Chapter 20 : Werewolves are people, too
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Charlotte was closest to her. “Lils, what’s wrong? Bad news?”
Lily nodded silently and started to hand Charlotte the letter, then stopped herself. “No, Laura should read it,” she said. “You’ll understand.” And ignoring the other girls’ baffled expressions, she reached across the table and gave the letter to me, then collapsed onto the table, sobbing into her arms.
I understood pretty quickly why she had wanted me to read it. As Charlotte had guessed it definitely contained bad news but the other three, as pure-bloods, may not have understood why. Her mum had been diagnosed with breast cancer and the expectation was she had less than three years to live.
Cancer had managed to evade the wizarding world for some reason. That is, it did crop up occasionally, but very rarely and its impact wasn’t widely known. And so I needed to find a way I could explain to the other girls what the problem was.
“Lily’s mum’s ill,” I said. “She’s got a Muggle disease which basically eats the healthy cells inside her. They’ve only just found out and the prognosis isn’t good.” Simplistic, I know, but they understood.
Lily was promptly inundated with hugs from those around her and declarations of sympathy. Mary caught my eye over the general commotion.
“Wha’s th’ disease?” she asked quietly.
“Cancer,” I replied.
She nodded. “I wondered,” she said. “We learned aboot Muggle illnesses las’ year i’ Muggle Studies. It soonds pretty ba’.”
“Yes, it’s not the best,” I agreed, giving Lily a hug across the table. She was still crying but seemed to be feeling a bit better.
Charlotte was watching her friend sympathetically. “Did you want to go see Madam Pomfrey?” she asked quietly. “She can give you something for the shock. You probably don’t want to go to Defence like this.”
Lily considered. “Yes, I think that might be a good idea,” she agreed. “Can you make my apologies to Viridian?” This was directed to the rest of us, as Charlotte had already started helping her stand up.
“Of course,” Martha said immediately. “You get yourself looked after. We’ll fill you in on anything you miss.”
Naturally Lily’s predicament was noticed by James Potter, who confronted Martha, Mary and I as we headed out of the Great Hall on our way to Defence.
“What’s wrong with Evans?” he asked, his face full of concern as he fell into step with us.
“Her mum’s ill,” I said, not sure how much Lily would want James to know. “She only just found out.”
“You mean, really ill?” His hazel eyes raked over each of us as though that would give him more information.
“Cancer,” Mary said, looking him in the eye. Of course, he was in her Muggle Studies class. He would know what the word ‘cancer’ meant to Muggles.
He looked horrified. “But that’s awful,” he said. “Is it very bad?”
“It doesn’t look good,” I said. “A few years, maybe, but that’s most probably it. Lily’s pretty upset.”
“That’s right,” Martha added defensively, “and she doesn’t need you stepping in and making things worse.”
He blanched at the implied insult but soon recovered himself and nodded. “I’ll be good as gold,” he promised. “But do me one favour?” We looked at him curiously. “Let me know if there is anything I can do for her? I mean, anything at all.”
I found myself nodding in agreement. James was actually quite a nice person underneath the rich-good-looking-and-arrogant façade, as I had discovered the previous year when Mary had been attacked, so this seemed only fair to agree to. To my vague surprise I noticed Martha and Mary doing the same thing.
“We can prob’ly manage tha’, Potter,” Mary said. “I’ll keep ye posted i’ Muggle Studies, okay?”
He flashed her a relieved smile and hastened his step so he could join Sirius, Remus and Peter, who were a few yards ahead of us.
Martha made Lily and Charlotte’s apologies to Professor Viridian as we ploughed into his classroom and found our regular seats. Unsure whether Charlotte would be joining us in the lesson at all, we decided to take copious notes so that we could fill them both in later on.
Viridian silenced the class with ease, as he always did. Again I was struck with the juxtaposition between his almost imbecilic appearance and his very shrewd mind and behaviour, and, my wand out, I waited with the rest of the class for him to begin.
“Wands away, please,” he said in that quiet voice of his which still for some reason managed to carry throughout the classroom with ease. We all put our wands away with mutters of disappointment. We had had very few Defence lessons without using our wands that were remotely interesting.
