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Chapter 3: First Year: Secrets and Punishments
It was the last hour of the day when James stabbed me. A gasp escaped my mouth as the blood seeped to the break in my skin and I cursed myself for paying attention to Professor McGonagall. Turning, James grinned impishly, holding his weapon at his side whilst I glared at him and wiped away the blood.
James laughed and spun back round to face McGonagall who frequently sent suspicious glances in our direction. Narrowing my eyes, I glanced down at the matchstick in my palm. Two could play at this game. My parents had been training Regulus and I since we were able to walk.
For a moment, my mind was full of images of Regulus and I growing up in the cold, dark house of Black. The house always had people visiting. My family were the ‘purest of all wizards’ which, according to my mother, made us the wizarding equivalent of royalty.
We used to wake up for lectures on blood superiority. There had been a massive decrease in wizarding purity in recent years and even the wealthiest pure-blood families would seek solace at our house. In the evenings, we were paraded to all in our finest robes, like princes. We represented the hope of the next generation.
Some demanded more than a glance at the wealthy princes; they wanted to see us perform magic. Day after day we were taught spells and potions, and punished harshly if we got anything wrong. My father would watch our lessons like a hawk, waiting for any mistake. The smell of fire whiskey would cling to his robes as his dark eyes remained unblinking.
We had no breaks, learning magic was our goal. In summer, the thick curtains would be drawn so we wouldn’t be distracted by the warm light. We were to be the best. We were to save the wizarding world from the threat of mudbloods and Muggles. Once I asked my father why we were superior. He had no answer. But he had a punishment.
My cousins would join us often; they were our only company. We were of royal blood - we should be the best. With nothing else to do, insanity seemed to spread from my father’s blood-shot eyes to Bella’s. We all noticed the change, yet no one said anything. That was our future. We had to accept it.
The pure-bloods wanted an heir. An heir who was superior. They didn’t want to know how that heir became so wonderful. My tenth birthday was an initiation. The pure-bloods came in number to watch me prove myself. I was one of their last chances; I had to prove I was brave enough.
I was in the dining room, a plank of wood lay on the table in front of me. My father reached down into a dirt covered sack by his feet and pulled out the rotting head of Beastie; the old house-elf who had gotten too old. I had heard a shallow gasp from behind me; Kreacher had entered the room.
Father pushed the head into my arms, and held it there as I attempted to recoil. Uncle Cygnus stepped forward with a fist full of broken twigs. I knew how I was supposed to prove myself.
As much as I hated myself to admit it, I liked the looks of admiration that the guests gave me, the presents, the whispers of my future. I swallowed and gathered my courage.
My stomach had sunk and my throat became tight as Kreacher, the house-elf, watched my hands like a hawk as I lifted his mother’s head to the plank of wood.
"Nervano." I had whispered. Nothing happened; some of the guests coughed uncomfortably.
"Nervano." I repeated. Nothing happened again; my father’s hands twisted in agitation.
"Nervano." My stomach tensed as there was no reaction once more; Andy gasped and Bella snorted.
For a moment, I caught my father's swaying body and my mother's hawk like eyes pierced on my face. Her eyes were narrowed and my hands started to shake. I had time for one last chance, otherwise the punishment would come and it would probably fall upon Reg as well. For my stupidity. I couldn’t let that happen.
My back tensed and I spoke the words with as much power as I could muster, "Nervano!" This time, one of the twigs transformed into a nail.
I swallowed, ignoring the joyful feeling that danced in my stomach. "Creyja."
The nail made a sickly crunching noise as it penetrated the elf’s flesh and flew into the wall. Behind me, I could hear Kreacher gasp and he started to mutter under his breath. House-elves don’t understand death; he didn’t understand that my father had killed his mother for being too old. He just saw me nailing his mother to the a plank of wood.
In his eyes, I was the murderer. There are few things that elves hold grudges for, that was one of them.
The elf’s mutterings faded in my ears and I found my eyes still fixated on the matchstick. "Nervano," the matchstick became thinner and longer, the colour fading from brown to silver and the square ends twisting into a sharp point and a flat top. It was identical to the nails from all those years ago. James gaped at my nail, and then looked back at his, which was feeble and small compared to mine.
