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Chapter 1: Chapter One
‘Would you hold still?’
Gripping the girl firmly by the wrist, I peer down at the vicious gash encircling her forearm. It is red and angry, caked with dried blood which has extended halfway down towards her hand. ‘Quite a nasty cut,’ I comment.
She glares at me through puffy eyes, volunteering no information on how the injury was acquired. Nor does she offer me any insight as to why she waited so long before coming to visit me; this wound plainly happened at least twenty-four hours ago. I do not ask.
My name is Poppy Pomfrey.
As sole matron for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it is my job to tend to each and every illness and injury that may crop up among the students. And let me tell you: there is no group of people which demonstrates greater creativity in their methods of bashing themselves up than the girls and boys of Hogwarts School. In my time, I have seen everything from missing chins to extra nostrils to common broken bones. One boy even showed up completely drenched in blood, although the only apparent injury was a tiny paper cut on his left thumb.
How did it happen? Quite frankly, I do not care.
It’s my job to heal wounds. It is not my job to mediate between various parties of warring students. It is not my job to investigate injuries obtained under mysterious, and possibly illicit, circumstances. I don’t care whether this Slytherin hexed that Gryffindor (it happens rather frequently) or whether some boy’s bite looks like he got it off a Thestral. So he was probably wandering around the Forbidden Forest—it’s not my problem!
That is why I don’t ask questions.
I cure illnesses. I heal wounds. I am kind and gentle to those people who are clearly in a lot of pain. I try to do my job. Sadly, my job is not always especially easy to do. Other people tend to be incredibly interfering where it is concerned. They simply refuse to stand back and let me get on with my work. Like right now.
‘OWW- it hurts!’ the girl shrieks, her face contorting as I rub Belby’s Disinfecting Potion into her gash with a cloth. The potion in question tends to smoke and sting rather unpleasantly.
‘Well, you’ll just have to be more careful next time, won’t you?’ I say briskly. I am not beyond giving small pieces of advice.
‘Stop it!’ she cries out as I press harder. These wounds need to be thoroughly cleansed in order to avoid infection, and I tell her as much.
‘If I don’t get this done,’ I snarl, scrubbing away relentlessly (‘Yee-owww!’) ‘Then is two days’ time—,’ her face is now scarlet, ‘—your entire arm--,’ she closes her eyes, ‘—will have swollen to the size of a Bludger!’ I throw away the cloth and scowl reprovingly at her, my arms crossed. Silly child.
She opens her eyes and says in a small voice, ‘Can I go now?’
‘No,’ I growl. ‘You need bandaging. Now let me see it again, just to make sure--,’
Looking alarmed, the girl pulls her arm out of my reach. ‘It’s fine!’ she insists. ‘I don’t really--,’
‘Do not tell me what you do or don’t need.’
‘But I haven’t got any time,’ the girl now looks tearful. ‘I have--,’
‘I don’t care if you have your wedding in five minutes!’ I exclaim furiously. Why in Merlin’s name can’t these children allow me to tend to their problems without causing such a fuss? ‘This is my hospital wing and you will remain here until I discharge you!’
‘I have Charms,’ says the girl sulkily.
‘Professor Flitwick will forgive you.’
‘But, Madam Pomfrey--,’
‘Let me look at your arm,’
Looking slightly frightened, she finally concedes, extending her arm for my inspection. The wound now looks clean and germ-free, which is a relief. I give it an experimental poke with my wand.
‘AARRGH!’ the girl bellows, yanking back her arm. ‘Don’t touch it!’
Fifteen minutes later-- once the hysterical girl is sufficiently disinfected, healed, and bandaged, and I have sent her on her way—I collapse into a chair and savour the quiet.
‘Children!’ I sigh, shaking my head. They really are characters. Sometimes I wish that, just for one day, I could experience it again: running amok, getting up to all sorts of trouble…getting myself injured in all sorts of fantastic ways. It seems that since I have become an adult, my life is significantly less interesting.
Sighing again, I survey the mess that my patient left behind: a chair knocked over, the sheets yanked halfway off the bed she was perched upon, bits of unraveled bandage lying all over the floor. That’s not to mention the heavy stench of Belby’s Disinfecting Potion lingering on the air.
‘Children,’ I mutter again.
‘Yes, they really are something,’ says a voice.
I look around, and there’s Minerva McGonagall standing behind me, an amused glint in her eye as she too studies the state of the hospital wing. ‘Indeed,’ I reply.
‘What was it this time, Poppy?’ she inquires, eyes now sharp from beneath raised brows.
