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Chapter 8 : The Truth
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The full-moons came and went, and Remus surrendered himself to the enemy within. It was scary and it was horrible, but it only happened once a month, for all the other days things were fine; Remus played Exploding Snap or chess with Mum, he read his books on King Arthur, and he listened to Quidditch on the radio with Dad. He didn’t venture outside much, because he didn’t like the dirty looks and insults that were thrown his way. But he soon learned to keep his head down and his eyes on his shoes. He would whistle to himself to drown out he screams from younger children and the insults from adults. He kept convincing himself that none of it mattered, that none of it meant anything, that none of those fools knew the first thing about him, that they were just passing judgement on something they didn’t understand. He would prove them all wrong in the end; he would show the world that there was nothing wrong with werewolves, that they were just ordinary people, exactly the same as everyone else.
His future looked bright, because his future had Hogwarts in it. Remus was finally eleven, so he was finally old enough to walk through the hallowed halls of that famous castle. On the day Remus physically turned eleven, he was deeply disappointed when no letter from Hogwarts arrived for him. Mum tried to console him by telling him over and over that they don’t start sending out letters until July at the earliest. But Remus couldn’t be consoled. He didn’t want to have any birthday cake or to read any of the new books he had received.
If truth be told, Remus was terrified. Now that he was eleven, now that he was finally old enough to receive the letter he wanted so desperately, he was completely petrified of what would happen if the letter didn’t come. Hogwarts for him had become a light in the dark, it was a source of hope, the only one he had. Hogwarts was his great escape; he would be in a school full of new people who didn’t know his name or what he was. He had a great chance of making some real friends. He would be surrounded by other people, not just his mum and dad. He could play Quidditch and maybe even try and claim a place on his house team. Then there would be all those great lessons, all the new books he would get to read and all the adventures he would have in a castle full of secret passageways, dungeons and towers.
He tried not to think about what would happen to him at Hogwarts during the full-moon. In his head, his life in Hogwarts didn’t have the full-moon in it. In his imagination the magic of the castle protected him from the moon’s beam, and while he was inside those enchanted stone walls, he wouldn’t turn into a werewolf. He would be safe. He would be normal. Everything would be okay.
Mum and Dad brought up the subject of Hogwarts a lot, mostly during dinner time. They reminded him over and over that he shouldn’t be disappointed if he doesn’t get a letter, because not everyone got into Hogwarts. But Paul had told Remus that everyone got in, that as long as you had magic, you got in. So when Mum and Dad started talking like this Remus just crushed his mashed potato with his fork and tired not to listen to them, tried to convince himself that the letter would come, that being a werewolf wouldn’t matter at all once he stepped through those oak front doors.
Deep down Remus knew he was lying to himself, knew that all the teachers and even the great Dumbledore would treat him like the rest of the world did; that they would see him as a monster and a threat, and they would as easily let a troll attend the school than someone like him. But the lie was all Remus had, it was the only thing he could hold onto, and he would hold onto it for as long as he could; the lie would have to be forcefully taken from him, without any hope of retrieval, for him to finally admit that he was not going to Hogwarts.
As July drew nearer, Remus had trouble sleeping. He was no longer looking forward to getting his letter, he was more terrified of not getting it. What would happen to him if it didn’t arrive? He would be stuck here at home, cut off from the whole world. He loved his parents very much, but he desperately needed a friend, just someone he could hang out with, play Quidditch with, talk to. If the letter didn’t come, Remus would have to surrender to the fact that for the rest of his life his parents would be the only two people in the world he could have any sort of real human connection with. It was a sad prospect, and one he did not want to think about.
When the 1st July came, Remus very nearly started crying when the letter didn’t arrive. He could feel his eyes starting to sting and he had to blink furiously to fight back the tears. He convinced himself that the letter would come tomorrow, but when tomorrow came and the letter didn’t arrive then either, Remus told himself over and over that it would come the next day and the next.
As July dragged on, Remus felt like he was losing his mind. He couldn’t sleep anymore, and when he did manage to drift off his dreams where haunted by large, dark birds, with leering eyes, carrying letters that marked his doom. He would wake up from these dreams shivering and drenched in sweat, like he used to wake up from his old nightmare about the monster in the woods. Remus didn’t like it, he didn’t like it at all. Soon, he found he had lost his appetite too, found that he wasn’t able to read his books anymore or listen to Quidditch on the wireless. He just paced up and down in the garden until the sun went down, staring sky-wards, convincing himself that the letter was on its way, that he would see the owl delivering it any day now.
