Chapter 3 : Guilty
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The Headmaster went and stood behind his desk, a thunderous frown upon his face. His twinkling blue eyes were flashing lightning and he looked like some sorcerer of old about to blast his unruly apprentices into grease spots upon the carpet. "Tonight I learned something that has shocked and angered me beyond belief. Tonight I discovered something that makes me bitterly ashamed to call any of you members of my House. In the past I overlooked certain behavior from you three, figuring it was simple mischief that you would grow out of. I overlooked the complaints I received from Professor Slughorn and Professor Sprout, from students like Severus Snape. But what has occurred this night I cannot overlook. Nor can I accept it as mere mischief. Have you three any comprehension of what you have done at all? Well? Answer me!"
Sirius looked at James, but his best mate seemed apathetic and not inclined to defend himself with his quick tongue as was his wont. So Padfoot cleared his throat and said calmly, "Sir, it was just a prank. If Snivellus had stuck to his own kind and not tried going out with Evans, we never would have had to teach him a lesson. We just wanted to scare him, to get him to leave Evans alone. You see, James fancies Evans but she wouldn't even look at him 'cause of Snape—the little rotter—so we figured we could make her see what a coward he was by showing him Moony. It was just a lark, nobody was supposed to get hurt—"
"But, Mr. Black, somebody did get hurt," Dumbledore interjected. "According to Mr. Pettigrew, you three have been sneaking down the the Whomping Willow every full moon to unchain a werewolf and romp in the moonlight with him as if he were your pet mastiff! He told me that you have illegally learned how to become Animagi so you could "watch over" a transformed werewolf while running through both the Forbidden Forest and Hogsmeade in the dead of night. Is that true?"
"Yes, sir," James answered. "But nothing ever really happened—"
"Because you were lucky, Mr. Potter. Extraordinarily lucky. But now that has run out. Now the werewolf has turned upon you and tasted human flesh. You have caused poor Remus to commit the worst crime a werewolf could, biting and Turning a human. Two humans." Dumbledore's hand slammed down on his desk. "You were foolish and stupid, thinking that you could control a fully Shifted werewolf all by yourself. It was all a great lark to you, disobeying school rules, unchaining a beast and allowing him to run beside you, wasn't it? It never once occurred to you that you could have caused people to die, did it? To be torn apart and eaten if Lupin become hungry enough? No, it's all fun and games until someone gets bitten!"
"Lily wasn't supposed to be there, sir!" James cried. "It was just supposed to be Snape."
"Oh, and does that excuse your actions?" asked the Headmaster coldly. "That you only meant to harm one student instead of two?"
"Snivellus deserved it!" cried Sirius hotly. "He's a little turd, always trying to get us in trouble, always sneaking after us."
"Mr. Black, Severus would have had nothing to report to me if you had learned to stay out of trouble. Instead you court it till your own detriment. Furthermore, no one deserves to be attacked by a werewolf. No one! Especially not a young boy, Slytherin or otherwise!" The Headmaster growled, his eyes blazing cobalt fire. "Do you not comprehend the serious of your offense, young man? Your so-called prank almost resulted in the death of not one, but three students!"
"Three? But sir . . ." James began.
"Yes, three, Mr. Potter!" snapped Dumbledore, glaring at the boy so fiercly that he shrank away from him. "Three, for if the Ministry ever became aware that Lupin bit two people tonight, he would be under a sentence of death. He would be Kissed by a Dementor and that would be the end of him. And had he bitten either Mr. Snape or Miss Evans in the right spot, he could have torn out their throats. All of that, Mr. Potter, because of your hurt pride over a girl! Why did you not simply ask that she go out with you?"
"I did!" James said, blushing. "She told me no."
"Then you should have left her be. Or didn't your father ever teach you that when a girl says no it's no?"
"But it was wrong, sir! She doesn't belong with Snape! She never did!" James cried passionately.