‘Hard to say,’ I answer. ‘The ways these youngsters manage to hurt themselves…’ I get to my feet and begin to bustle around, tidying up. ‘Lessons finished for the day, Minerva?’ I ask as I straighten the curtains with a flick of my wand.
‘They’ve hardly been lessons,’ says Minerva, passing me the bottle of disinfectant, which I replace on my Potions shelf. ‘I’ve been invigilating exams.’
‘Ah, yes,’ I murmur. ‘Term is nearly finished.’
‘Another year done,’ she adds, and we smile at each other. Minerva McGonagall is one of my oldest friends. We attended Hogwarts together: she was in Gryffindor and I was in Ravenclaw, although we were always close. Sometimes when I look at her I still see the brainy, Quidditch-obsessed girl from our schooldays.
‘Speaking of the year being done,’ I say, rearranging pillows, ‘Has Dumbledore managed to find a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?’ Our old one, Quentin Wimbly, retired very suddenly a few weeks ago. It was not unexpected seeing as for quite a number of years now, we have not managed to hold on to one Defense teacher for any longer than three terms.
‘Speaking of Dumbledore,’ says Minerva. ‘He wants to speak to us in his office in five minutes.’
I look up, ‘Oh, really?’
‘Finally going to give us the sack, then?’
Minerva smirks, ‘We’d better go and find out, hadn’t we?’
‘A werewolf?’ repeats Minerva faintly.
Albus Dumbledore smiles his usual benign smile. ‘Yes, Minerva. That would be correct.’
The three of us, Minerva, Dumbledore and I, are sitting in the Head’s office. Most of the portraits are wide awake, listening in on what has turned out to be a highly unexpected conversation. The headmaster has just finished informing us that he has made arrangements for a werewolf to attend Hogwarts in the beginning of next term.
‘Albus,’ says Minerva. Her expression is one of horror and shock. ‘This is--,’
‘This is an outrage!’ supplies Phineas Nigellus Black angrily from his portrait. He stands up and gesticulates forcefully with a gnarled hand, ‘Dumbledore, this is absurd. A werewolf, sullying the hallowed halls of Hogwarts! Muggle-borns are bad enough, but a werewolf!’
‘That’s enough, Phineas,’ says Dumbledore sharply. His benign smile is now gone. He stands up behind his desk, looking fairly impressive in his flowing scarlet robes with his light blue eyes blazing. ‘The wizarding world has always been blinded by prejudice and a hunger for power!’ he exclaims. ‘We look down upon those who are less fortunate, perhaps, or who are incapable of magic. We treat them in a terribly brutal fashion simply because we cannot relate to their predicaments. Muggles! House-elves! Goblins! Centaurs! Merpeople! Werewolves! That is the true outrage!’ he thunders, now looking rather frightening with his beard askew and his half-moon spectacles sliding down his crooked nose. In a cage in the corner, Dumbledore’s pet phoenix gives a loud squawk. He sits back down heavily and glares at us, straightening his glasses.
Minerva doesn’t say anything, so I decide to speak up.
‘Headmaster,’ I say carefully, ‘it is not a question of whether or not the three of us here are bigoted. How do you suppose the rest of the community will react to knowing that a werewolf has been enrolled in Hogwarts? To knowing that a werewolf may very well be sleeping in the same dormitory as their children?’
‘They will not react,’ replies Dumbledore calmly, ‘because they will not know. I do not intend to include a notice with this year’s booklists.’ He stands up again and begins pacing up and down the study, hands clenched behind his back. ‘The werewolf in question is a boy named Remus Lupin. He was bitten by Greyback at the age of four. I have met him: he looks and acts like any other eleven-year-old boy, albeit more quiet and shy as a direct result of his condition. He is a fine boy, rather intelligent as a matter of fact. It would be a crime to prevent his education at Hogwarts simply because of an incident which occurs one night a month.’
He stops pacing and looks down at us questioningly.
‘An incident,’ says Minerva through her teeth. ‘About this incident: how in Merlins’s name--?’
‘Ah yes,’ says Dumbledore, smiling inexplicably. ‘The crucial point. Have either of you ever heard of what is known as a Whomping Willow?’
‘Excuse me?’ I say.
Dumbledore returns to his seat and closes his eyes, apparently thinking. Minerva and I exchange an uneasy glance. I notice the previous headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts doing the same.
‘The Whomping Willow,’ he says finally with his eyes still shut, ‘is a rare type of tree native of, I believe, Argentina. It is known for sporting a rather impressive collection of branches which will attack anyone or anything which touches or strays within distance of its trunk. I might add that there is also a certain knot on its base—merely prodding it causes the branches to still and allows a safe approach.’ He opens his eyes and smiles widely, ‘The plan is exceedingly simple: a Whomping Willow is being shipped to Hogwarts as we speak. Once it arrives, it will be planted in the grounds. No one will know that in actual fact it will be guarding the entrance to a secret tunnel which will lead to Hogsmeade.’
