” they all chanted back.

“You may be interested to know that young Mr Snape is quite well – though his pride has been rather wounded.”

They said nothing. Remus didn’t look up.

“He seemed to think that you four had something to do with his misfortune.” Dumbledore continued, pleasantly, as if he was just passing the time of day. “Particularly you, Mr Potter.”

James looked up, opened his mouth, then closed it again and looked down. Remus couldn’t bear it. He only had three friends in all the world, and he wasn’t going to lose them now. He stepped forward.

“It was me, sir, I did it. He said some stuff to me earlier, and I was pissed off with him. I wanted to teach him a lesson.” He forced himself to look up, into Dumbledore’s pale blue eyes. The old man nodded, satisfied.

“I see. You acted alone?”

“Yes,” Remus pulled out his wand, “Look, I can prove it—“

“No need!” Dumbledore said, hurriedly, “I believe you, Mr Lupin.”

“It wasn’t just him, sir!” Sirius burst out, “I looked up the spell, I learnt how to do it too, it’s just as much my fault.”

“You mean you planned this, Black?” McGonagall said, sharply, “You planned an attack on another pupil? Ten points from Gryffindor. Each.”

Sirius looked down again.

“And detention for all of you, for a month.” She continued, “I find it very hard to believe that Mr Lupin here acted alone.”

All four of them hung their heads.

“You may go, gentlemen.” Dumbledore said, quietly. “I have no doubt you will all take the time to apologise to Mr Snape, of course.”

Sirius made an indignant noise, and James elbowed him roughly. They turned to leave.

“Mr Lupin, just a moment,”

Remus froze. He should have known he wouldn’t get away with it that easily. He stood still as the others left the room, McGonagall following them out to make sure they didn’t loiter outside.

Once the door closed, a still silence fell. Dumbledore didn’t speak immediately, and finally Remus raised his head to meet the headmaster’s eyes. He didn’t look angry, or disappointed. He wore his usual pleasant expression – tinged with curiosity, perhaps.

“How have you been finding Hogwarts, Remus?”

That wasn’t the question he had anticipated.

“Er… ok, I s’pose?”

“You seem to have had no problem making friends.”

That wasn’t a question at all, so he didn’t answer it. He looked at his feet, then back up.

“Am I getting expelled?” He asked. Dumbledore smiled,

“No, Remus, no one is getting expelled. I can see that you’re sorry for what you’ve done. The thing that concerns me, is how you did it. That was a very strong spell, I wouldn’t have expected a first year to... you must have been very angry.”

Remus nodded. He didn’t want to tell Dumbledore why – about the names Snape called him, or how he made him feel stupid and worthless and small.

“Passion is an important quality in a wizard, Remus.” Dumbledore was saying, “It directs our magic, strengthens it. But as you learnt today, if we do not exercise control then we endanger everyone around us.” He looked very serious, his eyes had lost their twinkle. “I do not wish to frighten you, Remus. When we first met, I told you that I sympathised with you – the hand you have been dealt is not one I would wish on anyone. But you must be more careful. You are a gifted wizard, do not waste it.”

Remus nodded, wanting more than anything for the conversation to be over. He’d rather have the cane than a lecture. The worst part was that Dumbledore was right. He had let his anger towards Severus influence the spell he’d used – he just wasn’t used to having that kind of strength.

“I’m sorry, professor.” He said, “Is Sniv—I mean, is Severus ok?”

“Yes, he’s perfectly fine. I think he was hoping that if he simply stopped struggling then whoever was casting the spell would stop. He’s been dried off and won’t suffer any long-term effects.”

“Oh…” Remus nodded, “Good.”

“Now,” Dumbledore smiled, “Off you go. I’ve kept you long enough and I have a feeling that Mr Potter is waiting outside for you to tell him everything.”

* * *

Dumbledore had given him a lot to think about. And he had plenty of time to think – McGonagall was deadly serious about their detentions, and even went so far as to split the four of them up. Sirius was tasked with scrubbing cauldrons in the dungeons, Peter with polishing the trophies in the awards room, and James with re-configuring every astronomy telescope in the tower. Remus was given the worst task of all; mucking out the owlery. Of course, none of them were permitted to use their wands and every night they had to begin all over again.

“Cruel and unusual is what it is,” Peter complained at the end of the first week as they fell into bed, filthy and exhausted.

“Dunno what you’re moaning about,” Sirius grumbled, “I’d love to polish trophies. Who knows what I’ve caught scraping out crusty potions from the bottoms of those bloody cauldrons.”

James just groaned, removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes.

Remus did not complain, because he didn’t feel he deserved to. He felt terrible for getting all of his friends into trouble, but even more terrible for what he had done. This was only exacerbated by the amount of reading he had been doing. Sirius’ spell was difficult, less intuitive than the magic he was used to. Sirius was the first to admit it wasn’t perfect – it wore off after an hour or so and had to be repeated. Remus had just about mastered it enough to perform alone, though it often took him a few go’s before he got it right.

The very first thing he had done was visit the library and borrowed a book from the magical creatures’ shelves.

Every night, after they had done their homework and served their detentions, Remus would draw the curtains around his bed, light his wand, and read the same chapter over and over. There were entire books written on his particular problem, he had found, but he was terrified that someone would become suspicious if he started checking them all out. Plus, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know any more. The things he’d read so far were bad enough.

He thought about the book almost constantly – in his lessons, at meal times, during detention. Words like ‘monstrous’, ‘deadly’, and ‘darkest of creatures’ flashed in his mind like neon signs. He’d known that he was dangerous, of course. He’d known that he was different. He hadn’t known that he was hated. Hunted, even. Apparently, his teeth were worth thousands in certain parts of eastern Europe. His pelt was worth even more.

There were legislative details too – things he didn’t fully understand, but which sounded horrible. Employment laws and registries and travel restrictions. It seemed that even if he could read that his job prospects might be no better in the wizarding world than they were as a muggle. He also understood why Dumbledore had told him to be careful. It was clear now that if anyone at Hogwarts found out what Remus was, then he might be in real trouble – and expulsion would be the least of his concerns.

Frustratingly, nothing he read was really relevant to his experiences. There was no account of a wizard actually living with the condition; how they had managed; what to expect; whether they had been able to hold down a job, or even just avoid hurting others. He’d assumed it was normal that he could smell blood and hear heartbeats – but how could he know for sure? Was it normal that his magic was stronger when the moon was rising? Sometimes he thought he could feel the sheer power of it, fizzing in his veins like a potion; filling him up and spilling over, bursting from his fingertips. And then there was his temper. How much of that was him, and how much of it was the monster?

He lay awake most nights, after the reading spell had worn off and he was too tired to cast it again but too restless to sleep. His mind whirred with worry and fear. How simple everything had seemed back at St Edmund’s. No magic, no homework, no agonising moral dilemmas. And, of course, no friends. If anything stopped Remus from just giving up, then it was that.

It was James, who had an ego the size of the lake, but a heart to match it. Peter – who, yes, granted was weird and a bit clueless – actually had a wicked sense of humour and could be unfailing generous. And of course Sirius. Sirius could keep secrets, had a mean streak but never directed it at his friends, was the most gifted student in the year but spent all his time coming up with pranks instead.

Remus wasn’t going to give up any of that, not if he could help it. Even if he had to be the swottiest student in the school; if he had to force himself to read every book, complete every assignment, follow every rule. He’d be so good they wouldn’t know what hit them. So good they’d have to make him a prefect – he’d do it all, if it meant staying at Hogwarts and keeping his friends.

There was nobody to talk to about any of these things. Nobody who would understand, anyway. As far as Remus knew, only Dumbledore, McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey knew about his condition. McGonagall was too severe to approach with questions like that. Remus still wasn’t sure that Dumbledore was entirely sane, and anyway he had no idea how to make an appointment with the headmaster. So it had to be Madam Pomfrey, in the end.

He waited until the next moon, which came at the end of January. It was a Sunday, so after dinner he separated himself from the marauders and headed to the hospital wing earlier than usual.

“Remus!” The nurse smiled at him, surprised, “I didn’t expect you until nightfall.”

“I wanted to ask you some stuff,” He said, shyly, eyes darting around the room. There were a few students lying in beds, most of them sleeping. Fortunately Madam Pomfrey was very discrete.

“Certainly, shall we pop into my office?”

It was much nicer than any of the teacher’s offices Remus had been in so far. The walls were lined with hundreds of neat and orderly bottles of potions and tonics, it was light and airy, she didn’t have a desk and instead of wooden seats there were comfortable armchairs seated either side of a fireplace.

“How can I help, dear?” She asked, settling in, gesturing that he sit down.

“Well,” He swallowed, not sure how to begin, “I just… I had a few questions about my… my problem.”

She smiled at him, kindly,

“Of course you do, Remus, that’s perfectly natural. Is there something specific you would like to know?”

“Yeah. I did a bit of reading, I know there isn’t a cure or anything.”

“Not yet,” She said, quickly, “Advancements are being made all the time.”

“Oh, ok. But, for now, I suppose I just want to know… more about it. I don’t remember anything when I wake up, just that I get really hungry.”

“You’d like to know more about the transformation?”

“No, not just that. Stuff like… does it change who I am, the rest of the time? Does it make me…” He looked down at his hands, at a loss. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to say, and there was a hard lump in his throat.

“Remus,” Madam Pomfrey said, “This is a condition you have, it isn’t who you are.”

“I get angry, sometimes,” He said, staring into the fire rather than looking her in the face, “I get really, really angry.”

“Everyone has emotions, they’re perfectly natural. We just learn to control them, over time.”

He nodded, taking this in. He couldn’t tell her the rest -“When I change, it’s getting worse. Harder.”

“Yes,” She replied, solemnly, “I did read that it can get worse with the onset of puberty.”

“Oh, ok.” Remus nodded. There was a long pause. “How much worse?”

“I… I couldn’t say. You really are the first of your kind that I’ve treated.”

Another silence. Remus felt no better than he had before; no less confused.

“Would you like to borrow that book I mentioned?”

He nodded, finally bringing himself to look up at her.

* * *

Madam Pomfrey’s book, Fur to Fangs: Caring for Magical Half-Humans was moderately more helpful than some of the others Remus had read so far. There was still a lot he couldn’t understand – advanced healing magic and complicated potion recipes, more details on legislation – and even more terrifying; trials and persecution. Conversely, there was a lot he already knew; he had been bitten, and mustn’t be allowed to bite anyone else during a full moon; silver hurt him; there was no cure.

The book did indeed say that with the onset of puberty his transformations would increase in intensity, and that he would become more dangerous afterwards. It did not mention changes in abilities, magical or otherwise, and there was nothing solid referring to changes in mood or temper.

He didn’t consider it particularly interesting or important to know that he had a shorter snout than real wolves or that his tail tufted (he’d rather not think about having either), but he was curious to discover that he was only a threat to humans – particularly wizards. Apparently other animals were in no danger from him – he amused himself thinking that Mrs Norris was safe, at least.

It did not go unnoticed that Remus had withdrawn from the marauders since the attack on Snape.

“Where have you been?” They’d ask, every evening as they all dressed for bed.

“Homework,” he’d shrug, or sometimes “Detention,” – though he hadn’t had another detention since the prank.

The truth was, he was always as far away from other people as he could get. He deliberately tried to stay out of their room until it was time to sleep, and even avoided the common room if he could help it. He felt that until he could control his magic, he’d better not get involved in any more of James and Sirius’ schemes. And they were scheming, he knew that for sure. Sometimes at night Remus could hear them sneaking into each other’s beds, then whispering furtively before casting a silencing charm. Other times they crept out with Peter, under the cloak. They always tried to wake Remus, but he ignored them.

During the day he hid away at the back of the library, or else in one of his secret places.  He’d found places all over the castle that were small enough to climb inside and go undiscovered for hours at a time. Windows that had been long bricked over, but retained high, broad ledges; small, empty chambers like priest holes concealed behind tapestries; the fifth-floor girls’ bathroom. There he could curl up and read for hours – sometimes he actually did his homework, other times he forced himself to research his condition.

He had another reason to hide. Since the incident, Snape’s hatred towards the marauders had intensified, and he went everywhere with Mulciber, using him as personal protection. If they crossed paths in the hallways Remus always had to be ready with a shielding charm – Mulciber knew more hexes than Sirius and James combined.

One afternoon, Remus was deep into a book on ancient battle magic – there was a chapter in it on the Úlfhéðnar, Germanic wolf-warriors who fought the Romans. He was sitting high up on his favourite on his window ledge and couldn’t be seen from the floor unless someone was really looking. He’d climbed up using a rope charm they’d learnt a few weeks ago. He was just about to climb down and go for dinner, when he made a wrong move and knocked the heavy book off the ledge. He winced as it plummeted to the hard stone floor with a deafening thud.

“Who’s there?!” A voice came, further up the corridor. He heard footsteps, and with a sinking feeling Remus realised he knew who it was.

“S’just a book.” Mulciber said, sounding sullen.

“Yes, but where did it come from?” Snape replied, suspicious. Mulciber huffed,

“The library?”

Snape muttered under his breath, sounding exasperated. Remus pressed as hard as he could against the stone wall.

“Who’s up there?” Snape called in his nasal, spiteful voice. Silence. “Homenum Revelio.”

Remus felt an odd tugging sensation in his stomach and before he knew it, was being pulled from the ledge by an unseen force. He yelped, scrambling for something to hold onto, and ended up dangling from the ledge by his fingertips.

Snape and Mulciber were laughing below.

“Well, well,” Snape purred, “If it isn’t Loony Lupin… where are your little friends, eh? Put you up there and forgotten about you?”

“Piss off, Snape.” Remus hissed, losing purchase on the stone, hoping he wouldn’t break his ankles when he finally dropped.

Igniscopum!” Snape smirked, pointing his wand. A thin rope of fire shot towards Remus, forcing him to kick off from the wall, landing on his back on the floor, hard.

He blinked, winded, but quickly climbed to his feet, withdrawing his own wand,

“Ok,” he said, his back sore from the fall, “You got me. Now go away.”

“Why on earth would we do that?” Severus replied, facing him off, raising his wand,

Expeli-“

EXPELLIARMUS” Snape roared, beating him to it. He clutched Remus’ wand, gleefully, then added, “Gelesco.”

Remus felt his feet fuse with the ground, sticking him in place. He groaned – he was stuck now. It might be worth calling for help, but the corridor was a quiet one, and he didn’t want to look like a coward. He stared at them both, defiantly, setting his jaw.

“Mulciber,” Snape turned to his troll-like companion, “Weren’t we just saying the other day, that you need to practice a few hexes more? I feel like this might be the perfect opportunity.”

Mulciber grinned, licking his lips. He raised his own wand, not quite as elegantly as Severus, but with the same malicious intent.

Lapidosus!”

Nothing happened for a moment, and Remus felt a surge of relief – before suddenly, out of nowhere, a cloud of tiny stones – like gravel – appeared floating in mid-air. It hovered between Remus and Mulciber for a few moments, before beginning to fly at Remus’s face, like a swam of angry bees. He immediately raised his arms to protect himself, but Severas was too quick;

Incarcerous,” he said, yawning as if bored. Immediately Remus found himself bound tightly by rope, now hardly able to move at all. The stones kept pelting themselves at him and all he could do was shut his eyes. He struggled, knowing it wouldn’t help, but needing to do something. He didn’t want to cry, even when he felt a hot trickle of blood slide down his temple.

“What’s going on – Severus?” A girl’s voice came from the end of the hall.

Finite Incantatum,” Snape whispered, hurriedly. The stones stopped at once, the rope vanished, and Remus’ legs came unstuck, all at one. He wobbled and staggered backwards, leaning against the wall.

He looked up in time to see Lily, his saviour, hurrying towards them. She stopped when she saw Remus, who was quickly trying to wipe the blood from his face. She looked at Snape and frowned,

“What are you doing, Sev?”

“Nothing,” he looked at the ground, scuffing the toe of his shoe on the flagstones. “Just chatting to Lupin, weren’t we Mulciber?”

Mulciber shrugged, unconvincingly. Lily looked at Remus, who looked away, embarrassed. Bad enough to be caught by Severus, he didn’t need her feeling sorry for him too. He snatched his wand from Severus quickly, turned and started walking away as fast as he could.

“Wait! Remus!” Lily ran after him. He didn’t stop for her, but she was quick on her feet, and caught him up. She was clutching his battle magic book in one arm, and grabbed hold of him with the other, “Please!” She huffed. He stopped, sighing heavily – he wanted his book back.

“What?” He scowled.

“What were they doing to you? Sev won’t tell me, and I know it was bad.”

“It’s fine,” Remus shrugged, taking his book.

“You’re bleeding!”

“Leave off, Evans,” Remus pushed her away, trying to leave again. She kept hurrying alongside him.

“I told him to stop picking on you, I don’t know why he does it – I mean, you don’t even go around with Potter and Black anymore, I told him that—“

“Why would that matter?!”

“They’re the ones he really wants to annoy – if he knows that you’ve got sick of them too, then—“

“Wait.” Remus stopped still, Lily nearly collided into him. “Are you saying that you’d be ok with it if Mulciber and Snape was cursing James and Sirius instead of me?!”

“Well,” Lily flushed, “I mean, it would be a fair fight at least. And, you know, they do bring it on themselves, acting the way they do.”

Remus felt even more uncomfortable now. She thought that James and Sirius had attacked Severus both times – she had no idea it was him at all. This confirmed one of his worst fears – Lily thought that Remus only hung around with James and Sirius because he was odd, and because they let him. Did everyone in the castle think he was as pathetic as Peter?

“You’re wrong.” Remus frowned. “Now leave me alone, will you?”

Chapter Text

“Great to have you back, Lupin.” Sirius grinned, pulling back the invisibility cloak as they entered the (previously locked) Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom.

“What d’you mean?” Remus replied, watching James climb the ladder in the corner of the room to reach the highest shelf, where stood a cage of sleeping pixies. “I haven’t been anywhere.”

“Come on, mate,” Peter said, holding the ladder for James, “It hasn’t escaped our notice that you’ve been avoiding us like the plague.”

“I haven’t.” Remus twisted his mouth, “Just been busy. You know, studying and stuff.”

“Well I hope you’re over that phase now,” James laughed, slowly climbing down, clutching the huge cage in both hands, “I’d really appreciate it if you stopped working so hard – it makes me have to work hard, you see, and I’m not used to the competition.”

“Oh, do one, Potter.” Sirius snarled, rummaging through drawers and inside desks.

Remus had decided that this prank wouldn’t be too bad – it didn’t require him to use any magic, anyway. If he was completely honest with himself, he had really missed all of their mischief. Being a swot was all well and good, but it wasn’t half boring. No wonder Evans was always frowning.

“How are we going to get them into the dining hall?” He asked, bending down to gaze at the tiny blue creatures, still sleeping, curled up at the bottom of the cage. There must have been about fifty of them, which Remus felt was rather cruel. Much better to liberate them.

“Under the cloak,” James replied, spreading it wide now so that they could all get under, “Come on Sirius,” he rolled his eyes at the long-haired boy who was now on his hands and knees under the teacher’s desk.

“What are you even looking for?” Peter asked, muffled under the cloak.

“One of the Ravenclaws told me there was a trap door under here.” Sirius sighed, getting up and dusting off his knees. “Liar.”

“This is Black’s newest obsession,” James explained to Remus as he closed the cloak over them and they headed for the door, “Finding secret doors.”

Hogwarts: A History says there are loads of undiscovered passages!” Sirius said, defensively. “Like that one you found, Lupin. There are definitely more, I want to find at least one before we leave.”

“There’s also supposed to be a monster hidden somewhere in the castle.” James whispered back, as they made their way along the halls towards Gryffindor tower. Peter shuddered.

“A risk I’m willing to accept,” Sirius replied, and Remus could hear the grin in his voice, “My legacy is much more important.”

“Typical,” James laughed.

* * *

The next evening at dinner, James was grinning like a maniac, trying to look like he wasn’t hiding fifty sleeping pixies underneath the table and failing miserably. Peter, who was good at Astronomy, was busy checking over the other marauders’ homework, which was to label every star on their chart.

“Honestly,” Peter groaned, scribbling something out on Sirius’, “You’d think you’d get your own bloody star right…”

Sirius laughed,

“What can I say, I’m hopeless.”

“You have your own star?” Remus frowned, once again finding himself on the back foot. He never paid any attention in Astronomy – he knew the phases of the moon and that was plenty.

“’Sirius.’” Peter replied, “Come on, Lupin, we’ve done this. It’s the brightest star in the sky? The dog star?” He sighed, looking at Remus’ work now, “Yep, you’ve missed it too.” He groaned.

Remus shrugged,

“I just thought it was his name.”

“The Noble and most Ancient House of Black has always been a bit arsey with its naming conventions,” Sirius mused, “Half of us have astronomical names – there’s Bellatrix, of course; my dad’s Orion, my brother’s Regulus… Mum isn’t a star, I think she’s an asteroid – pretty apt, if you’ve ever seen her in a bad mood. Then there’s good old uncle Alphard, uncle Cygnus… Andromeda’s named after a whole galaxy.”

“Wizards are so weird.” Remus sighed. 

“Remus,” James sniggered, “You do know that Lupis is a constellation too, don’t you? The wolf.”

“The what?!” Remus felt his heart skip a beat and he nearly choked on his dinner. Sirius slapped him hard on the back, deftly changing the subject;

“If you’re nearly finished telling us all how stupid we are, Pete, can we get on with releasing the you-know-what’s? My lovely cousins have just started eating, I’d call that perfect timing…”

It really was perfect. James gave the cage a sharp kick to wake up the pixies before sweeping away the cloak and whispering a quick unlocking charm on the cage. There was an explosion of noise and colour and chaos.

Remus hadn’t really known what to expect from the pixies – they’d seemed perfectly harmless all night and day while they’d been locked up sleeping under James’ bed.

But now he could see exactly why Sirius and James had been so excited. As they burst out from under the table, the tiny creatures scattered in all directions, chattering in high pitched gibberish and zooming back and forth across the great hall. They leapt into plates of mashed potato, squealing with delight, they grabbed plates and cutlery out of students’ hands and flung them across the room; they pulled ponytails and tore at parchment.

“Quick!” James ducked under the table, where they all crouched under the invisibility cloak, watching the anarchy unravel around them.

“Brilliant!” Sirius kept saying, “Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!”

“C’mon,” Remus said, nudging the other boys forward. Their plan had been to observe for a while, then sneak out of the hall as quickly as possible without getting caught.

All four of them awkwardly navigated their way out from under the table – which was made especially difficult by several other students attempting to dive for cover. Fortunately, pixies couldn’t see through invisibility cloaks, and they were left alone.

 In the uproar, no one else noticed them either. Girls were screaming, boys shouting, everyone was trying to cover their heads to protect themselves from dive-bombing pixies, or else struggling to grab back their stolen items.

“OH YES!” Sirius suddenly gasped, bursting into fitful laughter.

Remus turned and saw Bellatrix, screaming at the top of her lungs, her wild hair being yanked from side to side by the tiny blue pests, another flutting above her had caught her wand and was waving it at her, zapping blue lightening.

“Get off me! You filthy—you disgusting—you—Aaargh!” She wailed. Narcissa was cowering under the table, clutching her own wand tightly.

Things escalated even further as Peeves the Poltergeist entered the room, zipping about gleefully and causing just as much havoc. He seemed to be directing the pixies, lifting tablecloths and screeching,

“Under here, piskies! Lots of ickle-firsties down here!”

Stifling laughter, the marauders fled from the room when they heard McGonagall’s shrill voice ringing out,

Petrificus Totallus!”

“She’s definitely going to know it was us.” Peter wheezed, as they made their way back to the tower, still under the cloak.

“Nah,” James replied, casually, “I bet she blames it on the Prewetts, they always do big stuff like that. Something to aspire to.”

* * *

“Please.” Sirius said.

“No.” Replied Remus.

“Pleeeeease!”

“No!”

“Why not?”

“It would just feel… weird! I don’t want you to.”

“But it’ll be fun! I promise you’ll enjoy it.”

“Ha.”

The conversation had carried on in much the same way for about three corridors now. Remus ended up trying to hurry ahead, and heard James chastise Sirius behind him.

“Leave Lupin alone, will you?”

“I will not! This is too important!” Sirius was in a restless mood, which tended to make him extra obnoxious – usually James was the only one who put up with him.

They’d had a long afternoon in the library, completing zodiac charts for their Astronomy revision. Exams were still months away, but James insisted on having a head start. Of course, Sirius had to compete, and Peter had to go anywhere James went. Remus didn’t want to be left out. They had been musing over their star signs, when it had come up that Remus was a Pisces. Sirius had quickly deduced that this meant his birthday was coming up. And so the pleading had begun.

“It’s obviously not that important to Remus,” James hissed at Sirius, “Do something for my birthday, if you have to, it’s not long after.”

“You’ll get your turn,” Sirius dismissed him.  “But first – Lupin.”

“I really don’t care, Sirius,” Remus sighed, as they reached the portrait of the fat lady. “Don’t make a fuss.”

“But it’s your birthday!” Sirius replied, earnestly, “We should make a fuss.”

Remus didn’t see why. No one had ever made a fuss before. There was cake, of course, but sharing a cake with fifty other boys didn’t leave much. Plus all of the little kids insisted on getting a turn to blow out the candles too, so it took forever. Matron wrapped up a few gifts, but they were usually practical – new clothes, socks, underwear, pens and notebooks. Other than that, there was nothing special about the day at all. He was actually looking forward to being away from St. Edmund’s, because he thought that Sirius, James and Peter were probably too well bred to know about the ‘birthday bumps’ – a punch in the arm for each year of age (and one for luck – usually the hardest).

“Why does it matter so much?!” Remus huffed, climbing through the portrait hole. He couldn’t stand it when Sirius was like this – stubborn and persistent.

But when he turned around, he was surprised to see that Sirius was rubbing his arm, looking uncharacteristically hurt.

“You lot all did stuff for my birthday and… well it was really nice. I never much looked forward to it before but… well, it was great, wasn’t it?”

Remus suddenly felt guilty. He realised that Sirius didn’t just want to be the centre of attention again – he was trying to make Remus happy. As if that might make him happy too. Remus had never had much opportunity to give somebody what they really wanted. He relented.

“Oh… ok, fine. But not a big party or anything, just marauders, right?”

“Right.” Sirius grinned, at once his face was transformed, eyes twinkling like stars.

Chapter Text

Remus’ twelfth birthday fell on a Friday that year. Usually on Fridays after lessons James would force them all to go and watch the Gryffindor quidditch practice, and Remus would read quietly to himself. Sirius, however, had managed to convince James that he could miss just one practice – especially as he wasn’t even on the team yet – and that Remus might actually want to do something different on his birthday.

He was woken early in the morning by his three dorm mates piling onto his bed, all shouting, “Happy Birthday, Lupin!” They didn’t try to punch him, which meant that the day was already off to a head start as his best birthday ever.

At breakfast, James and Sirius marched ahead, pushing other students out of the way as they approached their usual seats, loudly announcing,

“Out of the way, please!”

“Birthday boy coming through!”

“Move along, nothing to see here!”

Remus wanted to hide under the table by the time they’d reached it. His three friends made a huge show of serving him his breakfast, rather than letting him get anything for himself. Peter poured his tea, James loaded up his plate while Sirius buttered his toast.

“Do you have to?” Remus groaned, horribly embarrassed.

“Absolutely,” James said.

“Definitely,” Peter nodded,

“Unquestionably.” Finished Sirius.

Remus shook his head, blushing hard and looking down at his food. When he had finished – which took a while, because he had been served double portions of almost everything – they all stood up, still grinning widely at him.

“What?!” He asked, twitching nervously. If they were going to do the birthday bumps, then he hoped it would be over with quickly. Perhaps there was a wizard version? He’d missed Sirius’ birthday after all, he didn’t know what to expect. Peter and James each put a hand on his shoulder, forcing him to sit down again. Sirius pulled a pitch pipe from his robes pocket and blew a long note. Remus squeezed his eyes shut. Oh no…

“Haaaaaaaaaahhh-ppy birthday to you!” The three boys bellowed at the tops of their voices, “Haaaah-ppy birthday to youuu! Haaaaah-ppy birthday dear Reeeeeeeeeee-mus!”

Now the rest of the hall joined in, and Remus covered his head with his hands,

“Haaaaah-ppy birthdaaaaay toooooo youuuuuu!”

“Hip hip!” James yelled, standing on his chair,

“Hooray!” The Griffindors chorused back.

“At least that’s over and done with,” Remus muttered, his face burning as they finished cheering. Peter looked at him with pity,

“Sorry mate, but they’re planning to do the same at lunch and dinner.”

* * *

They still had to sit through Potions as their last lesson of the week – Remus had found that even when he did all of his homework and understood all of the texts he still had no natural talent for potion making. On top of that, it was a boring subject, and Slughorn began to bang on about the five key components of sleeping draughts Remus began to doze off himself.

Snape didn’t bother him – actually, Snape hadn’t so much as glanced in Remus’ direction since the incident in the corridor. Lily flashed him a smile and wished him happy birthday, before rolling her huge emerald eyes as James and Sirius attempted to convince Slughorn not to give them any homework out of respect for the ‘occasion’.

At dinner Remus endured what he hoped was his final round of ‘happy birthday’, which became the loudest yet, largely because Dumbledore was present and began conducting the entire school, bellowing at the top of his own voice. He also received a few cards – one from the whole of Gryffindor house, another from Matron along with a new pair of socks.

After dinner they sat in the common room and Sirius lugged down his heavy record player and put on Electric Warrior for the hundredth time since Christmas.

“I was dancing when I was twelve…”

At some point, a cake was produced, with red and gold Gryffindor icing, and twelve pink candles. When Remus cut it open (all the while encouraged to make a wish, but not able to think of one single thing he wanted) he was amazed to find that it was made up of four different flavours – a quarter chocolate, a quarter lemon drizzle, a quarter Victoria sponge and a quarter coffee and walnut.

“Like your toast.” Sirius grinned, looking thrilled at the expression of surprise on Remus’ face, “Thought you might get bored if it was all one flavour.”

“Wow… thanks!”

“So what do you want to do for the rest of the evening?” James asked, “It still looks light enough if you did want to go and watch the--“

“He doesn’t, James! Bloody hell, you’re going to have to start developing some other interests, mate, you’re getting boring.”

“I don’t mind if you want to go and watch the quidditch practice.” Remus said, hurriedly, “You’ve already done plenty, honestly. Three songs in one day, what more could a twelve-year-old ask for?”

“No,” James shook his head heroically, “Sirius is right, it’s your birthday, we’ll do something you like doing.”

They were all quiet for a little while, before James cleared his throat, “Err, Lupin? What do you like doing?”

Remus thought. He could very easily give a list of things he did not enjoy doing; football, homework, flying, potions. But no one had ever asked him before what sort of things he did enjoy. He liked watching telly, but so far he hadn’t discovered a TV at Hogwarts. He liked being able to choose what he ate for breakfast and dinner. He liked listening to Marc Bolan singing through Sirius’ record player. None of these things were really hobbies.

“Reading?” Peter said, trying to be helpful, “You read a lot.”

“Do I?!” Remus raised his eyebrows. He hadn’t thought about that, but it was true. Since Christmas, anyway, he’d finished all his set texts for the year and even a few books checked out from the library.

“Oh yeah, great,” James rolled his eyes, “Happy birthday, Lupin, let’s start a book club.”

Sirius sniggered. Pete looked annoyed,

“Well I don’t know! Other than reading, you seem to really like detention, Remus.”

Remus laughed at that, holding his hands up apologetically,

“Sorry lads, I reckon I must just be really boring.”

“What about when you disappear off?” Sirius asked, suddenly. Remus balked.

“What do you mean?! I told you, I’ve been sick, I go to the hospital wing.” He hurried.

Sirius waved a hand,

“No, not then – sometimes you go off after lessons, or while we’re watching the quidditch. What are you doing?”

Remus felt himself go red. He’d been wandering off by himself less and less, but clearly his friends had still noticed. They all looked at him, expectantly. He bit his lip,

“I just sort of… walk around.” He said, lamely.

“Where, though?” Peter asked, “In the grounds?”

“Everywhere,” Remus shrugged, “I just like to look about. So I know where stuff is.” He pulled the map out of his back pocket, “It’s stupid, I started adding stuff to the map they gave us at the beginning of the year and whenever I see something interesting I put it in.”

James took the map and unfolded it. The three boys peered over to see. They were quiet for a while. Sirius looked in awe,

“You’ve added all of the portraits… and labelled them and everything.”

“My spelling’s rubbish,” Remus blushed harder, wanting to snatch it back. 

James’ face was scrunched up.

“What’s that?” He pointed at a mark Remus had made on one of the staircases.

“One of the trick steps,” Remus replied, “That’s the one you can sink into. That one,” he pointed to a mark on a different step, “is the one that vanishes. The staircases with arrows are the ones that move. I colour-coded so you can see where they end up.”

“Merlin!” Peter exhaled, “D’you have any idea how much time this would save me?! I swear I get trapped on the wrong corridor twice a week because of those flipping stairs.”

“And me,” James said.

“Sod getting to lessons on time!” Sirius burst out, “Please try to recognise the extremely important implications of this map. The possibilities now available to us for practical jokes.”

A smile spread across James’ face, then Peter’s. Remus snatched back the map, folding it up,

“It’s not finished yet. There’s loads to do. I wanted to do some spells on it, once I figure out how.”

“What sort of spells?” Sirius asked eagerly.

Remus hesitated. It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate Sirius’ interest, or his excitement – but Remus has really wanted to work the map out for himself, as silly as it sounded. After all, Sirius had come up with the reading spell, and the raincloud incantation. For reasons he couldn’t quite explain, Remus had a strong desire to prove that he was just as clever – or just as able – to put in the legwork this time.

“Just some improvements,” he said, cautiously. “You’ll think it’s silly.”

“No we won’t,” Peter replied, earnestly, “We can help!”

“I s’pose… it’s my map, though.”

“Of course it’s yours,” James smiled, soothingly, “Like the cloak is mine, right? But in the service of mischief…”

“It’s the marauder’s.” Sirius finished, his eyes twinkling.

“The marauder’s map.” Remus repeated, still not one hundred percent comfortable with handing over his private project.

“It’s still yours, Lupin,” Black continued, “We’ll put your name first and everything!”

“Not sure if we want our names on it…” Peter said, nervously.

“Our nicknames then.” Sirius shrugged.

“We don’t have nicknames.” Remus replied, “Well, I s’pose I sort of do, but I really don’t want ‘Loony Lupin’ written on it.”

The other three burst out laughing. After that Remus decided that it wasn’t so bad, letting them in on his secret. He was actually relieved; he’d been starting to wonder if it wasn’t just some private insanity of his – tracking and logging everything in the castle, getting it down, making sense of it. James, Sirius and Peter seemed less interested in the satisfaction of the task, and more keen on planning their next prank with it.

The rest of the evening was spent under the cloak, roaming the halls. The cloak, in Remus’ opinion, was not strictly necessary, as they were all planning to be back before curfew. But James and Sirius never missed an opportunity to turn even the smallest trip into a full-scale mission, and Peter just enjoyed sneaking about unseen. All became clear, however, when Sirius produced five dung bombs, which they entertained themselves with en route; creeping up behind unsuspecting snogging couples, or dropping them into the pockets of older students hurrying to the library.  

Remus showed them what he’d worked out so far, the passages and shortcuts he’d discovered, and even a few of his hidden places (not all of them, of course, just in case). He even told them his plan to put some kind of tracking spell on Mrs Norris, Filch’s cat, so that he’d be able to see her coming. They loved that idea.

“Why stop there?” Sirius whispered, as they turned a corner back to the common room at the end of the night, “Why not track everyone?”

“Everyone?”

“Yeah, then we’d know when anyone was coming, we could get away with anything.”

“I dunno.” Remus replied, uncomfortable with the idea. What would happen when his friends saw him travelling down to the Whomping Willow every month? How long before they decided to follow him and got themselves killed? For the first time, Remus realised that the map was not as harmless as he’d first thought.

But James and Peter were busy agreeing with Sirius, saying it was an excellent idea; already imagining being able to see what Dumbledore was up to, or where Snape was lurking. Remus firmly believed that given enough time, Sirius Black and James Potter truly could do anything they wanted – it was just who they were. He just hoped that it would be a long time yet.

Chapter Text

Time seemed to speed up after Remus’ birthday. The days lengthened and spring rushed into the castle, flooding it with sunlight and fresh air after the long winter. Exams loomed, and Remus finally got over his anxiety around reading in public, spending more and more time in the library. Instead of planning new schemes and pranks, the marauders found their evenings devoted to practicing spells and quizzing each other on potion ingredients.

Sirius and James took the exams very seriously; it was a competition to them. Though they both would have denied vehemently, Remus suspected that they both had a desire to defend their pureblood honour – it was too ingrained as an attitude throughout the school, even amongst the teachers. It didn’t bother Remus – even if he wasn’t getting top marks in everything, he was still doing better than he ever had before. He was actually glad that he had no family to pressure him.

The pressure on Peter was all too evident. He wasn’t a bad student by any means – in Herbology and Astronomy he even flourished, often beating James. But he was nervous, and it tended to affect his wand work, making his incantations sloppy. Peter didn’t talk about his family very much, but he received a lot of letters from them, and Remus noticed that James was careful around the subject.

“How much do we need to pass the year?” The round face boy would ask desperately, at least four times a day.

“Peter, calm down,” James would sooth, “You’re going to be fine; you know all the theory backwards now, it’s just putting it into practice.”

“I don’t blame him for being a bit twitchy,” Sirius whispered to Remus when the other two were out of earshot, “There’ve been at least twelve squibs in the Pettigrew family – and that’s just this century.”

“Squibs?”

“Non-magical wizards.” Sirius explained, patiently, “You know how muggle families sometimes have magical kids? It works the other way too – no one likes to talk about it much. My great, great uncle actually had this mad theory that muggles were swapping their children with ours so that they could infiltrate the wizarding world. Completely bonkers, obviously.”

“Right.” Remus replied, hoping he sounded as if he understood everything Sirius had just said. “So that’s why Peter’s magic is a bit… wonky?”

“I dunno,” Sirius shrugged, “Maybe. I don’t know if they can actually prove that squibbishness runs in families. But it’s the reason the Pettigrews aren’t in the sacred twenty-eight.”

Remus sighed heavily, fixing Sirius with his most withering look,

“You know I don’t know what that is.”

Sirius smirked,

“Well I don’t know, Lupin, what with all that reading you do these days. Nice to know there are some things I’ve got over you.”

Remus snorted in reply, looking back at his work. Sirius carried on quickly, as if reluctant to lose the other boy’s attention,

“The sacred twenty-eight are the purest of the pure-bloods. The last remaining ‘un-tainted’ families.”

Remus gave Sirius another mean look. The dark-haired boy held his hands, up, hurrying to explain,

“Their words, not mine! You know I don’t believe any of that blood purity rubbish.”

“Right,” Remus raised an eyebrow. “Bet the Blacks are top of the list, though.”

“Actually,” Sirius replied, eyes glittering with humour, “The Abbot’s are first. It’s alphabetical.”

Remus groaned and went back to his Potions revision.

* * *

Exams were not at the top of Remus’ list of things to worry about. He was relatively sure he would do ok – he’d even checked the examination rules (which were five yards of parchment in length) and confirmed that use of the Scriboclara charm for tidying up handwriting was acceptable, as long at the student was able to perform the spell by themselves. Remus had been using the spell since November, and had no concerns.

Two things were worrying Remus far more than passing the year. First, there was the grim knowledge that he would have to return to St Edmund’s in June. Though he had only been away for a few months, the difference between St Edmund’s and Hogwarts seemed as vast as the difference between monochrome and technicolour. While other students cheerfully looked forward to a long, hot summer full of holidays abroad, relaxation and lie ins, Remus felt as though he was facing exile.

They weren’t permitted to perform any magic outside of Hogwarts until they were seventeen, which meant that as well as losing contact with his friends, Remus would no longer be able to read. To him, summer stretched ahead, blank and desolated, punctuated by long angry nights locked away in his cell.

And there was Remus’ second problem, ready as always to rear its ugly, hairy snout. As Madam Pomfrey had predicted, since Remus had turned twelve his transformations had become much, much worse. There was no explanation for this in any of the books he read, other than some vague words about adolescence and puberty. Whereas before he might have come away with a few teeth and claw marks – the kind you’d get from a playful puppy who meant no real harm – he now awoke with deep, furious gashes which bled copiously until Pomfrey arrived to staunch them. The agony of the transformation itself reached almost intolerable levels, and he often felt queasy for hours before the moon rose.

To make matters worse, Remus was spending longer stretches in the hospital wing, and it was getting harder and harder to explain away. His friends had started wondering aloud about what on earth could be ailing him – sometimes suggesting he was putting it on to get out of lessons, other times teasing him about being contagious.

At least back at St Edmund’s he didn’t have any friends who cared where he went every month.

Sirius clearly wasn’t looking forward to the summer either. He grew uncharacteristically quiet whenever the upcoming holiday was mentioned, his eyes clouding over, the colour leaving his face. James invited all of them to stay at his for as long as they wanted – but Sirius remained pessimistic.

“You know they’ll never let me.” He sighed.

“Cheer up, mate,” James slung an arm around his friend. They sat together on the big couch in the common room, Peter in arm armchair concentrating on turning a banana into a slipper. It wasn’t working. Remus was lying on the rug in front of the fireplace, on his belly. He had a cut on his back that wasn’t knitting together properly, even after Madam Pomfrey’s ministrations, and had found that this was the only position which wasn’t uncomfortable.

Sirius plainly didn’t want to cheer up.

“They won’t though. Bellatrix’s bloody wedding is in June, you can bet I’ll have to be around for all of it.”

“We got an invite to that,” Peter suddenly spoke, looking up from his slipper, which was still bright yellow and looked unpleasantly squishy. “Probably see you there.”

“Yeah, great.” Sirius huffed, exhaling hard so that his long hair fluffed up over his forehead. “If I haven’t been turned into a newt. Or cursed into a portrait for the summer – they actually did that to Andromeda once. She’s never been the same, hates wizard paintings now.”

After the wedding,” James said, tactfully trying to steer the conversation away from the Black family, “Then we’ll work something out. I’ll break you out of there, if I have to, I swear.”

Sirius grinned at James and James grinned back. Their body language mirrored perfectly and Remus felt a pang of loneliness. He knew that there was much more to Sirius’ family problems than just him being the black sheep – there were the scars Sirius had shown him back in September, obviously, but as far as Remus knew, those were perfectly normal. Matron beat him if he acted up, and he’d often got the cane from his muggle teachers – there was no reason for him to suspect that Sirius’ home life was out of the ordinary.

James obviously knew a lot more about it. Remus could tell, because it was the one thing Potter never teased Sirius about – family. They talked a lot at night, the pair of them – Remus had heard Sirius crying more than once. It made him want to cast his own silencing spell; he hated the sound of tears, and rarely cried himself.

“You too, Lupin,” James was saying,

“Hm?” Remus lifted his head from his thoughts. He arched his back carefully and tried not to grimace when the pain split his back like a bolt of lightning.

“You should come and stay over the summer. We’ve got loads of room, and mum doesn’t mind.”

“Can’t,” Remus shook his head, looking back down at his book. His back was on fire. “Matron won’t let me. Legal guardian stuff, muggle law.”

“There’ll be a way around it,” James replied, confidently. “Both of you are coming, right? I’m making it happen.”

Remus smiled, but knew there was nothing James could do. The full moons were due at the end of each month as they always were, and there wasn’t enough of a window even for a week at the end of the summer. Besides, Matron really wouldn’t let him.

“I think I’ve done it!” Peter gasped, suddenly, holding his bright yellow slipper aloft.

“Well done, Pete,” Sirius said, dully. “Try it on to see if it fits.”

Remus sat up, his back now very painful indeed. As he straightened, he felt a warm slither of blood run down his spine and soak into the waistband of his trousers. Alarmed, he stood up, quickly.

“Eurgh!” Peter yelped, withdrawing his bare foot from the slipper, covered in sticky banana slime. James burst out laughing, his glasses falling askew,

“He was joking, Pete! You’ve got to stop doing stuff just because we tell you to.”

“You ok, Lupin?” Sirius looked up, suddenly. Remus was dithering on the rug. He had to get to the hospital wing right away, but he had no idea how to explain himself.

“Yeah, just… think I might go for a walk.”

“Where? It’s almost curfew,” Sirius’ face lit up, “What are you planning?”

“No no, nothing… I just fancied…”

“We’ll come!” James stood up too, “I’ll get the cloak.”

“No!” Remus shouted.

They all froze, even Peter, who was halfway through picking banana strings from between his toes.

“I…” Remus stammered, “I don’t feel well. I just want to go to Madam Pomfrey, that’s all.”

“All right, mate,” James held up his hands gently, “Calm down. Want us to come with you anyway?”

“I’ll go.” Sirius said, quickly. He stood up and took Remus by the elbow, steering him towards the portrait hole before the other two could say anything.

“Sirius…” Remus started, once they were out in the empty corridor,

“S’all right, Lupin, I’m just walking you there. Won’t go in with you or anything.”

Remus looked at him, confused, then nodded and started walking, as quickly as his sore back would let him. He knew Sirius well enough now to know that there was no changing his mind. Peter might have let his nerves get the better of him and run back. James might have respected his wishes. But Sirius; Sirius always had to push it.

“Are you all right?” Sirius asked, eyeing him, “You’re walking stiffly.”

“I don’t feel well.” Remus repeated, through gritted teeth. He hoped Sirius would just think he was angry with him, and not realise that he was actually biting back a growl of pain.

“Ok.” Sirius replied, smoothly. They continued walking in silence. When they finally reached the hospital wing, they stood outside awkwardly for a few minutes, Remus’ hot amber eyes glaring into Sirius’ cool blue stare as if daring him to ask a question.

“Hope you feel better.” Was all Sirius said. “Can we come and visit you tomorrow, if you’re not out?”

“S’pose so.” Remus said, warily. He tried to shrug, then winced. Sirius’ expression did not flicker.

“Look after yourself, Lupin.” He said, quietly, before turning and hurrying back the way they’d come.

Remus watched him go, until he turned the corner. He had the strangest feeling that Sirius would glance back at him before disappearing. When he didn’t, Remus couldn’t help but feel strangely disappointed, though he ought to have known better – Sirius Black was never predictable.

He shivered, slightly – partly because of the mounting pain, and partly because of something else – then pushed open the hospital door.

Chapter Text

Remus would never tell anyone, but he really enjoyed the Hogwarts exam period. There were no lessons for a whole two weeks and while everyone else ran around like a headless chicken, Remus felt very relaxed about the whole thing.

The same could not be said for the rest of his classmates. Lily Evans had taken to ambushing other students in the library and common rooms, demanding that they quiz her on the 18th Century Goblin Riots. Peter seemed to be constantly muttering to himself under his breath, wringing his hands together. Marlene McKinnon and Mary McDonald, two Gryffindor first years Remus usually tried to avoid, kept bursting into fits of hysterical giggles from the nerves. James and Sirius appeared to be acting out with more bravado than ever; setting off flameless firecrackers in the corridors and performing vanishing spells on unsuspecting student’s book bags in the library. Remus couldn’t tell if the two of them were just responding to the general atmosphere of anxiety, or whether they were expelling their own nervous energy.

The older students had no sympathy for their younger counterparts. Frank Longbottom gave out more detentions during the last week of term than he had all year, and even threatened to take fifty points from Gryffindor if James and Sirius didn’t stop levitating inkwells in the common room. Remus felt that they had got off easy – Bellatrix Black actually cursed half of the Slytherins one evening for talking too loudly while she studied for her NEWT’s. They couldn’t speak for three days – Madam Pomfrey had to grow their tongues back.

Their first exam was Charms, which had Remus off to a good start. All they had to do was bewitch a coconut to dance an Irish jig, which he privately thought was very easy. He, James and Sirius managed without a problem, though Peter’s coconut at first refused to move at all, then lost control once it finally got going and ended up spinning off the desk, smashing all over the flagstones.

Transfiguration went almost as well, though it was a trickier subject. Their task was to turn a stag beetle into a pepper shaker – Sirius completed this in minutes, barely concealing his pride as McGonagall commented that it was the best example of small scale transfiguration she’d ever seen from a first year. Remus’ shaker wasn’t too bad, though it was still shiny and black, whereas Sirius had somehow managed to make his glass. James attempted porcelain, and seemed to have done well until McGonagall tried to shake some pepper out of it and it spread its wings and flew out of the window, causing Marlene and Mary to shriek. Peter’s pepper pot still had legs and antlers, even after an hour.

Herbology and History of Magic were both written exams. Remus surprised himself by writing the longest history essay in the class – he had to ask Peter, sitting next to him, for extra parchment. Apparently there was plenty to be said about the goblin riots after all. Potions was easier than he expected – they had to brew a cure for warts from memory. Having a very good memory from years of practice, Remus knew he had all of the ingredients and quantities right, even if his preparation skills were lacking precision.

Between exams, Remus enjoyed his last weeks of freedom either wandering the halls and adding to his map (when he was alone) or eating ice cream outside by the lake (when the others were with him). He’d recently found a corridor that smelled vaguely of chocolate, but couldn’t work out what that meant – it was nowhere near the kitchens.

The days were much warmer now, and as June opened up and the testing came to a close, the marauder’s minds turned to mischief.

“It’s got to be big.” James said, decisively. He was always making unnecessary statements like that, waiting for someone else to come up with an idea for him to approve. “Our last hurrah.”

“Not our last,” Sirius replied, picking at the grass. “We’ll be back in two months.”

“You lot might be,” Peter worried, “I know I’ve failed everything.”

James waved a hand, dismissing Peter’s fears. It was too warm and lazy of a day to spend long reassuring him. They were lounging in their new favourite spot, near a tree by the lake. Peter was sitting under the shade cast by the branches because he was fair and burnt easily. James and Sirius had stripped off their robes and rolled up the sleeves of their brilliant white uniform shirts to combat the heat. Remus simply lay in the sunshine, robes still on to cover up his freshest injuries, enjoying the warmth sinking into his aching joints. He liked the spot because the Whomping Willow was behind them, so they didn’t have to look at it.

“Have we got any dung bombs left?” Remus asked, squinting up at the blue sky, then closing his eyes to look at the patterns burned into his retinas.

“Yeah, a few. Not enough for a big send off, though.”

“How big are you thinking, exactly?”

“Bigger than dung bombs.” James replied, cleaning his glasses, as he often did when he was thinking. “Big enough so that everyone knows it was us.”

“They’ll know it’s us. McGonagall always knows,” Sirius put in, standing up and skimming a stone across the lake. It bounced five times – Sirius was amazing at skimming stones. He had this fluid sort of grace that was more animal than human. It drove Remus mad – after all, he was the one that wasn’t strictly human, and he had all the natural grace of a flobberworm.

“They might think it’s the Prewetts.” James shot back, “They’ve been beating us all year.”

“Nothing beat the pixies!” Sirius said, defensively. He threw another stone. This time, on its fourth bounce, a long, silvery tentacle rose from the water and batted it back towards him, lazily. Sirius grinned.   

“And the itching powder was pretty good, you have to admit.” Remus murmured, flinging an arm over his face.

“Exactly,” Sirius continued, enthusiastically, “You’ve got to give us points for ingenuity there.”

“And the raincloud!” Peter piped up, eager to be involved. They all fell quiet. Remus sat up. They hadn’t talked about that incident at all since January. Peter gnawed his lip, realising what he’d done.

Sirius shook his head, changing the subject,

“Anyway, the point is, the four of us have had more detentions than the rest of Gryffindor combined this year. What more do you want us to do, James? Sign our work?”

He pulled back his arm to throw the stone back into the lake, but James leapt up and grabbed his shoulder, causing him to drop it.

“Oi!” Sirius frowned, annoyed, “What are you playing at?”

“That’s it!” James jumped, excitedly, “We sign our work!”

“You what?” Remus squinted at both of them. He wished he hadn’t stared at the sun for so long, his eyes were fogged over and he was starting to get a headache.

“SIGN OUR WORK.” James repeated, as if he was making perfect sense and they were all too thick to get it. He sighed, impatient, “We put our mark on Hogwarts, literally.”

“Are you talking about defacing school property, Potter?” Sirius arched a dark eyebrow, joy written all over his face.”

“I might just be, Black.” James wiggled his own eyebrows in return – he couldn’t raise just one, like Sirius could.

“Well, I say, old man.” Sirius grinned, adopting an even more plummy, aristocratic accent than usual.

“What do you say, old bean?”

“I say it’s a simply ripping idea.”

“Oh, spiffing!”

“Good show!”

“Rather!”

They both dissolved into giggles, falling on the ground and wrestling. Remus and Peter shared a look. This sort of thing was happening more and more; James and Sirius would get caught up in one of their own plays and leave the others behind. Remus stood and went over to sit with Peter.

“Any idea what they’re on about?” He asked the smaller boy. Peter was red in the face, his forehead creased. He was clearly thinking deeply.

“They want us to write our names somewhere. On the walls?” He said, slowly.

“What,” Remus asked, “Like… carve it into the stone or something? That’s a bit permanent, innit?”

Sirius and James continued wrestling. James was larger and usually had the upper hand, but Sirius fought dirty.

“S’all I can think of,” Peter shrugged. “James says he wants it big… the walls are the biggest… oh… OH!” He jumped up, “Lads!” He squeaked, “I’ve had an idea!”

“Blimey!” James and Sirius stopped at once. James had Sirius in a headlock, and Sirius’ ankle was just inching around James’, ready to yank and topple them both. “Are you feeling ok, Pettigrew?”

“The lawn!” Peter continued, pacing as he thought out loud, “It’s the biggest canvas, and it wouldn’t have to be permanent, it could be… if we used a quick-gro potion…”

Remus sighed, deeply. Why wasn’t anyone making any sense today?

* * *

And so it was down to James’ desire for notoriety, and Peter’s desperation to prove himself, that all four of them found themselves back out in the grounds after dark on the last day of term. They’d had two weeks to plan it – hoarding supplies from the greenhouse and learning various colour changing incantations. In the meantime, they learnt that they had all passed their exams; even Peter. Remus had come first in History of Magic, and second in Charms (to Lily Evans, which he tried not to let bother him).

“Ouch! That was my foot!”

“Sorry!”

“I can’t see a thing.”

“It’s dark out, idiot.”

“Ouch! That was my foot!”

“Can we take the cloak off now?”

“Yeah, I think so…”

They had dragged a heavy sack of hydrangea seeds all the way down from the tower. Well, Remus and Peter had. Sirius and James decided that they would lead the way.

“Right.” James said, business-like, hands on his hips, “Did we agree to write ‘love’, or ‘from’?”

“From.” Peter said.

“I prefer ‘Love’.” Sirius said.

“Aww, ‘course you do, Black,” James ruffled his hair playfully, causing Sirius to duck and pull a face. “Love it is, then. C’mon gentlemen, to work!”

An hour later, the sack of seeds was empty, and Remus was following the trail the others had left, drizzling the ‘quick-gro’ potion over the ground.

“Are we sure we spelled everything right?” James scratched his head, messing up his hair even more.

“Too late now,” Sirius replied, wiping sweat from his brow. “Look, we’d better go, sun’s coming up.” He pointed to the sky, which was beginning to glow pink.

“The colour changing spell, quick!”

“I did it already,” Remus said, finishing the last of the potion. “While they were still in the bag.”

“Good thinking, Lupin!” Sirius slapped him on the shoulder, “Knew you were the logical one.”

Since when?! Remus thought to himself.

“Let’s not go in yet,” James said, “Look, we can watch the sun rise.”

“Merlin,” Sirius laughed, “You big poof.”

They did watch, though, in awe as the glowing orange sun slowly climbed over the horizon, flooding the great lake with golden sparks, then paling as it rose higher into the parchment coloured sky.

“Next year’ll be even better, lads,” James grinned, his glasses reflecting the new sun as he threw an arm each around Peter and Sirius. Remus stood slightly off to the side, content just to stand with them.

They headed back to the castle in a strange mood, and almost forgot to put the cloak back on. They returned to Gryffindor tower, and James and Peter tried to sleep, but Remus couldn’t. For one thing, Sirius had finally begun packing – he’d been putting it off for a week now, and began throwing his things carelessly and noisily into his mahogany trunk. It was embossed with a serpent, like so many of Sirius’ things.

For another thing, Remus didn’t want to sleep. His last few hours at Hogwarts were draining away so quickly, and he didn’t want to miss any of them. He sat on the windowsill and watched their prank developing in the grass below. The seeds were already taking root and growing very quickly, twisting and writhing below like something in a science fiction film.

“Looking good!” Sirius said, coming over to look. He’d apparently finished packing, though his trunk didn’t look like it would close properly.

“Still think it should have been ‘woz’, not ‘were’.” Remus said.

“Bad grammar, Lupin,” Sirius yawned, “Couldn’t have lived with myself.” He stretched sleepily and backed onto Remus’ bed, which happened to be nearest, curling up to sleep.

Remus looked at him for a while from his window ledge. With his eyes closed, in the gentle dawn light, Sirius seemed softer, younger. Remus had spent the whole year in awe of him and James; how invincible they were, how daring. But they were all just kids together, really. And no matter how big their final prank was, it wouldn’t stop the train coming for them tomorrow, to take Remus back to St Edmund’s and Sirius back to wherever it was he lived – a house where the portraits shouted at him, and his family didn’t care that he had come top in Transfiguration.

He looked out of the window again, pressing his forehead to the cool glass and sighing deeply. It was a really good prank; they all ought to be proud. McGonagall would throw a fit. Dumbledore would probably like it. There was no need to feel so gloomy, it was only two months.

Fifty feet below, the hydrangeas finally bloomed, and Remus’ heart skipped a beat. The gaudy flowers flashed below in Gryffindor colours, bright crimson and glimmering gold, blaring out their wonky-lettered message.

THE MARAUDERS WERE HERE!

Chapter Text

Dear Remus,

How’s your summer so far? Mine is rubbish.

Last week was Bellatrix’s wedding – at least she won’t be at Hogwarts next year. Regulus and I were groomsmen and had to wear green dress robes. Definitely not my colour. My whole family was there, it was awful. You should have seen what Bella did to her hair, she looked completely mental. Cissy has dyed hers, too – blonde, so she looks like her stuck up boyfriend, Malfoy. I can’t believe my aunt let her, I bet my mum wouldn’t let me dye my hair.

I wish we could do magic out of school, I’ve been researching curses in dad’s library – should have some excellent stuff for Snivellus next year.

James says his parents are letting me stay with them this summer. My parents won’t let me go to the Potters, but they might let me stay with the Pettigrews, so I’m getting Pete to invite me. James said he’d invite you too, I hope you can come. It’ll be great, just like school.

See you soon,

Sirius O. Black

* * *

Dear Remus,

Hope you’re having a good summer, and the muggles aren’t getting you down.

Mum and Dad say you’re more than welcome to come for a visit. Sirius is trying to wrangle the whole summer, which would be brilliant. If you can come, reply to this owl ASAP. Mum says she’ll write a letter herself if your Matron needs her to.

Best,

James.

* * *

Dear Remus,

James and Sirius say they’ve tried to get in touch with you, but you haven’t replied. I told them maybe you didn’t know how owls worked. You just tie the letter to their foot, like we’ve done, then let it go. They usually end up where they’re supposed to.

Hope you can come to visit.

Peter.

* * *

Dear Remus,

Are you all right? We haven’t heard anything from you, I hope you haven’t tried to use muggle post. I’m at the Potters now, it’s great. His parents are really nice, nothing like mine.

James is being a bit of a pain. He thinks we’re both getting on the quidditch team this year and keeps getting me up at six to practice flying. Completely bonkers. It’s sort of fun though, and if Gryffindor needs a beater then I might try for it. I can’t wait to show you my broom, you can have a go on it if you want – you might like flying better if you have decent equipment.

James reckons your Matron won’t let you come – do you think if we wrote to Dumbledore or McGonagall then they could get permission? You’re a wizard, after all, you shouldn’t get stuck with muggles all summer.

If you really can’t come, are you going to Diagon Alley for your school things? Maybe we could all meet there in August?

Hope you’re ok.

Sirius O. Black.

* * *

Dear Remus,

It’s not the marauders without you, please come! We’ve got loads of room, and Mum doesn’t mind. I’ve been training Sirius and Pete for quidditch next year – I reckon that if we get you over your problem with heights then you might make a decent beater.

You like hitting things, don’t you? And you’re probably the strongest of the four of us, so I reckon it makes sense. Sirius wants to be a beater too, he can show you how to do it. I’ll even see if we’ve got my old broom still lying around in the shed, and you can have it!

James.

* * *

Dear Remus,

Please come and save us from James’ reign of terror. I don’t even want to be on the quidditch team.

Peter.

* * *

Dear Remus,

I hope you’re getting these letters. We’re starting to get worried about you.

We all went to Diagon Alley together, it was great. James’ mum bought us ice creams and let us go wherever we liked. Probably spent about three hours in Quality Quidditch Supplies. I really wanted to get out into muggle London and find a records shop, but we weren’t allowed to leave the alley.

Andromeda sent me this new album – Merlin, you really have to hear it, Lupin! It’s better than Electric Warrior. Better than ANYTHING. I’m sure the singer is actually a wizard – have you heard of David Bowie?

Are you having a good summer? What’s it like being back?

Write soon!

Sirius O. Black.

* * *

Dere Sirus,

Pleas dont send me more letters. Can’t read them and matron getting anoyed by the owls.

See you on the train.

Remus.

Chapter Text

Metal Guru, could it be?

You’re gonna bring my baby to me

She’ll be wild, y’know a rock n roll child…

Remus gripped the handles of his battered old suitcase with white knuckles, his stomach turning excited somersaults as he watched the bustling crowds. Matron had let him run at the barrier this time, though she looked away at the last minute, terrified. Now she was far behind him, on the muggle side of the station, and he didn’t have to see her again for ten months.

He’d had a terrible nightmare the night before that they would arrive at King’s Cross and be unable to get through to platform 9 ¾ - none of it had been real; magic, wands, wizards, his friends. But Remus tried to push these thoughts from his mind as he gazed eagerly about himself, looking for a familiar face.

“Let you come back, did they?” A cold voice interrupted his search. “Standards must really be dropping.”

Remus felt his shoulders tense. Why did the first person he spoke to have to be Snape?!

“Get lost, Snivellus.” He spat. He squared up, turning to face the Slytherin boy with his meanest look.

“Ugh, what on earth is that smell?” Snape drawled, wrinkling his over-large nose. Remus coloured – he stank of antiseptic, he knew it; Matron had been much too liberal that morning.

“I said get lost!” Remus murmured, clenching his teeth and balling up his fists.

He saw Severus recoil, slightly. Remus knew how he looked – he’d had two months without magic, surrounded by bigger and tougher boys than Snape. He was wound as tight as a bear trap and ready to throw a punch at the smallest provocation.

“Oi, baldy!” Another voice sounded over the crowd. A boy with glasses and jet black hair sticking up at all angles was leaning out of one of the carriage windows, waving madly at Remus.

Remus smiled, forgetting that he was trying to frighten Severus, and waved back. He rubbed his head self-consciously. His hair had grown out while he was at Hogwarts, but Matron had shaved it all off as soon as he was back at St Edmund’s, making him look like a thug again.

Casting a filthy look at Snape, Remus clutched his suitcase and hurried onto the train, pushing past other students to reach the carriage where his friends were waiting.

“Lupin!” Peter jumped up, excited. He didn’t quite know what to do with himself once he was on his feet – they certainly weren’t going to hug like girls, and apparently handshakes weren’t in order. Pettigrew awkwardly patted his on the arm instead, and Remus gripped his in return.

 “Hiya lads,” Remus smiled, his cheeks aching with happiness as he sat down. “How’s it been?”

“We should be asking you!”” James laughed, punching him in the arm. “Not one owl all summer!”

Remus glanced at Sirius, furtively. He hadn’t mentioned the letter Remus had sent him, then.

“You know I’m practically a muggle over the holidays,” he replied, “Couldn’t even get into my trunk to do homework; they locked it up.”

That wasn’t strictly true – Remus had asked Matron to lock away his school things, terrified the other boys would get to them. The homework he hadn’t done because he hadn’t been able to. There was a quiet noise of disgust from the corner. Remus looked up, frowning.

Sitting on the seat beside Sirius was another, younger boy, with the same deep blue eyes and long dark hair; the same unmistakeable Black features – full lips and cheekbones that could cut glass.

“This is Reg.” Sirius nodded, offhandedly, “Say hello, Reggie.”

“It’s Regulus.” The boy replied, irritably, his high aristocratic voice indignant.

“My darling brother,” Sirius raised his eyebrow at the other three.

“Hi Regulus,” James smiled, offering a friendly hand, “I’m James.”

“Potter.” Regulus looked down at his hand as if it was filthy.

Sirius slapped him around the head,

“Stop being such a little prick.” He snapped, “These are my friends.”

“I didn’t want to sit here.” Regulus replied. “You made me.”

“Oh, go on, piss off, then. Dunno why I bothered.”

Regulus stood up, stony faced, and exited the car, slamming the door behind him.

“Wow, he really has that Black family charm,” James grinned. Sirius shook his head, despairingly, propping a foot up on the bench opposite and leaning an elbow against the window pane. The whistle blew and the train began to pull out of the station.

“Shouldn’t have expected anything else,” Sirius muttered, “He’s totally brainwashed. And annoyed with me. I shouldn’t have been gone all summer.”

“Reckon he’ll be in Slytherin, then?” James sympathised.

“Probably.” Sirius glowered, “He knows I won’t talk to him, if he is. Rather he was in Hufflepuff.”

Remus thought this was a bit harsh. Certainly, he disliked Snape and Mulciber – and yes, they’d played some pranks on Slytherin house, but Remus had never hated Slytherin like Sirius seemed to. Surely he wouldn’t disown his own brother just because they had a slightly different uniform? The only thing Remus could see wrong with the Slytherins was that most of them were snobs – and Sirius, James and Peter were snobs too, though they didn’t realise it.

This train of thought left him as they began to gather speed out of London, and Remus could finally relax into the idea that he was indeed returning to Hogwarts – and that magic was now officially permitted. He yanked open his suitcase and grasped his wand for the first time in months. Remus hadn’t dared touch anything magical since the end of term, but now he pulled out one of his second-hand books (they had arrived the week before from Dumbledore), opened it, and quickly performed Letiuncula Magna.

He pretended he was scratching behind his ear with the wand, and muttered the words under his breath. Sirius must have seen what he was doing, because he had jumped up to pull his broom down from the luggage rack, distracting James and Peter. Remus looked down at the book, his heart racing. The words filled his mind like music, and finally he could read again.

The summer had been incredibly dull. He’d attempted to read some of the books lying around St Edmund’s, but without magic it was too frustrating. He’d very slowly got through each of the letters from his friends, but was much too embarrassed to attempt writing back to anyone but Sirius. He’d also had to lie low a lot. Remus felt as though he had passed whole days sometimes without speaking to anyone; the other boys had been told that he’d been away at a private boarding school, paid for by his father’s will. This of course made him more of a target than ever, and combined with his increasingly difficult full moons, Remus had spent much of the summer covered in bruises.

Full moons were another reason he was relieved to be returning to Hogwarts, where Madam Pomfrey, the school’s medi-witch, was not only more sympathetic than Matron, but better qualified to handle the peculiarities of his condition. Matron had been horrified to see the new injuries Remus inflicted on himself each month, and treated him as though he had done it deliberately, just to annoy her. It had been much worse than the summer before, when he had got away with a few scratches and bruises each night. Now, underneath his muggle clothes, Remus was almost covered in bandages and plasters which pulled and chafed whenever he moved. He hoped he would be able to slip off to the hospital wing soon after they arrived.

Sirius and James were busy telling Remus about their own summer, with Peter joining in here and there, keen to make it clear that most of the time it had been the three of them. It sounded as though they’d all had a spectacular time, even if there was a lot of quidditch. James’ parents had a cottage by the seaside, as well as what James called their ‘usual home’ near London. The three boys had camped out on the beach, fished, flown kites and plotted their pranks for the year ahead. They chattered about it excitedly for so long that Remus felt like telling them all to shut up.

He felt a bit better when the trolley came around – James and Sirius pooled their pocket money and bought enough to feed half of Gryffindor house. Remus had no complaints – as usual, he was very hungry.

* * *

Remus was immensely glad that he had stuffed his face on the train, because he had forgotten how long and drawn out the sorting ceremony was, especially when you weren’t taking part in it. Regulus was indeed sorted into Slytherin, which came as a surprise only to Sirius, who Remus heard exhale sharply in disbelief. The younger Black brother scurried over to join his peers, and Narcissa, who was now sporting a silver prefect badge as well as a new sleek platinum hairdo.

Severus patted Regulus on the back, sneering over at the Gryffindor table.

“What is his problem?!” Peter sighed as the food finally appeared, “You’d think he’d get over a few stupid pranks.”

“More like he needs to get over Evans,” James said, sounding uncharacteristically pensive They all looked at him in confusion. “Oh come on, it’s obvious!” He grinned, “Ol’ Snivellus is clearly madly in love with a certain carrot-topped Gryffindor,” he winked at Lily, who gave him a disgusted look and very obviously turned her back on him to continue her conversation with Marlene.

“So because we got the bird he fancies, he’s going to be a pain in the arse for the next six years?” Sirius replied, disbelieving.

Remus blinked at him. Bird?! Sirius was not the sort of boy who called girls ’birds’, he was far too upper class. Where on earth had he heard that?

“Exactly.” James confirmed, looking very proud of himself.

“Nah,” Sirius shook his head, “No one could care that much about a girl.”

Remus silently agreed with him. Still, Potter didn’t seem to mind having his theories disputed. He shrugged, digging into his roast potatoes,

“If you say so. Must still be annoyed about that time Remus punched him, then.”

Sirius laughed at the memory of that, finally cheering up.

Chapter Text

Madam Pomfrey was horrified by the state of Remus’ skinny, battered frame when he finally went to see her.

“What has that woman been doing to you?!” She gasped, angrily.

“Oh no, I did all this myself,” Remus gestured dryly at his bare chest. The nurse tutted, peeling away another bandage.

“Yes, but she’s barely done anything to treat you… I had no idea muggle medicine was so primitive! These are magical wounds, they need magical care!”

Remus nodded, tiredly. He’d grown used to the carnage now, the pain had settled on his shoulders like a heavy burden – one he thought he would probably just have to bear. Life was full of limitations, he simply had more than others. Perhaps that was why he was so drawn to James and Sirius.