Please let the letter come, please let the letter come, please let the letter come, Remus said over and over inside his head, convinced that the more times he said it, the greater his chance of receiving the letter would be. Please let the letter come, please let the letter come, please let the letter come.
His transformation that month was the worst he could remember to date. His whole body was screaming out in pain after it, and he slept for a full four days. When he woke up his brain was so groggy that he wasn’t able to even stand up. Mum got really worried, so did Dad, and Remus knew things were really bad when Dad started to get worried. But Remus’s mind was so fuzzy that he couldn’t even dwell on the fact that his transformation was getting worse. He just lay in bed after the full-moon. He didn’t know who he was or where he was, his brain was that exhausted. He knew he must exist, because he felt the warm blankets cover his body as he tried to endure the pain pounding in each of his limbs. All the world contained was blankets and pain. He didn’t know anything else.
Then he heard a strange tapping noise. He didn’t know what it was, he knew it was a tapping noise but he couldn’t figure out what was tapping on what. His brain was too slow to work it out. In his bleary, exhausted state, he couldn’t even tell if the noise was real, or something in his head: the sound of his throbbing brain tapping against his skull, perhaps. The noise persisted though, getting louder if anything.
Then Remus remembered he had eyes and tried to open them. They were so heavy, and didn’t want to be opened. His eye-lids kept falling back down into their closed state. Everything he saw was a blur of odd shapes, shapes that seemed familiar, but at the same time not.
He continued to fight with his heavy eye-lids, willing them to stay open long enough so he could see what was making the loud tapping noise. There was a strange shadow at his window, but he was high up in his room, there shouldn’t be anything at his window. Then he thought that maybe it was a bird that was just resting on his windowsill. He continued to look at the blurred shape and the more he blinked, the more solid it seemed to appear. It was an awfully big bird, and it had large amber eyes. Remus lifted his head off the pillow slightly, it felt like his head had been filled with sand, it was that heavy. It was then that he realised that the bird at his window wasn’t any old bird. It was an owl.
Suddenly, a fire had been lit in Remus’s brain. He threw back his blankets. His whole body screamed in protest at being moved so roughly and unexpectedly. But Remus ignored this and got out of bed. He staggered into the wall and fell over. He heard a shout from down stairs. Remus picked himself up, using his bed-post as a support; then he moved towards the window, grabbing hold of various pieces of furniture to keep himself upright. With fumbling fingers he undid the latch on the window. The owl glared at him, as though affronted at being kept waiting; then soared into the room and landed on his bed, dropping an envelope as it did so. It glared at Remus again with its large eyes, ruffled its feathers importantly, before taking off and flying out the window.
There was another shout from downstairs. Remus ignored it. His heart was pounding so much he could feel the blood throbbing in his brain, but strangely, the pain he had been feeling since his transformation seemed to have dulled, as if the edge had been taken of it. Shaking from head to foot with excitement or nerves, he didn’t know which, he stumbled towards the letter. Then he closed his eyes, too afraid to look at it.
One... he counted inside his head. His heart was still thundering in his rib-cage. Two... he couldn’t look, he just couldn’t, what if it wasn’t a Hogwarts letter at all? What if it was someone in the village sending him a nasty letter? THREE!
He opened his eyes. The letter on his bed was made of heavy yellow parchment, and written on it was his name and address in emerald-green ink. His hands shaking very badly, he picked up the letter and turned it over, there was a wax seal on the back, stamped onto which was a lion, a badger, an eagle and a snake all arranged around a letter ‘H’.
Remus’s heart stopped. He ran from his room, screaming utter gibberish. He collided with the end of his bed, and with the banister at the top of the stairs, then he actually fell down the stairs, smashing into the walls and banisters and Merlin knew what else. He heard his mum shriek as she and Dad hurtled into the hall.
Remus was lying in a heap on the ground, but he jumped to his feet, feeling nothing but an immense excitement. All he wanted to do was run around and jump and cheer. He held the letter up and shouted with delight: “It came! It finally came! My Hogwarts letter!”
Mum and Dad smiled initially, but their smiles soon turned into frowns. Remus didn’t like it.
“What does it say?” Dad asked, his voice hoarse.
“I don’t know,” Remus replied, lowering the letter as a strange sinking feeling gripped his stomach. What if this letter was telling him that he couldn’t go to Hogwarts? “Haven’t opened it yet,” he added, rather feebly.