"That was not your decision to make. It always belonged to Lily. Your petty jealous and stubbornness have caused this terrible incident to occur. You have altered irrevocably the lives of Lily and Severus forever. Because of you, Remus' life hangs in the balance, because of you two innocents are cursed forever, and all you can say is that Severus Snape does not deserve Lily Evans! Have you no common decency within you, boy, or has that been buried beneath your arrogance and pride?"
James dropped his gaze, unable to bear the censure of Dumbledore's eyes. "I . . . I'm sorry, sir. But it's like Sirius said . . . I just wanted him scared, not dead."
"So you put him in a room with a werewolf? And you claim that you didn't know the risks? That is like saying you shoved a child in a cage with a tiger and expected him not to get eaten! It is ridiculous!" thundered the old wizard.
"But we're really sorry, sir!" bawled Peter.
Dumbledore turned and pinned the boy with his cerulean eyes. "Sorry is not enough this time, boy. Nor is detention. This is not something you can shrug off by writing a few lines or scrubbing the dungeon. This is deadly serious."
"W-What will happen to us?" asked Sirius, his insolence suddenly wiped away by the Headmaster's proclamation.
"By all rights, I ought to snap your wands and expel you. What you have done tonight and previous nights is inexcusable. You have behaved no better than criminals, which is how the Ministry will treat you. You are sixteen, old enough to know better! You are a disgrace to the honorable name of Gryffindor."
"No, professor!" wailed Peter. "Please don't expel us! It was a mistake!"
"A mistake that has cost three people their lives. Go back to your common room and think about what has occurred this night. I shall inform you of my final decision in the morning. Move!"
A wave of his wand and the three Marauders found themselves propelled out of their seats and out the door of the office.
They quickly made their way down the staircase, Peter moaning and sniveling the whole way until Sirius slapped him.
"Why did you have to open your trap?" Black cried. "You bloody traitor!" He drew back his hand again.
"Stop it!" James cried, grabbing Sirius' wrist. "He had to tell, Dumbledore already knew they were bitten. It's no good blaming Wormtail now. "
"But Prongs! He said he was going to expel us!" cried Sirius.
"What did you expect, Sir? A pat on the head and a lolly? Of course he'll expel us!"
"But nobody died!" protested Sirius.
"Shut up, Padfoot! Lily will never forgive me for turning her into a werewolf. Never." His head hanging, he shoved open the stone gargoyle then went directly to the portrait hole, his chest tight with unshed tears.
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Back in his office, Dumbledore slumped heavily in his chair. He felt every one of his one hundred and fifty years tonight. It had been over fifty years since a student was expelled at Hogwarts, and now he would have to expel three together. He wished there were some way out of this terrible dilemma. But he could see none. He made his way to a secret panel and touched it. The wall slid back to reveal his quarters. He would sleep on it tonight. Tomorrow he would tell Remus what had happened and then inform the Potters, Pettigrews, and Blacks of what their sons had done. For the first time in a long time, he dreaded the coming of the dawn.
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Dawn had just touched the tops of the trees when Dumbledore made his way out of his warm bed and down to the dungeons. No one, not even the ghosts, saw him leave. He carefully manipulated the humpback witch statue and entered the tunnel leading to Honeydukes. Once inside the shop, he Apparated to the Shrieking Shack, where he found Remus slumped over on the floor, still manacled by the silver collar and chains. He was now human again.
The old wizard reached out and touched the boy's shoulder. "Remus, my boy."
The young werewolf jerked his head up, his amber eyes meeting those of the Headmaster. "Sir? Is it morning already?"
"It is," said the Headmaster evenly, waving his wand. The collar and chains melted away like smoke. Normally he would leave them upon the wall, but he dared not leave evidence behind like that. Not now. He helped the boy to his feet, then said, very softly, "Remus, what do you remember about last night?"
"I . . . not much. Just the Shift . . . and then . . ." his brow furrowed. "There were screams . . . not mine . . . and blood . . . blood in my mouth . . ." He shuddered. "Oh, God! What happened? What did I do?" He could not recall much when he was in were form, it was all hazy.