Madam Pomfrey wanted to observe him over night, but he refused, grumpily. The full moon was two weeks away and he wanted to sleep in his own bed as much as possible.

He walked back to the common room slowly, though he was feeling better than he had in a month – Madam Pomfrey had given him a potion that made him feel loose and comfortable, and pleasantly light headed. There was no chance of a quiet afternoon, though, for when Remus reached the dormitory he found Sirius sitting on his bed, the record player and brand new albums spread around him.

“Lupin!” He beamed, excitedly, “You have to hear this!”

“Thank merlin you’re here,” James groaned from his own bed, where he was flipping through a quidditch magazine. “He’s been banging on about that muggle singer all summer.”

“He’s not a muggle!” Sirius snapped, hands on his hips, “He has to be a wizard. Has to be! You should see the clothes he wears…”

Remus crossed the room and picked up the record sleeve. He smiled, mildly surprised,

“Oh, Bowie! Yeah, I like him. I don’t think he’s a wizard, though,”

Sirius looked mildly disappointed that Remus had heard of him, and Remus hurriedly explained, “I’ve heard Starman a lot, on the radio, but no one at St Eddy’s has the album!”

Placated, Sirius settled the black disk he was holding onto the turntable and fixed the needle in place. James sighed deeply and got up, leaving the room, magazine under his arm. Sirius ignored him, watching Remus’ face eagerly as the slow drumbeat began. Remus sat down on the edge of the bed and closed his eyes to listen.

Pushing through the market square

So many mothers sighing

News had just come over

We had five years left of crying…

It wasn’t the same as Electric Warrior; it was darker, moodier. Remus liked it a lot. There was a story in it, though he wasn’t sure he understood all the parts yet. As the closing bars of Rock n Roll Suicide reverberated, Sirius lifted the needle and moved it back,

“Listen to Suffragette City again, that’s my favourite!”

Remus smiled – he could have guessed that. It was loud and rude, and you could dance to it. This mellow thigh'd chick's just put my spine outta place...

For himself, he thought he liked Moonage Daydream best, because it was weird and spacey. Or Lady Stardust, because for some reason it reminded him of Sirius. – his long black hair, his animal grace; the boy in the bright blue jeans… Remus quickly dismissed that thought, sure that Sirius would find it hysterically funny.

Once they’d played the album all the way through again, and then re-played their favourites, it was almost dinner time. They sat cross legged together on the bed, pouring over the album notes.

“Maybe he is a wizard,” Remus conceded, dreamily, “He’s not like a normal muggle.”

“Told you!” Sirius smirked triumphantly, “I’m going to get more, too, all of his albums.”

“T.Rex had a new one,” Remus said, “Slider.”

“Cool! I wish Mrs Potter had let us leave Diagon Alley, I even got some muggle money from Gringotts.”

“What is Diagon Alley?” Remus asked, though he thought he had some idea from the summer letters.

Sirius’ eyes widened, as they always did when Remus demonstrated his shocking lack of wizarding knowledge.

“Bloody hell, Lupin,” he tutted, “It’s a wizard street, in London. Muggles can’t get in – like Hogsmeade.”

“Oh, right.” It didn’t sound that exciting to Remus; shopping was boring.

“Where do you get all of your stuff?!”

“What stuff?”

“School stuff – your books, your robes…” Sirius’ eyes darted to the fraying cuffs of Remus’ black school robes. His own were brand new, immaculately finished and cut slightly better than everyone else’s.

“Second hand, I think,” Remus replied, “Dumbledore sends them. Dunno how I’d get to a wizard street; I’m not allowed into London alone.”

“Next summer.” Sirius said, firmly, “You have to come to James’ place and stay, we can take you to Diagon Alley, you’ll love it.”

“You know I can’t,” Remus said quietly, not making eye contact.

“We’ll sort it.” Sirius said, with confidence, “Talk to Dumbledore, McGonagall – the Minister for Magic, if we have to!”

Remus forced a smile, pretending that he believed Sirius,

“Yeah, great. Thanks, Black.”

* * *

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars became the soundtrack to the Gryffindor boy’s dormitory for the next week, until even James – who was tone deaf – found himself humming along.

Remus had never felt so satisfied and at ease in his entire life. He was away from St Edmund’s, away from grey shirts and Matron and locked rooms and troubled boys who wanted to get him. He wasn’t covered in bandages (at least for the moment), and until lessons began on Monday he had all the time he wanted to read, listen to music and muck about with the marauders.

He spent most of time catching up on his reading and completing the summer homework they’d been set. Like a starving man, he devoured every piece of information presented to him, and even went to get more books from the library to investigate further.

He also had to have a number of conversations with James before he could convince him that he had no desire to be on the Gryffindor quidditch team. Remus was content to sit in the stalls with his book, occasionally glancing up to watch the other three boys flitting back and forth on their brooms. They were all very good, but it was obvious even to Remus that James was the best of all three. He didn’t even look like he needed the broom; the black haired boy soared like a kestrel, his turns smooth, his dives nauseatingly sharp. Remus hadn’t attended many quidditch matches in his first year, but he felt sure that James would earn a place on the team.

Sirius was much showier in his flying technique – he didn’t lack James’ skill so much as his discipline. Black appeared to get bored easily, he could go quite fast when he wanted too, but was more interested in looping and swerving dangerously than catching quaffles or repelling bludgers. He needed James to shout at him every few minutes to keep focussed on the game. Peter was very competent after a summer of drills, but he was quite slow over long distances – James decided he might be better off as a keeper.

“You’re acting as if you get to hand pick the whole team.” Sirius huffed as they headed back to the castle after one practice.

“They ought to let me.” James shrugged, as if it was obvious, “I’m better than at least half of the current team, and you’re better than both beaters. And I know tactics.”

“Just try not to be too shocked when they don’t make you captain,” Sirius rolled his eyes, “You’re still a second year. There weren’t any second years on the team at all last year.”

“Have some faith, Black,” James winked, throwing his arm over his friend’s shoulder. They strode ahead together, brooms in hand. The sun was setting behind them and threw everything into sharp relief, outlining the two dark haired boys in heroic gold. Remus watched them, lagging behind and weighed down by his books, thinking that they would probably all be a little bit surprised if James didn’t get exactly what he wanted.

Chapter Text

Remus did not have a brother – at least not one that he knew anything about. He supposed that his mother might well have re-married and produced a few nice, non-magic, non-monster children. That didn’t really feel like his business; he’d accepted his lot in life long ago.

James too, was an only child, and this went at least some way to explaining why he was so cocksure and demanding. Sirius talked about Potter’s parents as though they were perfect saints, but they had clearly spoiled their son rotten. Peter had a sister who was a good deal older than him and had already left Hogwarts. She’d been in Hufflepuff, but Peter didn’t talk about her very much. She was studying at a muggle university, which was apparently the height of bad taste.

So perhaps none of them really understood what was happening between the two Black brothers, which might have been why they didn’t take it very seriously. It began the morning after the sorting. During breakfast, Regulus had received a gift from his parents; a brand-new eagle owl. This was his reward for getting into the right house – which they found out because Severus gleefully read the letter aloud within earshot of the Gryffindor table. Sirius stared at his porridge, not rising to the bait, but Remus looked over at Regulus and saw that he was blushing hard, trying to snatch the letter away from Snape.

“Didn’t your parents confiscate your owl again?” Peter asked, bluntly. Sirius gave a sharp nod,

“Said I can have it back when I remember my duty to the family and started acting like a ‘true Black’. I don’t care, I don’t need an owl.”

“What exactly is your family duty, again?” James mused, loudly, so that the cackling Slytherins could hear them, “Go ‘round with creeps like Snivellus and Mulciber? Marry your cousin?”

Sirius’ finally looked up at James, his expression half grateful, half mischievous,

“Oh yeah,” he replied, conversationally, just as loud as James. Snape, Regulus and most of the other Slytherins who had been laughing were now quiet, narrowing their eyes at the two Gryffindor boys. Peter edged away, slightly. “Inbreeding and creeping are key aspects of my noble heritage. And picking on kids smaller than me, of course; cheating, lying and cursing my way into power…”

“Well, mate, I’m sorry to break it to you,” James repled jovially, “But it doesn’t sound like you’re a Black at all.”

“Goodness,” Sirius’ hand flew to his face in mock surprise, “What on earth am I?”

“It’s obvious,” James shrugged, “You’re a Marauder.”

Sirius laughed, as did most of the Gryffindors sitting nearby.

Remus saw Severus’ hand reach for his wand, and quickly grabbed his own in preparation, running through a list of spells in his head, trying to come up with one that would stop him quickest. But Regulus nudged Snape with his elbow, muttering; It’s fine. Remus was sure he was the only Gryffindor who heard it.

“Come on,” Snape sneered, “We’d better get away from all this filth if we want to keep our breakfast down.”

This only made Sirius and James laugh harder, and Snape swept from the room, followed by Mulciber and a new first year called Barty Crouch. Regulus held back, glancing nervously between his new friends and his brother. The new owl sat perched on his crooked elbow, surveying the scene with an imperious, condescending look. He edged towards Sirius.

“You can borrow it, if you want.” Regulus said, quietly, “I never asked her to send me anything, but you know what she’s like.”

“Yeah,” snorted Sirius, “I know.”

They both looked at each other for a while, and Remus couldn’t tell if they were staring each other down, or trying to find the words to say something very difficult.

“Look, I’m sorry, ok – you knew I’d end up in Slyth—“ Regulus started, but was quickly interrupted by Sirius getting quickly to his feet.

“I don’t want your owl.” He said, stiffly, looking right through his brother, “If I need to send a letter, I’ll borrow James’.”

With that, he pushed past Regulus and made to leave. James, Remus and Peter hurriedly got up and followed him. Remus glanced back at Regulus, who looked very pale and very cold.

Remus didn’t think about Regulus very much after that – the line in the sand had been drawn, and it was their duty as marauders to support Sirius. Besides, they were all much too busy once lessons began.

Remus threw himself into his studies this time, in a complete reversal of his behaviour the previous September. He read along eagerly, answered questions in class and completed his homework as soon as it was set. In everything except potions, he was a model student. He had never forgotten what he had read the year before, about people with his problem. They did not do well, once they’d left school. Those stupid enough to sign the register were excluded from almost any skilled wizarding work. He would have to be the best of the best, and even that might not be enough, but he had six more years to try.

There was another element to his academic aspirations – Sirius. Well, Sirius and James, really, but most importantly Sirius. Remus didn’t doubt that Sirius was his friend, exactly – but he did doubt that Sirius truly saw him as an equal. He railed against the Black family’s beliefs in blood purity, but at the same time often made snide remarks about Peter’s squib heritage. This was always behind Peter’s back, and Remus dreaded to think what Sirius was saying about him.

Remus had learnt during his very first term at Hogwarts that being a ‘half-blood’ meant that he was slightly less trusted than other wizards. The Slytherins, in particular, targeted students with any kind of muggle heritage – Marlene McKinnon, whose father was a muggle, had perfected the bat bogey hex before anyone else in their year group, as a means of defence. Lily Evans was protected from torment whenever Snape was nearby, but it was clear that plenty of the students thought that she was rather full of herself, considering the circumstances of her birth.

Sirius never voiced anything quite so strong, but Remus had a feeling that his being better than everyone else at schoolwork was taken as proof that his magic was somehow better. Remus had an extremely strong desire to prove him wrong. It came as a mild surprise; he’d never been very competitive before – but then he’d never been given the tools to compete.

Of course, there would always be one insurmountable obstacle for Remus, and in September of 1972 it came towards the end of the month. Remus had been dreading it as always, and in the days beforehand remembered to mention that he wasn’t feeling well in order to prepare his roommates for his impending absence. Truthfully, he had never felt better. Though the transformations had worsened, and the days required to recovered had lengthened, Remus also found that as the moon began waxing and gathering strength, so did he.

He was ravenously hungry, his senses sharper, his magic grew thick and heavy on his tongue like syrup and he barely slept at all, instead stating up half the night reading voraciously, trying to ignore Sirius and James’ furtive whispering in the next bed.

He arrived at the hospital wing promptly, and Madam Pomfrey and McGonagall once more escorted him down to the whomping willow. They were very quiet as they made their way across the grounds, but once Remus was locked into the shack for the night, he heard the two women stop and begin talking as they travelled back down the long passageway. They mustn’t have realised he could hear them – that his hearing was better than most people’s, especially on a full moon night.

Madam Pomfrey was complaining about Remus’ treatment plan over the summer.

“Covered in injuries! I cannot, in all good conscience allow him to return there, Minerva! It goes against everything I know as a Healer.”

“I understand, Poppy,” McGonagall responded sharply as they crossed the ground, “It is a difficult matter – when Remus’ mother handed him over to the muggle authorities she made things very hard… we have to  tread carefully, very carefully. I shall speak to Dumbledore.”

“He’s such a quiet little thing, never complains, even when he must be in such a lot of pain…”

Remus didn’t hear any more, they had travelled too far down the passage and his own screams drowned them out.

* * *

In the morning, Remus came back into his body gasping as if he’d just been born. There was not an inch of him that didn’t hurt – his head throbbed sickly, needles pressed behind his eyes; his neck and shoulders felt like snapped elastic; it hurt to breathe. Every heave of his chest caused pain to shoot through him and he was sweating heavily even though the air was cool.

There was a deep gash across his belly that made him want to be sick. He had lost a lot of blood already, and it was still bubbling up, thick wine red. He half crawled, half dragged himself across the room to a box of emergency medical supplies kept under the floorboards. He pulled out some gauze, using all of his remaining energy, and pressed as hard as he could against the dark wound. He cried out from the pain, but kept pressing. His breathing grew shallow, though even that hurt. He felt dizzy, wanted to curl up and sleep. Stay awake, he urged himself, furiously, stay awake or you’ll die, you idiot.

Die, then. A tiny voice appeared in the back of his head, out of nowhere. It would certainly make things easier. For you. For everyone. Remus shook his head, dazed. The voice was very kind and soft – like a mother.

He pressed harder, grunting with effort. In his misery, he wondered if the voice was right. Was he clinging onto a life that had never really wanted him; that might never be all that much worth living? What if he did die? What if he just closed his eyes? It might just be a matter of sooner, rather than later.

He closed his eyes, exhaling softly.

“Remus?” Madam Pomfrey’s polite knock arrived on time as always. He ignored it; he was too tired now. He rested his head on the dark floorboards and let go of the gauze. So tired. “Remus!” The door burst open and suddenly she was there, kneeling beside him, pulling his head into her lap.

“G’away,” he murmured, not opening his eyes, “Let me go.”

“Not on your nelly, young man.” Madam Pomfrey said – so fiercely that despite his confused state, Remus laughed. Then he winced, instinctively clutching his chest. The medi-witch aimed her wand at his open wound and stitched it together in a matter of seconds, then she felt his chest, where he’d touched it. “Broken rib,” she murmured, “Poor lamb,” she flicked her wand once more and Remus felt an odd ‘pop’ in his torso – suddenly it didn’t hurt to breathe anymore.

He opened his eyes and looked up at her. She was busy tugging a blanket over his shoulders to keep him warm. “Now then,” she whispered gently, though they were quite alone, “What do you think you’re doing, giving me a scare like that, hm?” Her voice was so warm, and her fingers so tender. Very carefully, she pulled him into a hug, “We can’t lose you, Remus, not while I’m still at Hogwarts.” 

“Hurts,” Remus whispered.

She held him tighter and that did it. For the first time in a very long time, Remus began to cry. Not just a few sniffles, either; as the sweet, kind nurse held him he wrapped his own arms around her soft body and bawled like a baby.

* * *

He had to spend two full days in the hospital wing. The wound on his stomach was not the only one he had inflicted that night, though it was the worst. Madam Pomfrey’s spell had been enough to stop the bleeding long enough to get him out of the shack, but he needed rest and quiet. She gave him sleeping draughts regularly, and he drank them down without complaint, preferring not to be awake. The marauders came by trying to see him, but at Remus’ request Madam Pomfrey turned them away.

It was already late on Friday morning when she finally let him go.

“I’ll send a note to your professors, let them know not to expect you. You’re to go straight to your dormitory and lie down, understood?”

He walked up slowly, taking a different route than usual, thinking about the map – he ought to start work on that again, he’d read something very exciting about something called a homunculus charm. Once he reached the dorm, Remus crawled onto his bed, drew the curtains around it and lay on his back. Beams of light slid through the joins in the fabric highlighting a galaxy of dust motes.

It was still warm for September, and someone had left the windows thrown open, filling the room with cool air. The breeze sucked the drapes on Remus’ bed in, then pushed them billowing out. He watched it dreamily for a while – in and out, it was like being inside a lung.

“Lupin!” A sharp voice shattered his calm. Sirius ripped back the curtains, flooding the small space with light, searing Remus’ retinas.

“Ugh, what?” He groaned, shielding his eyes.

“Sorry,” Sirius rubbed his arm nervously.

“What is it?”

“Remus, I have to tell you something.”

They were quiet for a few long moments. Remus slouched back, too tired to sit up. He sighed,

“Well?”

“It’s James!” Sirius said, desperately, “He… he wants to talk to you.”

“… What?”

“It’s… blimey, this is hard to say, Lupin…”

“What are you on about?”

“He knows! James knows! And he wants us to confront you.”

Remus sat up, abruptly, his stomach flipping over.

“He… he what? Knows what?”

“About your… you know. Where you go. Every full moon.”

Remus stared at Sirius. He didn’t know what to do.

“…You knew.”

“I knew.” Sirius confirmed.

“How long?”

“Since last Christmas. I… I didn’t want to say anything. Didn’t want to make it harder for you.”

Remus was speechless. Sirius shook his head, impatient, “But James worked it out too, the lanky idiot, and now he’s decided we all need to confront you about it. I’m really sorry, I tried to get him off it, but you know how pig headed he is.”

“Yeah.” Remus croaked, leaning forward rather suddenly. He held his head in his hands. This was it. He was about to lose everything; everything that meant anything to him.

“It’s ok… I think it’s going to be ok.” Sirius said.

“How?” Remus lifted his head, hot with terror. “Might as well start packing now.”

“No! Don’t. Look, he wants to talk to you about it, he’s not going straight to Dumbledore or anything, doesn’t that mean something?”

But Remus had already got up, opened his trunk and begun emptying things into it. He might have to leave straight away; they might not even give him time to pack. Would they let him keep his wand? He’d grown very fond of it, and it had belonged to his father, so it was rightfully his. Perhaps if he promised only to ever do the reading spell with it?

“Remus!” Sirius grabbed his shoulders. He flinched, but only because he expected it to hurt. Sirius’ dark blue eyes bored into him, and he tried to look away. “Listen to me,” Black said, very gently, “Just wait, ok? Just wait and see what James says – he’s your friend. We’re marauders, all of us!”

“That’s bollocks,” Remus shoved him away, “That’s complete bollocks. You two are the marauders, you and him. Me and Peter are just your pet charity cases.” He seized his pyjamas from the end of the bed and flung them into his trunk. “I’m not that much of an idiot, Black. I’m probably better off going back where I belong.”

It was the first time Sirius had ever been speechless. But then, it was the first time Remus had ever said so much to him. His mouth twitched once or twice, as though he wanted to speak, but couldn’t quite manage it. Remus kept packing.

“Just wait,” Sirius said, hoarsely, leaving the room, “Just wait and see what he says.”

Chapter Text

Despite all of his talk, Remus did wait. He couldn’t see that he had many options, other than to go directly to Dumbledore and ask to be sent back to St Edmund’s – and he wasn’t exactly sure where Dumbledore’s office was. He hadn’t got that far with the map. The map – he’d better leave that behind. Sirius and James could finish it.

At least he wasn’t tired anymore. He sat on his trunk fidgeting for what felt like hours. Thought about going down for lunch – but what if they wanted to talk to him right there in front of everyone? He stayed put. He wasn’t hungry anyway. He tried to read, but couldn’t concentrate for long enough.

Every so often Remus’ mind wandered back to his conversation – argument – with Sirius. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it. On the one hand, once the initial terror had passed, he could see that Sirius was trying to be kind. If he really had known since last Christmas, then he probably had no intention of telling anyone else. And he’d given Remus fair warning, at least. But on the other hand, what Remus had said was true. Just because James was Sirius’ best friend didn’t mean that he would have any protective feelings towards Remus. They were friends, certainly, but only because they were dorm mates. Remus couldn’t play quidditch, wasn’t from a good family, had no money. On top of all of that, would Potter’s perfect reputation allow him associate himself with a dark creature?

As for Sirius – Sirius couldn’t even forgive his own brother for being in a different school house. If family didn’t matter to him, then why would friendship?

Just after the four o’clock bell rang Remus heard three sets of footsteps tramping up the stairs. He stood up, bracing himself. James entered first, looking very serious and somehow older than all of them. Sirius came in behind him, his expression inscrutable, no trace of the emotion from earlier. Peter was last, looking – as usual – very uncomfortable and out of his depth.

“Hiya Remus,” James said, straight away. They all stood facing each other, the room feeling very small, even with the window open.

“Hi.” Remus replied, trying to keep his eyes on all three of them at once.

“How are you feeling?”

“Fine.”

“Look mate, I’ll get right to it, ok?” James ran his fingers through his hair, swallowing nervously – Remus could see his Adam’s apple working, “We’ve noticed… well we couldn’t not notice that you’re away a lot, in the hospital wing. Every month, pretty much,”

Peter was nodding sycophantically behind him and Remus felt a surge of hatred rise up out of nowhere. He repressed it, focussing instead on meeting James’ eyes. They already thought he was a wild animal. Best not to confirm it.

“Ok.” He said, sullenly.

“Yeah,” James nodded, as if they were having a perfectly normal conversation. “Every month… around the full moon.”

He let it hang in the air. Remus grew impatient to get it over with,

“Just say it, James.”

“Are-you-a-werewolf?” It came out all in a rush, and James’ gaze finally dropped, as though he was embarrassed to have asked.

Remus glanced at Sirius, who was still staring at him with a look of determination. Peter was gnawing his bottom lip, his eyes darting between Remus and James. Remus squared his shoulders.

“Yeah.” He jutted his chin forward, as if daring James to strike him. Whatever; he was ready for it.

James exhaled,

“Right.”

“That it?”

“Yes—I mean no—I mean… bloody hell…” James ran his hands through his hair again, turning to the others for support, looking helpless.

“It’s ok.” Remus said, his voice hard, “I’m off. Just let me go and tell McGonagall.”

“Off? Off where?!”

“Back to St. Edmund’s, I s’pose.” As if there was anywhere else!

“You can’t leave Hogwarts!” James looked even more worried now, his glasses had slid down his nose and he hadn’t even noticed.

“I can’t stay if everyone knows.” Remus explained, as calmly as he could.

“We won’t tell anyone!” Peter squeaked suddenly. Remus looked at him in surprise, then at Sirius, then at James. James was nodding now.

“We won’t.” He confirmed.

Remus shook his head, not allowing himself to entertain the idea – to even hope. Hope never got you anywhere; if he knew anything, he knew that. It was a rule written on his skin in thick silver lines.

“This isn’t a game. ‘Keep the secret’, or whatever. If other people find out, I will have to leave. It could be worse than that, they might…” He didn’t say it. What was the use in saying it?

“We won’t let it happen.” Sirius finally spoke, stepping tentatively forward. “Will we?” He turned to Peter and James, either side of him. They both looked very serious and very frightened, but they both shook their heads firmly.

“Trust us.” James said. “Please?”

* * *

He agreed to give them a month. Or they agreed to give him a month – he wasn’t sure. It wasn’t clear who thought who was more dangerous. It was agony, at first, every moment filled with awkwardness and a new kind of shyness that hadn’t been there before. They think I’m a monster, a voice in Remus’ head chanted, over and over, they think I’m going to murder them in their beds, they think I’m evil.  

And really, when he thought about it, nothing yet had proved that he wasn’t. It had been clear for some time that his affliction was subject to change as he grew into adolescence. Remus had no idea how far it would go. Perhaps one day he would cross that line; perhaps that was simply the way of things.

For a whole week, they didn’t talk about it. Not a word, not even a whisper. Remus had felt sure they would all badger him with questions; Sirius especially, but he had evidently been so severe with them when the confrontation happened that no one wanted to bring it up again. In front of everyone else they acted the same – James was loud and over-confident, Sirius was witty and arrogant, Peter adoring and insecure. But when they were alone together the four of them were quiet, thoughtful and too polite. Sirius’ and James’ nightly conferences became even more frequent.

Unexpectedly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, it was Severus Snape who ended up reuniting the marauders.

It was, of course, during a Potions class. This term, they were embarking upon ‘pleasant dream’ potions, which would take some weeks to brew.

“You’ll need to come back regularly in the evenings to check on your potion’s progress – I shall be marking you on persistence and attentiveness. To that end, I think it’s best if you all pair up so that you can take it in turns.” Slughorn announced.

There was a general flurry and chatter as students began to pick their partners. Remus resigned himself to sharing with Peter, as usual. But above the commotion, Slughorn raised his voice again,

“No no, I’ve learnt my lesson,” He gave the marauders a severe look, “You may not choose the same partners you had last year.”

Sirius and James looked at each other, then at Peter and Remus, sizing them up. Remus cringed.

“In fact,” Slughorn continued, “I think I shall assign the partners…”

Fortunately Slughorn was tactful enough not to put any of them with Snape, though Peter ended up with Mulciber, who towered over him, twice his size. The professor split up Mary and Marlene, who were as joined at the hip as James and Sirius, placing them with the boys.

“I want Sirius!” Mary squealed. Marlene nudged her and they dissolved into giggles. Sirius looked horrified, James looked put out – he ran his hands through his hair and straightened his back slightly.

Remus was asked to pair up with Lily Evans, much to his disgust. He didn’t really like any of the girls, but he wanted to work with Lily least of all. She was nosey and tried too hard to be nice. Plus she was best friends with Snape, who was now staring daggers at him from across the room.

Remus could not forget the incident during in first year, in which Lily had stopped Snape and Mulciber from attacking him – and her general disdain for his friends. In fact, every encounter he had so far had with Lily turned out relatively unpleasant for Remus. 

She seemed to recognise his dislike, and smiled at him nervously,

“Hi Remus, are you feeling better?” She squeaked. He grunted in response, head down.

“Better keep well back, Lily,” Snape hissed from the desk he was sharing with a Slytherin girl, “Loony Lupin might be contagious.”

“Shut it, Snivellus,” Remus muttered in response, trying not to let Slughorn hear.

“Yes, please be quiet, Sev,” Lily said, primly, giving him a hard look.

“Only trying to help,” the greasy haired boy replied, lips curling, “We don’t want anyone else coming down with Lupin’s mysterious ailment, do we? Let me know if you need anything, Lily.”

“Remus and I are quite capable of completing the assignment ourselves, thank you.” She snapped, tossing her mane of red curls and opening her textbook with an elaborate flourish. She looked at Remus, “We need eight rats tails, finely diced. Do you want to do that, or shall I?”

“Erm. I’ll do it,” Remus replied, taken aback.

“Good. I’ll start weighing the rosemary leaves, then.”

They worked quietly for a while, and it might have been all right if they were at another desk, but Snape was close behind them the whole time, casting spiteful glances at Remus and speaking just above a murmur,

“Of course, ‘Loony Lupin’ is quite apt,” he said to the girl he was working with, “Because he really is utterly mad – I’ve seen him, wandering around the castle on his own, lurking in dark corners. You may recall he actually attacked me last year. He’s clearly dangerous, I don’t know why Dumbledore allows it.”

Remus felt his ears turning red. He turned around, holding out his wand,

“Say one more word.” He growled. Snape looked him up and down, smirking. Lilly grabbed Remus’ arm and pulled him back,

“Just ignore him,” she whispered, though she sounded very annoyed herself, “He’s having a bad time at home and blames it on everyone else, that’s all.”

“Fine.” Remus said, returning to his rat’s tails. The blood stained his fingers.

Once they had prepared their ingredients, it came time to stir. Remus was starting to get along quite well with Lily now. She was patient and didn’t act like she knew everything, like James and Sirius. She was a bit of a goody-two-shoes, but he remembered that he was trying to be one too, so he’d better learn to like it.

“I’ll stir,” he said, heroically – he’d never offered to do something for a girl before; hadn’t so much as held a door open, his contact with the fairer sex had been so limited. It felt very grown up and James-like. He rolled up his sleeves and grabbed the large wooden spoon.

“Eurgh! Look at him!” Snape’s nasty, cloying voice rang out loud enough for half the class to hear now. Remus looked up and found that everyone was looking at him. At his bare arms. He hurriedly yanked his robes down to cover the marks, but they’d all seen. “What sort of disease does that?!”

“Shut up, Severus!” Lily barked, “Why do you have to be so horrid?!”

“Lily, just look!”

“Mind your own business!”

Remus’ mind was racing. He wished the ground would swallow him up. He wished he could crawl under the desk. He wished he knew how to apparate. He’d give anything to throw another punch at Snape. The marauders had heard too, Sirius and James raised their heads from their cauldrons,

“Oi, Snivellus, what are you saying about our mate?”

“Oh, stay out of this, Potter!” Lily groaned, “You’ll only make it worse!”

“Silence, please!” Slughorn boomed, “You’re not first years any more, I should think you’re able to concentrate on the task at hand.”

Everyone fell quiet. Remus was gripping the stirrer with all his might.

“I’m sorry, Remus,” Lily whispered, looking genuinely upset, “He’s such a… oh, I don’t know! Look, I’ve got these.” She held out her hand, covertly. Remus looked down. She held two greyish round things that looked like bullets, or tablets.

“What?” He asked, gormlessly,

“He was annoying me last week, showing off about how good he is at potions… I know it’s petty of me, but I wanted to teach him a lesson, so I made these. Then he had this thing with his mum and I felt sorry for him, so I didn’t use them. But now…”

“Evans,” Remus said, exasperated, “What are they?!”

“Just something I’ve been playing around with in Slug club,” Lily smiled enigmatically. Remus noticed that she was actually strikingly pretty. “They’ll react with his potion. It’ll be really good.”

He stared at her, awestruck,

“But you’re such a…”

“Teachers pet? Swot? Good-goody?” She smiled wider, showing all of her neat white teeth, “Some of us know how not to get caught, Mr Marauder.”

He shook his head, bemused.

“Here,” She shoved the pills into his hand, “You do it. Toss them in when he’s not looking. Oi, Potter!” She shouted across the room. James’ head snapped up, his glasses foggy from the steam emanating from his cauldron,

“Huh?”

Snape had looked up too, and was glaring at James. Remus moved quickly, pretending to yawn and stretching his arms out, his right hand just reaching over Snape’s cauldron. He dropped in the pills, just as Lily said,

“Oh, nothing,” very sweetly, before turning back to her work. Both Snape and James stared at her in confusion. Remus was impressed.

His admiration only grew as she grabbed Remus’ arm, yanking him back as Snape’s cauldron exploded behind them, a magnificent mass of foaming purple bubbles spilling over the brim, all over Severus and his partner’s clothes.

The whole class began to laugh, and Snape turned white with rage, his nostrils flaring.

“Oh dear!” Slughorn bustled over, “A bit overeager with the beetle husks, eh Severus?”

 “It wasn’t me!” Snape fumed, purple bubbles settling in his hair, “He did something!” He pointed at Remus, who winced, “He must have!”

“Did you see Mr Lupin tamper with your poition?”

“No, but…”

“Come now boy,” Slughorn laughed, throwing him a green tea towel, “We all make mistakes – even you!”

Severus spluttered incoherently, and Lily was clearly struggling to keep a straight face, eventually having to turn around, her shoulders shaking in silent hysterics.

After the lesson, the marauders piled on Remus in the hallway, whooping and cheering.

“You did it, didn’t you!”

“Brilliant!”

“How did you do it? You’re crap at potions!”

Remus grinned back at them, neither confirming nor denying. Over James’ shoulder, he saw Lily flash him a quick smile, before hurrying away up the stairs.

“Didn’t I tell you?!” Sirius proclaimed brightly, throwing an arm around James and another around Remus, “He’s still a marauder!”

Chapter Text

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?”

Remus shrugged.

“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?”

“Erm... ok?”

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.”

“Right.”

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.”

“Sounds horrible.”

Remus shrugged,

“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,

“That’s disgusting!”

“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.

“Huh?”

“A baby wolf is a cub. Dogs are puppies.”

“Oh.”

“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?”

“Smell what?”

“…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?”

“Yeah.”

“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.”

Chapter Text

“I’ve had enough.” Peter said, grimly. Remus sighed, next to him. He knew the feeling, but there wasn’t much point whinging about it now. “I really have!” Peter reiterated, his voice slightly high as he looked up at Remus for validation. 

“I know you have.” Remus replied, hoping to placate him.  

“They’ve dragged us into all sorts of stuff, got us detentions - and I never complained.” 

“Well. You did a bit.” Remus raised an eyebrow. Peter nodded,

“Ok, I did sometimes, but I always did as James said. And Sirius, even though he’s horrible to me.” 

“Sirius is horrible to everyone.” Remus said, getting bored now.  

“Well this time I’ve definitely had enough.” Peter continued. “They’ve gone too far.” 

“We’re just being supportive,” Remus yawned, leaning forward on the wooden spectator stands, “Thought you liked being supportive.” 

“Not-” Peter grimaced, “At five o’clock in the morning.” 

Remus was inclined to agree, even if he wasn’t going to whinge about it. At least Peter actually liked quidditch. They looked out on the quiet pitch, grass thick and green under a gauzy veil of early morning mist. James and Sirius were presumably still in the changing rooms with the rest of the Gryffindor quidditch team hopefuls. Remus and Peter were both huddled in the stands, wrapped in their scarves and hats, waiting for the trials to begin. 

They had been there for at least an hour already – too early even for breakfast, because James had wanted to practice beforehand. They might have said no, and slept in instead, letting the other two go early if they wanted. But Peter was right; they always did as James said, he was just too good at convincing them. Remus yawned again.

“Oh, hello, Remus,” Lily Evans came up the stairs, smiling at them tiredly, “Hi Peter.” 

“Morning.” Remus nodded back, 

“’Lo, Lily,” Peter yawned.  

“Chilly, isn’t it! Here to watch the quidditch trials?” 

“Yup.” 

“Should have known James would be having a go.” Lily said, wearily. James’ quidditch fanaticism was not restricted to the marauders dorm room; everyone who’d ever met him knew how keen he was. 

“Sirius, too.” Remus said. 

“Well, never one without the other.” Lily replied primly.  

“Who are you watching?” Peter asked. 

“Marlene,” Lily pointed at the far end of the pitch, where the Gryffindor quidditch team and new applicants were gathering by the goal posts. Remus could just make out Marlene McKinnon’s pale blonde ponytail. “She’s going for beater.” 

“That’s the position Siri-“ Peter started, but Remus kicked him quickly in the leg.

Lily looked at them, bemused, and opted to change the subject.

“Remus, can you check on the ‘pleasant dream’ potion tonight? I’m really behind on my astrology and I wanted to talk to Professor Aster.”  

“Can’t,” Remus replied, leaning forward on his elbows, “We’ve got detention.” 

“Oh. What for?” 

“Levitating all of the tables and chairs in the Defence Against the Darks Arts classroom.” Peter supplied. 

“Really?” Lily looked surprised, “I didn’t hear about that.” 

“We haven’t done it yet,” Remus said, “We’re going to later while everyone’s at lunch. But I expect they’ll know it was us and we’ll get the detention anyway.” 

Lily tutted, 

“What did I say about getting caught, Lupin?” She grinned impishly. 

Remus shrugged, giving her a small smile back. Lily really wasn’t that bad. She had that gift all girls had for making you look stupid, but at least she had a sense of humour about it. It was particularly pleasant to see her without Snape, who usually loomed nearby like a vampire bat, reeking of gloom and disapproval.

There was finally movement on the quidditch pitch as all of the hopefuls were put through their paces. James could not fail to impress; he was on top form that day. He swooped and dived and twisted in mid-air as if it were nothing – as if he were swimming, not flying. Remus heard Lily’s sharp intake of breath as James attempted a particularly tight turn.

“Does he have to show off like that?” She said, nervously, “He’ll get himself killed.”

“He won’t,” Peter said, “I’ve known him since we were five years old and he’s never even fallen off his broom. Not once.”

“No wonder he thinks he’s untouchable.” Lily muttered.

The rest of the would-be chasers took their turns, but it was obvious that James was the best choice. Next it was the beaters – Sirius, Marlene and a burly fifth year were banded their bats and took to the sky along with six bludgers. It was horrible to watch; Remus’ nerves were set on edge as the brutal red cannonballs shot towards his friend’s head and body. Sirius deftly avoided the bludgers and knocked a few out of the way, but Marlene was unstoppable. She flew circles around her competition, swinging her bat with machine precision and sending the bludgers flying across the pitch every time.

“Bloody hell.” Peter exclaimed, “Didn’t know McKinnon had it in her.”

“Her brother plays for the Cannons,” Lily explained, looking smug on Marlene’s behalf. “She’s been training with him all summer.”

“Sirius has been too,” Peter said, defending his friend, all previous slights forgotten, “He and James were at it constantly, weren’t they, Remus?”

Remus didn’t reply, even to remind Peter that he had not spent the summer with them. He was too busy being embarrassed for Sirius, and wishing Marlene McKinnon didn’t have to be so bloody good at whacking bludgers—or at least wishing that there were two positions open for beater. He wasn’t sure why he cared so much – he hated quidditch, and if Sirius and James were both on the team then it meant he’d have to spend a lot more time shivering in the stands. And he’d been secretly waiting for Sirius to fail at something for ages, waiting for proof that Sirius Black wasn’t utterly perfect in every way.

But now that the moment was here, Remus felt guilty for thinking it. Sirius was sure to be crestfallen.

“Here they come!” Lily jumped up and ran down the steps to meet her friend. Remus and Peter followed her slowly.

“I got in!” Marlene was grinning, her face pink with pleasure. She and Lily hugged.

James looked incredibly pleased with himself too, his hair sticking up wildly from the wind, his glasses slightly askew. Still, he wasn’t smiling as much as Marlene, obviously trying to subdue himself for Sirius’s sake. Sirius had a face like thunder – Peter actually took a step back just at the sight of him.

“Yeah, well done, McKinnon.” Sirius said, gruffly, looking at the ground.

“Thanks… er… you were really good too, Sirius.” She said, nervously. He grunted, still not looking up.

James looked at him sideways and made an apologetic face at the girls. He extended his hand to Marlene,

“See you next week for the first practice?”

“Yeah, great!” She smiled at him brightly, “See you, Potter!”

The two girls set off back to the castle, arm in arm, chattering away excitedly.

“Sirius, mate, it’s not the end of the world.” James turned to his friend, looking concerned.

“I know.” Sirius kicked a tuft of grass.

“You could have been on the reserve team if you wanted, Singh did offer.”

“I know. I don’t want to be on the bench.”

“Shall we go for breakfast?” James sighed finally, looking at the other two for support. Peter nodded enthusiastically.

Remus couldn’t help but feel a little annoyed. This was all Potter had talked about since they started at Hogwarts, and Sirius didn’t even have the decency to be happy for his best friend.

“Well done, James,” Remus said, rather pointedly, looking at Sirius as he said it, “You were amazing, congratulations.”

“Cheers, Lupin,” James grinned. His eyes crinkled slightly when he smiled, and his face lit up – as if that was his face’s natural state.

“Yeah,” Peter said, punching him on the arm, “Nice one, Potter.”

“Thanks!”

They walked back to the castle together quietly. Sirius still wasn’t speaking, and he was walking a few steps ahead of the rest of them. James jogged to keep up,

“You can try again next year, Ardal will have left by then, he told me he was dropping out to focus on his NEWTs.”

“I don’t care, it’s fine.” Sirius replied, shrugging him off. He walked even faster, quickly getting away from them, broom still under his arm. James went to catch him up, but Remus grabbed his arm,

“Leave him.” He said, angrily, “Let him go if he wants to be a moody git about it.”

Sirius did not join them for breakfast, nor was he in the common room afterwards. James was waylaid by most of the other Gryffindors, who by now had heard from the team that he was the new chaser. A gang of fourth year boys pulled him over to talk strategy, and Peter went too, basking in his friend’s glory. That never mattered with James; he always had plenty of shine to share.

Remus was not a fan of the spotlight, and took the opportunity to look for Sirius. He wasn’t in their dorm, but that was expected – clearly Black wanted to mope somewhere in private. But Remus wrote the book on hiding places, and it wasn’t long before he found him, curled up in an enclave hidden behind a tapestry depicting a unicorn hunt.

“G’away, Lupin.” Sirius scowled, turning away, arms around his knees. His voice was thick, as though he’d been crying, though his face was dry. “You can’t cheer me up, ok.”

Remus rolled his eyes, clambering into the enclave with him, forcing him to move,

“Budge up,” he said, firmly, “I’m not here to cheer you up, you prat.”

“What?”

“What you sitting here moping for? Your best mate just had all of his dreams come true at once, go and be a good sport.”

Sirius made an indignant noise, still trying to move away from Remus, though there wasn’t much space left now.

“You wouldn’t understand.” He sniffed.

“I s'pose not,” Remus confirmed, calmly, “But I do understand that James really, really wanted to be a chaser, and he worked really hard for it, and he got it. And Marlene really wanted to be a beater, and she worked really hard too – Evans told us. So she got it. She was just better than you.”

“Piss off!” Sirius gave him a shove, but Remus was used to getting pushed around, and whether Sirius liked it or not, Remus was stronger.

“You didn’t even care that much!” He continued, pushing back, “Not as much as Potter. You only did the trial because he was doing it, but you don’t always have to be the same. You still beat him at Transfiguration. You still get the best marks in the year. Everyone likes you. Well, except the Slytherins and um… maybe your family, but who cares. Peter’s family don’t like him either.”

Sirius let out a weak laugh at that, despite himself.

“So stop acting like a little kid and go and say well done.”

“Fine.”

“Good.”

They both hopped down from the ledge, pushing the tapestry out of the way. The tiny embroidered knights shook their fists at the boys for disrupting their pursuit of the silver unicorn, which whinnied and galloped into a dense copse of woven trees.

They walked back to the common room. Sirius shoved his hands in his pockets.

“Did you all have breakfast?” He asked, sulkily.

“Yep.” Remus replied. “James saved you some toast, though.”

“He’s a good mate.” Sirius smiled.

“Yeah,” Remus snapped, “He is.”

They were quiet for a bit longer. Just before they reached the portrait of the fat lady, Sirius looked at Remus. His eyes were still slightly pink, but other than that he seemed himself again.

“I don’t try to copy James.”

“Didn’t say you did.” Remus said. “You compete, though.”

Sirius seemed to acknowledge this. He looked up again.

“And I don’t care what my family thinks.” He said this so fiercely that his eyes shone, glistening slightly, and Remus was worried he’d start crying again. He reached out and touched Sirius's shoulder, warily, as you might try to calm a growling dog.

“I know, mate.” He said, softly. “I know that.”

Chapter Text

Friday 3rd November 1972 

Sirius’s thirteenth birthday did not fall on the full moon, as his twelfth had. He never told the others about the talking to he’d got from Remus – not as far as Remus could tell, anyway – but he did act slightly differently towards his friends. Whereas before he had sometimes treated Remus as a bit of a pet project; amazed whenever Lupin exhibited independent thought; Sirius at least appeared to develop some sensitivity towards the two secondary marauders.  

The subject of quidditch was still a sore one, and so on the morning of his second Hogwarts birthday James had enough tact not to suggest a lunchtime flying session.  

Breakfast began with a round of ‘happy birthday’ at the very tops of their voices, as had become tradition for the marauders by now. The Potters sent Sirius a huge basket of chocolates, while James had ordered half of Zonko’s catalogue as a birthday present. Remus was a bit embarrassed to hand over his own gifts – some old copies of Melody Maker and NME that he’d pinched over the summer – but Sirius was thrilled; one of them had an interview with Marc Bolan. They spent most of breakfast turning the pages; the three pure-blood wizards laughing at the static muggle photographs.  

Remus kept sneaking looks at Sirius, wondering if he looked any different now he was a teenager. Remus had wanted to be thirteen for ages; it seemed to him a very mature, grand sort of age. He knew it was silly to think you could become imbued with some kind of new wisdom overnight, but it was certainly an important milestone, whichever way you looked at it. Sirius was definitely holding himself in a slightly different way; Remus was sure.  

Unfortunately, the carefree morning ended there. As they finished their meal and were preparing to get up for their first lesson (History of Magic) their passage out of the hall was blocked. 

“Sirius.” A stern voice said.  

Narcissa Black stood before them. At fifteen she was taller than all four marauders. She was a fairly attractive girl, Remus thought; if a little pinched about the face. She didn’t have her elder sister’s mad look, and had dyed and straightened her long hair so that it hung in a gorgeous platinum sheet, which shimmered when it caught the light. 

She stood before them with her arms crossed, Regulus skulking at her side. 

“Cissy.” Sirius nodded in greeting. She flinched, but didn’t chastise him. 

“It’s your birthday.” She said. 

“Well, I was aware.” 

She rolled her eyes. It seemed she didn’t have her sister’s temper, either, which Remus was glad for. 

“You’re to eat with us this evening.” 

“Come and sit at the Gryffindor table if you absolutely have to.” 

“No.” She narrowed her grey eyes, “Your mother has given strict instructions. We’ll eat privately, in the Slytherin common room, like last year.” 

“No!” Sirius lost his newfound maturity and suddenly seemed very much a child, practically stamping his foot, “I want to eat with my friends.” 

“You can eat with them any time you want.” Narcissa snapped, her hands on her hips now. “Birthdays are family occasions.” 

Regulus looked at his feet, still standing just behind his cousin. Sirius was still annoyed, but finally nodded his assent. James placed a hand on his shoulder; a harmless gesture, but Regulus looked up and stared intently, as if they were doing something foul.  

Once a time had been set for dinner, the two Slytherin Blacks left, and the marauders stared after them. James looked at Sirius, 

“Bad luck,” he commiserated, “Want to bunk off lessons?” 

“Nah,” Sirius shook his head, “I’ll just take a few dung bombs with me to dinner.” 

“We can see if that time-bomb spell works!” 

“Perfect.” 

* * * 

Sirius was gone for a long while after dinner. James paced the dorm room, checking his watch every few minutes and wondering out loud whether he ought to go and stand outside the dungeons and shout.  

“We need to start working on your map again, Lupin,” he said, running his hands through his (already catastrophic) hair, “Get everyone tagged, so we know where they are at all times.” 

“We’re a long way off that,” Remus replied from his bed, where he was reading a book. “Still haven’t mapped any of the east wing. I can do some over Christmas.” 

“No,” James stopped still in the middle of the room, “You and Black are coming to mine for Christmas.” 

Remus stared at him and swallowed awkwardly, 

“James, I can’t, you know I can’t.” 

James waved a hand, resuming his pacing. 

“I’ll sort it all out with dad, don’t worry. Full moon’s on the twentieth, I checked. We can all hang out here until then and leave on the twenty-first.” 

Remus was speechless, but it didn’t matter. James decided quickly after that to don his cloak and go looking for Sirius. Peter, rather predictably, followed him, but Remus was enjoying his book and let them go. He lolled on the bed, and thought about putting a record on. James and Peter had called for a ban on Bowie until the end of the year, but if they weren’t in the room…  

At the beginning of the year Remus had been so taken in by Sirius’s excitement that he hadn’t told him that he had known all about Ziggy Stardust – in fact, everyone in the muggle world, pretty much, had been talking about him all summer.  

Sometime in mid-July, Remus had sat in the rec room after tea with a few of the older boys to watch Top of the Pops. Their TV was still black and white, but Remus felt as though he had seen the performance in colour. David Bowie was like no one he had ever seen before. All of them had sat staring with their mouths wide open as the slender, alien looking man bopped across the stage in a patchwork leotard. He was pale as snow, his hair was long at the back, and stuck up wildly on top, his eyes were arresting; one pupil larger than the other – he was wearing makeup. Remus had at once wanted to know him and to be him. When David slung his arm around the tall, fair haired guitarist, Remus’ stomach had done an odd sort of flip, and as the two men sang into the same microphone, their cheeks pressed close together, one of the St Edmund’s care workers had marched over and turned off the television set. Nasty queers, he had said, disgusting putting that sort of thing on telly when kiddies might see it.  

Remus thought about it more than he wanted to. 

When the two other boys returned, it was with a white faced Sirius. He looked worse than he usually did after an encounter with his family; closed off and utterly joyless. Even his eyes looked a little less bright, veering into grey.  

“What’s up?” Remus stood up, concerned.  

“It’s terrible.” Sirius said. “Really, really terrible. Vile. The worst, most unthinkable… Horrific.” He threw himself onto his bed, face down. 

“He’s been like this since we found him in the dungeons,” James explained, “Nothing but adjectives.” 

“Superlative adjectives.” Sirius corrected, muffled slightly by his pillow. 

“Yeah yeah, you’re being dramatic,” James sighed. He ran his fingers through his hair again. He’d be bald before he saw thirty, Remus thought. “Want to tell us why?!” 

Sirius rolled onto his back, staring up at the canopy of his bed. 

“I’m getting married.” 

“What?!” James and Peter looked just as shocked as Remus, so at least he knew it wasn’t a normal wizard thing. 

“Narcissa told me.” He nodded, still staring blankly upwards, “Usually they wouldn’t make a match until I was of age, like with Bellatrix, but Cissy says they’ve decided to tighten the reigns in my case.” 

“Make a match?!” James sounded flabbergasted, “The Blacks don’t still have arranged marriages, surely?” 

“Of course we do.” Sirius heaved a sigh, “Noble and most ancient, et cetera, et cetera... They want to hold the betrothal ceremony next summer. I’m supposed to ‘buck my ideas up’ in time for it. Then the wedding is happening as soon as I finish Hogwarts. Doubt you lot’ll be invited.” 

“That’s mad! That’s medieval! That’s…” 

“My mother.” Sirius finished. 

“Um,” Remus felt rude interrupting, but his curiosity was getting the better of him, “Who are you supposed to be marrying?” 

Sirius sat up. 

“That’s the twist in the dragon’s tail, isn’t it,” he said, angrily, “That’s my mother’s pièce de résistance,” he pronounced the French beautifully, with a perfect accent. Even in his darkest rages Sirius Black could annunciate. 

“Who?!” 

“Cissy.” 

“What?!” 

“Narcissa?!” 

“Your cousin?!” 

“Narcissa Black?!” 

Sirius nodded. His shoulder’s sagged. The closed off look returned to his face and he lay back down.  

“Apparently they’re looking to reign her in too. Andromeda – her sister, y’know, the only normal one – she’s pregnant, according to Cissy. They’re closing ranks, trying to prevent any more dirty blood from getting in.” 

“But there have to be other pure blood girls out there,” James reasoned, “And I thought she and that Malfoy creep were going out?”  

“They are,” Sirius nodded, “She’s as pissed off about it as I am, believe me. Talk about wedded bliss.” 

“What about Regulus?” James was asking. He looked as though his mind was working a mile a minute. 

“What about him?” Sirius said, bitterly, “Think he fancies her instead?” 

“She’s quite pretty,” Peter said, meekly. Sirius gave him a look that could shatter glass. 

“She’s my cousin you dolt.” 

“All right,” James held up an authoritative hand, “No need for name calling, we’re just trying to help.” Remus couldn’t see how exactly Peter was helping, but he bit his tongue and let James continue. “I meant, did Regulus say anything? He was there, wasn’t he?” 

“Not. A. Word.” Sirius glowered, and no one mentioned his brother again.  

“Right, well.” James pushed his glasses up his nose, “We’ve got until next summer. And we’ve got Narcissa on our side, believe it or not. So, I’d say it’s not hopeless.” 

“You don’t know what hopeless is until you’ve met my mother.” Sirius said. 

“And she doesn’t know what a marauder is.” James said firmly. “Gentlemen,” He looked at them each, in turn. Remus could see exactly what was coming. “We have a new mission.” 

Chapter Text

How on earth could you get yourself out of an engagement? Remus wondered to himself, as he made his way down to the dungeons on Sunday evening. He was alone; Lily had asked him to check on the potion they were working on one more time before handing it in the next day. He personally thought it was overkill, but was also guiltily aware that Evans had so far done the lion’s share of the work.

Sirius’s problem had been ticking away in the back of his mind all day. James had charged them all with coming up with a solution by Christmas, but Remus couldn’t see what might be done. He’d never thought about engagement, or marriage, or family honour before. Those were all grown up things. Thirteen-year-old boys certainly weren’t supposed to worry about them. But then, he supposed, turning the final bend in the staircase, nor were twelve-year-old boys supposed to worry about transforming into monsters once a month.

He sighed heavily, pushing the door to the Potions classroom open. To his disgust, Severus Snape was in there already, stirring his own potion. Their eyes met, and Remus froze for a moment, before squaring his shoulders, raising his chin and walking straight over to his own cauldron, choosing to ignore the other boy.

But he couldn’t help but notice that his potion was a slightly different colour from Snape’s, which couldn’t be a good sign. Theirs was a bold, royal blue, much darker than it ought to be. Snape had obviously noticed too.

“You need to add more lavender.” He said, nasally, not looking up from his stirring. “At least another teaspoon.”

“Yeah, right.” Remus frowned, “S’if I’m going to take advice off you.”

“I’m hardly going to ruin Lily’s potion, am I?!” Snape spat back.

Remus considered this. It was true that despite Severus’ generally unpleasant demeanour, the only other thing the marauders knew about him was that he would do almost anything for Lily Evans. It was weird, but Remus wasn’t one to judge anyone for being weird.

He spooned in some more lavender and stirred. At once, the potion took on a paler, sky blue hue, and a lovely dreamy aroma rose from it. Snape made a smug clicking noise with his tongue, and closed the lid on his own cauldron, getting ready to leave.

“Hiya Sev!” a voice came from the doorway, “Oh, Remus…”

It was Lily. She looked a bit embarrassed. Remus frowned,

“Thought we agreed I was checking it tonight?”

“Um, yes, we did… I was just… double checking.” Her usually pale cheeks were bright red.

“Didn’t think I’d show up?”

Snape snorted, derisively, on his way out. Remus fought the urge to throw a spoon at the back of his greasy head. Lily didn’t notice, she had already crossed the room, and was looking down into the cauldron.

“Well, you do get a lot of detentions,” she said, diplomatically. Severus swept out of the room. “Oh wow, it looks much better than it did this morning. Did you do something?”

“Added more lavender.”

“Really? Nice one, it looks exactly right now.”

“Well…” he rubbed the back of his head, glancing that the door. Snape was out of earshot. “Yeah, I just thought it needed some, I s’pose.”

“Nothing left to do, then. Are you on your way back to the common room?”

“Yeah.”

They walked together. Lily was in a good mood,

“We work quite well together, don’t we?” She smiled at him. “It’s a nice change from Sev, anyway, you’re much more easy going.”

Remus had never thought of himself as easy going before. It was a nice thing for her to say, but then compared to Snape anyone might seem relaxed.

“What’s the thing with you and him anyway?” He asked.

“He’s my best friend.” Lily answered promptly, as if she had to justify this all the time. “We’ve known each other ages.”

“Oh, right.”

“He’s not as bad as you think he is,” she said, glancing at him sideways, “He can be really kind. And funny.”

“Why’s he hang about with Mulciber and the pureblood lot, then?”

“Well if we’re going to base our assumptions on people based on their friends,” Lily looked at him very pointedly.

“What’s wrong with my friends?!” Remus was shocked. Everyone loved James and Sirius. Lily rolled her eyes.

“They’re all heirs to pureblood houses, aren’t they?” She tossed her auburn curls, “Plus they’re massive show-offs. Potter thinks he’s god’s gift and Black is… well, he’s a Black, isn’t he? Even I know about them, and I’m muggle born. I s’pose Peter’s ok, but it’s sad the way he follows them around everywhere.”

“I follow them around too.”

“Yeah, you do.” She looked at him again, cheekily.

“You’re wrong about them.” Remus said, “I mean… ok, you’re right about them showing off, but they’re not just… there’s more to them.”

“Well then you’ll just have to accept that there’s more to Severus, won’t you?”

She was harder to argue with than Sirius. Remus shrugged, noncommittally. It occurred to him that Lily might be able to help with their present conundrum. After all, weddings and engagements were girl things, weren’t they? At least she might offer another perspective.

“Evans?” he said, thoughtfully, “You’re quite clever…”

“Oh, cheers very much.”

“Sorry. I mean – you’re cleverer than me.”

“Much better.”

He grinned, rubbing the back of his head.

“What would you do if your family was making you get married to someone you didn’t want to?”

She frowned, as if that was not at all what she had expected.

“Liker an arranged marriage? I thought you lived in a foster home?”

“A children’s home,” he corrected. “They’re different. Anyway, it’s not me, it’s… someone else.”

“Um…” She looked stumped, which didn’t give Remus much hope. “Gosh, I mean, it’s not something my parents would ever do. But if they did… I’d be really angry, obviously. And hurt.”

“Hurt?” He asked, puzzled.

“Well, obviously. Your parents are supposed to love you and want what’s best for you… making a decision like that on your behalf is the complete opposite.”

“Right,” he nodded, though he didn’t really understand, “Well this person er… doesn’t really get on with their parents anyway.”

“Even so,” Lily shrugged, “That doesn’t mean they’re not hurt by it. You should be able to trust the people who raised you.”

“Oh, ok.” Remus didn’t know what to say to that. He had a horrible churning sensation in his stomach – the same feeling he used to get when called upon to read out loud. Lily hadn’t noticed.  They were almost at the common room now.

“I still don’t know what I’d do,” she sighed, “It’s like the only option is to defy them – the parents. But that’s going to cause all sorts of problems… Who is this about? Go on, tell me!”

Remus shook his head,

“Can’t. Sorry.”

Lily nodded, understanding. Remus smiled at her. She had an immensely soothing presence.

Flibbertigibbet,” Lily said to the portrait, which swung open for them to crawl through.

James had not long returned from quidditch practice and was still in his red flying robes. He sat on one of the sofas flicking Zonko’s bursting beans into the fireplace, where they burst in a riot of colour like miniature fireworks. Sirius lay on the rug beneath him reading a book on hexes he’d brought from home.

“Alright, Lupin?” James grinned. Remus nodded to Lily and went over to his friends. The redhead went straight up the stairs to the girl’s dorm. “Dumped us for Evans, have you?” James asked, smirking.

“Potions.” Remus replied.

“Right. You friends with her now?”

“Sort of,” Remus shrugged, “She’s all right. Hates you two.”

“What?!” They both sat up, looking affronted.

“But everyone likes us!” Sirius said, “We’re loveable rogues!”

“She thinks you’re show offs.”

James gasped, dramatically.

“How dare she! We’ll have to win her over.”

“Why bother,” Sirius rolled over, returning to his book, “She’s friends with Snivellus, she clearly has no taste.”

“Did she really say that?” James was asking Remus. He nodded,

“She said you think you’re god’s gift.”

“What does that mea-“

“It’s a muggle expression,” Remus explained, “Means she thinks you’re full of yourself.”

“She thinks that?”

“Well,” Remus looked at him, “You sort of are, to be honest.”

James laughed. Remus sat beside him, grabbing a handful of the Zonko beans himself and flinging them into the fire, one by one. He and James shortly made a game of it, seeking who could create the biggest explosions by hitting the embers just right.

“Forgot to say,” James said, once the bag of beans was empty, “Got the owl from dad today – he’s spoken to McGonagall and got permission for us to have you over Christmas.”

“What? Really?!” Remus was fascinated. Why would a grownup who had never met him before want to intervene on his behalf? He made a mental note never to underestimate the power of James’s will ever again.

“Yeah, doesn’t think he can get you for the summer, though. Sorry.”

Remus shook his head, wordlessly. He ought to say thank you, but he hardly knew how.

“Just waiting for you now, mate,” James nudged Sirius with his foot, “Have you sorted it out with your mum? Say you’re going to the Pettigrew’s again.”

“Not bothering,” Sirius replied, still reading, “Just going to go to yours without saying anything.”

Sirius was rarely ever in contact with his parents, but since the Narcissa development he had been ignoring their owls altogether. Remus wasn’t sure that silence was the best way for Sirius to express his discontent, but as Lily had just reminded him, Remus knew very little about families.

“Mum won’t like it,” James chewed his lip.

“Don’t tell her, then.” Sirius turned his page.

James and Remus exchanged a look. They had to do something about the engagement soon; the thought of Sirius being in this mood for five more years was a very grim one indeed.

Chapter Text

The Hogwarts Express left Hogsmeade station for Christmas on Saturday 16th December that year, meaning that once the full moon had passed, James, Sirius and Remus had to find other means of getting to the Potters' family home.

McGonagall, after lecturing Remus on not letting any other students in on his secret, was sympathetic to the marauder’s wishes, and allowed them to use the floo connection in her office ‘just this once’. Remus didn’t mind the lecture so much, but he was terrified of using the floo network for the first time. He’d heard all sorts of horror stories from fellow students, and it didn’t help that he was usually queasy for a few days after the full moon anyway.

Sirius received a howler every morning after the 16th demanding that he come home at once, but he simply tossed the scarlet envelopes into the fireplace, where Walpurga Black’s screams echoed up into the chimney stacks. James was clearly unnerved by this behaviour, but didn’t say anything. Sirius was always up for a fight lately, and it was just better to steer clear. Unfortunately, as the full moon drew nearer, Remus also had a very short fuse. The two boys bickered over anything and everything, and poor James had to step between the pair more than once.

“Just write back to her for god’s sake.” Remus groaned on the morning of the 20th, throwing a pillow at Sirius from his bed. He’d been woken early for the third morning in a row by a howler,

“IF YOU THINK YOU CAN ESCAPE YOUR BIRTH RIGHT IN THIS COWARDLY FASHION THEN YOU HAVE ANOTHER THING COMING!” It wailed, echoing through Gryffindor tower like a banshee.

“Stay out of it, Lupin,” Sirius flung the pillow back at him.

“How am I supposed to stay out of it when it’s in our bloody bedroom every morning?!” Remus growled, getting up now.

“I’m so sorry to inconvenience you!” Sirius retorted, dripping with sarcasm. He looked rough, as if he hadn’t slept properly at all, but Remus was in too much of a bad mood to care, and his transformation was only hours away.

“How about not acting like a spoilt brat for five minutes?!” He snapped, “You’re so bloody selfish.”

“I’m not asking her to send them! At least I actually get post, at least people care enough about me to—”

Remus threw himself on top of Sirius and began thumping him as hard as he could, incandescent with rage. 

“SHUT. UP.” He grunted, landing a decent punch right on Sirius’s left cheek. Sirius, though extremely adept at caustic insults, was not much of a fighter. He gasped and tried to push Remus away, eventually grabbing for his wand,

Mordeo!” He hissed, aiming at Remus’s face. At once, Remus let go, tumbling backwards onto the bed, clutching his forehead. A horrible stinging sensation radiated from the spot Sirius had cursed,

“You wanker!” He yelled, feeling his face tightening and swelling up.

“You deserved it!”

“Sirius!” James had clambered out of bed too late. “You cursed him?! You bloody cursed him?!”

Sirius was looking less sure of himself now,

“He started it!”

“He didn’t even have his wand on him!”

Remus had climbed off the bed and was staring at himself in the wardrobe mirror. He looked as though he had rolled through a stinging nettle bush backwards. His skin was red and shiny, taut and swelling at a worrying rate.

“Does it hurt?” James asked, tentatively.

Remus shook his head, though it did – a lot.

“I’m going to the hospital wing.” He said. “Don’t come with me.” He snapped, seeing James pulling on his dressing gown. As he marched out of the room still in his pyjamas, he heard James mutter,

“Attacking someone who’s unarmed is really fucking low, Black.”

* * *

Madam Pomfrey healed him quickly using the counter-jinx, but she was very annoyed about it.

“Who did it?” She asked him, “If it was Potter or Black then I want to hear about it – I told Minerva it was a bad idea to let you go away for Christmas.”

“Why shouldn’t I go?” Remus asked, scandalised, “Sirius is going!”

“Mr Black doesn’t have your limitations.”

“But we’re not going ‘til tomorrow, it’s right after the full moon, that’s the safest—”

“I’m thinking of your health, Remus! You’re very fragile—”

“I am not fragile!” Remus seethed.

“Of course not, dear,” she said, not really listening to him. “Now sit there quietly for a bit, eh? Have you had breakfast?”

Madam Pomfrey made him stay in the hospital wing all day in his pyjamas. The medi-witch had been working on a new potion that she hoped might make his transformation smoother. She let him borrow some of her books, so it wasn’t too bad, but he felt like an invalid all the same. His face was still a bit tingly from Sirius’s curse, though the swelling had gone down substantially. It might be a good one to use on Snape, he made a mental note to remember to ask Sirius exactly how he’d done it.

At about one o’clock, just after lunch, James and Sirius came to see him. Madam Pomfrey gave them a sound telling off, first.

“Cursing your fellow house mate! Cursing your dorm mate, for goodness sake! In my day you’d have been flogged! And Professor McGonagall has informed me that you know about his special circumstances! One might think you’d have more sense!”

James made copious apologies, and Sirius, who barely flinched at his mother’s obscene chastisements anymore, hung his head looking utterly ashamed. Eventually, Remus guessed that this must have been enough to satisfy the school nurse, who allowed them over to see him. They stood at the end of the bed like mourners, barely meeting his eye.

“We’re really sorry, Remus,” James started. Remus clicked his tongue,

You never did anything.”

James kicked Sirius, who looked up too,

I’m really sorry, Remus.” He had a heavy dark bruise high on his left cheek and his eyes looked a little over bright, Remus wondered if Sirius had cried about it. The thought made him feel funny. He shook his head, no longer angry,

“I started it. Sorry I hit you.”

“Sorry about the howler.”

“Sorry your mum’s a nightmare.”

“Sorry you’re a werewolf.”

They both laughed, and everything was forgiven.

“Will she let you out now?” James asked, “Few hours still ‘til the moon.”

Remus shook his head,

“Nah, she wants to try some new potion.”

“I didn’t know there was a cure!”

“There isn’t,” Remus said, quickly, “This is just a… I think it’s to make the transformation, y’know… easier.”

They both looked at him, puzzled. He shifted uncomfortably,

“Like a painkiller, I think. Muggle ones don’t work.”

“Does it hurt, then?” Sirius asked, cocking his head. Now that the storm had passed he was back to seeing Remus as an interesting specimen.

“Well, yeah.” Remus frowned. He had assumed they knew a lot more than him, having grown up in the wizarding world, so he was surprised that they didn’t know about the pain. For a long time, the pain was the only thing he had known.

To his surprise and delight, James and Sirius elected to stay in the hospital wing with Remus for the rest of the afternoon. They played a few riotous games of exploding snap, before Madam Pomfrey sternly told them to quiet down, so they switched to gobstones. As the evening drew in, they didn’t go down for dinner, but ate the same hospital food as he did.

This was no great thing for them – James and Sirius treated it as any other afternoon; the hospital bed was just an extension of their dorm. For Remus it was everything – it was time that would otherwise be spent anxious and alone. It was the closest thing to family he could imagine.

McGonagall came and chased them out, eventually, ready to lead Remus to the shack. He went peacefully, with a soft smile on his lips and laughter still echoing in his ears. Madam Pomfrey’s painkilling potion had no effect – but Remus found the transformation slightly more tolerable all the same.

* * *

James and Sirius arrived first thing the next morning. Remus was dozing in his bed, having been brought back into the castle at dawn. His face hurt, and he knew it wasn’t from the curse anymore. Madam Pomfrey had left a hand mirror on his bedside table, glass down, but he had been too tired to look yet. He was woken by the sharp gasp of breath which came from either James or Sirius, he wasn’t sure who. When he opened his eyes they had both rearranged their expressions into stoic cheer.

“Alright, mate?” James said, with a half-smile, as you might address a child.

“Alright.” Remus croaked, hauling himself up. It must be bad. He lifted the heavy mirror and turned it towards his face. Ah.

The cut looked half-healed already, thanks to Pomfrey’s ministrations, but it was still a shock. The scab was hard and black, edged with tender red skin. It stretched from the inner corner of one eye, up over the bridge of his nose diagonally down towards the centre of his opposite cheek. He couldn’t remember much, but it looked as though he’d almost split his face wide open.

“My beautiful face,” he said, weakly, attempting sarcasm, but feeling dreadful. Now everyone would know. So far he’d been able to hide the worst of his scars under his robes, but he knew now that it had only been a matter of time before his luck ran out in that regard.

“It’s not that bad,” James said, quickly, “It’ll heal really fast, I bet…”

“How did—” Sirius began, but was interrupted by Madam Pomfrey who came storming over,

“You two back again!” They stepped back, sharply, as if frightened of her, showing deference they never showed for McGonagall. The nurse pulled the curtain around Remus’s bed, closing it in their faces. “Ah, you’ve had a look, have you?” She addressed Remus now, in a much softer tone, “I know it looks bad, but it’ll pale just like the others. Should be barely noticeable by the new year.”

Remus somehow didn’t believe her – even his most faded scars were still very noticeable. She took a closer look, then smoothed a clear ointment over the cut,

“Take this with you,” she instructed, handing him the jar, “Apply every morning and evening. Does it hurt, still?”

He shook his head. She clucked her tongue sceptically, “Well, even so. It might itch a bit as it heals. Perhaps we could try trimming your nails down next month? Though I suppose the claws come in anyway.” She sighed, sounding frustrated, “Your face must still have been irritated even after we got the swelling down.”

“It’s fine,” Remus shrugged her off. He was keenly aware of his friends on the other side of the curtain, and wanted her to go away. “Can I go now? I feel ok.”

“Wouldn’t you rather get a bit more sleep?”

“No.” He shook his head vehemently, “I’m hungry – I want to go down for breakfast.” He knew that would work; she was always on at him to eat more.

“Well… fine. Get dressed and off you pop.”

Sirius was very quiet during breakfast, leaving James and Remus to maintain the conversation – something neither of them had much practice at by themselves. Once fed, they went upstairs to pack because Sirius and Remus had left it to the last minute. James, frustrated by their lack of foresight, marched to McGonagall’s office to see if everything was ready for their journey, leaving them to it.

Remus packed a few things – he hadn’t got the others any presents, and he’d made them all promise not to get him anything either. It wasn’t fair. Matron had sent ahead a small package, so there was that. He threw in some clothes – the others probably wore robes at home, but the only robes Remus owned were his school uniform (and he wasn’t very sure he actually owned that, or whether it was just on loan), so he just shoved in his muggle clothes.