“Well, go on!” Mum said, excitement starting to fill her face now. “Open it and see what it says!”
Remus looked down at the letter in his hand. He was terrified again, absolutely terrified, what if it was bad news? What if it was the very thing he had been dreading? Or what if it all turned out to be some very cruel joke?
With shaking fingers he broke the wax seal. There were several sheets of parchment inside. He took them all out together and read the first page: Dear Mr Lupin, We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. *1
And excitement and joy flooded his system again, and Remus held up the letter, roaring at the top of his lungs, “I got in! I got in! I got in!” He could feel himself shaking, but he wasn’t shaking with fear, this was different. It was as though his whole body was buzzing, was running completely on excitement and happiness. He wanted to run around and jump up and down, he tried to as well, but kept falling over and colliding into things. Mum begged him to stop, and Dad told him to calm down, but he couldn’t calm down, he just couldn’t. HE WAS GOING TO HOGWARTS!
Completely breathless and his whole body aching, Remus eventually collapsed onto the couch in the sitting room. His mind was racing, happiness was being pumped around every inch of his body. He couldn’t believe it, he just couldn’t: he was going to Hogwarts, actually going.
Dad asked to see the letter but Remus was unwilling to part from it. He hadn’t even read the other pages yet, the pages that were full of all the books and equipment he would need. He didn’t want to let go of his letter. Dad tried to take the letter from him, and not wanting to rip it, Remus let him have it. Mum and Dad read it silently together. Their faces got more lined and more pale as they read. Then they looked at each other and started to communicate silently with their eyes. It was form of conversation Remus never understood.
Remus ran upstairs again, not wanting to stay downstairs with Mum and Dad because he was afraid that they would say something, afraid that somehow they would take his new happy and excited feeling away from him. Remus darted into his bedroom. He sat on his bed and punched the air. He wanted to tell someone. But then he remembered that he had no friends with whom he could share this great news. He wanted to open his window and just shout out to the whole world that he was actually going, actually going to Hogwarts.
Remus turned to the large poster of Glynnis Gudgeon on his wall. “I’m going to Hogwarts, Gudgeon! I’m going!” he said. She smiled warmly at him, as she always did. Remus smiled back. He just couldn’t help it, he was that happy. He walked around and around his room, unable to sit still. Then, he spotted his old, torn and damaged teddy bear on top of the book case, the one that he used to take into the shed with him when he was really small. He picked it up and hugged it and threw it into the air and caught it again. “I’m going, Teddy, can you believe it? I’m actually going!” Remus hadn’t looked at his old bear in years, but he had to tell someone, and right now Teddy was the closest thing to a real friend he had. Then Remus collapsed on his bed, still gripping the arm of his old childhood toy.
And that was when the shouting started. It came out of nowhere, out of nothing, and it scared Remus more than he believed possible.
“We have to write and tell them!” Dad’s voice reverberated up through the walls, muffled slightly but nevertheless, loud and terrifying.
“They won’t let him attend if we do that!” Mum roared back.
Everything seemed to drain from Remus, all the excitement, all the joy and the all happy feelings. He felt as if his parents’ words were pressing down upon him, dragging him to the floor.
“We can’t not tell them!” Dad shouted.
“And if we do they won’t let him attend!” Mum shrieked, her voice breaking. “I can’t see the smile wiped off his face again, John, I just can’t!”
There was a long silence. Mum was crying now. Remus could hear her anguished sobs and each one hit him like a knife wound. He was shaking now, shaking all over. He had never in his life heard his parents fight like this before. They used to do it in whispers, so he couldn’t hear them, but now he could. He heard them as if they were standing right beside him, breathing down his neck.
“Stay away from me!” Mum screamed. “Just stay away from me! This is all your fault! Why did you have to insult the werewolf? The only reason he came after Remus was because you insulted him! It’s your fault he’s like this, your fault we are all in this situation! You ruined his life, John! You-”
“I KNOW!” Dad roared, his voice angry and terrible.
Dad’s exclamation had robbed all the sound from the world. Remus could no longer hear the wind blowing through his open window, or the sound of the birds singing. There was just a strange ringing in his ears. He was trembling violently now as shock and horror strangled his insides.
“Every time I look at him I’m reminded of what I’ve done!” Dad continued. “I cursed my only son! And not a day goes by where I don’t wish, a hundred times over, that I could take back what I did!”