Dumbledore gazed at him sorrowfully. "My poor boy! Remus, I am so sorry . . ."
Remus listened in mounting horror as Dumbledore spoke, telling him all about the "prank" his friends had played upon Snape, how Lily had come to his rescue, but it had all been too late. One phrase stuck in his head, repeating itself over and over like a death knell. You have bitten both of them. Bitten them and infected them. Both of them are cursed. He put his head in his hands, shaking his head back and forth. "No. No. No." He moaned, as if by denying it had happened would make it so.
"Remus . . ." Albus' hand clasped his shoulder.
He jerked away, flinching. "Don't! Don't touch me!" he hissed. "I'm a monster! I've bitten two students!"
"No. You didn't know what you were doing."
"That doesn't matter! Don't you see? Now we're all cursed!" Remus panted, his eyes wild. "And now I am dead!" He wrapped his arms about himself and curled over, shaking with sobs.
"Remus, I won't let that happen. I will do everything I can to prevent it . . ."
He lifted his head, and there was a terrible haunted broken look in his eyes. "Like you prevented me from biting Snape and Lily? Spare me your empty promises." Two tears trickled down his cheeks. "We both know I'll be hunted on all sides once this gets out. I'll need to leave. Soon. But first, I have a few things to say to my friends." He bared his teeth as he said that, and anger flickered behind his amber eyes. "And also an apology to make. Excuse me, Professor."
Before Dumbledore could say anything further, he turned and ran towards the tunnel entrance leading to the Whomping Willow.
"Remus!" the old wizard called. "Don't do anything hasty! Meet me at my office before dinner and we can discuss this!"
Remus didn't even acknowledge his request. He just kept running, his heart filled with terror and loathing and bitter regret.
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Sirius woke to find a hand clamped across his mouth and started to struggle, before recognizing both the hand and the amber eyed gaze glaring down at him as belonging to Remus Lupin. His breath wooshed out of him. He tried to speak, but Remus cut him off. "Shut up. Don't say anything. Get up, get dressed, and meet me in the Room of Requirement in five minutes." Remus' voice was harsh and cold, implacable.
Then the other was gone, moving to wake Peter and James as well. Afterwards, the young werewolf departed the dorm, heading to the Room of Requirement. He was struggling to get control over his wayward emotions and right then did not trust himself not to try and throttle his former best mates. The room had chosen, this time, to decorate itself in calming blue and cream walls, with a comfy blue couch and thick throw pillows. A white rug was in front of a large hearth and some tea and cakes were upon a table. Remus had asked the room to create a safe haven for him.
He made himself sit upon the couch instead of pacing, trying to keep calm. But he knew there was no safe haven for him here. Not anymore. Not after what he had done. Sickness curled in his gut, stabbing him with a thousand knives, accompanied by the sour stench of betrayal. He detested the werewolf nature that made him so aggressive and unpredictable, but this time it was not the werewolf within that had betrayed him, but his best friends. He could not believe how they had done such a thing, but the Headmaster had not lied.
Bitten. Bitten. Bitten.
He had done the unforgivable and infected two people.
He dropped his head to his knees and shook with loathing.
Until the door creaked open and James, Sirius, and Peter walked in.
Lupin's nostrils flared as he took in their scents, heavily overlayed with guilt, fear, and regret. They triggered something primal within him and the wolf within snarled and lifted its head. Remus sprang to his feet, his eyes glittering with fury.
"Moony, about last night—we can explain—" began Sirius, always ready with a glib excuse.
But Remus was not in the mood to listen. In two seconds he was across the room, his hands fastening in Sirius' robe, slamming the other boy against the wall hard. "That's bullshit!" the werewolf rasped, the anger surging up from somewhere deep within. He rarely let himself become angry as a human, preferring to lock that part away. Until now. "Do you know what you did to me last night? With your bloody stupid prank? Do you?"
Sirius struggled against Remus' hold. "Moony, it was an accident . . ."