Packed, Remus turned to find Sirius standing directly behind him, looking even worse than he had the day before.

“What’s up?” Remus asked, startled.

“It’s my fault.” Sirius replied, his voice strangely flat, “I heard Pomfrey say so.”

“Eh?”

“Your face… I cursed it, then when you turned you scratched it…”

“Oh.” Remus raised his fingers to his face, self-consciously. Sirius looked away. “It’s not really your fault,” Remus said, awkwardly, “I mean, I scratch everywhere else, too. Bound to happen eventually.”

“Why do you do it?”

Sirius had asked that once before, when looking at his old scars. This time Remus could tell that he really understood what he was asking. But Remus still didn’t have an answer.

“I dunno. I don’t remember.”

“You don’t remember anything at all?”

“Not really. I know I’m always hungry – like I’ve been starving all my life. And angry.”

“About what?”

Remus shook his head,

“Just angry.”

“I’m so sorry, Remus.” Sirius looked sad again. Remus couldn’t bear it,

“Oh, shut up.” He said, half joking, “You wouldn’t think twice about cursing James or Peter.”

“Yeah, but you’re…”

“Don’t say it.” He’d been afraid this might happen, “Please don’t treat me like I’m sick, or different, or whatever. It’s one night a month. If I punch you, you’re allowed to curse me, ok?”

Sirius looked like he wanted to laugh,

“Are you saying you’re planning to punch me again?”

Remus threw a sock at him,

“If you don’t sort out those bastard howlers, maybe.”

* * *

Travelling by floo powder was nothing compared to feeling your own spine elongate every month, and Remus wasn’t sure what all the fuss had been about. He was the second to step out of the fireplace into the Potter’s lounge, after James. Brushing soot from his shoulders he quickly hopped off the hearth rug to make room for Sirius, and watched as James was pulled into a hearty embrace by both of his parents.

Mr and Mrs Potter were quite a bit older than Remus had imagined, but both had kind, merry faces that shared familiar features with their son. Mr Potter’s hair was white as snow, but stuck up at every angle exactly like James’s. Mrs Potter had his winning smile and warm hazel eyes. They both hugged Sirius too, while Remus shrank back, feeling horribly out of place.

Finally, Mrs Potter turned her sunny smile on him. Thankfully she did not make to hug him too, perhaps sensing that he was uncomfortable. She simply nodded at him gently,

“Hello, Remus, we’ve heard ever so much about you, I’m so glad you’re spending Christmas with us.”

Remus smiled back shyly, but couldn’t bring himself to speak. It didn’t matter; James and Sirius were chattering nineteen to the dozen with Mr Potter, who looked like a schoolboy himself, eyes twinkling with fun and mischief.

The sitting room – Remus supposed it was a sitting room, as it had three sofas in it – was the biggest he’d ever been in, with wide, tall windows letting in soft winter sunlight that pooled onto the polished hardwood floors. A gigantic Christmas tree stood in one corner, glimmering with silver dust and surrounded by a mountain of brightly wrapped presents.

Paper chains and streamers were draped across the ceiling and along the picture rails, and even the magical portraits had decorated their frames with fairy lights. As they were led through the house (“For goodness sakes’, Fleamont, let the boys put their things away before you start planning whatever it is I know you’re planning,”) he found that every room, even the hallways were decorated with lights, tinsel and hundreds and hundreds of festive cards. The Potter’s must be very popular wizards indeed. They were certainly wealthy – the sweeping mahogany staircase continued up three more flights.

James’s bedroom was big enough for all three of them – bigger than their dorm room at Hogwarts, with a king sized four poster bed, but Remus was surprised to find that there were four equally large bedrooms which were unoccupied. Sirius had already claimed the one next to James, so Remus put his bag in the third room, wondering what it would be like to sleep alone for the first time.

“Come on then, lads!” Mr Potter yelled up the stairs in a booming voice, “It’s been snowing all afternoon and I’ve got the toboggans ready!”

Chapter Text

Remus had thought that nothing could be much better than Christmas at Hogwarts, which was (quite literally) magical. Christmas at the Potter’s, however, was an entirely different experience that seemed only to get better.  

First there was tobogganing down the snowy slopes in the back garden – though at over five hundred acres, no one could really call it a garden. Peter, who lived further down in the main village, came out to join them as soon as he heard they had arrived, and they had an extremely noisy and violent afternoon careering down the hillsides and playing complex wargames with snowball ammunition. Mr Potter even joined in; sprightly for his age and with the considerable advantage of being able to use magic.  

Mrs Potter called them all in for lunch and made them all change out of their freezing wet clothes. They sat by the fireplace, warm and dry eating hot toasted teacakes smeared with rich yellow butter. In the afternoon they wanted to go out again, but Mr Potter had gone to lie down and Mrs Potter didn’t want them to go out so close to nightfall. Instead they helped her decorate an enormous Christmas cake with white royal icing and tiny magical figurines, then to wrap presents for the neighbours and their house elves, 

“We never got anything for the house elf,” Sirius said matter-of-factly, his fingers hopelessly bound up in some spell-o-tape, “Mind you, Kreacher’s a moody git; I doubt he wants anything.” 

“They’ll take gifts as long as it’s something edible, I find,” Mrs Potter replied, smiling, “No clothes, of course, that only upsets them.” 

“Tell mum what your lot does to house elves, Sirius,” James grinned, binding his friend’s hands up even more. Sirius laughed, lightly, 

“Mounts their heads.” He said, “Once they’re dead. At least, I think we wait until they’re dead… Kreacher’s the only house elf I remember.” 

“Goodness,” said Mrs Potter, “I had rather thought that tradition had died out.” 

“Not with the Blacks,” Sirius sighed. Remus could tell that he was thinking about the betrothal again. 

“You’re making a lovely job of that, Remus,” Mrs Potter observed, glancing over at the book he was wrapping for Mrs Pettigrew. “Unlike some naughty boys I could mention…” she turned a stern gaze upon her son and his best friend, now attempting to tape their hands to the table top.  

Remus smiled at her, politely, feeling the fresh cut on his face pull at his skin. He still hadn’t really said anything to either of James’s parents yet. He’d always been told to be seen and not heard around older people – and he had never been to a friend’s house before. Sirius, by contrast, was completely at ease, Remus had never seen him happier. He doted on Mrs Potter as if she was his own mother – if he’d liked his own mother, of course.  

Remus yawned, more widely than he meant to, trying to hide behind his hands, ducking his head embarrassed. He had only slept a few hours that morning following the moon, and an afternoon of snowball manoeuvres had left him exhausted.  

“You’d better go up to bed, dear,” Mrs Potter said, ignoring the fact that it was only three o’clock in the afternoon. Remus wondered if James had told his parents about him – they must know, McGonagall might not have let him come otherwise.  

“Oh, you’re all right, aren’t you, Lupin?” Sirius cajoled, “Peter’s coming back in a bit, we can go out again.” 

Remus blinked at him, then looked at James for help. 

“Leave him alone, Sirius,” Mrs Potter chided, “The poor boy’s dead on his feet. Come on, dear, off you go.”  

Gratefully, Remus got up from the kitchen table and made his way up to bed. As he changed into his night things, he couldn’t help but steal another glance at himself in the mirror, now that he was properly alone. Perhaps it was having been out in the cold, but the scar looked worse than it had that morning, the contrast harsher with his pale skin. Would his face always surprise him, now? Would be always catch a glimpse of himself in some mirror or shining surface and jump? Would other people be afraid of him? 

There was a soft tap at the door, just as Remus was about to put on the ointment Madam Pomfrey had given him. It was Sirius, Remus caught his scent before he even knocked.  

“Alright?” The dark haired boy crept inside, speaking quietly. He held a pewter goblet in his hand. "James's mum sent you this. It’s a healing draught, I think.” 

“Oh, thanks.” Remus nodded tiredly. Sirius set it down on the bedside table. 

“You ok?” 

“Fine. Just tired, mate.” 

“Were we too… y’know, rough or something?” 

“No!” Remus said, very firmly, probably sounding angrier than he meant to. “It’s nothing to do with you two, it’s just the fact that I was up all night howling at the bloody moon and trying to rip my own face off. I’m tired.” 

Remus had to sit down, the effort of the outburst made him dizzy.  

“Sorry.” Sirius said, even more quietly. It was the second time he’d apologised that day, and Remus hated the sound of it. “I’ll leave you.” He closed the door. 

Remus couldn’t bring himself to start worrying about hurting Sirius’s feelings. He smeared on some of the ointment, then sniffed the goblet Mrs Potter had sent. He recognised it as something he’d had before at Hogwarts, which would trigger instant sleep. Getting into bed, he drained it quickly, and closed his eyes. 

* * * 

The remaining days before Christmas passed quickly, and Remus was able to experience real family life for the first time. Mr and Mrs Potter had to be the perfect parents – they were kind and sure, always smiling and full of fun. Remus hadn’t known that adults could be that way. He hadn’t known that people could grow up like that. It was clearer than ever why James was the way he was – as brimming with love and blind confidence as Remus was brimming with rage. It was obvious, too, why Sirius was so drawn to the family. He had an unquenchable thirst for love, and the Potters had an endless supply. 

The four boys tramped all over the surrounding countryside in the snow, bundled up in their warm Gryffindor scarves, hats and gloves. In the evenings they played card games, helped Mrs Potter prepare dinner and listened to Mr Potter telling ghost stories around the fireplace. They made mince pies and paper chains, they built snow-wizards and igloos, and they slept so soundly in their beds at night that not even a howler could have woken them. 

Unfortunately, it was not to last. While the Black's had stopped sending howlers, they had not forgotten their wayward son and tried a new tact on Christmas eve, with devastating consequences for the marauders.  

They were drinking warm butterbeer and sitting on the hearth rug. James and Sirius were playing gobstones, very loudly, and Mr Potter was teaching Remus to play chess. The old man had been horrified that Remus didn't know how, and Remus was surprised to find himself actually quite enjoying the game. The whole room felt warm and safe, heavy curtains drawn against the cold and dark, tree lights twinkling softly and the fire popping and crackling beside them. The clock had just struck nine, and Mrs Potter was keen to send them all to bed, when there was a loud *CRACK* just outside the window. 

Mr and Mrs Potter shared a quick glance, and Remus's ears pricked like a dog. The smell of spent magic permeated the air, like burnt toast. Something dark and unsavoury. There was a firm, hollow knock at the door.  

"Weren't expecting anyone, were we Effie?" Mr Potter frowned slightly at his wife. She shook her heard, and they both listened. 

The Potter's house elf, Gully, went scampering towards the front door to answer it. There were stilted voices in the hall, and Gully came hurrying in. 

"Oh, Mr Potter, Mr Potter, she's come for young master Black, she's telling me she's his mother! I told them to wait there for you." The elf was wringing his hands anxiously, clearly very confused by this turn of events.  

Sirius and James looked at each other. Sirius's face was white – he looked like he might be sick. 

"She wouldn't..." He whispered. 

Mr Potter was already up and out of the door. There were raised voices in the hallway now – Remus recognised Mrs Black's sharp tone from her horrid letters.  

"Sirius," Mrs Potter said, gently, "Did your parents give you permission to visit us, dear?" He looked at the floor. She clucked her tongue. "Oh, sweetheart." She said, sounding very sad. 

"Don't make him leave, mum!" James stood up, "He hates them!" 

"They're his parents, James." 

"Sirius!" Mr Potter called from the hall.  

Sirius got up, James did too. Remus didn't want to, he wanted to stay by the fire where they'd all been so happy just moments beforehand. But Mrs Potter had stood up too, and this was one of those times the marauders had to present a united front, no matter how frightening Sirius's mother was. 

They all filed out into the hall. Remus had seen Mrs Black once before, the first time he'd boarded the Hogwarts Express. Back then he had simply thought she looked very severe, and that she looked like Sirius. She still looked severe – her hair was slicked back and pulled up in a high bun which coiled like a serpent at the crown of her head, fixed with an emerald pin. Her eyes were dark, not as blue as Sirius's, but she had that Black family bone structure and superior look. She was shorter than Mr Potter, but still managed to gaze at him as though he was filth on her boot. Her look sharpened as she saw James and Remus appear.  

"Sirius." She said, coldly, narrowing her eyes at her eldest son. "You will come with me at once. Kreacher!" She snapped her fingers and an old, wizened looking house elf emerged from behind her robes. "Go upstairs and fetch master Black's things." The houise elf bowed deeply, kissing the silver capped toes of Mrs Black's pointed boots, and scurrying upstairs. 

"Good evening, Walpurga," Mrs Potter said, pleasantly, as if there was no tension at all, "May I offer you a drink? We were just about to crack out the mince pies, weren't we, boys?" 

Mrs Black ignored her, looking straight at Sirius, 

"Put on your cloak. We're leaving now." 

"But mother, I--" 

"Don't you dare speak to me." She hissed, eyes flashing.  

Remus wanted to run away; she was worse than Matron one hundred times over. She was worse than Bellatrix and Snape and every nasty person he had ever met. The thought of letting Sirius go with her made his insides twist. Mr and Mrs Potter seemed to be suffering from the same crisis, 

"Walpurga, why not let him stay?" Mrs Potter tried, "I know he's been a bit naughty, but there's no harm done. We can have him for lunch and send him back before dinner tomorrow. They've all been having such a nice time together." 

Mrs Black let out a short, crackling laugh, as if the her son's enjoyment was the least of her concerns. She eyed James, her gaze raking over his mess of hair, then Remus, staring pointedly at his new scar. Remus looked at his feet, terrified. She'd know. She'd know straight away. 

Kreacher came scuttling back down the stairs, followed by a very affronted looking Gully. Sirius's trunk hovered behind them both, apparently packed and ready to go. Walpurga turned, 

"Come along, Sirius." 

"No." He said, quietly, but very firmly. Remus wanted to tell him to shut up, couldn't he see how much trouble he was in?! But Sirius was clenching his fists, looking at his mother, "I want to stay here, with the Potters. You can't make me--" 

"SILENCIO!" Walpurga spun around, jabbing her wand at Sirius. He stopped speaking at once – though not voluntarily. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, and nothing came out. She had stolen his voice.  

"Walpurga, really!" Mr Potter gasped, as Mrs Potter let out a small shriek and knelt beside Sirius, wrapping her arms around him protectively. "He's just a boy!" 

"He is my son." Walpurga purred, looking daggers at Mrs Potter, "And he is heir to the finest house in Britain. He will learn his place. Come, Sirius." 

Sirius looked completely defeated, his mouth a straight line of resignation. He hugged Mrs Potter back, then stepped away from her. He gave James and Remus a small wave, before following his mother out of the door. 

The four of them stood in silence after the front door slammed. Remus wondered if James felt as ashamed as he did – ought they to have stood up for their friend in some way? What would happen to him now? Mr Potter looked furious. 

"Using a silencing charm on her own son! On an underage wizard! It's morally reprehensible!" 

"She does worse than that." James said, quietly. Remus nodded, in agreement, feeling as though someone had taken his own power of speech.  

"We'll have to make the house unplottable, Fleamont," Mrs Potter said, suddenly, "Make it so we can't be found – you said you were considering it, after the last election. I don't want that dreadful woman in my house ever again." 

Mr Potter nodded, darkly.  

"I'll look into it in the new year. Alastor Moody owes me a favour." 

"Bedtime, boys." Mrs Potter said, her voice trembling. "Try not to worry too much." She hugged James fiercely, kissing him on each cheek. Remus tried to dodge her, but she grabbed him too, pulling him into a tight embrace. She smelled like orange and clove.  

* * * 

"Psst. Remus." 

Remus had just finished brushing his teeth and was making his way down the hall to his room, when James poked his head out and ushered him into his own bedroom. They knelt on the bed together. James withdrew a note from his pyjama pocket, "Regulus sent this,"  

"What does it say?" Remus asked quickly, before James could give it to him to read. 

"Oh, um, it says 'Sirius is home, do not try to contact him.'" 

"That's all?" 

"That's all." James nodded, grimly. 

"Nice of Regulus," Remus remarked, looking down at the note which was obviously very hastily scribbled down. "Thought they hated each other." 

"Yeah, well they're still brothers, aren't they?" James replied, shrugging, "Family ties and all that." 

"Do you think he'll be ok?" 

"I don't know." James chewed his lip. "I never got to give him his present. He said he never gets anything christmassy from his lot, just family heirlooms and stuff." 

"I had a go at him the other day." Remus sighed, dolefully, "About... y'know, my furry little problem." 

James chuckled, 

"Don't worry about it. You two are always having a go at each other about something. Just your personalities." 

"Oh. D'you think?" Remus was a bit miffed by that observation – Sirius snapped at Peter far more often, surely. James grinned, 

"I told you, don't worry about it. Black loves an argument." 

Christmas morning was a subdued affair, though the Potters were keen to make it cheerful, if only for Remus. He was embarrassed to find a bulging stocking at the foot of his bed when he woke up, and resolved to correct this next year somehow. 

There were the customary socks and underpants from Matron, plus a tin of shortbread. Some chocolate frogs from Peter and a big book of advanced charms from Sirius. James had bought him a book too – Conjurers Cartography: A guide to magical mapmaking. Mr and Mrs Potter, however, had gone above and beyond. Under the tree he found more sweets, practical jokes, a beautiful set of quills – which he tried to give back ("we got the same for James and Sirius, dear, don't be silly,"), and a brand new pair of pyjamas.  

The Potters' extended family began arriving for Christmas Lunch at about midday, as well as the Pettigrews, who brought with them Peter's elder sister, Philomena, and her muggle boyfriend she'd brought back from University. Remus was introduced to everyone as a friend of James', and generally ignored, except for by one tiny and ancient wizard who was already red nosed and merry from all of the drinks Gully was passing around, 

"Lupin, you say? Not Lyall Lupin's boy?" 

Remus gaped, unable to answer. He'd only heard his father's name spoken once or twice.  

"Um... yes." He said, finally, blushing hard.  

"Is he here?!" The wizard grinned, looking around, "Excellent fellow, haven't seen him in years." 

"Er... he's dead." Remus replied, with an apologetic shrug. 

"Damn shame!" The wizard cried, spilling some of his drink, "Fine dueller; taught me everything I know about boggarts. Temper did tend to get him into trouble though – I told him not to mess about with that Greyback chap – bloody werewolves, ought to exterminate the lot of them!" 

Remus blinked. James looked at him, curiously. Fortunately, Mr Potter intervened, 

"Darius? Have another drink, old man, leave the young people to their games, eh?" 

Remus swallowed hard and returned to the gobstones tournament as if nothing had happened.

Chapter Text

Saturday 6th January 1973

Peter, James and Remus arrived promptly at King’s Cross to return to Hogwarts on the Saturday before term began. They all peered about looking for their fourth, but Sirius was not there – and nor was Regulus. As the train pulled out of the platform, James went in search of someone to ask. He returned with his hands over his nose, where a large boil was beginning to form.

“Narcissa said it’s none of my business.” He explained, sitting down heavily.

“Maybe they’re using the floo network,” Peter guessed, “Maybe his mum didn’t trust him to get on the train with us.”

“Maybe.” James stared out of the window, rubbing his sore nose. Remus had never seen him so unhappy. James had been missing Sirius more than any of them, and had been so excited at the prospect of seeing him once they got to London. Remus and Peter tried their hardest to cheer him up, but it was as if he was missing his right arm.

Before leaving, Mr and Mrs Potter said that they would see what they could do about having Remus to stay with them over the summer, too, and he thanked them profusely. It wasn’t likely, though, so he didn’t get his hopes up. Instead he just tried to be grateful that he was returning to school for a few more months with his friends. Most of them, anyway.

Sirius was nowhere to be found at dinner that evening, nor did he appear by the time they were getting ready for bed. James and Remus had brought his Christmas presents back for him, and piled them on top of his pillow, still wrapped in bright shiny paper and ribbon. Three of the packages were from Andromeda, and Remus knew they were albums. Sirius had asked for anything and everything by David Bowie.

Sunday 7th January 1973

On Sunday morning, the bed was still empty, and the three marauders sat around trying to distract themselves with homework. Remus had finished his and took the opportunity to get started on his Christmas books, now that he could invoke his reading spell once more. James took to pacing the room, went to ask McGonagall where Sirius was (she didn’t know) and even tried Narcissa a second time (she cursed him again). Finally, he went outside to do a few laps of the quidditch pitch on his broom.

Peter went too, with a box of biscuits to nibble on while he watched. Remus stayed indoors where it was warm; reading, or at least pretending to. Now that he was finally alone, he began thinking about the things Mr Potter’s friend Darius had said about his father, turning the new information over in his mind like a coin. His father was good at duelling – he’d heard that before. Lyall Lupin had obviously had a temper too – this was a new piece of intelligence, and an odd thing to know, after so long not really knowing anything. For the first time, Remus considered that his bouts of rage might not have anything to do with his condition. And who was Greyback? The name alone made him feel hot and uncomfortable. He wished more than anything that James and Peter hadn’t been there to hear it all.

Remus sat by the window in Gryffindor tower, his book slack in his lap, staring into space and trying to make sense of a puzzle he didn’t have all the pieces to. Occasionally he glanced out of the window to catch sight of James acting even more recklessly than usual.

“What the hell is he playing at?!” A voice squeaked over Remus’s shoulder. It was Lily Evans. She was sipping a mug of tea, staring at James on his broom.

“Nervous energy,” Remus shrugged, not turning back to look at her. The light from the window would cast his face into sharp relief, and his scar – while no longer red and angry – was still very noticeable.

“James Potter, nervous?!” Lily scoffed, “I had no idea he was capable of such complex emotions.”

“Oi,” Remus objected, still looking out of the window, “It’s not been a great Christmas for him, ok?”

“Ok, ok, I’m sorry, I know he’s your friend.” She always said that right after she insulted one of the marauders. “How was your Christmas?”

“Great, thanks. You?”

“Brilliant,” he could hear the grin in her voice, “Mum and Dad finally let me get an owl.”

“Oh, t’riffic.”

“What about you?”

“Got some books.”

“From your… um, from the people you live with?”

He finally looked at her, even more irritated. Why wouldn’t she just get lost?

“No, from my friends.”

“Oh... of course, yeah.” Lily was consciously looking away, at the space just to the left of Remus’s head. He sighed, heavily, everyone was going to see it anyway. At least Lily was polite enough not to ask any rude questions.

Remus went upstairs in the end, drew his bed curtains together and settled into Conjurer’s Cartography. The others eventually came up for bed too, speaking quietly, thinking he was asleep. The exercise had done nothing to calm James down, Remus could hear his rapid heartbeat and smell the cloying scent of anxiety.

It was perhaps an hour after lights out that the door creaked open again.

Sirius had returned – there was no mistaking his familiar footfall. Remus felt a wave of relief wash over him, a knot in his stomach that he hadn’t realised was there beginning to uncoil. James and Peter slept on as Sirius tried to keep his movements quiet, creeping into the room and over to his bed, quickly climbing in and drawing the curtains. Remus lay still, listening to Sirius lying still too. There was something different in his breathing. Eventually curiosity got the better of him and he got out of bed.

Not wanting to intrude, Remus trod as close to Sirius’s curtains as he dared and whispered,

“Sirius?”

“James?” He replied, eagerly,

“Remus.”

“Oh…” there was a moment’s awkward silence. “…I just want to sleep, Lupin. Speak tomorrow, ok?”

“Ok.” Remus padded back to his own bed and closed his eyes, feeling no less concerned.

* * *

Monday 8th January 1973

The next morning Sirius had already left before any of them woke up. His presents, still unopened, had been pushed to the end of the bed. His trunk had arrived at some point, and his broom was back on its shelf. James saved him a seat at breakfast, but he never turned up, and they didn’t see him at all until their first lesson.

“He wouldn’t miss McGonagall,” James said confidently, as they pressed towards the classroom, “He loves Transfiguration.”

When they entered the room, however, they were all in for a shock. There was another boy sitting in Sirius’s seat. He was smallish and hunched over, with pale, pointed features and big blue eyes. His hair was shorn close to his scalp in the same way that Matron shaved Remus’s head every summer. It looked darker than Remus’s, though.

“Who’s that?!” Peter whispered, a little bit too loudly. The boy turned to look at them.

“Sirius!” James gaped.

Sirius coloured slightly, and looked straight ahead as if he hadn’t seen them at all. James slid into the seat beside him,

“What happened? Where have you been? What did she do to you?!”

Sirius shook his head,

“Later,” he murmured.

The classroom had filled up now, and everyone seemed to be whispering behind their backs. Remus couldn’t blame them – he couldn’t strop staring either. It wasn’t just the lack of hair – although that was incredibly disconcerting; Sirius just wasn’t Sirius without his hair – he also had dark shadows under his eyes, and there was not a trace of humour on his lips.

“All right, settle down, please!” McGonagall entered the room. She glanced at Sirius. Her eyes widened for a millisecond as she recognised him, but she said nothing, addressing the class; “Your end of year exams begin in three months, let’s see who’s been paying attention…”

McGonagall didn’t call on Sirius once to answer a question, though it was usually the only way she could get him to pay attention. Nor did she bother any of the other marauders, who spent the entire lesson shooting worried looks at their friend. When Transfiguration ended, they packed up their things and followed Sirius hurriedly out of the door,

“What happened?!” James asked, trying to keep up with Black’s brisk clip.

“I said later,” Sirius returned, “Wait until break, ok?”

“But you – what did she…?”

“I’m fine.”

The next lesson, History of Magic, was agony. James was beside himself and even resorted to passing notes to Sirius – who steadfastly ignored them. He sat stiffly, back straight, eyes on the board. For the first time in two years, Remus saw him actually reading his history text in class. Something was very wrong indeed.

They couldn’t get out of History fast enough – James grabbed Sirius’s arm and practically marched him outside to the nearest courtyard, where they chased away a group of first year girls who were doing handstands against a wall, skirts tucked into their knickers. It was icy cold out, though no snow had fallen yet, the sky was paper white and a storm was on its way. Once the coast was clear, James stared Sirius down, eyes full of feeling, deep creases in his brow.

“What happened?!”

Sirius sighed heavily.

“What’s it look like?” He gestured at his head. Remus had the peculiar feeling that neither of them cared he and Peter were there – that this was between the two of them, like their nightly chats.

“Your mum did that?”

“Well I didn’t do it myself, did I?!” He snapped, angrily. James didn’t react, just kept looking at his friend. That was James’s secret, Remus realised, suddenly, he was always patient and he never took anything personally. How else could you be best friends with someone like Sirius Black? Sirius was now rooting in his bag and pulled out his red Gryffindor hat, which had so far never been worn. He crammed it over his shorn head, “Bloody freezing.” He muttered, “Dunno how you cope, Lupin.”

Remus shrugged and smiled, pleased to be acknowledged. Sirius leaned heavily against the wall, looking at his feet.

“They let me come back,” he said, quietly, “They almost didn’t – one wrong move and they’ve promised to send me to Durmstrang.”

James and Peter gasped, Remus made a mental note to ask about it later. Sirius continued,

“Didn’t get my voice back until Christmas dinner. Had to play my part for that; everyone was there, all of the sacred twenty-eight – except the Weasley’s, obviously. Lucius Malfoy really bloody hates me now, but he had to be really nice to me and Reg – slimy creep. Got away with wearing my Gryffindor tie until mum noticed and vanished it. Then I… I um… I may have set off a few dung bombs during the fourth course…”

Peter, Remus and James all winced, collectively.

“That’s why… the hair…?” James asked again tentatively. Sirius looked up,

“She said seeing as the usual punishments weren’t having any effect she’d try something different… I tried to get Pomfrey to grow it back for me, but the old bitch said she wasn’t a beautician. Thought I’d done it myself by accident or something.”

“You could tell her—“ Remus started, feeling the need to defend the nurse. Sirius shook his head,

“Not worth it.”

“Regulus?” James asked, suddenly, “Is he back too? He sent us a note to let us know you got home, but we never heard anything else.”

Sirius nodded,

“Yeah, he’s back. Kept his hair, obviously. Dad sorted out a portkey into Hogsmeade. He’s still… y’know, a bit of a tosser, but… he didn’t choose to be a Black either. He just plays the game better than I do.” He looked past them all, his eyes wide and desperate. Remus felt an awful ache in his chest. “I just wish…” Sirius said. But nothing more. The bell rang, and they had to get back to their lessons.

Chapter Text

Everyone in the school knew about Sirius’s dramatic new look by the end of their first day back. James and Peter took to walking either side of him through the corridors, like body guards, shooting glares at anyone who dared snigger or whisper as they passed.

“It doesn’t look that bad,” James assured him, watching Sirius stare at himself in the mirror. They were hiding in the empty second floor girls’ loo’s during lunch to avoid any more staring.

James was lying, Remus thought to himself, and Sirius probably knew it. It looked really bad – he seemed so much smaller. Without the dark hair framing Sirius’s face his eyes appeared larger than ever, making him look young and anxious. The high cheekbones and sharp eyebrows stood out more than ever, giving him a mean, gaunt sort of look. It was no wonder everyone stared – in fact, barely anyone glanced at Remus’s newly scarred face because of the distraction. Still, Remus thought, glumly – hair grew back.

Sirius rubbed his head, still watching his reflection. Peter laughed nervously,

“You look like Lupin.”

James nodded, eyes darting between the two of them.

“Yeah, you do a bit.”

Sirius looked at Remus, and for the first time since Christmas Eve, Remus saw him smile. That Sirius Black smile – nothing could ever ruin that.

“Oh yeah, I think I see it,” Sirius said, still rubbing his head. He reached out and pulled Remus into the mirror’s frame, so that they stood side by side, staring at each other. “We could be brothers.”

Remus laughed too, despite himself.

Sirius’s real brother was waiting outside Gryffindor common room later that evening. He was sitting on the floor with his knees drawn up, staring into space. His hair was still long enough to touch his shoulders. His friend, Barty Crouch was leaning against the opposite wall, looking bored. He had made a paper aeroplane and was directing it lazily up and down the hallway with his wand. Crouch and Regulus were as inseparable as James and Sirius; Barty was fair haired and weedy, with a mean streak longer than Snape’s – Remus already recognised him by his cruel barking laugh alone.

Regulus stood up smoothly as the marauders approached. Remus felt inside his pocket for his wand, just in case.

“There you are.” The younger boy said, a tremor of nervousness in his otherwise arrogant tone. His eyes kept flicking towards James. Barty’s paper plane began circling them all.

“What d’you want?” Sirius asked.

“Just seeing if you’re… seeing how you are.”

“No different from last night.” Sirius shrugged.

“I didn’t see you at dinner.”

“Wasn’t at dinner.” Sirius replied, unhelpfully. They’d sent Peter down to the kitchens to pinch some sandwiches and sat in one of Remus’s hidden alcoves to eat. Remus was quite enjoying this game – avoiding the rest of the students, even the Gryffindor’s. Usually James and Sirius would do everything in their power to be noticed, Remus much preferred flying under the radar.

“Can I talk to you?” Regulus addressed his older brother.

Sirius spread his arms, as if giving Regulus the floor. Regulus rolled his eyes, irritated. He didn’t quite have the same mouth as Sirius, Remus noticed. He had a weaker jaw, smaller lips. “I mean alone,” he said, shooting looks at James, Peter and Remus.

"No." Sirius said, simply. Regulus sighed. He clearly knew Sirius too well to try and argue.

Barty Crouch's paper plane began spinning faster over their heads. Peter was watching it's progress anxiously.

"Fine." Regulus said, folding his arms. "I just wanted to let you know that mother and father asked me and Narcissa to watch you. And report back to them."

Sirius made a noise of disgust. Regulus continued, not dropping his gaze, "And we're not going to. We're both staying out of it, ok?"

"How noble of you." Sirius replied. James grinned. Regulus rolled his eyes again.

"I'm telling you I'm not your enemy, idiot. Nor is Narcissa. You can do whatever you like, that's between you and our parents."

"Good."

"Good."

The two brothers continued to stare each other down. If it had been James, he'd have broken into a smile, slapped Sirius on the shoulder and all would be forgotten. But Regulus was clearly just as pig-headed as Sirius, and couldn't tell when to end a fight.

"Ow!" Peter let out a yelp like a whipped puppy, crouching down suddenly. Barty Crouch had obviously grown bored of the family drama and had decided to dive bomb the smallest of the marauders with his sharp paper plane. Crouch was giggling meanly as the place backed up and prepared for it's second attack, when James pulled out his own wand,

"Incendio." He said, lazily, flicking his wrist in Crouch's direction. The plane, wings now alight, went soaring towards the first year boy with frightening speed. Crouch let out a cry of anguish, covering his face with his arms as the flaming projectile flew straight for him – only to fizzle out mid-air, crumbling in a pile of ash and cinders inches from Crouch's nose.

"Let's go." Regulus muttered to his friend, who had gone pale and was staring at James warily. They both set off back towards the dungeons. “Narcissa said to tell you good luck for Saturday, Potter.” Regulus threw over his shoulder as they turned a corner.

James ignored him, following Sirius through the portrait hole. Once they were all in the common room Remus asked,

“What’s Saturday?”

“Quidditch match. Gryffindor v Slytherin.” James replied, promptly.

Ah. Remus was no good at keeping up with the quidditch schedule – he only went to Gryffindor matches, and the last one had fallen on the day after a full moon, so he’d missed it anyway. He tended to tune out when the others started talking about tactics and league tables, burying his nose deeper in his book.

“I hope you thrash ‘em, mate.” Sirius growled, throwing himself into the nearest armchair.

"Plan to." James said, jovially, sitting on the arm of the chair. "S'long as she doesn't get the snitch too early – and Marlene's the best beater we've had in years, so--"

James stopped short, realising what he'd said. He looked at Sirius. Sirius groaned and stood up.

"I'm going to bed." He said.

* * *

Saturday 13th January 1973

It had snowed overnight. If Hogwarts had been any normal school, Remus thought to himself grumpily, they would have called off the stupid match. But no; instead Gryffindor common room was buzzing with excitement, with talk of how these were 'perfect flying conditions'. Peter and Remus spent half the morning trying to cast long-lasting warming spells on James's kit. Sirius had done one of his early morning vanishing acts, and was nowhere to be seen.

Adil Deshmakh, the Gryffindor team captain, made the team eat together at breakfast, rather than with their friends. They all sat there looking pale and tired, eating uniform bowls of porridge and fruit (on Deshmakh's orders). James was the only one in a good mood – even though they hadn't got the warming spell to work.

"Where's Sirius?" Lily yawned, as she took a seat next to Remus, biting into a slice of heavily buttered toast.

"Dunno," Remus yawned back, hugging his hot cup of tea as if his life depended on it.

"Sulking somewhere, probably." Peter said, bitterly. Remus gave him a sharp look. "What?!" The blond haired boy frowned, indignantly. "He calls me whiny all the time."

"He'll be here." Remus said, ignoring Peter. "He wants to see us destroy the Slytherins."

Even Lily grinned at this – despite her usual pleas for inter-house unity, today she was decked out in red and gold from head to toe, just like everyone else. After breakfast they walked out to the quidditch pitch together. The Gryffindor quarter of the pitch was bedecked with red and gold flags and streamers, plus four large banners displaying the golden Gryffindor lion. Thankfully someone had also cleared the snow from the benches.

Lily and Peter wanted to get the best seats at the very top of the spectator stands, and Remus was already shivering despite wearing two jumpers under his cloak.

"Cold, Remus?" Lily glanced at him, as he tried to blow hot air into his gloved hands.

"Just a bit." He replied, sarcastically, too bad tempered to be polite.

"Here," Lily pulled out her wand and grabbed his wrists, pointing into his palms; "Calidum Vestimenta."

At once, a delightful warmth spread through his hands, to the very tips of his frozen fingers.

"How did you do that?!" He asked, "We've been trying all morning!"

"I think it's in the annunciation." Lily shrugged. She quickly applied the same spell to Remus's cloak, then to Peter's.

By the time this was done, the two quidditch teams were gathering on the pitch, which had been cleared enough for them to make a path from their changing rooms at least. They stood in two neat rows – one scarlet, one emerald. Remus could clearly make out a few of the players – James's unmistakeable mop of jet black hair, Marlene's fluffy sandy blonde ponytail. He could also see Narcissa Black, on the opposing team; tall and willowy, her platinum hair woven into two neat braids which reached hallway down her back. 

Still no Sirius,

"Of course," Peter was blathering to Lily, "We don't actually need to win this one, we just need to keep our points up – as long as we finish with at least six goals then we stay at the top of the league. Black's a brilliant seeker, but Slytherin overall are pretty poor. Especially when you look at James, having him's like having three chasers in one."

Lily was nodding along politely – people so seldom listened to Peter when it came to sport. Remus certainly didn't. He'd attempted to read Sirius' dog-eared copy of Quidditch through the Ages, but nothing in it could help him make sense of the ridiculous points system.

Madam Hooch blew her whistle below them, and the players mounted their brooms, squatting ready for kick off.

Still no Sirius.

Remus craned his neck, looking around the stands – but even with his excellent eyesight, he couldn't spot his friend anywhere. Surely Peter wasn't right – he couldn't be off sulking somewhere? They'd thought he was over his rejection from the quidditch team – he'd been at every match that year to support James. Just because this particular match was against Slytherin...

Madam Hooch blew her whistle again and released the snitch. The players shot into the air like red and green cannonballs.

Still no Sirius.

Peter and Lily were on their feet cheering with everyone else, so Remus got up too and attempted to look involved in the game. James had possession of the quaffle within seconds of being in the air, and had it through the hoop in under a minute. The red crowds exploded with triumph, but were quickly overshadowed by a deafening noise like a thunderclap,

"Rrrrrroooooaaaaar!"

"What was that?!" Lily stared about, wide eyed, along with everyone else. Even the players on the pitch looked startled. Remus looked up and saw that the lions in the Gryffindor banners above them appeared to have come to life, and were now prowling back and forth across the red material, growling and tossing their heads restlessly.

"Is that normal?" He asked, pointing. Lily and Peter shook their heads, speechless, as the enormous lions roared above them.

Remus smiled, suddenly. He recognised that magic; playful and a bit scary. "Look!" He pointed again.

At the bottom of the spectator’s stands, nearest the ground, a young Gryffindor in bright red robes was also stalking back and forth, waving his wand like a conductor's baton. It was undoubtedly Sirius – who else had that over-confident strut? – but he was no longer bald, and had instead donned an enormous golden wig, like a lion's mane. Remus thought he could even see a gold tail dragging behind from under his robes.

Once everyone had seen him, the crowds laughed – even Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. But Slytherin did not – the green coloured portion of the crowd merely glared at the garish show of house pride.

James was clearly not distracted by the new mascots, but instead encouraged by them – which must have been Sirius's intention. He scored at least three more goals – resulting in three more ear-splitting roars – while the Slytherins struggled to recover from the surprise.

"We are Gryffindor!" Sirius was chanting, his voice magically amplified,

"Mighty Mighty Gryffindor!" The crowd screamed back.

Once he got used to all of the noise, Remus began to enjoy a quidditch game for the first time. James was like a red blur on the pitch, darting this way and that; though the other chasers were very good too, managing to keep up with his complicated formations and passes. Marlene, bat in hand, was doing a stunning job of not only protecting the chasers and seeker, but aiming bludgers at the other team – Narcissa in particular.

Narcissa Black, however, was in her own league. She had an elegant, smooth flying style that Remus recognised from Sirius's attempts to teach him formal flying. She was quick and always moving, like water. The Gryffindor seeker was following her movements, hoping she would lead him to the snitch, but she kept dodging and making false turns to confuse him; twice sending him directly into the path of a bludger. She wasn't showy like James – she was efficient and ruthless.

Gryffindor had a one hundred point lead when Narcissa finally saw the snitch – Remus noticed the moment she caught sight of it. Her posture changed; she didn't look away even once. She hovered for a few moments, glancing behind her to see where the Gryffindor seeker was. He was hanging back, unsure what she was planning.

At that very moment, Maisy Jackson, one of the Gryffindor chasers, scored another goal, bringing Gryffindor's score up to 130 against Slytherin's 20. The Gryffindors went wild, and Sirius waved his wand even more enthusiastically. The lions not only roared this time, but leapt clear through the banners, out into the winter air, where they became strange golden shadows striding across the pitch. The Gryffindor seeker dived to dodge them, clearly terrified, though they vanished just above his head.

"No, you idiot!" Sirius's voice echoed over the cheering.

It was too late – Narcissa had taken advantage of her opponent's distraction and scooped up the snitch. She flew above the crowds, holding it aloft triumphantly. The Slytherin crowd finally burst into applause, sending up green and silver sparks, cheering;

"Black, Black, Black!"

Of course, this was highly confusing, as the Gryffindors were also chanting,

"Black, Black, Black!" As Sirius took his bows before the crowd. James swooped down to land beside him and ruffled his friend's ridiculous mane, as the crowd now chanted, "Pot-ter! Pot-ter! Pot-ter!"

"Oh well," Peter grinned up at Remus, "We lost, but we're still tied with Ravenclaw in the league table – still going through to the final!"

Remus couldn't care less.

Afterwards they poured onto the pitch to congratulate their team – Remus and Peter both punched Sirius playfully,

"You never told us!"

"We could have helped!"

Sirius just smirked and tossed his glorious golden hair.

"Sirius!" A thin, cold voice broke through the crowd. They all turned. Narcissa was striding towards them, still in her billowing emerald robes, a bright silver medal hanging around her neck that made Remus shrink back behind Peter. Sirius stood to face her. She gave him an unexpected smirk, "Take off that obscene wig." She said sharply.

He complied, rubbing his bare head self-consciously. Narcissa pulled out her wand with one sweeping motion and tapped his head, "Crescere."

The marauders, and the crowd of Gryffindor's around them all gasped. Sirius hair began to grow, like black water tumbling from his head, until it was back to its usual length.

"What the?!" Sirius grabbed his head. Narcissa grinned, showing rows of pearly teeth,

"That's for your help in ensuring a Slytherin victory." With that, she turned, silver plaits whipping around, and flounced off towards her own team.  

James tugged on Sirius's newly restored tresses.

"I'm never going to understand your bonkers family, mate."

Chapter Text

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.

“Do what?”

“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?”

“Um.”

“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?”

“Promise.”

“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.”

Remus smirked,

“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.”

“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.

Chapter Text

Saturday 10th March 1973

The marauders could not have been happier to discover that Remus’s birthday occurred on a Saturday that year. This, in their opinion, opened up the day to all sorts of excitement that would simply not be possible on a weekday.

As the day approached, Remus tried to ignore their teasing and heavy handed hints about what lay in store. He didn’t mind what they did, he trusted them well enough – they could be relied upon to make a fool of themselves, but they had so far never made him the butt of the joke. James had been receiving strange lumpy packages bound up in brown paper for the past week and Remus’s only hope was that they weren’t presents for him – he’d never be able to return the favour.

Remus thought a lot about being thirteen – specifically being a thirteen-year-old wizard with a furry little problem. The discovery of the Ravenclaw trophy cabinet had done some very strange things to Remus’s internal dialogue. He’d always thought he had a pretty good idea of who he was – a care home kid, poor, a bit weedy, angry, bad, scarred, thick when it came to school stuff, but clever enough when it counted. Coming to Hogwarts had wrought some changes, of course – maybe he wasn’t that thick, even if he was still sure of everything else.

His father had been really clever. He was in Ravenclaw, after all. The sorting hat had considered Remus for Ravenclaw too, but changed its mind. That hadn’t meant a great deal to him at the time, but now he wondered and wondered about it. What if he’d been sorted into Ravenclaw? Would he know more, now about his father? About who he was?

What if his father had not killed himself? What if he had never been bitten at all? ‘What if’ was a dangerous game.

As he fell asleep on the night before his birthday, Remus slipped into a dream he had not had in a very long time.

He is lying in a bed in a small, pale blue room. It is summer and the sash window is wide open; curtains billowing. The window is huge – big enough for a grown man to get through. Remus is very small and very frightened.

There is someone in the room with him, and they are going to hurt him. It’s a monster – his mother promised they weren’t real, but oh! Oh, she’s a liar, a horrid liar, because there is a monster, and it’s crossing the room now; it’s coming towards him and it will eat him up!

“Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?”

He scrunches his eyes shut and ducks under the covers and trembles and sobs,

Then… then there is nothing – nothing solid, nothing real. He is in pain, there is so much blood and so many tears and an awful lot of noise. He just wants to sleep. Another man looms over him, tall and slender and worried.

“Daddy.”

“LUMOS MAXIMA!”

Remus started awake with a jolt, nearly crying out. The dorm room had filled with bright, unnatural light, it sliced through his bed curtains, making him squint. He just had time to wipe the tears from his cheeks before Sirius and James ripped back the heavy drapes, chanting,

“Happy Birthday, Lupin!”

“It’s still dark out, you pricks.” He squinted, rubbing his eyes and sitting up. He tried to will his heart to stop pounding so hard.

“It is precisely one minute past midnight,” Sirius said, “and therefore officially your thirteenth birthday.”

“Where’s Pete?” Remus climbed out of bed, stepping into the room. They had decorated it haphazardly with streamers which he was sure usually decked out the quidditch pitch on match days, and strings of fairy lights left over from Christmas.   

“On a mission.” James said, eyes twinkling. “C’mon, up and dressed.”

“Where are we going?”

“Nowhere,” Sirius replied, breezily, “But you’ll want to be properly attired for when your guests arrive.”

“My guests?!”

“Of course,” Sirius grinned, “We tried to keep it marauders only, but so many people wanted to celebrate with you, see.”

Remus couldn’t tell if Sirius was being sarcastic, so he chose not to respond, instead pulling on a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt that looked clean enough. By the time he had dressed, there was a sharp rap at the door,

“Come in!” James boomed, cheerfully. Sirius saw Remus’s wince and explained,

“It’s ok, we put a silencing spell on the room.”

Remus frowned,

“So… whoever’s on the other side of that door can’t actually hear us?”

James clapped his hand to his forehead,

“We are complete idiots.” He groaned at Sirius, pulling open the door.

Peter stood outside, looking very pleased and very pink, surrounded by Lily, Marlene and Mary. Remus gaped as they entered the room, all smiling widely and clearly thrilled that they had surprised him. They were all clutching cards and small packages too.

“I didn’t think girls were allowed in here?”

“The lovely Mary tested it for us last week – nothing bad seems to happen,” James explained.

“One day you’ll all read Hogwarts: A History, and I can finally rest.” Sirius sighed, shaking his head tragically.  

James had begun pulling out packages from under his bed, ripping them open. It seemed they had raided Honeyduke’s again – mountains of sweets were unearthed; Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Chocolate Frogs, Fizzing Whizzbees, Droobles Best Blowing Gum, sherbet lemons, cauldron cakes – not to mention the haul Peter had brought up from the kitchen; ham sandwiches, egg mayonnaise, coronation chicken, cheese and pickle, packets of Remus’s favourite flavour crisps– salt and vinegar – scotch eggs, sausage rolls, pork pies, cheese and pineapple sticks, plus some perfunctory fruit.

Sirius, meanwhile, was laying blankets over the floorboards and scattering a few plush velvet cushions,

“Lupin,” he said with a wide smile, “Welcome to your midnight feast!”

“Happy birthday, Remus!” The girls chanted, as one.

They all sat down together, and Sirius settled a record onto his player – he’d eventually opened his gifts from Andromeda – as requested, he received two Bowie albums: Hunky Dory and The Man Who Sold the World.

“Sit next to me, Sirius,” Mary said, quickly, earning a reproachful look from Marlene. Sirius shrugged and acquiesced, but leaned over to hand Remus a package,

“Open this first!”

It was long and cylindrical, very light and badly wrapped.

“You didn’t have to get me anything.” Remus mumbled, untwisting the ends.

“A poster?” Lily furrowed her brow, watching as Remus unfurled the thick glossy paper. It was a huge, A2 print of David Bowie in black and white, wearing a spangly silver costume and giving a slightly jerky high kick.

“I got Andromeda to send it to me at Christmas,” Sirius grinned, unable to contain himself, “But I enchanted it to move myself!”

“Wow!” Remus smiled back, sincerely, “Thanks! It’s amazing.”

The girls had all got him packets of sweets and cakes – and Lily gave him a book on Potions. He looked at her sceptically and she grinned,

“Can’t keep giving Severus a reason to lord it over you.”

“Please do not mention Snivellus’s name on this most sacred occasion.” James said with mock horror. Lily rolled her eyes and returned to her jam tart, conspicuously ignoring him. James seemed hardly to notice, just cleared his throat and looked at Remus, his dark eyes full of wickedness, “My present is coming later… once we’ve all stuffed ourselves to bursting.”

“Oh Merlin, Potter,” Marlene giggled, “What have you got planned?”

He would not tell.

Remus had to admit that he was enjoying himself – he had hoped that James and Sirius would respect his wishes and keep the celebrations to marauders only, but inviting the girls wasn’t too bad. He knew them all quite well, now, and actually quite enjoyed their company. Mary could give Sirius a run for his money when it came to barefaced cheek and, as Remus had predicted, Marlene’s impressions of the faculty members had the marauders in stitches – Peter even had to go and change his shirt after snorting pumpkin juice down himself.

“Starting to see why Remus’s been abandoning us for you lot.” James said at about one thirty, wiping tears of laughter from the corners of his eyes.

“Yeah, you’re not bad, for girls,” Sirius winked at Mary, who scoffed and gave him a playful shove.

“Yeah, it’s got nothing to do with me wanting to get my homework done.” Remus replied dryly, wondering if he could manage another chocolate frog.

“Oh, how times have changed,” Sirius said, haughtily.

“You’ll all be laughing on the other sides of your faces when Remus beats you all in our exams.” Lily quipped.

“Pah!” James got up, stretching elaborately as if about to perform some great feat, “Exams! We marauders have higher concerns. My dear Mr Black, Mr Pettigrew,” he made a sweeping gesture towards the dorm window, “Shall we?”

“By George!” Sirius stood, abruptly, “Is it time?!”

James closed his eyes solemnly and nodded,

“Indeed it is.”

“Then make haste!” Peter cried, standing up too.

The girls shot nervous glances at each other and then Remus, who could only shrug to show them he had no idea. Sirius, Peter and James went to the window, flinging it open. They were fidgeting from excitement, lack of sleep and too much sugar, and kept snickering like naughty children.

“Come on!” Peter beckoned the others, hurriedly, “You’ll want to see!”

James had produced a collection of bright red objects which looked like a cross between space rockets and stick of dynamite. His arms were full, and so were Sirius’s.

“Are those…” Marlene scrunched up her nose, “Not Dr Filibuster’s?!”

James just gave a maniacal smile.

“Oh no!” Lily said, “We’re not supposed to! You’ll wake up the whole castle!”

“Get lost if you don’t like it, Evans,” Sirius snapped, handing a few rockets to Peter, “You promised not to spoil anything.”

“Remus,” Lily turned to him, “Tell them, they’ll listen to you!”

“No they won’t,” Remus replied, “Anyway, I want to see! I’ve never seem wizard fireworks.”

“You’re in for a treat!” Sirius winked.

“How many do you need?!” Mary stared, sounding impressed.

“Thirteen, obviously.”

“You’re all going to get in so much trouble…”

“Oh, stop being such a goody goody, Lil!” Marlene threw her arm around the redhead.

“We won’t let any of you girls get in trouble.” James said, sincerely, his glasses slipping down his nose as he struggled to keep control of his cargo. “Don’t worry.”

“I’m not worried.” Lily folded her arms defiantly. “I just think you’re all being—”

“Ooops!”

*BANG*

“Peter!”

They all leaned out of the window to see the rocket Peter had dropped tumbling down towards to ground in a torrent of green and gold sparks.

“Sorry…” Peter looked sheepish. Sirius laughed,

“No, great work – now we’ve started we may as well continue, eh?” and he began to hurl his own fireworks out of the window, clear into the night air. James and Peter quickly followed suit and soon enough even Lily had forgotten to be annoyed as they all stared in awe at the spectacular display lighting up the starry sky.

The fireworks went on much longer than muggle ones, some bursting ten or twelve times before fizzling out. They changed colours from red to green to purple to orange, twisting and curling in various shapes, eventually spelling out ‘HAPPY THIRTEENTH BIRTHDAY REMU’.

Sirius sighed, irritated at that,

“Knew it was too many letters.”

As well as the dazzling light display, the fireworks were satisfactorily noisy, so much so that Remus could already hear the other Gryffindor’s in the tower opening their windows to see whether the castle was under attack. He was sure he heard whoever was in the room above theirs mutter,

“Them bloody marauders are at it again.”

Inevitably, someone began hammering at their door, and McGonagall’s shrill voice could be heard on the other side,

“Potter! Black! Don’t think I don’t know you’re behind this, OPEN THIS DOOR!”

“Oh shit!” James grimaced, “Better get under the beds, ladies…”

Once they had all been thoroughly reprimanded, promised two months of detention and letters home to all of their parents, McGonagall (who was a sight to behold in her red tartan nightie) left them and Marlene, Lily and Mary reluctantly returned to their own dormitory. It was two o’clock in the morning by then, and the boys decided it was finally time for bed.

“Happy birthday, Remus,” Peter called out, followed by a loud yawn.

Remus smiled to himself in the dark, his cheeks almost aching.

“Yeah,” Sirius yawned back, “Happy birthday, Remu.”

Chapter Text

Monday 19th March 1973

“I have a spot of good news,” Madam Pomfrey smiled warmly, “I didn’t want to mention it in case we couldn’t sort things out in time – but you’ll be seeing me over the summer.”

For a moment, Remus dared hope that this meant he was not going back to St Edmund’s, but the medi-witch continued, “Mrs Orwell, your matron at the children’s home, has kindly permitted me to apparate onto the grounds at dawn following both full moons this summer.” She smiled widely.

Ah well. It was better than nothing. He smiled back weakly,

“Great!” He croaked. His arms and legs felt heavy as lead, he could barely raise his head to drink the potion she was offering him.

It was about four o’clock in the afternoon and Remus had missed his lessons – he’d been asleep most of the day. Sleep was still the only remedy that seemed to really work. 

“I told Dumbledore I would do it with or without his permission – I couldn’t live with myself if you arrived here in September in the same state you did last year.”

“I could stay at a wizard’s house this summer, that would be even safer,” Remus tried, “My friend James—“

“I’m sorry, dear,” Madam Pomfrey shook her head, “It’s just not safe enough. The Potters did get in touch, but we need to preserve your anonymity for as long as we can – I know it isn’t much fun for you, but it’s better you stay with muggles.”

Remus closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It would only be two months, and the summer was still ages away. Stay positive, stay positive.

A sudden clattering noise at the end of the ward jerked Remus out of his meditative chant. Madam Pomfrey frowned and turned to look around Remus’s bed curtain.

“Mr Pettigrew!” She shouted, “What do you think you are doing?!”

“S-s-sorry Madam Pomfrey – we were just…”

“Pick those bedpans up right now and put them back in the cupboard! And you can wipe that smirk off your face, Mr Black, give him a hand.”

“Hiya, Remu,” James peeked around the curtain, “Sorry about all the noise.”

Remus grinned, trying to sit up.

“S’ok.”

“Lie down!” Madam Pomfey chastised, “You’ve had three broken bones you silly boy.”

“I’m feeling much better!”

*CRASH*

“MR PETTIGREW, WHAT DID I SAY?!” Madam Pomfrey disappeared, looking very cross.

James slumped into the chair beside Remus’s bed.

“Ready to go?” He asked, casually. Remus could always count on James not to treat him like an invalid.

“If she’ll let me,” Remus nodded to the curtain Pomfrey had vanished behind. “How was the match?”

“Smashed it,” James nodded enthusiastically, dropping the snitch into Remus’s lap. He ran his fingers through his hair as if to regain that feeling of having just touched down. “Made one of the Ravenclaw beaters cry.”

“How nice.”

“How was… y’know, your night?”

“Fine.” Remus replied dryly, twisting his mouth. They didn’t often talk about the full moons – and Remus was pretty glad about that. He didn’t like the idea of them knowing too much. Pain was a personal thing.

“Three broken bones, did she say?”

“Yeah. All fixed now though, she’s amazing, only takes one spell. Muggles have to wear plaster casts for weeks and weeks.”

“Weird!”

“REMU!” Sirius whipped back the curtain, “You’re ALIVE!” He fell dramatically at the foot of the bed, “I was convinced she was trying to cover something up, the old bat wouldn’t let us come over.”

“Don’t call her that,” Remus replied, irritably, “And don’t call me that!”

“But you wanted a nickname,” Sirius said, sounding affronted as he climbed back to his feet. Peter appeared, looking sullen with his hands in his pockets.

“No I didn’t.” Remus frowned, “When did I ever say th—”

“Last year.” Sirius said quickly, “Almost exactly a year ago, you said you wouldn’t mind being called anything as long as it wasn’t Loony Lupin.”

“God, you’ve got a memory like an elephant.” Remus rolled his eyes. “Anyway,” he lowered his voice, in case Madam Pomfrey was lurking nearby, “The whole point of having a nickname was so no one knew who wrote the map. I don’t think ‘Remu’ is going to fool anyone.”

“He’s got a point, there.” James said, wisely, “As much fun as it’s been.”

“Fair enough,” Sirius heaved a sigh, “But can we call you Remu until we come up with something better?”

“No.”

“Boring.” Sirius cast around for something else to say, conspicuously avoiding looking at Remus’s bandages. “So are we getting out of here or shall I settle down for a rousing game of snap?”

“He’s not going anywhere,” Madam Pomfrey bustled in, “I’m keeping Mr Lupin in for observation overnight.”

“No!” Remus protested, “I’m feeling much better!” He always said that – it wasn’t usually true, but he knew he would start to feel better eventually, and it didn’t much matter whether he was in the hospital wing or not.

“I’m not being deliberately unkind, Remus,” the nurse sighed, “This is for your health.”

“I’ll go straight to bed!”

“We’ll look after him!” James said, earnestly, standing up. Remus waited to see if that worked, James was good with grown-ups, especially witches. He’d even been known to soften McGonagall once or twice (though that might have been more to do with his quidditch skills).

Madam Pomfrey was unmoved.

“I’m sorry, Mr Potter, but no.”

“Fine.” Peter said, uncharacteristically firmly. “We’ll stay here then.”

“Yeah.” Sirius and James said, as one.

“You’ll miss dinner!” Remus said.

“I’m sure we can arrange something just this once.” Madam Pomfrey said, trying not to smile. “All right, boys – but you’re to keep quiet. And get on with your homework, I’ll not have you using Mr Lupin here as an excuse for not handing anything in.”

With a wave of her wand three more chairs appeared out of thin air, along with a long pinewood desk, complete with inkwells for their quills. Remus opened his mouth to speak, but Madam Pomfrey was apparently psychic – “And no, Remus, no homework for you. Just rest.”

Remus shut his mouth and lay back down. How was he supposed to keep ahead of Sirius and James if the woman wouldn’t let him study?

“Can I read my book?” He asked, meekly.

“As long as it doesn’t strain your eyes.”

She left, and the other three boys dutifully pulled out their homework and began scribbling. Remus craned his neck to try and see what they were working on – he was all up to date with his, but had been doing some extra reading in Charms in an attempt to defeat Lily in their upcoming exams.

“Ah ah ah,” James covered his work with his sleeve, “No looking, Remu, you just rest.”

“Ugh, call me Loony!” Remus groaned, “Anything but Remu!”

“But it’s suits you!” Sirius said, over his quill, “Reeeeemuuuuuu.”

“Stop it or I’ll bite you.”

“Reeeeemuuuu.”

“Reeeemuuu!” Peter joined in, all three boys giggling hysterically, but trying not to be heard.

“I hate my name.” Remus covered his face with the book he was reading. It wasn’t fair – James Potter was so reassuringly ordinary; Peter Pettigrew was perfectly respectable and Sirius Bloody Black was the coolest name ever, whichever way you looked at it. “You might as well call me anything you like, I dunno what could be worse.”

“Loony Remu?” James suggested, helpfully. “Remoony?”

Sirius could hardly breathe from laughing now.

“REMOONY!” He snorted, collapsing onto his desk, shoulders shaking.

“Moony is actually quite good.” Peter suddenly said, very soberly.

“Eh?”

“Moony. As a nickname.”

Remus stared at him, unaccustomed to paying very much attention to anything Peter said. He thought about it, rolling the name around in his head. It sounded like Loony, but it was nowhere near as horrible.

“I don’t hate it.” He said, finally.

“I love it.” James said, “Moony. Suits you.”

“Won’t people… y’know, catch on?” He worried, chewing his lip.

“Nah,” Sirius waved a hand, “We’ll tell them it’s after that muggle in The Who.”

“They’re all muggles in The Who.” Remus replied, “But I don’t play the drums.”

“You like hitting things.” Sirius shrugged.

“Thanks.”

“No problem, Remoony.”

* * *

Some hours later, after Madam Pomfrey had brought them all dinner, James had left for quidditch practice and Peter for a detention. Sirius had given up on his homework long ago and was instead attempting to perfect a tentacle arms jinx on himself.

Remus was stalwartly ignoring this behaviour – he knew that Sirius was pronouncing the incantation all wrong, with the emphasis in the wrong place – but he wasn’t going to tell him, because he wasn’t sure exactly why Sirius wanted a tentacle arm so badly, and it couldn’t be for any good reason.

Eventually, bored, Sirius leaned back on his chair, feet propped up on Remus’s bed.

“What you reading, anyway?”

The Epic of Gilgamesh.” Remus supplied, turning the page. He was nearly at the end, and his reading spell was waning – if Sirius would just leave him alone for five more minutes…

“What’s it about?”

“It’s yours!” He said, surprised, “I got it off your shelf!”

“Oh, one of the muggle ones? I haven’t read many of them, to be honest. They were my uncle Alphard’s.”

“Right.”

“So?”

“So what, Black?!”

“What’s it about?”

“A man called Gilgamesh.”

“Ok, you have to agree that’s a worse name than Remus Lupin.”

Remus chuckled,

“Yeah, all right. It could always be worse.”

“So tell me about this Goulash bloke.”

“Gilgamesh. He was a king. A long time ago.”

“See, now I’m hooked, that’s how all good stories start.” Sirius cupped his head in his hands, staring at Remus as if he was a professor teaching Sirius’s favourite subject.

“No, you’re just putting off your Astrology essay.”

“Pfft, I’ll copy James’s.” Sirius waved a casual hand, “Tell me more, oh keeper of knowledge. I’ve read to you plenty of times.”

Remus sighed, putting down the book. There was no getting out of it when Sirius was in this sort of a mood.

“Gilgamesh was a king.”

“Yes, a long time ago, you’ve established that.”

“Look, shut up or piss off.”

“Ok, ok!” Sirius held up his hands in surrender, “Carry on.”

“So he was a king, but not a good one. He wasn’t fully human – he was two thirds god, so he was stronger than everyone else and his people were frightened of him. He was dangerous. So, his people prayed – um… that’s when you ask the gods for help – and the gods sent another man to help control Gilgamesh.”

“Was he even stronger?”

“No, but he was part animal,”

“So this beast-man killed Gilgamesh?”

“No. They fought each other for a really long time, but Gilgamesh still won. He didn’t kill Enkidu, though – he… he sort of recognised that they were equals. And they become friends – best friends. They have all these adventures together, fighting other monsters and stuff. It’s cool.”

“I want to know more about the beast-man.”

“Enkidu. He was master of the animals, and he was happy living in the wild, but then after he’s sent to control Gilgamesh he can’t ever go back to nature. So he never really belongs.”

“But he had his friend, right?”

“Yeah, but… well I don’t want to spoil the ending for you.”

“S’ok, I hardly ever read muggle stuff.”

“You’re missing so much!” Remus exclaimed, “Well, ok then. Enkidu dies.”

“What?!”

“Yeah, it’s sort of sad, he was my favourite character too.”

“But why?”

“To teach Gilgamesh about death, I think. Before Enkidu he was too arrogant to believe anything could hurt him. But after he loses him, he realises that he’s not the master of everything. No one can control death.”

“That’s a really depressing thought, Moony.”

Remus shrugged. It had all seemed pretty straightforward to him.  

Chapter Text

Friday 20th April 1972 

Still don’t know what I was waiting for 

And my time was running wild  

A million dead end streets - and 

Every time I thought I’d got it made 

It seemed the taste was not so sweet 

So I turned myself to face me 

But I’ve never caught a glimpse 

Of how the others must see the faker 

I’m much too fast to take that test. 

Remus loved Hunky Dory more than anything. It was by turns bright and happy – then dark and introspective. He felt that David Bowie must have some super human insight into his soul. Even if he didn’t always fully understand the lyrics, he felt as though they somehow made sense.   

He hummed the tune to Changes quietly under his breath as he walked up and down the dark library shelves, his wand lit for a better look. He really ought to be catching up on Potions – but Lily had offered to help him over the weekend and he’d already been revising Transfiguration all day. It had taken that long to turn an old top hat into a rabbit and back again.  

Remus finally found the shelf he was looking for – The British Wizards Guide to Nuptial Laws 1700 – 1950. He hoped that would be recent enough. It was huge, and he had to get up on a step ladder to reach it. Stretching, Remus just about had purchase on the dusty old leather cover, and was about to pull it down towards him, when another hand reached up and grabbed his wrist. 

Yelping, Remus yanked his hand back and almost toppled off the stool, coming face to face with Narcissa Black.  

“Ugh, it’s you.” She said, distastefully. She was a head taller than him, so they came about level as long as he kept his balance. She did not release his hand, “Give me that.” 

“No, I had it first.” He replied, still trying to pull away. She had an iron grip. 

“Go away, little boy. What could you possibly want this for?” She gave him a hard shove and he toppled backwards, landing painfully on his backside.  

Narcissa smiled down at him, victorious, holding the heavy tome. He scowled, 

“What do you want it for?” 

“That’s none of your business,” she breezed, tossing her pale hair out of her eyes in a manner eerily similar to Sirius. She turned and began to walk away, between the gloomy stacks. Remus scrambled to his feet, 

“Wait,” He said, trying to keep his voice down so that Madam Pince didn’t throw him out again, “Oi, Narcissa, wait!” He tugged her robes. 

She spun around with furious eyes, her wand raised. Remus instinctively grabbed his own wand just in time. They both stood like statues for a few moments. He knew that she had cursed James and Sirius on several occasions, and that the whole Black family knew all sorts of dark magic. But at the same time, Remus had never cursed a girl before, and it felt wrong.  

“I just wanted to know,” he said, carefully, choosing his words, “If it was anything to do with you and Sirius… the engagement thing.” 

She lowered her wand, slowly, regarding him with suspicious interest. 

“So he’s told you all about that, has he?” She raised an eyebrow – which was still as inky black as her natural hair colour. “Yes, little boy, that’s exactly what I need it for. You don’t think I want to be married to that whiny little blood-traitor, do you?” 

Remus just shrugged. The truth was, it hadn’t actually occurred to him how Narcissa felt about any of it. He’d been so focussed on helping Sirius that he hadn’t considered whether anyone else might be working on exactly the same problem. Narcissa sighed impatiently,  

“Well I don’t. And I’m not expecting my brat of a cousin to come up with a solution any time soon, so here I am.” 

She didn’t sound angry anymore, just bitter. Now that he was closer to her, Remus could see that she had dark rings under her eyes.  

I want to find a solution.” He said, tilting his chin up to meet her gaze, wishing he wasn’t shorter than her. “I’ve been trying, anyway.” 

“Ha.” Narcissa laughed humourlessly, “A second year?! And what have you come up with, hm?" She tapped her black patent heel on the dark floorboards.  

"Well..." Remus swallowed, "Not much – nothing good enough yet. Unless... well, unless you were already married." 

"I've thought of that." Narcissa snapped, "I'm not of age yet, I can't. I'd have eloped with Lucius the moment they proposed this ridiculous engagement, but I'm not seventeen until October." 

"Right," Remus nodded, surprised to hear this, "And... it can't wait, because of the betrothal ceremony this summer, right?" 

"Correct." She was looking at him with slightly less venom, now, as if she found the conversation amusing rather than irritating.  

"But, I was thinking – what actually is the ceremony?" He asked, feeling braver, "What do you and Sirius have to do?" 

"Oh, the usual Black family rubbish," she replied, "A banquet, astrological charts, probably a commemorative portrait of the two of us. Mother still has Bella's hanging up in the dining room." 

The thought of a portrait depicting thirteen year old Sirius with his sixteen year old cousin was repulsive to Remus. Narcissa didn't sound like she relished the idea either. "This is all his fault, you know." She said, "Acting as if he's some special case. If he had simply followed tradition like the rest of us, toed the line until he was old enough to get out..." She trailed off, her eyes bright with angry tears, which she wiped away quickly, "Anyway, it doesn't matter. I'm marrying Lucius and that's all there is to it. Thank goodness he's stood by me through all of this, anyone else would have walked away."  

Remus didn't like to comment. What did he know about relationships? He'd never even seen one close up. They were silent for a few minutes, while Narcissa composed herself. Once she had, she gave a sniff and looked at Remus again, "I shan't curse you." She said, magnanimously, "But I'm warning you – I've had just about enough of people meddling with my future. So just keep your nose out from now on." 

With that, she turned and left, leaving Remus with plenty to think about. 

* * * 

Monday 30th April 1973

"Moony, what are all of these books for?" James asked, as he tripped over a pile Remus had carefully stacked near the dorm entrance – they were useless and he'd been planning to take them back that afternoon.  

"Just some research." He replied, not looking up from his current book, "Where've you been?" 

"Plotting." Sirius followed James him, stepping over the scattered books which his friend was trying to clear up. Remus raised an eyebrow, 

"Plotting? Map or mischief?" 

"Bit of both," Sirius grinned, throwing himself onto Remus's bed. He picked up a book, 

"Wizard Wedding Rituals?!" He laughed, "Who you marrying, Moony? Not Evans, James'll have to challenge you to a duel." 

"I do NOT fancy Evans." James spat, from where he squatted on the floor. "Magical Marriages." He read, picking up the final book and placing it on top of the pile, "Seriously, Remus, what's all this about?" 

Remus sighed, putting down the book and rubbing his eyes, 

"I'm trying to help you," he kicked Sirius gently with his foot. "Someone's got to get you out of this stupid engagement." 

"Oi!" Sirius scowled, "I'm doing everything I can." 

"What are you doing?" 

"Haven't I had more detentions than anyone else this year? I must get a howler a week. And my lions, don't forget my lions at the quidditch match." 

Remus stared at him, dumbfounded. 

"How is any of that supposed to help?" 

"I'm proving that I'm not the marrying type." 

"No offence, mate," James put in, coming to sit on the bed with them, "But I don't think your lot really care that you're not the marrying type." 