With a wink, I smiled and pushed away the thoughts of home. "En guarde!" I whispered and hit James’ nail with mine, sending it flying across the classroom.
His eyes sparkled mischievously as he pointed his wand at another matchstick. The matchstick transformed into a stronger looking nail; my spell obviously giving James more determination and he picked it up in a swift movement then turned and attacked mine. I swerved and the Muggle sword fight began. If James swayed right, then I’d block him right. If he stirred left, then I’d catch him left. We were evenly matched and our movements became more exaggerated as the game progressed.
James’ cry when I stabbed him in his arm caught the attention of Professor McGonagall. She sighed and stormed over to our table; fully expecting to dock Gryffindor points. However when she reached us and saw our nails – James’ had become increasingly stronger as his kept breaking – she started in surprise. "Are these your matchsticks boys?" McGonagall frowned.
"Yes Professor," I replied, hoping that if I was polite she wouldn’t dock any points.
"How?" McGonagall’s brow was still furrowed.
"Well with magic." James obviously didn’t share these hopes. "You see there’s this place called Hogwarts where they teach it and-" he was silenced by a glare from the professor.
"What I meant Mr Potter," she said through pursed lips, "is that these are both very advanced nails. I would expect a third year to transform a nail to this standard, certainly not a first year."
Her eyes darted between us both and her eyes lingered on mine. "Congratulations boys," she paused. "Five points to Gryffindor for Mr Black’s nail."
"What about me?" James responded outraged.
Professor McGonagall didn’t even look back as she made her way to the front of the class. "I don’t tolerate rudeness Mr Potter, nor do I reward for it. If you want to receive house points, then you earn them."
I snorted at the look of shock that spread across James’ features and Remus joined in; his own matchstick already transformed into a small brown nail. Peter however, was still focused on the matchstick in front of him. His wand making jagged, quick movements through the air whilst he muttered the spell, his small eyes never wavering from the object. Repeatedly nothing happened.
His face tinged pink and with an emotion of pity, I saw the Snivellus boy had just transformed his. Peter was one of the last few, and the Slytherins were starting to notice.
"Here," I whispered, "smaller movements, more fluid. Yep like that. Now when the wand moves to this point, you say the spell. Okay? Yep. Now."
With full concentration, Peter muttered the spell and the matchstick started to transform. It shrunk and became very thin; I swapped a despairing glance with James as the matchstick now looked like a tac rather than a nail. However, Peter’s eyes shone with excitement and a massive grin covered his chubby cheeks. "I did it!" he whispered in awe.
It seemed impossible that a week had passed already. I was currently hiding behind my bed, along with James and Sirius – attempting, unsuccessfully to stifle the giggles that kept escaping the clenched hand over my mouth. James was bright red and sniggering, Sirius was more composed but even he kept snorting and peering over the bed.
I couldn’t believe that these boys wanted to be friends with me. That they were friends with me. Remus was really friendly, thoughtful and he had already helped me with some homework. I thought Remus and I shared a lot in common; he was shy, wore scruffy clothes and was desperately trying to fit in.
It was just something James and Sirius couldn’t understand. Sirius was funny, slightly sensitive when talk turned to home, moody when letters arrived – he still hadn’t said anything about the letter he had received on Monday. Yet he was smart, he didn’t have any trouble with the lessons and he helped me a lot. On Thursday, he even swapped Potions with me and simply said he’d been ‘meaning to get to know the Potions professor a bit better anyway.’
James was... well, James was spoilt; it was obvious that he was adored at home. Every morning a new package arrived from home; full of sweets, jumpers, stuff from Zonkos and the occasional bit of stationary. He answered back to the teachers and was shocked when they didn’t do as he asked.
Once or twice, I felt jealous. I knew that I would never receive the same treatment; my dad was too busy trying to get a job - or keep one - to send letters and packages, and my mum- well, after the incident mum wouldn’t-couldn’t do much. She probably didn’t even realise I’d left, perhaps she did – I was her main carer after all.
But James was fun. He shared everything with us all. They were, well they were cool. And they were friends with me. Even when the Slytherins kept tripping me up or stuffing cakes into my bag; they all just laughed and shared out the cakes.