“Now, then, sixth-years,” he went on, “today we are going to discuss werewolves.” He ignored the general murmur that resonated through the room as we all tried to look interested. “I know you studied them extensively last year,” he went on, “and were tested on them in your OWL exams. However, I have looked at Professor Dingle’s curriculum and I believe that some aspects of his teaching were less than adequate. I have discussed this matter with Professor Dumbledore and he has agreed to allow me to take one lesson for each class from third year and above to attempt to rectify this.”
There was a sudden movement behind me and I turned to see James and Sirius had not put their wands away and were now clutching them angrily, their narrowed eyes fixed on Viridian. Remus was making warning sounds at them and Peter just looked intimidated, as he often did when they were in full flight.
Professor Viridian elected to ignore this little show. “Werewolves,” he said clearly, “are people. They are simply people who have been bitten by another werewolf, generally through no fault of their own. This is a key point that I want you to remember at all times when you are studying, reading about or discussing werewolves.”
He paused briefly, his gaze resting on James and Sirius, who I noticed had now put their wands down and seemed to have relaxed a little. In fact, they looked almost interested in what Professor Viridian was going to say, which was a marked contrast to their normal behaviour during his class. Viridian went on. “I am not claiming that werewolves are not monsters who can maim and kill. However, it is very important to remember that they only do these things when there is a full moon, that is, one night in every twenty-eight. For that one night they are not in control of their actions. For that one night, yes, they are monsters.
“However, for the other twenty-seven nights, and at all times during daylight, they are, like I said, people. They are not a danger to you or to anyone else during those times, unless they are not very nice people, in which case they’re as much a danger as any other wizard can be. But here I refer to character rather than anything physiological. For during the time they are not transformed, they are just like you or me in the physiological sense.
“Now, in the current war, some werewolves have openly proclaimed their allegiances to Lord Voldemort.” Several students gasped at his use of the name, myself probably included, but Viridian ignored it. “This is because Voldemort has promised to give them full acceptance. You can understand how that would be enticing for them. However, as I mentioned before, this is part of a person’s character, whether they would be likely to be convinced by that proposal, not a by-product of their condition. Not all werewolves have joined Voldemort, and not all of them will.”
Carol Jones’ hand was up. “But Professor,” she said, “surely you don’t mean to put us off our guard? Werewolves are still extremely dangerous.” Her eyes flicked to Remus and I remembered the absurd theory Snape had spouted the previous year – maybe Carol had believed it. Remus, in turn, was ignoring her and looking stonily ahead.
“I don’t disagree with you, Miss Jones,” said Viridian. “One night out of twenty-eight, when the moon is full, they are extremely dangerous. And you would all do well to remember to stay indoors during that time to minimise the chances of an attack. So I have no intention of putting you off your guard, for that one night. But what I am also trying to do is address the prejudice that exists around werewolves.” He was walking back and forth at the front of the class, but he paused and looked us all over.
“I know a werewolf,” he said eventually. “She’s a good woman. She has friends and a loving family and a job. Many of the people she knows don’t realise she’s a werewolf. And that’s because she could lose her job, her friends could abandon her and her family, who support her, could be ostracised by the rest of society. All because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time when she was a teenager.”
“But why would she lose her job, sir?” asked Davey Gudgeon.
Professor Viridian stopped pacing again and turned to face him. “Mr Gudgeon, if you learned that one of your classmates was a werewolf, what would you think?”
Davey started visibly. “I’d, er, um, I’d, um … I’d be shocked,” he admitted, his face scarlet.
“And would you treat that person the same way as you had previously?” asked Viridian. “Say it’s your best friend. If Mr Dearborn here was a werewolf, and you found out, what would you do? Not that I’m suggesting Mr Dearborn is a werewolf,” he went on. “But it’s an interesting hypothetical question.”
Davey was looking rather flummoxed. “I’d like to say that I wouldn’t treat him any differently, sir,” he said quietly, “but I’m not sure that’s true. I don’t know how I’d react.”