"Exactly," Remus nodded, "You're the heir. You have to marry another pureblood. And the Black family have a long history of inter marriage, even your parents are cousins." 

"Er... how do you know?" Sirius looked uncomfortable. 

"I've been reading." Remus gestured at all of the books. "There's loads of stuff in the library on your family. One of the oldest wizarding houses in Britain, traced all the way back to the middle ages, where the family seat was in Inverness in Scotland--" 

"I know all of this." Sirius waved a hand. 

"Yeah, but did you know that you aren't the first Black who wanted to get out of a marriage?" 

"Well obviously Andromeda – though that was more that she did want to marry, only Ted was the wrong sort..." 

"Not just her – Lyra Black defied the family's wishes in 1901 to marry into the Crabbe family, and Delphinus Black was supposed to marry his niece in 1750 but left her at the altar and married Fidelia Bulstrode. And, your Uncle Alphard never married either, though there's no explanation--" 

"Yeah, we're not supposed to talk about him," Sirius replied, edgily, "I've heard mother ranting about him and I'm pretty sure he was a queer." 

There was an awkward silence.  

"My dad knew Alphard," James said, "Said he was an all right bloke." 

"He was always nice to me," Sirius shrugged, "Left me his money and everything, made sure no one else can touch it until I'm of age. Makes my parents furious, you know, that he didn't return all his cash to the family vault, so I have to give him credit for that, even if he was... well, whatever." 

Remus's throat was very dry, and he cleared it, wanting to move on, 

"So anyway, it just goes to show that you can get out of this sort of thing. Only problem is, I can't find any good details on how they all got away." 

"Don't bother," Sirius said, gloomily, "Even if you did find out – none of them had my mother to contend with. You know what she's like. She's probably going to make us take the unbreakable vow." 

"She wouldn't!" James said, aghast. 

"She'd do anything." Sirius nodded.  

Remus chewed his lip, thoughtfully. He didn't know what the unbreakable vow was – it sounded like dark magic. From what he'd already read about the House of Black, he knew that the library's restricted section would probably have to be his next stop. He'd have to borrow James's cloak for that, and go at night. No matter. He refused to be deterred from this. He owed it to Sirius. 

Hadn't Remus once told Sirius that his own problem was hopeless, inescapable? And hadn't Sirius worked tirelessly, learnt to perform complicated, NEWT standard magic, just to help him? This was no different. He just had to work harder. Knowing that Narcissa was also working on the problem was strangely comforting. Remus knew from her curses that she must be a very accomplished and clever witch, and there was no doubt in his mind that she usually got her way.  

I'm marrying Lucius and that's all there is to it. There had to be something in that. He remembered Flitwick telling them that love - natural, everyday, human love - was one of the most powerful types of magic. While Remus didn't personally feel that anything about Lucius and Narcissa's coupling was natural, exactly, he knew that it was a lot more powerful than family honour. It had to be. 

Chapter Text

May 1973 

Exam season began at the worst possible time for Remus, around mid May, right when the full moon was due. The moon itself fell on a Friday, which meant he was able to attend his Potions test that morning – but he lost the whole weekend to sleep, when he would really have preferred to revise. More than that, the moon had thrown his magic off completely.  

He'd thought it was happening less in his second year, but as their exams got closer – whether it was nerves or the lengthening days – Remus found his magic growing stronger, wilder and harder to control. The slightest wand movement caused the most fantastic results, and sometimes he'd barely finished speaking the incantation before light was bursting from its tip, making his fingers tingle with shock. 

James had taken to saying 'calm down, Moony!' at least three or four times a day, as Remus attempted to practice various basic transfigurative spells and charms which inevitably went too far. He'd thought that just doing simple incantations might help him gain some control, but this was apparently not the case, as he smashed the dorm room window a third time attempting to levitate his gobstone set. 

"Reparo." Sirius muttered, glancing over the top of his Astronomy revision. The window fixed itself at once. Remus sighed. 

"You really need to relax, mate," James grinned, "We don't have any practical exams until next week anyway." 

"I'm so behind, though!" Remus grumbled, collecting up his gobstones and putting them back in their box.  

"If you're behind then what am I?!" Peter wailed from the floor, where he had five texts spread out in front of him, all different subjects. "I know I'm going to fail Transfiguration, my rabbit hasn't changed at all this year, and I know she's going to make us do something really hard." 

"At least you're good at Potions." Remus shot back. "And Herbology, I can't ever remember which leaves mean what..." 

"You beat me on our last Herbology quiz," James reminded him, "And you've got us all by the bollocks when it comes to History of Magic, I've been copying your homework all year." 

"But you're best at Transfigur-" Remus started, but was interrupted by a loud thump as Sirius threw his Astronomy book to the floor. 

"Will you all shut up?! I'm trying to revise!" He yelled, standing up. "Like a bunch of old women nattering. I'm going to the library." He pulled his satchel over his shoulder and stormed out of the room. 

They sat in silence for a little while. Peter, gnawing his lip, looked on the verge of tears. James sighed, 

"Ignore him, he's just in a mood because he has to go home soon. Not that I blame him." He added, quickly. "Parents like that, and all." 

"S'pose," Remus shrugged, though he didn't think it was a good enough excuse, really. It wasn't as if he, Remus, was much looking forward to the summer holidays either. All right, fine, he didn't have to marry his cousin, or attend weird stuffy banquets – but nor did Sirius have to be locked up in a cell once a month, or hide from much older, rougher boys whose greatest delight was shoving your head in the bogs.  

"He's not staying with you again, then, James?" Peter asked, nervously – probably quite looking forward to a Sirius-free summer, as it meant he would have James all to himself.  

"Nah," James replied, sounding much less cheerful at the prospect, "He's got an open invite, obviously – you all have," he eyed Remus, "But we don't reckon it'll happen after the fiasco at Christmas. He thinks he'll be locked up completely until the betrothal ceremony." 

Remus felt a pang of guilt in his chest. He still hadn't come up with a workable solution to that, and between revision and the full moon he hadn't even thought about it properly in two weeks. Judging by Narcissa's behaviour in the halls – hexing anyone who so much as looked at her sideways – she had not fared much better.  

"Well if he keeps acting the way he does he'll lose more than his hair next time," Peter said, primly, sorting through his notes. 

"What'd you mean?" James frowned, sitting up, "Saying it's all his fault?!" 

"No!" Peter looked alarmed at James's tone, "No, I just mean... well, you know the other day he packed all those Gryffindor house banners in his trunk. He wants to put them up in his bedroom to annoy his parents. Stuff like that is exactly what gets him into trouble." 

"Nothing wrong with a bit of house pride." James sniffed defensively, though he shot a nervous glance at Sirius's trunk.  

Remus didn't get involved. Personally, he agreed with Peter and Narcissa – Sirius was his own worst enemy, a lot of the time. For someone so intelligent and magically gifted, he completely lacked subtlety, or even forethought. If he didn't have to mouth off at every opportunity, then maybe he wouldn't have found himself engaged at the age of thirteen. Remus knew better than anyone the importance of keeping a low profile, especially when you were different from everyone around you.  

James, who was more like Sirius than Peter or Remus, wholeheartedly disagreed. In his mind, the most important thing was to always fight back. But if everything was a battle, then inevitably someone had to lose. And until he was of age, that was going to be Sirius every time.  

* * * 

"Excellent, Mr Potter!" McGonagall gushed uncharacteristically, as James transformed his rabbits into a perfect pair of fine red velvet slippers with a fur trim.  

Remus took a deep breath, steadying himself for his own attempt. It was a week and a half since the full moon and he was finally back in control, though his nerves still got the better of him sometimes. He watched Sirius lazily wave his wand over his own rabbits, and they too transfigured into a lovely pair of black wool booties.  

Peter's slippers still had ears and a tail even after three attempts, and left droppings on the desk. When Remus took his turn, he closed his eyes first, feeling light headed, before finally uttering the incantation.  

The slippers were not as neat as James and Sirius's, but they were wearable, and at least no longer had any leporine features, even if they stayed a dull brown colour. At least he knew he had done his very best on the theory paper – in fact on all of his theory papers. He was satisfied that he'd remembered everything he needed to remember when it came to his best subjects, and that he hadn't done too hideously in Potions, Herbology or Astronomy.  

At the end of the Transfiguration exam, McGonagall returned all of the rabbits to their original state and sent them hopping back into their hutch at the back of the room ready for the next exam. She then began to hand out sheets of parchment that looked like blank timetables. 

"You will be aware," she said, very formally, "that in your third year you may choose a minimum of two additional subjects to take up to ordinary wizarding level. Here are your application sheets. If you will please think very carefully, reviewing each subject's merits, then complete the form and return it to my office no later than the last day of term." 

The class began to murmur excitedly, and Remus looked down at his form, and the subjects listed there, with great trepidation.  

As they all filed out of the room, Peter immediately began to badger James to find out which subjects he would be taking – so that he could select the exact same ones.  

"Muggle Studies." Sirius said, as they headed outside into the summer sunshine, "Definitely going to take Muggle Studies."  

Remus rolled his eyes. There was no surprise there – if any subject was going to win the general disapproval of the Black family, then there it was.  

"D'you think Evans will take that?" James scratched his chin. Sirius grinned, 

"Doubt it, mate, she's muggle born. You could impress her with your knowledge, though." 

"Yeah... yeah, maybe..." James looked down, thoughtfully.  

"Are you going to take that, then, James?" Peter asked, anxiously, "Do you think it'll be difficult? I s'pose we could just ask Remus for help... are you taking it, Moony?" 

"Nah," Remus shook his head, "What's the point? You lot do it, though, then maybe you can stop asking me stuff." 

He secretly wished that there was a 'Wizarding Studies' subject he could take, so he didn't have to feel quite so out of his depth all of the time. But, he supposed, that was the arrogance of wizards.  

"Divination... that's like fortune telling, right?" James sat down on the grass, throwing off his robes. Sirius followed suit, rolling up his shirt sleeves.  

"I think so. Crystal balls and tea leaves." 

"Sounds like a right doss. Let's do that." 

All three of them scribbled onto their papers. Remus did not. He didn't like the idea of knowing the future – whatever he had coming to him, he was sure it couldn't be good. He tapped his temple with his wand quickly and whispered,  

"Lectiuncula Magna," beginning to read through his options. "Arithmancy," he murmured, "Is that like arithmetic?"  

"Numbers, anyway," Sirius replied, "It's supposed to be really difficult." 

"Care of Magical Creatures... dunno about that," James snorted, "Have you seen the teacher? He's got more scars than Moony." 

"Oi," Remus kicked his ankle. Care of Magical Creatures had actually sounded quite interesting to him. After all, he sort of was a magical creature himself.  

"I think I'll do Arithmancy, if you are," Sirius said, still reading his paper. 

"Will it really be difficult?" Peter worried. 

"We'll help you, Pete, don't worry." James soothed. "Anyway, there are better things about third year than extra homework – Hogsmeade!" 

"You go to Honeyduke's three times a week." Remus replied, mulling over the possibility of Ancient Runes. 

"Yeah, but Zonko's!" 

Remus grinned at him. He was actually pretty excited about the Hogsmeade trips – he'd never been to any of the protected wizarding areas other than Hogwarts, and he was sick of hearing about how great Diagon Alley was. He sighed and lay back, looking up at the clouds. He would think about his third year subjects later, there was no hurry. For now, he wanted to enjoy the end of exams, and revel in the thought that they still had almost a full month before school ended.  

"Oi oi, Evans!" James sat up, suddenly.  

Remus sighed, inwardly. James had been acting more and more of an idiot where Lily was concerned, ever since the midnight feast.  

"I'm not a dog, Potter," her voice echoed across the grounds, "Don't yell at me like one." 

"Hi Sirius," Mary's voice now. Remus sat up, blinking. 

Marlene gave a shy wave, which he returned.  

"All right, MacDonald," Sirius nodded, casually sweeping his hair behind one ear. He'd started doing that whenever there were girls around. Remus hated it.  

All three girls had ice creams, which looked like an excellent idea considering the unseasonably warm weather. Lily had even charmed a Chinese fan to follow her around, creating a cool breeze wherever the three girls went. 

"Give us a lick, then," James winked at her, lewdly. Marlene turned beetroot red and dissolved into giggles, but Lily remained calm, arching one red eyebrow. 

"You do look like you need cooling off. Aguamente!" 

With that, she aimed her wand at the marauders and sprayed them all with icy cold water. Remus leapt out of the way, but she wasn't trying to get him anyway. James and Sirius got the worst of it, and shouted in dismay as their hair and shirts were drenched. Mary, Marlene and Lily cackled with glee.  

"What'd you do that for?" Sirius growled, pulling his dripping hair apart to glare at them, looking like a drowned rat.  

"Thought you lot liked practical jokes?" Lily winked at him, before turning away and walking towards the lake. 

"Complete nightmare, that one." Sirius groaned, trying a hot air charm on his hair.  

"That's my future wife you're taking about," James replied, dreamily, watching her go. His glasses had steamed up comically. "Oh stop being so dramatic, you'll dry out in half an hour in this heat." 

"Where'd you think they got the ice cream?" Peter asked, distantly.  

Remus smiled, lying back again. Never mind going home, or betrothals or new subjects. For now, everything was just as it should be. 

Chapter Text

Friday 29th June 1973

Remus was running late, and there was still so much left to do. As usual, he had slept later than the rest of the marauders, and by the time he woke up, Peter was the only one left, scurrying out of the door with a quick, “Morning Lupin! Good luck!”

Checking the clock, Remus had leapt out of bed and run for the shower in a state of panic. As he combed his hair in the mirror – thinking glumly that this might be the last time, as Matron was sure to shave him bald as soon as he was back at St Edmund’s tomorrow – he ran through the list in his head.

Breakfast first, of course – couldn’t miss that. If he got a move on, then he might just catch James and Peter before they set off on their own missions. It would likely be his only chance to see them, because today, the very last day of term, the usually united marauders would be conspicuously separate until the feast.

After breakfast he would have to run back upstairs to pack – Remus was quite sure that they would have a detention coming their way that evening, and he might not have enough time the next morning before they had to catch the train. Once he’d packed, he needed to return his library books. This filled him with a sense of guilt – he still hadn’t found anything to help Sirius, despite weeks of research. Their only hope now was that the Black cousins would be able to find a way out of the engagement after the betrothal ceremony had taken place.

On his way to the library he’d be able to drop off his subject applications form at McGonagall’s office – he’d put that off far too long already. Then, books returned and form handed in, Remus thought he should have ample time to meet Peter outside the greenhouses at eleven o’clock, where he would collect the invisibility cloak.

As long as everything went like clockwork, Remus should then be able to get the umbrellas he needed from the gamekeeper’s shed on the grounds, and smuggle them back to their dorm room. Then it would be about lunch time – Remus was hoping to use that hour to finish reading his book in peace – he’d borrowed it from Sirius and only had a chapter left, so he really wanted that out of the way before they had to go home. Especially as he sincerely doubted that McGonagall would allow him to read during his inevitable detention that evening.

Shortly after lunch, that, the first stage of the marauders end of term plan would come into effect. He would avoid the mayhem and double check he’d packed everything – possibly doing a bit of Sirius’s packing too, because the other boy still hadn’t done it and Remus suspected he was leaving it to the last minute. Then the preparations for the feast would begin – all he had to do was show up early enough to help James and Sirius with the final incantations. This was provided, of course, that none of them got caught before then.

There was a sudden knock at the bathroom door, just as Remus was pulling up his jeans,

“Toast out here for you, Moony,” Sirius’s voice called, “Thought I’d save you some time.”

“Oh, great, cheers!” Remus called back, pulling on his shirt quickly, as if Sirius might see him through the wood.

“Good luck! See you this afternoon!”

“Yeah – you too!”

Remus heard Sirius’s footsteps retreat and disappear down the staircase. Well. At least that was one thing taken care of. He emerged from the steamy bathroom and saw the plate of toast sitting on his trunk. Four slices – Sirius had not been stingy – and each liberally coated with a different spread. Remus grinned and renewed his pledge to help Sirius pack later on.   

He spent a leisurely hour munching on the toast and collecting up various belongings which had spread themselves far and wide from his bed to his friends’ shelves, even down into the common room. He took the opportunity to play Hunky Dory one last time, saying a fond goodbye to the record player for a few months.

The David Bowie print Sirius had given him for his birthday no longer moved – which Remus was somewhat glad for, because at least that meant he could take it back to St Edmund’s without arousing any suspicion. His trunk didn’t seem to close as easily as it had at the end of last summer, when he’d been on his way to Hogwarts, and he had to rearrange the items several times before everything squashed inside.

Remus brushed his teeth and went to gather his library books, stuffing them into his threadbare satchel. He wondered if Matron might let him have a new school bag – mind you, last time he’d asked for one she’d taken the opportunity to teach him how to sew. ‘A life skill’, she’d said. He didn’t bother telling her that the repairing charm work much better – but even that wasn’t much use any more.

With his list of chosen subjects in hand, he headed down into the common room, where every other Gryffindor seemed to be doing their last-minute packing too. The usually cosy space was in uproar, with shouts pleading for the return of missing books and games, students crawling under tables and lifting sofas hunting for long lost items, groups of tearful seventh year girls hugging everyone goodbye, and owls swooping this way and that.

“Remus!” Mary stopped him on his way out, “You all by yourself?”

“Yep.” He nodded, with a mischievous grin. She grinned back,

“Oooh, what are you lot planning? Me and Marlene were just saying how you’d been quiet for the last few weeks…”  

“Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.” He replied. “Sorry, but I’ve got to return my books—”

“Lily’s looking for you,” she said quickly.

“Oh, um… I’ll be in the dining hall for lunch. Bit busy until then, tell her sorry!”

With that he hurried through the portrait hall and out into the corridor, which was just as busy with students rushing back and forth, saying their last-minute goodbyes. Peeves, caught up in the excitement had obviously found out wherever Filch stored the toilet roll and was flinging wads of wet tissue at anyone who got close enough.

Arms over his head, Remus scurried towards McGonagall’s office just as Peeves fired at the door. Remus ducked, just in time, and Peeves flew of laughing maniacally as McGonagall – having heard the very loud ‘SPLAT’ – opened her office door. She peered down at Remus, still squatting and covering his head.

“Mr Lupin.”

“It was Peeves!” He stood up, quickly, “Honestly Professor!”

“I believe you.” She gave a small smile, “Spirits are always high on the last day of term. Have you got something for me?” The old teacher glanced at the parchment he was clutching.

“Oh, yes!” He stuck out his hand.

“Excellent, do come in, Lupin.”  

“Er…”

But you could hardly say ‘no’ to McGonagall, or ask her if it could wait until later. He wondered what on earth she wanted – surely Sirius and James hadn’t been caught already? It would be pretty obvious as soon as phase one of the plan was initiated, and he’d heard nothing…

“Sit down, Mr Lupin. Tea?”

“Um… yeah, ok.” He sat, uneasily. McGonagall waved her wand, and the little tartan teapot on her desk began to pour its contents into two matching cups.

“Help yourself to milk,” the professor said, absentmindedly, as she scanned the piece of parchment he’d given her. “Divination,” she said, “Muggle Studies and Arithmancy.”

He didn’t say anything. She looked up, finally, surveying him over the tops of her square spectacles. “These are the same subjects Mr Potter and Mr Black have chosen, if I’m not much mistaken? Mr Pettigrew too, hm?”

Remus just nodded. Actually, Peter was only taking Divination and Muggle Studies – he had found out that you only needed to select a minimum of two new subjects and had decided not to push himself any further than necessary. Remus would rather die than take on less work than James or Sirius.

“I’m interested to know what prompted you to select Muggle Studies, in particular? Considering a future in the Muggle Liaisons office, perhaps?”

“Er…” Remus stammered. He had no idea what the Muggle Liaisons office was, but it didn’t sound very interesting. 

“I would have thought you’d have sufficient knowledge of the Muggle World, having spent so much of your life in it.”

“Yeah, but… well…”

“There’s no need for you to take subjects simply because your friends are, Mr Lupin.” Professor McGonagall said, more kindly than he’d expected. “You’ll still be taking the same core classes, after all.”

Remus shrugged. He hadn’t known what else to do. Really, all the subjects had interested him – ok, perhaps not Muggle Studies, she was right there – but in the end, he hadn’t much liked the idea of missing out on lessons with the other marauders.

“One of the most wonderful things about school, Mr Lupin,” McGonagall began, tactfully, “Is the friends we make – connections and relationships that last a lifetime. I know you have made some very dear friends at Hogwarts.”

Remus fought a grimace. Did she have to make it sound so girly?! She cleared her throat, clearly amused by his reaction, “Some very dear friends. But school is also the place to challenge ourselves, to test our mettle. Do you understand?”

He nodded, blankly. She sighed, sipping her tea.

“Your exam results were excellent this year, Remus.”

He straightened up a little, at that. He was pretty chuffed with the results himself. He hadn’t beat James at Transfiguration, or Snape and Lily at Potions, but in everything else he had some of the highest marks in his class.

“As such,” McGonagall continued, “I have no concerns in permitting you to study Arithmancy – which, I must tell you, is one of the most challenging courses we offer at Hogwarts. But I would question whether Muggle Studies is a suitable use of your time going forward. You might find it very dull, I’m afraid. Have you considered, for example, Ancient Runes?”

Remus twisted his hands in his lap. It had sounded quite interesting. But he’d spent so much time struggling to read English, and catching up with the rest of the students, that he’d balked at the idea of learning another language. McGonagall seemed to understand his concerns – at least in part.

“You wouldn’t find it as difficult as you think, you know. You’re an immensely gifted scholar, and a very hard worker. In addition, your fellow Gryffindors Miss MacDonald and Miss McKinnon will be in the same class.”

This didn’t sound too bad, actually. He was very fond of the two M’s now, and it would be fun to spend a bit more time with them. How nice it would be to have a lesson in which there was no Sirius showing off, no Peter trying to copy his notes – and no James acting like a prat to get Lily’s attention.

“Ok.” He said. “I’ll give it a go.”

“Excellent.” McGonagall smiled widely, looking genuinely pleased. She waved her wand over his form to amend it.

“Um… Professor?” He asked, suddenly, slightly nervous again.

“Yes, Lupin?”

“I… well I was thinking about another subject, too. Maybe… maybe instead of Divination?”

McGonagall’s smile turned wry.

“Well I can’t pretend I’ve ever seen much use in Divination myself… not unless the witch or wizard concerned is genuinely gifted with the sight.”

Remus nodded, assuming that this meant he was not thus gifted.

“I thought, maybe… I mean, it’s probably silly…” James had said it was silly. A girly subject. “Um… Care of Magical Creatures.” He said, all in a rush.

McGonagall looked genuinely surprised.

“This is something which interests you?”

“Um… yeah, I s’pose so. Not just because I’m… y’know. But. Yeah, I s’pose mostly because of that.”

“Well, it’s a very interesting subject,” McGonagall sipped her tea again. “I should say that if you’re more interested in that than Divination, then by all means.”

“Great, ok, change it.” He nodded, feeling a bit embarrassed but also quite pleased with himself. McGonagall waved her wand once more.

“Your father was rather gifted when it came to magical creatures, you know.” She said. Remus raised his eyebrows.

“I didn’t know.”

“Oh yes,” She nodded, as if she was just passing the time of day. “An expert in his field.”

“His… field?”

“Non-human spirituous apparitions. Boggarts and ghosts, you know – dementors, too. All rather dark, I’m afraid. Care of Magical Creatures mainly focuses on corporeal – that is to say, mortal creatures, but you may well share his talents.”

“Oh, right. Thanks, Professor.” Remus got up, quickly. He didn’t have time to think about his father now. He had so much to do. “I’ve got to get to the library.” He indicated his heavy bag, splitting at the seams.

“Yes, yes, quite,” McGonagall nodded. “Thank you, Remus. I’ll see you at the feast tonight.”

“Yeah, bye!”

As he finally exited McGonagall’s office, Remus glanced at the clock. It was ten to eleven. Damn. No time for the library now, he had to meet Peter on the grounds, and it usually took at least fifteen minutes to get out of the castle, providing none of the staircases forced you off track. Heaving his unreasonably weighty bookbag, Remus sighed and set off on his way.

By the time he reached the greenhouses, sweating and too hot in the bright sunshine, Peter had obviously been waiting for a little while, and was wringing his hands.

“There you are!” He gasped, “I thought something had happened.”

“Sorry,” Remus panted, wiping his forehead with his sleeve, “McGonagall wanted a chat. Everything go ok?”

“Yep,” Peter nodded, eyes darting around, “Just like James told me. Have you seen them?”

“Nope.”

“Everything should be ok, then. Here.” Peter handed Remus the invisibility cloak.

“Cheers. Oi, are you going back to the dorm?”

“Yeah, I still need to pack…”

“Great, mind taking my books back? I wanted to return them to the library, but McGonagall…”

“Ok,” Peter took the bag. “Bloody hell, Moony!” He groaned, sagging under the weight of it.

“I’ll see you at lunch?”

“Probably. Good luck!” Peter went scurrying off back towards the castle, leaving Remus alone again.

Glancing around to make sure the coast was clear, Remus wasted no time in approaching the equipment shed. He’d been in it once before for a detention in his first year – it was much bigger on the inside than it looked, and full of various tools for maintaining the expansive Hogwarts grounds. The lock did not respond to the usual Alohomora incantation, but it absolutely did respond to a few quick twists with one of Lily Evans’ hairpins. She’d given him the pin the evening before, with a quizzical look, but hadn’t asked why he needed it.

Once inside, Remus acted quickly, finding the large black trunk of umbrellas. He wasn’t quite sure why wizards still used umbrellas – surely there were spells for protecting yourself from rain? But, nevertheless, they didn’t want anyone summoning them and ruining their fun. Remus covered the trunk with the invisibility cloak and cast a weightlessness charm on it, before levitating the whole thing out of the shed.

He strolled back up to the school in a leisurely manner, trying not to look as though he was up to anything at all, hiding his wand under his robes so no one could see that it was guiding the invisible trunk. It took a good half an hour to navigate himself and the trunk through the castle unnoticed, and without bumping into any other students. Several times he had to levitate the thing over his own head, which took a lot of effort and concentration.

Still, he did it, reaching his destination with an enormous sense of achievement. He left the trunk in the dorm room, and performed a sticking charm on the lock. If anyone did try to summon it, they hopefully wouldn’t be able to get it open in time to save themselves. He folded the cloak neatly and left it on James’s pillow.

Peter had dropped Remus’s book bag at the foot of his bed, and Remus sighed to himself, realising that he would have to return the books before he could go for lunch. Hoisting it onto his back, he once more descended the staircase into the Gryffindor common room.

Once again, he was waylaid, this time by Lily, who looked extremely flustered and extremely pleased to see him.

“There you are!” She shrieked, grabbing his shoulders, “I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

“Hiya Lily,” he smiled, politely, “Sorry, can it wait? I’ve got to get to the—”

“Absolutely not!” She shook her head vehemently, “Can we go up to your room? The others aren’t there, are they?”

“No,” he sighed. He could go to the library later, if he skipped trying to finish his book, or if his visit to Madam Pomfrey didn’t take too long. He followed Lily back up the stairs.

“Do I want to know what that is?” She said, glancing at the big black trunk.

“It’s a trunk full of umbrellas.” He said, promptly. She raised an eyebrow, but didn’t question him further.

“I’ve got something for you.” She put down her bag on top of the trunk, rifling through it. She withdrew a very strange item. It looked like a sheet of clear plastic. Remus furrowed his brow, as she handed it to him. He turned it over.

“Erm… Lily…?”

“I’m sorry it took me so long – I had to wait ages for the acetate. My mum got it from a friend of hers who’s a teacher. They use them for overhead projectors in muggle schools. Well, you know that, obviously.”

Remus nodded, blankly. There had been an OHP at St Edmund’s, but it had needed its lightbulb replacing about three years ago and as far as he knew no one had yet got around to it.

“Got a book?” Lily nodded at his bag. “Get one out, I’ll show you.”

He complied, curious to see where this was going. She opened the text at a random page, placed it on the trunk, then lay the acetate over it. “Look.” She said.

Remus looked, about to withdraw his wand in case she wanted him to read something. She shook her head, pushing his hand away. “Just look.” She said.

He looked again, rubbing his neck.

‘There are three key elements to performing a successful unbreakable vow. In the first instance…’

“What?!” Remus exclaimed, picking up the book and staring.

“Did it work?!” Lily looked at him, eagerly, “Can you read it?”

“I… yeah… I… bloody hell, Evans!” He flipped the page again, replacing the acetate. It worked. It was much less fiddly than Sirius’s spell.

“It should work outside of Hogwarts, too.” She said, her green eyes sparkling, “I fiddled about with the incantation a bit, and there was some potion work involved, but it should last a good long time.”

“You’re amazing!” Remus said, still reading. “Thank you so much!”

Quite out of the blue, Lily leapt at Remus, flinging her arms around his neck and hugging him. Taken a bit by surprise, Remus felt himself blushing. He’d never been hugged very often before – let alone by a girl. She was soft, and her hair smelled nice, like apples.

“I wanted to do it in time for your birthday,” she said, stepping back, still smiling, “But I kept messing it up. Thank goodness it worked! You’d have thought I was mental if it hadn’t!”

“Yeah,” he laughed, nervously, still recovering from the surprise embrace. “Thank you Lily, this is… it’s just such an amazing thing.”

“You deserve it, Remus,” she said, earnestly, “Honestly, you work so bloody hard, and you keep up with Potter and Black.”

Remus shrugged. There was a slightly awkward silence. 

“Look, I’ll let you get on.” Lily said, finally, “Sorry I waylaid you like that. See you at the feast?”

“Yeah… yeah definitely.” Remus looked back down at the book. “Oh shit, wait – Evans, have you got an umbrella?”

“Er… I think so? I might have packed it already.”

“Unpack it,” he said, firmly. “And take it to the feast, ok?”

“…Ok?”

Once she had left, Remus allowed himself a moment to sit down. He couldn’t believe she’d done it. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought of it! It was so simple, so elegant. He would be able to read all summer! He flipped to another page.

‘It is important to note that the unbreakable vow, once made, cannot be superseded by any other kind of vow, oath or promise made thereafter, regardless of any legal or moral concerns around keeping such a vow. It is therefore pivotal that—‘

“Oh!” Remus gasped, suddenly. It was as if there was a ‘click’ in his brain, and everything had fallen into place. “OH!” He leapt up.

The library would have to be put off just a little while longer.

* * *

It was at times like this, Remus thought, as he paced up and down the dark corridor, that he could really do with the completed marauders map. Unfortunately, they had so far only managed to map three quarters of the castle, and were a long way off tagging every student yet.

Remus had been waiting outside the Slytherin common room for twenty minutes now, with no luck at all. The green robed students who passed him ignored his pleas for help, and even the Bloody Baron had carried on his way with a disdainful sniff. It was getting hopeless. He would miss lunch at this rate. He looked at the nearest clock. It was half past twelve. Phase one of the plan was imminent.

When the common room wall opened once more, his heart sank even further.

“Well well well.” Snape smirked, “They said there was a mad Gryffindor on the loose, but I didn’t think it would be you, Loony Lupin.”

Remus sighed.

“Piss off, Snivellus.”

“Don’t be so rude,” Snape raised his wand, “I ought to wash your mouth out with soap.”

“I didn’t think you knew how to wash.” Remus replied, dryly.

“Why, you—”

“Can we not?” Remus said, irritably, “It’s the last day of term, and there’s plenty of stuff I’d rather be doing. Can you just… I dunno, let me in or something?”

“Let you in?!” Snape’s black eyes shone with amusement, “Why on earth would I let you in?!”

“I need to speak to—”

“Out of the way, Snape, you slimy git.” A voice came from the wall behind Severus. Barty Crouch Jr. stepped out, followed by Regulus. Remus felt a small measure of relief,

“Regulus! Can you get Narcissa for m—”

Mordeo!” Without warning, Crouch aimed a curse at Remus, who dodged it just in time, pulling out his own wand.

Expelli-” He started, but it was too late, Crouch cursed him a second time, and pain rocketed through Remus’s skull, his head ringing. It was awful, but he didn’t flinch. It only hurt for a while, and he knew pain like an old friend. If they thought that something as commonplace as that would stop him, they had another thing coming.

“What d’you want, half-blood?” Crouch asked, grinning madly, “Or are you just thick, hanging around here all alone?”

“He is thick,” Severus said, “As two short planks.”

“Shut up, Snape,” Crouch said, turning his wand on Severus, now. Remus narrowed his eyes, paying attention. Apparently, Snape was bad at making friends wherever he went.

“Shut up both of you,” Regulus finally spoke, sounding bored. He had been watching Remus’s face the whole time, “What’d you want, Lupin? Better tell me before Barty fancies practicing one of his unforgiveable’s on you.”

“I need to speak to Narcissa.” Remus said, very clearly and as calmly as he could. “It’s urgent. It’s about… you know, Black family stuff.”

Regulus watched him for a few moments longer, not speaking. He was so like Sirius – only without any of the joy or humour. If Remus hadn’t known better, he’d have said Regulus was the elder brother.

“Snape, go and get my cousin, will you?” He said, sharply, not even moving his head.

Snape looked furious, but he obeyed. Did everyone do whatever the Blacks told them to? James often teased Sirius for acting as though he was royalty, but perhaps he was just playing the role he’d been raised for.

Crouch soon grew bored, and wandered off, leaving Regulus and Remus still facing each other in stony silence. Remus was actually glad to see Narcissa’s sour face, when she finally came through the wall.

“Oh Merlin,” she sighed, staring down at Remus, “What now?”

“I’ve figured it out!” He said, quickly, “The… the problem. I’ve got a solution.”

“Oh yes?” She folded her arms, looking unconvinced.

“The unbreakable vow,” he hurried, keen to get it all out so that he could go. “It can’t be broken, ever.”

She snorted,

“Yes, that’s certainly implied.”

Remus rolled his eyes impatiently.

“I mean,” he said, more slowly, his bravery mounting, “That if you’ve made an unbreakable vow, then you can’t make any other promises that go against it. You can’t even be forced to make other promises. Or vows.” He stressed the last word, meaningfully.

The light switched on in Narcissa’s eyes almost immediately. For a second, her pretty pink lips formed the same ‘oh’ that Remus had made only an hour or so before when it had come to him. She did not have time to speak, however, because in the same moment there was a shriek from somewhere up the hall, causing them all to turn. A Slytherin girl came bursting out of a girl’s bathroom at the end of the corridor, wailing,

“They all just… exploded!” She said, looking fainting disturbed. Sure enough, they could see through the swinging toilet door behind her that waves of pink foam were spilling from the wash basins and toilets. It was truly magnificent – gorgeous great drifts of soft soapy bubbles tumbled out of every tap and drain.

“I um… I have to go!” Remus grinned, winking at Narcissa, then breaking into a run.

Chapter Text

The rest of the afternoon was nothing short of chaotic – and Remus knew that Sirius and James, wherever they were, must be having the time of their lives. Every single bathroom in the castle had been mysteriously affected by the foam flood, and no one seemed to be able to stop it for very long. Huge drifts of bubbles clogged the hallways like pink snow, and those students who didn’t want to play in it did not appear to mind being forced out onto the grounds to loll about on the grass and spend their last day in the sunshine.

Remus, who had already had to sacrifice his lunch hour, still needed to get to the library and return his books, help Sirius pack (though, actually, he told himself, as he pelted up the stairs to Gryffindor tower, he had done quite enough to help Sirius for one day) and see Madam Pomfrey for an end of year check-up. He also needed to get to the Great Hall early to help James and Sirius with the final phase of their plan. It was not complex magic, but it was strong, and ideally needed as many wands as possible.

Library first, he thought to himself, purposefully as he entered the now desolate common room. At least there was no one to hold him up now. One of the others had obviously been in the dorm room since Remus had last left it, because it was even messier than before and the invisibility cloak was now missing.

James, who was probably the tidiest of all four of them, had packed all of his things the night before, and neatly made his bed. Remus’s space was tidy only because it was now entirely empty except for his pyjamas and book by the bedside table. Peter had apparently tried to pack at some point, but been disturbed halfway through – his trunk was flung open, various items of clothing hanging out of it, a pile of textbooks on his bed, and his red tie hanging from the frame. Sirius’s bed was by far the worst. He must have come up looking for something at some point, because every draw in his dresser was open, his bedsheets had been ripped back, and his trunk stood completely empty.

Remus grabbed his book bag and left straight away – he would think about it later. He wished he still had the invisibility cloak as he dodged Peeves once more. The poltergeist was in his element, diving into the piles of foam, then bursting out at unsuspecting students and teachers. Remus briefly remembered what McGonagall had said that morning about his father ‘boggarts, poltergeists…’ he wondered what his father – his duelling champion, Ravenclaw father who had a temper – had thought of Peeves.

“Good afternoon, Madam Pince,” Remus said, quietly and respectfully as he entered the library. It was almost entirely empty, and the pinched faced old librarian was sorting through a towering pile of recently returned books with her wand, firing them back to their shelves with great relish.

“Lupin.” She said, not even turning her head to greet him.

He placed his books carefully on the counter furthest from her.

Though the library no longer frightened him, exactly, Remus was still pretty nervous around Madam Pince, who would clearly have preferred that no students be permitted to touch her precious books at all. “Is that all of them?” She said, sharply, “I shall know, if not.”

“Definitely all of them.” He said, backing away slowly.

“Mr Pettigrew has not returned Poisonous plants of the British Isles, and the elder Mr Black has three overdue transfiguration books.”

“Oh, ok… um… I’ll let them know when I see them.”

“I shall be writing to their parents if I don’t have them by five o’clock.”

“I’ll tell them.” He repeated, almost out of the door. Sighing with relief, he made his way to the hospital wing at a leisurely pace, fighting the urge to throw himself headlong into a snowball fight the Hufflepuffs were having against the Slytrherins with the foam.

It seemed that the spell was still going strong – even more bubbles were emanating from the bathrooms he passed, and if he wasn’t much mistaken, they were growing larger. He had no idea where Sirius, James and Peter were at that moment, but he knew they had to be enjoying themselves immensely.

“Remus, dear!” Madam Pomfrey smiled as he entered the hospital wing. “Thank you for stopping by – I know you’d much rather be having fun with your friends today.”

He shrugged with a small smile,

“I don’t mind.”

“Just a few things before the summer begins, shall we go in my office?”

He followed her in, and accepted the plate of biscuits she offered him gratefully – his stomach was growling from having missed lunch.

“Now,” Madam Pomfrey sat down, conjuring up his patient notes from thin air, “I’ve tried contacting your Matron at St Edmund’s a few times… it seems she’s not clear on how the post works. Keeps trying to get me to speak to her on some muggle contraption. I told her, we don’t have a telling-bone at Hogwarts, but I don’t think she believes me…”

“No,” Remus stifled a laugh, “she wouldn’t.”

“Anyway, between us we’ve managed to agree that I shall be present before and after your confinement for both full moons. I’ve explained to her that your condition has become… more difficult over the past year, but that there should be no danger to anyone else at the school.”

“Right.” Remus nodded. Now that he was used to the idea, he was quite glad Pomfrey would be there, however briefly, over the holidays. It would make the full moons slightly less grim, anyway.

“I want you to make sure you look after yourself in the meantime. Eat full meals and get a nice balance of rest and exercise.”

Remus didn’t have the heart to tell Madam Pomfrey that he had very little say in when he was allowed to rest and how often he exercised while he was living at St Edmunds. No one at Hogwarts seemed to understand what sort of an institution it was.

After that, she checked on a few of his wounds from the previous moon to ensure they were healing properly, then performed some diagnostic spells. It was almost four o’clock by the time he was walking back to Gryffindor for what felt like the hundredth time that day.

Filch had had no success yet in taming the foam, but it had at least stopped spurting from every tap and drain in the castle.  The others must have got bored and moved onto something else. As Remus climbed the tower, he saw a few students flying past the windows on their brooms. It was a gorgeous day outside, the other marauders were probably out there making the most of it too.

He got a shock when he reached the dorm.

“Hiya Moony,” James grinned at him. He was alone, on Sirius’s side of the room. He was packing. “Nice job getting the umbrellas.”

“Yeah, well done on the foam. Filch is fuming.” He rubbed the back of his head, feeling awkward, “Where’s Sirius?”

“Doing something mental on his broom, I think. Thought I’d sort this out for him.”

“Do you want help?” 

“Nah, don’t worry. Didn’t you want to read a book or something?”

Remus shrugged. He felt a bit embarrassed now. It seemed right that James do it, after all – James was Sirius’s best best friend.

“S’ok, I’ll help you.” He said, casually, as if it didn’t matter much either way. “You know I hate flying.”

“Nice of you,” James smiled easily, gathering up some of Sirius’s mess and sorting it quickly. Remus started tidying up the records, stacking in alphabetical order because Sirius liked it that way. “Put those in my trunk,” James said, nodding at the box of records, “The muggle books too. Said I’d look after them for him. Y’know, the way things are with his mum and dad.”

Remus nodded, carrying them over to James’s bed.

“Going to be a rubbish summer, without you two,” James remarked, sounding genuinely sorry.

“Yeah.” Remus replied, not really sure what else to say.

“Sirius thinks… he thinks he might not be coming back in September.”

“What?!” Remus looked up, suddenly, alarmed. James frowned,

“Yeah, he reckons with this betrothal thing… they might send him to Durmstrang. Keep him out of trouble until they can get him married. Pretty drastic, I think, but I wouldn’t put it past them.”

“The betrothal ceremony might not happen, though,” Remus said, quickly, “I have a feeling… I just feel like Narcissa won’t let it happen.” He didn’t want to tell James anything yet – because James would tell Sirius, and Sirius might get annoyed that Remus went behind his back to talk to his family. And what if it didn’t even work? He couldn’t get anyone’s hopes up.

“Narcissa?” James looked at him curiously, “What are you talking about?”

“I just know she doesn’t want to marry Sirius any more than he wants to marry her, that’s all.” Remus shook his head. “Shall I pack his muggle magazines in your trunk too?”

* * *

“What a wonderful year it’s been,” Dumbledore beamed at the Great Hall as the final scraps of the end of year feast vanished from their plates. Remus was going to miss the food more than anything, and had had three helpings of pudding. Ravenclaw had won the house cup that year, and the hall was decked out in royal blue and bronze silk banners. Every time the Ravenclaw table had cheered during the meal, Remus had felt a tug behind his navel and thought of his father.

 

Dumbledore’s speech continued, “I am immensely proud of all of you, of course. Now we are all well fed, I have a few words I would like to say…”

“Ready, lads,” Sirius whispered under his breath, so low that only the marauders could hear. Dumbledore continued,

“…congratulations once again to Ravenclaw…”

“Now!”

“…winning this year’s house---“

There was a shriek from the far end of the hall, and everyone spun around to watch every single goblet on the Ravenclaw table to suddenly spurt red and gold bubbles. They fired upward in great geysers, hitting the ceiling and bursting in a shower of bright droplets, which fell like rain onto the students below, staining their robes with streaks of Gryffindor crimson.

“Keep going!” Sirius whispered, his voice high with excitement, as the marauders flicked their wands using every ounce of concentration. At once, the goblets on every other table erupted too, causing the same effect as students shrieked and began to duck for cover, their hair, skin and clothes staining vibrant red and gold.

Not even the Gryffindor table had escaped – not wanting to miss out on the fun, James had insisted on it. Lily Evans had brought her umbrella, and grinned slyly at Remus as Mary and Marlene fought to cram underneath it with her. In the far corner of the hall, Remus caught sight of a furious Narcissa hiding underneath the table, her long white hair streaked with red and gold which clashed awfully with her porcelain complexion.

She was glaring at her wayward cousin so hard that Remus wondered how Sirius did not drop dead on the spot. But he comforted himself with the thought that this incident can only have cemented the idea in her mind that she must escape marriage to Sirius at all costs.  

Omnistratum!” Dumbledore said, calmly, aiming his wand at the ceiling.

At once, the bubbles burst and evaporated into nothing, as though a large force field had suddenly appeared over their heads. “Scourgify!” The headmaster smiled pleasantly, now waving his wand over the whole hall. Instantly, the red and gold paint had vanished from the tables, floor and students. Order was restored.

“Aw.” James sighed, sounding disappointed.

“An excellent way to celebrate Gryffindor’s victory on the quidditch pitch this year,” Dumbledore cleared his throat, as students clambered back into their seats, eyeing their goblets nervously. “And while I welcome and encourage displays of house pride, I would like everyone to remember that true sportsmanship lies in the ability to gracefully cede victory. Please join me in raising your glasses to Ravenclaw, winners of the Hogwarts house cup 1973.”

Remus had the uncomfortable feeling that though Dumbledore did not look in the marauder’s direction, they were absolutely the intended audience for this admonishment. He felt a little ashamed – but only a very little. It was hard to feel too sorry when there had really been no harm done, and he was so full of excellent food.

James and Sirius were already planning next year’s finale, Peter grinning and nodding along like a simpleton. Lily winked at Remus as they raised their goblets, and he hoped that nothing would ever change.  

Chapter Text

Saturday 30th June 1973

Dear Remus,

I’ve only been back at my parents’ house for half an hour and I’ve been told I’m bringing shame to my family five times. Five. Three of those times weren’t even from living people – the portraits of our ancestors have decided to have a go.

Going to start putting up my Gryffindor stuff now, I think.

Hope you got home ok.

Sirius O. Black

* * *

Dear Sirius,

Your owl arrived before I even got back – we had to get two tubes and a bus, it took ages.

Sorry about the family stuff. Be careful. Wish we were all back at school.

Remus.

* * *

Friday 13th July 1973

Dear Moony,

Come and visit soon, me and Peter will die of boredom!

Don’t send Sirius any owls – his mother intercepted mine and returned them all with curses attached! Luckily dad spotted it before we had any trouble, but bloody hell! I might try contacting his cousin Andromeda to see how she gets post through. I think it’s the muggle way, but Godrick knows how we’re supposed to understand that – I haven’t even opened my muggle studies books yet.

Let me know if you can come and visit. Remember mum said any time. We can talk to your Matron, and Madam Pomfrey – the Minister for Magic, if we have to!

James.

* * *

Dear James,

I know how the post works, but I’d have to nick some stamps. And I don’t what Sirius’s address is.

I asked Pomfrey after the last moon – she said no. She said the wizarding world is too dangerous for me. I don’t know if she means I’m the one that’s dangerous.

Sorry mate.

Moony.

* * *

Sunday 5th August 1973

Dear Moony,

So. You will not believe what happened. Seriously. The ceremony was all ready to go – I was in my hideous green dress robes (with black lace cuffs – LACE, Moony. Just wrap your mind around that. You would have thought I looked a right prat.) Regulus was there, my mother, father, half the family.

Then in comes Narcissa, wearing something that looked like it belonged to my grandmother. And she doesn’t look happy, so I thought – well, fair enough, I’m not exactly thrilled. But then she stands up, in front of everyone and says “We have to stop at once.”

So, everyone stops, and my mother looks like she’s about to start spitting curses, and my uncle is asking Narcissa “what do you think you’re playing at” and Regulus is grinning at me and Bellatrix is grinning too, only she looks a bit more mental than Reg. Then Narcissa whispers something to her parents and my aunt LITERALLY FAINTED. I shit you not. And everyone’s muttering and whispering, and mother can’t take it anymore and demands to know what’s going on, so Narcissa stands up, and LOOKS MY MOTHER IN THE EYE and tells her.

She made an unbreakable vow to marry Lucius Malfoy as soon as she finishes her NEWTs.

I can’t remember if I told you what an unbreakable vow is, but basically she can’t not marry Malfoy now – or else they both drop dead. I don’t know if I should be a bit offended on that point, to be honest. I mean what does it say about you when a girl would rather die than marry you, even if she is your cousin?

Anyway, as you can probably imagine, the whole Black family is at war, no one is talking to each other because a few curses ended up being thrown between my dad and my uncle. I can’t believe Narcissa. Seriously, I actually got close to liking her for a second before I remembered she’s still a Black, and a Slytherin, and she wants to marry Lucius slimy git Malfoy, of all people.

But it looks like I’m off the hook. There aren’t any other cousins left for me to marry now. Everyone’s furious, obviously, but for once no one’s furious at me. I think I’ll probably be coming back to Hogwarts in September – I heard mum talk about making Reg the heir instead. No skin off my nose, I couldn’t care less about inheriting this foul house or their foul fortune. Rather they just leave me alone and keep ignoring me forever.

Hope your holiday is going as well as mine (though I can’t see how it can be, because – honestly, what a bloody result, eh Moony??)

See you in a few weeks,

Sirius O. Black

* * *

Monday 6th August 1973

Dear Moony,

I bet Sirius has already told you the news, but just in case he hasn’t – THE BETROTHAL IS OFF! You were right, it came down to Narcissa in the end. Uncanny ability you have there, Remu ol’ pal, don’t fancy giving me odds on the quidditch world cup next year, do you?

Having a really boring summer all by myself. Pete’s lot are all off seeing their French relatives, so I don’t even have anyone to help me practice my catches. Hope yours isn’t too bad. I had a thought that maybe you could ask Madam Pomfrey to bring you to Diagon Alley in August? Or maybe we could meet you and drop you back after? Mum keeps asking after you, she’d love to see you again.

Get in touch if you can.

Yours in eternal boredom,

James.

* * *

Monday 13th August 1973

[Postcard depicting the Eiffel Tower in spring]

Dear Remus,

Bonjour and all that from Paris!

Hope your holidays are good. Wish you lot were here.

Peter.

* * *

Remus responded to each of these communications with vigour, much moreso than he had the year before. The marauders had seen enough of his handwriting to know how wonky it was, and he didn’t think they’d mind a few spelling mistakes. He told James he was very sorry, but he could not come to Diagon Alley (Madam Pomfrey said that wasn’t safe either, and wouldn’t tell him why) and he congratulated Sirius on his hard-won bachelorhood, but did not tell him that he, Remus, had anything to do with it. It would be too much like boasting, and he didn’t want Sirius to feel like he owed him anything.

Remus’s own summer was perhaps just as boring as James and Sirius’s, but filled with more purpose than any summer before it. Madam Pomfrey was true to her word and arrived the evening before and the morning after each full moon. As such, he spent less time covered in bandages, and had more time to read and plan for his year ahead.

When his books arrived courtesy of Dumbledore and the Hogwarts second hand bin, Remus was thrilled to be able to get a head start on his reading. Arithmancy was very difficult, but the challenge was exciting – and Care of Magical Creatures was utterly absorbing, if only because of the fantastic colour illustrations.

Even Matron commented – somewhat suspiciously – that Remus had changed a great deal after two years away at school.

“Nice to see you’re keeping out of trouble.” She said one morning, when she found him sitting at the bottom of the garden reading a heavy textbook using his magical sheet of acetate. At the time, Remus simply squinted up at her and smiled benignly. She of course had no idea that before the summer was over he was to have committed his first serious crime.

Ever since his Christmas with the Potters, Remus had been plagued with one particular problem, and he wasn’t sure how best to overcome it. Money. He didn’t have any – muggle or wizard, Remus was as poor as you could possibly be. This had never mattered a great deal – after all, St Edmund’s supplied his basic needs, and Hogwarts gave him everything else.

But. But. He would have liked, at the very least, to be able to return the generosity his friends had shown him. They’d bought him countless sweets and gifts; Sirius had given him the ability to read, for goodness’ sake, and Lily had singlehandedly rescued his summer. For some time now, Remus had resolved to seek out the soonest opportunity that might result in payment.

Fortunately for Remus, this opportunity presented itself one hot June afternoon. He was reading again, of course, sitting outside on a bench under the shade of an old pub umbrella which must have been donated at some point since his first year. Now was he was thirteen, while Remus was not among the eldest boys at St Edmund’s, he was no longer at the bottom of the pile, and could generally escape being picked on too badly.

A shadow fell over his book, and he looked up. Craig Newman, a sixteen-year-old skinhead, glared down at him. Craig’s gang was the top of the pecking order at St Eddy’s. They all listened to reggae, wore bovver boots and drainpipe jeans held up by suspenders. Some of them had tattoos, and all of them had bruises.

“Orright, Lupin.” Craig grunted at him. Remus blinked, slowly closing his book and wondering if it was much good as a weapon. It was heavy, anyway.

“Orright, Newman.” He nodded, trying not to look small and scared. He slipped naturally back into his old accent over the summer, slurring words and dropping consonants. It was safest. 

“’t’chu readin?” Craig squinted down at the book, looking mistrustful. Remus wondered if Craig could read. He shrugged, nonchalantly,

“Jus’ summink for school.”

“Yeah,” Craig nodded. Remus didn’t move a muscle. He couldn’t understand what was happening – did Craig really just want a casual chat? “You’re clever, in’t ya?” The older boy said, suddenly.

Remus didn’t know which response was more likely to get him beaten up, so he didn’t answer at all. No matter, Craig didn’t seem to mind. He just scratched his chin, then pulled a packet of cigarettes out of his shirt sleeve. “Yeah, you’re clever. Always readin’ an’ that.” He lit the cigarette with a match from hit boot, then offered Remus the packet.

Remus reached out and took one. He’d never smoked before, but most of the boys at St Edmund’s did. Craig lit it for him, and Remus inhaled. His eyes filled with tears at once, and he tried desperately not to cough and splutter. It was disgusting.

Craig looked at him with some amusement and continued. “Small, too. Skinny, like.”

“I s’pose.” Remus replied, coughing, watching Craig inhale and then trying to copy him.

“Fancy comin’ on a job?”

“Job?”

Craig nodded, his tiny eyes fixed on Remus.

“Yeah. you’d be good. Gonna do over the offie in town. Tomorrow night. Ain’t got no security. Ain’t got nuffink, c’ept a dog. Goin’ after the till and the booze. You can have a share. Just need to pop you through the back window.”

“Right,” Remus nodded, as if the prospect did not utterly terrify him. He sucked on the cigarette again, out of habit this time. He could sort of see the appeal, once you got over the taste. He considered Craig’s suggestion.

On the one hand, it was bloody dangerous. Newman’s gang weren’t known for their finesse, and a few of them were already on probation. On the other hand, it did not seem as though he had much choice. When Craig Newman wanted you to do something, you sort of just had to do it.  Plus, he could definitely benefit. Muggle money was all but useless to him, of course, but there might be a way…

Remus looked Craig Newman in his little piggy eyes.

“I just want fags.”

Craig smirked and nodded. And so, Remus began his short career as a burglar.   

Chapter Text

In the corner of the morning in the past
I would sit and blame the master first and last
All the roads were straight and narrow
And the prayers were small and yellow
And the rumour spread that I was aging fast
Then I ran across a monster who was sleeping 
By a tree
And I looked and frowned and the monster was me

Saturday 1st September 1973

After the first job, Craig and his gang had been so pleased with Remus that they’d taken him along on four more, to houses and small businesses in the surrounding towns. Even without an invisibility cloak, Remus found that he just had a natural gift for getting into places he shouldn’t. That’s what Craig said anyway; “Bloody natural, this kid.”

Nature was a funny thing, Remus found himself thinking, on the way to King’s Cross. He remembered James leaving a bag of coins behind every time they raided Honeyduke’s. It was not in James’s nature to steal, it seemed. But Remus didn’t think this was a particularly fair assessment, when James had never needed to steal. He was the heir to an enormous fortune, just like Sirius. And the truth was, you just never knew what you were capable of until you tried it. It must be very easy to be good when you had no reason not to be.

Still, Remus had resolved never to tell the other marauders what he’d got up to that summer, and spent the rest of his journey daydreaming about all of the Christmas and birthday presents he would finally be able to buy his friends.

Remus’s Hogwarts trunk this year was stuffed full of cigarette boxes and pouches of tobacco. Plenty to get a little business up and running – if he was savvy enough, he might be rid of most of it before Christmas. They were allowed to go to Hogsmeade this year, and Matron had signed his permission slip without a fuss – even Madam Pomfrey thought it was probably safe enough for him to go.

Matron, it seemed, had learnt her lesson. She accompanied Remus as far as King’s Cross, then left him there, with a curt goodbye. Heart pounding as much as it had two years ago, Remus flew at the ticket barrier, and exhaled only once he arrived safely on the other side. He was home again.

It did not take him long to spy Sirius, who was slouching against a station pillar beside his family. Mrs Black was fussing over Regulus, who looked paler than usual and was standing with his back very straight as Walpurga combed his hair and hissed in his ear. She was obviously ignoring her eldest son, whose hair looked deliberately messy, and whose robes were artfully rumpled and out of place. Remus thought it best not to approach.

“Hiya Moony,” he was clapped on the back and turned around to see James and Peter grinning at him. James had grown a few inches, and his face looked slightly thinner, but he had the same bright brown eyes and the same mop of black hair. Peter looked himself, though he seemed to be recovering from a rather painful sunburn.

“Hi,” Remus grinned back at them, his heart leaping with excitement. Everything just as it should be.

The whistle blew, and they climbed onto the train to find an empty compartment and wait for Sirius. He was finally allowed to join them at what seemed like the very last minute, and entered the car muttering darkly to himself,

“Keeping up appearances my arse.”

“No change there, then,” James winked at Remus. Sirius looked at them all and his face split into a smile. That Sirius Black smile.

“I thought I’d never see you all again!”

“Godrick, you always have to be so dramatic.” James punched him on the shoulder, as they all stood up to greet him.

“You don’t know what she’s like,” Sirius whined, clasping James’s hand in a warm, brotherly handshake. Then he saw Remus and smirked mischievously, “Is that you, Moony?!” He deliberately craned his neck, raising a hand as if to shield his eyes and peering up, “Can you hear me up there??”

“Ha ha.” Remus replied, shifting uncomfortably. “I’m the same height as James.”

“Not any more you’re not,” James countered, standing closer to Remus so that he could see that he was indeed half an inch taller than the dark-haired boy.

“Yeah, how did I end up mates with two beanpoles, eh?” Sirius grinned, slapping Remus on the back playfully, “Lucky I’ve got you, eh Petey-boy?”

“Hm?” Peter looked up from his pasty, confused. Peter Pettigrew looked no taller than he had been when they were all eleven, though he was considerably wider.

Sirius appeared to be growing up gracefully and in perfect proportion, which was just typical. He was a little taller, but not lanky like James, slender, but not skinny like Remus. His jaw had broadened over the summer too, the shadow of manhood rising in his features.

“Right,” James rubbed his hands together as they all sat down, “Now all that’s out of the way – I say we move onto new business. Plans for the year?”

“We have to finish the map,” Remus said, quickly. That had been playing on his mind for some time. “It’s not far off, and I bet we can figure out that homunculus charm if we really put the effort in.”

“Definitely,” James said, “The map is basically our legacy, right? We’ll work on it, I promise.”

“And that other thing,” Sirius suddenly said, very sharply. James and Peter exchanged glances, and Remus felt a knot tighten in his stomach.

“What ‘other’ thing?” He asked, frowning.

James looked him in the eye, looking very serious.

“Just something we were talking about last year. We’ll um… we’ll let you know if we decide to go through with it.”

“Don’t want to get you into trouble, Moony,” Peter laughed, nervously, “Less you know the better, eh?”

Remus took umbrage to this. Hadn’t he got away with participating in most of last year’s pranks, and had the least detentions? And hadn’t he been the only one who’d even attempted to talk to Narcissa about Sirius’s family problems? Of course, the others didn’t know about that – if they had a secret, he could have one too. He looked out of the window, testily, ignoring the rest of the conversation.

Finally, Peter sighed heavily,

“Where’s the trolley witch? I’m hungry.”

“I just saw you finish a pasty.” James replied, mildly annoyed because he’d been midway through explaining his plan to bewitch all the Slytherin quidditch team’s brooms during their next practice.

“Yeah, but I fancy something sweet.” Peter pouted, emptying out his pockets and only coming up with empty wrappers.

Remus saw his chance and finally cheered up a bit,

“I’ve got you sorted, Pete,” he dug into his suitcase and pulled out a handful of chocolate bars, dumping them on the empty seat beside him. The other three boys stared at the pile.

“What are these?” Sirius picked up a Mars bar, looking suspicious.

“Muggle chocolate,” Remus said, “They’re good! Go on, won’t bite.”

Peter had already unwrapped and bitten into a Milky Way, and was grinning encouragingly at the others. Remus selected a packet of Maltesers for himself, sitting back with satisfaction knowing that for once he had brought the snacks on the train.

* * *

Remus noticed that they were sitting further away from the teacher’s table when they took their places for the feast. The first and second years now below them, the marauders found themselves no longer among the youngest students, which gave them an unnecessary sense of pride and achievement.

“You’re taking Runes, aren’t you Remus?” Lily asked, plonking herself down next to him. She had cut her hair over the summer, and had a soft fringe which made her look a bit like Jane Asher.

“Yep,” he nodded.

“Moony’s abandoning us!” Sirius wailed, comically, pretending to fall onto James’s shoulder, sobbing inconsolably,

“There, there,” James patted his friend’s back, solemnly, “I hope you’re happy, Remus,” he scolded, “All very well you moving on to bigger and better things, but think about us little people you’re leaving behind.”

“I’m not leaving anyone behind,” Remus muttered, his ears turning red, “Just didn’t fancy divination.”

“Ignore them,” Lily said, primly, casting a disapproving look at Sirius and James, who were now holding each other, still pretending to weep hysterically as though their hearts were irreparably broken. Lily tutted, seeing she had no effect, and turned back to Remus, “You lot don’t have to be attached at the hip all the time. Anyway, I’m doing Runes too, have you done the pre-reading?”

Remus nodded enthusiastically,

“Yeah, it looks really interesting.”

“Aha!” Sirius looked up, slyly, “Now I see.”

“What?” Remus asked, nervously. Sirius had that wicked, unpredictable look in his eyes.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with furthering your academic career,” he scratched his chin, wisely, “I think our dear Remoony has been lured away from everyone’s favourite doss subject by the fairer sex!”

“Shut up,” Remus blushed harder, trying not to look at Lily. Sirius always knew exactly the most embarrassing thing to say.

“Yeah, shut up, Black,” Lily sighed, “Honestly you lot can’t even be nice to each other. Just because no girls would come near you with a five-foot barge pole—”

“I’ll have you know I was very recently engaged to be married,” Sirius replied, with a swish of his dark hair. James was snorting with laughter now, shoulders shaking.

“What else are you taking, Remus?” Lily asked, pointedly ignoring the other marauders.

“Care of Magical Creatures,” Remus sighed. He’d already had enough jokes about that from James and Sirius.

“Oooh!” Marlene turned around suddenly, “Me and Mary are taking that!”

“A-HA!” Sirius said again, even louder, and James completely fell apart.

Fortunately, the sorting began then and the hall fell silent. The ceremony was extremely dull unless you were involved in it, Remus found, and he struggled to hold back a yawn as the line of frightened first years gradually grew shorter, and the spaces at the top of the Gryffindor table filled up with new students. His attention wandered and he gazed over at the Slytherin table, where Narcissa was sitting at the far end, regal as a queen and looking much more cheerful than when he’d last seen her.

Regulus, now a second year, sat at the other end from his cousin, looking as bored as Remus felt. Then there was Snape, among the third year Slytherins, staring at Lily, as usual. He caught her eye once or twice and Remus saw her smile at him in her usual friendly way, but it didn’t seem to brighten Severus’s mood one bit. Only Lily could remain friends with someone that miserable, Remus thought to himself.

The feast, when it appeared, was as delicious and welcome as ever. Remus had his customary two helpings of everything, including pudding and once the meal was finished, Dumbledore gave his usual speech. For the past two years, Remus had switched off for this portion of the evening – being too full of good food and too sleepy from the long day to pay much attention. But something about the serious tone of the headmaster’s usually playful oration made him listen.

He saw that he was not the only one. There was a low, ominous muttering from the Slytherin table, particularly those in the upper years. The Gryffindors around Remus seemed to straighten up a little more, too.

“What was that all about?” Remus asked, as they left the hall for their dorms, Dumbledore’s confusing warnings ringing in his ears, “’Unity in the face of darkness,’ and all that?”

“Oh right, you won’t know…” James said, quietly. He looked at Sirius, who was scuffing his feet, hands in his pockets. “Tell you when we’re alone, ok?”

They waited to get that year’s password (‘Codswallop’) and headed straight up the stairs to their familiar dorm room. All of their beds were made, their trunks sitting by, and Remus felt a surge of happiness as he entered. Sirius began to unpack at once, pulling his beloved muggle records and books from James’s trunk. James only unpacked his broom, and began to polish it lovingly, sitting cross-legged on his bed.

“So?” Remus asked, impatiently, “The weird speech?”

“Oh, yeah,” James swallowed. He glanced at Sirius again, who appeared to be ignoring them. James sighed, running his hands through his hair. “It’s all politics, really.”

“Politics?” Remus groaned inwardly. He didn’t know much about muggle politics, let alone whatever went on in the wizarding world – other than the statute of secrecy, which they had covered in first year History. There was a referendum coming up about Britain joining the European Community – but that wasn’t for a few years, if Remus had understood the prime minister’s speeches correctly, and he couldn’t see how that affected wizards very much.

“Well, you know there are… um… well, dark wizards?”

“Yeah…” Remus tried to look knowledgeable. He remembered reading something briefly about Grindelwald, but they wouldn’t be studying that until their OWLs.

“There’s been a surge in dark magic lately, that’s all. And my dad told me… there’s some stuff going on at the ministry. Department heads pushing for stricter reforms against muggleborn wizards and… people who are different. Dad said it was nothing to worry about, just the usual old prejudices. But I s’pose Dumbledore thinks we need to be on our guard.”

“Mother and Father called a meeting.” Sirius said, suddenly. They both turned to look at him. He looked tormented, ashamed, and would not meet their eyes. “They wouldn’t let me in, obviously, but Reg went. They keep talking about this Dark Lord – I dunno, maybe a politician they want to back in the next election. All I know is if the Blacks are supporting him then he can’t be good.”

Even James didn’t have anything positive to say in light of this announcement. They were all quiet, until Peter spoke up.

“We’re at Hogwarts.” He said, “My mum always says Hogwarts is the safest place in Britain. And we’ve got Dumbledore.” He said firmly, settling the matter. “C’mon, Black, bet you’ve got another awful muggle record you’re just dying to assault our ears with.”

They all looked at Peter with mild surprise. Sirius grinned,

“Actually,” he said, dusting off his record player, “I have.”

Chapter Text

Friday 7th September 1973

By the end of his first week of third year, Remus felt like he needed another two months just to recover – and there hadn’t even been a full moon yet. He felt foolish for not considering that adding three extra subjects to his timetable would also increase his workload. But of course it did, and by the time Friday rolled around he felt weighted down by the amount of homework to be completed over the weekend.

“It’s not fair,” Peter whined, “This year was supposed to be fun, with Hogsmeade and everything.”

“We’ll still go to Hogsmeade, Peter,” James murmured over a complicated looking star chart.

“I’m with Pete,” Sirius groaned, screwing up his dream diary for Divination, “Let’s sack this off and go and use the quidditch pitch while it’s still light.”

James looked up, eagerly,

“Yeah, go on then.”

All three of them stood.

“No thanks,” Remus said, absentmindedly. He was actually quite enjoying his Transfiguration homework – an essay on bodily transformations. He was pretty good at basic modifications now, for covering up scars, and was able to answer the questions at length.

“Don’t fancy looking over my muggle studies, do you, Moony?” Sirius asked, matily. Remus raised his eyebrows.

“If I have time. James, Pete, want me to look at yours?”

“Thanks Remus!” Peter grinned, tying up his shoelaces.

“Nah,” James refused, “Thought I might ask Evans for a bit of help on it later.”

“Losing battle, mate,” Sirius counselled. “Dunno why you’re so hung up on her.”

James just shrugged, not looking at all discouraged.

Remus spent a satisfying hour or two by himself, completing the rest of his work for the week. He’d made a start on Potions, but thought it could bear leaving for a little bit longer – Peter could give him a hand in exchange for the muggle studies comprehension homework. They had double Potions on Mondays now, first thing – but thankfully no longer with the Slytherins. In fact, the only class they shared with Slytherin now was Arithmancy, and that wasn’t a practical subject, so there was much less space for open house-warfare.

Arithmancy was a real surprise to Remus – he had expected to fall behind Sirius and James, at least at first. But it appeared that this subject was down to logic, rather than magical ability, and Remus had found his first lesson to be shockingly straightforward. The homework, which he knew Sirius and James had not yet attempted, was to calculate their own heart and character numbers using the Agrippan method. This he actually found quite soothing, though he knew he would never admit it to anyone.

Herbology plodded along at its usual pace – Remus couldn’t pretend to be all that interested in it, but at least it wasn’t difficult. Astronomy was not his strongest subject either, but luckily Peter was generally so thrilled to be the only one who knew something that he gave Remus most of the answers for nothing.

Then there was his new favourite subject; Care of Magical Creatures, on Wednesdays and Thursdays. He wasn’t going to tell the others about that either – they already teased him for liking History so much, and for taking Runes. All good natured, of course – he made fun of them for doing Divination, which by the sounds of it was pretty dire.

He had read his copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them twice other the summer – it had been his favourite bedtime reading. The pictures and descriptions were so vivid they filled his dreams with the most spectacular images. There had been nothing in the set text – Remus was sure to check this – about werewolves. Fortunately, they weren’t considered in the same league as ‘magical creatures’, and it looked as though they weren’t going to be studying ‘half-humans’ until next year in Defence Against the Dark Arts.

“I hope we do unicorns,” Marlene sighed, leaning against the wall as they queued outside the classroom for their first lesson. “Something really nice, like that.”

Mary raised an eyebrow,

“I’d rather do dragons. Something a bit exciting!”

“I’m just glad we don’t have Kettleburn.” Marlene replied. This made Remus pay attention,

“Don’t we? Who’ve we got, then?”

“Weren’t you paying attention to Dumbledore at the feast?” Marlene looked at him disapprovingly. “Kettleburn’s off in Romania or Bulgaria or something, doing some work for the ministry. I dunno how useful he this, though, he’s not exactly in one piece...”

“So who’ve we got?”

“Whoever it is wasn’t at the feast,” Marlene shrugged, “But my timetable says ‘Professor L. Ferox’.”

As she said this, the classroom door opened and the fifth years ahead of them filed out, chatting animatedly. The Gryffindor third years went inside, and Remus took a desk by the window, next to Marlene. When the teacher emerged from his office, both Mary and Marlene – and, actually, every other girl in the class – sat up a little straighter.