Remus’s heart was hammering. The blood was pounding in his brain, as a wave of heat crashed over him, making him feel dizzy. He couldn’t see anymore, white spots clouded his vision. His ears were still ringing.
“You can’t take it back, John! No one can take it back! There’s no cure!”
“I KNOW!” Dad roared again.
Remus didn’t know what was happening, he could not control his own trembling. A fierce pain was rising in his chest, a pain that was a hundred times worse than the pain he felt at the full-moon.
“He deserves so much better,” Mum said finally, her voice sounding defeated. “He deserves so much better than what he’s been given. He deserves to go to Hogwarts, it will crush him if he can’t and I’m not strong enough to watch him be miserable anymore.”
“Don’t you think I want him to go?” Dad said, the volume of his voice lower. “I want him to go to school. I want him to have friends. I want him to be a normal boy, but he isn’t one, Eileen, and no amount of pretending or wishing will ever change that.”
“How dare you say that! Remus is normal!”
“He’s not, Eileen, he’s not!”
“Don’t you dare – how could – never say that again!” Mum shouted so frantically that it she couldn’t even make up her mind about which words she wanted to use.
“What do you propose we do?” Dad replied viciously. “Keep our mouths shut and send him to Hogwarts? What will happen at the full-moon then, Eileen, what will happen?”
Remus covered his ears with his hands. He didn’t want to hear anymore. He didn’t want to hear his parents fight. He was so scared of what he was going to hear next.
“I don’t know!” Mum cried, breaking down completely.
“That’s why we have to write to them, today, and explain, tell them about his condition. We have to, we’ve no other option!”
“Tell them and they won’t let him attend!” Mum shouted hysterically.
“Dumbledore will be sympathetic. You know what he’s like. If anyone will give Remus a chance at Hogwarts it’s him,” Dad said, his voice full of a forced calmness.
Remus had his hands pressed over his ears so tight, it was beginning to hurt. His heart continued to pound, as his body shook and his ears rang. It was Dad’s fault he was a werewolf, Dad’s fault. The enormity of that truth seemed crush Remus, pulling everything good inside him out. He felt like he was drowning, drowning in a reality that terrified him beyond all the horrors he had experienced in his short life.
“Stop kidding yourself, John!” Mum shouted. “You know how the world sees people like Remus! You tell them what he is and he has as good a chance of attending that school as a Muggle!”
“We have to tell them what he is! He can’t go to the school without them knowing!”
Remus’s hands had left his ears. Suddenly, his replica Quaffle was floating in front of him. Then, without warning it magically flung itself at his window. The glass shattered instantly, turning into thousands of tiny sparkling shards and that fell like snow on the windowsill. The Quaffle hit the roof of the shed outside and landed somewhere on the grass.
The shouting instantly stopped. Remus threw himself down on his bed and hid his head under his pillow. He heard foot-steps running up the stairs. The door was flung open. Two people called his name. He did not respond.
Suddenly, a warm hand touched his back. Remus flinched and the hand retracted. “Remus?” Mum said softly.
“Sorry about the window,” he replied quietly, his voice all muffled from the pillow. He had made the Quaffle throw itself into his window. He had used magic without meaning to. “I just got scared.”
“It’s okay,” Dad said, quietly. “We’re sorry too, we didn’t mean to upset you.”
The sound of Dad’s voice made Remus flinch again. Dad, his dad, his best mate all these years; Dad, the one who picked him up off the floor of the shed each month in his strong, safe arms; Dad, the one who had sent the werewolf after him; Dad, the reason he had been bitten.
Remus didn’t care about Hogwarts anymore. He didn’t care if they accepted him or if they didn’t. All he cared about was the truth that had been hidden from him all these years: that it had been Dad’s fault that he had been bitten.
“You have to understand, Remus,” Dad continued, placing his hand on his son’s back, Remus retracted away from the touch. “Things have been very hard on your mum and me too, we want the best for you - we want you do go to school, of course we do - but – but we also have to protect you as well. You would be in a lot of trouble if you went to school and they didn’t know of your condition, and the full-moon came and you...” but Dad broke off, unable, it seemed, to finish that sentence because it was too awful to comprehend.
“Why did you do it?” Remus asked, forcing the question out of his mouth.
“Do what?” Dad replied, his voice sounding confused.
“Insult the werewolf.”
There was a long silence. Remus couldn’t see what was happening because his head remained hidden. The air under the pillow was hot and hard to breathe. There was sweat all over his face. He knew he would have to come out soon, but at the same time he didn’t want to.
