Chapter 16 : You Can't Always Get What You Want
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Much later, Remus opened his eyes. It was dark. Curtains had been drawn around his bed, but they were not like the hangings on his four-poster in Gryffindor Tower. These were grey, not red. He must be in the Hospital Wing, but he had no memory of how he had gotten there. He stretched his mind back, but all he could remember was entering the tunnel under the Whomping Willow with Madam Pomfrey, everything after that was missing. He rolled over, looking for a clock. He didn’t even know what day it was or how long had he slept for, but judging by the darkness, it must be at least the night after the full-moon. He sat up, wincing as his injured body protested against being moved. He had a bandage around his forearm. He ran his fingers over it. He did not feel a stab of pain. The wound must have turned into a scar, just another scar that would never heal. Dumbledore had been wrong; giving him more space did not prevent him from biting himself.
Remus sank back down into his pillow, feeling utterly exhausted. He closed his eyes and was pulled from his aching body back into the peaceful world of sleep.
Hours later, he awoke again. Sunlight was streaming in from all the long windows. The hangings around his bed had been opened.
“Ah, you’re awake,” said Madam Pomfrey, bustling into view with a flask of Strengthening Solution in her hand. “Drink,” she said, thrusting it at him.
Remus reached out to take the goblet. His arm felt heavy and his fingers were hard to move, he tried to take it from her, but dropped it. It smashed to the floor, spilling its contents everywhere.
“I’m sorry,” Remus said weakly.
“No matter, I have more in my office,” said the matron, cleaning up the mess with a wave of her wand. She returned a few minutes later, and tipped the contents of another goblet of potion down his throat. The liquid was warm and thick, Remus didn’t like it.
“How are you feeling?” she asked, looking him over.
“Tired,” Remus admitted, sitting up and flinching as every muscle in his body throbbed with pain.
“I mended the wound on your arm,” she said, flicking her wand again and removing the bandage. “I tried everything, but there was nothing I could do about the scar I am afraid,” she continued, pointing to the new mark on his skin.
“It’s okay,” he replied a little more strongly. “None of them ever heal.”
“Just lie down for a bit and wait for the Strengthening Solution to take effect,” she ordered, pushing him back down into bed.
Remus lay there as a dull, throbbing pain flowed through his body. His head ached, his arms and legs were sore, and any form of movement just sapped him of all his energy. So he closed his eyes again and drifted off to sleep.
He awoke a few hours later, feeling much better. Madam Pomfrey fussed over him, taking his pulse and his temperature and pouring all manner of healing drafts down his throat, before she seemed satisfied. “You look quite the worse for wear, but you’re healthy enough to return to lessons.”
“What time is it, please?” he asked, getting out of bed.
“It’s half-past one,” she replied, “you were asleep for well over a day.”
It usually took in between one day and two to recover after the full-moon and three days with particularly bad transformations, so he wasn’t bothered by this much. It was part of the normal routine of his life now, as much as he hated it.
As he stood up, his legs trembled slightly under his weight and white spots spread across his vision. He grasped his locker for a moment, breathing deeply, trying to gather himself together, before he pulled the hangings around his bed and changed into his school robes, which had been laid neatly on a side table, beside his bag with all the books he would need for his lessons today. Plumpton’s badge was even there. He had no idea who had brought it.
Madam Pomfrey came back in as he pulled the hangings open again. She frowned at the sight of him. “You need to eat,” she said sternly.
“Can’t I eat in the Great Hall, please, it’s lunchtime?” he asked. He wanted to see his friends. He didn’t want to stay in the Hospital Wing any longer.
Her face was fixed in thought for a moment, as though there was some silent dilemma going on inside her head. “Alright,” she said, “but make sure you eat a good square meal.”
He nodded. “I will, I promise.”
“Okay then, you may go.”
Remus made for the door, but then stopped and looked at the matron. “Thank you,” he said quietly, “for taking care of me.”