He was a good deal younger than Kettleburn, who had been a bit grizzled, even in his middle age. Remus would have guessed this teacher to be in his early thirties. He still had all of his limbs, too, which was a definite plus. His hair was thick and sandy blond, long enough to reach hallway down his back. He wasn’t dressed in robes like most teachers, but practical, out-doorsy clothes and heavy brown leather boots. He had a slightly weather-beaten face, which served to give his strong features a kind of rugged appeal. His eyes were bright blue, and gleamed as he smiled warmly at the class,

“Good afternoon!” He boomed, in a gruff Liverpudlian accent. He clapped his large calloused hands together, “Welcome to your first year of Care of Magical Creatures. I’m Professor Ferox. You’ve all got the Scamander text, I hope?”

The class immediately pulled out their copies of Fantastic Beasts, along with parchment and quills, then looked up at him attentively. Professor Ferox continued to beam at them all.

“Excellent!” He continued, “A cracking read, as I’m sure some of you have already discovered. It gives you a nice, comprehensive guide to identifying and encountering most of the well-known magical creatures – but what it can’t give you – and what you’ll need to excel in this class – is quick thinking, cool-headedness, and nerves of steel.”

Some of the girls tittered at this, and Remus felt a flutter of excitement. See James, he thought ruefully, it’s not a girly subject. He wasn’t sure about the specifications, though. He had enough nerve, maybe – had to, after the summer he’d had – but cool-headedness was hardly one of his defining traits.

“Now,” Ferox clapped his hands together, as if eager to begin. He bent under his desk, “Look what I’ve got for you…” When he rubbed his palms the rough skin made a soft ‘shh’ sound – he obviously didn’t spend a lot of time inside, Remus thought to himself – Professor Ferox was clearly a man of action.

The teacher was now lifting a large wicker basket, setting it gently down on his desk. He opened it, and a large, furry creature stalked out. It was the biggest cat Remus had ever seen – with bushy silver fur patterned with dark spots, high pointed ears and a strange brush tail like a lion. It mewed, rather grumpily, then hopped up to sit on top of the basket so that it was almost eye level with Ferox. It glared imperiously down at the class, flicking it’s tail back and forth.

Professor Ferox stroked a long finger down the animal’s back, which it appeared to tolerate, blinking slowly.

“Can anyone tell me what sort of creature Achilles here is?”

“It’s a cat.” Mary said, bluntly, without raising her hand.

Ferox laughed cheerily,

“A common mistake, Miss…?”

“Macdonald. Mary Macdonald.”

“Miss Macdonald. No, Achilles is not a cat – though they are often interbred.”

“Ooh!” A Ravenclaw boy at the back of the room raised his hand,

“Yes, Mr…?”

“Stan Brooks, sir. Is it a kneazle, sir?”

“Five points to Ravenclaw!” Ferox nodded enthusiastically, “Achilles is a kneazle.”

Remus sighed, inwardly. He knew that – he ought to have known it, anyway, he could remember reading about the tail. Mentally he struck ‘quick thinking’ off the list of Ferox’s requirements. Hoping to show the professor that he was at least eager to learn, Remus began to take notes as Ferox spoke, still stroking Achilles absentmindedly.

“You can always identify a kneazle by its cat-like appearance, high level of intelligence, speckled fur and plumed tail,” the teacher said, indicating these features lovingly, “They are classified XXX by the ministry of magic – can anyone tell me what that means?”

Remus’s hand shot up, this time, but so did Marlene’s. Ferox picked her, asking her name as he did so.

“Marlene McKinnon,” She smiled up at him, “Sir. XXX classified creatures are not recommended for domestication, but should not prove difficult for a qualified wizard to handle.”

“Excellent. Five points to Gryffindor.” Ferox tipped his head.

Remus fumed, silently. She’d read that straight from the book. Ferox carried on, “We will be focussing on XXX classified creatures for the rest of the year. Now, while it’s true that kneazles are not recommended as pets – this is not because they are dangerous. In fact, anyone who tells you they’re dangerous has likely found themselves on the wrong side of one, and should not be trusted. Can anyone tell me why?”

Remus’s hand flew up again – it was all coming back to him now. But Ferox picked another Ravenclaw, this time.

“Because they can detect suspicious people.” Davy Kirk piped up, earning another five points for Ravenclaw.

“Absolutely.” The Professor smiled, “Kneazles are excellent judges of characters, and will react fiercely to anyone untrustworthy. As such, the ministry requires kneazle owners to hold the proper licence and have undergone certain proficiency tests. But as you can see,” he stroked Achilles once more. The silver cat had barely moved a muscle, except to survey the class, “They do make wonderful pets, as long as they are shown proper respect and care.”

“Is he yours then, professor?” Mary asked, batting her eyelashes flirtatiously, “He’s lovely.”

“He is indeed,” Ferox replied, “If you’re all careful and don’t crowd him, Achilles will probably let you stroke him. Line up, class.”

There was a general murmuring and scraping of chairs as everyone got to their feet and formed a queue. Remus made sure he was at the very back, so that maybe the lesson would end before he got to the front. Achilles was sure to hate him – werewolves were the very definition of untrustworthy.

“Approach him slowly, and don’t avoid eye contact. If he tries to go for you he’ll use his claws, so keep alert… there we go, he’ll let you stroke him now, nice and gently…”

As the queue shortened, the professor continued talking, giving them encouragement and interesting facts, interwoven with his own anecdotes. Remus didn’t know what Ferox had done before becoming a teacher, but he’d certainly had some adventures – travelled everywhere, it sounded like.

Finally, Remus was at the front of the queue. He felt frozen to the spot, looking at the yellow eyed animal nervously,

“Come on then – what was your name?” Professor Ferox beckoned him forward. Remus didn’t move.

“Remus Lupin. I’m not… um… cats don’t tend to like me.” He mumbled.

“Achilles is not a cat.” The teacher said, still smiling. “Come on Lupin, up you come.”

Remus sighed heavily and approached. He didn’t want someone as cool as Ferox to think he was a wuss. Achilles watched him walk forward. It did look very intelligent, there was something in the eyes, even though it had a very ugly snubbed nose. He reached his hand out, allowing the kneazle to sniff at him. Its claws weren’t out, but Remus was willing to bet they were very long and very sharp. He’d been scratched by cats before and had never really liked them.  “Very good,” Professor Ferox was saying, “Now, a bit closer and give him a stroke, go on.”

Swallowing hard, Remus obeyed, ready to jump back if he had to. But Achilles did not need to mind that he was a werewolf. Instead, he actually began to purr as Remus rubbed him tentatively behind the ear, closing its eyes and looking completely docile. “There we are!” Professor Ferox cheered, delighted, “Excellent judges of character, kneazles. Now, we haven’t long left, so if you’ll all just make a note of the homework…”   

Remus stroked Achilles for a little bit longer. The creature seemed to be enjoying it so much that he felt bad for stopping.

“That was good, wasn’t it?” Marlene chatted, as they left their first lesson, “I hope he always brings things in for us to look at.”

“Not going to be very practical when we get to the XXXXX creatures.” Remus said.

“Maybe he’ll bring Achilles in again, though,” Marlene replied, hopefully.

“Who cares about his cat!” Mary nudged her, “He’s bloody gorgeous.”

“Yeah,” Marlene giggled, “I wonder if he’s single?”

Remus sighed, and began to lag behind the girls. They were a nightmare when they got onto the topic of boys, and it was best to stay out of their way before they started waxing lyrical about James and Sirius. He began to daydream as they meandered in the direction of the great hall for lunch.

It had been a better lesson than he’d expected, and even though Ferox hadn’t given him any house points, he had essentially said that Remus had a trustworthy character. No one had ever said anything like that before, and it made him feel unusually pleased with himself, a peaceful feeling that carried on through lunch, into their Potions lesson later that day, and was still going strong that night as he drifted off to sleep. He dreamed of lions.  

Chapter Text

Wednesday 12th September 1973

“Ugh, go back to bed, Lupin!” Sirius threw a shoe at him from his bed.

“Sorry!” Remus cringed, guiltily, as he quickly pulled the curtains shut, throwing the room back into darkness. It was 5AM, and he was awake. More awake than he’d ever felt in his life.

He crept downstairs, not wanting to disturb anyone else, clutching a shoebox under one arm. With a brand new book to read, Remus set up camp in the most comfortable armchair in the deserted common room. He often came down early, on mornings like this, when his body simply refused to sleep and he had so much energy he thought he could run laps around the castle without breaking a sweat. Remus had never actually tried this – if anything, he tried to push the strange urge away, lock it up and focus on his mind instead.

Still, he struggled to concentrate on his book. He thought about going for a walk, but they weren’t really allowed out of bounds until breakfast began at six. Ugh, he had to try not to think about breakfast, or his stomach would start growling. Never mind that he’d had three helpings of mashed potato with his beef stew last night. Even Peter had looked impressed.

Even if it was time for breakfast, he’d said he would be in the common room for an hour from six thirty onwards. This was the ideal time, he had decided – no one expected you to be up to anything nefarious that early in the morning, and the other marauders typically didn’t get up until seven thirty, even on weekdays. Sirius would stay in bed longer if he possibly could. James sometimes got up for an early morning broom practice, but not usually until after seven.

Remus looked down at the shoebox in his lap. He could cast a quick misdirection charm if James came down sooner than expected, that wouldn’t be too difficult. Mind you, the state his magic was in at the moment he’d better not do it while the box was in his lap – or he ran the risk of vanishing something much more vital. He’d already been to Madam Pomfrey once this term, attempting to grow his hair out in Transfiguration. He’d needed Peter and James to help him carry his rapidly growing locks to the hospital wing – Sirius had been laughing too hard to be of any use at all.

Remus experimented levitating his book, but it shot up to the ceiling, smacking it hard before plummeting towards the floor. He sighed. He could do nothing but sit still and wait, it seemed. He wished he could have the record player on – Sirius had left it in the common room along with his newest albums from Andromeda – Aladdin Sane, and Led Zeppelin IV. Sirius had been listening to ‘Black Dog’ on repeat for weeks now.

Remus opened the shoe box and took a quick inventory, though it was unnecessary; this would be his first sale. If anyone came. He’d spoken to a few fifth years he’d seen smoking the year before, and got them interested. They seemed to be under some impression that ‘muggle fags’ were somehow more potent, or maybe just more exotic than wizarding ones. He did nothing to discourage the idea, and told them to spread the word.

Sirius had once obtained an exhaustive list of all the Hogwarts school rules, suggesting that they attempt to break every one before they reached seventh year. Remus read through it and had found nothing that mentioned tobacco trafficking. Not if you took the language very literally, anyway. Besides, it wasn’t going to be a regular thing – he only had the stuff he’d brought with him.

He had planned to give it all a bit more thought, to wait until after the full moon, but then he found out that their first Hogsmeade weekend was coming up on the 15th and he’d decided he needed to get a move on.  

Sirius and James had already planned the trip out in full, without consulting Peter or Remus, who were just happy to trail after them as usual. Honeyduke’s, obviously, and Zonko’s to stock up on dung bombs. Then the shrieking shack, because James’s dad didn’t believe it was haunted, which meant James didn’t either, and Sirius wanted to prove them both wrong. Then they were very keen to have Remus try something called butterbeer.

Remus had his own plans. He was going to tell them that a long-lost aunt had died, and left him a very small amount of money. This would hopefully be enough of an explanation to satisfy James, who was certain to ask where Remus had acquired his newfound wealth. Remus felt sure that petty crime, even in the muggle world, was not something James took lightly. Sirius might shrug it off, having little regard for rules in any setting – but he would probably also try to lend Remus some of his own money, which defeated the whole point.

“Lupin? That you?”

A sixth year had come down the stairs from the boy’s dormitories, still looking bleary eyed, clutching a NEWT textbook.

“Yeah,” Remus sat up straighter in the armchair, roused from his daydream.

“Great, um… did you say five sickles for a pack of twenty?”

“That’s right.” Remus opened his box, quickly, gesturing the sixth year over.

They made the swap and the sixth year scurried out of the portrait hole, probably off for a morning fag before the library. The little silver coins rattled heavy in Remus’s hand and he grinned to himself. He was selling everything for twice the market rate, but if people were willing to pay…

He made two more sales to some fifth years, and to a seventh year girl who bought a packet of loose tobacco and asked if he had anything ‘more fun’ for sale. He was a bit confused by what she meant. And just repeated that he only had pre-rolled and loose. She shrugged,

“I’ll ask Martha Ebhurst in Hufflepuff, she’s usually got good stuff.”

Remus nodded, still not really sure what she meant. Either way, it appeared that he was not the only student in school with an entrepreneurial mind.   

By quarter past seven, Remus’s shoebox was half empty and his pockets jangling. Deeply satisfied, he packed everything away as the common room filled up with students beginning their days.

“Wotcher Remu,” James came bounding down the stairs, broom in hand, just as Remus was heading up them, “You’re up early.”

“Yeah, couldn’t sleep.” Remus replied evasively. Fortunately, James was eager to get out to the quidditch pitch and didn’t pay any attention to the shoebox, or the strange clinking sound Remus’s robes were making.

“See you for lunch?” He called, already hallway across the room,

“Yep.” Remus nodded, hurrying on his way back upstairs.

In the dorm room, Peter was in the shower and Sirius was still asleep, covers thrown over his head, the only part of him visible was his black hair spilling out on the white pillow. Remus crept silently over to his bed and deposited his money and his goods, before collecting together his books for the day.

James had obviously yanked back the curtains before leaving, and – Remus thought with some annoyance – had not received the same rebuke from Sirius that he had. There was enough light for him to neatly sort through his homework and carefully stow it in his bag. He’d done all the work that was due for the next few days, unsure how much time Madam Pomfrey would make him stay off lessons. He hoped not too long – he’d asked James to make a note of the homework for their shared classes, but he’d be missing Care of Magical Creatures and Runes too. He couldn’t very well ask any of the girls to get the right notes for him, not without them asking where he’d be.

His stomach rumbled again. He wondered if James was having breakfast right now. Potter often ate food on the go, always rushing off to one place or another. The bathroom door creaked open and Peter peered around the door, hair still wet and cheeks pink from the shower. He waved, and mouthed ‘morning, Moony’. Remus raised a hand in response.

Peter looked at Sirius – who was still just a lump in the duvet – anxiously, before tiptoeing carefully over to his own bed to fetch his tie. Remus watched with some amusement as Peter attempted to gather his things without making so much as a sound. There was a fine line, Remus thought, between showing respect for your dorm mates sleeping habits, and just being a complete and utter wuss.

It was mean of him, but Remus was feeling particularly wicked, that morning. Blame it on the moon. He pulled his wand slowly from his pocket, and waved it very slightly, whispering under his breath.

In an instant, Peter’s book bag slid off the end of his bed, landing with a heavy thud which reverberated off the bedroom’s stone walls, rattling the window panes. Wide eyed, Peter froze, going pale. He shot a look at Sirius, who was stirring, and practically fled from the room, leaving his tie behind.

Remus wheezed with laughter, having to sit down on his own bed, clutching his stomach. When he opened his eyes, still catching his breath, Sirius was wide awake, still lying in bed, propped up on one elbow, staring at Remus as if he was mad.

“You did that on purpose, didn’t you?”

Remus shrugged and nodded, standing up again and returning to his pile of homework. Sirius threw a pillow at him.

“Knob.”

“What? Pete looked like such a prat tiptoeing around you, couldn’t help myself.”

“Not very gallant of you, picking on the weak, Moony,” Sirius yawned and stretched.

“He’s fine,” Remus waved a dismissive hand, “I’ll take him his tie. Anyway, someone had to get you up, c’mon, it’s breakfast.”

Sirius yawned again.

“Bring me something up.”

“No.”

“James would,” Sirius whined.

“James isn’t here.”

Peter would.”

“As we’ve established,” Remus said, hoisting his book bag up onto his shoulder, “Peter’s a coward.”

Sirius groaned and leaned back.

“Fine, I’ll get up. Wait for me?”

“I’m hungry.” Remus complained.

“I won’t take long! Just treat is as penance for waking me up.”

“You threw a shoe at me, this morning.”

“Did I hit you?”

“No.”

“Well then.” Sirius got out of bed, grabbing his uniform. “Serves you right anyway, getting up at stupid o’clock.”

“Couldn’t sleep.” Remus said, “I think it’s the moon.”

Sirius stopped outside the bathroom door. He looked at Remus with something a bit like pity – if Sirius Black even had it in him to feel sorry for anyone but himself. Remus regretted saying anything – he didn’t want pity, he rarely brought up the full moon for exactly that reason.

“Sorry, Lupin.” Sirius said, “Is it… I mean, do you worry about it?”

“No, it’s not like that,” Remus said, hurriedly, “I just get restless. Hungry too, so hurry up.” He laughed, lightly, to show that everything was fine. Sirius smirked, disappearing into the bathroom.

“You ought to be grateful, Moony,” he called from inside, turning on the shower, “Not many Gryffindor’s would be able to lie-in when they know they’re sharing a room with a restless werewolf.”

“Wanker.” Remus called back.

* * *

Thursday 13th September 1973

He woke up upstairs, which was unusual. There were mice in the house, he knew that because he often saw them before he transformed. Perhaps once he turned he chased them, but he didn’t think he ever caught any. Three of his fingers were broken, but at least his shoulders hadn’t dislocated – that had already happened twice this year.

Before moving, Remus made a series of mental checks from top to toe. What hurt? How much did it hurt? Was he numb anywhere? Did all his limbs move when he wanted them too? No, it seemed all right. A few scratches, none too deep. He’d got off easily. Perhaps the wolf was happy to be back at Hogwarts too.

He got up from the floor and limped over to the window. Sometimes his knees got a bit out of joint, but this morning they were only sore. He tried to squint through the gaps in the boards, but it was no good. The house was sealed up tight.

“Remus, dear?” Madam Pomfrey’s voice drifted up the stairs,

“Coming,” he croaked back, hoarsely. His clothes were downstairs, so he ripped an old blanket from the bed with his good hand and wrapped it around himself. It smelled of mildew and dead things.

* * *

“What have I told you boys? He can’t have visitors on the first day!” Madam Pomfrey’s scolding interrupted his dreams. Remus blinked, yawning. The hospital was dimly lit, curtains drawn. It must be evening already. His stomach grumbled. He wondered if he’d eaten anything yet, or if the nurse had let him sleep instead. He lost so much time, after a transformation – like his bones, nothing seemed to fit together quite right.

“It’s been almost a day,” Peter’s voice now. “We brought him chocolate.”

“Well that’s very nice of you, dear,” Madam Pomfrey’s voice softened a little. She wasn’t a natural disciplinarian. “But Mr Lupin is sleep—”

“I’d love some chocolate,” he called out, hoping they could hear him. His throat felt raw.

The curtain whipped back to reveal Peter, James and Sirius standing there, looking triumphant.

“Hiya, Moony!” James and Sirius chorused, plonking themselves down at the end of the bed, either side of his ankles.

“Here you go,” Peter dropped three chocolate frogs into his lap.

“Cheers!”

“Well if you’re up anyway,” Madam Pomfrey sighed, “I’ll go and fetch you some proper food. Half an hour, boys, that’s all.”

“Here’s your homework, you big weirdo.” James pulled some parchment from his bag, handing it over,

“Thanks James, you’re a lifesaver.” Remus put it on his bedside table for later.

“And here’s the rest of it,” Sirius handed him some more. “I had to wait outside your Care of Magical Creatures class for half of lunch, so you’d better get top marks on that.”

“You did?!” Remus stared at Sirius, amazed. Sirius nodded, imperiously,

“I did. Got to say, too, bit jealous of you. Looks like a really interesting subject, wish I wasn’t stuck doing Divination.”

“But what about me?!” James said, gasping dramatically.

“I see plenty of you.” Sirius retorted, giving him a shove.

“Such a fickle heart.” James sighed, making large eyes at Sirius, so that Peter began to giggle uncontrollably. Sirius shoved James again, and James leapt at him, pulling him into a headlock and tussling Sirius’s hair.

“Oi, Moony,” Peter said, suddenly, “Arbella Fenchurch gave me this for you,” he set down a handful of sickles. “She said you knew what it was for?”

“Er… yeah, cheers Pete.” Remus hurriedly tried to gather up the coins and hide them under his pillow. “I um… I had this chocolate frog card she really wanted. Aglaonike of Thessaly.”

“Oh I wanted that one!” Peter looked hurt. Remus shrugged,

“Sorry mate. Money talks.”

Chapter Text

Saturday 15th September 1972

“Pack your cloak, James.”

“Why?”

“You never know, do you?”

“Fine, but I doubt we’ll want it.”

“Don’t forget you owe me a galleon on that bet we had.”

“I haven’t,” James returned, patiently, “Just relax for a minute, will you?”

“Never.” Sirius grinned back, “You do realise that this is the most excitement I’ve had in months? I wasn’t even allowed to go to Diagon Alley this summer.”

“You had more going on than I did,” James replied, resentfully, “You at least had all that betrothal drama. My family’s so boring.”

“Shut up, Potter, your family’s amazing and you know it. I definitely had the worst summer.”

“I had a great time in France.” Peter piped up, but no one paid him much attention.

“What about you, Moony?” James asked, as they wended their way down the stairs into the common room. A gang of excited third years was waiting, ready for their first trip to the village. They were watched over with a fond sort of nostalgia by the older students.

“What about me?” Remus asked, pushing away flashbacks to the summer, the memory of wriggling through a tiny bathroom window and landing hard on his knees on the tile below.

“How was your summer? You haven’t told us anything.”

“Nothing to tell.” Remus said. “More boring than both of yours – no magic. I just read.”

“Well you’re all coming to mine for Christmas.” James said, cheerfully. They began to file out of the common room and head towards the front entrance. “Same as last year, yeah? Moon’s on the tenth of December, so we don’t even have to worry about that.”

Remus gaped,

“How do you know when it is?” He hadn’t even looked that far ahead yet.

“Told you, we were bored other the summer,” Sirius elbowed him, “We looked it up, for the next few years.”

“But… why?!” Remus was torn between feeling very touched, and somewhat violated. It wasn’t for them to worry about. It was his own private problem, and always had been.

“It’s like quidditch.” James said – whenever anything was important to him he compared it to quidditch -- “You’ve got to know your team’s weaknesses in order to work to their strengths.”

“If you say so.” Remus replied, glumly, not wanting to talk about it much more. He had hoped that once they knew about his condition there would be no more researching it behind his back. That they could all just get on with things in the way he preferred – which was to ignore the problem completely.

The trouble was, nothing was private when it came to James and Sirius – your whole life was up for grabs. Remus still wasn’t used to this – as hard as he tried to keep up, there were just some things he would never want to share. It was all very well if you were James, and had open parents who talked to you and listened to you in return. Or Sirius, who was so outgoing and almost entirely shameless.

“Look who it is,” Sirius nudged James, pointing at a dark figure waiting in the archway entrance. Lily pushed past the marauders and went to meet him. Snape.

“Why are they even friends?!” James ran his hands through his hair distractedly.

“They grew up in the same town,” Remus said, as they carried on, watching the couple ahead, talking animatedly; one red head, one black.

“How’d you know?” James rounded on him, looking affronted.

“She told me.”

“You fancy her, then?” James asked, clearly struggling to know how to react. Remus rolled his eyes,

No. We just chat.” he said, firmly. “And if you fancy her, then you might want to try it.”

He’d noticed this sort of talk creeping into their conversations lately. Sometimes he had to double check he was talking to the marauders and not Marlene and Mary – ‘he fancies her’, ‘she fancies so-and-so,’ – and on and on. To make matters worse, Avni Chaudhry, a Gryffindor third year, was now going out with Ravenclaw fourth year Matthew Studt, and no one had talked about anything else for days; everyone seemed to have an opinion on it. It was mind numbingly boring stuff to Remus, for whom (aside from a few exceptions) girls were still generally incomprehensible.

“She likes you, though.” James said. “You did all your revision together last term.”

“Only because you lot couldn’t be arsed,” Remus replied defensively. They were approaching the town now, a cluster of pretty stone buildings sat just below them. “And it’s not like we were alone, Mary and Marlene were there too.”

“We all need to take notes from Moony,” Sirius teased, “Birds follow him everywhere. How’d you do it, Lupin? Those big brown eyes of yours?”

James and Peter snickered, but Remus ignored him, walking a little bit ahead, hands in his pockets, still limping slightly from his last transformation.  That was an utterly ridiculous suggestion, especially when it was obvious to anyone with eyes that Sirius was the best-looking boy in the year.

It was clearer than ever, now that they were all getting taller, growing from childhood into adolescence. James had a certain amount of swagger; that came with wealth and skill on the quidditch pitch, but Sirius was always going to be in another league entirely. Remus hadn’t decided whether to be jealous about it or not, and tried not to think about it too much.

When they finally reached Hogsmeade, Remus could not be more relieved. The village looked like the sort of place Remus had previously thought only existed in children’s books. The cobbled streets gleamed in the yellow mid-September sunshine, and the higgledy-piggledy rows of black beamed Tudor cottages might as well have been made of gingerbread and spun sugar.

“Honeyduke’s?” James said.

“Honeyduke’s.” The others responded, in unison.

Remus had never entered the sweet shop through the front door before, nor had he ever been on the shop floor. It was packed to the rafters with boxes, jars and bags of every kind of confection imaginable. Great trees of brightly coloured lollipops, as large as pinwheels, slabs of chocolate the size of paving stones; piles and piles of glittering sugar mice. 

The shop was also packed with Hogwarts students, and the marauders had to push and squeeze to even get close to the goods. They filled their basket with enough sweets to last them until Christmas, at least, before queuing for the till, manned by a very harassed looking wizard with white hair. Remus realised that this was probably Mr Honeyduke, and wondered whether the shopkeeper knew there was a secret tunnel in his cellar.

After that, their next stop was Zonko’s, the joke shop, which was just as busy as Honeyduke’s, and one of the noisiest places Remus had ever been. Every few seconds something seemed to explode, pop, or start whistling somewhere in the shop, accompanied by the delighted laughter or horrified shrieks of students. James and Sirius were clearly old hands at practical joke shopping, and made an efficient sweep of the premises, weighing up the benefits and downsides of each contraption like a pair of bankers at the stock exchange. Half an hour later and they were finally leaving, weighted down with bags full of dungbombs, trick wands, exploding inkwells, hiccup sweets and bars of frog spawn soap. 

Remus thought they had perhaps been a little short-sighted doing all their shopping first, because next James and Sirius wanted to visit the Shrieking Shack, which meant leaving the main high street and facing an uphill climb, goods in tow.

“So, what is this place, again?” Remus huffed as he struggled up the hill, his knee and hip still bothering him.

“Haunted house,” James replied, taking two of Remus’s heaviest shopping bags from him without a word. “Most haunted place in Britain, dad says.”

“It’s not haunted!” Sirius called from up ahead, “You Potters are just superstitious.”

“I heard that the ghosts there are really nasty,” Peter said, anxiously, struggling almost as much as Remus was with the steep incline. “Worse than Peeves.”

“Are they poltergeists, then?” Remus asked, curious – he’d been planning to do some reading about spirituous apparitions when he got the chance, after learning that it had been his father’s main area of study.

“Think so,” James said, “The locals say they hear screaming coming from the house some nights.”

“Only for a few years, though,” Sirius countered, “Poltergeists don’t just move in at a moment’s notice. There would have to be decades and decades of disturbance and negative energy building up to—”

“Oh my god.”

Lupin stopped still and almost dropped the bags he was still holding. He had looked up at the house for the first time, and a cold chill struck the pit of his stomach.

“What’s up Moony? Want me to take your other bags?” James was asking.

Remus shook his head, speechless, he couldn’t tear his eyes away. He’d never seen it from the outside before; they always came through the tunnel. But he knew the shade of the wood, he knew what the boarded windows looked like.

“Bloody hell, if it is haunted, then I think Moony’s been possessed.” Sirius said, sounding like he was only half-joking. “Oi, Lupin. You’re being weird, stop it.”

“That’s…” Remus struggled to find the words. He closed his eyes and tried to take a few breaths. “That’s the house. Where they put me.”

James seemed to understand at once, and put a hand on Remus’s shoulder in a brotherly sort of way.

“Ok, c’mon, it’s time to go.” He said.

No one said anything as they began to trudge back downhill, towards the town. Remus looked at the ground ahead the whole time, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other and getting as far away from the shack as he could. The Shrieking Shack. Shrieking. He felt sick. James steered them in the direction of a quaint looking pub. Inside there were lots of tables and comfortable chairs, not a far cry from the Gryffindor common room. They found seats in a quiet corner, and Remus sat, gratefully, his joints very sore now. James went to the bar, and Sirius and Peter sat quietly either side of Remus.

“So… on the full moon, that’s where you go?” Peter asked. Remus nodded, fiddling with a damp beer mat on the table. “It’s not haunted, then?” Peter continued.

“Nope. Just me.”

“So, wait, the shrieking is…”

“Me.”

“But why—”

“Shut up, Pettigrew.” Sirius snarled, suddenly. Remus looked at him, taken aback.

James returned with four bottles of amber liquid and set them down, taking his own seat.

“Butterbeer!” He said, brightly, pushing one towards Remus, “Try it, Moony, you’ll love it.”

Remus raised the glass to his lips. He was still feeling a bit queasy, and the concoction in the bottle smelled very syrupy – but he found that sweet things usually helped if he’d had a shock. He took a sip, and felt instantly warmed by the delicious liquid. He smiled at James, hoping they wouldn’t ask any more questions.

They didn’t. Instead they spent a very pleasant afternoon drinking butterbeer and planning how best to utilise their new practical joke arsenal. Peter had the unusually brilliant idea of casting a remote timer spell on the dungbombs, so that they could be triggered at anytime from anywhere in the castle.

“Excellent diversionary tactic,” James exclaimed, excited, “Think of what we could get away with if Filch was chasing dung bombs on the opposite side of the building!”

“Give us time to work on the map a bit more, too.” Remus added.

“You’re not seeing the big picture.” Sirius folded his arms, leaning back on his chair. “We could set them all to go off at the same time. Imagine! We’ve probably got enough here to hide one in every classroom – total chaos!” Sirius looked so enraptured when he said this, that the other three were completely taken in, nodding furiously.

“Oh, let’s not sit here, Lily, it doesn’t look very clean.” A nasty, bitter voice interrupted them, “They allow in all sorts, clearly.”

Sirius snapped forward on his chair, glaring at Snape, who was hovering next to a nearby table.

“Don’t be silly, Sev, it’s fine.” Lily shook her head, pulling out a seat.

“Alright, Evans?” James waved at her, compulsively, getting that stupid look on his face.

“Leave us alone, will you, Potter?” Lily tossed her hair, “Hiya, Remus.”

“Hi,” he waved at her, grinning. He couldn’t help enjoying the way she treated the marauders, she was the only one who didn’t fawn over them.

“Eurgh,” Sirius said, holding his nose, looking at Snape, “What is that smell? Potter, did you trail something in on your shoe?”

James sniggered,

“Smells more like a dung bomb’s gone off.”

“Disgusting,” Sirius smirked, “Maybe we should open a window.”

Snape had gone white with rage. Lily put a hand on his arm,

“Just ignore them, Sev, they’re idiots.”

But Severus would not let Sirius have the last word.

“How’s the family, Black?” He asked, his voice wheedling, insidious. Sirius’s mouth formed a hard line. Snape continued, “Regulus was telling everyone you had quite an exciting summer. So exciting, in fact, that you’re no longer welcome back, hm?”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Snivellus.” Sirius spat. Remus knew that it was too late now – Sirius had engaged, and there would be no going back.

“Don’t I?” Snape raised an eyebrow, clearly thrilled at the reaction he had elicited. “Had any post from mummy this year, Black? Heard anything at all from any of your relatives?”

Sirius had a very odd look on his face. Remus had the impression that he was realising something for the first time, and trying not to let Severus see it. James looked concerned, no longer laughing.

“Ignore him, mate,” he said, quietly, “He’s a prick, ignore him.”

“I’m right, then,” Severus’s thin lips curved into a nasty smile, “No wonder you follow Potter around like a lovesick girl, when your own family don’t want anything to do with you. When you’ve been disowned like that, I suppose all that’s left is to associate with the dregs of society…” He cast his black-eyed gaze over Peter and Remus.

Sirius stood up, knocking his chair back. His wand was in his hand; he must have reached for it while Snape was talking. Remus stood too, his aching bones forgotten as he clenched his fists, ready to beat Severus senseless, if Sirius gave the word.

“Sirius, don’t!” James went to snatch his wand away – they weren’t allowed to perform magic in Hogsmeade.

“C’mon, Severus, let’s go,” Lily had stood up too and was tugging her friend’s sleeve. She looked furious with him, which was a small comfort to Remus.

“No.” Sirius said, his voice unnervingly steady and authoritative. “We’re leaving. C’mon, lads, I can’t take this stench much longer.”

They did as ordered, even James, who only threw one longing look back at Lily on their way out.

“That was… really mature,” Potter said, scratching his head as they stepped out of the pub into the warm evening light. Sirius snorted, starting off back to Hogwarts.

“It’s not over.” He said, fiercely, the others jogging to catch up with his purposeful strides. “I’ll show him. I’ll bloody destroy him!”

The marauders were at war.

Chapter Text

Cold fire, you've got everything but cold fire
You will be my rest and peace, child
I moved up to take a place
Near you

So tired, it's the sky that makes you feel tried
It's a trick to make you see wide
It can all but break your heart.

 

Saturday 15th September 1973

*Knock knock*

“Sirius.”

Nothing.

*KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK*

“Sirius?”

Silence.

“Oh, for the love of… Sirius Orion Black the Third, I know you’re in there!” James hammered on the door.

“Piss off, Potter.”

James stepped back from the bathroom door and sat on his bed, looking dejected. Sirius had not joined them for dinner, and had been locked in the bathroom now for two hours, without making a sound.

“Leave him alone,” Remus said, turning the page of his book. He lay belly down on his own bed, pretending he wasn’t at all concerned. “He’ll come out when he’s ready.”

That was something he’d often heard Matron say. At least once a week, one of the St Edmund’s boys – usually a new kid – had a tantrum and locked himself in a room, or crawled into some small space so no one could reach him. The response from staff was always the same; ignore it until he realises no one cares; until he realises that nothing he can do will make a difference. It always worked, Remus knew this first hand.

“It’s not like him,” James said, obviously disregarding Remus’s draconian tactic. “I could kill Snape, y’know. For saying that stuff.”

Remus shrugged,

“Black already hates his family, though. I dunno why he lets Snivellus bother him about it.”

James stared at Remus, dumbfounded, as if he had just said something unimaginably cruel.

“They’re still his family, Moony.”

“They’re horrible to him.”

“Doesn’t mean he doesn’t care what they think.” James sighed. “Look, Lupin, maybe you’d better go before he comes out. Go and find Pete in the library or something.”

“I’m Sirius’s friend too!” Remus sat up, indignantly.

“Yeah, yeah, of course you are,” James waved a hand, “But well… if he’s been crying, I think he’d rather no one else saw.”

“I don’t care if he’s crying. I want to help.”

This was a bit of a lie. Remus had always felt uncomfortable around crying people – he never knew what to do with himself. But he really did want to help, too. Hadn’t he always tried to help?

More than ever Remus wanted to come clean about having prompted Narcissa into the unbreakable vow, just to see James’s face. But he calmed himself. It wasn’t a competition, and even if it was, it wasn’t one he would win.

“Ok,” James said, “but you have to be understanding about it. You can’t start a fight.”

“What are you talking about?” Remus was mortally offended. He never started fights.

“You two! You’re always bickering, I swear.”

“We do not bicker.” Remus snapped. James just raised his eyebrows, which was infuriating.

The dark-haired boy hopped off the bed once more and went back to the bathroom door.

“Sirius?” He knocked, “Please come out and talk to us?”

“Get lost, Potter, leave me alone.”

James sighed again. Remus, annoyed with James now just as much as he was annoyed with Sirius, got up too, and strode over to the door. Indicating for James to move, he rapped hard on the wood himself.

“I said piss o—”

“Sirius, it’s me.” Remus said, his voice hard and cold, like Matron’s. “Look, if you’re going to mope about like a big jessie then at least let us in so we can start planning our revenge?”

Silence.

Remus tutted, “Fine, sulk. But you’re being a selfish git. You know, you’re not the only one whose family hates you.”

Remus!” James exclaimed, scandalised. Remus shrugged. It was worth a try.

There was a shuffling noise inside the bathroom. Remus pressed his ear to the door, then reeled back as it opened. Sirius’s gloomy face peered out.

“Finally,” James said, relieved, “Look, come out and—”

“Moony can come in.” Sirius said, opening the door just wide enough for Remus to squeeze inside, then slamming it back and fixing the lock.

It was dark inside.

Lumos,” Remus muttered. His wand point lit up, casting a pale glow over the small white room, and Sirius’s pale face. He had been crying, his eyes were dark and red. Remus looked away quickly, glancing up at the light fittings. The bulbs were smashed. He tutted, “You and your temper, eh?” He said, “Reparo.”

The lights mended and flickered back on. Remus extinguished his wand light.

“Didn’t do it on purpose,” Sirius sniffed, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. It was a sullen, childish gesture, somehow inappropriate for Sirius who was, even at thirteen, usually the epitome of grace and poise. “I still smash stuff sometimes, when I’m angry. My magic gets out of whack.”

“Oh right,” Remus nodded, though he’d never heard of that before.

“So, revenge?” Sirius asked, sitting down on the toilet lid and looking at Remus expectantly.

“Revenge.” Remus agreed, “What’d you want to do to him?”

“Not just him.” Sirius glowered, “All of them. Every single Slytherin in the school.”

Remus nodded enthusiastically – that sounded a bit bonkers, but it was a start. There would be time to talk him down later, when he was acting less weird and wasn’t in danger of blowing up any more lightbulbs.

“Yeah, we’ll get ‘em all, Black. Now c’mon, let’s go and—”

“I’m not coming out yet.” Sirius said, sulkily, crossing his arms. Remus sighed. He sat on the floor, leaning against the door.

“Ok, fine. Want to talk about it? Because James is probably the best person to—”

“Did you mean what you just said?” Sirius interrupted him again, “Do you think my family hates me?”

“Oh god, I dunno, do I? I’m not exactly an authority on families.” Remus rubbed the back of his head. “I was just trying to get you to open the door, to be honest.”

He’d meant it as a joke, but Sirius didn’t smile. He looked down at Remus through a curtain of dark hair.

“You said your family hates you.”

“Well I s’pose they must have,” Remus explained. “Otherwise they wouldn’t… well, I wouldn’t have been sent to St Edmund’s, would I?”

“Doesn’t mean they hated you.”

“No.” Remus reflected, “But I don’t think they can have liked me very much, all the same.”

“You’re not… I mean, it doesn’t bother you?”

Remus shrugged,

“Sometimes, obviously. But, y’know. No one’s entitled to a happy life.” Matron had said that many times. For the first time, saying it out loud, Remus wondered if she was entirely right.

“Blimey, Lupin, you’re a right downer, you know that?”

“You let me in.” Remus kicked Sirius lightly in the shin with the toe of his trainer. “If you want cheering up then I’ll get Potter.”

“Nah,” Sirius shrugged, smiling weakly. “You’re ok.”

Remus laughed,

“James didn’t want me to come in. Said we just bicker.”

“He what?!” Sirius shook his head. “We do not bicker.”

“That’s what I said.” Remus assured him.

“My family…” Sirius said, suddenly, “I don’t think they hate me. I think they want to like me, really. But I keep letting everyone down. It’s funny most of the time, but… well, it isn’t today.”

Remus didn’t know what to say to that, so he kept quiet. He thought about Narcissa, vowing to face death if she could not marry Lucius. He thought about Regulus, who often stared at his older brother across the dining hall, green eyed with jealousy. Families were a messy business. Perhaps he ought to be grateful to Lyall Lupin for ending it all in one fell swoop, so that Remus never had to know whether or not he would have made his father proud, or whether he would have been a disappointment after all.

* * *

Friday 5th October 1973

“I’ve got it. I’ve really got it this time.”

“That’s nice, Pete.” Remus replied blithely, reading his Arithmancy textbook.

“We should dye his robes pink.”

“He’d just dye them back, it’s too simple. Where would we even get his robes from?” Remus turned the page and resumed his reading.

“Ouch! Bloody hell, there’s something wrong with that bludger!” Sirius shouted, standing up. “Come on, McKinnon, move your bloomin’ arse!”

“Do you mind leaving her arse out of it?” Mary snapped, from a few rows up.

They were watching the Gryffindor quidditch practice. Well, Sirius, Peter and Mary were. Remus had just wanted to get on with his reading.

“Jealous, MacDonald?” Sirius replied, cheekily.

“Dye his hair pink, then,” Peter persisted, shaking Remus’s arm for attention, “I’ve learnt colour changing spells now, I can do it.”

“So can he.” Remus said, jerking his arm back and searching for his place on the page.

“You know, Moony, you could show a bit more interest.” Sirius said.

“In quidditch? Or taking down your arch nemesis?”

“Both. Either.”

“I’m here, aren’t I?” Remus turned another page.

“Who’s your arch nemesis?” Mary asked, getting up and coming down to sit beside Sirius.

“If I told you, I’d have to kill you.” Sirius said, dryly. Mary rolled her eyes,

“Is it Snape?”

All three boys looked at Mary in surprise. She laughed, “Come on, you lot, it’s not exactly a secret – you’ve all had it in for each other since first year. Plus, Lily is one of my best friends.”

“Don’t talk to me about Evans.” Sirius groaned, “I hear enough as it is.”

“I think she’s an idiot, going around with that creep.” Mary said, rubbing her arms as if just the thought of Severus made her skin crawl. “You know he made Marlene cry the other day? Called her dad something really nasty. Makes no sense, either, because Lily says he’s half-blood, Severus… anyway, someone needs to teach him a lesson.”

“Ha!” Sirius barked, “He’s half-blood?! Brilliant.”

“Yeah.” Mary said, coolly. “So’s Remus. And I’m muggle born. So what?”

Remus finally looked up from his book to smirk at Sirius, raising an eyebrow at him. Sirius looked down, then back at the quidditch.

“Nothing,” he muttered, “I’m not like that.”

“Good.” Mary said, primly. “I get enough of that shit from Slytherins.”

Remus was inclined to agree with Mary, who had more backbone than he did, putting Sirius in his place like that. Insults from the Slytherins had definitely increased this term, though it might only have been noticeable to non-pure blood students. Remus had started to worry about travelling between classes by himself, though he rarely had to. He’d had a few near misses anyway, and been called a mudblood twice. He didn’t tell James or Sirius this, it seemed a bit like whinging. Plus, as far as insults went, he felt like he’d been called worse than ‘mudblood’.

He didn’t like the idea that it had made Marlene cry, though. It was all very well that Remus got picked on by Snape and Mulciber, or even puny, sadistic little Barty Crouch, but making girls cry was another thing altogether. Remus felt a surge of protectiveness and chivalry towards his friend. He clenched his fists, then unclenched them.

The problem was that Snape wasn’t the type to attack with hexes and big pranks. He could do both of those things, he was every bit as able as the marauders. But Snape relied on words to hurt people – and they were much trickier to counteract.

Unless you changed the words.

“Oh.” Remus put his book down, suddenly. He grabbed Sirius’s arm, “Oh!”

“What?” Sirius frowned at him. He’d been absorbed in watching the training while Remus’s mind had wandered. There had been another opportunity for Sirius to join the quidditch team this year, but he had declined. Maybe because he had changed his mind. Maybe because he didn’t want to be embarrassed in try outs again.

“We change the words!” Remus gabbled, “We change what he says.”

“What are you on about?” Sirius clucked his tongue. “Snivellus?”

“Yeah! There are spells you can do to stop someone speaking, right?”

Sirius coloured slightly, looking at Remus.

“Yeah…” he said, cautiously.

“Ok, so how much more difficult can it be to… to like, twist their words? We could set a trigger word – or a few – mudblood, or blood-traitor, or half-breed, dunglicker, or… whatever.  And instead, we make him say something really nice. Or something stupid. Whatever we feel like.”

“Moony, where did you hear all of those—”

James scored a goal, and Peter leapt up, clapping wildly. Potter did a few loops on his broom, showing off. Sirius grinned up at his friend. Mary’s knee was touching Sirius’s, Remus noticed. They were sitting really close, actually.

“So?” Remus grabbed Sirius’s shoulder again, trying to get him to focus. “What do you think?”

“I love it.” Sirius said, simply. “We should make him say something really ridiculous, like… I dunno, ‘snuggle bunnies’ or something. We’ll go to the library after this, yeah?”

“Can I come?” Mary asked. Sirius shrugged,

“If you want, I s’pose. It’s serious marauder business though.”

Mary giggled. Remus wondered if Sirius found that as annoying as he did. He picked up his book and returned to Arithmancy.

Twenty minutes later, the training session was over and the marauders were walking towards the castle, Mary and Marlene in tow, Sirius and Remus both babbling excitedly to James about their brilliant plan (it had somehow become ‘their’ plan, in Sirius’s mind).  

“You’re supposed to be off the pitch by five o’clock.” Someone grunted, in front of them.

Remus looked up to see the Slytherin quidditch team walking towards them, brooms in hand, kits slung over their shoulders.

“We’re leaving now, Bulstrode, bloody hell.” James said, annoyed.

The pug-faced Slytherin captain just scowled at him and pushed past, deliberately knocking James with his shoulder as he did so.

“Oi!” Sirius pulled out his wand. James held him back.

“What’s it to you, Black?” Bulstrode sneered, “If that’s still even your name.” The Slytherins all laughed. Including their smallest, newest member, who had been behind the others.

Regulus Black.

It took James and Remus to pull Sirius away, as the Slytherins snickered and whispered.

“Remember the plan,” Remus whispered. Sirius slackened, then nodded.

“Promise me we’ll get all of them.” He growled.

Chapter Text

Monday 8th October 1973

“Sirius, you’d better come up with the replacement words, you’re the most… er…”

“Verbose?” Sirius supplied, yawning. “Loquacious? Garrulous?”

“Exactly,” Remus smiled. “I’ll work on figuring out which spell we’ll need, and James, you can figure out how we actually manage to cast it on the whole house… that’s going to be really hard, I think – Peter, you better help with that.”

“Hark at Moony!” James laughed, buttering his toast, “Giving the orders now.”

“The marauders are a socialist utopia,” Sirius yawned again, “We don’t have leaders.”

“Enjoying Muggle Studies, are you?” Remus raised an eyebrow. Sirius lay his head on the dining table, closing his eyes and flipping two fingers at Remus.

An owl landed on the breakfast table – it was James’s. Sirius’s owl had been confiscated by his parents so many times that he may as well not have one at all, Peter typically relied on the school owls, and Remus never received post anyway.

“What the hell?” James opened the letter proffered by the bird with a frown. “The… slug club?!”

“Oh yeah,” Sirius opened a sleepy eye, “I got one too. Apparently ol’ sluggy likes students who have a certain star quality. So, me, obviously. And I s’pose you too.”

Neither Peter nor Remus received an invitation; but this was not much of a surprise. Peter was quite good at Potions, but lacked aptitude for almost anything else. As for Remus, he tried to fly under the radar where Professor Slughorn was concerned.

“We won’t go then.” James said, folding up his letter decisively. “All for one and one for all, us marauders.”

“I don’t care,” Remus shrugged, “Go if you want to. I bet Lily’s going.”

“Do you!? Yeah, she is really good at Potions, isn’t she?” James said, getting that funny look on his face again, “She’s really good at everything, probably the cleverest in the year—”

“Oi!” Remus and Sirius said, in unison. James raised an eyebrow,

“Cleverest girl, then.”

Sirius closed his eyes once more, satisfied, and attempted to doze through the rest of breakfast.

* * *

Thursday 11th October 1973

The party was held later that week. James, still uneasy about the exclusion of the two lesser marauders, tried to convince Peter and Remus to don the invisibility cloak and come anyway. Sirius thought this sounded like a good laugh, but Remus personally thought it beneath him. He had no desire to be among the chosen few. In the end, Peter declined too, though he had clearly been on the cusp of agreeing to the ridiculous scheme.

Anyway, Thursdays were Remus’s favourite day of the school week. Specifically, Thursdays from 2pm to 4pm – that slot in his timetable allotted to Care of Magical Creatures. Their Wednesday lessons were always theory based, and Remus liked those too; he’d never heard anyone talk about biology like Professor Ferox. But Thursdays were given over to practical lessons, and the class would walk out onto the grounds, or else arrive at the classroom to find a new creature waiting for them, Ferox bright with excitement to show them.

After kneazles, they’d seen doxies and crups. This week was murtlaps. Mary and Marlene squealed at the creatures Ferox presented in a large hutch-like run at the back of the classroom. Remus couldn’t blame them – murtlaps were extremely unappealing. They were rat-like creatures, with masses of writhing tentacles sprouting from their backs like maggots.

“We can’t do crups and kneazles every week,” Ferox grinned, gesturing for them all to gather around, “Not all of the magical creatures we learn about will be cute. But diversity is the spice of life, hm?”

“I hope we don’t have to touch them,” Marlene whispered, shuddering.

Remus didn’t mind – they were gross, but he didn’t mind gross things. He had a pretty strong stomach; Professor Ferox had already told him so, last week when they were watching the doxy eggs hatch. Remus had beamed with pride all day long.

Ferox was looking at Remus now,

“Mr Lupin, I’m sure I can rely on you to tell me the beneficial properties of murtlap tentacles?”

Remus tried not to smile too broadly, or look too much like a goody goody.

“They’re really good for soothing superficial cuts and abrasions,” he said, promptly, “And if you eat them, they make you impervious to most common hexes.”

“Excellent, five points to Gryffindor.”

Remus couldn’t help smiling a bit. Who cared about the stupid slug club. Slughorn was nowhere near as cool as Ferox; Ferox was clever and unpretentious and funny, and did dangerous things. Remus had never given much thought to having a career, but for some weeks now he had been entertaining the idea that whatever he did when he grew up, he would like to be just like Professor Ferox.

Mind you, he’d have to start eating more, or weight training or something, because if Ferox was anything, he was broad. And Remus, though he was inches above the other marauders now in height, remained eternally weedy.

“It’s your metabolism.” Madam Pomfrey told him, when he’d asked one morning after a moon. “You could eat more, or rest more, but it may just be one of those things, I’m afraid. I shouldn’t worry, dear, you’re as healthy as can be expected.”

That didn’t sound all that reassuring, but he accepted it. His father had been thin too, he was sure. At least he wasn’t pudgy, like Peter, who still looked like a little boy compared to the rest of them.

This fact was made even clearer later that evening, when Sirius and James stood fully dressed in their formal robes, looking every inch the young lords of the manor, and Peter sat staring at them enviously from his bed, already in his pyjamas.

“D’you think there’ll be dancing?” Sirius asked, anxiously, straightening his tie,

“Nah,” James replied, desperately trying to comb his hair flat, “We’d have been told to bring partners or something.”

Sirius slumped on the bed,

“I hate stuff like this. Moony, you go for me, bet ol’ Sluggy won’t even notice.”

“Fat chance,” Remus snorted from behind his copy of Verbal Assault: Defensive Tongue Twisters. “Slughorn can’t even remember my name half the time. And he’ll feel a bit short changed when he’s expecting a pureblood Black and gets the half-blood kid he keeps calling Linchpin.”

“Ugh. He’s such a slimy old tosser. Like an actual slug.” Sirius smirked to himself and nudged Remus with his elbow, “Heh, an actual slug, Moony.”

Remus smiled back, looking up from his book.

“Are you ready, then?” James sighed, tossing away his comb, apparently accepting that his attempt was futile.

“S’pose.” Sirius grunted, getting up laboriously.

“I’ll come down with you,” Remus said, “Might as well go to the library. Wanna come, Pete?”

Peter looked at him as if he was insane, and shook his head.

James, Sirius and Remus made their way down to the common room, where – much to James’s glee – Lily was waiting for them in a very pretty turquoise dress. Unfortunately for James, however, as the three marauders approach it became clear that it was not him she was waiting for.

“Remus!” She said, standing up.

“You look nice, Evans,” James said, hopefully. Sirius sighed loudly.

“I wanted to speak to Remus,” Lily said, ignoring James. “Will you walk with me to the party?”

“Not going,” Remus shrugged, “Not invited.”

“Oh…” Lily flushed a bit, looking embarrassed, “Sorry, I just assumed…”

“What did you want to talk about?” Remus asked, impatiently. His book was heavy, and the full moon was due on Friday, making him more agitated than usual.

Lily eyed James and Sirius, clearly not wanting to say anything in front of them. Remus sighed, “I’m going to the library. If you want to walk that way with me then fine.” It would take Lily out of her way, but Remus decided he didn’t care. He pushed through the portrait hole and heard her scamper after him, her patent black party shoes clicking on the flagstones.

“What’s the book?” Lily panted, struggling to catch up with Remus’s long-legged stride.

“Nothing.” He said, deliberately covering the title with his arm, “Just some research.”

“It’s not something nasty, is it?” Lily asked, disapprovingly, “It’s not another horrid thing to do to Severus?”

“I knew that’s what you wanted to talk about,” Remus rolled his eyes, still walking.

“Well you have to admit, Sirius did start it that time in Hogsmeade, I mean he called Sev—”

“I don’t care, Lily.” Remus snapped, turning a sharp corner, “He didn’t have to be so nasty, Sirius and James were just having a laugh, and Snape had to go and make it personal.”

“Oh!” Lily stamped her foot, “You’re all as bad as each other!”

“You know he hates people like you, too, don’t you?” Remus countered, stopping now that they were outside the library. He rounded on her, “You know that his sort hate our sort.”

“’Our sort’,” Lily tutted, “Honestly, this whole blood purity thing is getting ridiculous, and it doesn’t excuse—”

“He made Marlene cry,” Remus persisted, “Mary told us. What do you think he says behind your back?”

Lily’s cheeks were pink again,

“Sev would never say anything like that about me! He’s my best friend!”

“Well good for you, but the rest of us aren’t so fortunate.” Remus spat. Lily stared at him, blinking for a few moments, stunned into silence. She looked like she might cry, and Remus felt a tiny twinge of guilt. When she spoke again, her voice was meek and small.

“What are you going to do to him?”

Remus sighed. She might as well know.

“Not just him. All of them.” He said, lowering his voice and bending down slightly in case they were overheard, “And nothing bad. If he stops calling anyone else names, then nothing at all.”

She looked at him, sceptically. He straightened up. “That’s all I’ll say. You’ll be late for your party, go on.”

* * *

Later that evening, Remus thought he had just about cracked it. He was sitting up in the common room and had made his final notes. Now all he needed was Sirius’s list of replacement words and they could begin work on the prank. It was almost eleven o’clock when the portrait hole swung open, and Lily Evans marched in with a face like thunder. There were odd silvery marks on her dress that caught the light as she charged in.

“What’s up, Evans?” Remus asked, tentatively, still feeling a bit sorry for being so short with her outside the library.

“Ask them.” She hissed, furious, “I’m going for a shower.”

He did not wonder who she was referring to, but if he had, it was answered within moments, as Sirius and James came through the portrait hole next, laughing hysterically. Remus couldn’t help but grin too – their glee was infectious.

“What did you do?”

“It was all Sirius, mate,” James clapped his friend on the back, then bowed to him elaborately, fluttering his hand. Sirius did the same back,

“Couldn’t have done it without you, my dear chap.”

“Done what?” Remus asked, trying to keep a lid on his irritation as it sprang up out of nowhere.

“Slugs.” James said, “Slugs, bloody everywhere. Started with these little jelly slug sweets that were laid out to eat,”

“Simple enough transfiguration spell,” Sirius shrugged with false modesty, throwing himself into an armchair and slinging one leg over the arm.

“But then,” James sat next to Remus, starry eyed, “Then they started to multiply…”

“And this is why Evans is pissed off with you?”

“Well… did you see the slimy bits on her dress? And um… in her hair a bit too, I think. They were really fast moving slugs, they kind of got everywhere…”

“No sense of humour, that one.” Sirius yawned. “She ought to be thanking us for livening things up a bit.”

“The nerve of some people,” Remus said, dryly.

“See, you understand, Moony,” Sirius grinned, “You’d let us slime you, wouldn’t you?”

Remus thought it best to ignore that, and addressed James instead,

“So did Slughorn know it, was you?”

“Yeah, it was pretty obvious. We were the only ones not screaming.”

“Detentions?”

“Three weeks. Cauldron scrubbing. That’s fine, helps build up my muscles.” James flexed his arms which, it had to be said, didn’t look particularly muscular.

“Good news, though,” Sirius piped up, “No more parties for us – we’re out of the slug club.”

“And into the history books!” James crowed, causing all three of them to dissolve into fits of laughter.

Chapter Text

Tuesday 30th October 1973

With Halloween and the traditional Hogwarts feast looming, Remus was keen to have the word-swapping spell perfected in time in order to have maximum reach.

“It’s fine, Moony, we all know what we’re doing.” James said, returning from quidditch practice covered in mud and soaking wet. The evenings were getting darkest and Remus hardly ever went to watch the team practice any more, though Sirius and Peter usually did. Mary always went too, to watch Marlene. She was following them everywhere, these days.

“I just think we should test it,” Remus bit his lip, watching Sirius cast a drying spell on James.

“Oh no.” Peter said, folding his arms, “I won’t be your guinea pig this time. Last time I couldn’t get rid of that patch of purple hair for weeks!”

“I’d forgotten about that,” Sirius said, dreamily, “That worked really well, once we’d figured out the kinks.”

“Do it on him.” Peter pointed at Sirius, “It’s his turn.”

“Don’t whinge, Pete,” Sirius groaned. He flopped down on his bed. “Do it on me, Moony, I’m not a coward.”

“Ok, fine,” Remus withdrew his wand. Sirius leapt up,

“Wait, you want to do it now?!”

“Well, the sooner the better…”

“What about the counter-jinx?!”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve got that sorted,” Remus let a smile creep onto his face. He knew for certain that the counter-jinx worked, but it was too much fun to watch Sirius squirm.

“Oh for goodness’ sake.” James sighed, getting out of his quidditch gear, “Do it to me, Lupin, I don’t mind. Only I don’t want to say any of the words on that awful list of yours. Can you do it for something else?”

“If you like,” Remus replied.

“Yeah, about this list, Moony…” Sirius said, picking it up off the bedside table,

“What?”

“Well… it’s really long.”

“Yeah,” Remus raised an eyebrow, “What’s your point? They’re all insults for non-purebloods, aren’t they?”

“Yeah,” Sirius said, scratching his chin, “Yeah, they are, but, um… well I just didn’t think there were so many. Never seen them all written out like that. And anyway, where did you hear all of these?!”

“Where’d you think?” Remus met Sirius’s eyes, deliberately. He’d been waiting for something like this. “Don’t be a girl about it, Black, it doesn’t bother me. Right, James, what word do you want to swap?”

“Evans.” Sirius said, suddenly, “Sick of hearing that come out of his mouth.”

“Ok,” Remus smiled, “Then change it to what?”

“Don’t tell me!” James said, “We’ll do a blind test so we know it definitely works. Pick something Black hasn’t come up with yet.”

Remus nodded, scribbled something onto a piece of parchment, then raised his wand, concentrating. He flicked his wand sharply at James and uttered the incantation.

All four of them stood by, silently, watching.

“Er…” Remus said, “Did you feel anything?”

“Nope.” James looked down at himself, as if he expected to see something different.

“Well, say it, then!” Sirius urged.

“Her full name,” Remus added.

James cleared his throat theatrically, squaring his shoulders. He outstretched one arm and placed a hand on his chest as though he were about to make some grand announcement,

“LUMPY ELEPHANT DUNG.” He proclaimed.

Peter burst into a fit of giggles so strong he almost fell off the bed. Sirius whooped with laughter, and James turned bright red,

“I didn’t know you were going to pick something like that!” He said, “That’s my future wife!”

“Who’s your future wife?” Sirius asked, quickly,

“Elephant dung.” James replied, then clapped his hands to his mouth. “Lupin!”

“You said you didn’t mind,” Remus replied, business-like, “Now, try saying ‘Evans’ again, but really really try to break my spell, ok?”

“Elephant dung.” James said, promptly. Then with more force, “Elephant dung.” He screwed up his eyes, “Ele-phan-t… d…dung. Lumpy elephant dung.” He hung his head, sadly.

Peter could hardly breathe for laughing now, and Sirius had to lean on the bedpost for support.

“Excellent.” Remus smiled. He put down his list. “Hey, it’s six o’clock. Shall we go for dinner?”

“Yeah, just do the counter-jinx first.” James said.

“Oh no,” Remus shook his head solemnly, “Sorry Potter, but I want to test the spell thoroughly – we need to be sure it won’t wear off too quickly. I’ll un-jinx you tomorrow morning.”

“What?!” James roared,

“Oh yes!” Sirius gasped, wiping tears from his eyes.

“Sorry,” Remus said again, not sorry at all, “Just be glad we didn’t pick a common word, I s’pose.”

“B-but, what if I run into elephant dung?”

“Oh I don’t think you will,” Remus gave a small smile, “Hardly any elephants in Scotland.”

James grimaced,

“You know what I mean! Lumpy! Lumpy elephant dung?!”

Remus shrugged,

“Don’t yell her name? Come on, I’m starving!”

* * *

“James! Look who it is!”

“Shut. Up.” James gritted his teeth and looked stonily at his dinner plate. Sirius shook his head disapprovingly, the picture of piety.

“That’s no way to greet… what’s her name?”

“I’m not rising to it, you know. I’m stronger than that.” James said, viciously cutting into his steak and kidney pie.

“She’s right there, mate,” Sirius said, trying to control his smirk, “How will she ever notice you if you don’t call her?”

“Oi, Evans,” Remus said, suddenly, waving at the redhead, “Want to sit with us?”

She stopped and looked at them, warily,

“Why?”

“You’re a Gryffindor, we’re Gryffindors…” Sirius said, getting up to give her his seat next to James, “We’re supposed to sit together. Plus, it’ll really bother Potter.”

“Well in that case.” Lily sat down. Sirius pushed Remus up to make room beside him. Lily looked at James curiously, who had turned beetroot red. “Why do I bother you, Potter?”

“You don’t!” He said, quickly, “They’re just being prats.”

“Language, Potter!” Sirius said, severely, pouring gravy over his mashed potato and peas. “That’s no way to speak in front of a lady.”

“What’s going on?” Lily eyed Remus suspiciously, “Are you all making fun of me?”

“We’re making fun of James.” Peter squeaked, sounding as though he was having a hard time containing his excitement. For once, he was not the butt of the joke, and it was clearly a dizzying notion.

“I’m testing a spell on him.” Remus said, simply. Lily’s eyes flashed as she analysed the situation.

“And what was the spell?”

Mutatio Verbi.”

Her eyebrows shot up,

“Is that… oh my god, Remus, which word?!”

“Um…”

“Lumpy elephant dung.” James said, glumly. Peter spat out his pumpkin juice and knocked his fork flying. Lily giggled, nervously,

“What did you say, Potter?”

“Lll…Lumpy.” James strained to fight the spell, “Lumpy elephant dung… lumpy.”

“Lumpy...?! Oh, for pity’s sake!” Lily glared at Sirius, “It’s my name, isn’t it?”

“Don’t look at me!” Sirius grinned, holding his hands up, “It was Moony’s idea!”

Lily turned to Remus, her frown disappearing,

“Really, Remus?”

“Err… yeah, but it wasn’t meant to be offensive or anyth-”

“That’s amazing!” She said, “Really clever magic!”

“Wait until tomorrow!” Peter said, recovering from his hysterics. Sirius kicked him under the table.

“I’m so sorry, elephant dung.” James said, looking genuinely forlorn. This time, even Lily laughed.

* * *

Wednesday 31st October 1973

“Nothing’s happening.”

“Well they’re not going to start insulting each other, are they?”

“We have to push them into it. Pete, go and—”

“Oi, I’m pureblood!”

“Oh yeah, fair play. Um… Moony, go and trip one of them or something. Do it to Snivellus. Or my cousin, yeah, get Cissy!”

“No.” Remus said, quietly. Ignoring the fact that he actually had no problem with Narcissa, he didn’t want to be so obvious. “We’ll just wait. Patience, Black, patience.”

“But it might take days.”

“It won’t.” Mary said, stonily. “You three must be blind if you haven’t seen what’s going on around here.” That shut them up.

Mary was sitting beside Sirius for the second time that week. Remus didn’t mind – he liked Mary, she was funny and brusque and bolshie, but unfailingly kind and full of compassion. She was his friend. But. Well, she wasn’t a marauder, was she?! Her presence felt intrusive, somehow; didn’t quite mesh with their usual back-and-forth. And she always sat next to Sirius, which meant no one could talk to him without her listening in and batting her eyes. Of course, Remus knew that she fancied him and everything, but he wasn’t sure that Sirius knew that yet – or perhaps that was how you were supposed to act when someone fancied you.

“What’s been going on, then?” James asked, very seriously. “Do you get called stuff, MacDonald?”

She shrugged, sipping her pumpkin juice.

“It’s been worse this year. You must know, Remus?”

Remus nodded, vaguely, looking away, as if he was more interested in watching the Slytherins. It was the Halloween feast, and everyone was in high spirits. Professor Flitwick had enchanted glittering black bats to swoop over their heads, fine silvery cobwebs glistened from the rafters, and the Great Hall was filled with the autumnal smells of roast pumpkin, wood smoke and baked apples.  

“So…” James continued, slowly, “Have all the muggleborns been getting it, then? Even… even elephant dung – oh for fuck’s sake, Remus! Please fix me!”

“If you’ll do my Potions homework.” Remus replied, quick as a dart.

“Fine! Anything! I’ll give you my bloody broomstick if you’ll just—”

Finite.” Remus pointed his wand at James. James stared at him, looking stunned. He cleared his throat,

“Lily Evans.” He said, very clearly, then grinned,

“What now, Potter?!” Lily turned around, her conversation with Marlene interrupted.

“Will you go out with me?”

“No.” She turned away again.

“Cheers Moony.”

“Any time.”

“Wait.” Sirius said, “Wait just a minute. The counter-jinx was Finite Incantatum?!”

“Yep.”

“But that’s just the standard counter spell!”

Remus shrugged,

“I never said it was anything difficult. You pure bloods don’t have an ounce of common sense between you.”

Mary squawked with laughter, James choked on his roast potato and Sirius slapped Remus on the back.

“I swear, Moony. When it comes to evil schemes, none of us have got anything on you.”

Remus flushed with pride and shook him off, returning to his dinner.

“Look!” Peter cried, suddenly, pointing a chubby finger in the direction of the Slytherin table. A Hufflepuff second year had wandered too close to Mulciber, who stood up and was looming over them.

“Yes,” Sirius whispered, “Go on, you big troll…”

The Hufflepuff was trembling so much that they sloshed their drink, spilling most of it down their own robes, but also lightly sprinkling the toes of Mulciber’s huge black shoes. The snub nosed Slytherin grabbed the Huffllepuff by the tie – the rest of the Slytherins turned to watch, eagerly.

“Clean that up, you angelic sweetie-pops.”

Dead silence. The Hufflepuff looked confused, and let out a nervous laugh. Mulciber looked stupider than usual.

“What did you say, Mulciber?” Snape asked, staring at him.

Angelic sweetie-pops!” Mulciber roared, red-faced. “No! I meant – darling sugar plum! No! Goody-gumpdrops!”

The entire hall erupted in laughter.  

“Bloody hell,” Sirius said, under his breath, “Mulciber’s really got a mouth on him, eh? I didn’t think they’d use half of those.”

“Sit down, you idiot.” Snape chastised the bully, who had let go of the Hufflepuff’s tie, and was helplessly spouting cutesy nonsense.

“That was brilliant, Sirius!” Mary hugged him. Remus suddenly lost his appetite. Sirius just tossed his hair gallantly,

“Just wait,” he said, “That was just the beginning.”

Chapter Text

Friday 2nd November 1973

Remus peered around the dorm room door quietly, and – finding the coast clear – crept inside. He carefully opened his trunk and shoved the package inside, covering it up with an old pair of jeans.

“Hiya, Moony,” a voice behind him gave Remus such a fright that he dropped the trunk lid with a heavy *THUNK* and spun around. James was emerging from the bathroom, his dark hair wet and his glasses steamed up.

“Hi.” He said, hoping he didn’t look like he was up to anything.

“Are you up to something?” James squinted at him.

“No.”

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing!”

“Is it Sirius’s birthday present?”

Remus’s shoulders sagged, he sighed.

“Yes.”

“You don’t have to hide it from me, Moony,” James laughed, easily, throwing his towel onto his bed and beginning to get dressed. “I won’t tell him.”

Remus just shrugged awkwardly. He’d really only wanted to hide the fact that he had spent the past two hours in the fourth-floor girl’s loos trying to wrap the stupid thing, with Moaning Myrtle cackling overhead, giving no useful advice at all.

He was also trying to avoid any awkward questions about where he’d got the money. His stash of stolen cigarettes was now almost entirely depleted, and he had just about enough money left over to buy Christmas gifts for his friends and – if he was prudent – something for himself. He didn’t have his heart set on anything, but Remus rather liked the idea that he could just go ahead and buy something if it caught his fancy.

“Lucky it’s a Saturday this year,” he said to James, relaxing a bit, “D’you know what we’re going to do?”

“Well obviously, we’ll have to sing ‘happy birthday’ at breakfast,” James said, very seriously.

“Obviously.” Remus agreed.

“And lunch, and dinner. I’ve got quidditch practice in the morning, but I got Hooch to let me have an extra half an hour on the pitch before the Ravenclaws go on, so we can do a bit of flying.”

“Oh, good,” Remus said, with a little less enthusiasm. It wasn’t his idea of a good time to sit in the quidditch stands alone on a cold November morning – but it was Sirius’s birthday, after all. Maybe he could bring a book.

“Then I suppose he’ll have to do that afternoon tea thing with Regulus and Narcissa. So, we’ll have to find out when that ends before we can sort out a proper party. D’you think the others ‘ll mind if we use the common room?”

“Nah,” Remus shook his head, with confidence. No one could deny James and Sirius anything – especially a very noisy birthday party. This was true at any given time during the year, but especially this week, when the marauder’s popularity appeared to be at its peak.

Remus had hardly been able to walk down a corridor since Wednesday without hearing a cheer, or getting a pat on the back from fellow Gryffindors, Ravenclaws or Hufflepuffs. The Slytherins still scowled, still glared daggers if he passed them – but they couldn’t say anything. A few tried, of course. For the first two days after Halloween, the occasional ‘angelic sweetie pops’ or ‘honey fluffkins’ could be heard – and met with raucous laughter. Snape had even lost his temper completely during their Friday Charms lesson and called James a ‘lovely little poppet’, which nearly killed Sirius with laughter, and mortified Lily.