“And that is precisely the problem,” said Viridian with a smile. “This prejudice is ingrained into us as children. People have good intentions about being open minded about such things, but their actions do not always mirror their words. And so some employers, albeit subconsciously perhaps, will not employ werewolves. They perceive a danger to their other staff, to their customers, to themselves.”
He waved his wand and a pile of books appeared on his desk. “This book was released a year or two ago,” he said. “It’s called Hairy Snout, Human Heart, and it’s anonymous. The author, a werewolf, doesn’t wish to be identified due to the very prejudices I have just mentioned.” He flicked his wand again and the books soared across the room, one landing on each desk. “I want you to read it and write a two-foot summary, to be handed in to me next Friday.”
We caught up with Charlotte in the morning break. “Lily’s staying in the hospital wing for a bit,” she explained. “She doesn’t have any more classes today so Madam Pomfrey thought it was best if she just stays there until she feels up to leaving. She’s had a Calming Draught so that’ll help.”
“Probably a good idea,” I said. “It can’t be nice, having a shock like that. I guess it was lucky in a sense that it was a day she doesn’t have much on.”
“That reminds me,” said Charlotte, “what did I miss in Defence?”
Martha handed her a copy of Hairy Snout, Human Heart. “He talked to us about how werewolves are people too, who have just – what was it? – been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Homework is to read the book and hand in a summary next Friday.”
Charlotte groaned. “Read the whole book? How long is that going to take?”
Mary shrugged. “I suppose tha’ depends on hoo fas’ ye read,” she pointed out. “Bu’ it’s nae tha’ long a book, ye shoul’ be able t’ ge’ a chunk read by tonicht, even.”
Charlotte shook her head. “I’ve got Divination this afternoon. I guess I could get a start on it now, though … though I had planned to get to work on that Potions essay Slughorn wants by Monday.” She paused. “How long is the Defence essay supposed to be?”
Martha looked at her notes. “Two feet. So that’s not too bad. Almost short, compared to everything else we’ve got.” She looked at us questioningly. “Shall I take Lily’s copy of the book up to her, or do you think I should wait until she’s out of the hospital wing?”
“Tak’ it t’ her nou,” advised Mary. “It’ll give her summit else t’ think aboot.”
“Good idea,” I agreed. “And who knows? It might even be a decent read.”
And a decent read it indeed turned out to be. Once I started reading the book, that night in the common room, I had trouble putting it down. It was heartbreaking, the way society treated this person just because they’d had the misfortune to encounter a werewolf during the full moon. In a way it reminded me of the whole blood purity thing, where people were judged on something which again they had no power over – who their parents were – and reinstated my conviction that any assessment made about someone based on something they couldn’t control wasn’t an assessment worth taking any notice of.
I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, either. By Sunday night all the girls in my dorm had finished the book and were talking it over as we got ready for bed.
“I can’t get over it,” Charlotte said as she unbraided her hair. “I mean, I knew about werewolves – who doesn’t – but I’d never thought of what it would be like to actually be one. That’s horrible!”
Lily grinned: she had been in a much better state since her stay in the hospital wing and was almost back to her old self again. “I must say,” she said, “being Muggle-born I didn’t have the prejudices that most of you seem to have grown up with. We knew about werewolves, of course, but only in the context of horror stories – I don’t think any Muggles realise they’re real.” She paused, looking at Charlotte. “So to me this book is more sad than anything else – sad that someone would have to put up with that, even though what happened to them isn’t their fault.”
I nodded. “I had both the Muggle horror stories and the wizard prejudice, and they don’t exactly cancel each other out. But my dad always said to not credit every bad thing you read, and that there’s always more than one side to a story. So I guess this just confirms that.”
Martha nodded her agreement. “It was certainly an eye-opener, wasn’t it? I’ll admit it was something I’d never even thought about. Much like you, Charlotte.”
Mary was looking at the cover of her book, her brow furrowed. “I wonder if there’s a book lik’ it bu’ aboot vampires?” she asked. “If we’re t’ read aboot one of th’ dark creatures lik’ tha’, why nae th’ ithers?”