"Is that what you call it, you arsehole! An accident that led me to bite two innocent people? Huh? Because you put them there! Are you bloody insane! You know what I am, what I can do!"
"Nobody was supposed to get hurt!" squeaked Peter. "Snivellus was supposed to agree to give up Lily to James and maybe wet himself after he saw you and that was all."
Abruptly Remus released Sirius and pounced upon Pettigrew, grabbing him and shaking him like a terrier with a rat. "All? You miserable stupid bastard! How dare you tell me that was all you wanted to do? You used me, dammit! Like I was some kind of dog! How many times have I told you that I'm dangerous after I've Shifted? You've known my secret for three years! Do you think I wear silver chains and manacles to make a bloody fashion statement, Wormtail? Do you?" he roared, shaking Pettigrew so hard his head flipflopped back and forth.
Peter squealed in terror.
"Remus!" James called. "Let him go. If you want to hit someone, hit me."
"Piss off, Potter! I'm through taking your orders!" He dropped Pettigrew to the ground and turned upon his last best friend. "I trusted you, you sodding ass! You were supposed to make sure I was safe! You promised!"
"I know. God, Remus, I'm sorry. I never thought it would go this far . . .never thought Lily would get bitten . . . or Snivellus either . . ."
"Guess you're not so perfect after all, are you, Potter!" spat Remus. "You and your brilliant schemes to win back a girl who will never give you the time of day! I told you and told you to just let it go. But did you listen? No, because the great James Potter is above such advice! The great James Potter knows he's every girl's fantasy and can't figure out why she wouldn't want to throw herself into his arms. Well, I know why! Because she doesn't need you! She's already got someone who cares for her, maybe even loves her. But you couldn't accept that and so you used me to get rid of your rival! Damn you to hell, Potter! You've made me into a beast—a ravening bloody beast who needs to be put down!"
"No!" James cried. "You're wrong, Moony! I'd never let them do that to you."
Remus laughed harshly. "Oh, really? You're the reason I'm going to get a bullet in my brain, you bastard! And the reason why both Severus and Lily are cursed forever! Do you even know what you've done to them? Of course you don't. You've always treated my curse like a big joke. But it's not! It's not!" He started to cry quietly.
James moved to touch him lightly on the shoulder.
Remus snarled wordlessly and spun about, slamming the Marauder in the teeth and knocking him down. "Keep . . .your . . . hands . . .off . . .me!" He bit out each word, a growl rasping just beneath the surface. "You betrayed me, all of you! You've made me into a monster! That's not what friends do."
"Remus, you don't understand!" Sirius protested.
"I do, Black. For the first time in a long time, I understand perfectly," answered the werewolf. "Stay away from me, Sirius. My days are numbered and I would prefer not to spend them with you. It's over."
Then Lupin spun on his heel and stalked out the door. He wanted to curl up in a corner somewhere and howl. But he didn't have that luxury. He had to keep up appearances and that meant going to class. He had to act normal, even though he felt anything but, so not to attract attention. Later, he would go and see the Headmaster. Perhaps Dumbledore could help him decide where to go next, because his days at Hogwarts were over.
Dumbledore sat at his desk in his office, just staring at the parchment and quill before him. He did not want to have to write these three letters, but the boys' parents had to be informed of what had occurred and what punishment he had to mete out. He had thought and thought last night before finally falling asleep if there was a way to get around expelling the three. He had almost thought he could avoid that dreaded punishment. Almost. As of now, no one save the Marauders, himself, Lily, and Severus knew about Remus. Perhaps he could avoid revealing that secret. Perhaps . . .
He had been mulling over possibilities after breakfast and nearly all morning, while the letters remained unwritten. He felt as though he were mentally slogging through a bog, and trying without success to extricate himself from the quagmire. He had thought he might have found a solution when a knock came upon the door and Minerva called, "Albus, you have a visitor! She claims she must speak with you directly, that it is of the utmost urgency. Her name is Briar Stone."
Albus felt his blood freeze. Briar Stone . . . werewolf hunter.