The best part of this prank, which Remus hadn’t even considered when he’d planned it, was that none of the Slytherins could complain to the staff about the spell – because that would mean explaining which words had been replaced. So, it was a slow and immensely enjoyable process to watch as the Slytherin students tried to figure out the counter curse by themselves.   

“Serves them right,” Marlene giggled, early that morning, “If they were Hufflepuffs they’d all have lifted the spell by now.”

Overnight, the marauders had gone from being class clowns – well-liked and cheerfully tolerated – to heroes of the house war that had been brewing all year. Remus tried not to think about the long-term effects this might have, and focussed instead on Sirius’s upcoming fourteenth birthday. Somehow, fourteen sounded even more mature than thirteen – you were definitely definitely a teenager at fourteen.

Mary sat with them at dinner that evening, yet again. Once or twice, Remus had thought about asking James how he felt about this new arrangement, but stopped himself. After all, James seemed not to care at all, and carried on as usual. And Mary wasn’t doing anything wrong by sitting on her own house table.

Truthfully, Remus had not yet been able to put his finger on why her presence bothered him so much, except that she always sat next to Sirius, which he thought was a bit of an obvious display. Sirius’s continued coyness about the whole subject was just as infuriating. Remus didn’t like other people keeping secrets.

“What time will you be free tomorrow, Black?” James asked, as they tucked into crispy golden battered cod and thick cut chips.

“What d’you mean?” Sirius asked, liberally splashing vinegar over his, before passing the bottle to Remus. Mary, who had been reaching for the vinegar, shot Remus a funny look.

“You know, what time do you think your Black family tea will be finished? For your birthday?”

“Oooh, is it your birthday, Sirius?” Mary smiled, “You never said! I would have got you something!”

“Would you?” Sirius looked at her, mildly puzzled. He turned back to James, “I don’t think the tea is happening this year. Haven’t had a note.”

“Oh, really?” James raised his eyebrows, which always gave him a bit of an owlish expression, “Are you… I mean, is that ok?”

Sirius snorted, looking at his food,

“Why wouldn’t it be? Like I give a toss.”

“Well… great, then.” James grinned, shooting a look at Peter and Remus that only they would understand, “We can crack on with planning you the messiest party Gryffindor tower has ever seen.”

“Yeah!” Peter added, for good measure.

“Am I invited?” Mary asked, sitting up straighter.

“Obviously.” Remus said, his voice more sarcastic than he meant it to be, “Everyone’s invited.”

“Look, maybe don’t make a big fuss.” Sirius said, playing with his peas, “I don’t feel like it much.”

“Oh, why not?” Mary cooed, “It’ll be fun! We’ll make it as good as Remus’s birthday last year – even better!”

Sirius said nothing, and James threw another look at Peter and Remus. They ate the rest of their meal in almost total silence.

* * *

Saturday 3rd November 1973

Remus woke up alone on the morning of Sirius’s birthday, finding a note pinned to the bathroom door, written in beautiful cursive.

Gone for quidditch practice – knew you wouldn’t want to come so let you lie in. See you later. S.

Remus showered and then decided he may as well go to the library. He had finished his essay on class XXX magical creatures, and wanted to get a head start on class XXXX creatures. (He had recently learnt that he, skinny, thirteen-year-old Remus Lupin, was classified XXXXX, alongside manticores and dragons.)

They were going ahead with the party with or without Sirius’s consent – a decision made by James and backed up by Remus. Even when he had a case of the blues, Sirius could not resist being the centre of attention and making as much noise as possible. Peter had been put in charge of decorations and – with some help from Mary and Marlene – had come up trumps, hiding a trunkful of streamers and balloons in the third year girl’s dormitory. James handled the invitations – which as far as Remus had seen involved shouting at various students telling them they’d better be there or else. Remus was responsible for food – something which was simple enough when you had access to the map and invisibility cloak.

He ate a quiet breakfast by himself with his book. Mealtimes were a much more peaceful affair since the Slytherins had been temporarily muzzled. Even those that had managed to break the spell were keeping their mouths shut, at least for a while.

The book Remus was reading was so interesting that he couldn’t put it down, and instead continued to read as he meandered his way slowly towards the library, occasionally sticking his hand out to avoid crashing into any pillars or doorways. So, it was completely his own fault when he bumped headlong into Regulus Black, knocking the younger boy to the floor.

“Oh, sorry!” Remus said, dropping his book and automatically offering a hand to help him up. Regulus glared at him, and narrowed his eyes at the scars criss-crossing Remus’s wrists. He climbed to his feet unassisted, brushing himself off, sniffing at Remus with his inherited Black dignity.

“Watch where you’re going.” He said, icily.

“I said sorry.” Remus replied, a bit annoyed. He didn’t want to start anything, he just wanted to get to the library without any trouble.

“What are you doing wandering about alone, anyway,” Regulus asked, suspiciously, “Planning some other hilarious assault on our freedom of speech?”

Remus scoffed,

“I could ask you the same thing. Where’s that creepy little Crouch kid? Anyway, you can’t prove we did anything.”

“No,” Regulus’s lips curled, “But I know my brother was involved.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes. I didn’t get the same words as everyone else.”

“Hmm?” Remus tried to look unconcerned by this – but he’d had no idea that Sirius had cursed his brother differently.

“Every time I try to say my house’s name, it comes out…” Regulus glanced furtively about himself, as if afraid he might be overheard, “Go Gryffindor Go!”

Remus burst out laughing, under Regulus’s imperious glare.

“Sorry,” Remus said, for the third time, “It’s… well it is quite funny.”

“Of course you think it’s funny.” The younger boy sniffed. He was shorter than Remus, but somehow still managed to look down his nose at him, “You… your kind can’t possibly understand what my brother is putting a stake. I’ve done my best to hide the worst of it from our parents, but he has to keep pushing it…”

“So is that why he’s not invited to your stupid Nancy tea party?” Remus asked, angry on his friend’s behalf.

“Narcissa didn’t think it was worth it, this year,” Regulus’s cold stare faltered, and he looked away. Remus had the impression that Regulus would have quite liked a chance to see his brother. “And this latest joke of his has just proved it. He’s never going to… to come back.”

Regulus shook himself and turned in the direction of the dungeons. Remus felt a surge of sympathy, and against his better judgement called him back,

“Reg, wait!”

Regulus turned, looking horrified by Remus’s overfamiliarity. But Regulus was such an ugly mouthful of a name. Worse than Remus by a mile. “Look,” he hurried, “We’re having a party for Sirius in the common room tonight, you can come if you—”

“Don’t.” Regulus said, sharply, looking anxious, “Don’t invite me, ok? Just… leave it. Tell him happy birthday for me.” He hurried away.

* * *

With or without Regulus, the party was a roaring success. Quite literally; every lion motif in the common room (and there were quite a few) had been enchanted to roar every time anyone said the words ‘birthday’ or ‘Sirius’.

The whole of Gryffindor house got involved, and Remus was pretty sure that some of the older students were passing around flasks of something a bit stronger than the butterbeer everyone else was drinking. Sirius’s record player was spinning wildly at double time, and lots of the girls had got up to dance. Mary tried to haul Sirius up for John, I’m Only Dancing, but he shook his head fervently and stayed on the couch with Remus and Peter.

“I only know the waltz,” he confided to them in a whisper, “And I’ll be fucked if I ever do that again.”

James did get up and tried to shake his hips as close to Lily as possible, but quickly tripped over a ruck in the rug and nearly went headlong into the fireplace. Sirius laughed heartily at this, and Remus was pleased to see that at least he wasn’t letting his family get to him today. He decided not to tell Sirius about his encounter with Regulus just yet – it wouldn’t make him any happier, so what was the point?

“You’re Lupin, aren’t you?” A girl leaned over the back of the sofa, her long black hair brushing Remus’s shoulder. He’d seen her before; she was a sixth year.

“Um, yeah,” he nodded, jumping up.

“My friend, Fariahah, says you’re selling—”

“Err, come over here!” He jumped in jerking his head wildly. He’d so far managed to conduct his business privately and without the other marauders knowing. “What’d you want?” He asked, once they were in the furthest corner away from Sirius and Peter.

“Two packs of whatever you’ve got.” She said.

“A galleon.”

“What?!” She exclaimed, “But Fariahah said it was five sickles a pack!”

“I’m running low on stock,” Remus said, disinterested, “supply and demand.”

“Ugh, fine.” She folded her arms and tossed her head, “A galleon.”

“Can’t get them now. Meet me here at seven tomorrow. AM.”

“On a Sunday?!”

“I have plenty of customers, y’know.”

“All right, all right…”

“What’s going on there, Moony?” Sirius eyed him as Remus returned to the couch. His suspicious look was identical to his brother’s. “Not another girlfriend?”

“Shuddup,” Remus kicked him.

“Who’s your girlfriend, Remus?” Mary sat up, looking interested. God, Remus thought, where did she come from?!

“I don’t have a girlfriend, Black’s just being a dick.”

“Good,” Mary settled down, smiling smugly, “Because if you did,” She twirled her corkscrew hair around one finger, “I know someone who’d be really disappointed…”

“Oh. Ok.” He replied, trying not to show her how annoyed he was.

“Who fancies Moony?” Sirius asked, nudging Mary.

“I couldn’t possibly tell you.” Mary replied, mimicking buttoning her lips. Remus wished she’d do that for real, for good.

“Girls.” Sirius said, with exasperation, “Nightmares, the bloody lot of you.”

Mary mock-pouted, but said nothing more. Sirius shook his head at her, but he was smiling. Finally, he returned to Remus, “So what are you selling? That girl said you were selling something.”

“Nope.” Remus said, innocently. “She had the wrong person.”

“I’ll work it out, you know.” Sirius said, a look of glee in his deep blue eyes. “Not that I’m not grateful for the truly excellent birthday present,” he nodded at the floor where his recently unwrapped Zonko’s Deluxe practical joke kit lay, proudly proclaiming; ‘Sure to complete the collection of any master prankster’. “But I’m going to figure out how you paid for it, eventually. I don’t believe this stuff about a dead aunt leaving you money.”

“Your dead uncle left you money,” Remus countered.

“Can’t touch it ‘til I’m of age though, can I?” Sirius said, shrewdly, “Nope, you’re up to something, Lupin, I know you – you’re not Moony if you don’t have a secret.”

“So let me have my secret then,” Remus turned his head, mysteriously.

Chapter Text

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.  

*CREAK*

“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.

“No.”

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?”

“Library.”

“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.”

“Right…”

“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?”

James laughed,

“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!”

Chapter Text

Friday 21st December 1973

Once he was finally given the space to think about it, Remus wondered why he’d even asked for more time. Of course he would say yes. He didn’t think he’d ever say no to his friends, even if it made him nervous. And it did make him nervous.

Perhaps it was their excitement that worried him – or their over-confidence. He knew that part of their eagerness had to do with the plan being incredibly illegal, dangerous and reckless. But they were also doing it for him. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that yet.  Better not to think about it.

He took James aside one day not long after they’d proposed the idea, and asked for all of the research they had so far. It was promptly presented to him as a huge bundle of parchment; reams and reams of notes and diagrams penned in a familiar neat cursive script. To say that they had been thorough was an understatement. If only Sirius paid that much attention to writing his essays, Remus would never have a hope of beating him to the top of the class.

They had left no stone unturned. They’d charted the full moons for the next decade, at least. They’d practically written an entire history of European lycanthropy, along with feeding habits and migration patterns, pack behaviour, canine communication signals. They had listed every ingredient they would need, its’ cost and availability. Every ritual was carefully transcribed, step by step and the incantations spelled out phonetically. There were timelines, suggested locations for certain aspects of the extensive process – everything was painstakingly detailed.

“Christ.” Remus said, when he had finished reading it. “You’ve done all of this…”

“It was mostly Sirius.” James grinned, “Actually, basically all of it was Sirius. He did most of it over the summer holidays, while he was bored. A real labour of love.”

Remus’s stomach flipped. He didn’t know what to say – how could he refuse them after all that? Suddenly selling stolen cigarettes to underage wizards seemed very tame indeed.

It was agreed that work would begin in earnest over the Christmas holidays, when they would all be away from Hogwarts. Remus had secured permission from Matron, McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey to spend the break with the Potters, and as always, Peter was only up the road. Sirius was in a dark mood as term drew to a close – until he received a very short note during breakfast one morning:

 

To Master S. O. Black III,

You will not be required at the family home this winter break. Do as you please.

Signed,

Orion Black.

 

“Yes!” James cheered, almost knocking over his porridge, “Might even get you for the summer, at this rate!”

“What about Regulus?” Remus asked, tentatively, quietly in case Sirius wanted to pretend he hadn’t heard.

“Oh, little Prince Reg is going home for Christmas,” Sirius replied, shoving the note into his pocket. “It’s just me they’ve disinvited. Good. Perfect. Excellent. They don’t care; I don’t care.”

He didn’t properly cheer up until they were packing. Sirius covertly showed Remus the gifts he had bought for Mr and Mrs Potter – a beautiful golden watch chain and a pretty garnet broach.

“D’you think they’re ok?” He asked, nervously, “My family’s shit at doing presents, so I never really know…”

“Black… Sirius, they’re… I mean, they’re perfect. Don’t worry.” Remus felt a sinking feeling as he thought about the slightly shabby box of mid-range biscuits he’d bought for his hosts. It couldn’t be helped now, he had done his best.

Remus was actually looking forward to Christmas this year, for what may have been the very first time. He was still a bit shy about spending time in someone else’s house, but now that he knew how the Potters were, he relaxed into the idea. He had sold the very last of his illicit cigarettes at a premium, and bought presents for everyone he could – even Lily, Mary and Marlene. It was a real pleasure, giving people presents, he realised. Maybe even better than getting them.

In addition, despite some reservations, Remus was excited about beginning the animagus process. It would be some of the most complex magic they had performed yet – he had asked McGonagall about it, as subtly as possible. She had praised him for taking an interest, but said it was well above third year standard, or even seventh year. He relished the thought of proving her wrong.

There was one other thing he was hoping to get out of the break. Something he hadn’t mentioned to the others, because it was private. Last year, at the Potter’s Christmas party, Remus had been accosted by an old man who knew a lot about Lyall Lupin. At the time, Remus had been struck mute by the revelation and shock of it – but now, a year older and feeling quite mature at the grand old age of thirteen, Remus hoped he might learn a bit more.

* * *

Saturday 22nd December 1973

The full moon had fallen earlier in the month this year, so all four of the marauders were able to join their peers aboard the Hogwarts Express on the usual Saturday. In a change from their usual train journey, Marlene and Mary joined the boys in their carriage. Remus suspected that Lily was somewhere on her own with Severus, probably listening to him whinge about how nobody liked him.

“Did you get your essay back off Ferox?” Marlene asked Remus, a deep crease in her brow, “I only barely got an ‘Acceptable’ mark, and mum’s going to go mental if I don’t get better results this year.”

“Yeah, I did ok…” Remus replied, embarrassed by his third ‘Outstanding’ that term.

“We’ll bring back the study club after Christmas, right?” Mary put in, “Lily’s up for it. Don’t worry, Marls, you’ll be fine.”

“Sounds good.” Remus nodded.

“Moony’s joined a club without us!” Sirius wailed, pretending to weep on James’s shoulder.

“He’s a big boy, now,” James patted his friend, solemnly, “They grow up so fast.”

“Piss off.” Remus grinned, “They have slug club for posho’s like you.”

“You can study with us if you want, Sirius,” Mary purred.

Sirius looked alarmed – he used the library exclusively as a resource for jinx and hexes, not for doing anything so mundane as homework. Mary didn’t know Sirius. Not really.

When they pulled into King’s Cross, Remus felt a certain thrill when he saw that Mr and Mrs Potter were there to collect all of them. Usually he had to cross the barrier and go looking for Matron in the café or by the newspaper stand. He was in for a shock, however, when he learnt that he was about to apparate for the first time.

“Hold my arm, dear,” Mrs Potter smiled at him kindly, “Close your eyes, it’ll all be over in a moment.”

Remus obeyed, scrunching his eyes shut.

It was much worse than floo powder. Worse than flying. He nearly dragged Mrs Potter down with him when they landed, as he lost balance and fell hard on the pavement outside the Potter’s house.

“Whoops-a-daisy!” Mrs Potter laughed kindly, pulling him up again. “You’re all right now.” She brushed his knees and shoulders. “Now, I’ll just pop back for Sirius, Monty will be over with James in two ticks.”

And with a CRACK, she vanished. Remus barely had time to lean on the low front gate and catch his breath before there was another CRACK, and Mr Potter appeared with James, who didn’t look half as bad as Remus felt.

Once they were all there, Mrs Potter ushered them all into the house, sending their trunks flying up the stairs to their respective bedrooms, boiling a kettle and slicing some homemade madeira cake all in what felt like a few seconds. As Remus sat at the Potter’s big wooden kitchen table eating cake and sipping a huge mug of tea, listening to James and Sirius chatter nineteen to the dozen about the term so far, he couldn’t resist sighing contentedly to himself. Two whole weeks of this.

Unfortunately, unlike the previous year, there had been no snow yet this winter, only rain. In fact, as the evening drew on the downpour grew heavier and heavier, until thunder cracked open the sky outside, and hailstones battered the window panes. Rather than go outside, the boys sat in the living room under the Christmas tree playing games and toasting the occasional teacake on the fire. Remus himself settled into a book on human transfiguration, and Mrs Potter reviewed her lists for the coming celebrations.

“We’ve a few more people coming this year,” she explained, as the long thin strips of parchment hovered before her, a royal blue quill working quickly across the surface, ticking off various items. “Some friends from the old days, and some newer acquaintances,” as she said this, she glanced furtively over at Sirius, who wasn’t paying attention, immersed in the game. “Only just have enough room for all of you!” She continued, with a happy smile that was just like her son’s.

Just then, there was a knock at the door. Sirius sat bolt upright, as if he’d been stuck by lightening. He turned to Mrs Potter wide-eyed. It wasn’t his mother, Remus knew this – but he didn’t say so, because how on earth would that sound? ‘Don’t worry, Sirius, I know your mother’s scent.’  Too bloody creepy.

Mrs Potter got up, leaving the lists hovering in mid-air, and went to answer the door. A cold breeze blew in, and the three boys listened intently. It was a woman, but her voice was higher and younger than that of Walpurga Black. She sounded as though she was crying, and Mrs Potter spoke in soothing tones.

“Boys!” She called from the hallway. They got up and went to meet her. She was standing just inside the kitchen doorway. Behind her, a young woman with long blonde hair sat at the table, her head in her hands.

“What’s up, mum?” James asked, craning his neck.

“It’s getting late – you’d all better go to bed. Philly’s staying the night, and I’m afraid we’ve no room left – Sirius, would you mind sharing with James tonight, dear?”

“We can all share,” James said, generously, “Everyone else is arriving tomorrow anyway, might as well just all bunk up together.”

Mrs Potter nodded, and summoned the house elf.

James’s bedroom was absolutely perfect in every way. Huge and spacious, the walls were plastered with Gryffindor banners and quidditch posters. Every broom he’d ever owned was mounted on the wall, and his shelves were packed with wizard children’s books and old toys that he clearly wasn’t ready to let go of just yet. Chief among these was a little knight figurine, apparently supposed to be Godric Gryffindor himself, marching back and forth along the edge of the bookcase.

The bed was huge, hung with red velvet drapes, the same as their dorm room, and though it was big enough for all three of them, the house elf had whipped up two single beds which lay at the foot of it.

“Who was that?” Remus asked, as they all sat on the big bed together in their pyjamas.

“Philomena,” James said, “Pete’s sister.”

“What’s she doing here?”

“I think she’s been arguing with Pete’s folks – they don’t like her going to muggle university, and,” he lowered his voice, “Dad says she’s got a muggle boyfriend.”

“Really?!” Sirius’s eyes widened in awe. Remus said nothing – he hadn’t known that going out with muggles was particularly taboo.

“Yeah, and you know what mum’s like,” James nudged Sirius, “Loves taking in strays.”

* * *

Christmas Eve, 1973

Philomena was present at breakfast the next morning, and remained for the whole of Christmas. At first, she didn’t say very much, but stared into space, pale faced and red eyed. From what Remus had gathered, going out with a muggle was not only taboo, but an offence worthy of disowning your own child. Apart from the Potters, Remus couldn’t help but think that wizards did not make very good parents, based on his experience.

Peter’s sister was about seven years older than him, and you might not know they were related at all, other than their straw-coloured hair. Where Pete was round and podgy, Philomena was slim and dainty-featured. She had chocolate brown eyes and a delicate smattering of pale brown freckles over her little nose. Her hair was worn in the same style as many muggle girls Remus had seen; long and poker-straight with a thick parted fringe, like Marianne Faithfull.

James, who knew her best, could not do enough for the pretty visitor. He offered her tea, held out her chair and generally became her willing servant, until even Sirius had had enough of him.

“Bloody hell, Potter, she’s just a girl.”

“I’m being nice.” James frowned. “Nothing wrong with being nice to my mate’s sister.”

They hadn’t seen Peter. Once Mrs Pettigrew learnt where her daughter was staying, he had been confined to the house. They were making do by sending owls back and forward, which was probably more fun for James and Sirius than it was for Peter.

“What would Evans say?” Sirius teased James, who turned bright red.

“She’d be glad someone’s taken his mind off her,” Remus suggested from where he was lounging on his camp bed.

“You can talk, Black.” James shoved his friend, “What’s going on between you and Mary?”

“Macdonald?” Sirius asked, innocently, “Dunno what you’re talking about.”

“Oh come on,” James groaned, “Tell us! Have you snogged her or what?”

Remus dropped his book. Snogging?! Since when was snogging on the cards?! Sirius gave a coy look.

“No. Kissed her cheek though.”

“Ohhh, how scandalous, Black!” James threw a pillow at him. Sirius threw it back and all of a sudden they were wrestling.

Remus usually just rolled his eyes and let them get on with it. But now he used the distraction to gather his thoughts – he felt very childish and silly, not having realised that Sirius liked Mary back. That there was kissing involved now, even if it was just a peck on the cheek. Remus wracked his brain, trying to put himself in Sirius’s position. If a girl liked you, you pretty much had to kiss them, wasn’t that the case? Was it awful if a girl didn’t like you? If Sirius now liked Mary, and James liked Lily, ought he to pick a girl too? Marlene was ok. A bit shy, like him. Maybe Marlene, then.

The thought kept him up that night, long after James and Sirius had fallen asleep. They both slept in James’s bed – Sirius had simply climbed in on the first night and James hadn’t said a word. Remus kept to himself, on his designated camp bed. He tried to take his mind off it, think about Christmas and stockings and crackers – but it was all in vain. All he could think about was Sirius kissing Mary’s cheek. And where had they done it? When had it happened? What did it feel like?

Eventually, restless and overwrought, he got up to get some water. He padded out of the room, into the bathroom across the hall and ran the tap. He sipped some of the tepid water, and looked at himself in the mirror. In the dim light, he couldn’t see his scars. Would a girl ever like him, if he looked the way he looked? He would never be as good looking as Sirius, or even James, but perhaps he was slightly better than Peter? How on earth could you know?!

Suddenly, the lights flashed on, burning his retinas, so that he almost dropped his glass.

“Oh, sorry!” Philomena stood in the doorway in a long peach-coloured nightie. She looked shocked, “What are you doing wandering around in the dark?!”

“Um… I have really good eyesight.” He mumbled, stepping away from the sink. “I couldn’t sleep.”

“Me neither,” she sighed. Once the surprise had left her face, she looked sad again. Remus hoped she wouldn’t cry. He was useless with crying – oh god, if he got a girlfriend would he have to deal with crying?! He had no time to swallow back his panic, before Philomena began talking again, “It’s horrible to be away from family at Christmas, isn’t it?”

“Er… I grew up in a children’s home, actually.”

“Oh really?” She looked interested for a moment, “You’re one of Peter’s little friends, aren’t you? I didn’t know he knew any muggleborns. Kept that quiet from mummy.”

“My dad was a wizard,” Remus said, with some confidence, “But he died.”

“Half-blood.” She murmured. “But even so…” She trailed off, despondently. Remus shifted uncomfortably; his bare feet were beginning to get cold on the bathroom tiles, and he was only wearing his underwear and a vest to sleep in, which was embarrassing enough. She didn’t seem to mind, “You’re lucky,” she said, “Not having to grow up with all of this shit.”

“You mean magic?” Remus frowned. He’d never heard a witch or wizard – pureblood or muggleborn – talk this way.

“Yeah, magic,” she sniffed, “What’s so bloody good about magic, eh? What makes us so special? D’you want to know a secret?”

He didn’t, but thought it better not to say so. She carried on anyway, whispering now, “I wish I was a muggle, sometimes,” she said, a glimmer of madness in her eye, “If I could do it, I’d run away forever and never be found. And I’d have a nice normal job, and a nice normal life, and I’d fall in love with whoever I want.” At this last affirmation, she burst into tears.

“You could do that anyway, if you wanted.” Remus said, quickly, not sure exactly why he was saying what he was saying. She looked at him suspiciously,

“What do you mean?”

“Well, what’s stopping you?” He asked. “You’re of age. You can do whatever you feel like. Go and be a waitress, or run away to America and be a film star. Marry Prince Charles if you want to. I mean… you might need to use a bit of magic to get started, but you could give it up. No one says you have to do magic.”

She stared at him, and looked him up and down,

“No one’s ever said that to me that before.”

Remus shrugged.

“What’s your name, again?”

“Remus. Remus Lupin.”

“Oh!” She burst out laughing, “You poor thing, that’s almost as a bad as Philomena!”

Chapter Text

Christmas Day, 1973

Remus’s odd late night conversation with Philomena had caused him to re-evaluate his anxieties about girlfriends. His ability to comfort her had stirred no particular feelings of chivalry or affection – only a mild sense of relief that he’d got her to stop crying. He definitely had no desire to get that close to any other girl.

He thought about Narcissa for the first time in a while. Remus had secretly thought Narcissa was the most beautiful girl he knew – before she’d dyed her hair anyway. She had a regal sharpness which appealed to him on some base level. But even she was made foolish by love – risking her own life, in fact.

The sight of Philomena sobbing in her nightie only cemented in Remus’s mind the revelation that love and relationships were not worth the misery. He had enough pain in his life. Let Sirius and James work it out for themselves, but for the time being, Remus felt very intelligent for having come to this realisation so early in life. He had probably saved himself a lot of needless stress.

Christmas morning was as wonderful as it had been the year before – even Philomena perked up once she saw the gifts under the tree with her name on them. Remus was able to enjoy the immense satisfaction of handing out his own presents, and Sirius and the Potters were all suitably pleased and thanked him profusely. He himself received a chess set from the Potters, which was perhaps the most expensive thing Remus had ever owned – and bought just for him, not second hand. Along with the usual assortment sweets and practical jokes from the marauders, it was a very good haul.

Sirius looked a bit nonplussed at breakfast, as everyone else wolfed down their smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.

“S’up wif yoo?” James asked, mouth full. Sirius shrugged,

“Nothing from Andromeda,” he said, quietly, “I didn’t think I’d get presents or anything, now she’s got the baby, but I thought maybe a card… I sent her one.”

James swallowed and patted his friend’s shoulder.

“Owl might just be flying late – you know how the post is this time of year.”

James had received a brand new broom for Christmas, and as soon as breakfast was finished with, all three boys headed straight outside to test it. Sirius had his own broom with him, and Mr Potter suggested with an arched eyebrow that Remus take James’s old one.

“Yeah, have it if you want, Moony!” James nodded enthusiastically, “To keep!”

“Thanks…” Remus took it, unable to say no in front of James’s parents. Goodness knew what he was supposed to do with it over the summer – try explaining that one to Matron.

James and Sirius spent the rest of the morning showing off, and Remus spent it hovering; just skimming the ground with his toes, trying to read his book and look like he was enjoying the broom. He hoped Peter had received his gifts from them, and wasn’t having too bad of a time with his own family.

They were called in by the Potter’s house elf, Gully, who was dressed in a festive tea towel and had a sprig of holly tucked behind one ear. It was almost lunch time, and the house smelled deliciously of roast beef with all the trimmings.

“Upstairs, washed and changed, the lot of you.” Mrs Potter shook her wooden spoon at them, “I’ve had Gully set your things out.”

They washed and dressed quickly, stomachs growling as the wonderful smells from the kitchen wafted up the stairs. Just as they began to make their way down, there was the tell-tale CRACK of apparition outside the front door. Sirius tensed again, and Remus, one step behind him on the staircase, gripped his shoulder in a way that he hoped was comforting.

Sirius turned around and looked Remus in the eye, giving him a gentle smile of appreciation. It was quite un-Sirius-like, but it felt good.

The bell rang and they both turned back to it, James running forward to open the door. A couple stood in the entrance way – a young man and a woman holding a bundle in her arms. He had a mop of fair, curly hair, and was rather stockily built, she was taller and more slender. As they stepped into the light of the hallway, Remus sucked in his breath – she was the spitting image of Sirius’s cousin Bellatrix.

“No!” Sirius gasped, starting forward, a smile bursting on his face.

“Sirius!” The young woman grinned back, and Remus relaxed, seeing that it was not Bellatrix at all. This woman had the same wildly curly hair as her sister, though it was a much lighter shade of brown – it had to be Andromeda.

She passed the baby in her arms over to the man next to her – presumably her husband, Ted – and stretched out her arms to pull Sirius into a huge hug. Remus watched with fierce jealousy, and not a little guilt – he had never seen Sirius so embraced by anyone, let alone a member of his family. Remus made his own way slowly down the stairs, as Mrs Potter entered the hallway now, smiling widely, looking very pleased with herself.

“A good surprise, then?” She asked, as Sirius shook Ted’s hand and tentatively patted the baby’s head.

“You did this?!” Sirius stared at James’s mother in wonder.

“Effie was kind enough to invite us,” Ted smiled, his eyes twinkling. “Pleased to meet you, Sirius. Nice to meet someone in Dromeda’s family.”

“Come in, come in!” Mrs Potter ushered the gathering into the hall. They all followed her towards the dining room, Remus last of all.

* * *

Andromeda was the polar opposite to the rest of the Black family – or at least those Remus had so far met. Though she was as strikingly beautiful as the rest of them, with the same piercing eyes and biting wit, she was full of laughter and merriment. Ted clearly adored her too, and hardly seemed to mind that she left him with the baby most of the time.

‘Dora’ was the strangest infant Remus had ever seen – though, admittedly, he had not met many. She was as cheerful as her mother, with a gummy grin. Her wisps of hair changed from purple to green to blue with each moment, which everyone else seemed to find cute, rather than bizarre.

Before sitting down to eat, they were joined by several other guests – old family friends of the Potters, including, much to Remus’s excitement, old Darius Barebones.

“A toast,” Mr Potter raised his glass rather tipsily at the end of the meal, “To friends, old and new!”

“To the Potters!” Andromeda raised her own glass, “Protectors of outcasts and defenders of black sheep everywhere.”

Everyone laughed and clinked glasses.

“I think I must be the most outcast,” Sirius said, happily, “I’m a Gryffindor, after all.”

“To Gryffindor!” Mr Potter called out, from the other end of the table. Only the Gryffindors toasted, Andromeda narrowed her eyes at Sirius,

“Think so, little cousin? Try marrying a non-relative.”

“I’ll have to,” Sirius responded, as Gully cleared away the plates and Mrs Potter fetched in the Christmas pudding, “After Cissy’s wedding there aren’t any Black women left.”

“There’s Dora.”

“Excuse me,” Ted said, protectively covering his daughter’s ears, “Could we please get her through her first Christmas before arranging a betrothal?”

“I’m teasing,” Andromeda leaned over to kiss them both, “Dora can marry anyone she likes when she’s old enough, and I can say with absolute certainty that it won’t be anyone at this table.”

Everyone laughed again. Remus eyed Darius, furtively – he was looking just as merry as Mr Potter, his face glowing red from the fire whisky he’d been knocking back.

Once the pudding was extinguished, served and eaten, crackers pulled and terrible jokes read out, the party adjourned to the living room. Mrs Potter, Philomena and Andromeda went upstairs to change into their party dresses, Mr Potter smoked his pipe and Ted settled Dora down for a nap. The boys settled into a game of snap, before Darius and Mr Potter wrangled everyone into a round of charades. Remus had never played charades before, let alone magical charades, which involved a lot of red and gold sparks – though that may just have been high spirits.

In the evening, more guests began to arrive and the house was soon full of music, laughter and pleasant chatter. Andromeda and Sirius appointed themselves DJs, rifling through their combined record collections and alternating blasting Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody and I Wish It Could be Christmas Everyday by Wizzard.

When the snowman brings the snow
Well he just might like to know
He's put a great big smile on somebody's face…

“They’re actually called wizard, though,” Sirius kept telling everyone, earnestly, “And just listen to it…”

Even Philomena forgot her melancholy for a few hours, getting up and moving to the music along with James, who was just about the same height as her and had no clue how to dance, but was pretty chuffed when she took his hand and showed him how to twist.

Quite sure he would not be missed, Remus slipped between the throngs of people in search of Darius. There must have been a hundred witches and wizards in attendance – some of them teachers at Hogwarts, who Remus did everything to avoid. He heard at least three people murmur that Dumbledore was there, somewhere.

“They’re both Black’s, you know,” he heard one witch whispering to her friend, as they watched Andromeda and Sirius giggling hysterically by the record player, “She’s run off and had a baby with that Tonks chap, and the boy – well he was the heir, but I’ve heard Orion is planning to contest it as soon as their younger boy is of age. Quite the little hell raiser, from what I’ve heard.”

“He can’t be any worse than Orion was, I went to school with him. Nasty, vicious kid. Sirius is a ray of sunshine compared to Orion – and don’t get me started on that bitch Walpurga.”

“Shh.” The first witch said, nervously, “You never know who’s listening these days, even at the Potters.”

“Well, what’s he doing here at all, I’d like to know?”

“He’s chums with the Potter boy. You know what Effie and Monty are like – they’ve taken in the Pettigrew’s eldest, too, she’s over there.”

“Yes, I heard about that.”

“Well, it’s no secret at all why she’s here – the Pettigrews and the Potters are both pure blood, after all, despite the rumours. Mind you, Effie might want to act quickly – if Philomena sees her chance to bag the Black heir then poor James isn’t going to get a look in, is he? I mean, everybody knows what’s going on; we all need to pick a side. The Potters picked theirs a long time ago, I’m afraid.”

Remus felt his blood boil. It was horrible, hearing his friends spoken about like that – and the Potters, who Remus was absolutely certain had no ulterior motives when it came to their son, or the company he kept. They let James be friends with him, after all, knowing exactly what he was.

He clenched his fists, wished he was allowed to do magic – do anything to shut those mean old bitches up. Sirius and Andromeda were now bawling at the tops of their lungs, joined by James and Philomena:

“Weeeell I wish it could be Christmas every daaaa-aaay!
When the kids start singing and the band begins to plaa-aay
Oooooh I wish it could be Christmas everyday
So let the BELLS ring OUT for CHRISTmaaaas!”

Remus smiled, and at the same moment, finally caught sight of Darius. The old man was steaming drunk now, leaning heavily on the bannister in the hallway and talking to an old woman who looked like she would very much like to get away from him.

Remus straightened his back and consciously smoothed his features. He’d borrowed a set of James’s smart dress robes for the occasion, and Philomena had kindly performed a cosmetic spell on his scars. As such, he hoped that he’d get away with at least appearing to be the son of a famous wizard, rather than a muggle brat from a children’s home.

“Good evening, Mr Barebones,” he said, affecting an accent learnt from three years of listening to James and Sirius’s received pronunciation. He held out a hand to the old man, who shook it, looking at him, puzzled, “Remus Lupin – you remember we met last year?”

“Ah, yes! The Lupin boy!”

“That’s right,” Remus nodded, smiling serenely, keeping his expression controlled. He handed Darius another whisky, as the witch the old man had previously been talking to snuck away. “I believe you knew my father?”

“Lyall Lupin! Best dueller I ever knew! Married a muggle somewhere in Wales, didn’t he?”

“That’s right,” Remus said, steadily, “My mother.” He took a careful breath as Darius guzzled more whisky, then cleared his throat, “Did you know Lyall very well?” He found that ‘Lyall’ was much easier to say than ‘my father’.

“Oh, quite well, quite well,” Darius nodded enthusiastically, thrilled to have someone to talk to, “Worked under him at the ministry, before all the trouble started. Never knew anyone better with boggarts – or dementors, come to that. The Azkaban liaison office has missed him, I can tell you.”

“The trouble?” Remus asked, swiping another glass of whisky from Gully, who hurried past with a tray, and handing it to the old man.

“Thank you, dear boy. Yes, the trouble. Nasty business. Nasty.”

“You’re talking about… the events that led to Lyall’s suicide?” He couldn’t say it. Darius had to say it.

“I’m talking about the damned werewolves!” Darius slammed his empty whisky glass down on a nearby sideboard. “Forgive me,” he muttered.

“Not at all,” Remus replied, unblinking. “Do go on. I know the story, of course. But I’d like to… hear about it from someone who knew him.”

Darius surveyed him, carefully, through his whisky-addled haze. He seemed to slump, slightly, before beginning his story.

“We couldn’t possibly know, you understand, none of us… well… Lyall was a great wizard – a great wizard, you hear me?” He slurred. Remus nodded. “But…” the old man looked upwards, glassy eyed, “Well, he did have a tendency to obsess over things. And that temper! Flew into rages at work – during committee hearings, even.”

“Committee hearings?” Remus almost broke character.

“Hasn’t your mother told you?” Darius looked at him, surprised, “Bloody muggles, not fit to raise our children, I’ve said it for years...” He sighed, “Your father was on several committees at the ministry for the regulation and control of magical creatures.”

Remus was glad he had taken Care of Magical Creatures, otherwise he might know nothing at all about this. As it was, he was able to nod, knowingly. Darius continued,

“Just his area, of course, he was a giant in the field. But he liked his own way, and he was seen as a bit of an extremist, in those days. Wanted an overhaul of the Werewolf Registry, better identification and tracking measures. We just didn’t have the manpower for it, and resources were better spent elsewhere. And Lupin… he’d been working with dark creatures for so many years, he thought he saw werewolves everywhere – always saw danger where there clearly wasn’t any. Honestly, we all thought he was an eccentric, we couldn’t have known… when they brought Greyback in, I was there. I saw him, and I don’t mind telling you, none of us thought he was a threat. Clearly drunk. Confused. A vagrant, that’s what we thought. And when Lupin went off on one of his rants about werewolves, well… we didn’t think twice.”

“You let Greyback go.” Remus said, stonily. Darius looked very sorry for himself now, almost weepy. He nodded.

“We let him go. Of course now, now we know… if only we’d listened. Lyall killed himself just after that, didn’t even want to hear the committee’s apology.” He sighed, and looked at Remus again, “I’ve always wondered what drove him to it, you know. Some say it was the guilt – not being able to stop Greyback. I wouldn’t have thought he was the type… and to abandon his family like that, I mean, you couldn’t have been much more than a baby?”

“Five.” Remus said, “I was five.”

“Yes, well.” Darius shifted, uncomfortably, looking morosely down at his empty glass, “I have my own little theory about what happened… what if Greyback came after him, eh? We know how dangerous he is, now. We know he hates wizards more than anything else, and your father said some very unpleasant things. So what I wonder is… did Greyback go back and get him? Did he bite him? If that’s what happened then… I must say, I don’t blame Lyall at all. Only good beast’s a dead beast.”

“Mm.” Remus replied, feeling very hot, and a bit dizzy. “And Greyback?”

“Last I heard, he’s in league with you-know-who.” Darius shook his head, “And the damned irony of it all is that we need your father more than ever. Still,” he smiled at Remus, kindly, “Don’t think he died in vain, dear boy. We did end up implementing a lot of his reforms, particularly where half-breeds are concerned. Can’t escape the registry now, no sir!” He slammed his wizened old fist down.

“Excuse me.” Remus turned, quickly. He had heard enough. “I hear Mrs Potter calling.”

He slipped back into the crowd of merrymakers, the music still blaring as Sirius and Andromeda led everyone in chorus:

“So here it iiiiiiiis, Merry Christmas,
Everybody's having fuuuuun!
Loo-ook to the future now,
It's only just begun!”

Chapter Text

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.”

“What?!”

“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.

Chapter Text

Winter passed into spring, and as per usual, Remus’s birthday was celebrated with creative vigour by the other marauders – the customary singing at every meal time, the cake, presents. Unfortunately, McGonagall was wise to their antics this year and had a prefect watching the boys’ dorms to prevent any further midnight firework displays.

Fortunately, Remus’s fourteenth fell on a Hogsmeade weekend, and he felt very grown up indeed spending the afternoon in The Three Broomsticks with his friends. It soon became clear that James and Sirius had somehow bribed all of their classmates to stop by the pub too, as a steady stream of students approached their table wanting to buy Remus a butterbeer or toast his health. By the time the afternoon was over everyone in the bar knew Remus’s name, and he was raucously cheered on his way out. Completely embarrassing, of course.

With his birthday out of the way, Remus threw himself into revision in preparation for the upcoming exams – he had a particular urge to do well in his new subjects, not least Care of Magical Creatures. By returning his focus to study and schoolwork, Remus slowly began to put the cruel words of Darius Barebones behind him. Yes, he was dangerous, and yes, once everyone found out what Remus was he would very likely be shunned. But until then, he had an opportunity to learn – and he wasn’t going to waste it.

* * *

Sunday 7th April 1974

Remus had never met Davey Gudgeon before – as far as he knew, nor had any of the others. He never found out what the kid looked like, even. But he would remember that name until the day he died.

The whomping willow had been turned into a game during the summer of 1973 by a group of bored first years, and though it was abhorred by Filch and frowned upon by the heads of houses, no one had really said anything about it. Try to see how close you can get to the trunk before the branches took a swipe at you. Remus certainly had no inclination to play. He hated that tree.  

As it was, Remus wasn’t even there when it happened. It was the day after a full moon, and he was in the hospital wing, as per usual. Peter was sitting on the floor, sorting through his chocolate frog cards, murmuring to himself happily. James was marking Sirius’s divination homework, and Sirius was covertly flicking his wand at James behind his back, turning his hair different colours for Remus’s amusement. Blue, pink, green, yellow – it was working too; Remus found it hysterically funny, because James looked so serious, and when he was concentrating his tongue poked out between his teeth like a cat.

It was a perfectly pleasant afternoon, and Remus could almost ignore how much his bones and teeth hurt as they settled back into place for another cycle.

But then it happened. The hospital door slammed open, and a student came in shrieking;

“Madam Pomfrey! Madam Pomfrey! Help!”

Nosey as they were, Sirius and James jumped down from the bed to peer around the pale green curtains. Remus sighed, leaning back on his pillow. He was accustomed now to the ebb and flow of the hospital wing; raised voices like that usually meant a spell gone wrong. He tried to ignore it – he resented anything that reminded him he was in a hospital, and not just enjoying a lazy afternoon with his friends.

But James and Sirius remained out of view, watching whatever the scene was unfold, and when they turned back towards the bed their faces were pale and serious. The commotion had grown louder, Remus was dimly aware of someone crying.

“What is it?” He asked, more irritably than he meant to.

Sirius’s mouth twisted and James shook his head, mutely, pushing his glasses up his nose. Peter finally looked up from his cards,

“What?”

“An accident... some kid.” James murmured.

“Everyone out!” Madam Pomfrey’s voice echoed through the chamber, unnaturally loud and clear. The curtain around Remus’s bed parted and she poked her head through, looking distracted, “Remus, dear, if you’re feeling well enough it might be best for you to spend the rest of the afternoon in your own bed. Potter, would you go and fetch Professor Sprout? Tell her that one of her students has been injured.”

James nodded and left immediately, without even glancing back at his friends or his homework. You could always rely on James.

Sirius caught Remus’s eye and Remus nodded his assent, climbing out of bed. He was still in his pyjamas, and Sirius hoiked Peter up by the elbow to give him some privacy. Remus dressed as quickly as he could, shoved his books into his bag, grabbed James’s work and joined his friends on the other side of the curtain. He could smell blood.

Curtains had been drawn around the bed nearest the door, and the three boys hurried past it, wanting nothing more than to escape the unpleasant atmosphere and get as far away as possible. They went straight to the common room, Remus limping slightly, Sirius and Peter slowing down to match his pace.

“What was it?” Remus whispered, “There was blood.”

“Yeah,” Sirius replied, looking shaken, “I dunno what happened but… it was his face.”

Peter looked faintly ill.

They reached the common room and Remus collapsed into an armchair, exhausted.

“You ok?” Sirius asked, anxiously, touching a hand to Remus’s shoulder. Remus nodded, closing his eyes and breathing deeply,

“Fine, fine.” He shrugged Sirius off, embarrassed, wishing he could be normal for once.

“Alright lads,” Mary sauntered into the room, Marlene in tow, “Hear what happened to that Gudgeon kid?”

“No,” Sirius replied, slyly, “What?”

“Whacked in the face by that mental tree.” She said, shaking her cloak off, “They were trying to touch the trunk.”

“The whomping willow?”

“Yeah,” Marlene piped up, “It shouldn’t be allowed! It’s so dangerous!”

“Did you see it happen?!” Remus asked, trying to keep the panic out of his voice.

“Nope,” Mary shrugged, flinging herself down on the couch next to Sirius, “Heard it from one of the second-year girls.”

“They’ll have to get rid of it!” Marlene said, shrilly. “Dumbledore can’t leave it there now. Someone could be killed.”

“He should have stayed away from it.” Sirius said, frowning, “It’s a stupid game. Everyone knows what that tree’s like.”

“Have I gone mad?” Mary laughed, “Sirius Black, the voice of reason?!”

“Piss off, MacDonald,” Sirius scowled.

Remus was starting to get a headache. He rubbed his temple and closed his eyes again, shrinking down into the armchair. Guilt creeped up his spine, hot and cold pinpricks. It hit him in the face?! Would this Gudgeon boy be ok? Surely Madam Pomfrey would be able to fix it, whatever it was. She could fix anything.

* * *

Gossip about Davey Gudgeon flooded the school in a matter of hours, until no one could escape it. Sarah Saunders from Ravenclaw told everyone that she’d seen his parents arrive, then march straight to Dumbledore’s office, looking furious. Gudgeon’s friends in Hufflepuff relayed the story over and over for anyone who’d listened – that it had seemed as though Davey would actually reach the trunk this time, but then the willow lashed out at the very last minute. They heard varying accounts of the damage – that the tree had cracked his skull in two, that he had lost both his eyes, or even that he had actually died and the school was covering it up.

Marlene, who seemed more distressed than anyone else about the whole thing, enlisted Lily and Mary’s help in drawing up a petition to have the whomping willow removed from the school premises. Remus signed it – he couldn’t think of a good enough reason not to.

Sirius refused.

“That tree has just as much right to be here as anybody.” He said, firmly, as Marlene chased him with a quill.

“But Sirius,” she pleaded, “It’s dangerous.”

“So are bludgers!” He returned, dodging her, “You going to leave the quidditch team?”

“It’s hardly the same thing!”

“Ugh, just sign it, Black,” Lily groaned, trying to finish her Runes homework, “What’s it to you?”

“It’s the principle!” He crossed his arms, firmly. Lily rolled her huge green eyes.

“Tosser.” She muttered under her breath, “Can’t he see how upset Marls is?”

“Why is she so upset?” Remus asked, in a whisper, when Marlene was out of earshot. “Did she know Davey?”

“Don’t think so,” Lily sighed, “I think she just wants a project to take her mind off stuff at home. Family, you know.”

Remus thought about this. He didn’t know Marlene as well as he’d got to know Lily and Mary. Mary was so outgoing, and would chat to anyone. (In fact, if anything she was a bit of an oversharer. Remus knew far too much about her snogging preferences for his liking.) Marlene had always been the quieter, shyer one – less sure of herself, even in the areas she excelled. He didn’t know very much about her family simply because it never occurred to him to ask about people’s families.

He didn’t think the petition would really go anywhere. Dumbledore had given a speech prohibiting anyone from going near the whomping willow again, and that was all that had been said on the matter. The staff were clearly uneasy, and Remus had just been trying to keep his head down.

The other marauders hadn’t said anything to him about it, and changed the subject whenever it came up. Usually Remus preferred not to discuss anything related to his ‘furry little problem’, but now he was beginning to wonder whether they secretly blamed him after all. James would never say it out loud, of course – Peter might. Sirius might say so and then instantly take it back. Either way, none of them said a word, leaving Remus’s imagination to run wild.

A week after the incident, Professor Sprout confirmed the rumour; Davey Gudgeon was now blind, and would not be returning to Hogwarts for quite some time. Remus had been trying to avoid Sprout since it had happened – as Herbology teacher, he was sure that she knew exactly what the whomping willow was doing on the grounds in the first place.

“His parents are taking him to America, where there are advances being made in ocular healing potions.” The dumpy professor explained at breakfast. “I am sure Davy and his family are very grateful for all of your well wishes.”

Remus felt a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. When Marlene, Lily, Mary, and a few other students got up to present their petition – which had over four hundred signatures, now, - Remus went with them.

Professor Sprout accepted the petition and promised to discuss the matter with Dumbledore. She even awarded Marlene ten house points for her efforts.  

“They’re not going to get rid of it, though,” Sirius said, later that evening when the marauders were all alone in their room.

“No, I doubt it,” Remus kicked a stray sock under his bed, hands in his pockets.

“So why did you go up?”

Remus shrugged,

“Felt like the right thing to do. I mean. Marlene’s right – the tree’s dangerous. Shouldn’t be at a school.”

“But…” Peter started.

“I know.” Remus snapped. “I know, ok?”

“You shouldn’t feel guilty, mate,” James said, kindly, “Gudgeon shouldn’t have been mucking around like that… it’s not your fault—”

“If it’s anyone’s fault,” Remus said darkly, “Then it’s mine.”

“That’s stupid.” Sirius said, bluntly, shaking his head, “You didn’t plant it, did you? I dunno if it’s escaped everyone else’s attention, but this school is not exactly safety conscious. It’s built next to a bloody forest full of creatures more dangerous than a flipping tree, there’s supposed to be a literal monster lying dormant somewhere directly below us, and – not being funny – but have you seen Hagrid?!”

“What’s your point, Black?” Remus sighed, heavily, sitting down. His hip hurt if he stood up for too long. He was getting to be like an old woman.

“I dunno,” Sirius shrugged, “Shit happens? Don’t blame yourself? Stop moping?”

“Moping?!” Remus growled, his temperature rising, “Fuck off. There’s a kid who can’t see because I’m too dangerous to be at school! Try telling Marlene what I am, I bet she’d get a lot more signatures on THAT petition.”

“You’re not dangerous!”

“You don’t know what I am.” Remus hissed.

“You’re our friend.” James said, suddenly. Remus stared at him. It was a stupid, soppy, dramatic thing to say. But that was half of the problem with James – he so embodied those unrealistic values of loyalty, justice, and honour, that he forced you to believe in them too. He sat next to Remus on the bed. “You’re our friend, and that’s the most important thing, ok?”

He met Remus’s glare and stared back, smiling. “Ok?” He said.

Remus continued to glare, and James inched closer, so that their knees knocked together, “Ok?!” He said, leaning forward now, his nose centimetres from Remus’s. Remus knew this tactic – James did the same thing sometimes to cheer Sirius up. He never blinked – it was highly unnerving, and finally Remus laughed, ducking away,

“Ok! Ok!”

James laughed too and threw his arms around Remus,

“Thank goodness! We couldn’t lose you, Moony!” He cried. Suddenly, Sirius and Peter followed suit, piling onto Remus, who found himself at the bottom of a very giggly scrum.  

Laughing, despite himself, Remus tried to squirm out from under them,

“Get off me you bunch of poofs!”

“Ahh, you love us really,” Sirius patted his head.

Chapter Text

“So, summer?” James asked, over butterbeers in the Three Broomsticks on their last Hogsmeade weekend before exams.

Sirius and Remus groaned in unison.

“You know I can’t—” Remus started,

“They’ll never let me.” Sirius finished.

“I don’t see why, though,” James replied, innocently. “You both came for Christmas.”

“Yeah, but there’s some rule about me staying at St Edmund’s for the whole summer,” Remus shrugged. “While I’m there, I have to follow muggle law. You don’t get to visit anyone when you’re in care, unless they’re related.”

“And you know what my lot are like.” Sirius sighed, heavily. “Even after Christmas – and I think that was just to keep me out of the way, to be honest. Reg already told me I’m expected.”

“When did you speak to Regulus?” James looked up, surprised. Sirius shifted slightly on his stool, looking awkward,

“Er… the other day. Wasn’t worth mentioning, only saw him for a minute.”

I’ll be there all summer, James,” Peter said, loudly.

Sirius rolled his eyes rather obviously, but James smiled and patted Peter’s knee,

“Yeah, great, mate – least I’ll have you, eh?”

“I might be able to swing a Diagon Alley trip,” Sirius said, perking up slightly, “I’ve thought about it, and if you brought the invisibility cloak then we might be able to work something out…”

The three of them began to chat excitedly about this plan – Remus let them. Ever since he’d put a stop to the animagus initiative the marauders had been at a bit of a loose end. They needed something to use their creative energy on, and it generally had to be at least mildly illegal.

“Moony,” James said suddenly, “Where is St. Edmund’s, exactly?”

“Epping Forest,” Remus supplied, promptly, “Why?”

“We could always come and visit you…”

“No.” Remus said this with such forcefulness that Sirius and Peter’s heads snapped up, alarmed. Remus swallowed dryly, “Just don’t, ok? It’s a bad idea.”

His insides churned – the humiliation he would feel when his friends saw how he lived; where he came from. It would be too much to bear.  What would they say when they saw his dull grey muggle clothes, or the other boys’ rough faces and hard knuckles? The concrete blocks and the splintering portakabins and the scrubby patch of grass out front. They would pity him.

“I’ll write,” he said, hurriedly, hoping to allay them, “And you lot can tell me everything you get up to. Hopefully I can come to yours again at Christmas, Potter.”

“You might not,” Sirius said, suddenly, “Full moon’s on the twenty-ninth this December.”

Remus looked at him, oddly. He prided himself in having an excellent memory, but Sirius took the cake when it came to the moon cycles.

James laughed,

“How come you’ve memorised every bloody full moon until we’re fifty, but you can’t get above an ‘Acceptable’ in Astronomy?!”

“Some things are important to remember, some things aren’t,” Sirius shrugged, draining his tankard, “And messing up the constellations really annoys my parents. So.”

* * *

Mid-May, 1974

Remus yawned and closed his book. He’d done plenty. More than enough. Too much, if you were to ask Sirius. But then, it was all very well if you were lucky enough to have wealthy dead relatives. Someone with Remus’s prospects couldn’t afford to slack off.

The library was open for extended hours during the exam period, but even so, it was almost closing time, with only a few much older students left behind, blinking sleepily at their texts. Lily, Mary and Marlene had gone to bed at least an hour ago – or Remus thought so, anyway. The days had become very repetitive in the lead up to the end of term, and time no longer felt truly linear – he hadn’t even been outside in days.

Wearily, he stood up, rubbing his eyes, and carried a pile of books back towards the Study of Magical Creatures shelves. He’d found that he could stay on Pince’s good side if he tidied up after himself, and it wasn’t much effort.

He liked being in the library late – it was nice and quiet. Growing up in a boy’s home and sharing a bedroom with the marauders had given Remus precious few opportunities for peace and quiet.

As he turned around the final row of stacks, he caught sight of a small figure slumped at the end, fast asleep over a little single desk. Tip-toeing forward, he recognised the fan of blonde hair splayed over the pages of an open book.

“Marlene,” he whispered, as he got closer. “Marlene!” He tapped her shoulder gently.

She jumped violently, fast enough to give Remus whiplash, then stared about with confused, bleary eyes.

“Remus?”

“You fell asleep,” he explained, keeping his voice low, “Library’s closing soon.”

“Oh no!” She looked distraught, gazing down at her parchment, which was blank. She’d smeared a bit of ink at the top, but nothing more. “Oh no.” she said again, forlorn.

“It’s ok,” Remus tried to cheer her up, “You obviously needed the rest, eh? Still some time before exams start.”

“I’ve got so much revision to do! I can’t remember anything about crups, can you?”

“Come on,” Remus dodged the question, “We’d better go, or Pince’ll be after us.”

Marlene nodded dazedly and got up, letting him lead her out through the maze of bookshelves. As they left, she began muttering to herself,

“Crups have forked tails, are wary of muggles, and somewhat resemble cocker spaniels.”

“Jack Russell’s.” Remus corrected, without thinking.

“What? Really?! Are you sure??” The girl grabbed his arm, unreasonably panicked by this information.

“Er… yeah,” Remus said, reeling back, unable to get away from Marlene’s vice-like grip.

“Of course you’re sure!” She said, woefully, finally letting him go, “You’re the best in the class.”

“You’re very good too…” Remus began, but stopped. Marlene’s face crumpled and she burst into tears.

“I can’t do it! I’m going to fail everything!” She wailed, loudly.

A group of Slytherin’s passing by snickered at her, before Remus pointed his wand menacingly at them. Marlene, still weeping, threw herself at Remus, arms around his neck as she sobbed onto his shoulder. Taken aback, Remus tried to pat her, gently, as her tiny body shook against him. He’d never been hugged by a girl before – except James’s mum, and that was hardly the same thing. He didn’t like it. His shoulder was getting wet.

Marlene was completely oblivious to his awkwardness, however, “I’m so rubbish!” She sniffed, “I mess up everything, I’m never going to be as good as Danny, or mum, or you, or Lily…”

“Er… you’re better than Mary at—”

“But Mary’s got a boyfriend and everyone fancies her and no one likes me!” She cried even harder.

At this point, Remus decided that he was definitely in over his head. He patted her, awkwardly once more, and said,

“I’ll um… go and get Lily, shall I?”

“No, no it’s ok…” Marlene pulled away, still sniffling. Her usually pale face was now red and blotchy, her grey eyes still glistening. “I’ll just go and wash my face,” she gestured towards the nearest girl’s loos, “Will you wait for me?”

“Um… ok.”

She disappeared and Remus slumped heavily against the wall. He now found himself carrying both of their book bags, and his shoulders ached under the weight. What might the others do, in this situation? James would be chivalrous, obviously. He probably would have known exactly what to say to stop her from crying. Peter would never get himself in the situation in the first place. Sirius… well Remus thought Sirius was probably as bad as he was, actually. He wasn’t good with emotions; he could barely manage his own.

Still, Remus knew that the right thing was to wait and walk her back to the common room, so he did. It wasn’t that Remus didn’t feel sympathetic towards Marlene – the pressure on everyone felt enormous, you could hardly ignore it. It was more Remus’s general distaste for whinging. And of course he’d never liked being around people who cried; it made him nervous.

Marlene looked much better when she came out of the bathroom. A bit flushed, but at least she was calm.

“Sorry,” she smiled at him, shyly, “I feel silly.”

“S’ok.” Remus shrugged. He wondered if he could give her back her bag now. His arms really hurt and his dodgy knee was playing up – never mind his hip. No, probably not. Not a very James thing to do, make a girl carry her own stuff. She didn’t offer to take it back, either. Luckily, they weren’t too far from Gryffindor tower.

“I am being silly,” she said, as they walked, “I know I am – my stepdad hates it when I get wound up. Says it winds him up. Then mum gets the worst of it. Danny says I need to toughen up and stop acting like a baby, but…”

 “Who’s Danny?” Remus asked, a bit lost.

“My brother,” she sounded surprised, “I’m sure I’ve mentioned him. He’s a beater for the Chudley Cannons.”

“Oh right, yeah I did know that.” Remus nodded, “Must be why you’re so good.”

“I’m not as good as Danny.”

“Well.” Remus tried to shrug under the weight of the books, “You’re only fourteen. Bet your brother wasn’t as good at fourteen. You beat Sirius, and he’s really good.”

“Do you really think so?”

“Yeah,” Remus replied, casually. “Obviously. Gryffindor won the cup again this year, didn’t they?”

“Because of James.”

“Yeah, well James is mental, you don’t want to be like James.”

“You won’t tell Mary what I said, will you?”

“Nope.” He had already forgotten what she’d said about Mary, to be honest.

“She’s my best friend,” Marlene sniffed, “And I’m not jealous of her or anything, she’s just… well she likes to show off, you know. She’s so funny and chatty and everything, sometimes I feel a bit… I mean, she’s already been out with Sirius and now she’s got that muggle boyfriend, and I think Professor Ferox likes her more than me.”

“He’s a teacher.” Remus said, “He likes everyone the same. Anyway, you’re funny. James is always going on about how you get everyone laughing at quidditch practice.”

“Really?!” She seemed to flush again at this news. “What about… um… what about Sirius, does he think I’m funny?”

“Yeah, obviously,” Remus nodded, pleased that she was finally smiling again, “We all do. Your impression of McGonagall is the best.”

This seemed to satisfy her, and by the time they’d reached the common room Marlene looked positively cheerful. “I’ll help you with crups if you want.” Remus said, as they climbed through the portrait hole. “We can do it tomorrow at lunch.”

“Thanks Remus.” Marlene wrapped her arms around him again in a quick hug. She took her books and headed upstairs to her dorm room. Remus let out another sigh, sagging slightly with relief. Why did this always happen to him? Maybe he needed to start being meaner.

Behind him, someone wolf-whistled, loudly. He didn’t need to turn around to know who it was.

“Here he comes! Look out, ladies, Gryffindor’s number one heartthrob, coming through!” Sirius crowed as Remus went over to join his friends by the fire. James was immersed in a book, but looked up and winked at Remus. “You’re going to have to tell us your secret, Moony,” Sirius continued, “You seem to get all the girls.”

“She’s just a friend and you know it. Where’s Pete?”

“Showering,” James replied, “Peeves attacked him with a jug of yesterday’s custard.”

“Eurgh.”

“Yep, that’s the sound he made,” James smirked, returning to his book.

“Thank merlin you’re back,” Sirius addressed Remus, “James has been so boring today.”

“I’m revising.” James said, calmly, turning a page, “You should be too.”

“Pfft.”

“I’m done revising for today,” Remus grinned, “Want a game of snap?”

“Have I told you lately how much I love you?”

“Shut up and get the cards.”

Chapter Text

You're too old to lose it, too young to choose it
And the clock waits so patiently on your song
You walk past a café, but you don't eat when you've lived too long
Oh, no, no, no, you're a rock 'n' roll suicide.

Friday 28th June, 1974

Unsurprisingly, Sirius achieved obscenely high marks in everything except Astronomy without lifting so much as a finger to study. By this point, Remus wasn’t sure if Sirius genuinely did have some strange pureblood gift, or if he was just an unrecognised genius. Remus didn’t mind either way – he himself came top in Care of Magical Creatures, Runes and History of Magic – second highest in Arithmancy, after Sirius.

“Nicely done, kid!” Ferox slapped him on the back at breakfast, the morning after results came out. “My best student.”

“Thanks, professor,” Remus grinned, feeling dizzy with pleasure.

“I’ve a few books you might like to borrow over the summer – pop up to my office before you leave, eh?”

“Teacher’s pet!” Sirius teased, as the tall, jovial man walked away, whistling a jaunty tune. Remus didn’t respond – he was too pleased with himself.

“Can’t believe that’s it ‘til fourth year now.” James said, cleaning his glasses on his robes.

“Do you have to keep reminding me?” Sirius moaned, setting down his knife and fork.

“Plenty to do over the summer,” James replied, “It’ll fly by.”

“What are you doing over the summer?” Remus asked, suspiciously.

“Planning next year’s pranks, obviously,” Sirius said, a little bit too quickly. “Got to keep ahead of the curve, Remu my boy, we’ve a reputation to maintain.”

It was the last official day of term, so Remus decided ignore the fact that this was clearly a lie. He had all summer to be paranoid about the other three leaving him out; there was no need to worry yet.

After breakfast, he wanted to go straight to see Professor Ferox, but thought that might come across a bit too eager – plus, the other three would surely want to come with him, and Remus couldn’t stand the thought of Ferox meeting Sirius and James. He would no doubt be charmed by their natural born charisma, and wonder why he’d ever thought Remus was special at all.

The foursome went upstairs and packed – that is, James, Remus and Peter packed. Sirius bounced around the room trying to distract them, sending books and clothes flying, flicking his record player on and off.

“It’s getting done whether you like it or not,” James chastised, hands on his hips in a very good imitation of his mother.

“You’ll do it for me, like last year,” Sirius replied, standing on his bed and attempting to do pull-ups hanging off the bed frame. The ancient wooden beams creaked.

Remus closed his own trunk. His corner of the room looked very bare without the usual chaos of books, papers, quills and clothes strewn about it. He went over to the record player to have one last fond caress of his favourite album covers. Summers were so quiet, without Sirius’s music. Matron only ever liked to have the radio on once a week – for the Radio 3 Choral Evensong.

“Moony,” James said, suddenly, “Don’t you have to go and see Madam Pomfrey?”

“Er… yeah, but not right now…” Remus looked up, surprised.

“Well, I mean if you’ve finished packing, you may as well, right? When I’ve done Sirius’s stuff I was going to suggest we all go out for a go on our brooms, and you hate flying, so…”

“Oh, really? Ok then.” Remus nodded, feeling unaccountably hurt. It wasn’t at all like James to chase you out of the room.

“We’ll see you at dinner, right Moony?” Sirius asked, swinging forward and landing on his feet with the agility of a gymnast.

“Yeah, I s’pose…” Remus left the room, feeling as if he was being escorted from a party to which he was not invited. Fair enough, he didn’t like flying much. But that didn’t usually matter – often he’d sit in the stands and read his book while the others mucked about in the air. He wouldn’t have minded doing that this time.

He did have to see Madam Pomfrey, anyway, so he went to the hospital wing, struggling to shake off the nasty feeling of exile.

* * *

“You’re very quiet, dear,” the medi-witch commented as she completed his end of year checks. “Not looking forward to your holidays?”

“No, not really,” he replied.

“You’ll miss your friends,” she clucked her tongue sympathetically. “It’s a shame, I know. Still, I expect you’ve got lots of muggle pals to play with.”

Remus didn’t bother answering. Madam Pomfrey was very kind, and hadn’t a bad bone in her body, but she – like most adults – could be incredibly dense. He was privately hoping that the coming summer would be just as lucrative as the last – if Craig was still about then perhaps he could make a bit of cash. He’d proved himself capable, he might even ask for more than just cigarettes.

She gave him the same instructions as the year before – eat well, exercise and rest.

“I’ll see you in early July,” she smiled serenely, and he was comforted with the thought that at least he wouldn’t be completely isolated from the wizarding community.

That being dealt with, Remus considered returning to the dormitory. Perhaps they were all finished talking about him, or whatever it was they needed him out of the way for. Perhaps they’d gone flying already. He didn’t begrudge them that; James was of the opinion that if Sirius was in a temper, or too wound up, then a good hour’s exercise was the best thing (and it generally was). Plus, it was one of the few times Peter did not get left out. Despite his clumsiness on land, Pettigrew was a surprisingly good flyer. No doubt a result of James’s relentless drilling.

It was really the perfect time to go and see Professor Ferox, of course, but Remus dawdled. He felt suddenly quite shy, never having been to see a teacher alone before – unless he was in trouble, of course. Walking slowly, he eventually had to make a directional choice at a particular corridor, and decided he may as well get it over with.

He knocked tentatively on Ferox’s office door, even though it was slightly ajar. His heart hammered in his chest and he found himself half hoping that his teacher wasn’t there after all. Remus couldn’t help but recall with some embarrassment how only a few weeks ago he had almost come running to Ferox in a moment of panic, only to recognise that it was a terrible idea at the very last minute.

“Come in!” Ferox’s cheery voice echoed from inside the room. Remus squared his shoulders and entered. “Mr Lupin!” Ferox boomed.

He was not sitting at his desk – Remus didn’t think he’d ever seen Ferox seated, except at mealtimes, he was always moving. Just now, he was packing a small trunk, Achilles the kneazle watching quietly from the windowsill. Even after a year of lessons with Ferox, Remus was still somewhat in awe of his teacher. His gigantic presence had not diminished, his mane of sandy curls was still as glorious, his face still heroic with decisively carved features.

“Hello, sir,” Remus smiled as he entered, closing the door behind himself. “You asked to see me?”

“Indeed I did,” Ferox smiled broadly, nodding to a pile of five books on his desk, “Those are for you, if you’ve room in your trunk. Next year’s set text and a few other things I thought might interest you.”

Remus approached the desk and fingered the leather-bound tomes carefully,

“Thank you, professor,” he said, quietly. He’d never received such an enormous gift before. Ferox nodded, sitting down, finally, gesturing that Remus do the same.

“Butterbeer?” He withdrew some bottles from the bottom draw of his desk.

“Thank you, professor,” Remus repeated, accepting the bottle and sitting down.

Achilles, on the window ledge, stretched, yawned, then curled up to sleep, peacefully. Remus felt he ought to say something else. “Dumbledore normally sends me my books and stuff.” He offered, “You didn’t have to.”

 “Well, I know you’re a bit out of the loop during the holidays, so I thought you might appreciate a head start.” Ferox continued to smile his big easy smile.

Remus felt a strange kind of warmth fizzing in his abdomen. Which was odd, because he hadn’t so much as sipped his butterbeer yet.

“Kind of you.” He said, looking down at the books again, uncomfortable with too much eye contact.

“I’m not being charitable, Remus, I promise,” Ferox said, reassuringly, “I know what it’s like, y’see. I came to Hogwarts with almost as little as you did. Muggleborn – raised by my Nan. ‘Course, she never understood anything I did here. Bless her heart.”

Remus blinked. This was interesting news – he had assumed that most of the teachers at Hogwarts – in fact, most of the adults he respected – were all purebloods. It was an immense relief to learn that this wasn’t the case.

“Us rough kids have to stick together, eh?” Ferox winked at him.

“Yeah,” Remus continued to nod, emphatically. “So, you never had a problem getting a job or stuff like that? After school?”

“Well, there are always going to be folks who can’t see past your blood status, no matter who you are,” Ferox said, a wry smirk in his voice, “But you learn pretty quick how to prove ‘em wrong. Well; I don’t need to tell you.”

“No.” Remus agreed. He took a swig of his butterbeer. “So… are you an orphan too, professor?”