But if there was one thing they were really good at, it was making trouble. Sadly for Remus, James had found Sirius, who was just as talented at creating mischief and then me, a willing trouble-maker who the teachers didn’t suspect yet, and then there was Remus. The one person who managed to keep some sense of control this week, yet somehow James and Sirius persuaded him to get involved every time.
Sirius nodded at James, and he snuck to the window and opened the blinds causing sunlight to catch on Remus’ ruby red bed curtains; Remus groaned as he awoke; realising that there were no sounds of heavy breathing from my bed or faint snores from Sirius’ or even low mutterings of James talking in his sleep.
Remus hated getting up and when he slept, nothing could wake him and now he knew we were awake.
Already this week Remus had needed two extra showers, help from a prefect to find all his socks and had been forced to beg for the counter-jinx for his singing shoes - all within five days.
Remus looked like he sat up with some trepidation in the silent room before collapsing back onto the bed after finding he couldn’t sit up - asif he was glued to his bed sheets. With another groan he pulled his hand out from under the duvet to find his hand covered in sticky yellow goo. Treacle.
None of us could contain our glee at the look of disgust on Remus’ face, and there was an eruption of giggles from my bed.
"Guys," Remus sighed. At once, us three boys; two with dark raven hair and one with thin blonde, popped out from behind the bed. Red-faced and giggling. Remus glared at us for a moment before joining in laughing as well. "Where did you get the treacle from?" Remus laughed.
"'James’ package this morning," Sirius responded cheerfully. Remus’ face showed an expression that seemed to say ‘of course.’
"Why treacle?" Remus asked.
"Well we thought you loved your bed so much that you’d want to stick around it," James replied innocently. Sirius shook his head at the bad pun.
Remus snorted. "Well give me a hand then!"
I waddled over with Sirius and James behind me; when suddenly Remus grinned mischievously and with a squelch, ripped his hand from the treacle-covered bed and ruffled Sirius’ hair. Sirius screamed and laughingly dived for the bed; pulling me with him.
The resulting thud meant more treacle flew into the air and landed on James’ trousers who laughed and dive-bombed on top of Sirius. I was having fun, but at the same time couldn’t stop the nagging worry that I was weighing the bed down. Or that I was sitting on someone; stopping them from breathing. But each thought got pushed away as more treacle went flying.
Treacle was everywhere and we all had the one goal to cover the others as much as we could. James’ hair was more ruffled then normal and Sirius’ eyes were alight with excitement, even Remus looked like he was having fun.
"Oh for Merlin’s sake!" It was Crouch, again. Oops. "Really? Treacle? It’s Saturday! People are trying to sleep! Who do you think is going to clean up this mess?"
"The house-elves?" James said in a slightly arrogant voice, Sirius nodded in agreement.
Barty Crouch’s eyes narrowed. "Professor McGonagall will hear about this. Now go get washed for Merlin’s sake- and don’t get any of that goo on the carpet!" With that, Crouch turned on his heel and stormed out of the room.
There was silence for a couple of heartbeats before we all burst out laughing. Remus jumped out of the bed and ripped off the sheets that were still stuck to his body before heading to the showers; for his third additional wash this week.
The rest of the day passed in a similar way to how it started. James and Sirius wanted to annoy Barty Crouch more, so took to following him – dragging Peter and myself with them – and constantly asking him questions.
To their joy, they found that he often went red and spoke in incoherent sentences when infuriated and also that he couldn’t get them in trouble because they were simply asking him questions, and as he was prefect – it was his duty to listen.
When we were not annoying Crouch, we were exploring. At lunch, Peter accidently squished the pumpkin he was sitting on in the pumpkin patch which meant we all had to run away before the hairy giant of a man caught us.
At dinner we were interrupted from our loud food-fight in which James had hit Amelia with a soufflé that had splattered onto Mary who picked up a Cherry Tart to hit James back, but James ducked and it hit Sirius instead. Sirius then decided to pick up the whole tray of cream puffs and throw them into the air – meaning that we all got covered in cream.
It was war after that, and after a rather spectacular throw from Lily which caused two Pumpkin pastries to splat against James’ head, McGonagall approached the table.
Her lips pursed as any food that had hit the floor or tables disappeared along with all the rest of the food which signified the end of dinner. The girls slyly snuck away from the table and got lost within the crowd.