“You are most welcome,” she replied, giving him a small smile. He smiled back and left for the Great Hall.
“Merlin! You look like you nearly died!” James exclaimed when Remus sat down opposite them at the Gryffindor table.
All three of his friends were staring at him with shocked looks on their faces; they clearly weren’t expecting him to return in such a bad state. Remus didn’t know what he looked like, he had stopped looking at his reflection after the full-moon a long time ago, but judging by their expressions he must resemble someone on their death-bed.
“Feeling any better?” Peter asked, looking at Remus as though afraid he might faint.
“A little bit,” Remus replied, looking down at the bowl of stew in front of him and feeling too queasy to eat it.
“What was wrong with you, the flu or something?” asked Sirius, staring at him as if he was going to drop dead.
Remus nodded as he forced down a few mouthfuls of stew. He was going to go along with the story that he had been sick. The ground-work for that excuse had already been laid out: he had been feeling sick all week, Sirius had taken him to the Hospital Wing and his very appearance supported this story too, he looked paler and thinner than normal, and he was sure there were dark circles under his eyes as well.
James, Sirius and Peter broke into stories about what had happened in his absence, about how they had managed to bewitch paper birds to fly at Newlyn during Defence Against the Dark Arts, and how they had set off stink pellets in the library right under prefect Robert Downing’s chair and he had been blamed for it. Remus smiled absentmindedly at these tales but he wasn’t really listening to them. New and troubling thoughts were gripping his brain, things he couldn’t believe he had never thought of before. What was he going to do at the next full-moon? What story would he give his friends then? The sick excuse would only work once or twice more because there was only so many times he could pass off his disappearances as sickness. Sooner or later they would work out the pattern: Remus gets sick at the full-moon, Remus is a werewolf, Remus can’t be our friend.
His stomach contracted rather violently at these ponderings and he pushed his stew away from himself, feeling very sick. They couldn’t find out his secret, they could never know what he was. They would leave him, leave him just like Paul did. No, that couldn’t happen, he wouldn’t let it. He would have to think up better lies for next time. Someone else getting sick, maybe? His dad? His mum? But what lie would he use after that? There was only so many times family members could fall ill. He had seven years to go at Hogwarts, and how many full-moons was that? Too many. What would happen when he ran out of excuses? What was going to happen when he couldn’t come up with any more lies? What was going to happen when they worked out what he was?
Don’t think like that! said a voice inside his head. Just take it one full-moon at a time, just one full-moon at a time.
“Remus, c’mon!” said James, pulling him up by the robes. “You’re completely out of it, we’ve to be in Potions in three minutes, get a move on!”
Remus shook the thoughts from his head and followed his friends out of the Great Hall and down towards the dungeons. Professor Slughorn wasn’t there when the class arrived. Remus took his usual seat next to James, and to his surprise, he saw Severus and Lily abandon their spot in front of the teacher’s desk to come and sit next to the four of them.
“Remus, how are you feeling? You still look sick,” Lily asked as she took her seat on the far side of Severus.
“Fine,” Remus lied, “just a bit tired, that’s all.”
She gave him a small smile, “Well I’m glad you’re feeling better, we all missed you when you were gone.”
Remus brightened at this comment. No one had ever missed him before, except for his parents, it was nice being told you were missed. But this new-found feeling was cut short however, by Severus folding his arms and muttering: “I didn’t miss him.”
“He’s only messing,” Lily said, hitting Severus on the arm gently to show her disapproval of his words. “He did miss you, he kept asking where you’d gone and everything.”
Remus gave Severus a puzzled look, but before he could say anything more, Slughorn’s large belly burst into the room, shortly followed by the rest of him. All chatter ceased and there was silence. They were making a potion to cure boils today, and once Slughorn put the instructions up on the blackboard, everyone hurried to the store-cupboard to get ingredients.
“What was wrong with you?” sneered a voice in Remus’s ear, as he waited to get at the cupboard. It was Severus. “Did you catch a cold and were too weak to fight it off, was that it?”