“I am. Common as muck, too, you wouldn’t believe the flack I got for this accent back then.”

“Mary and Marlene think you sound like Paul McCartney.” Remus said. Ferox laughed, a great, joyful, wheezing laugh,

“I’ll have to remember that one next time I’m on the pull.”

Remus felt himself blushing, hearing Ferox talk like that.

“Just goes to show,” Ferox said, “You never know how other people are going to see you. So never assume, eh?”

Remus looked up at him, curiously, but gave a smll nod of understanding. The professor’s expression softened. “Remus,” Ferox said, so gently that it was unnerving, “I… there’s something else I wanted to talk to you about.”

Remus winced – he thought he knew what was coming. He’d been waiting for it since before Christmas. “Perfectly fine if you don’t want to talk about it,” the teacher said.

“Is it about… my problem?”

“In a manner of speaking,” Ferox said, in a measured tone. “I don’t know if you know this, but I knew your father, Lyall, quite well.”

Remus almost choked on his butterbeer. He hadn’t quite expected that. Ferox continued, “Our work often overlapped, you see – I was young, hadn’t long started in the Control of Magical Creatures department. I knew him by reputation, of course, so I tried to learn what I could, though I never did master boggarts quite like he did.”

“Ok.” Remus didn’t know what else to say.

“Do you know much about him?”

“I…” Remus looked away, out of the window. He didn’t think he could talk and look at Ferox at the same time. “He was a Ravenclaw,” he started, as if ticking off items on a list, “He was good at duelling. He was good at boggarts and dementors and poltergeists, and he hated werewolves, he wanted them all dead and he…” Remus choked, wanting to stand up and leave the room.

“Where did you hear all of that?” Ferox looked shocked. Remus looked at him, though everything was swimming in tears now. It felt as though all of the nasty, spiteful thoughts he’d been having since December had come pouring out like poison.  

“Darius Barebones.” He said, rubbing his eyes roughly on the sleeves of his robes, forcing himself under control. “Met him at the Potter’s Christmas party.”

“That old pisshead.” Ferox snapped, gruffly. He looked annoyed, but not at Remus. “I’m so sorry, Lupin, what a thing to hear. It’s not true, you know.”

“He didn’t hate… them?”

“Well,” Ferox tilted his head, as if trying to be diplomatic, “He was concerned about the danger werewolves pose to society. But he was a sensible man, too sensible for hatred. You’re a lot like him.”

Remus snorted bitterly at that.

“It’s true.” Ferox said, firmly. “He was a good man. He’d do anything for anyone.”

“Darius said he thought Lyall was bitten by Greyback, that’s why he killed himself.”

“You know about Greyback, then?”

Remus nodded. Ferox looked very serious indeed. “I’ve heard that rumour. Wouldn’t be surprised if Dumbledore started it to protect you, to be honest. Personally, I never believed it. Then I met you of course, and it all became clear.”

“Is it that obvious?” Remus asked, raising his fingers to the scar on his face, over a year old now, but still stark and red.

“No,” Ferox shook his head, “Most wizards wouldn’t know a werewolf if it…”

“Jumped up and bit them?”

Ferox laughed, lifting the dark mood that had settled over the bright little office.

“Your father’s sense of humour, too.”

Remus smiled, weakly.

“Professor?”

“Yes?”

“What happened to Greyback?”

Ferox instantly turned serious again.

“I’m afraid we don’t know for certain. He’s still alive, as far as the ministry is concerned, and still wanted for his crimes. I don’t know if they’ll ever catch him, to be honest, the man’s a maniac, by all accounts.”

“Could he… find me?”

“Maybe.”

Remus was startled by Ferox’s honesty. He didn’t seem as concerned as most adults about protecting him from the harsher truths. “Does that frighten you?” The teacher asked.

Remus shrugged.

“I think… I think maybe I’ve always known that. That I’m going to meet him again.”

“You mustn’t go looking…”

“I won’t.” Remus knew that was a lie, but he also knew that there was nothing Ferox could do to stop him.

“If you have more questions, I want you to feel comfortable asking me.” Ferox said, “There are some old newspaper clippings inside that top book,” he nodded at the pile he’d gifted Remus, “I thought you ought to have them. Things like that oughtn’t to be kept from people, and you’re old enough.”  

“Thank you, professor.”

“I haven’t upset you?”

“No, professor.”

“Good lad.” Ferox stood up, leaned over the desk and squeezed Remus’s shoulder in a friendly sort of way. “Try and have a good summer, eh? I’ll see you in September.”

Remus nodded, feeling a bit dazed by the events of the past half an hour. Nonetheless, he was quite grateful to be dismissed, and quietly left, carrying the heavy pile of books back upstairs to the common room.

It was very quiet in Gryffindor tower now. Most of the students had finished their packing and were no doubt outside enjoying the grounds. Remus’s thoughts turned to Davy Gudgeon, and he squashed that down. One emotional crisis at a time.  

The marauders were gone too, Sirius’s things now neatly packed away in his serpent chest. The room was stuffy and hot, Remus flicked his wand to swing the windows open, then went to sit on his bed and open the first book.

Sure enough, pressed like dead leaves between the inside cover and the front page, three yellowing newspaper clippings:

 

The Daily Prophet, April 1964

WEREWOLF ATTACKS ON THE RISE – could your children be next?

The Ministry of Magic has today confirmed that the recent spate of murders both in the muggle and wizarding communities is the work of dark creatures – namely werewolves. Ministry officials are particularly concerned that in many cases the victims of the attacks have been children under the age of ten.

One official, respected dark creatures expert Lyall Lupin, has spoken out and criticised the ministry for “Lax and wilfully neglectful safety measures”. Lupin claims that the ministry’s current werewolf registry is poorly managed and maintained, enabling certain anti-ministry factions to use these loopholes to their advantage.

The current number of victims is suspected to be seventeen, but set to rise as the investigation continues, and the perpetrators continue to allude capture. A statement from the Auror’s office is expected later today.

 

The Daily Prophet, Obituaries, January 1965

Lyall Lupin, who has died aged 36, will be remembered as a world-renowned expert on non-human spirituous apparitions, for his extensive work with boggarts and poltergeists, dementor liaisons, and, more recently, his efforts to reform the national werewolf registry.

Lupin is survived by his wife, muggle Hope Lupin, who he married in Cardiff in 1959. The couple have a young son, Remus John Lupin, born in 1960. The family has requested privacy during their time of grief.

 

The Daily Prophet, February 1965

AURORS ON LOOKOUT FOR GREYBACK

The Auror’s Office is appealing to the wizarding public for any information pertaining to the whereabouts of Fenrir Greyback, werewolf and suspected child murderer.

Greyback is described as 6’3, very strong, and unclean, with the appearance of a vagrant. Wizards and witches are warned not to approach him, and to consider Greyback extremely dangerous, even in human form. Auror Alastor Moody today made a statement indicating that the ministry believe Greyback to be travelling with a pack of werewolves, making him all the more dangerous. Greyback is known to have a preference for small children, but Moody declined to comment on speculation that the werewolves plan to raise an army.

The ministry also declined to respond to allegations that they had Greyback in their custody last spring, and failed to recognise the threat.

Since the death of Lyall Lupin, an outspoken advocate for harsher sanctions on werewolves, there have been numerous efforts to improve recognition and registration of dark creatures.

 

The first time he read them, Remus didn’t even use his reading aid. The second, third and fourth times, he did. And over and over, as if there was something more in them, as if he could suck the truth right out. He had no more answers than before, and a hot, angry ball of rage had begun growing inside his chest, burning brighter as he re-read and re-read.

Hours passed, the room grew dark, and in the end he never went down to the feast.

Chapter Text

Moony,

Hope everything’s going ok with you this summer.

Things are weird here – my parents aren’t even that interested in disciplining me anymore, they just keep attending all these meetings. Sometimes they’re at ours, sometimes they go out – I think they go to Bellatrix’s place, maybe. Or the Malfoy’s. Regulus won’t tell me what goes on – I think they’ve probably put a lips locked spell on him or something, because normally he couldn’t resist lording something like that over me.

I feel like something bad is going to happen. I know that sounds stupid, but something’s definitely not right in this house. Sometimes I’m glad you and James and Peter are all such a long way away.

I’m going to try and ask to stay with James again. I know it’s mental, but honestly, if they’re just going to ignore me anyway, what’s the point? I haven’t even been asked to be an usher at Cissy’s wedding (all the better, to be honest) so there’s always the possibility that they’ve disinherited me and just forgotten to mention it.

I can’t wait until we’re all seventeen, then we can just live together all the time, like at Hogwarts. I want to live on Carnaby Street, like in Melody Maker. You’ll have to show me around – I know how the money works now, thanks to Muggle Studies.

 Best,

Sirius O. Black.

* * *

Sirius,

Everything’s ok here, don’t worry about me.

I don’t really know what you mean by ‘something bad’. Do you think they’re going to try to hurt you again? If you do, then definitely try and go to the Potters. Maybe they can tell Dumbledore or someone.

Sorry to disappoint you, but I’ve never been to Carnaby Street. St Edmund’s is in Essex, and we only go into London once a year, usually to the museums. You’d probably like the Science Museum, full of muggle inventions.

Be careful, ok?

Remus.

* * *

Dear Moony,

Just so you know, Sirius is coming to stay with us this summer. He should be arriving this afternoon, so send his post here. Hope your summer is going well? You seemed a bit off at the end of term.

I know you’re going to say no, but Mum and Dad still say you’re invited to stay whenever you like. And we could always come to you, just to visit. Don’t want you to be alone out there, mate, especially these days.

James.

* * *

James,

What do you mean ‘these days’? Is this what Sirius was on about with his family meetings? You know what the Blacks are like, they just love secrets. It’s probably nothing. They’re probably planning Regulus’s betrothal or something like that and want Sirius out of the way.

Anyway, like I told Sirius, don’t worry about me. Dumbledore and Madam Pomfrey reckon this is where I’m safest, and they’re the ones in charge of me, right? Obviously I would rather spend the summer at yours, but it’s not happening, so can you please drop it?

 Don’t come here, either, just trust me.

R.

* * *

Dear Remus,

Sorry if I upset you, mate, I didn’t mean to. I’ll stop asking about it, if you want me to.

Hope you’re having a good summer anyway, we all wish you were here. You’re right, if Dumbledore says you’re safe there, you’re safe there. Dad says Dumbledore might be the only one we can trust, soon enough.

Take care of yourself,

James.

* * *

Hi Moony,

Four marauders are definitely better than three. It’s great having Sirius here and all, but it’s like we always have to do whatever he wants.

I’m mostly just lucky that mum lets me see them at all, after Phil left home. I got a post card from her the other day, she’s in America, can you believe that? She said to say hello to you, so ‘hello’ from Phil.

Peter.

* * *

Moony,

Why did you have a go at James? He thinks you didn’t mean to come off like that, but I know what you’re like, you moody git. What’s up?

Sirius O. Black

P.S. How come Philomena said ‘hello’ to you, and not to any of us? You’re such a bloody ladies man.

* * *

Remus,

I know you got my last letter, the owl came back, and the Potter’s owls are even more reliable than my family’s.

Why aren’t you replying?

Sirius O. Black

* * *

Remus? Please let us know you’re ok?

James.

* * *

Moony?

* * *

Craig had been nicked at some point over the school year, and Remus returned to find that Craig’s mate, Ste, was now in charge of the criminal element at St Edmund’s. He was a good deal uglier and stupider than Craig.

“Bit tall for robbin’ now, in’t cha?” Ste squinted at Remus.

“Still skinny.” Remus replied, holding his nerve.

“’ow’d you get all them scars?”

“Fighting.”

Ste laughed meanly.

“Yeah, right. Weedy little toff like you.”

“Fuck off,” Remus took a step closer, “I ain’t no toff.” He was as tall as the sixteen-year-old – maybe even a few inches taller. Yes, he was weedy, but he was holding his ground, and Ste was starting to look a lot less sure of himself.

“Alright.” The bigger boy said, tilting his head back, away from Remus. “Calm down mate. You’re in.”

Remus sneered at him, turned and walked away, satisfied.

Not much had given him satisfaction so far that summer. He felt more isolated than ever before – and angrier than he had been in a long time.

Remus almost hated Ferox for giving him the information he had on the last day of term – so that he could not make sense of it, or do anything about it. There was no one to tell; he was forbidden from mentioning Hogwarts to anyone at St Edmund’s, and he didn’t even know where to begin with the other marauders.

Their letters infuriated him, and he balled every one of them up in his fist then threw them away. He couldn’t bring himself to read, or watch TV, or even touch his homework. He felt as though he had boundless pent up energy, like an animal stalking the length of its cage. It built inside him, heating up until he was blazing with the desire to lash out and beat the shit out of the next person who crossed him.

Fortunately, most of the St Edmund’s boys seemed to sense this. Though Remus barely spoke a word to anyone, the other kids avoided him like the plague.

So, he sought out Ste.

Their first job was an easy one; he didn’t even need to be small for it. They stole a car, and all he had to do was climb in with the rest of them. They drove around for most of the night, smoking and drinking from a bottle of vodka they’d pinched from the off-licence some weeks prior.

Remus decided that he liked smoking. It made him look tougher, and kept his hands busy; he liked rolling cigarettes, and he liked the way they burned, inches from his lips. He liked breathing plumes of smoke and thought of Ferox chasing dragons in Romania.

The other boys warmed to him, after they got used to his quietness, and his general odd manner. He was still the youngest in the group, and they began to treat him like a little brother, plying him with fags and booze. Remus got properly drunk for the first time that summer, and they all laughed as he stumbled about in the park, and sympathised when he puked his guts out the next morning.

When they got drunk they liked to fight, too, which suited Remus. In the dark up on the common they threw themselves around, belting out Who songs, or The Jam, or even football chants if they were feeling particularly mindless. None of them seemed to care if Remus was too young or too skinny, and none of them treated him like he was an invalid because of his scars. Sometimes you just needed to get bashed about a bit, and at the end of the night they all staggered home friends.

The hot summer weeks passed in a chaotic blur – Remus spent most of his nights out with Ste and his gang, and his days sleeping off hangovers, trying to keep out of Matron’s way. He didn’t think about Hogwarts. He did very little thinking at all.

“Gotta get you some proper togs, Lupin,” Ste slurred, one night, “Can’t have you looking like a ponce all summer.”

Remus looked down at his standard issue St Edmund’s jeans and grey t-shirt. There was sick on his plimsoles. Had he done that? He couldn’t remember,

“Ain’t got the cash, ‘ave I?” He responded, searching for the cigarette he’d tucked behind his ear only a few minutes ago – or at least he thought he had.

“So?” Aggie, a short and chubby boy who reminded Remus of Peter shrugged, “My mate works in a warehouse down Southend, we’ll get you some proper gear.”

And they really did. For once, Remus looked like all the other boys his age – not in second hand clothes, but brand new. Bright blue drainpipe jeans, a button-down shirt (knock-off Ben Sherman, but as good as the real thing), white braces and black bovver boots. They shaved his hair right down, even shorter than Matron did it.

“You look the business.” Ste caught him under his arm, rubbing his head with rough knuckles.

When the moon came, and Madam Pomfrey saw him, she pursed her lips.

“I’ll say nothing about the outfit,” she said, primly, “But I don’t like the look of all these bruises – you must tell me if the other boys are hurting you.”

He just shook his head and waited for her to lock the door – he could already feel his blood boiling as the change began.

The next day, he was too weak to move. Madam Pomfrey insisted on staying the whole day to watch him, even arranging for a bed to be brought down to his little cell. Hangovers had nothing on transformations, Remus thought to himself. He’d have killed for a fag, though.

Bored, and too tired to be angry, he finally reached for a book. The three slips of newspaper fell out again and he quickly slammed the cover shut before Madam Pomfrey could see.

Greyback.

That was why he was so angry, he realised, in the first moment of clarity he’d had all summer. In fact, Greyback was pretty much the reason behind everything that had ever gone wrong in Remus’s  life. Where could he be? How could you hunt a werewolf? There were plenty of books on that in the Hogwarts library, but Remus had always avoided them before, frightened of what they might say.

Well, tough. He’d have to stop being squeamish about stuff like that. He had to stop hiding from himself; stop letting everyone walk all over him, if he was ever going to… yes.

He was going to kill Greyback. To hunt him down, and then put him down, just like his father had wanted. Lyall Lupin would not have died in vain. A bolt of adrenalin shot through Remus as he thought about it. It was much better than rage.

It might take years before he was ready, he knew that. And he’d need money. As soon as Remus was fit, he approached Ste once more.

“Alright Lupin, me old pal?” The older boy smirked with yellow teeth through a haze of sweet, green smelling smoke. “Bloody hell, what happened to you?” He frowned at Remus’s fresh cuts.

“Never mind that.” Remus growled, no longer stressing his old accent, “Last summer Craig did over so many off-licences and pubs I had a trunk full of fag packets. This year I’ve got bugger all. You not as hard as Craig, or something?”

“Oi,” Ste sat up, hooking his thumbs behind his braces, “Watch it.”

“No, you watch it.” Remus snarled, showing teeth, “I’ve got two weeks left, and I need to stock up. Are you in, or not?”

Chapter Text

Sunday 1st September 1974

As Remus approached King’s Cross station for the fourth time in his early life, he felt utterly invincible. He had grown taller still over the summer, and his face had changed too – no longer childish and round; his jaw was set and his eyes mean. In his heavy black boots (polished to a shine that morning) and his smart new clothes, Remus felt a stronger sense of identity than he had ever had. Ste had been very keen to give him a tattoo before he returned to school, but Remus had balked at that – he had enough marks already.

“They’ll all think you’ve joined a gang,” Matron tutted, barely concealing her disdain as she dropped him outside the station, “You look like a delinquent.”

“Piss off,” he muttered, “What do you care?”

She gave him a sharp clip around the ear, and he winced. She had to reach up to do that these days, but she still knew exactly where it hurt most.

“You’ll be at school before it gets dark, won’t you?” She said, business-like. He nodded, sullenly. It was a full moon that night. “Good.” She nodded. “See you next summer, then.”

He entered the station alone, and walked through the crowds with a practiced masculine gait – legs apart, hands balled into fists. People moved quickly out of his way as he approached, and a station guard eyed him suspiciously. Remus ignored them all and strode forward, purposefully, directly through the ticket barrier, bursting onto Platform 9 ¾ without so much as flinching.

He was late, and the platform was already almost empty, with only the last few tearful parents of first years lingering to wave goodbye. A cursory glance told Remus that the other three marauders were already on the train, so he climbed aboard and headed straight for their usual compartment, pushing roughly past the other students – many of whom seemed very small to him now – as he struggled with his battered old trunk.  

They were in there; all three sitting squashed up on the same side of the compartment, huddled behind the morning edition of The Daily Prophet.

“Alright?” Remus said, as he entered.

James, who was sat in the middle, holding the paper, lowered it, and three pairs of eyes stared up at Remus. Peter looked white and nervous, which was pretty normal, and began to chew his bottom lip, glancing at James for an appropriate response.

James smiled, trying to be friendly, but his brown eyes wandered over Remus, from his steel toed boots to his closely shaved head. Sirius was hardest to read; his eyes widened slightly, but his expression remained neutral. Remus slung himself into the seat opposite as if he had not noticed. “Good summer?”

“Not bad,” James said, cautiously, “The usual, you know… how was yours?”

“Yeah, good.” Remus withdrew a small tin case from his back pocket and opened it to reveal five pre-rolled cigarettes. He placed one between his lips and lit it with a match as the train began to pull away from the station.

Peter was now staring at Remus with his mouth slightly open, as if he didn’t recognise him. James looked concerned, a small crease formed between his eyebrows,

“We were worried when we didn’t hear from you.”

“Sorry. Busy.” Remus shrugged, exhaling smoke.

“Doing what?” Sirius asked, bluntly. James got up to open the window and let the smoke out, but he didn’t say anything about it.

“Just busy.” Remus said. They kept secrets from him, after all. He didn’t have to tell them everything.

“Are you ok, Remus?” James asked finally. “Has something happened?”

“Nope.”

“You seem different.”

“Your clothes!” Peter squeaked, suddenly.

“I’ve seen muggles dressed like it,” Sirius finally spoke up, “It’s cool, right, Remus?”

Remus shrugged again, feeling pleased, but hoping he looked outwardly nonchalant.

“My mates got ‘em for me, that’s all.” He said.

“Oh, well, if it’s a muggle thing…” James said, uncertainly. “You sure you’re ok?”

“Lay off, Potter,” Remus sighed, rolling his eyes. He didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Though he’d expected – even wanted – a reaction, he didn’t like the way they were all staring at him. Typical purebloods, they could prance around in hundred-year-old robes and stupid pointed hats and nobody said a word – but jeans and doc martens were apparently a step too far.

“What you reading, then?” He asked, nodding at the newspaper, hoping to distract them.

James looked gravely down at the broadsheet in his lap.

“The war.” He said, handing Remus the Prophet.

“War?!” That made him sit up straight. “What war?” He looked down at the headline, which read ‘Jenkins criticised as security measures on ministry tightened’.

“Didn’t you know?” James looked incredulous, “The wizarding world has been officially at war since 1970.”

Sirius and Peter nodded, solemnly.

“We weren’t even at Hogwarts in 1970,” Remus said, defensively, “I hardly knew anything about wizards then. What… I mean, who are we fighting?”

“That’s the problem,” James said, brusquely, “It’s too difficult to know, but this ‘Dark Lord’ person has been gathering a lot of allies – almost all purebloods.”

“I reckon those are the meetings my family are going to,” Sirius said, his voice low, even though they were alone. “James’s dad agrees with me.”

“Is that why the Slytherins were such a pleasure to be around last year?” Remus asked, connecting the dots now.

“Yep,” Sirius said. “And it’ll be worse this year, you can bet.”

“There were some… attacks, this summer.” James said, nervously. “On muggles, and a few mixed blood families.”

“They think the Dark Lord is using dangerous creatures,” Peter said, his voice trembling with fear, “Vampires and giants and… and…”

Remus shot him a look, and clenched his jaw,

“And werewolves?”

“Moony…” James started.

“I need the loo.” Remus stood up, quickly, exiting the compartment.

He stormed through the train, younger students leaping out of his way as he passed them, terrified. He didn’t need the loo, obviously, but he there wasn’t exactly anywhere else to go, so he locked himself inside a cubical at the far end of the carriage. It was much posher than the loos on muggle trains – with actual red velvet curtains in the windows and glimmering gold fixtures. The mirror even had a gilt frame. He stared at himself for a few minutes, glaring into his own eyes, clenching the sides of the sink until his knuckles turned white.

He’d thought he would be so tough after this summer – thought that nothing could touch him now. But everything was already unravelling, faster than he had expected, and he’d lost it at the very first mention of werewolves. How would he ever do what needed to be done if he couldn’t stay calm? Greyback would eat him for breakfast.

Unable to look at himself any longer, Remus sat on the toilet seat and considered punching the soap dispenser. That probably wouldn’t provide the satisfaction he needed, and he’d only end up covered in floral scented pink slime. He kicked the basin with his boot instead, leaving a long black rubber streak on the white porcelain.

“Fuck.” He muttered. That felt good. “FUCK.” He shouted, kicking the basin again.

“Who’s in there?” A sharp rap came at the door.

“Bugger off, it’s occupied.” He shouted back fiercely.

“This is a Slytherin carriage, you know.” The voice said coldly.

“Oh fuck off you stupid busybody.” Remus replied, slamming the door with his elbow.

If he had been in a more reasonable state, he might have calmly explained that the carriages were not divided into houses, and actually, anyone could sit anywhere they wanted, even if it was on a closed toilet seat.

“I shall call for a prefect!”

“Oh my god,” Remus stood up, withdrawing his wand, “Are you looking for a fight or something?!” He flung the door open, finding himself face to face with a very shocked looking Severus Snape.

Severus might have frightened him when they were both eleven, but at fourteen Remus towered over Snape now, and with his wand raised and his face screwed up in annoyance, he must have been a terrifying sight.

“You.” They both hissed. Snape tossed his black greasy hair and sneered,

“What were you doing in there?”

“None of your business. Out of my way.”

“What are you wearing?” Snape pulled a face, looking him up and down with disgust. “Are those muggle clothes?”

“So what if they are?” Remus took a step forward, now so close to the Slytherin boy that he was practically breathing on him. “Got something to say? Not so big without your creepy mates around, are you, Snivellus?” He gave him a hard shove, knocking Snape to the floor.

Snape glared up at him, scrambling to his feet quickly and dusting off his shabby black robes. He narrowed his eyes,

“You’ll find out all about my ‘mates’ this year, Loony Lupin, I promise you that.” He said, very coldly.

“Not exactly in a position to be giving out threats though, are you?” Remus replied, almost conversationally. “I’ve heard that lot prefer purebloods… and Lily’s told me all about you, Snape…”

Snape’s eyes flashed, and a look of pure hatred crossed his face. He reached for his wand but – whether it was thanks to the closeness of the full moon, or just pure adrenaline – Remus was too quick for him. He grabbed Severus’s wrist and slammed it against the wall of the carriage, causing the Slytherin to cry out and drop his wand. Then, thinking of nothing but causing the most pain possible, Remus snapped his head forward and butted Serverus, knocking him down a second time.

Snape was staring up at him, his black eyes shining with fear and rage, he clutched his robes against his nose, which was now gushing blood. Remus, feeling no better about any of it, spat on the floor and stepped over Snape.

“There’s your warning for the rest of the year,” he growled, “Stay out of my way.”

Snape said nothing, but didn’t try to get up. Remus walked away, confident the other boy wouldn’t try anything now. He stalked back the way he’d came, trying to get away from the rich, intoxicating smell of blood, and shut himself in the first empty compartment he came across.

There he sat, breathing deeply for a few minutes, trying to bring his heartbeat back under control, and to ignore the craving that was echoing somewhere deep inside him, where human reason could not touch it. Eventually, with shaking hands, he pulled out another cigarette, and smoked it broodily, staring out of the window.

He was not alone for long.

“Moony?” The door slid open, and Sirius’s head poked around the door. Remus glared at him, but Sirius came in anyway, and sat opposite. “All right, what’s up?”

“Nothing.” Remus crossed his arms and slid down in his seat, staring at his boots. The laces didn’t match, red on the left, yellow on the right. He’d thought that looked really cool back in July, but now it looked a bit silly.

“Something’s up. You’re not yourself.”

“How would you know.” Remus spat in reply. “Maybe this is who I really am.”

“I just know,” Sirius replied, uncharacteristically calm. Apparently spending so much time at the Potter’s had done wonders for his patience. “It’s ok to be angry sometimes, Remus. It doesn’t mean anything, except that you’re normal.”

Remus looked up at him, surprised. Sirius smiled, understandingly, then smirked, “And for what it’s worth, I really do think you look so bloody cool.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Kind of dangerous.”

Remus snorted at the irony.

“Thanks.”

“So… bad summer, was it?”

Remus shrugged,

“It was ok. I was… I did a lot of stuff. I don’t want James to know about it.”

“Ok.” Sirius agreed, then cocked his head, brightly, “Can I try a cigarette?”

He pronounced the word as if it was new to him, with a slightly French accent, which was oddly endearing. Remus felt a surge of affection for his friend, which sent his heart pounding again. He fished a fag from his case and tossed it over with the matches. He watched Sirius carefully purse his lips around the white paper cylinder, strike a match and cup his hands close to his face. He didn’t cough, which was bloody impressive in itself, but only took a shallow breath before exhaling, and making a sour face.

“You get used to it.” Remus smirked.

“Ok.” Sirius tried again, inhaling more this time.

It was weirdly hypnotic, watching Sirius smoke. The haze of bluish grey made the carriage feel more intimate and private. Remus began to relax for the first time in months, as if something inside of him was unclenching, slowly. He looked at Sirius, and thought – why not?

“I found out some things, end of last term.” He said, quietly, looking at his boots again.

He reached into his shirt pocket and withdrew the three newspaper clippings Ferox had given him last year. He handed them to Sirius, who reached through the smoke with long white fingers to receive them. “I don’t want to talk about it yet.” Remus said, quickly, “But read them if you like.”

“Ok,” Sirius nodded, gently, “Thank you, Remus.”

Chapter Text

Remus’s bad start to the year did not improve when the train drew into the station. They arrived in Hogsmeade with only twenty minutes or so until sunset, and Remus found Madam Pomfrey waiting for him, looking anxious.

“Good luck, Moony,” Sirius said under his breath as they parted ways amidst the throng of excited black-robed students. Remus nodded grimly, and Sirius gave his shoulder a nudge with his own; a show of adolescent solidarity.

Remus only had time to glance wistfully back as the three marauders climbed into one of the horseless carriages, one blond head, two dark – before Madam Pomfrey seized Remus by the elbow, and without warning apparated to the shrieking shack.

There was a blue and white plate sitting on the dusty mantelpiece with a thick chicken sandwich on top.

“In case you’re peckish,” the nurse explained, “You’ve still a bit of time.”

He was starving hungry, but couldn’t bring himself to eat it. Instead, he just sat down on his cot and waited to be locked in, wishing there was at least a bit of light in the dingy room. Remus thought about the feast – arguably his favourite part of the first night, other than sleeping in his big, comfortable bed. Neither would be happening tonight.

He could smell a rabbit outside, snuffing the grass, and his stomach gave a fierce growl. He looked at the sandwich again and considered it, but as pain shot through his shoulder blades he realised he had waited too long; the wolf was on its way.

* * *

Monday 2nd September 1974

One might assume that a hungry werewolf would quite fancy a chicken sandwich, but apparently only raw meat would do, and Remus awoke to find that the little meal remained intact, while his arms and legs were ripped to shreds. He sighed heavily, hauled himself to his feet, and went to sit on the bunk again. His hip had gone funny for the third time, and his limp was exaggerated as he staggered across the room. His left shoulder felt dislocated – thank god it wasn’t his right, because he had a lot of homework to catch up on.

Closing his eyes, Remus slouched back against the wall to wait for Madam Pomfrey. It was dawn, and the marauders probably wouldn’t be up for a few more hours, unless James decided he needed to squeeze some flying in before lessons. Remus knew that it was Harpreet Singh’s final year at Hogwarts, which meant that the position of Quidditch Captain would be open next year, and James was not messing about.

Accio sandwich,” Remus rasped, finding his wand under the bed. The entire plate came flying towards him at such a speed that it hit the wall and shattered only inches away from his head. Groaning, Remus brushed away the shards of porcelain and began to pick hungrily at the stale bread.

Madam Pomfrey soon arrived and set to work patching him up before accompanying him back to the castle. He insisted on walking, rather than having her conjure a stretcher.

“I’m really not that bad,” he cajoled, “You’ve done a great job on my shoulder… I reckon I’m fine to go to lessons.”

“I don’t like the look of that limp,” she replied, “Hospital wing first, we’ll see how you are at lunchtime.”

“But it’s my first day…” he knew he was whinging, but he had to try.

“I’m sorry, Remus. Anyway, look at you, you’re dead on your feet. A few hours’ sleep and you’ll feel much better.”

Much to Madam Pomfrey’s dismay, James, Peter and Sirius were waiting outside the hospital doors for Remus – meaning that sleep would have to be put off a little bit longer.

“How’d James get you two up this early?” Remus grinned at them.

“It wasn’t easy,” James grinned back, Sirius stifling a yawn behind him. “I had to resort to threats of violence.”

“And actual violence,” Peter said, rubbing his arm, which looked very red.

“You ok, Moony?” Sirius asked, blinking a lot as if to look more alert.

“Fine, cheers,” Remus nodded, as Pomfrey ushered him into the room.

The marauders waited patiently while Remus undressed behind a screen and climbed into his usual bed at the far end of the ward.

“Five minutes!” Madam Pomfrey snapped, carrying over a sleeping draught, “He needs his rest, boys.”

“We can’t stay long anyway,” James said, “Lessons and everything. We brought you your new timetable, Moony.” He handed over the sheet.

Remus studied it carefully. Ferox’s lessons were at the end of the week, so at least he wasn’t missing those. But he had McGonagall and Runes, and History today,

“Could you—” he started,

“We’ll get your homework, Moony, don’t worry,” Sirius said, amused. “Nice to see you back to normal.”

“Yeah,” Remus raised an eyebrow, stretching out a bare arm to display his fresh claw marks, “Can’t get much more normal than me.”

* * *

He did feel much better once he’d slept the morning away. The anger which had torn him up for the past few months was still very present – but in some small way it had shifted, and he was able to think about other things. At Hogwarts, he felt better equipped to control his temper, he felt grounded and somewhat saner. As much as he didn’t like to admit it to himself, Remus was beginning to feel more at home in the wizarding world than the muggle one.

In addition, he felt surprisingly positive about having given Sirius the newspaper clippings. They had been burning a hole in his pocket all summer, and he was glad to be rid of them; to let someone else in on the secret.

Pomfrey allowed him to leave for dinner, and he tried to slip into the Great Hall without too much fuss. This plan was scuppered, however, as he was rugby tackled by three very excitable girls,

“Reeee-mus!” They all shrieked, capturing him in a tight hug.

“Hi!” He gasped, trying not to wince as Marlene squeezed his freshly mended ribs.

“We didn’t see you on the train!” Mary said,

“And you weren’t in Runes!” Lily added,

“Did you have a good summer?” Marlene asked, her voice slightly muffled under Mary’s arm.

“Yeah, great, thanks!” Remus straightened his clothes as they finally released him, standing back and grinning at him. “I wasn’t feeling well, but I’m ok now. How were your summers?”

“Great!” Mary pulled him towards the Gryffindor table, where the marauders were watching on with a mix of amusement and envy. He shrugged at them, helplessly, as he was manhandled into a seat. “Wait til you hear what me and Darren did—”

Not at dinner!” Lily said, sounding exasperated, “Remus doesn’t want to hear what you got up to with your boyfriend!”

Remus’s eyes widened – her certainly did not want to hear – and he flashed a grateful look at Lily, who smiled back.

The girls all looked a little bit different. Remus was so tall now that he hardly noticed other people growing, but Mary, Marlene and Lily definitely had. They looked less like the kids he remembered from first year, and now reminded him of the girls that Ste and his gang whistled at when they were out in town. Mary, particularly, had developed noticeable curves at some point, and Remus couldn’t ignore the fact that half the boys on the Gryffindor table were staring at the way her white school shirt pulled across her chest.

“Oi, ladies,” Sirius called from further up the table, “Can we have Moony back, please?”

“No.” Mary replied, sticking out a pink tongue. She turned back to Remus, “I really like your hair! Avni said she saw you on the train and you were dressed like a skinhead – you haven’t actually joined a gang now, have you?”

Remus shrugged. Fortunately, the food appeared at that moment, providing a decent enough distraction. Unfortunately, girls were not like boys when it came to eating – while the marauders would have simply tucked in, heads down until they’d finished, Lily and Marlene picked at their food slowly, chatting about school and who was going out with who, and their new favourite actors.

“Marlene fancies a Slytherin,” Mary said, slyly.

“I do not.” Marlene turned bright red.

“You do so, I saw you watching him in Potions!”

“Are we doing Potions with Slytherin again, then?” Remus asked, his stomach sinking.

“Yep,” Lily said, brightly. “I think it’s better, don’t you? Slughorn always gives much more detail when his own house is in the classroom.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot,” Mary cocked an eyebrow, “Lily has had a crush on a Slytherin for years.”

“Severus is my friend.” Lily replied, witheringly. “You’re boy-mad, you.”

“I can’t help it if I’m more experienced than you lot,” Mary raised her chin in a very dignified, mature sort of way. Marlene covered her ears dramatically,

“If you’re going to start talking about Darren doing… that again, then I’m leaving!”

“Fine, fine,” Mary laughed, lightly. “I’ll shut up.”

She didn’t, though. She and Marlene ended up in a very intense debate over who was more attractive – David Essex or Donny Osmond. Remus took the opportunity to whisper to Lily,

“You’ve seen Sniv—Severus today, then?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Erm… did he say anything about… seeing me on the train?”

“No,” Lily sounded surprised, “Why? What happened?”

“Nothing!” Remus said quickly, “Just the usual, you know. Him being a prat.”

“Mm.” Lily replied, looking down at her food and playing with her fork. She seemed uncharacteristically nervous. “He can be a bit of a prat, I s’pose.” She looked up again, at Remus, and lowered her voice even further, so that he had to lean closer to hear her at all over the din of the dining hall,

“It was just a theory lesson today, Potions,” she whispered, “We didn’t have to partner up. So… if you wanted to work together again this year?”

“Oh, you don’t want to do it with Snape?”

Lily looked very pink indeed and shook her head,

“No, I think… well, you’re a lot less bossy, and we study together so much anyway, I just thought.”

“Yeah, sounds ok to me,” Remus shrugged, returning to his food. He really was starving hungry. That pleased him, too – James and Sirius always paired up, so did Marlene and Mary.

There was Peter, of course, but he had lots of friends in Slytherin, and tended to make mistakes when he was anxious, which annoyed Remus, who was a perfectionist. Lily was a nice, sensible sort of girl with a sense of humour, and she could always explain things to him so that they sounded easy. Plus, it would drive James bonkers.

The Snape incident still bothered him, slightly. He had half expected McGonagall to be waiting to pounce as soon as he was discharged from the hospital wing – Severus almost always went running to a teacher, if he could get away with it. And Remus had been absolutely, 100% in the wrong this time, he knew that much – Snape hadn’t so much as laid a hand on him, Remus had just humiliated him because he felt like it.

And Snape did not like being humiliated. Remus didn’t know much about the troubled Slytherin boy other than bits and pieces Lily had confided, but he did know that Severus Snape could hold a grudge like no one else. He would have his revenge, and if it wasn’t by getting Remus into trouble with the teachers, then it was going to be something far more unpleasant.

* * *

“So, what were the girls talking about?” James asked, once they were all in their dorm room for the evening. He was trying to sound casual, but Remus saw through it.

“Oh, nothing interesting,” he replied, unpacking his trunk, “Boys, mostly, and snogging.”

“Snogging?!” Sirius sat up on his bed.

“Yeah, I know,” Remus scrunched his face up to show his distaste for the topic, “It’s all they’re interested in, these days. Mary and her muggle boyfriend did something over the summer.”

“What did they do??” Sirius looked very interested now – not disgusted at all, Remus realised.

“Er…” he faltered, “Well, I don’t really know. Lily wouldn’t let her talk about it while we were eating.”

“Ah,” James nodded, proudly, “Too clever for all that nonsense, Lily.”

“How’d you know it’s nonsense?” Sirius asked. “S’not like you do any snogging.”

“Oh, and you do?!” James frowned.

“Could if I wanted,” Sirius said, lying down again, arms behind his head, “Plenty of girls fancy me.”

“If you wanted,” James smirked, “So, what, you’ve got girls lining up for a cheeky snog and you’re just… not interested?”

An almost imperceptible look of panic crossed Sirius’s face, only for the most fleeting of moments, before it returned to its usual impish cheek.

“Jealous, are you, Potter?”

“Eugh, of you?!” James teased back,

“Bet Lily fancies me…” Sirius said.

“Take that back!” James roared, launching himself at his friend, wrestling him into a headlock.

Peter sighed, heavily and looked at Remus,

“They were like this all summer.” He said, glumly, “Everything’s a competition.”

* * *

Some hours later, Remus was just drifting off to sleep when his ears pricked, and he heard those familiar footsteps crossing the room. Shortly, his bed curtain twitched aside and Sirius whispered,

“Moony? You awake?”

“Yeah…”

Sirius crawled inside. Remus sat up, nervously. Sirius had only ever paid him a visit once before – usually he went to James if he wanted to talk about… well, Remus didn’t know what they talked about, but he assumed Black family drama. The only time Sirius had sought out Remus was early in their second year, just after the marauders had discovered he was a werewolf. Remus thought back to that night, occasionally, and the memory was tucked away in a safe, calm part of his mind. He remembered lifting his shirt so that Sirius could inspect his scars – long dark hair brushing his skin.

Muffliato,” Sirius whispered, casting the silencing spell.

“What’s up?” Remus asked, rubbing his eyes as Sirius lit his wand.

“The articles,” Sirius said, pulling the clippings from his pyjama pocket. “I read them.”

“Oh.” Remus felt a trickle of shame run down his spine. “Right.”

“I know you said you didn’t want to talk about it.” Sirius said, quickly, “But I just… well, I wanted you to know I’ve read them, I s’pose.”

“Ok, thanks.” Remus nodded.

“And… I understand why you’re angry.”

“Mm?”

“Anyone would be,” Sirius said, fervently, his eyes huge in the darkness, twin blue flames, “It’s… it’s… it’s just such a shitty hand to be dealt, Moony.”

Remus didn’t know what to say to that. He could hardly disagree.

“I won’t tell James, or Pete,” Sirius said, “Not unless you want me to.”

“No, please don’t.” Remus said, “I’m not… I’m not ashamed, it’s just… private, you know?”

Sirius nodded, pursing his lips.

“It’s safe with me.”

Remus, still feeling a bit shaky, gave a weak smile,

“God, you’re so dramatic.”

Sirius laughed too,

“James’s mum says I wear my heart on my sleeve.” He nudged Remus with his toe, “We can’t all be master secret-keepers like you, Moony.”

“I thought I wasn’t ‘me’ without secrets?”

“Yeah, but if you have to have them, I’d rather I knew.”

Remus snorted,

“’Cos you’re so special, Black.”

“’Cos if I don’t know, I’ll just try to figure it out anyway. Like you and your little cigarette selling enterprise.”

Remus’s mouth dropped open,

“You looked in my trunk! You wanker!”

“How dare you!” Sirius replied, haughtily, “I would never stoop so low. One of the sixth-year lads came ‘round asking for you. See if you were still selling this year.”

Remus groaned, slapping his forehead,

“Was it Dirk Creswell? Bloody moron.”

“How much did you make?”

“Enough. Please, don’t tell James, you know what he’s like about stealing…”

“You stole them?!”

“Bollocks.” Remus groaned again at his own stupidity.

“I don’t know how you do it, Moony,” Sirius said, awed, “But you surprise me every time.”

Chapter Text

Remus never did find out exactly what is was Mary had done, or had had done to her over the summer holidays. Whatever it was though, it had given her a certain amount of status amongst the other girls in their year group which was hard to ignore.

On Thursday, their first lesson of the new term with Professor Ferox, Remus arrived at the classroom to find a cluster of girls whispering near his desk. He elbowed his way through, grumpily, reclaiming his work space next to Mary. The girls tittered and resumed whispering. Mary, of course, was at the centre of the group, holding court and – by the looks of it – having a thoroughly marvellous time. Marlene, sitting by, was watching on with a look of envy and respect.

“And it didn’t hurt..?” A Ravenclaw girl asked, in a hushed tone,

“Nah, it’s fine if you relax,” Mary replied, with a bravado that reminded Remus of James.

“Do you think you’re going to… you know… with Darren..?” Another girl asked, her voice practically trembling with excitement,

“Well, I…” Mary started, but at that moment Professor Ferox emerged from his office, announcing his presence with a cheerful salutation,

“Welcome back, class! Seats, please!”

The girls all hurried into place, some looking very red faced and others unable to stop giggling. Remus frowned, trying to ignore them, and sat facing the front, back straight. Ferox gave him a friendly smile and nod, and Remus nodded back, smiling uncontrollably.

Ferox had clearly had a fantastic summer – his fair hair was a shade brighter, no doubt bleached by the sun. It was longer, and he now wore it twisted back in a long, knotted tail. His face was even more weather-beaten, and his nose rather red and peeling slightly from sunburn. He’d rolled up his sleeves, as usual, revealing sun browned arms and the odd burn mark.

“Good summer?” He asked the class, who all nodded and murmured in the affirmative. He grinned and clapped his hands together, “Excellent! I hope you all had a nice long rest, and you’re ready to begin work on XXXX rated creatures this term! First, let’s do a quick recap of last terms work, then see who’s done their summer reading…”

Remus himself had only just finished the reading that morning – and hadn’t even started on the extra texts Ferox had lent him. He sorely regretted wasting the whole summer being reckless now, and had already had to plead with professor McGonagall to let him have an extra week on his Transfiguration notes. He suspected that she had only relented after a conversation with Madam Pomfrey, which made him feel guiltier still, as he knew he was capable of beating most of the class even after his very worst transformations.

“You’re being too tough on yourself,” Sirius told him, as they were chased out of the common room the night before by prefects telling them to go to bed. “It’s the beginning of the year – if you’re going to fuck up, you may as well fuck up now.”

Remus had just glared at him,

“Easy for you to say! Some of us actually have to work for our grades! Plus it’s OWLs next year! I can’t drop my standards now!”

“Argh, please don’t mention OWLs,” James said, coming between them quickly in a less than subtle attempt to prevent an argument, “McGonagall and Flitwick have already put the fear in me. And why did we decide to do Divination?!”

“I quite like Divination,” Peter said, thoughtfully, dumping his pile of books, “Prophecies and that. It’s exciting.”

“It’s nonsense.” Sirius gave the smallest marauder a withering look. “You only like it because you’re good at Astronomy.”

“It’s not just that,” James said, slyly, changing into his pyjamas, “Noticed that Pete’s got a new partner this year?”

“Ohhh yes!” Sirius smirked, “The divine Desdemona Lewis, of Ravenclaw!”

Remus glanced up at Peter in surprised and watched him turn a shocking shade of scarlet from his blue pyjama collar to the roots of his yellow hair.

“Shut up.” He mumbled, climbing into bed, “She’s just a friend.”

“James,” Sirius said, in a very solemn voice, “What on earth are we going to do if Petey-boy here gets a proper snog before any of us?”

“Well, your reputation would be in tatters, for one thing.” James replied, in the same serious manner.

“What do I have, if not my reputation?” Sirius grinned back, getting into bed himself.

Remus huffed with disapproval, and pulled hard on his bedcurtains, returning to his book and hoping they all got the message. If they did, it didn’t matter.

“Of course, if I got a snog before you, that wouldn’t hurt.” James said, “I’m on the quidditch team.”

“You don’t have my animal magnetism.” Sirius replied.

There was a loud *fump* and an ‘oi!’, and Remus assumed that James’s pillow had crossed the room and made contact with Sirius’s head.

“I bet you—“ James started,

“Oh no…” Peter groaned, “Please don’t…”

“… I bet you TEN GALLEONS that I can get a girl to snog me within a month.”

“Ten?!” Peter gasped.

“Done!” Sirius called back. “Just you wait, Potter.”

Remus, who had lost all ability to concentrate on his book, huffed loudly again and decided to sleep. Pathetic. It wasn’t just the girls any more, now even the marauders were obsessed with snogging. It probably would be Sirius who won the bet – though James had a fair point about the quidditch team.

He felt sorry for Peter, who had gone very quiet. Remus tried not to think about the fact that none of his friends had made any comment on his likeliness to get a snog. He must rank even lower than he thought.

Remus was troubled by this all week, right up to his Care of Magical Creatures lesson, which he now found himself daydreaming through.

As Ferox’s lecture drew to a close, Remus realised he had made no notes at all. He looked down, panicked, and saw a neatly folded piece of parchment. Who had put that there? He glanced around, furtively, then opened it.

Please tell Sirius I think he’s gorgeous. Effie Scunthorpe x

Heat flared up his neck as Remus screwed the note up into a ball and shoved it in his pocket. That settled it. Everyone had lost their minds.

* * *

As well as contending with the raging hormones which now seemed to infect every one of Remus’s social circles, there was another noticeable change in the atmosphere at Hogwarts. Even if James had not explained to him that the wizarding world was at war, Remus thought he would have worked it out for himself this year.

The Slytherins – who had always considered themselves a cut above the other houses, and had therefore maintained a certain distance – had retreated even further into themselves now. They gathered in huddles in the classrooms, kept to their common room and moved through the corridors in ominous groups. Muggleborn students were also travelling in packs, Remus had noticed, and the teachers seemed to be making their presence known more than they had in previous years.

This did not stop certain incidents from taking place, however. Anyone who was not a pureblood quickly became adept at defensive spells, and even the marauders had swapped pranks for protection.

“Where are the bloody prefects when you need them?!” James complained, having just fired off a few well-placed engorgio charms at a group of sixth year Slytherins who were tormenting a first year Hufflepuff. The green robed teens were running away, now, clutching their various rapidly swelling extremities.

“I think even the prefects are scared,” Sirius replied, leaning against the wall, looking bored as James helped the Hufflepuff to his feet. “Cowards.”

“All they can do is hand out detentions and take house points,” Remus added, “And I don’t think the Slytherins even care about those any more. I heard Mulciber last week saying that they should all put up with ‘trivial punishments for the promise of a greater reward.’”

“Mulciber said that?” Sirius arched an eyebrow, “Bloody hell, he’s more eloquent than I gave him credit for.”

“Yeah, or he’s parroting back something someone else has told him,” James countered, watching the Hufflepuff scurry away down towards the kitchens.

“What d’you think the reward is?” Pete asked, scuffing his toe on the flagstones.

“Money? Power? Life eternal?” Sirius sighed, rolling away from the wall and swaggering up the corridor. “Godric knows. They won’t get it, though.”

“Why not?”

“Because, Petey-boy, we’re going to win.”

* * *

By the end of September, Snape had still not made his move. This put Remus somewhat on edge – and he wondered whether that was the intention. Their only shared lessons this year were Potions and Arithmancy. Arithmancy was fortunately a relatively quiet class, which mainly involved taking down notes and figuring out equations. Potions, being more practical, gave Snape (and the Slytherins as a whole) scope for much greater interference.

As they had agreed on the first day of term, Lily and Remus became partners, sharing a cauldron and dividing up notes and directions. This clearly infuriated Snape, who barely took his eyes off them the whole time. However, Remus had to admit that this appeared to have less to do with him than it did with Lily herself.

“Have you two fallen out or something?” Remus asked, one afternoon as Severus shoved his way past to leave the dungeons. Lily sighed, wearily,

“No, not exactly.” She said. “He got annoyed when I had Mary and Marlene to visit over the summer, that’s all. Thinks they’re not the right ‘sort’. I have to keep reminding him that I’m muggleborn too.”

“Why’d you put up with it?”

“I don’t, really,” She replied, sounding sad, “I always have a go at him when he spouts that pureblood nonsense, and sometimes I think he listens to me. But… well it’s not easy for him, you know.”

James was not making things easier; anyone could see that. He and Sirius had conveniently set up their own cauldron next to Remus and Lily’s, and ever since they’d made their bet James’s pursuance of Lily had dialled up a notch.

Now, James Potter was a true star on the quidditch pitch – that much could not be denied. He was elegant and graceful; he thought tactically and moved with simple subtlety.

When it came to Lily, he was none of these things.

“Give us a snog, Evans!” He tried, during their first lesson.

Lily was so appalled that she swished her wand fiercely through the air, upturning the contents of Potter’s cauldron. He and Sirius were stained bright blue for an entire week.  

The following week, undaunted, James tried again. This time he had consulted his father, who had suggested that he try complimenting the object of his affections.

“I really like your hair,” he said, confidently, as soon as she approached the work bench.

“Mm.” She responded, not looking up.

“Yeah it’s so… um… ginger.”

Remus saw Lily’s jaw tighten. She hated being called ginger – she’d told him once that she’d been teased for her hair in primary school. Remus took a step back, seeing Lily reach for her wand as she turned towards James with a false smile.

“Like it that much, do you?” She asked. Sirius, who had been watching Remus, took a step back as well. Poor James was too excited to finally have her attention, and nodded vigorously,

“Oh yeah, I think it’s—”

Rufusio!” Lily whispered, pointing her wand at him.

Sirius guffawed so loudly that half of the class turned to look, and Remus had to cover his mouth to hide his own laugher. James’s confusion made it even funnier, until Marlene handed him her compact mirror so that he could see his newly bright red hair.

It took forty-eight hours to wear off, but it was no good. Even after two full days of being called ‘ginger nut’ and ‘carrot top’ (among some slightly ruder nicknames) wherever he went, James remained completely unshaken in his adoration.

“Just got to be patient,” he said, dreamily, running a hand through his messy auburn locks, “Nothing worth having isn’t worth waiting for.”

“It’s kind of impressive.” Sirius whispered loudly to the others, “I sort of don’t want to win the bet, ‘cos he’s made it too easy.”

“Yeah,” James snorted. “That’s why.”

“Oh, suck it, copper knob.”

Chapter Text

When Lily’s kisses were not forthcoming, James demanded that they extend the bet to last the whole year. Sirius, in turn, said that in that case it ought to be worth double the galleons, which turned Peter white. Remus once again registered his disapproval of the whole thing, and demanded that they count him out.

He had much better things to spend his time on – and would not be spending any more money than he needed to. The others would have to be happy with a chocolate frog each for Christmas, because he simply couldn’t spare the cash. Remus knew that he would need every last knut the moment he turned seventeen, in order to begin his mission to find Greyback.

His investigation had so far been fruitless. He had gathered up as many old editions of the Daily Prophet as possible, from the library and lying about the common room. Some of the more recent editions had articles which mentioned werewolf packs – but there was hardly any detail, and no names mentioned. In the end, Remus was forced to conclude that nobody really knew anything solid. He imagined werewolves were hard to find, especially if they were ordinary wizards most of the time.

Asking Ferox seemed like the next most sensible course of action. The Care of Magical Creatures teacher had suggested that he knew more than he’d initially revealed to Remus last term – only Remus hadn’t had the presence of mind to ask, still reeling from the news that Ferox had worked for Lyall. He needed to work up the nerve before going back, however, and plan his questions carefully enough so that Ferox wouldn’t suspect anything.

October began and ended with a full moon that year, which seemed very unfair, especially as it meant Remus would miss the Halloween feast. Still, the weather was unseasonably warm, and the marauders spent most of their free time enjoying the grounds under a fair blue sky, surrounded by the golden reds and browns of the most beautiful autumn Remus could remember.

On weekends he would settle down in the quidditch stands with several books, parchment and a quill, and complete his homework and advance reading, occasionally glancing up to watch one of James’s drills, or cheer on poor Peter, who often got stuck as the stand-in keeper. Sometimes Marlene practiced with them, which made the afternoons even more pleasant as Lily and Mary would inevitably pop by.

Sirius was unable to sit still at all during these sessions. He alternated between trying to focus on his homework, to hopping on his broom for a race with James, to scribbling down complex tactical plays he thought the Gryffindor team ought to use in their first game, scheduled for November.

“We’ve got to thrash Slytherin this year.” He kept muttering. “Got to show ‘em.”

Slytherin had won the quidditch cup the year before, and it was an immensely sore point with the Gryffindors – particularly Sirius, as both Narcissa and Regulus had been on the winning team. This year it was only Regulus, who had replaced his older cousin as seeker. Remus only knew this from James; Sirius had mentioned nothing.

“You need to lean into your broom more, when you take a swing,” Sirius was telling Marlene, who had just sat down for a rest. She was red in the face, fair hair plastered to her damp temples, and not in the mood for Sirius’s commentary.

“I hit the bludgers nine times out of ten.” She replied, panting, “Ten times, in my best games. Even Mulciber can’t manage that.”

“Don’t try to be better than the competition,” Sirius admonished, piously, “You’ve only got yourself to beat.”

“Look, Black, if you think you can do better, we’re trying out for beaters on Tuesday.”

“Nah.” He waved a hand, looking away. “You beat me, fair and square.”

“Two years ago.”

He didn’t respond, and Marlene just shrugged, then staggered to her feet and headed back to the pitch, where James was calling for her.

Remus had been reading his book throughout this exchange, and hadn’t wanted to interfere. He shot a glance at Sirius, who was leaning forward on the barrier, his chin resting on his arms as he watched the practice. Peter made a decent save, and Sirius’s eyes lit up. Remus bit his lip, and thought hard, before saying quietly,

“There are two beaters on a quidditch team, you know.”

“Bloody hell, Moony,” Sirius replied sarcastically, not taking his eyes off the pitch, “Four years and you’ve finally learnt something about the game.”

Remus ignored that, only tutting under his breath.

“You know your problem?”

“Do tell.”

“You’re proud.”

Sirius laughed.

“And you’re not?”

“Maybe. But I’d make a shit beater, wouldn’t I?”

Sirius went quiet again. Remus sighed, heavily, closing his book, packing it into his bag, “Look, you’re going to hate yourself later if you don’t have another crack at it. You just going to sit here cheering James on for three more years?” He stood up, “I’m freezing, off to the library. See you at dinner?”

“Yeah, see you Moony.”

That Tuesday, Remus went along to watch the Gryffindor team trials, and said nothing when he saw Sirius arrive, broom in hand. He didn’t even smile smugly, though he dearly wanted to. Two hours later, Gryffindor had their new beater, and Remus realised that he now had to share his dorm with two James’s.

-- Except for one very important difference – while Sirius was undoubtedly full of passion for the sport, he appeared to lack James’s discipline. Particularly in the mornings.

“Wakey wakey!” James chanted, brightly, as he exited the bathroom, hair shining and wet – the only time it ever lay flat on his head. He pushed on his glasses and flicked his wand at Sirius’s bed, drawing back the curtains.

It was a week after trials, and this scene was becoming commonplace. Remus was already awake, almost dressed for breakfast, planning to get in an hour’s reading before lessons started. He was tying up his shoelaces as he watched James and Sirius begin their new morning routine.

Sirius, who was little more than a shapeless lump under the duvet, groaned like a disgruntled troll.

“Piss off, Potter,” he hissed, burying his head under his pillow.

“You wanted to be on the team, Sirius me ol’ chum. C’mon, up you get… Leviocorpus!”

With that, Sirius’s body flew into the air, seemingly yanked by some invisible force, leaving him hanging upside down in mid-air while James laughed hysterically.

“I can’t believe that worked! Been trying to do that since last Christmas.”

“Let me down you wanker!”

“Be nice!”

“Let me down!”

Finite.”

Sirius landed on the floor with a thud, and leapt up immediately, rubbing the arm he’d landed on.

“Bloody hell!” He grinned at James, “That was amazing! Now let me do it to you.”

“Ok!”

* * *

Bodily levitation did not become a regular fixture of the fourth year boys’ dorm, but trying to drag Sirius out of bed did.

“Just one day off a week, Potter, I’m begging you!” He groaned at the breakfast table, one early Sunday morning. He barely opened his eyes, his lolling head propped up on his elbow.

You’re the one who wants to destroy Slytherin.” James replied, cheerily, buttering some toast and sliding it over to his friend. Sirius glanced down at the offering disdainfully and looked away, closing his eyes again. James sighed, “Not just you, either. The whole school wants to see them beaten. Think of it as doing your bit for the war effort.”

“I thought you were doing your bit by hexing them in the corridors.” Remus said, helping himself to a slice of Sirius’s toast.

“Exactly.” Sirius grunted, eyes still closed. “And that can be done at a reasonable hour.”

“This is the only time we can fit practices in,” James said, starting to sound a bit annoyed now, “There’s no point going after dark, the pitch gets booked up in the evenings and lessons start at nine.”

“Even if they started at twelve you’d have trouble getting Sirius up.” Peter said, mouth full of porridge.

“We should get time turners.” Sirius yawned, without a trace of humour, “Students who need their beauty sleep should be issued with them.”

“What’s a time turner?” Remus asked, taking Sirius’s second slice of toast.

“Turns back time, obviously,” Sirius said, scathingly.

“They’re illegal.” James said, quickly, “Without ministry permission. And really, really dangerous.”

I’m dangerous if I don’t get enough sleep,” Sirius grumbled.

“Matron used to make us all get up at six on weekends,” Remus said, thoughtfully, swallowing the last of his toast. “She thought it was healthy, or something. One of the older boys got into her room once and fiddled with her alarm clock, though, and we got away with an extra two hours in bed every day for a week before she noticed.”

“Muggles are ingenious.” James chuckled. “But stay away from my alarm clock.”

“Mmm.” Remus murmured, deep in thought. He could feel the beginnings of an idea coming on.

“Oh no, we’ve lost him.” Sirius said, watching Remus. “Probably daydreaming about nogtails and nifflers again – I swear Care of Magical Creatures is the only subject he cares about any more.”

“Leave Moony alone and eat your breakfast.” James castigated. “I want you on the pitch in five minutes.”

“Fine…” Sirius sighed heavily, and looked down at his plate, “Oi! Where’s my breakfast??”

“Got to go,” Remus said, suddenly standing up, “Library. See you in Potions.”

Early mornings were Remus’s favourite times in the library – everything was so neat and tidy, and he usually had the place to himself. Very few students were in the mood to study first thing, but Remus had found that during certain phases of the moon he barely slept five hours a night anyway, and so he was a regular visitor.

The idea took a while to form properly, but he wanted it to be clear and complete before bringing it before the other marauders. Then at least it would be fully his prank. Remus felt the need to make his mark on something this year. Everyone else seemed to be focussed on other things – the war, or quidditch, or ‘the great snogging race’, as Sirius had so eloquently dubbed it. They hadn’t even tried to sneak to Honeyduke’s once. Remus felt very strongly that the marauders needed a prank – and a big one.

He wasted half an hour researching complex and convoluted time spells; incantations to stop time, speed it up, slow it down, or even bend it. (He wasn’t really sure how bending time worked, but it didn’t sound pleasant, or within his scope of ability). Eventually, he came to the conclusion that he was overthinking it, as usual. This was not a magical problem – it was mechanical.

By the time the school day was about to begin, Remus had located the passage he needed in Hogwarts: A History, and was satisfied that he’d have a plan by the end of the week.  He left for Potions in a pretty good mood – one which was quickly shattered when he realised he was being followed.

The feeling of being watched had been pricking the back of his neck while he’d been in the library, but as it was generally a quiet and solitary place anyway, he’d put it down to an overactive imagination. And there was always the chance that Madam Pince was lurking behind him, standing guard over her precious books. By 8.45 the hallways were crowded with students hurrying to their lessons, chattering and giggling, hurriedly eating breakfasts on the go, or scribbling down last minute homework. Although this year Remus’s policy had been never to travel alone, he was satisfied that it was busy enough and there were enough Gryffindors around to be safe.

However, as he began to descend the first set of stairs leading to the dungeon, the prickling feeling returned once more. As a rule, Remus tried to ignore instincts like that – they belonged to the wolf, and he resented the intrusion. But he couldn’t shake it, and reached for his wand, gripping it tight.

Finally, only a corridor away from the Potions classroom, he made a deliberate wrong turn and darted behind a tapestry. He waited. Sure enough, only a few seconds later, Severus Snape peered around the corner, looking confused. Irritation boiled up in Remus’s throat, and before he could think about it reasonably, he pointed his wand at the Slytherin and chanted,

Petrificus Totalus!”

Snape went rigid, a look of surprise on his face that would have been comical, if Remus wasn’t so angry. The black-haired boy fell to the ground, arms and legs straight as a board, completely paralysed. His beady black eyes stared around, frantically, as Remus stepped out from his hiding place. He gave him a kick – not too hard, and only in the shin – and smirked down at Severus.

“Stop following me, you creep.” He said. “Didn’t I warn you?”

Snape stared helplessly up at him, and Remus laughed before heading for Potions with a spring in his step.

Chapter Text

“Don’t forget, I need that three-page essay on the similarities and differences between Thunderbirds and Phoenixes on Friday at the latest.” Professor Ferox called out. “No excuses.”

Mary and Marlene groaned as they packed away their things.

“I completely forgot about that,” Marlene whispered, “And I’ve got practice almost every night this week – we’ve got the Ravenclaw match on Sunday.”

“I’ll lend you my notes.” Remus replied, carefully blotting his paper. “It’s really easy.”

“Sunday’s Sirius’s birthday too, isn’t it?” Mary asked, thoughtfully.

“Yeah, how did you know?”

“Well we did sort of go out last year.” Mary said, haughtily, tutting at Remus. “And you lot always make such a massive fuss over birthdays it’s pretty hard to forget. God, I hope Gryffindor win, or he’ll be in a right mood.”

“Yeah.” Remus agreed. He hadn’t thought of that. He’d planned to reveal his big prank plan on Sirius’s birthday, in lieu of a proper gift. Now he wondered if he ought to buy something as well – though they weren’t due in Hogsmeade for a few more weeks. He could always give Sirius a pack of cigarettes, but that seemed a bit cheap, especially as Sirius knew they were stolen.

Andromeda had already sent some presents ahead, care of the Potters, and James had them hidden under his bed. More records, of course – Remus dearly hoped that one of them was the new Bowie LP, Diamond Dogs .  

“I’m off to the Owlery, need to send something to Darren,” Mary said, as they left the classroom. “Coming, Marls?”

Marlene looked a bit put out, so Remus said quickly,

“I’m going to the library, if you want to get those notes?”

“Yeah, thanks Remus!”

They said goodbye to Mary and began walking in the opposite direction together. Remus liked Marlene a lot – she was tall for a girl, and he didn’t have to crane his neck to talk to her all the time. Other than her emotional outburst at the end of their third year, she was also very much a no-nonsense person, which Remus found very calming compared to Mary, who was always a lot of fun, but sometimes very full on.

“Thanks,” Marlene grinned at him, “I love the girl, but there’s only so many times I can proofread her dirty letters to Darren.”

Dirty letters?!” Remus gaped. Marlene laughed,

“Yeah, it’s pretty horrendous. Hey, Remus, can I ask you something?”

“What?”

“Um… does Sirius like me?”

Remus fought his initial reaction, which was one of despair. It felt as though he hadn’t got through a week of the new year yet without having to listen to someone’s romantic problems. Why did they all think he was the best person to talk to? When had he ever given the impression that he was even remotely interested?

“I dunno.” He said, hoping he didn’t sound too annoyed. “You’d have to ask him.”

“I don’t think he’d give me a straight answer,” Marlene chuckled. “Sorry, it’s just that he’s been acting really weird around me during quidditch practice.”

“Weird?”

“Yeah, just comments and stuff. It’s a bit annoying, really, I don’t really fancy him as much as I used to – you know, he’s such an attention seeker, he was always much more Mary’s type.”

“What comments?”

“Stuff about me giving him a kiss for luck, or something… Maybe it’s his idea of flirting, or maybe it’s a joke – you never know with James and Sirius, do you?”

It suddenly dawned on Remus what was going on, and he was half angry, half embarrassed for Sirius.

“What?” Marlene said, stopping just outside the library, “What’s that face for?”

“Ugh, Marlene, look, I’m really sorry about this, but…” and he explained to her all about the bet.

Ok, yes, she was quite likely to tell Mary, and Mary was extremely likely to tell everyone else in their year – but that would serve the boys right, in Remus’s opinion. He took a distinct pleasure in ruining Sirius’s chances at winning the stupid bet. Fortunately, Marlene was a very sensible girl, and by the end of Remus’s explanation she was giggling.

“It makes so much sense!” She said, wheezing, “James kept trying to stop Sirius talking to me and everything. Those boys! They’re completely ridiculous.”

“Yeah.” Remus grinned, relieved that someone else shared this opinion.

“Oh great, now I can have some fun with it,” Marlene smirked, as they entered the library, lowering their voices. She then added, a little wistfully, “Shame James hasn’t tried it on. He might have a chance.”

Remus raised his eyebrows.

“Well, he’s only got eyes for Lily, so.”

Marlene sighed,

“That’s a losing battle. Still, never mind.”

They settled down at their favourite desk, which was near to the biggest window and provided some nice natural light. Remus pulled out his notes and showed Marlene how he’d listed all of the qualities of thunderbirds, then phoenixes, then how he’d begun to compare the two. Grateful for his help, Marlene offered up her Astronomy notes, and the two of them spent a companionable hour scribbling away. Eventually it was time for dinner.

“Remus,” Marlene said, quietly, as they finished up, “Are all of the marauders in on this bet, or just James and Sirius?”

“Er… I think Peter’s doing it. He might regret it a bit now, though.”

“So you’re not?”

“No!” He replied, a little bit more loudly than he meant to.

“Shame,” she replied, her eyes twinkling, “Because I bet you could win.”

He snorted,

“As if.”

“Girls like you! You’re really nice, and kind, and clever.”

“Shut up.”

“I’d snog you.”

“Oh my god, Marlene…” Remus started walking a bit faster, his ears feeling very hot, “You’re my friend!”

“Yeah, but just to win the bet.” She grinned, matching his pace. He forgot how athletic she was, and he still had a dodgy hip. “Isn’t there anyone you fancy?”

“No. C’mon, I’m hungry.”

It wasn’t a lie, Remus thought to himself. It sort of felt like one, though.

* * *

“GO GO GRYFFINDOR GO GO!” Remus chanted along with everyone else. Having Peter wildly waving his scarf over his head like a lunatic with a knitted lasso helped mitigate any embarrassment Remus might have felt for himself.

He was nervous, though; more nervous than he had been for James and Marlene’s first game; because Sirius - while of course very good at flying - did not always make the best decisions under pressure. And quidditch was a dangerous sport, if you were reckless.

Half of the crowd was decked out in blue, the other half in scarlet, and a deafening cacophony of boos and cheers erupted as the two teams walked onto the pitch. James was visible as ever with his wild mess of hair, and from a distance the two Gryffindor beaters were the same height, distinguishable only by their different coloured ponytails poking out under their helmets - one flaxen, one black.

Remus felt his heart in his mouth as the players mounted their brooms, squatted slightly, then launched into the air at the blow of the whistle. It was hard to know who to follow, as James zipped up and down the pitch like a lightning bolt in pursuit of the quaffle, while Marlene and Sirius split off, covering different ends of the pitch, bats aloft.

The two beaters had very different styles - Marlene was focussed, and tended to tail the players rather than the bludgers in order to better protect her teammates. Sirius favoured a different tact - going directly after the offending balls no matter where they were, and knocking them as far away from the game as possible.

“This is Black’s first game and he’s obviously throwing himself into it,” The commentator’s voice echoed over the crowds, “He’s no doubt received plenty of coaching from Potter - who’s just scored the first goal! That’s Gryffindor in the lead with ten points!”

Remus was too anxious to cheer along with everyone else, getting dizzy trying to follow all three of his friends in the air.

“As I was saying,” the commentator, a seventh year Hufflepuff, continued, “Lots of talent on the Gryffindor side this year - Potter, of course, and McKinnon, who’s one of the best beaters the reds have had in years, and now Sirius Black, the black sheep of a bonafide quidditch dynasty - you’ll remember his cousin, Narcissa Black of Slytherin, one of the finest seekers Hogwarts has ever seen, and of course the younger Black brother, Regulus, who has taken Narcissa’s place after a season as chaser. Rumour has is that there’s bad blood in the Black clan, so you can bet that the Gryffindor/Slytherin match next term is going to be--”

“If you will please focus on the game currently in progress, Miss Darcy!” McGonagall snapped over the megaphone.