"Not so fast boys," she said sternly. With resignation, we turned back to face the stern-faced teacher who was looking at our food-covered clothing with despair.
"I may not be able to punish you for acting like bumbling buffoons at dinner, as you are all at perfect liberty to cover yourselves in food - but Prefect Crouch has informed me of your ‘treacle’ experiment with your bed sheets. This sort of behaviour is not tolerated at Hogwarts. After having a discussion with the headmaster, a suitable punishment has been found. Since you have no regards for the rules you will have your special detention tomorrow evening. Leave the sheets where they are, and you will deal with them tomorrow. Understood?"
We all nodded but James frowned, "Professor? Remus has got to sleep tonight; we can’t keep the sheets on the bed."
Professor McGonagall nodded slowly and then turned to face me. "Which brings me to my next point. I’m sorry Mister Lupin but we’ve just had news that your Grandmother has been taken ill. Please go see Madam Pomfrey immediately and she will floo you to your house." I nodded in understanding.
James and Sirius frowned and patted me on the shoulder as I left, Peter bit his lip and gazed at me in a mix of understanding and pity.
The professor was still looking at me – though her gaze had softened considerably – and I took my cue to leave. I walked out of the Great Hall and up the first moving staircase when Lily and Amelia bumped into me.
"Remus!" Amelia started.
"Hello," I replied. "You alright?" I added as both girls were swapping looks of guilt.
Lily nodded, "yes, we’re fine. But well – we felt a bit bad that we left you guys to get told off. I mean we threw food as much as you guys did. It wasn’t fair of us, so we’re going to see Professor McGonagall now to explain."
"No don’t worry about that!" I smiled. "McGonagall didn’t punish us because all the food disappeared anyway."
"Oh," Amelia laughed. "Thank Merlin for that! I was wondering how I could explain to my parents that they’d got a letter when I hadn’t even been here a week!"
She giggled, and Lily smiled with her. But soon her smile turned to a slight frown, "are you okay Remus? You don’t look too happy and well – you look slightly pale."
Ah, I thought, I wasn’t hiding it that well. Thank Godric for McGonagall’s excuse.
"Me? No, I’m fine Lily, thanks. McGonagall’s just told me that my Grandmother’s ill so I’m just a bit shocked. Though they’ve arranged for me to go home tonight, so it’s alright." I smiled reassuringly and both girls nodded with understanding.
"Oh, well we won’t keep you then. See you around Remus." Lily said softly, before following Amelia in the direction of the library. I arrived at the hospital wing in good time and the healer sighed in relief.
"Hello Dear, I’m Madam Pomfrey – you must be Remus?" She spoke softly as if speaking to an ill patient. She gestured to her office and I followed immediately.
Although the wing was empty, she shut the door and cast a spell over it. Then turned to me and smiled once more. Did she really have to smile so much? Remus, don’t be an idiot – she’s only trying to help. She’s probably disgusted or scared anyway. You'd prefer the smiles over sneers.
"So Remus, Professor Dumbledore has informed me of your – situation – and has come up with a suitable solution. In about half an hour – just before the sun goes down – we shall walk out to the grounds together. Professor Sproat has planted a tree over a passageway where you will be statying - it'll stop anyone following you at least. I’ll leave you there, but you must follow the hidden pathway to the room at the end."
I nodded and Madam Pomfrey disappeared back into the hospital wing after hearing someone call for her. With nothing else to do, I sat down and tried to stop myself from thinking about the oncoming pain. The transformations that split my bones and tore my skin. The burning, the screaming – the wildness. No matter how many times I transformed; nothing stopped the fear I felt before every full moon.
It seemed minutes had barely passed before Madam Pomfrey returned; her wand clutched in one hand and an extra cloak in the other.
"Right dear, I think we’d better go down now. Now I’m going to disillusion you, don’t panic if it feels strange – it just stops any suspicion if you are seen with me walking across the grounds after hours."
I nodded in agreement and she murmured a spell. I then felt the odd feeling of an egg cracking over my head and slowly sliming down my body. Madam Pomfrey nodded with satisfaction and gestured for me to follow her.
We left the building without arousing any suspicion and stumbled across the grounds before finally reaching a tree of about my height, waving in the breeze. Madam Pomfrey looked over her shoulder and murmured under her breath. An orange spell jetted out of the end of her wand and hit a small knot at the base of the tree. The tree immediately stopped.