Remus ignored him. He hated people calling him weak or small, but he also knew that starting a fight with Severus in the middle of class, right in front of Slughorn, was a very stupid thing to do, so he grabbed some porcupine quills, snake fangs and horned slugs and returned to his seat without looking at Severus.
“Snivellus giving you are hard time again?” James asked, glaring at Severus.
Remus shook his head. He didn’t want the tension between James and Sirius and Severus to explode into open hostilities again. “He’s trying to, but I won’t let him.”
“Spoken like a true Gryffindor!” said James, clapping him on the back.
As the lesson progressed the fumes from the various cauldrons filled the dungeon making the air shimmer. But it was clear from the rotten-egg smell floating around the room that some people were not succeeding in brewing their potions. Remus tried as best he could, but he couldn’t get his potion right. It was too thick and instead of being the shade of bright pink Slughorn had described, it had turned a dark blood-red. Even James and Sirius seemed to be struggling, which was strange. They usually breezed through every lesson, mastering the spell on the first go without even trying.
Slughorn went around the class, assessing their potions. He skipped over Remus’s and smiled at James and Sirius’s efforts because their potions were dark pink, which was nearly right. But as soon as he got to Severus and Lily, he praised the pair of them to the heavens and beyond. He took special care to comment on the shade and texture of Severus’s potion, telling him it was the best he had ever seen. Severus seemed to drink in Slughorn’s words of adoration. His face glowed with pride, as he beamed from ear to ear.
As everyone was packing up, Slughorn was still chatting enthusiastically to both Severus and Lily. James and Sirius stared on with jealous looks on their faces, calling Severus all manner of nasty names.
“How does he do it every time, every damn time?” James moaned, glaring at Severus.
“He must be cheating,” Sirius suggested. “There is no way that prat is better than us, no way. I followed those instructions perfectly, there is no way his potion is better than mine.”
Remus decided against voicing his theory that maybe Severus was just really good at Potions, and Sirius and James weren’t. His two friends were top of every class, every single one, except Potions. Everyone couldn’t be good at everything after all. Everybody had to have a class they struggled in and maybe James and Sirius had found theirs. They were so used to being brilliant that they had sort of developed slightly big heads, and had forgotten that they really were just like everyone else.
“Evans must be helping him,” James added, staring at Lily as she laughed at whatever Slughorn had said. “She’s very smart.”
Remus, Sirius and Peter instantly looked up from their bags and stared at James. Never had they ever heard him praise another student like that before.
“What?” he said, affronted, “well she is, she is smart!”
“The fumes from your potion must be messing with your brain,” Sirius said, doing up the latch on his bag.
As they made for the door, they heard Severus say in a very loud and mock-concerned voice, “I only wish everyone found Potions as easy as we do, Lily.”
That seemed to strike a nerve with James, because he quickened his pace and shot from the classroom, straight after Severus. “And what do you mean by that exactly?”
Severus turned around, smirking. “Only that I feel sorry for all those who struggle with Potions. I mean Transfiguration and Charms and all that stuff is just foolish wand-waving, there is no real brains or skill involved, it all comes down to how powerful your wand is, but Potion-making is a subtle science, an exact art, that only the truly gifted can appreciate and understand, you can’t bluff your way through it on luck.”
This statement seemed to enrage James. “I don’t bluff my way through any class on luck!”
Severus merely shrugged at this comment and turned and walked off up the stairs with Lily.
“Let the git have his delusions, who cares?” Sirius said to James. “Did you see him lap up every word Old Sluggy said like a dog? He’ll be licking the teacher’s shoes next, just to wait.”
Severus froze where he stood, but it was from Lily that the retort came, “You’re just jealous.”
“Getting girls to fight your battles for you now, eh, Sievellus?” Sirius said mockingly.
Severus spun around. “Shut your mouth!” he spat.
“Leave them be, Sev, they're just jealous,” Lily repeated, taking Severus’s arm.