“Well, there’d have to have been a book written about that for us to read,” Charlotte pointed out.
Lily giggled suddenly. “Or we could just ask that Slytherin boy,” she said. “The one in second year who’s supposed to have a vampire grandfather or something. What’s his name again?”
“Death, wasn’t it?” said Martha, also giggling. “Something really appropriate like that.”
“That’s it,” agreed Charlotte. “Lorcan d’Eath. He’s in the Slug Club, solely because of the vampire thing, and Slughorn absolutely fawns over him. Poor kid – it must be bad enough going through life with a name like that, without being part vampire as well.”
Mary laughed. “Goo’ thing there are no werewolves i’ th’ school, then,” she said. “Slughorn’d be fawnin’ over them lik’ nobody’s business.”
Lily looked almost uncomfortable for a moment before her face broke into a grin. “Definitely a good thing,” she agreed. “If that book’s anything to go by they’d have a hard enough time of it without having to deal with Slughorn on top of everything else.”
“You’re right, Lils,” Charlotte said heavily, looking at the book’s cover again. “I had no idea it was that horrible. Makes me thank my lucky stars I’ve never been bitten, let me tell you.”
In late January notices went up on the common room boards stating that sixth-years who would be seventeen by August thirty-first were eligible to take Apparition lessons. You couldn’t get an Apparition licence until you were of age, but obviously the Ministry thought it a good idea to start teaching people the basics beforehand, particularly in the current climate when it could literally mean the difference between life and death if the Death Eaters got hold of you.
The lessons were due to begin in early February and would go for twelve weeks, so we all put the dates in our diaries and prepared to sacrifice both six Galleons, and our Saturday mornings for three months, for the greater good.
For the first class, the sixth-years gathered nervously in the Entrance Hall, waiting for direction from one of the Heads of House as to where the lessons would be. We understood that they were generally held on the lawns outside the castle, but if the weather was unsuitable then the Great Hall might be used. That first morning it was clear but cold and it was decided that the grounds would be used, despite the covering of snow that still blanketed the landscape.
Professor McGonagall introduced a very short wizard from the Ministry of Magic called Wilkie Twycross, who would be instructing us in the art of Apparition for the duration of the course. After the usual warnings (“the ban on Apparating at Hogwarts has been lifted, just for an hour and for this patch of ground only, so don’t try this anywhere else”), we were asked to arrange ourselves so that we had a clear five feet of space in front of us.
Obediently we put ourselves into orderly lines and rows, me immediately behind Mary, with Martha on my right, Charlotte in front of her and Lily behind her. Looking to my left I saw Remus Lupin, who smiled nervously, and I noticed Gerry Stebbins on Mary’s left, a hopeful look on his face. Hoops appeared in the spaces in front of us.
The small Ministry wizard was talking. “Apparition,” he said, “is mastery of the witch or wizard of the three Ds: Destination, Determination and Deliberation.”
We all looked at each other, confused – it may as well have been Chinese for all the sense I made of it.
“Destination,” went on the dry voice of Wilkie Twycross, “is the first step. Focus your mind clearly on your desired destination. In this case, your hoop.”
We all looked dutifully at the hoops on the snow in front of us, hoping we were focusing enough.
“The second step,” continued the little wizard, “is Determination. Focus your determination to occupy that spot you are visualising. This is the most important place you could possibly be! Make yourself yearn to be in that hoop!”
We all felt a little awkward now and nervously looked around to see if everyone else was doing what the Ministry wizard was telling us. After we all caught more eyes than we were comfortable with, we looked again at our hoops, trying to feel a yearning for that small enclosed patch of ground.
“Deliberation is the third step,” said Wilkie Twycross. “When I give the command – and only when I give the command – turn on the spot, feeling your way into nothingness, moving with deliberation!” I was sure the rest of the students there were just as baffled by this as I was, but focused on the hoop nonetheless. I could hear Twycross somewhere at the front of the class saying, “On my command, now. One. Two. THREE!!”