"The tree is fast growing and vicious. It will attack anyone who nears its base so no one shall be able to enter the entrance." Relief swept through me, I had worried that I would accidently attack a student or teacher if anyone got curious.
"But, if you hit the knot, it will allow you to pass, so-" she paused and gestured to the tree regretfully. "I’m sorry Remus – I wish there was another way." I nodded and smiled at the witch’s kindness. She patted me on the shoulder as I passed, before the entrance closed behind me and I was left in a damp tunnel.
With no light or clocks, I was unsure how much time had passed whilst I stumbled through the dark tunnel. I could only rely on the increasing itch that covered my skin and the increasing sharpness of my surroundings as my eyes altered. After what seemed like much time had passed and the itching was beginning to feel unbearable, I reached a small wooden room with a bed and a chair. Before I could register much more the clouds moved and the full moon hit me in the face.
The familiar burn spread across my skin. And the indescribable pain swept through my head; my body collapsed against the floor and automatically curled in on itself – trying to protect against the pain. Yet there was no remedy, no soothing in the fire.
I am not normal. I never will be. Remus. I am not normal. I will never be. Rem-. I am not normal. I will never be. R-. I am not normal. I never will be. Wer-. I am not normal. I never will be. Werewolf.
I am wild. I am free. I am the night sky. I am the creature of the night. I am wolf.
I was chasing Sirius. He had tripped me up a couple corridors ago and I'd fallen into a suit of armour. Peter could be heard breathing heavily behind me somewhere – gasping to keep up. Sirius ran faster than us all as he shot round the last corridor. I pulled out my wand and nearly ran head-first into him as he stood still as a statue in the centre of the hallway. I caught myself in time – but sadly Peter didn’t and he ended up running straight into me, who then fell on top of Sirius. For the third time this weekend, we were in a huddle on the floor.
Sirius groaned with pain as he pushed Peter’s knee away from his chest and I pushed Sirius’ elbow away from my face. With a couple scrapes we managed to detangle ourselves and crawled away from the huddle – only to come face to face with McGonagall. Brilliant. Detention. Forgot. Oops.
Her lips we’re pursed as she watched us scramble to our feet. "You are fifteen minutes late for your detention. I do not tolerate poor conduct. You will stay for an extra half-hour today. Is that clear?"
We nodded our agreement and she moved to the side slightly to reveal Remus. He’d been gone since yesterday afternoon, but being back so soon must mean his grandma's okay. Unless McGonagall brought him back for his detention – and that’s just mean! I looked at McGonagall once more and decided that I wouldn’t put it past her.
Remus nodded at us with a slightly strained smile and McGonagall flashed a concerned look at him quickly. I noted that he was very pale, and had dark circles under both of his eyes. He seemed to be slightly hunched over and his clothes seemed more scruffy than usual – Peter looked at him in concern.
Sirius was frowning at the small cut above his left eyebrow and the scratches over his arm where the flesh was in eye-sight, before taking a step towards Remus, then shaking his head as if changing his mind. Hope he hasn’t caught his Grandma’s illness, I thought.
"Follow me boys." Professor McGonagall said sharply – interrupting me planning my next prank on the distracted Sirius. We followed in silence, Peter and I exchanging looks of curiosity – we were going down some stairs behind a painting of a dwarf fighting a dragon which was just left to the Great Hall.
Sirius and Remus walked side by side behind us. Sirius sending the occasional look at Remus whilst Remus stared ahead, walking slower than the rest of us as if he was tired.
We were in a small hallway; a painting of a bowl of fruit was to our right. We carried on walking, past a group of old barrels in the corner which had a cactus sat on top of the biggest one. We took a left, then a right, then another left – yet McGonagall carried on walking. Until at last the Professor halted by a small wooden door in the brick wall which was only as high as our chests.
The small door creaked open and an old house-elf, wearing the Hogwarts crest on its grey garment, slipped through the door. It’s eyes were unusually large and the elf squeaked as it bowed to McGonagall – who pursued her lips and nodded in response. A house-elf? Hah! We can just ask it to do whatever the punishment is and just sit and watch! Brilliant.