‘So the werewolf will be able to be smuggled into Hogsmeade for the full moon,’ summarises Minerva dully.
‘Not quite into Hogsmeade,’ corrects Dumbledore, still smiling at his own ingenuity. ‘The tunnel will lead straight into a house on the outskirts of the village. This house will be given every kind of magical protection and reinforcement available. The only way in will be through the tunnel.’
‘Merlin,’ whispers Minerva, shaking her head. ‘Dumbledore, this is ridiculously risky! All of the things which could go wrong! What if the werewolf managed to escape the house and attacked the village? What if a curious student found their way into the tunnel?’
‘Neither will happen,’ Dumbledore says firmly. ‘I have thought this through, and I am sure of it. Do you really think I would take any risks?’ He arches an eyebrow at Minerva, and she shakes her head miserably. Dumbledore turns to me, ‘What say you, Poppy?’
‘Oh!’ I say, slightly alarmed at being asked my opinion. ‘Well, I suppose that if all the necessary precautions are taken, then--,’
‘You mistake my meaning,’ Dumbledore interrupts in a patient voice. ‘As matron, it will be your job to tend to all the medical needs of Mr. Lupin. They may be numerous. I ask whether you are up for the challenge.’
‘Quite a challenge it will be,’ adds Dilys Derwent from her portrait, having been a Healer herself. She catches my eye and winks.
‘I will do my job,’ I inform Dumbledore. No matter how absurd that job may be, I think privately.
‘You always do,’ agrees Dumbledore. ‘Now, forgive me, but I don’t think you have any experience in werewolves?’
‘No,’ I admit. I have studied them in my training as a Healer, of course. I know how to recognise lycanthropic wounds, and treat them to a very small degree, but it is true that I have no great knowledge or real first-hand experience. How should I? Between my short stint in the Spell-Damage ward of St. Mungo’s and all my time as Hogwarts matron, where am I supposed to have encountered a werewolf?
Dumbledore is now rummaging through a desk drawer. ‘Here it is,’ he mutters, pulling out what appears to be a large, glossy pamphlet. He passes it to me across the desk, and I accept it curiously. Across the front in spindly silver letters standing out on the black background: A Healer’s Guide to Werewolves. I flip through the pamphlet and see detailed instructions on how to treat bites, scratches, and various other lycanthropic maladies.
‘I do hope that you will be giving Poppy a pay raise for her trouble,’ says Minerva bluntly.
I am momentarily flustered.
‘Oh, no,’ I say quickly. ‘That won’t be necessary. I would—I would be honoured to do this. It will be a highly educational experience.’ I hand the pamphlet to Minerva, and ask Dumbledore, ‘Which other members of staff will you be informing?’ I am thinking of Horace Slughorn, known for his lack of tact and narrow-mindedness.
‘As few as possible,’ Dumbledore answers. ‘I want Mr. Lupin to be treated in the same fashion as his fellow pupils, and the optimum way for that to be achieved would be for his teachers to remain ignorant of his condition.’ He pauses. ‘His head of house will be informed, and I think that will be all. I’ve told you, Poppy, for obvious reasons, and you Minerva, as you are Associate Headmistress.’
‘I still say that this is preposterous,’ mutters Minerva, flipping through the pamphlet. ‘A werewolf at Hogwarts! Really, Albus. Of all your outlandish schemes…’ She looks for a moment as though she is about to say something prejudicial on the subject of werewolves, then perhaps recalls Dumbledore’s earlier diatribe and catches herself. Instead, she thrusts the pamphlet back into my hand and fixes Dumbledore with an exasperated expression.
‘Now then,’ says Dumbledore with the air of one concluding a conversation. ‘I trust that you will both be discreet, and by that I mean that no one should learn about my decision unless I myself tell them.’ He eyes us like misbehaved schoolchildren.
‘Of course,’ I say, and Minerva echoes my promise a little halfheartedly.
‘That goes for you, too,’ Dumbledore adds to the portraits, who give their affirmative response in unison. ‘Phineas?’ he prompts, eyeing the Slytherin sternly over the rims of his spectacles.
‘Yes, yes,’ Phineas Nigellus sighs theatrically.
Dumbledore continues glaring at him for a moment, and then turns back to me.
‘Poppy, that booklet should contain everything you need to know. If you require any additional information, please don’t hesitate to pay me a visit.’
‘I will, headmaster,’ I reply.