“Why on earth would I be jealous of a slimy git like that?” James snapped.
“You just can’t stand the fact that he beat you,” Lily replied, beaming at Severus. “Your head is so big that you can’t imagine a world where you find something difficult. We all find some things hard, Severus only proved you and Black aren’t exceptional, you’re just normal.”
“Bet you he cheated,” Sirius said, clenching his fists, not liking what he was hearing.
“I didn’t cheat,” Severus responded in a dignified voice.
“Nah, I reckon Old Sluggy just felt sorry for him, actually,” James added with a grin. “Pities him for being a brainless git who doesn’t know one end of a wand from the other.”
At this, Severus drew his wand, pointing it at James. “Say one more word, Potter, and I swear you’ll regret it.”
James delved into his pocket for his own wand. “I’d like to see you try.”
Remus bit his lip. He didn’t know what to do. He looked at Peter and he was simply looking on eagerly, itching to see a duel. Remus wanted to stand between James and Severus before spells were resorted to, but he was afraid that if he did that James would think he was on Severus’s side, and he wasn’t, he was on James’s side, but even still, he didn’t want there to be a fight.
Suddenly, they heard footsteps. “Not fighting, are we, boys?” said Slughorn reprovingly.
Glaring at each other, both James and Severus lowered their wands, neither willing to risk detention or expulsion. “No, sir,” they said together, teeth clenched.
“Glad to hear it, now off you go, the bell went five minutes ago, you don’t want to be late for your next class.”
They had no choice but to depart, Severus heading out into the grounds for Herbology and the five Gryffindors up the stairs to Transfiguration. Lily had nothing to say to any of them, and didn’t desire to be in their company any longer than she had to, so she ran off up the stairs, not giving them so much as a backward glance. Remus watched her go, wondering how long they could stay friends, with everything that was going on between James, Sirius and Severus.
“Git!” James said, as they watched Severus leaving through the front doors. “One of these days, I swear, I’ll put him in his place.”
After dinner that evening, Remus went up to the Owlery to find Gawain. He wanted to send a letter to his parents, just to let them know that he was alright after the full-moon, but Gawain wasn’t there. He must still be on his delivery for Sirius. Remus used a school owl instead. He watched the owl fly out the window with his letter. He hoped Gawain was alright and that he had made it to London without any problems.
Three days later, Gawain still hadn’t returned and that’s when Remus started to get worried. It didn’t take that long to get to London and back. When he voiced these concerns to Sirius, Sirius told him it was nothing to worry about, that Regulus was just taking his time to reply. This did nothing to extinguish the vines of worry from strangling Remus’s insides. What had happened to Gawain? Was he alright? Did he get lost? Had a hippogriff attacked him?
The following day at breakfast, Gawain did return with a letter in his beak. He landed on the table gracefully, which was a first for him, and gave his letter over to Remus. Remus took it and under the table, unknown to James and Peter, passed it to Sirius.
He hoped the letter contained good news about Sirius’s brother, but he left Sirius alone to read it. He stoked Gawain’s feathers and gave him some of his rasher rinds, before the owl flew off to the Owlery for a rest, not forgetting to fly over to Lily on the way. Lily turned around from her seat beside Severus, and waved at Remus, he waved back. Severus merely grimaced.
James got his usual delivery of the newspaper, which he passed instantly to Remus, having no desire to read it himself. Remus flicked through it, looking for anything out of the ordinary, be it Greyback or war related. On the second page a headline sent a chill down his back: TWO CHILDREN MISSING IN NORTH YORKSHIRE, GREYBACK SUSPECTED. Remus smoothed out the paper, put it down on the table and began to read, his heart hammering.
Six-year-old Kevin Barry and his five-year-old sister, Amy, disappeared from their home in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, on Thursday evening. The two children were last seen playing in the garden of their home at approximately five o’clock last Thursday.
Members of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad have been involved in the search since yesterday afternoon.