But Professor McGonagall seemed to have seen my quickly disguised smile, "this is Dokkin, boys. He shall be overseeing your detention today and has sworn to tell me if you misbehave in any way. Clear?"
That’s not fair! If the elf’s sworn to the Professor – then we have to do it ourselves. But – I mean – that’s just stupid!
Her eyes met each of ours in turn and everyone nodded, yet her eyes seemed to watch me more carefully than the rest as I nodded in resignation.
"Dokkin wonders if the misters want to follow me?" the elf squeaked. We nodded; Sirius and I swapped a smile as we each crawled through the small door. But the smiles soon faded as we straightened up into what seemed to be the Hogwarts laundry room.
As stupid as it sounds, I felt my jaw drop. Hogwarts has a laundry room?
I’d known that we just put our dirty washing in the yellow bin by the door, and then the following morning they were folded in our trunks. I suppose it made sense that the house-elves cleaned them, but I’d just accepted it as magic. Huh.
My shock was mirrored on Sirius’ face whilst Peter nodded to himself as if confirming a thought – Remus had no reaction – he seemed too tired to notice anything. Maybe he didn’t get much sleep last night?
The roof curved into a dome and was supported by eight marble pillars that were evenly scattered around the circular room. Candles floated between each pillar – giving the room a warm yellow glow.
We were currently stood on a platform which had three wooden steps to the side. The steps led to a small wooden bridge, which stretched over a streaming pool of water. The water spun round the dome room in a circular wooden tub, going right round the room continuously. Yet the water wasn’t calm, it was full of white school shirts which kept appearing over the pink and green bubbles, whilst being scrubbed by floating brushes. Every couple of metres was a dolly that was levitating over the water and in sync they would dip in and help push the water round the room.
Over the bridge were three giant platforms, which were centre to the water that rushed round them. On the first platform were two giant rocks with an elf standing by each one, at first they seemed pointless but after a loud whistle echoed round the room, a group of elves hurried to a long red lever on the far wall and pulled it towards them. With a sucking sound, all of the white school shirts were sucked from the water and landed in baskets placed by the rocks. One by one the shirts flew towards the rocks, and the elves standing beside them waved their arms like a conductor. The shirts started to slap against the rocks and I realised with a jolt that the water was being beaten out of the shirts.
With another wail, the third platform which was covered in a mound of jumpers and trousers sank into the water below, and the stream was full of coloured washing instead. Old-fashioned washboards jumped out of a cupboard and attacked the washing.
Once the shirts were beaten dry, they floated into another basket and were transported to the second platform. This platform was the busiest as it had around twenty house-elves stood by a hundred ironing boards, with a wave of their arms; each iron lifted off the board and attacked the shirt with speed, ironing out every crease.
The shirts then folded in on themselves and landed neatly in a labelled basket. Behind these baskets were four doors, each labelled ‘Hufflepuff, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor’. Four more house-elves stood by these doors, watching a board of lights, when a light flashed green; a house-elf squealed and grabbed a basket.
Dokkin seemed to notice my gaze and gestured towards the lights. "A good house-elf is not seen by their masters," he said simply. It became clear what the light were then, the lights flashed green when a student left the dorm room, telling the house-elves that the room was clear for them to put away the washing.
Dokkin gestured for us to follow him down the stairs and over the bridge to a small platform that was hidden behind the rocks. On it was a small tub of water with some brushes, a washboard and a dolly – all perfectly still.
My stomach seemed to sink as another house-elf stumbled over to our group - which was attracting a lot of looks - in her arms was Remus’ sheets – still covered in the treacle from the prank the previous morning.
"Professors McGonagall says you boys must clean every stain off the sheets without magic to learn respect for the elves that clean them," Dokkin squeaked. Then his ears bent, "Dokkin doesn’t mind cleaning sheets. Dokkin happy to clean but Dokkin must follow orders."
The small elf seemed miserable as he gestured for the other elf to hand us the sheets and with a snap of his fingers, four three-legged stools appeared around the wooden tub.
A/N: Hello again :) So what did you think? Hogwarts laundry room? Is it what you imagined?
Once again, I'm still not J.K. Rowling - so everything you recognise belongs to her, anything you don't, to me :)
Also, if you fancy feeding the little grey box - you're very welcome :D