‘Then good day to you both.’
As soon as we have descended the staircase and are standing in the corridor beyond Dumbledore’s office, Minerva begins to exclaim angrily, although she is so furious that she is nearly incoherent. ‘The nerve of him!’ she hisses, flinging up her hands. ‘What is he thinking? A werewolf! He is—I can’t—this is utterly—why—oh!’ she gives a great cry of frustration. She turns to me with a look of desperation on her face, ‘What on earth are we to do, Poppy?’
‘Accept it, I suppose,’ I reply. ‘The same as we have always done where Albus Dumbledore is concerned.’
We begin walking slowly down the corridor, saying nothing. When we reach a large tapestry depicting a rather violent tea party shared by a group of trolls, Minerva says abruptly, ‘Have you ever met a werewolf, Poppy?’
‘Never,’ I reply.
‘I have,’ Minerva says quietly, ‘once.’
I wait for her to elaborate, but she appears to be lost in thought.
‘Dumbledore claimed that this Lupin seemed like any normal boy,’ I prompt her.
‘Well,’ she murmurs in the same quiet voice. ‘I can only hope it’s true. The werewolf I met…’ she swallows, ‘well, let’s just say that it did a lot to confirm any bigoted views I might have had.’
We arrive at the top of a staircase which leads down to the hospital wing. ‘I’ll see you, Minerva,’ I say to my friend, who will continue down the corridor towards the Transfiguration department. She says nothing, only offers me a worried look which does nothing to improve my confidence.
‘Horace, what do you think about werewolves?’
‘Werewolves?’ repeats Horace Slughorn, pausing over a spoonful of pudding.
It is dinnertime in the Great Hall. For once the hospital wing is devoid of patients, so I have come to eat with the rest of the staff. I pose my question to Horace once I am sure that Dumbledore is absorbed in his conversation with Pomona Sprout and Minerva is safely sitting at the opposite end of the table. I want to hear the lowest opinion up-front.
‘I was just wondering,’ I say, assuming a casual expression as Horace eyes me interestedly. ‘You know, as a Healer I can’t help but ponder from time to time…’
‘Of course you can’t,’ chuckles Horace amiably, diving into his pudding once again. ‘Curious creatures werewolves are-- that’s for sure.’ He licks his spoon, walrus mustache quivering. Then he turns back to me. ‘You want my stand on them, Poppy? Here it is: they’re monsters, plain and simple. Nothing to debate.’
I try playing devil’s advocate: ‘They can’t be all bad, Horace.’
‘Why, of course they are,’ Horace retorts cheerfully. ‘They’re vicious, werewolves. Any humanity they ever have dissolves once they acquire the bite.’
‘Overnight, you mean?’ I am starting to become alarmed: I am going to have to be caring for one of these things soon.
‘Over time maybe,’ Horace shrugs, plucking a biscuit off a tray. ‘It definitely goes though. That’s common knowledge.’
I remind myself that Horace Slughorn is notorious for being narrow-minded. No stand can be worse than his. As I fret quietly, Horace finishes chewing his biscuit before turning to be with still more unsettling news.
‘My brother was a werewolf hunter, you know.’
‘Werewolf hunter,’ he reiterates, looking proud. ‘Walter was his name. He was mightily good: most months he would track down and kill at least five or six. Sometimes even ten.’
‘Why?’ I am appalled.
‘Because they’re evil, Poppy! Haven’t we already established this?’
‘But surely it’s illegal?’
‘Not as such,’
‘Frowned upon?’ I inquire with an air of desperation.
‘Many people encourage it,’ Horace informs me. ‘Not openly, mind you. It’s too controversial. But I’d bet ten boxes of crystallised pineapple that a good majority of the wizarding community is all for hunting down the werewolves and getting rid of them for good.’ He bites into another biscuit.
I am feeling rather sick. If so many people are interested in the extermination of werewolves, how can it be purely prejudice? There must be some fact involved. And one of these…monsters…is coming to Hogwarts for Merlin’s sake!
‘Are you discussing werewolves?’ pipes up Filius Flitwick from Horace’s other side, perched atop a stack of books. ‘I believe that werewolves are seriously misunderstood people. They are treated quite unjustly.’ I turn to him hopefully.
‘Rubbish!’ cries Horace, dropping his half-eaten biscuit and rounding on Filius belligerently. ‘We understand them just fine: they’re maniacs. They should be locked away!’
‘How could you be so bigoted?’ squeaks Filius just as belligerently. ‘You are not a werewolf; you can’t know what they’re really like. I think that we should make an effort to get to know them before judging them!’
‘Get to know them?’ demands Horace incredulously, brandishing his fork in a rather violent manner.