The children’s father, Mr Barry, has asked anyone who knows anything about their whereabouts to contact them or a member of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad immediately. He said he and his wife are hoping their children will turn up safe and well, but are growing very concerned.
Three eye-witness reports confirm the presence in the area, around the time of the children’s disappearance, of a man who bared a striking resemblance to werewolf, Fenrir Greyback. Greyback is known to kidnap and bite young children, however with the absence of a full-moon on the night in question, whether or not Greyback was involved cannot yet be confirmed. Although last night, after the rumours of Greyback’s suspected involvement began circulating, a member of the Auror Office was drafted in to help with the search.
Anyone with any information has been asked to please contact a member of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad. If Greyback is sighted, we strongly urge the public not to approach him, as he is highly dangerous, but instead to contact the Auror Office immediately.
Remus put the paper down, his head pounding. He didn’t like the report. It seemed bitty, as though information had been pulled out of it. Two children were missing. They were around the same age Remus had been when he was bitten. Greyback was suspected to have been involved, but it had been two days before the full-moon.
“I – I – I have to go the library,” Remus said, standing up suddenly. The time had come. He needed to know more about Greyback, he had to know more about the one that had cursed him. Was there more to the story than his dad’s insult?
“What?” said James, sounding insulted, “but we were going to borrow the school brooms and play Quidditch today!”
“I can’t, I have to – to study,” Remus said, leaving the Great Hall.
“But what about Quidditch?” James shouted after him.
Remus didn’t answer. He headed straight for the library, ignoring the guilt stabbing his heart at abandoning his friends like that. He couldn’t make excuses anymore. He had to find out more about Fenrir Greyback. He wanted the cold, hard facts, not snippets from the newspapers or rumours regurgitated by other people.
Ten-minutes later, Remus was tearing down the various isles, searching for the section of the library dealing with werewolves. He began pulling books down at random and flicking to the index at the back looking for any mention of Greyback. After about an hour, he had a pile of books beside him, all of them mentioning Greyback somewhere in their depths. He brought them over to an empty desk and sat down. The first thing he did was write down the names of all the books. He didn’t think he would be able to go through them all in a single day, so it was best to keep a record of them, which would make it easier to find them next time.
And this become Remus’s new obsession over the following weeks. He messed around with his friends during the week, but devoted his entire weekend to the library, much to their displeasure. As time progressed, he had nothing more than a few hard facts. Greyback was a werewolf. He liked biting children. He believed werewolves deserved blood. The more Remus read, the less he appeared to know. There were huge gaps and gaping holes in the story. He wanted to know why Greyback targeted children, why he thought werewolves deserved blood. Soon Remus came to the conclusion that the worst of Greyback’s crimes and the gruesome details of his life had been deliberately left out from these books.
When he couldn’t find the information he wanted in books, he moved to pouring through the old archive of Daily Prophets in the library, but they proved to be worse. All the reports concerning Greyback were fragmented and bitty, thrown together with crucial details missing, like the report he had read after his first transformation in school.
“Please tell me you’re going to ditch the library the weekend after next?” James said seriously to Remus on Saturday evening when he returned to the common room. “It’s Quidditch, Gryffindor versus Slytherin, and you’re coming even if I have to drag you there myself!”
“Yeah, Remus,” Peter said, looking up from the chess-game he and James were playing, “we miss you, what’s so important that you have to spend your whole weekend in the library?”
“I just need to get some study done,” Remus lied, as waves of guilt attacked his conscience. “I’m with you guys all during the week - I kept watch when you lot put glue in Downing’s hair potion last Thursday, and played chess with you guys and Exploding Snap and Gobstones.”
“Yeah, but there are some plans that can only be executed at the weekend,” James said seriously, “like searching for secret passages! We’re a team, we can’t do it without you! C’mon Remus, forget the library.”
Remus’s insides squirmed with guilt. His friends meant the world to him, he had waited for them all his life, and now he was abandoning them so lightly to indulge his new found obsession with Fenrir Greyback. Clearly he was losing his mind.