What? Were we supposed to be trying to Apparate already? I looked around to see the alarmed face of Remus on my left, who looked positively terrified at the thought. Martha, on the other hand, was focusing with uncommon determination on her hoop, and then very awkwardly fell forwards onto her face as she tried to Apparate.
Right, Laura, focus, I thought, trying to remember the order of the three Ds. Screwing up my face in concentration, I tried to move with deliberation into my hoop, and opened my eyes to find I hadn’t moved an inch.
Fortunately, neither had anyone else, except for a few variations on what had happened to Martha. Caradoc Dearborn appeared to have toppled forward as well, while Charon Avery actually jumped into the air, did a full three hundred and sixty degree turn, and landed back in his original spot. The Ministry wizard looked completely unperturbed at his class’ lack of success and simply marshalled us into another attempt.
By the end of the hour-long lesson, the closest anyone had come to Apparating was Greta Catchlove from Ravenclaw, who had a couple of fingernails make it to her hoop without her. The Heads of House were with her in a jiffy and quickly reattached the fingernails, but Greta looked distinctly unimpressed. Which was how the rest of us felt about Wilkie Twycross and his Three Ds, we were sick to death of them and thought there had to be a better way of teaching the difficult process of Apparition.
Once the lesson was over I discovered Remus wanted to talk to me. “Hey, Laura?”
I looked at him. “How’s tricks, Remus?”
“Pretty good, pretty good,” he said, smiling as he fell into step beside me on our way back to the castle. “Look, the guys and I were wondering …” He trailed off, apparently unsure how to proceed.
“Yes?” I prompted.
“Well, do you remember how our birthdays are only three or four days apart?” he said.
“That’s right,” I agreed, remembering the conversation back before Christmas.
“Well,” he said again, “we’re both turning seventeen this year, and the guys wanted to throw me a party and I figured, since it’s your birthday at the same time, did you want to make it a joint party?”
I considered that. I hadn’t even thought about my birthday yet, let alone whether to throw a party or not. This was certainly a better offer than any others I might receive. “That’d be great,” I said, smiling again. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” He looked pleased. “They’re talking about the Saturday night the weekend following, which I think is the twelfth. The idea is to wait until we actually are of age, so that if we get caught drinking it’s less of an issue.”
That was logical. “Fair enough. Just let me know what you want me to do for it,” I said, wanting to pull my weight.
“Ah, don’t worry about that,” he said. “The guys are old pros at throwing parties now, they’ll have it all in hand. Just make sure you bring the rest of the girls.”
I laughed. “Let me guess. James’ orders?”
“How did you know?” he asked. “Yes, Prongs wanted to be sure I’d ask you that. Something to do with a certain redhead, I believe.”
“No worries,” I said. “I’ll make sure Lily’s there.”
Remus grinned again and, turning around to look at the group following us, gave James, Sirius and Peter the thumbs up. James beamed at me. “Thanks, Cauldwell,” I heard him call out.
As I turned back I spied some early daffodils and made a quick detour to pick one. Unfortunately this meant I was late getting back inside, and managed to walk almost headfirst into an irate Argus Filch, who glowered at my snow-covered boots.
“What’s this?” he asked nastily. “Tracking snow through the castle! I’ve got a mind to give you a detention for this!”
I looked at him in surprise – I hadn’t realised that wet footprints were a punishable offence. Unfortunately at that point I also spotted Sirius appearing from the direction of the dungeons , and he obviously thought that Filch was a good subject for parody. As Filch remonstrated about my apparently deplorable behaviour, Sirius stood behind him and made faces based on what he was saying – rolling his eyes at one statement, waving a derisive finger around his ear at another. Eventually I cracked: Sirius was just too funny and I couldn’t concentrate on Filch at all, and I stood there shaking with silent laughter as the caretaker finished his vent and eventually decided I needn’t be formally punished, before ducking into a nearby classroom and laughing out loud.
Sirius joined me in the dusty room. “What’s up?” he asked innocently, as though he’d had nothing to do with my behaviour.