He cleared his throat, then said, "How delightful! Do send her in."
The door swung open and a tall young woman dressed in leathers sporting an arsenal came through. He knew her only by reputation, she had never attended Hogwarts, she had grown up in North America, born in Ontario, Canada, and then moving from there to Montana as a young girl. In the past couple of years she had hired out in Europe and Russia and now she was here in Scotland. He had a queasy feeling that she was tracking his oldest resident werewolf. "Hello, Headmaster," she said, her voice was low and not unpleasant. She gave him a slight smile, but it never reached her eyes. They were cold as winter hoarfrost and no warmth lurked in their depths.
"Good morning, Miss Stone." He made himself smile genially at her, playing the merry old wizard to the hilt. What did she know? What did she suspect? "It's a pleasure to meet you. What brings you to this part of the world? I hope you don't plan on furthering your education?" he chuckled.
She lofted an eyebrow. "I prefer my education to come from real life, not a classroom. What I do isn't covered in a textbook, Headmaster."
"Indeed not, my dear. That was . . . a little joke." Dumbledore replied, smiling. "Your reputation precedes you, Miss Stone."
"I see. A few days ago I received a request from a villager to come and check out some strange happenings near here. This person seemed to think that there was a werewolf roaming nearby, and not one who was registered. A rogue. Hunting and Shifting near a school full of children. Have you perhaps heard or seen anything to match that description?"
"No, I'm afraid not. I am not one to be awake in the dead of night. I'm an old man and need my rest."
"Then it is a good thing that I am mostly nocturnal. Last night I heard howls coming from the trees bordering Hogsmeade and when I went to look out my upstairs window I caught a glimpse of a werewolf running along the village perimeter, chasing a large white stag and a black dog was following behind it. Most unusual. Have you ever seen a black dog hereabouts? Or a white stag?"
"Me? No. But the Forbidden Forest is full of deer. There may be white ones among them, you ought to ask my gamekeeper, Rubeus Hagrid. He knows the creatures that roam the forest far better than I. Perhaps he might know whom the dog belonged to as well."
"I mention this because a dog normally would avoid even the scent of a werewolf. Unless he was a werewolf's familiar." Briar said, her voice hard. "Do any of your students have a black dog as a familiar?"
"No. Students are only permitted to bring cats, owls, and toads to school. Perhaps the dog is a stray?"
"Possibly. I came here to warn you, Headmaster. With a werewolf roaming about, you'll need to keep a watch on your students. Tell them to keep indoors whenever possible and to never go out at night. Werewolves are predators and won't hesitate to attack and eat a child. They are mad animals, but cunning."
Dumbledore frowned. "But this one seemed to be hunting a deer."
"A wolf will hunt what it can catch at the time. I trailed this one to your grounds, Headmaster. It seemed to vanish when it reached that guardian willow of yours. Strange. I also found bloodstains upon the grass. Fresh blood." Her eyes bored into the Headmaster's own. "Would you know if one of your students was outside the castle last night?"
"What are you suggesting, Miss Stone?"
"I'm suggesting that maybe a student of yours encountered a werewolf last night and got bitten. If that's the case, you should inform me immediately, they're going to need treatment and to be monitored. It also means that the werewolf I need to hunt is a man eater, and doubly dangerous. It needs to be put down. For the safety of us all."
"Are you certain, Miss Stone, that there was blood on the ground? It was dark, you might have been mistaken . . ."
"I'm not. I've been a hunter since I was twelve, I know what blood feels like and smells like. This wasn't blood from a animal, either. There were no hoofprints beside it. Only the prints of human feet. Which can mean only one thing. That the person got hurt running from the werewolf or that the werewolf attacked and bit them. I'd suggest you question all your students, Headmaster, and maybe send them all to the infirmary for a checkup."
"I will take it under advisement."