“Like I’d miss Quidditch,” Remus said, smiling at them all.
James looked relieved. “Glad to hear it,” he said, as his pawn took down Peter’s bishop.
Remus, James and Peter watched the struggle between the two pieces, Peter complaining it wasn’t fair and James goading his brave little pawn on. It was only then that Remus noticed how quiet and distant Sirius seemed. He was sitting in an armchair, staring gloomily into the fire, lost to the world. So when James and Peter were adequately distracted by the chess game, Remus leaned over to Sirius and asked in a whisper: “Are – are you alright?”
“Fine,” he said automatically, without even thinking.
Remus had enough experience of hiding to things to know when he was being fooled. He also had a hunch about the source of Sirius’s murky mood. “Regulus’s letter – what did he say? Is everything okay?”
“I don’t want to talk about it!” Sirius snapped loudly. This outburst pulled James and Peter from their game, both giving him an odd look. Sirius said nothing and continued to stare moodily into the fire. James and Peter returned to the chessboard without comment. Remus didn’t know what to do or say, so he decided to let the matter drop, for the time being anyway.
Remus decided that the coming weekend would be the last he spent in the library. His friends needed his attention more than Greyback did and if truth be told, Remus missed spending the whole weekend with his friends, free from the burdens of classes and homework. He also missed being in that carefree state he was in when he was around them, it was like there was nothing to worry about in the world, there was just the four of them and they were having fun and that was all.
He soon grew to hate the fact that Greyback constantly intruded on his mind. He even hated how the more he read about Greyback, the more frustrated and angry he seemed to get. He was getting nowhere. He wasn’t quelling his curiosity, if anything he was feeding it. His searches had yet to yield any proper results, and if he was not careful, he was going to lose his three best friends and that was something he couldn’t let happen, Greyback or no Greyback. Next weekend was Quidditch and after that his weekend days belonged to his friends, not the dusty old newspapers housed in the library.
So when he walked down the book-filled isles to start his final search that Saturday, he bumped into Professor Newlyn, who dropped the handful of books he was holding.
“Sorry, Professor,” Remus said, bending down to help him pick up the books. They were a strange collection of titles: The Ultimate Secret to Self-Confidence: No Wands or Potions Involved; Defence Against the Dark Arts: Let’s Get Back to Basics; The Essential Guide to Teaching: How to Keep Your Students Engaged Without Resorting to The Imperius Curse.
Remus stared into Newlyn’s young face. He really must be at the end of his tether if he was resorting to books like that for tips on how to control his classes.
“Thanks, Remus, isn’t it?” he said gratefully, taking the books from him.
Remus nodded. He wanted to say something nice to Newlyn, something that would make him feel more confident about his lessons, but nothing came to mind. In truth, Newlyn’s classes were a disaster. The students were out of control and he could do nothing to curb the mayhem. Newlyn was only a few years older than Remus was, he didn’t have enough experience yet under his belt that would give him the tools to control a class.
“See you on Monday, in Defence Against the Dark Arts then,” Newlyn said, smiling weakly as if he dreaded the very thought.
As Remus watched him leave, something caught his eye, the Restricted Section of the library. It was roped off from the main reading room, and Remus knew that Madam Pince, the vulture-like librarian, watched it like a hawk. Students weren’t allowed to browse around in there, they could only request a book if they had a note from a teacher, and Remus didn’t even know if there were any books in there that would contain information on Greyback.
Suddenly he was struck by an idea. He went over the library catalogue and pulled down the large leather-bound volume that contained a list of all the books the Hogwarts library housed beginning with ‘W’. He flicked through the alphabetical list and he stopped at the title he wanted: Werewolves: A Study in Violence. It was the very book he had looked at in Flourish and Blotts, the very book that had detailed information on Greyback. Remus checked where it was shelved, and as he suspected, it was in the Restricted Section.