“Sorry, professor! So that’s Dunelm of Ravenclaw in possession of the quaffle, she shoots, she---oooh, and it’s a bad miss…”

The game went on, and Remus hoped that Sirius hadn’t been listening to the commentary - bringing up the Black family was a surefire way to break his concentration. But no, all seemed well - he was hitting the bludgers with a bit more vigour, but that could just have easily been adrenaline.

By the end of the game, it became evident that Remus’s concerns were for nothing. Sirius may not act as though he took quidditch seriously off the pitch, but clearly having a cheering audience did wonders for his concentration.

Once the Gryffindor seeker caught the snitch - ending the match on 300 - 110 in Gryffindor’s favour, the two beaters flew to the ground. Remus saw Sirius throw a gallant arm around Marlene’s shoulders, and lean in - only to be dodged deftly as she offered her cheek for him to kiss.

* * *

The common room was a riot of red, gold and rock music that evening. The whole house came out to celebrate both Gryffindor’s victory and Sirius’s birthday. Remus, for what it was worth, sold more cigarettes than he had all year so far - he had come prepared, assuming correctly that the older students would be drinking, making them more inclined to pay up for a hit of nicotine. He himself stayed away from any suspicious looking drinks, remembering his hellish hangovers from the summer.

Sirius and James were in their element, of course, roaring with laughter and soaking up the congratulations from their classmates. Peter hung about close enough to enjoy the limelight, but not so close as to get in the way.

Remus was happy to watch at a distance, chatting with Lily and Mary and enjoying the snacks brought up from the kitchens. He knew he would not get a chance to divulge his plan until much later, now, but that was ok. Better for everyone to enjoy themselves, there was plenty of time yet.

At some point, Sirius finally got around to opening his presents - a broom repair kit from James, a lot of chocolate from Peter, and from Andromeda no less than three brand new albums; Dark Side of the Moon , Country Life (which had an incredibly rude cover that all of the boys smirked passed around, and made Remus want to die of embarrassment), and Diamond Dogs .

“Oh!” Remus said, unable to contain his excitement as he held the much awaited record in his hands, stroking the bizarre, nightmarish artwork. “Put this one on first? Please?”

Sirius grinned,

“Anything for you, Moony!” And settled the disk into place on the turntable.

Owww ooooooohhhhh…

The record player howled, sending a shiver of shock down Remus’s spine - the cry of a wolf. He stared up at James and Sirius in alarm. They looked just as surprised as he, though Sirius broke into a smile as David Bowie’s voice filled the room, as if speaking an incantation:

And in the death...

As the last few corpses lay rotting on the slimy thoroughfare,

The shutters lifted in inches in Temperance Building,

High on Poacher's Hill,

And red, mutant eyes gaze down on Hunger City…

The whole common room was uncomfortably quiet as this grim, ugly poem was recited, not quite sure where to look as dogs howled and whined in the background. It made Remus feel dark and dirty - but he thought he liked it; as if Bowie was speaking directly to him. Especially as the final lines were yelled out:

"This ain't Rock'n'Roll!

This is genocide!"

* * *

“A whole month?!” Sirius whispered loudly.

“Thirty days, yep.” James replied, in the same stage whisper, “If we do it over the summer…”

“You forgot the silencing spell, idiots.” Remus called out.

“Bugger.” Lots of rustling.

It was well past midnight on the day of Sirius’s birthday, and the party had long since been broken up by the prefects. The marauders had climbed the stairs to bed sleepy and excitable, but apparently James and Sirius had had a second wind and were now in private conference in James’s bed. Remus had a pretty good idea what they were talking about, but had decided to leave them be for now. See how far they took it. Still, he knew they’d realise they’d forgotten the spell eventually, and decided honesty was the best policy.

Remus and Sirius poked their heads out from behind their respective curtains at the same time.

“Sorry, Moony.” Sirius grinned, “Did we wake you?”

“Nah,” Remus shrugged, “I was… actually, I was thinking about this prank…”

“Prank?!” James’s head joined Sirius’s in the gap between the curtains, “Who said prank?!”

Remus smiled, shyly. He’d thought he might have to wait until next weekend to tell them, but James magnanimously opened the bed curtains further, “Please, Mr Moony,” he said, “Step into our office…”

Eagerly, Remus scrambled out from his tangle of bedsheets and padded barefoot across the chilly bedroom floor into James’s bed. He felt as though he’d been waiting four years for an invite.

“Well?” James asked, seriously, pointing his wand light at Remus like a microphone. “Tell us!”

“Just a second,” Remus rolled his eyes, withdrawing his own wand, “ Muffliato!

“He’s too clever for us.” Sirius said, dryly.

“Indeed.” James agreed.

Remus ignored them; they were jumpy and silly from lack of sleep, he had to at least give them the gist of his plan before they finally crashed.  

“Remember how I was telling you about Matron’s alarm clock?” He asked them, quickly. The boys nodded obediently like cocker spaniels. “And how we used to fiddle with it so we didn’t have to get up early anymore?” More nodding, “Well, I was thinking about how it could be applied to Hogwarts. I did some research, and - did you know that all of the clocks at this school are controlled by one master clock? The big one outside the Great Hall.”

“Oh MOONY!” Sirius cried, suddenly throwing himself at Remus, flinging his arms around him with such force that they both toppled backwards on the bed. Startled, Remus tried to push him away, but Sirius held fast, pretending to sob onto his shoulder with joy, “You’ve READ Hogwarts: A History ! One of you has finally read it! You’re now my favourite marauder!”

“Gerroff, tosser!” Remus growled, finally forcing him off and shuffling further away on the bed, James laughing at them both.

“No one would ever guess you’re the oldest, Black,” James grinned. “Moony, please continue. The big clock…?”

“Right, yeah,” Remus straightened his night shirt, feeling very hot and flushed from the assault, “Err… so… um… I had this idea… I…” It was no good, he’d completely lost his train of thought, now all he could think about was what an irritating idiot Sirius was.

“The big clock controls all the others,” Sirius filled in, quickly, remarkably lucid now, “It’s a spell that makes sure every clock and watch in the castle is perfectly synchronised. Even the ones we bring from home re-set - even muggle clocks. It’s a bloody good bit of magic.”

“Yeah,” Remus nodded, getting back into the flow, “Yeah, exactly. So I’m thinking; if that clock goes wrong, or gets moved by five minutes - then so do all the others. And it would affect lesson times, and meals, and… well, pretty much the whole running of the castle. And if we started off really slowly - say, moving it forward five minutes a night - no one would notice for ages, would they? I mean, how could anyone notice, if all the clocks are the same?”

He finished, sitting back and looking at James, because he was still annoyed with Sirius for flustering him and almost spoiling it. James’s brain was working at warp speed - Remus knew this because he had pushed his glasses back on his nose. Finally, he looked at Sirius and smiled.

“Our Moony’s done it again!”

Chapter Text

Monday 4th November 1974

“I dunno.” Peter said, wringing his hands again. “Professor McGonagall says we shouldn't mess about with time.”

“We won’t be,” Sirius groaned, having already explained the plan twice. “This is a muggle prank, Peter, get it through your thick skull!”

“Don’t.” Remus frowned, feeling sorry for Peter, who had been sulking all day anyway because he’d been left out of their night time planning. “We’re not messing about with time, Pete,” Remus explained kindly, “We’re just messing about with clocks.”

Peter looked at Remus, then at James for confirmation.

“Ok.” He said, slowly. “I think I get it.”

They’d agreed to do it as soon as possible, and struggled to get through their lessons that day with the mounting anticipation for their devious scheme. Remus had to shush James and Sirius more than once when their excitement got the better of them - they were hardly subtle at the best of times.

“It won’t work if anyone else knows about it.” Remus hissed at lunch when Mary asked what they were whispering about. “So shut up! I know you lot can keep a secret if you really try.”

They could hardly wait for night to fall and the castle to grow still and quiet. It had been a long time since they’d all been out of bounds together after dark, and even though it was a very simple task, all them wanted to go.

There was one problem. It was much more difficult to get all four of them under the cloak than it had been three years ago.

“Peter, you stay here.” Sirius said, after their third attempt.

“Why me?” Peter protested, “Why am I always the one left out?!”

“We’re not leaving you out, idiot, this is purely a logistical concern.” Sirius rolled his eyes.

“James!”

“I’ll stay,” Remus offered. “I’m the tallest, it’s my fault.”

“But it was your idea,” Sirius whined, “You can’t miss out!”

Remus shrugged,

“There’ll be lots of times. We’re doing this more than once.”

“Even with three it’s a squeeze.” James said. “Black, Pettigrew, sit this one out.”

“Why me?!” Sirius and Peter both cried at the same time.

“Because.” James’s said, lips curling, “It’s Moony’s idea and my cloak.”

It took a little more squabbling, ego massaging and many promises that every night they would take it in turns, just to be fair, before the two rejected marauders conceded. Soon afterwards, Remus and James were creeping through Gryffindor common room under the cloak, tiptoeing past a few sleeping seventh years lying unconscious on their NEWT textbooks.

“Hopefully they’ll stop squabbling if we give them an hour alone.” James whispered, as they left the portrait hole and entered the dark empty corridor.

“Why is Sirius being such a dickhead to Peter, anyway?” Remus asked his own voice as low as possible. They didn’t want to disturb Peeves - or even worse, Mrs Norris.

“All the girls know about the Great Snogging Race,” James replied, moving slowly so that Remus could keep pace, “Sirius thinks Pete told them.”

“Why would he think that?”

“You know Black,” James said with a smile in his voice, “Loves jumping to conclusions. Usually the wrong ones.”

“You don’t think it was Peter, then?” Remus asked, innocently,

“Moony.” James snorted, “I know it was you.”

“Ah.”

“Doesn’t bother me,” James laughed, quietly, “If anything it’s improved my chances of winning the bet.”

“Marlene offered to snog me,” Remus said, suddenly, “But I told her I wasn’t in the bet.”

He wasn’t sure why he’d chosen to tell James - or why he’d picked such an inopportune moment to do so. He supposed he just wanted somebody to know. Maybe it was a boasting thing - they were the ones who hadn’t included him in the running in the first place.

“Ha,” James said, “Don’t tell Sirius, he’ll never get over it.”

“She’d snog you.” Remus added, charitably, “She told me she would.”

“Alas, it’s not to be,” James replied, casually. Remus was thoughtful for a little while, but they’d reached the clock now, at the bottom of the grand staircase.

It was very big and very beautiful, with a vast mahogany frame carved with various magical creatures and plants, the face and hands cast in shimmering gold.

Remus pulled out his wand and concentrated carefully on unbinding the protective charms placed there by a great wizard long ago. It took a long time; they were complex and intricate, braided together fine as lace. But slowly and surely, one by one, he felt the magic unfasten with a gentle pop somewhere in his midsection. He smiled at James.

“There we go.”

James waved his own wand at the clock, and the longer hand rolled backwards five minutes. He looked down at his own watch, and they both saw it synchronise. James chuckled under his breath.

“See Moony, I knew it had to be you. C’mon, better get back.”

They crept back up the stairs, quicker now, giddy with triumph. At the top, Remus had to pause for breath for a moment. He rested a hand on James’s shoulder to steady himself, and the other boy waited patiently.

“Hey, James?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you really going to lose the bet to Sirius for Lily’s sake?”

James’s back stiffened slightly, but he didn’t sound annoyed.

“Might not lose.”

“But Lily’s never going to--”

“I’m the one taking Divination, Lupin, not you.”

“Yeah, but she hates you.”

“She doesn’t hate me.” James chucked. “Lily Evans doesn’t have a hateful bone in her body.”

Remus said nothing to this, knowing it was quite true. James continued, “It’s just not time yet, that’s all. But I don’t mind.”

“Oh.” Remus said. It struck him for the first time that James didn’t simply fancy Lily. It was something else altogether. Remus wanted to ask more questions, but he didn’t know how - he wasn’t Sirius, he couldn’t be that brazen.

When they got back to the bedroom, Sirius was pacing the floor, and the curtains were drawn around Peter’s bed. It could be assumed that they had not used the time to settle their differences.

“Well?” Sirius barked, eagerly, as James and Remus threw off the clock.

“Done.” James said, simply, yawning and heading for his own bed. He patted Sirius on the shoulder as he passed him, “Enjoy your five minute lie in.”

* * *

And so the prank went on. Every night that week, two marauders would creep downstairs under the invisibility cloak and perform the spell to move that minute hand back by five degrees, so that by Saturday morning, every clock at Hogwarts was running twenty-five minutes late. So far, no one seemed to have noticed, and James and Sirius were getting restless.

“The thing is,” Sirius yawned over breakfast, sleepy eyed in his rumpled quidditch kit. “We’re not actually getting an extra half-hour’s sleep, are we? We’re not going to bed any earlier.”

“No, well that wasn’t actually the intention…” Remus said, attempting to construct a marmalade and strawberry jam toast sandwich.

“Still, I think we ought to be getting something out of it.”

“The satisfaction of a job well done?” Remus responded, dryly, before biting into his creation. Sweet fruit jelly oozed from between the crusts, getting all over his fingers. Sirius grimaced - he had an aversion to sticky things.

The brilliance of their own genius was apparently not enough for Sirius, however. The next morning Remus woke up long before his alarm rang, and when he checked his bedside clock he saw that it was apparently still 7am. He went over and shook Sirius.

“What did you do last night?” Remus asked, once Sirius finally woke up, “You and James did the clock, didn’t you?”

“Fancied a bit more of a lie in, that’s all…”

“How much did you move it by?”

“I dunno, hour or two?”

“What?!”

“What??” Sirius looked genuinely surprised. “Isn’t that the whole point of the prank?”

“Well…” Remus sighed. What was the point? It couldn’t go on forever, anyway. “That’s still too much. I’m going to go and see if I can turn it forward a little bit tonight.”

Sirius shrugged, rolled over and went back to sleep.

A few people commented on how odd it was to wake up in broad daylight in the winter at seven o’clock in the morning, but as it was a Sunday anyway Remus thought they’d got away with it. That evening, Remus and Peter crept downstairs as usual, and Remus tried to correct Sirius’s recklessness.

“Can we make it so that we get up earlier next Saturday?” Peter asked, uncertainly - Remus still wasn’t sure that Peter fully understood what they were doing.

“Don’t see why not,” Remus shrugged. “Why do you want to get up early though?”

“It’s a Hogsmeade weekend and I was going to meet… um… no, nothing.”

“Who??”

“Please don’t tell James or Sirius!”

“Who, Pete?”

“Desdemona Lewis.”

“Oh… No, I won’t tell anyone.”

Remus went to bed with a heavy heart that night. He felt he had lost every one of his friends now - the only one who didn’t constantly want to talk about their relations with the opposite sex was Lily. And he felt a bit guilty around Lily, since inadvertently ruining their Potions project.

To be fair, everyone’s in the class had been ruined;

“Oh dear,” Professor Slughorn had scratched his head, completely confounded by the useless girding potions everyone had produced. “Did everybody leave them to brew for the correct amount of time? It must be precisely twenty-four hours…”

Everyone had, of course. Or thought they had. It was really Sirius’s fault, Remus told himself.

Sirius, of course, found the entire episode immensely amusing, and it only inspired him to take even greater risks. The problem was, Remus couldn’t catch him at it. Every time it was Sirius’s turn to go down and change the clocks, he made sure he was going with either Peter or James. And whenever Remus volunteered to go, Sirius took a step back.

“I know what you’re doing.” Remus told him, when they woke up one ‘morning’ with the sun already at its’ highest point in the sky.

“And I know what you’re doing,” Sirius replied with a grin, “Goody two-shoes.”

It was true - Remus was going down every second night and trying to fix whatever havoc Sirius had caused, so that by the third week of November the clocks were all swinging wildly this way and that, sometimes altered by as much as four hours. The main problem was that Sirius wouldn’t tell him how much he was changing the time by, so Remus was having to guess at his corrections.

“What the hell is going on?!” Mary said, one morning at breakfast, after perhaps only four hours sleep - Remus regretted that, but it had been the only way to reclaim ground in Sirius’s ridiculous tug of war.

Breakfast had become a very odd event - it seemed that the house elves in the kitchen were more confused than anyone else about the time of day, and were in disagreement over which meal they ought to be serving. As such, scrambled eggs were being served alongside mashed potato and gravy; legs of lamb accompanied cornflakes, and once or twice everyone had arrived for dinner and nothing at all had appeared. Sirius and James were loving every minute of this, of course.

“What do you mean?” James asked, nonchalantly. Sirius was not speaking that morning, only yawning and occasionally scowling at Remus.

“Isn’t anyone else sleeping really badly?” Mary asked, desperately. She was starting to look quite frazzled - her dark hair was coming out of her braids in thick corkscrews, and her eyes were slightly bloodshot. “And what’s up with the weather?”

“Yeah, it was really dark yesterday,” Marlene yawned, “But today it started getting light at six or something.”

“Hogwarts is a very mysterious and magical place.” James said. “Who are we to question its inner workings?”

Meanwhile, Remus was very concerned about the upcoming full moon. He thought it was due soon, anyway, he couldn’t really be sure. If Sirius didn’t slow down, he might lose track altogether and just have to lock himself in the shrieking shack for a week. He didn’t know how to explain that to Madam Pomfrey - but if he didn’t do something then he ran the risk of transforming somewhere in the castle.

* * *

Wednesday 27th November 1974

By the fourth week, Remus didn’t think that any of the marauders knew what on earth the time was supposed to be - even in the vaguest sense. He’d given up trying to correct Sirius at all, and instead thought it best to just let things play out. Things finally came to a head when, while yawning their way through a Transfiguration lesson, Peter suddenly looked out of the window with a gasp.

“What is it, Pettigrew?” McGonagall snapped - she had been much more irritable than usual. Actually, everyone had, and Remus resolved never to muck up anyone’s sleep pattern again.

“N-nothing, Professor.” Peter looked down, hurriedly.

But it was too late; the whole class, including McGonagall, was now staring out of the window too - and watching the sun rise at eleven o’clock in the morning.

“Oh for goodness sake!” McGonagall said. “Class, I want all of you in the Great Hall at once. I’m getting the Headmaster.”

Less than an hour later, Remus was feeling extremely nervous surrounded by the rest of the school as they waited for Dumbledore to address them. He hadn’t seen much of the head teacher that year; the old man was often absent from meals now, and McGonagall had said he was simply out on business for the ministry. Still, he was here now, and Remus couldn’t stop the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as the white haired wizard approached the lectern.

“What’s going on, d’you think?” Lily asked Remus. Mary was snoozing on her shoulder.

“No idea,” he replied, hoping he sounded convincing.

“It seems,” Dumbledore began. He spoke very softly for a teacher, Remus had always thought - but somehow everyone fell quiet anyway. “That we have some pranksters in our midst.”

At once, everyone in the room turned to look at Remus, Sirius, James and Peter. Remus kept staring ahead, ignoring them; Peter began to shake his knee anxiously, glancing at James, who smiled back at his audience in an affable manner. Remus couldn’t see what Sirius was doing, but it was sure to be ridiculous and highly disrespectful. Still, Dumbledore made no accusations, only smiled pleasantly and continued, “Rest assured that the clocks are now being corrected, and measures taken to ensure that this cannot happen again. In the meantime, I think we could all do with a bit of rest - I am cancelling the rest of today’s classes, to be resumed at our usual - and correct - time tomorrow morning.”

There was a collective murmur of appreciation at this news.

“Yes!” Sirius hissed, “Result!”

“Now,” Dumbledore raised his arms, “Off you go, use this time wisely!”

Everyone in the hall got to their feet and began to trudge wearily towards the doors. The marauders were just about to follow suit, when McGonagall appeared behind them, placing a hand on Sirius and James’s shoulders.

“Wait.” She said. “Not you four.”

Remus gulped, as the rest of the school vacated the room, until it was just the four of them, Dumbledore and McGonagall.

“So,” Dumbledore smiled, kindly, “Which one of you came up with the idea, eh? Or was it a collective effort?”

The four boys looked at each other, then down at their laps. Dumbledore chuckled, “Admirable.” He said, approvingly, “Then we shall have to treat you all equally, hm? I think ten points each from Gryffindor, do you agree, Professor McGonagall.”

“At the very least!” She nodded, “And detentions!”

“I shall leave that in your capable hands, then. Just one thing, boys.”

They all looked up, wincing as they braced themselves for the telling off.

“You’re all clearly very gifted wizards,” Dumbledore continued to smile. Peter gave an odd sort of squeak. “That much is clear. It was a simple spell, yes, but highly effective. That kind of thinking will take you far. But perhaps a little more forethought and planning next time? You might not have been discovered quite so quickly.”

“Three weeks isn’t bad!” Sirius blurted out. James kicked him, but Dumbledore laughed. McGonagall turned red with anger,

“Then it shall be three weeks detention, Black!”

Sirius quickly bowed his head, and James muttered under his breath,

“Idiot.”

Chapter Text

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?”

“Yes, please.”

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.”

“Remus…”

“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.”

Remus snorted,

“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.

Chapter Text

Monday 23rd December 1974

Though Hogwarts had been as picturesque as a Christmas card under its blanket of highland snow, the marauders stepped off the train in London to grey, southern drizzle. The weather continued in much the same way for most of the Christmas break, meaning that sledging was off the cards this year, much to Remus’s disappointment.

It meant that the first few days before Christmas were pretty boring, and they made up for it by making regular trips into the village, underneath Mr Potter’s huge black umbrella, and spent long afternoons in the muggle cinema there.

Remus had convinced them to go - he hadn’t been to see a film since he’d started at Hogwarts, and Ste’s gang had been talking about Death Wish all summer, so he was dying to see it. It was just as exciting as he’d hoped; full of revenge and gore - and Charles Bronson reminded him a bit of Professor Ferox. James and Sirius were more interested in figuring out how the projector worked - which suited Remus fine, because it meant they agreed to go with him twice.

However, boredom soon got the better of them, and on the third visit to the picturehouse, a distraction presented itself in the form of a group of girls queuing at the ticket booth. At once, James and Sirius stopped discussing the ins and outs of visual perception versus frame rate, and started acting very oddly indeed. James made more of an effort to flatten his hair than ever, while Sirius began leaning casually against the wall as if he was James Dean.

The girls obviously noticed, and kept glancing back and then giggling amongst themselves. They must be freezing, wearing miniskirts in December, Remus thought to himself. Finally, the girls finished buying their tickets and went into the second screen.

“Moony,” Sirius said, not taking his eyes off the gaggle of long legs that had just passed, “How about we see something different today?”

“Yeah,” James nodded, blankly.

Remus looked up at the poster above the door. The Great Gatsby . He screwed up his face,

“Ugh, it’s a romance , though, what do you want to see that for?” He protested. But it was too late, they were already halfway in.

Remus settled down in the front row and resigned himself to his fate. It might not be that bad - he’d liked Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - he wasn’t as cool as Charles Bronson, but he might shoot someone, at the very least.

Half an hour later and - as much as he didn’t want to admit it - Remus was thoroughly immersed in the film, for all its pastel shades and silly costumes. There had been no shooting so far, but he was hoping for the best, and in the meantime, was rooting for Daisy to see sense and leave her awful husband.

At some point, Remus glanced to his left, to see if Sirius and James were enjoying the film too - and found that he had been abandoned. Twisting about in his seat, he stared into the darkness behind him, and could just about make out the dark shapes of his two friends sitting in the very back row - both engaged in some kind of horrendous teenage grappling match with two of the girls from earlier.

Mortified, Remus turned around at once, slouching down low in the red velvet seat. He couldn’t concentrate on the film now - and he’d been right, anyway; it was a stupid, boring, girly romance, and Robert Redford clearly wasn’t going to shoot anyone any time soon. In a split second he made his decision and quickly left the theatre.

It was too late to get a ticket for Death Wish , and the usher behind the ticket stand was giving him a very pointed look, so he shoved his hands deep in his pockets and sloped out, feeling bitter and mean. The town James’s parents lived in was a lot posher than the one Remus had grown up in - it was all pretty red brick cottages and oak trees. There was a big village green at the centre, and Remus could imagine cricket taking place there in the summer. It was raining now, though, and James had the umbrella, so Remus had no choice but to duck for cover under the nearest bus shelter.

There was a little shop, right opposite the bus stop, and he watched it for a while, checking out the simplest entry points. Not that he was going to break in. He definitely could ; it looked really easy - but what if Mr and Mrs Potter found out? They’d never have him for Christmas again. He thought about going back to the house, but he didn’t want to explain why he’d left Sirius and James in the picturehouse like that. Pricks. He kicked the side of the shelter with his heavy boots. An old woman, walking past with her little scottie dog tutted at him loudly, and he swore in return, throwing up a middle finger.

Even James had let him down now. James! Whose pure and honest adoration for Lily Evans had been the one thing which convinced Remus that snogging might not be that disgusting after all. He’d expected something like this from Sirius, who had never had any kind of impulse control anyway, but James ?!

“Oi, Moony!” As if by magic, James and Sirius appeared on the other side of the road, underneath the big black umbrella. He tried to ignore them, but it was a bit stupid, seeing as they were the only three people on the street.

“Where are you off to?” Sirius grinned, as they crossed to join him under the bus shelter.

“Just sitting here.” Remus shrugged.

“Why’d you leave?”

“Could ask you the same!”

“We only popped off for a minute…”

“Ugh, I don’t want to hear about it.” Remus covered his ears. He glared at James, “What about Lily? What about ‘it’s not time yet, but I don’t mind’?” Remus parroted back the words James had spoken in November.

James looked stricken for a moment, but Sirius laughed heartily and slapped Remus on the shoulder,

“Oh come off it. Evans isn’t going to care if Potter snogged some muggle girl when he was fourteen. Calm down, Moony.”

That did it. If there was anything more likely to send Remus into a rage, it was being told to ‘calm down’.

“No!” He growled, “You made me watch that stupid girls film just so you could grope a couple of muggle birds in the back row!”

Sirius tossed his dark hair and rolled his eyes,

“Merlin, Lupin - we can go and see your beloved Charles Bronson tomorrow , if you really want. I mean, excuse us if we want to act like normal teenagers for five minutes.”

Something about this insult struck Remus so sharply, that if he’d had his wand he’d have cursed Sirius right then and there. As it was, he only had his fists - fortunately he was pretty good with those, and punching was often a lot more satisfying than cursing. By the time James had wrenched them apart and stood between them, Sirius’s nose was extremely bloody, and Remus could feel the beginnings of a black eye forming.

“What’s wrong with you two?!” James huffed, dragging them both through the rain back to his parents house.

“He’s a tosser!” Remus spat, trying to keep the drizzle out of his sore eye.

“He’s a wanker!” Sirius returned, stuffily, holding his wet jumper up against his nose.

“You’re both dickheads,” James said, firmly, as they reached the front gate.

* * *

Mrs Potter fixed them both up very quickly - she was just as quick at healing spells as Madam Pomfrey - then gave them a good telling off, with Mr Potter standing behind her, trying not to smile and saying “boys will be boys, Effie dear…”

Afterwards, Remus went straight up to the spare room and sat on the bed for the rest of the day doing his holiday homework. He knew it was silly and childish to sulk, but if he had to see Sirius again he couldn’t be sure he wouldn't swing for him. He thought about Ferox telling him ‘It’s good to be angry’ - but somehow didn’t think that was what the teacher meant.

Was he jealous? Jealous that all his friends had copped off with a girl now, and he hadn’t? Maybe that was it. Remus couldn’t really ignore the fact that he was the only one of his friends who wasn’t completely driven by his hormones - like a normal teenager , as Sirius had so kindly put it. Ouch; there was that pain again. Remus drew his knees up under his chin, making himself as small as possible. If he had a galleon for every way in which he was not normal .

He went down for dinner, but didn’t talk to James or Sirius, limiting himself only to polite interchanges with Mr and Mrs Potter. After they were excused from the table, he went straight back upstairs and curled up under the duvet with a book until he fell asleep.

He dreamed that he was back in the cinema, trying to watch a strange combination of The Great Gatsby and Death Wish - in which Professor Ferox really was Charles Bronson, black moustache and all, aiming his pistol at the gleaming socialites of West Egg. Something kept nudging Remus’s elbow, distracting him from the film - he turned and saw that it was Peter and Desdemona, writhing about in the seat beside him, lips locked.

Annoyed, Remus got up and sat in the row behind, returning to the film. Soon, something else bothered him - it was Mary and Darren. Remus had of course never met Darren, and the boy in the dream looked just like Muciber, for some reason. They were snogging too. Disgusted, Remus tried to get up once more, but tripped over Lily and James, who were rolling in the aisle.

“For god’s sake!” He shouted. Lily looked up at him and laughed - so did Mary, and now Peter and James too.

Sirius appeared at the very back of the theatre, his body silhouetted by the whirring projector,

“Never mind him,” he laughed along with the others, “He’s not like us.”

Remus spun around just in time to see Ferox shoot Robert Redford, then woke up with a start.

He was hot and sweating under the heavy duvet, and had to fight to free himself. Feeling very silly for having had a nightmare at his age, he clambered out of the large four poster bed and headed for the nearest bathroom. The clock on the landing read midnight, so he didn’t turn any lights on, though he could see a faint yellowish glow seeping out from under James’s bedroom door.

Remus used the loo, then washed his hands and face, taking a few sips from the cold tap before wiping himself dry on his pyjama sleeves. Feeling much better, he returned to his bedroom, just as James’s door swung open.

“Bloody hell, it’s you, Moony!” James whispered, sounding relieved, “What you doing creeping round in the dark?!”

Remus shrugged and whispered back,

“I can see in the dark. Didn’t want to wake anyone up.”

James nodded, and opened his door a bit wider,

“Thought you might be Gully, spying on us for mum or something. Come in, eh? Let’s all be mates again.”

It didn’t take much convincing for Remus to agree. Fighting took up too much energy, especially when you all lived together. He still didn’t really want to talk to Sirius, but he went in for James’s sake.

Sirius was sitting cross legged on James’s bed, and frowned when he saw Remus. James sighed,

“Come on, we’re all friends, right? It’s Christmas.”

Sirius nodded, solemnly. Remus nodded back. He joined them on the bed, where he was surprised to see they were pouring over some spellbooks.

“Homework?” He asked.

“Prank.” James replied. “Haven’t worked out the kinks yet, though.”

“Oh, ok.” Remus nodded. And then, because he didn’t want it to be awkward any more, he asked; “How’s your nose, Black?”

“Fine,” Sirius grinned at him, relaxing into humour at once, “You’re losing your touch.”

Remus smirked,

“Oh yeah? Ask Snape. Headbutted him on the train in September.”

“You never did!”

“Yup.”

“Bloody hell,” James laughed, “And he hasn’t tried it on since?”

“Not yet.” Remus said, trying not to sound too nervous about it, “Probably planning something, though. What’s the prank?”

“We’ll um… tell you when we know how to do it. Might not come off right.” James said, quickly, closing the book nearest him. Remus raised an eyebrow and said nothing - this only confirmed a suspicion he’d had for quite some time. He didn’t want to get into any of that now, though, he’d wait and see if anything came of it.

“Sorry I brought up Lily.” He told James, “I didn’t mean it, Sirius is right, she won’t care - if she’s ever stupid enough to go out with you, that is.”

James shoved him playfully,

“Piss off.”

“At least that stupid competition is over now, yeah?” Remus asked, hopefully, looking at Sirius.

“Yeah I s’pose,” Sirius shrugged, “We paid Pete his dues, anyway. What a letdown, though - snogging, I mean. Dunno what all the fuss is about.”

Remus didn’t say anything, though he was secretly pleased. So he wasn’t missing out on anything after all.

“It was alright,” James said, diplomatically. “Probably takes practice. Must get better.”

“It had better.” Sirius said, very seriously.

James and Remus burst out laughing.

* * *

Christmas Day 1974

Christmas morning was as dark and gloomy as the previous week had been, and Remus was woken by the noise of the rain pelting against his bedroom window. Still, the Potter's house was as festive as ever, and the five of them settled down to a hearty breakfast with smiles on their faces.

Breakfast was quickly followed by presents - the usual fair of sweets, chocolate, new quills from the Potters, books and socks. Remus was very surprised to receive a hand-knitted scarf from Lily, in Gryffindor red with gold tassels. He felt a bit bad - he hadn’t bought anything for any of the marauders this year, let alone any of the girls. She’d never given him a gift before, except for the reading aid - which, he had to admit, had been a pretty good present. He resolved to get something for her next time they went to Hogsmeade.

They were just finishing up with the presents, Mrs Potter vanishing the scrunched up wrapping paper with a sweep of her wand - when a loud, mournful song sounded in the hallway. It was a high pitched, haunting melody - completely unnatural and completely beautiful. They all turned at once, Mr and Mrs Potter withdrawing their wands in a duelling stance, and a strange, ethereal silver bird flew into the room, circling their heads. Remus recognised it at once as a phoenix - or something like the ghost of one.

“Dumbledore,” Mr Potter said, quietly, as the silver phoenix settled magisterially on the mantelpiece. Much to Remus’s surprise, the bird opened its beak and spoke in their headmaster’s voice.

“There has been an attack. I will be with you shortly - do not allow anyone else entry.”

And with that, the phoenix vanished into thin air. They were all quiet for a while, before Mrs Potter spoke, placing a hand on James’s shoulder, as if she just needed to touch her son.

“Oh Monty, an attack!”

“No need to panic,” Mr Potter said calmly, “Albus will be here soon. Boys, finish cleaning up here, eh? I’ll be in my study.”

They tidied up in silence, all waiting to see what would happen next. An attack - what could that mean? Remus’s mind went straight to Greyback - but it wasn’t a full moon, so unlikely to have been werewolves. Could it be Voldemort? Or were there other dark wizards out there? Guiltily, he looked over at Sirius, who was staring out of the window at the rain, looking pale and shocked. His family were dark wizards. Did he know anything about it? Surely not, Remus quickly dismissed the idea, feeling even worse; Sirius hadn’t been home since the summer, and it was common knowledge that his family hated him.

Finally, after what felt like a decade, but can only have been twenty minutes, there was a *CRACK* of apparition outside, and Mr Potter was at the front door. Mrs Potter joined him, and James, Sirius and Remus hung back in the hallway, watching.

The door opened and Dumbledore stood there looking very grave, completely dry despite the rain beating down in sheets.

“Fleamont, Euphemia,” he nodded politely.

Mr Potter held up his wand,

“What was the last thing we spoke about?”

“Your son having broken his record for number of detentions this term.” Dumbledore smiled, glancing at James, who turned red. This apparently satisfied Mr Potter, who stepped back to allow Dumbledore entry.

“Come in, Dumbledore, would you like some tea?” Mrs Potter asked, taking his travelling cloak and ushering him into the living room.

“Upstairs, boys.” Mr Potter said, sternly. James looked about to argue, but Dumbledore stepped in for him.

“If you wouldn’t mind, Fleamont, I think it best that the boys hear this. It will be all over the papers tomorrow anyway.”

Mr Potter looked at his wife, then nodded. The small party sat down in the large living room, waiting for Gully to come in with the tea. It was a very odd scene; Christmas cards still glittering on the walls, tinsel sparkling along the picture rails, opened presents piled up under the tree - and Dumbledore, still looking uncharacteristically serious in midnight blue velvet robes. Sirius, James and Remus sat squashed up on one sofa, while Mr Potter remained standing, pacing the room.

“An attack, then?” He finally said, impatient.

“I’m afraid so. The Fraser family, in Newcastle.”

“Fraser? Never heard of them.”

“No. Mr and Mrs Fraser were both muggleborn. They had two children not yet old enough for Hogwarts, but as far as we know, showing signs of magical ability.”

Remus winced at the past tense. Mr Potter had clearly noticed this too, for he looked very pale and tired all of a sudden.

“All four of them?”

“Yes.”

Mrs Potter looked like she was about to cry,

“Children!” She gasped. “Children!”

“And do we know for sure?” Mr Potter continued, anxiously, “We know it was… him?”

“Voldemort, yes. He left a mark.”

“A mark?”

“It will be in the papers tomorrow, I imagine. The Daily Prophet was there before I was alerted.”

“But what does it mean? Who were the Frasers?”

“Mr Fraser worked for St Mungo’s,” Dumbledore explained, “He recently raised a petition with the ministry suggesting that healers receive training in muggle healing techniques - first aid, I believe he called it. This didn’t go down very well with certain factions, I’m sure you can imagine.”

“I think I remember Darius saying something,” Mr Potter nodded, leaning a hand on the mantelpiece thoughtfully, “But to kill!”

“It hasn’t been the first time,” Dumbledore said, darkly, “But it is the first time they have made themselves known. This mark that was left behind - it has been seen elsewhere. Some of the old families have adopted it; a kind of secret sign of their allegiance to Voldemort. Only not so secret, any more.”

“Which families?” Sirius said, suddenly, looking at Dumbledore. He was tense all over, Remus could feel it. Dumbledore looked at him kindly,

“There is so far nothing to link the Blacks to this attack.”

“So far.” Sirius repeated. “But you know they… they’re…”

“It doesn’t help anybody to jump to conclusions,” Dumbledore held up a hand, “The situation is grave, yes, but we must not lose our heads, or allow emotion to cloud our judgement. There are difficult times ahead, and we will all need each other to be vigilant.”

He said this directly to Sirius, and seemed to be speaking to James and Remus too. Remus felt an uncomfortable twisting in his abdomen - he didn’t understand everything, but he knew that some great responsibility had settled on their shoulders. One he wasn’t sure he could live up to.

“I’m not trying to frighten anyone,” Dumbledore continued, as if he had read Remus’s mind, “But nor do I wish to devalue the seriousness of today’s events. I am working quickly to gather support, a line of defence against Voldemort. I have already spoken to a number of trustworthy associates within the ministry - Fleamont, can I count on you?”

“Of course.” Mr Potter said at once, “Have you spoken to the Weasleys? The Prewetts? The Bones’s?”  

Dumbledore nodded, smiling,

“All on my list, of course.”

“We can help!” James spoke up. Mrs Potter sucked in her breath, her eyes still very pink.

“Yeah!” Sirius said, eager to show himself equal to James. “You can depend on us, sir.”

Remus didn’t say anything, but he nodded along, hoping that Dumbledore knew that he too had chosen his side.

“I hope it won’t come to that.” Dumbledore was smiling, his forget-me-not blue eyes twinkling with emotion for his pupils. “But thank you, boys.”

“No!” Mrs Potter said, “They’re children, Dumbledore.”

“I’m of age in two years!” Sirius said, straightening up, asserting his position as the eldest marauder. “And we’re the best in the year at defensive spells!”

“And hexes,” James put in, then quickly shut up, seeing the look his mother shot him.

Dumbledore chuckled, softly.

“Indeed.” He said, “Your mother is quite right, however. All I ask is that you are on your guard, and that you look after each other. Now, I must be going, I have other calls to make. Fleamont,” Dumbledore stood up and shook Mr Potter’s hand, “I will be in touch. Euphemia,” he turned to Mrs Potter apologetically, “Merry Christmas. I’m afraid I won’t be attending your party, tonight.”

“We may as well cancel it,” Mrs Potter rubbed her arms, as if the room had turned cold, “It seems disrespectful.”

“Enjoy your holiday, boys - Remus, Madam Pomfrey will meet you at the Three Broomsticks’ floo stop on Sunday morning.”

Remus nodded, obediently, and with that, Dumbledore vanished with a loud *CRACK*.

Chapter Text

Wednesday 8th January 1975

Dumbledore was quite right - the Fraser family’s murder was front page news on boxing day, followed by a series of features and articles on the mounting war, which dominated the rest of the Christmas break.

It was the first time Remus - or any of them - ever saw the dark mark, and they had no idea then that it was a symbol they would fear for the rest of their lives. A great black skull with a gaping mouth, and a long ropey serpent writhing forth. It was distinctly Slytherin-esque, and as soon as they were back at Hogwarts Sirius blasted the remaining snake motifs off of his trunk.

“Careful, mate,” James said, as smoke from Sirius’s spell filled the room, “You might be ruining a family heirloom there.”

“I don’t give a shit.” Sirius replied, firing his wand at the blackened wood once more, for good measure, “It’s mine, and I don’t want anything of mine to have that ruddy mark on it.”

It was pointless trying to reason with him. Since Dumbledore’s visit to the Potters Sirius’s hatred for anything remotely Slytherin had increased tenfold. He had been using hexes to defend younger students from Slytherins all year, but now he seemed to be actively seeking out trouble.

“The war isn’t happening here .” Remus tried telling him once, after his third detention in as many days, “Dumbledore told us to be vigilant, not start fights.”

“The war is everywhere.” Sirius replied, and James nodded in agreement. “Anyway, you can talk, what about you and Snape?”

“That,” Remus replied, piously, “Was personal.”

It was true; he didn’t hate Snape because he was a dark wizard, or a Slytherin, or anything like that. Remus didn’t like Snape because he was a nosey busybody - that, and nobody really liked Snape, except Lily.

Actually, Remus thought to himself, as he looked across the common room at Lily, sitting by Marlene working on some sort of transfiguration spell on a pair of shoes, even Lily hadn’t been hanging around Severus very much these days. Perhaps they’d fallen out. The redhead looked up and met his eyes, smiling brightly. He smiled back. James, sitting next to him, waved, and Lily rolled her eyes and returned to the spell she was working on.

“Doesn’t she know how much I’ve matured?” James sighed, heavily, thumbing the pages of his textbook roughly.

“I dunno if snogging a muggle in the back of the cinema really counts as maturing.” Remus replied, rescuing the manhandled book and smoothing down the corners James had bent.

“I didn’t mean that ,” James grinned, “Just like… in general. I don’t get it, I get on with Marlene ok.”

“You’re on the quidditch team with Marlene,” Peter said, “You’ve got stuff in common with her.”

(Peter had become very wise, since getting a girlfriend.)

“So, what,” James said, slowly, “You think I should try and get Lily on the quidditch team?”

Peter tutted, pitifully,

“Why don’t you find out something you both have in common? Like how me and Desdemona both like chess, and cheese sandwiches, and--”

“We’ve got nothing in common,” James replied, dreamily, “That’s why I like her.”

“Never going to happen, then.” Peter sniffed, with an air of finality. James looked crestfallen.

“Don’t listen to him,” Remus said, taking pity, “People don’t just go out with people because they’re the same, that would be boring. Opposites attract, and all that.”

“Yeah, you’re right, Moony!” James cheered up. “Maybe I should find out what sort of stuff she likes, though…”

“Er… yeah, might be a start.” Remus shook his head, returning to his Charms essay. He’d made his peace with the girl-obsession now; it was easier to just nod along and pretend to be sympathetic.

Fortunately, most of James and Sirius’s attention was taken up with training for the upcoming quidditch match against Slytherin, which was set for early February. With the war looming over everyone, the competition between the two houses had taken on a new and important meaning, and Sirius and James treated their positions on the team as full time occupations.

As a consequence, Remus saw very little of them at the beginning of the spring term - he spent much of his time in the library, as usual, and when the other two weren’t on the pitch practicing (with Peter watching, of course), they were in detention for one thing or another. There was hardly time to work on the map, or even plan a new prank; the marauders passed each other like ships in the night.

The situation grew so extreme that when the first Hogsmeade weekend rolled around halfway through January, Remus found himself without anyone to go with. He almost considered not going at all, until Lily brought it up after Potions one afternoon, suggesting that he go with her and (he assumed) Mary and Marlene. It sounded like a nice enough way to spend his saturday, and he remembered that he still owed Lily a present for Christmas.

As agreed, Remus met Lily in the common room on saturday morning, and they started down towards the Hogwarts front entrance.

“What happened to the M’s?” Remus asked, surprised when he found they were alone. Lily blushed, but that might have been the cold air,

“I thought it could just be the two of us, this time.”

“Fair enough.” He smiled. He liked Lily’s company very much – almost as much as the marauders.

“So, what are they all in detention for?” She asked, as they trudged through the snow down to the village.

“Various things,” Remus waved his hand, “Peter got caught out of bounds after dark, James got the blame for changing the words on the Slytherin trophies… and I think Sirius hexed a second year.”

“Typical,” Lily tutted.

“Yeah,” Remus grinned, as they trudged through the snow, following the trail of dark robed students ahead of them. “The trophy thing was brilliant though, you have to admit. The charm lasted seven days!”

“It wasn’t a very nice thing to do, though.” Lily frowned. Remus sighed. Why did girls always want to be nice?!

Once they reached the village, they stopped at the stationers, because they both needed new quills. Remus bought one for Sirius and one for Peter too, because they’d asked, telling Lily how Peter pressed too hard on his parchment and snapped two quills a week, leaving blotches everywhere – and how Sirius only used the most expensive brand, because he was vain about his handwriting.

After that they went to the post office, where Remus sent the Potters a package on James’s behalf – it was Mrs Potter’s birthday, he explained to Lily; and James hated missing any occasion to give a gift. Freezing cold by then, they decided that a butterbeer had to be the next port of call, and opted for the Three Broomsticks.

They found a small table by the fireplace and sat companionably, chatting about their lessons and their Christmases. Lily had had a big fight with her sister, which she talked about at great length. Remus told her about going to see Death Wish , but didn’t mention Dumbledore’s visit.

“Do you go to the Potter’s every year, then?” Lily asked.

“Yep,” Remus nodded, fervently, “They’re amazing. Me and Sirius always go. And Pete’s only up the road from James, so that’s cool.”

“Are you four always together?” Lily looked amused. It rubbed Remus up the wrong way.

“They’re my friends. My best mates.”

“I know that,” she replied, sounding a bit snippy herself, “But you’ve been talking about them all afternoon.”

“Have not.” Remus grunted, defensively, looking into his butterbeer, embarrassed. “...So what If I have?”

“Well I sort of wanted to get to know you a bit better, not your friends.” Lily had two red patches in her cheeks now, like a Dutch doll. Remus couldn’t understand why she was so annoyed.

“You know me, though. You’ve known me for four years!”

Lily stared at him, disbelieving. Then her expression changed. She ran a hand through her hair and laughed, humourlessly.

“Oh, Remus .” She sighed.

“What?”

She shook her head,

“I’m such an idiot. You really have no idea why I wanted to spend the weekend with you, do you?”

He shrugged. She smiled, giving him that pitying look that girls were so good at. “Never mind,” she said, “Don’t worry about it.”

After that, the tone of the afternoon seemed to change. Lily appeared to relax into her usual self and started joking along with him. She even had a bit of a whinge about Snape, who’d said something extremely rude to Mary recently. Remus never got to the bottom of why she’d been so moody in the first place, but he decided that it might have just been his mentioning his friends - she’d always been clear about finding them annoying. She would only accept the price of a butterbeer from him by way of a present, and assured him that he needn’t feel like he owed her anything.

It wasn’t until the next day, when Remus, James, Sirius and Peter were sitting at breakfast, that everything became clear. James and Sirius were in their quidditch robes ready for practice, furtively discussing tactics, while Peter listened in with deep interest, nodding and murmuring, “Yeah, exactly,” now and then. Remus was checking his book list - he had several to return and a few more he still needed to cross-reference before he could complete his Transfiguration essay.

Marlene settled down next to them, in her own red robes, and reached for the tea.

“So,” she addressed Remus, “How did yesterday go?”

“Hm?” he asked, looking up from his parchment, “Yesterday?”

“You and Lily, in Hogsmeade!” She was giving him a very knowing smile. “She won’t tell us what happened, so it must be good.”

“What are you talking about?!”

“Yeah,” Sirius looked up, curiously, “What are you talking about, McKinnon?”

“Didn’t he tell you?” She stirred sugar into her tea, innocently, “Remus and Lily went on a date yesterday.”

“What?!” James, Sirius and Remus all exclaimed at the same time. Sirius began to laugh,

Moony on a date?!”

“With Evans?!” James looked horrified.

“Bloody hell!” Peter said.

“It wasn’t a date!” Remus said, slamming down his quill. As he said the words, he felt a horrible sinking feeling - had it been a date? How were you supposed to know, if people just ambushed you like that?! He looked at James, desperately, “But I don’t fancy Lily, she’s just a friend!”

“Yeah… I know, mate.” James said, though Remus didn’t think he sounded very sure. “It’s fine. I’ll… see you after practice.”

With that, James got up and left the table. Sirius stared after him for a moment, then looked at Remus, then back at James, before shrugging helplessly and getting up to follow his friend out of the hall. Peter followed shortly after, and Remus lay his head on the table, groaning.

“Wow, sorry, Remus,” Marlene said, very quietly, “I had no idea. Um… James really fancies her, then?”

Remus groaned again, before getting up and grabbing his books.

“I’m off to the library.” He said, not looking at her.

* * *

He didn’t go to the library, though, in case Marlene went to find him there or - even worse - told Lily and Mary where he was. For the first time since his second year, Remus went into hiding.

The problem with this, of course, was how much he’d grown since his second year. Many of his usual nooks and crannies were simply too small now. In the end, he settled himself behind the statue of the hump-backed witch, just inside the passageway to Honeyduke’s. It was dark, but he lit his wand for light, and the faint smell of chocolate was very comforting.

He tried to read, but his brain wouldn’t let him concentrate - it seemed to just want to keep playing his visit to Hogsmeade over and over again. Had Lily said something he had missed? Had it been in her body language, maybe; had she dropped hints? Would James have understood them? Would Sirius have? It was very unfair, Remus thought to himself, pitifully. Lily was a very good friend, why would she want to muddle it all up with feelings and holding hands, and kissing ?!

He really hoped he wouldn’t have to talk to her about it, now. Maybe she was just as embarrassed as he was. Worst of all, what if James never spoke to him again? He didn’t know how to explain that he didn’t see Lily in that way - not when every other Gryffindor in their year seemed hellbent on coupling up.

Maybe he ought to have snogged Marlene when she’d offered, back in November. He wondered if they’d all leave him alone once he got it over with. You have to start snogging girls some time , he told himself. Everybody does - it’s normal. But not Lily - he couldn’t do that to James. In fact, Remus decided, that was probably the very reason he wasn’t interested in her - because she was otherwise extremely pretty, funny, kind, clever - and better than him at Charms. Lily was just the sort of girl he would fancy, Remus knew for sure, it was just that his friendship with James was much more important.

Feeling very enlightened and self-sacrificing, Remus emerged from his hiding place. He set off down the nearest staircase, planning to go to the quidditch pitch and catch the last few minutes of practice. After that he would do something nice for James - offer to read over his History essay or something. Yes, then everything would be right with the world again.

But, as Remus had once been told; the best laid plans often go wrong. He was just nearing the bottom of the grand staircase - taking it three steps at a time just because he could, and not really looking where he was going - he knocked headlong into another student coming up.

“Watch it, mudblood .” Severus Snape snarled, scrambling to his feet, glaring at Remus. Remus tutted,

“Piss off Snivellus, I’m as much a half-blood as you are.”

“You and I have nothing in common, I assure you.” Snape replied haughtily, brushing off his robes.

“I suppose when it comes to hygiene standards--”

“Careful, Loony Lupin,” Snape narrowed his beady eyes, “Don’t say something you’ll regret.”

“Oh, bugger off,” Remus replied, impatiently, stepping forward, “I haven’t got time for this, either curse me now or get out of my way.”

Snape stepped to the side at once, giving a flourish with his hand to show Remus that he was free to go. It was disquieting, but Remus couldn’t worry about that now, and continued on his way.

Chapter Text

James Potter was a much more complex person than he appeared at first glance.

Outwardly, he was happy, self-assured, usually kind (if a little bit arrogant), and generally popular with everybody. He got a lot of detentions, yes, but on the whole he got good marks, and most of the teachers were still quite fond of him. He made the most of being on the quidditch team - messing up his hair deliberately so that he looked like he had just finished flying, wearing his red robes at every opportunity. But no one could say that he hadn’t earned the right - you only had to see him play to know that his big-headedness was not misplaced.

Above all, James Potter was loved. His parents spoilt him and instilled in him the notion that there was nothing he couldn’t do; that no door would ever be closed to him. Sirius, Peter and Remus all looked up to him, appointing him leader in almost every venture, and all in all, he was admired throughout the school by everyone who mattered, and envied by everyone else.

Except for Lily Evans, of course. She was the thread that seemed to unravel everything else in James’s life. Having grown up surrounded by love - freely given and carelessly accepted - James found it very troubling that someone he liked might not like him back. It was the reason he acted like an idiot whenever Lily was present, and the reason that he stopped talking to Remus for a week during the early spring of 1975.

He wasn’t being nasty, or doing it deliberately - Remus knew James well enough to understand that. It was just that his feelings had been hurt and - as someone who had rarely experienced hurt feelings - wasn’t sure how to handle it. At least Sirius blew up at you when you annoyed him, so that it could be quickly solved. Peter would sulk, and Remus would probably try to throw a punch. But James just went quiet .

“He’s not angry with you,” Sirius explained, when James went to bed one night as soon as Remus arrived in the common room. “He’s just feeling sorry for himself.”

“He does believe me, though, doesn’t he?” Remus asked, anxiously, “I really didn’t know it was a date, I don’t like Lily in that way!”

“Well… I don’t think he thinks you’re lying, exactly, but… you are pretty close to Evans, aren’t you? Always going around together.”

“She’s my friend .” Remus said, exasperated, “I go ‘round with Marlene and Mary too, no one thinks I’m going out with them!”

“Actually,” Sirius smirked, “There was a rumour last term…”

“Oh for god’s sake!”

It was impossible.

As for Lily, she was being reliably mature about the whole thing. Remus assumed Marlene had filled her in on the situation, but she didn’t press it, and they were able to continue as Potions partners as normal. James and Sirius, however, had moved their workstation to the back of the room.

By Friday dinner time, Remus was truly miserable. Unlike James, he had not grown up surrounded by love, and he found that his friendship with the marauders had become so important that he suffered deeply from the loss of it. He still sat with them for meals, but there was an uneasy quiet instead of their usual raucous banter. Sirius kept trying to turn the conversation towards the upcoming Gryffindor vs. Slytherin match, but that only seemed to darken the mood.

Making matters worse, Lily, Mary and Marlene had sat themselves close to Remus - they were feeling sorry for him, and, being girls, were trying to cheer him up by doing exactly the wrong thing.

“I’m looking forward to the match,” Mary smiled, cheerfully, “All of the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws I’ve spoken to are supporting Gryffindor too.”

Lily sighed, heavily,

“Why does it always have to be so black and white? No one’s good all over or bad all over, not even Slytherins.”

“You can’t blame us, Lily,” Marlene replied, “Even if it’s not all of them, most of the Slytherins have been utterly foul this year.”

“Speak of the devil…” Mary lowered her voice, suddenly, shooting a filthy look over Lily’s shoulder.

Lily and Remus turned around to see Severus Snape standing there, with an odd smile on his face that was anything but joyful.

“Hello, Lily,” he said, softly.

“Hi Sev,” Lily replied, with a forced sort of politeness, “What’s up?”

“I just thought I’d check to see if you wanted any extra help with the Potions assignment. It’s very complex,”

“I know .” She replied, irritated, “But I’m sure I’ll manage--”

*BANG*

Everyone at the table jumped and spun around to stare at the end of the hall, where Mulciber had just let off a firecracker at the far end of the Slytherin table. He was laughing heartily as the whole school looked on, terrified.

“Five points from Slytherin!” McGonagall shouted, marching up the aisle between the tables, “And you’ll clean that mess up at once…”

Dinner returned to normal. Snape was still standing there. Lily looked up at him,

“As I said, Remus and I will manage.” She said, “I’m not stupid, you know, Severus.”

“I never said you were…” Snape looked genuinely upset by this, “I just… oh, never mind.” With that, he cast an unpleasant glance at Remus, then swept away, back to his own table.

“Weirdo.” Mary muttered.

“Leave him alone.” Lily snapped. She looked so fierce that Mary didn’t even have a comeback.

“Er… have any of you had any luck with that hinkypunk essay?” Marlene asked quickly, trying to keep the peace. “Mine’s crap.”

“I’ll lend you my notes, if you want,” Remus offered, taking a gulp of pumpkin juice. “Once Sirius gives them back…”

Sirius looked up, hearing his name spoken,

“Oh yeah, sorry Moony, hang on, they’re in my bag…” He began digging around in the junkyard that was his book bag, pulling out scrunched up balls of parchment, dungbombs, sweets and broken quills.

“How do you find anything in there?” Remus sighed, sipping some more pumpkin juice, “You’re the messiest person I’ve ever met.”

Sirius shrugged and winked at him, withdrawing the notes and handing them to Marlene.

“Oooh, Remus,” Mary said, “Did I tell you I had another letter from Darren this week?”

Remus groaned,

“Yes.” He whined, “And it was just as boring as the last five hundred letters you’ve made me read.”

Sirius snorted. Marlene dropped her fork. Mary looked horrified, and opened and closed her mouth a few times. Remus frowned - why on earth had he said that? Of course, it was true, but it was horribly thoughtless and mean.

“Sorry,” he said, looking down. He felt strange. Maybe the James thing was getting to him even more than he thought.

“No, I’m sorry.” Mary said, standing up, her lower lip trembling, “I won’t bore you anymore, then!” She turned quickly and left the room, her plate of food half eaten.

“Mary!” Marlene got up, running to follow her. Lily looked at Remus,

“Did you mean that?”

“Yes.” He said promptly, “Actually I find all of this boyfriend-girlfriend stuff boring, I wish you’d all just leave me alone.” Once he’d stopped talking, he blinked, surprised at himself. Why was he saying these things?!

“Remus!” Lily said, looking shocked - though made of sterner stuff than Mary, she didn’t leave, “There’s nothing wrong with Mary wanting to talk about her boyfriend or… um… or teenagers having crushes, it’s normal, isn’t it?”

“I don’t care if it’s normal.” He shrugged, “I think you’re all acting like idiots. Even you - why on earth would you want to go out with me, when the most popular boy in the school is madly in love with you? He’s ten times nicer than me, too, you’re just too arrogant to see it.”

“Remus!” Lily said again, turning red.

“Well it’s true!” He said, helplessly.

“Moony,” Sirius said, finally, “Are you ok?”

“I’m fine, still a bit hungry, though. Think Mary will mind if I finish her potatoes?”

“Seriously, Remus,” James piped up, unexpectedly, “This isn’t like you at all.”

“I’m just being honest.”

“Yeah, brutally hone-- oh Merlin!” Sirius slapped his forehead, “Evans, did Snape put something in his drink? When the firework went off, maybe?”

“He would never do something like that, it’s illegal!”

“Pffft.” Remus snorted, mouth full of mashed potato, “As if Snivellus gives a toss! He’s been trying to get back at me ever since I hit him on the train.”

“You what?!” Lily stared at him,

“Yeah,” Remus swallowed, “Nutted him right in the head, it was great.” He knew there was definitely something wrong now, but he couldn’t seem to help it. The truth just came spilling out of him.

“Right,” Sirius stood up, “Stop talking, Moony, before you say something you’ll really regret.”

Those words dislodged a memory in Remus’s mind,

“Y’know,” he grinned, “That’s exactly what Snape said on the stairs the other day…”

“SEVERUS!” Lily shouted, at the top of her voice. She got up and stormed over to the Slytherin table, Sirius, James, Remus and Peter in tow. “What have you done to Remus?!” She demanded, stamping her foot angrily on the flagstone floor.

“Why do you ask?” Severus smirked, cruelly,

“You tell me how to fix him right now!”

“There’s nothing wrong with him,” Severus replied calmly, “Is there, Remus?”

“Nothing really,” Remus shrugged, “I do keep saying things I shouldn’t, though, like--”

“SHUT UP.” Sirius kicked him, hard in the shin, distracting Remus from spilling his guts to Snape. Sirius now rounded on the Slytherin boy, “You bastard, it’s veritaserum , isn’t it?! Truth potion!”

“One way to find out,” Severus’s smile broadened, “What’s your deepest, darkest secret, Lupin?”

Oh god, where to start? Remus thought to himself. He knew he shouldn't say anything. Mustn’t say anything. He would be in such terrible danger if anyone found out… but he wanted to, he wanted to very badly - he had so many secrets, and they were all swimming to the surface of his mind, like lifebuoys.

I’m a werewolf. I’m planning to hunt down and murder Fenrir Greyback. I spent the whole summer stealing and drinking and fighting. I can’t read properly without help. I’m secretly running an illegal trade in muggle cigarettes. I don’t fancy girls at all, not any of them. I don’t think I ever will. He opened his mouth,

“Well, I’m a---”

“SILENCIO!” Sirius shouted, suddenly, aiming his wand at Remus, while James tackled him to the floor, clamping a hand over his mouth.

Everyone on the Slytherin table burst out laughing as James and Remus struggled together on the floor, Lily watching them, completely nonplussed. Remus’s mouth kept moving, desperate to divulge every one of his secrets, until he was completely free of them - but not a sound escaped his lips. Sirius was excellent at silencing charms.

Together, Peter, Sirius and James hoisted Remus to his feet, and dragged him bodily from the dining hall, amid a flurry of laughter and jeers from the Slytherins. Only once they were all upstairs and shut inside their dorm room did Sirius lift the charm, allowing Remus to speak. By then, fortunately, the urge to tell everyone everything had passed.

“Sorry, Remus,” Sirius said, “But I had to do it, you were going to--”

“I know.” Remus hung his head, sitting on his bed, “Bloody Snape! How long does it take to wear off?”

“Depends on how much you took, I think.” James said, flicking through his potions book, “Godric, how did he do it?! That’s NEWT level stuff, truth serum!”

“He’s the best in the year at Potions,” Remus supplied, unwillingly, “Lily said he’s already doing seventh year essays, just for fun.”

“What a boring old swot.” Sirius snorted, joining James in searching through the book, “Try not to say anything, Moony, ok?”

“I can’t help it.” Remus said, without meaning to.

“Ok, right, it says here you should be clear within twenty four hours, so… dinner time tomorrow, at the very latest.”

“What about lessons?!”

“We’ll say you’re sick. You can’t risk it, Moony! I could kill Snape, that filthy, dirty, underhanded…”

“I’m not missing any lessons for him.” Remus folded his arms, “There must be an antidote.”

“We could go and ask Slughorn?” James said, finally.

“Yeah, good idea, I think he’s still in the Great Hall,” Sirius nodded. He turned to Remus, and spoke very clearly and slowly, as if he was talking to a child, “Remus. Stay. Here.”

“Bugger off,” Remus turned away, pouting like a little boy.

“I’ll stay with him.” James said. “You two go.”

Sirius needed no more than that, and he was bounding down the stairs, calling back,

“Hang in there Moony! If I see a Slytherin on my way down, then I’ll…”

But they couldn’t hear the rest; Sirius had gone, and Peter with him. There was a long, awkward silence. Remus didn’t trust himself to speak. Finally, James did.

“Sorry I’ve been a bit of a prat, lately.”

Remus was taken aback, and shook his head fiercely,

“You haven’t been! I just wish I could prove to you that I… wait! Ask me!”

“Eh?”

“Ask me now, while I’m under a truth serum; ask me how I feel about Lily. You’ll know it’s the truth.”

“Remus, I don’t want to,” James frowned. It didn’t mesh with his idea of good sportsmanship.

“Go on,” Remus encouraged, “I really don’t mind - it’s between you and me, right?” He got up and grabbed James by the shoulders, meeting his eyes with confidence, “Ask me.”

“Er… ok then. Remus, do you fancy Lily Evans?”

“No. Absolutely not.” Remus didn’t so much as blink.

“Ok, good... What about Marlene?”

“Nope. Never have, never will. They’re my friends, like you are.”

James looked at him very intently, then his face broke into a genuine smile. He slapped Remus on the back.

“Thanks, Moony, you’re a real mate.”

Remus laughed,

“Any time.”

* * *

Fortunately for Remus, Slughorn was able to provide an antidote almost immediately - though the marauders’ code of honour prevented them from telling him who had laced Remus’s drink in the first place.

“It’s better this way,” Remus assured them, “It’ll make him really nervous if he doesn’t get in trouble straight away - he’ll wonder how we’re going to get him back.”

“How are we going to get him back?” Sirius asked, eagerly, over breakfast on the morning of the Slytherin v Gryffindor game, “He nearly outed you, Moony, we have to teach him a lesson!”

“Let me think about it.” Remus replied. “Just thrash Slytherin at quidditch for me, first.”

“Easy,” Sirius winked. Remus grinned back. It was hard not to grin at Sirius when he was in such a good mood - resplendent in his scarlet and gold quidditch robes, hair pulled off his face, eyes sharp and full of determination. It was the best version of Sirius, and Remus’s heart pounded with pride and adrenaline.

The tension was palpable in the quidditch stands before the players had even appeared on the pitch. Two quarters of the stadium was covered in red, jeering and booing at the green section. Quidditch had become a way for the students of Hogwarts to truly show their emotions about the war - and it was extremely ugly.

“Tensions are high in this year’s semi-final,” the commentator, Tracey Darcy, spoke through her magical megaphone, “This match will of course determine which team goes through to the final against Ravenclaw, and by the looks of the players, it’ll be a close one… On Gryffindor we have Potter, of course, a legend in his own right with more than two hundred goals under his belt already… Marlene McKinnon there, a formidable beater - and so she should be, her brother Danny McKinnon of course plays professionally for the Chudley Cannons… and there’s Sirius Black, Gryffindor’s second beater, in his second game of the year… Black has already shown himself to be as competent as McKinnon, and I’m sure all the ladies will agree, doesn’t look half bad in his kit…”

“Ahem.” McGonagall’s disapproving cough could be heard over the megaphone. Remus noticed than almost every girl in the crowd was either giggling, or screaming Sirius’s name.

“Sorry, professor…” Tracey continued, “..and here comes Slytherin,” (deafening booing from the crowd, here), “They have their very own Black on the team, of course, Sirius’s younger brother, Regulus - seeker… and Mulciber, taken on as beater this term…”

The boos grew so loud now that Remus could barely hear Darcy over the noise. Peter wasn’t helping, and kept jumping up and down in his seat. Remus was staying seated as long as he could - his hip was causing him problems again, and he didn’t want to exacerbate it. ‘Limpy Lupin’ was worse than ‘Loony Lupin’, somehow.

Finally the game began, and the both teams shot into the air with incredible force. If the crowd was mean, the players were even worse - with the weight of their houses on their shoulders it felt like a matter of life or death. Remus had never seen James play so hard; rocketing up and down the pitch like a red bullet, catching and throwing the quaffle faster than the Slytherin keeper could keep track of.

Sirius and Marlene were equally fearsome, both working as much more of a team than they had last time, clearly communicating and watching the backs of their fellow teammates. And they really needed to - Slytherin was playing dirty. Twice Sirius had to fend off a bludger that had ‘accidentally’ flown right into James’s path, while Marlene became the Gryffindor seeker’s shadow, protecting him from some very nasty near-misses.

Remus was so busy watching his three friends - wincing when they came close to danger; cheering their victories - that he had quite forgotten the aim of the game. So had everyone else, it seemed, except for Regulus Black, who flew high above the pitch, and then around the outskirts, showing that infamous Slytherin cunning as he sought out the snitch.

No one was watching as Regulus Black, the smallest Slytherin team member, caught sight of the tiny golden ball and began to soar down towards it from his incredible height. No one was watching Regulus Black, because they were all watching Sirius swing his bat at a bludger that would have easily knocked him off his broom. He hit it back so hard that it shot straight back towards Mulciber’s face. Mulciber, though stupid, was not slow, and swooped down immediately, ducking out of the way - just as Regulus passed behind him.

Now Remus saw him - now everybody did, and a terrible shriek went up as the bludger connected with Regulus’s head and knocked him from his broom.

They watched in such horror that all house prejudice was forgotten, as the limp body of Regulus Black plummeted to the ground.

Chapter Text

Remus almost missed what happened, because everyone in the crowd immediately stood up, jostling to see the disaster unfold - fortunately, when Remus stood up he was a good deal taller than those around him.

Sirius tried - no one could deny that. The moment he saw the bludger hit Regulus, he bent flat on his broom and shot forward as if the devil was at his heels, faster than Remus had ever seen anyone - even James - fly. In fact, Sirius gathered such a speed, and at such a terrifying vertical angle, that Remus felt sure he was going to crash to the ground too, and his stomach lurched with fear. Sirius was too late, but Madam Hooch was not.

She stood on the grass, wand raised, and managed to slow Regulus’s descent, so that his body appeared to be falling through water, not air. By the time Sirius hit the ground, dropping his broom and pelting towards his brother, Regulus was lying so peacefully he could have been sleeping.

Sirius was on his knees, the rest of the team were landing around him, McGonagall was shouting something over the megaphone and a crowd quickly surrounded the two Black brothers, so that no one could see anything. Remus began to hobble down the wooden steps as quickly as his wonky hip would allow. Peter scurried along behind him,

“Where are you going?” He panted,

“Sirius.” Was all Remus could think to say.

But once they reached ground level they couldn’t get onto the pitch; the heads of houses were shepherding students back into the castle, and wouldn’t let them past.

“They’ll have taken Regulus to the hospital wing,” Peter said, “Maybe Sirius is in the changing rooms?”

“No,” Remus shook his head, “No, he’d want to go with Reg… he probably thinks it’s all his fault.”

“Well,” Peter looked up at him, “He did hit the bludger, didn’t he?”

Remus clenched his fists and fought the urge to hit Peter.

“I’m going to the hospital wing, then.” He turned and began to stride awkwardly towards the castle, trying to get ahead of everyone else.

“What about James?” Peter had to jog to keep up.

“He’ll be there too.” Remus replied.

And of course he was. When Peter and Remus arrived outside the hospital wing, having battled their way through the throngs of gossiping students, they found James sitting on the floor outside, elbows resting on his knees, staring into space. He was still in his quidditch robes, his cheeks were still flushed from flying, and his hair was a mess.

“Is he ok?!” Remus asked, at once - and he wasn’t sure who he meant.

“Yeah, think so,” James looked up at them in dazed surprise, “Knocked out cold, though. Pomfrey wont let me in.”

“Sirius?”

“Yeah, he’s in there. Thought I’d better wait… Slughorn’s contacting their parents, so.” He shrugged. “Thought I’d better be here.”

“We’re all here.” Remus said, firmly, sitting down next to James with some difficulty. His hip was really sore, now; the pain shot all the way down from pelvis to ankle. Peter eventually squatted down too, and they waited.

“Did you see what happened?” James asked, finally. “I was on the other end of the pitch, I didn’t…”

“A bludger,” Remus said, “Mulciber hit one right at Sirius, it had to be a foul. Sirius hit it back at him, but Mulciber got out of the way, and Regulus was right behind him. Sirius can’t have seen him; it was an accident. It was… it was horrible.”