‘Excuse me,’ I interrupt before they can become carried away. ‘But have either of you ever met a werewolf? Known one personally?’
There is a silence as both Horace and Filius gape at me rather gormlessly.
Then Horace says, ‘Just go to the library. There are plenty of books in there written by people who’ve met werewolves and still agree with me.’
‘Don’t believe a word of it, Poppy,’ Filius mutters sotto voce, under the cover of Horace refocusing his attention on dessert.
At eleven o’clock that night, I return from the library with my arms full of books. Elbowing my way into my office, I deposit the books onto my desk and close the door, locking it with a tap of my wand.
‘Late night, Poppy?’ says the portrait of Deborah Higgs, a former Hogwarts matron.
‘So it seems,’ I reply as I sit down behind my desk.
I pull the first book towards me: The Werewolf Controversy by Wallace Martin. I open the leather-bound cover and turn to chapter one, The Case for Werewolves. I begin running my eyes over the densely printed text, particular phrases jumping out at me.
Werewolves have been persecuted for centuries. Well, I know that.
No one knows what really goes on in the werewolf’s head. The only ones who know for sure are werewolves themselves, but we are of course unsure of whether or not their claims can be trusted. I thought this was supposed to be the case for werewolves. I turn the page.
The common opinion is that werewolves have no control over their actions during the full moon. In this case, they cannot really be held accountable for their actions. The common opinion? Does this mean that some people believe that werewolves do have control during the full moon? I am slightly alarmed by how little I seem to know. Then one paragraph catches my eye:
Studies show that when an individual is treated differently from others, he evolves to in fact become different. In this case, it is the fault of us normal humans that werewolves tend to behave in such a vicious manner. They are merely acting the way that they have been taught that they are supposed to act.
I sigh and turn to chapter two, The Case Against Werewolves. I notice that this bit seems to be much longer.
Werewolves have been known to act in an incredibly vicious manner, particularly toward humans. I am put off by this remark. Aren’t werewolves humans too?
The most notable killers in history are werewolves. They attack both in their human and wolf forms. There must be a legitimate reason for this—perhaps werewolves aren’t vicious by nature.
Werewolves have been known to go to great lengths to conceal their lycanthropic conditions. Experts say that this suggests a guilty conscience. It also suggests that werewolves know how bigoted people are, and are trying to avoid being ostracised.
I slam the book shut and bury my face in my hands. ‘Of course, the author of this book is probably prejudiced,’ I mutter to myself. I open the book again and flip to the short biography of Wallace Martin:
Wallace Martin studied lycanthropy at the Merlin Institute of Magical Creatures. He is a leading member of the Dark Force Defense League, and lives in London with his family. Mr. Martin has petitioned on numerous occasions for the extermination of werewolves.
Aha, I think. Talk about being prejudiced. But perhaps he’s right, I muse. Perhaps werewolves really are murderous beasts, and should be exterminated. It seems to be what most people believe. I pick up the next book: Why Werewolves Are Monsters. Disgustedly, I throw it back down onto my desk and grab another: Werewolves Are Just Like You and Me. I turn away from this book as well.
‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to believe!’ I cry out loud, close to tears.
‘Believe in the right thing, dear,’ says Deborah Higgs from her portrait.
‘But what’s the right thing?’ I demand. I turn to her. ‘Deborah,’ I say desperately. ‘Dumbledore’s enrolled a werewolf at Hogwarts.’
‘That man,’ chuckles Deborah, straightening her wimple.
‘Have you ever met a werewolf? Tended to one?’
Deborah grows solemn, thinking. Then she says, ‘In 1392. A third year Hufflepuff lad named Edgar Butler went wandering in the Forbidden Forest after nightfall. He was attacked by a werewolf. Bitten. We found him the next morning, covered in blood.’
‘Dead?’ I inquire.
‘No, he lived.’
‘What happened to him?’
‘He was expelled, of course,’ replies Deborah, looking surprised that I had to ask.
‘Just for wandering in the Forbidden Forest?’ I ask in astonishment.
‘Oh, no,’ Deborah shakes her head. ‘For being a werewolf. We couldn’t have one in our school.’ She shrugs indifferently. ‘If you think people are prejudiced today…I don’t what became of him.’
‘Are they truly bad, Deborah?’ I ask softly, not sure whether or not I want to hear her answer.
‘I have no idea, dear,’ smiles Deborah. ‘I suppose that it’s a matter of opinion just like everything else.’
I pull out the pamphlet from within my robes and stare at the glossy cover with a sense of foreboding. ‘It seems that I’ll be forming my own opinion soon enough.’