He knew that there was no teacher in this school that would sign off a note that would allow him to read that book. It was in the Restricted Section for a reason: it was not suitable for younger students, because it no doubt contained all the holes in Greyback’s story that the newspapers and books in the regular section of the library left out. Remus wanted to read that book, but he knew that no teacher in their right mind would consent to let him. He had hit a dead end. His search was over. He would just have to put it from his mind for the time being and wait until he was older for answers.
Disappointed, and annoyed at himself for wasting all those weekends in the library, Remus entered the common room fifteen minutes later and made towards his friends. James fainted at the sight of him, or at least pretended to. Remus, Sirius and Peter stared at him, looking puzzled. James sat up, clutching his heart.
“I think I’ve seen a ghost, that can’t be our library-obsessed friend, Remus Lupin, can it?” he said disbelievingly.
Remus didn’t know what to say to this. He just felt bad. He shouldn’t have ditched his friends to indulge his Greyback obsession. It had all been a waste of time, and he had learnt nothing. He would just have to accept that there were some things he was just too young to know.
“Shouldn’t you be studying now, young man?” said Sirius mockingly, seeming back to his old self. Remus was glad of this, he had been worried about Sirius because he had been very quiet ever since he had received the letter from his brother.
“What’s wrong, read every book in the library?” James added, returning to his seat and observing Remus. “Come crawling back to us now looking for new thrills?”
Remus had no idea what to say. He deserved to be given out to for the way he had been behaving. He had been so stupid.
“You haven’t read all the books in the library, have you?” Peter asked, with both fear and adoration in his voice.
“Of course he hasn’t, Pete, there are thousands of books in there!” Sirius said.
“Alright, what’s eating you?” James asked, looking at Remus and seeing his disappointed expression.
“The book I want is in the Restricted Section,” Remus explained sadly.
“Just get a teacher to sign a note for you, they all love you, and you’ve got that innocent look down to an art, it shouldn’t be a problem,” James pointed out.
“Not this time.”
“And what book do you want exactly?” Sirius asked, giving Remus a curious look.
“Just a book on goblin rebellions,” Remus invented wildly.
“You and the damn goblin rebellions,” James said exasperatedly, “you should just fall asleep in History of Magic like the rest of us, it would do you good.”
“Ask McGonagall,” Peter suggested, “she likes you, she didn’t even give you detention that time you forgot your homework, she’ll give you a note.”
Remus considered the suggestion. McGonagall was very strict, but she had been sympathetic that day. She knew he was worried about the full-moon and as such hadn’t reprimanded him for leaving his homework in the tower. Maybe she would be sympathetic again and let him read the book? It was worth a try, wasn’t it?
“And if she won’t sign the note,” James said brightly, “Me and Sirius can always drop a dungbomb in the library and distract Madam Pince, so you can sneak into the Restricted Section and get it anyway!”
Remus smiled at this suggestion. Even after the way he had been acting, James, Sirius and Peter still had his back, and that meant a great deal. He had been acting like an idiot all this time. He was a kid away at boarding school, he was supposed to be playing and messing around with his friends, not looking for advanced books in the library.
“I’m sorry,” he said apologetically, “for the way I’ve been acting. I think I let the library get out of control.”
“You think?” Sirius said sarcastically.
“Okay, I did let it get out of control. If I can’t get this book off McGonagall, I’m going to give up. You guys are more important than goblin rebellions.”
“Too right we are,” said James smugly, “and Quidditch is more important again, Gryffindor versus Slytherin next Saturday - you’re not missing it.”
On Sunday evening, after dinner, Remus bid goodbye to James, Sirius and Peter and made his way to McGonagall’s office. He had filed out the book’s title on a slip of paper for her to sign earlier that day. He sincerely doubted it she would consent to sign it, but he had to try. He needed to read that book.
Remus knocked on her office door, his heart hammering. He was beginning to panic about what he was about to do, he was trying to get a teacher to let him read a book that definitely wasn’t suitable for his age-group. He was breaking the rules. He was being bad. Sirius had been right, he and James had corrupted him.