“You’re what’s up,” I said, trying unsuccessfully to be stern. “You making those faces – how was I supposed to concentrate with you doing that over his shoulder?”
“Well, with that tripe he was spouting, what was I supposed to do?” he asked indignantly as we checked Filch had in fact disappeared before heading back into the castle proper. “Getting in trouble for a bit of snow on your boots? I’d hate to see his face when James comes back from Quidditch practice sometimes. Actually, strike that, I’d love to see his face when James comes back from Quidditch practice, it’d be priceless.”
I had the giggles by now and couldn’t stop laughing even if I wanted to. “How on earth does he deal with Peeves?” I managed to get out. “I saw him dropping Dungbombs on some unsuspecting first-years the other day.”
“He doesn’t,” Sirius said. “Only the Bloody Baron can control Peeves.”
“But the Bloody Baron doesn’t clean up after him,” I pointed out. “Maybe we should just add Peeves’ name to that list on Filch’s door of things that are banned in the castle – that should do the trick, shouldn’t it? I mean, it works so well for everything else.”
He laughed. “I like that idea. Though for good measure we should probably put James and I down as well, don’t you think?”
I laughed again. “You said it, not me. I won’t be held responsible for anything to do with you lot.”
The first Hogsmeade visit of 1977 was scheduled for February nineteenth, as we were duly informed when the notices went up the next day. Most of the sixth-years were looking forward to it immensely, whether to just get out of the castle for a spell, or to stock up on whatever supplies they were running low on, be they from Zonko’s, Honeydukes or Gladrags. My expectations for the day, however, changed significantly in the library on the Saturday afternoon a week beforehand.
I was sitting quietly on my own at one of the tables out of direct sight of Madam Pince, the librarian. Not that I was up to anything untoward, but she was so protective of the library books that if I breathed on them the wrong way she might come up and try to confiscate them from me. Hence a more secluded table. On it I had my Ancient Runes homework, an inkwell and some quills, three or four piles of textbooks, and my Rune Dictionary.
Suddenly I was aware of another person at my table. Scowling slightly and ruing the loss of my personal space, I looked up and saw Bertram Aubrey, seventh-year Hufflepuff.
“Mind if I sit down?” he asked politely.
“Go for it,” I said, gathering my books more tightly around me so he would have more room. I looked through them and found my copy of Advanced Rune Translation.
He sat down but didn’t pull out any homework or books, just sat watching me for a little while. It was distinctly unnerving. Finally I gave in and looked him straight in the face.
“Can I help you?” It probably sounded somewhat rude but I didn’t know what else to say.
He hesitated, rocking from side to side on his chair. Finally he spoke. “It’s Laura Cauldwell, right?”
“That’s right,” I said, trying to keep my voice friendly while I assessed him. He was a nice looking boy without being stunning. Average height, so two or three inches taller than me, short dark hair, dark eyes, slightly uneven teeth and a few freckles, bit of a stocky build, but overall a decent package.
“Right,” he said. “This is awkward … I’m Bertram Aubrey,” he continued, extending a hand for me to shake.
“Nice to meet you,” I said, although I knew precisely who he was. Like most schools, you tended to know the kids in the years above you much better than those in the years below, and Bertram had also been a Beater on the Hufflepuff Quidditch team a couple of years previously. Which would account for the stocky build, now I thought about it.
“Right,” he said again, clearly uneasy. “Um, Laura, would you like to go to Hogsmeade with me in a couple of weeks?”
My jaw dropped open in shock. Was Bertram Aubrey asking me out? Me? When someone like Lily Evans was single? Fortunately I recovered before I caught any flies in my mouth.
“Thanks, Bertram, that would be lovely,” I said, forcing a smile onto my face.
He looked so relieved it was almost funny. “Great,” he beamed. “I’ll come and see you next week to work out the details.” And with that he stood up and virtually danced out of the library, leaving me feeling an interesting combination of confused and rather pleased.
Author’s note: Yep, Laura finally gets a love life – I thought it would be cruel to deny her for too much longer. :) As for werewolves, well once I realised that JKR had said that book was published in 1975, it fit in far too well not to use.
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