She snorted. "You seem awfully calm for someone who has just learned that a werewolf is in the vicinity, and may have possibly harmed one of your students," Briar said. "Are you an advocate of werewolf rights, Headmaster? Do you believe, like those other deluded imbeciles, that werewolves are like humans and entitled to the same rights?"
"Yes, I do. It is hardly the wizard's fault that he was bitten by a werewolf and cursed."
"True, although some do seek it out for thrills," Briar sneered. "However, the nature of the curse strips away the wizard's humanity until there is nothing left save the beast. Eternally ravenous, eternally savage, and eternally vicious. By the time they Shift, there is nothing human left within them. They have become the monster out of legend. And then all we can do is to hunt them down and end the threat."
"What about mercy? Once this was a human being."
"Once, but no more. I don't believe in showing mercy to a predator that wants to tear out my throat and eat me for lunch. Show mercy to a werewolf and you're dead. Now then, I will warn you that anyone harboring a known werewolf who is unregistered will be subject to the full penalty of the law, which would include fines and suspension of your teaching license and even removal from your position as Headmaster. The Ministry has issued a new bounty on werewolf pelts and claws, they want them eradicated, and believe once that is done, the curse shall be ended for good."
"But . . . some werewolves live peaceably and have never bitten anyone! Why should they be killed?"
"It's only a matter of time, Headmaster. All weres have the killer instinct in them, they might go tame for a while, but sooner or later they all go mad and start killing. It's in their nature. Trust me. I know."
Something wistful flashed for a split second in the woman's eyes. Then it was gone and she looked cold and purposeful once again. "I'm going to hunt in the Forbidden Forest today, see what I can turn up. If your gamekeeper wishes to come along, fine. If I don't find anything there, I'll keep coming back here and waiting for it to show itself again. It's bound to return, they always return where there's an easy source of food. If you find any of your students showing signs of a werewolf bite or sight it, contact me. I'm staying at the Three Broomsticks." Her eyes narrowed, there was something not quite right here, she could feel it but not pinpoint it. "Remember, if you're caught aiding and abetting a man eater it's cause for severe penalties. It's not worth your job, Headmaster."
"I thank you for your concern, Miss Stone. I shall do as you ask, but I really don't think it's necessary."
"Better safe than sorry, I always say. Goodbye, Headmaster." She turned and left the office, her cloak swishing about her booted ankles.
He listened to her depart down the stairs. When he was certain she was gone, he began to swear roundly. This was all he needed. He had to get Severus, Lily, and Remus out of here soon, before the werewolf hunter began to grow any more suspicious. It was said that Briar Stone could scent the Change in a werewolf's body, even when in human shape. It was what made her so deadly as a hunter, that she could track a were even as a human. Dumbledore dared not risk it. The castle was no longer safe. It also meant that the two Marauders had been seen in their Animagus forms. Who knew what else Briar Stone might have discovered and not revealed to him? That wintery gaze missed little.
He recalled Remus in the Shrieking Shack, sobbing in shock and horror, and insisting he was a murderer. He recalled Severus and Lily, burning with fever in the secret room, doomed to Shift when the moon was high. He also recalled his lecture last night to the three Marauders, and how he had judged them guilty of endangering lives with their reckless decision. No, he had to go through with what he had said, or else look like a namby pamby fool. He would expel them . . . it was deserved and it would show both them and their victims that such would never be tolerated again. He could not afford to be soft. But one thing he would do . . .withhold the real reason for the expulsion. At least in public. The parents would know the truth, he would not lie to them. But he would swear them to secrecy.
He wondered sadly if he had made a mistake all those years ago allowing Lupin to come to Hogwarts? He had promised John and Rachel Lupin that their son would be safe here and his secret would never be revealed. He had failed in that task miserably. Sighing, Albus Dumbledore began to write, his pen scratching quickly across the parchment.
Sorry this took so long to update but I've been working on a new story called Lily's Defender with Alethea27. on ff.net
Next: Remus talks with the Headmaster and Severus and Lily. Plans are made to remove them from the castle and someone unexpected shows up to help. Plus a Ceremony of Shattering occurs.
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