“You don’t know Greyback, Remus,” Dad said wearily. “He was strutting around the place, glorifying in the fact that he had bitten four kids in Norwich, as if it was some sort of triumph. I couldn’t stand there and let him do it. I had to say something. But I swear – I swear - I didn’t know he would do that to you, Remus, and if I had I swear I wouldn’t have ever said anything.”
Greyback. The sound of the name sent a chill down Remus’s spine. He had never heard that name before, but he knew that from this day on he would never forget it.
“So if you didn’t insult this – this Greyback, then he wouldn’t have bitten me?” Remus asked, surprised at how calm his voice was.
“Yes,” Dad said with a sigh. “It’s my fault this happened to you.” The venom and hatred in Dad’s voice made Remus recoil. He had never heard Dad talk like that before. But he said nothing, nonetheless. He just moved slightly, making a small opening between his mattress and his pillow so he could breathe. It was Dad’s fault he had been bitten. Dad’s fault he had no friends. Dad’s fault he become a monster each month. Dad’s fault no one wanted anything to do with him.
Remus’s initial desire was to shout at Dad; he wanted to shout at him and curse him and hit him. But as Remus lay there under his pillow, with his dad’s hand on his back and his mum caressing his shoulder, Remus knew getting mad wouldn’t do anything. No matter what he did to Dad, he would still be a werewolf, no amount of shouting or cursing could change that. All shouting would do was make Dad feel worse, and Remus knew from the sounds of Dad’s anguished shouts downstairs moments ago, and self-hatred in his voice now, that he already hated himself for what he had done, hated himself, like Remus had hated himself after Paul had shouted at him. Hating yourself wasn’t nice, and Dad, it seemed, had been hating himself for a long time. Dad had been punished enough. Remus just couldn’t hate his dad, he couldn’t blame him for this because that wouldn’t do anything, it wouldn’t change anything, all it would do was make things worse.
“You’ve every right to hate me,” Dad said. He sounded like he was being choked. “Merlin knows I deserve it. You can do or say whatever you want to me, I won’t stop you.” There was a long pause. Remus could hear Mum breathing heavily. “One day I’ll ask for your forgiveness,” Dad continued quietly, “but only once I’ve earned it.”
“You have earned it,” Remus replied, coming out from under the pillow. The words had escaped from his mouth without much thought, but now that Remus had said it aloud, he found that he didn’t want to take the words back, that they were the truth. He looked at Dad. His face was pale and his expression troubled. “You’re my dad, you’ve looked after me all this time, you’ve defended me when people called me nasty names, I could never hate you.”
Dad’s lip suddenly trembled, then he grabbed Remus and pulled him close, hugging him tightly, as he did that day many moons ago, after the Tornadoes match. “Thank you, Remus,” Dad said, his voice breaking. “You’re a far better boy than I deserve. I’m so proud of you, so proud.”
Mum was crying again, then she threw her arms around the pair of them as well. “We are so sorry for everything, Remus,” she said.
Remus didn’t feel happy anymore, he didn’t feel excited anymore, but at the same time, he didn’t feel scared or sad. He just felt normal and normal was okay, normal was a good feeling.
“What are we going to do about Hogwarts?” he asked, the question leaving his lips before he could stop it. Both of his parents ended the hug and exchanged worried glances.
“We’ll have to write to Dumbledore and tell him about the situation,” Dad said, not looking at his wife. Mum shot him a glance, clearly she still disagreed.
“But then he won’t let me go,” Remus said, speaking the words Mum couldn’t speak herself for fear of causing another row.
Dad looked at Remus, his face determined. “I promise you now, son, I’ll fight for your right to go to school. I’ll fight for it with every means at my disposal. I’ll make sure they accept you.”
Remus looked at Dad’s resolute face. He had no doubt that Dad would do all those things and more; that he would fight with everything he had for Remus to go to Hogwarts, but, at the same time, Remus knew how the world saw people like him. Dad could fight all he wanted, but it wouldn’t make much of a difference. All that said, Remus decided to believe his dad anyway, to believe in the chance that maybe, just maybe, his fight would be worth it and that Remus would get to go to Hogwarts in the end. Dad’s promise had given him something to hope for, something good to keep him going, and Remus decided to cling to this fleeting chance, because if he didn’t have anything to hope for, then he really didn’t have anything at all.
*1 Paraphrased slightly from: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, pg 42 (UK edition)
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