“Enter!” said McGonagall’s brisk voice. It sounded nowhere near as welcoming as Dumbledore’s had the last time he had visited this office.
Stay calm, just stay calm, he told himself over and over. It’s not like you’re going to hurt anyone with the information in this book, it’s not really breaking any rules.
“Mr Lupin, what can I do for you?”
“Professor?” Remus asked tentatively, as he approached her desk. “Sorry to disturb you, I just wanted to get a book out of the Restricted Section of the library, but I need to get this note signed by a teacher...” but the rest of his sentence faded away under the glare she gave him.
“It is very uncommon for first-years to need books from the Restricted Section, what title are you looking for?”
He handed her the slip of paper as his conscience screamed at him to stop now before it was too late. She squinted down the slip of paper, trying to decipher the book’s title. Suddenly, her face fell and Remus knew then and that the game was up.
“Lupin, let’s be honest with each other for a moment,” she said heavily, looking up from the note. “You don’t want this for class-work, do you?”
“No, Professor,” Remus admitted looking at the floor.
“And what, may I ask, do you want it for?”
Remus hesitated. He couldn’t tell her the real reason, she wouldn’t understand. “I just wanted to find out more about werewolves.”
“There are plenty of other books on the subject in the library.”
She had him cornered now. “I know,” he replied his voice sounding so small, “but I’ve already read them.” Strictly speaking this was not exactly true, he had scanned the index of these books looking for the pages that mentioned Fenrir Greyback, but had found nothing more than fleeting references to him.
“Then why do you need this one?”
He opened his mouth for reply, but didn’t know what to say. Maybe he should tell her the truth? Maybe she would understand?
“This book is not suitable for your age-group, Lupin,” she replied tersely. “It is for students studying advanced Defence Against the Dark Arts, and even then I question it’s trustworthiness.”
“I know – but – I need to read it,” Remus said, unable to hide the plea in his voice. “Please, Professor, it’s important.”
“And why is it so important?”
Remus hesitated. Should he tell her? Would she understand? Or would she dismiss his need for information as foolishness? Or worse still would she write to his parents and tell them what he had been doing in the library these past few weeks?
Some of his inner anguish seemed to show on his face, because McGonagall asked in a concerned voice, “Is everything alright, Remus?”
He knew McGonagall was being sincere, the use of his first name proved that. “I’m fine,” he replied, and deciding it was time for honesty, added, “I just want to find information on Fenrir Greyback.”
McGonagall fixed him with a searching stare, whatever reason she had expected, it certainly wasn’t that one. “There is sufficient information about Greyback in the old newspapers in the library, as well as in the other books that you say you have read. Surely you know enough already?”
“They – they leave things out, Professor,” Remus explained, trying not to sound desperate. “The papers just report what he does, but they don’t say why he does it. I – I need to know what he’s like and why he does all the bad things people say he does.”
“I’m sorry, I simply can’t,” McGonagall said firmly. “It would be completely irresponsible on my part. You are a child, Remus, and while you are at school, I am responsible for you. Your parents have trusted me and Dumbledore with your care, and I cannot flout that trust by letting you read this book.”
“Please,” Remus pleaded. “I need to know what he’s like, I need to know the worst of him, what he’s done, who he is, and that book describes everything.”
“You are eleven years old, you are not mature enough to deal with that subject matter.”
“I am, Professor, I am old enough to deal with it,” Remus protested rather meekly. “I know what it’s like. I’ve been through it all, every full-moon, ever since I was five.”
“That book doesn’t deal solely with Greyback,” she continued gravely. “It deals with werewolves in general and it deals with them in the most unsympathetic manner. It is written and commissioned by people who hate werewolves, by people who see werewolves as demons that need to eradicated. The aim of the book is to turn the reader against werewolves. It is manipulative and it is biased.”
“I know how the world sees werewolves,” Remus said, his voice shaking slightly. “No one wants anything to do with me when they know what I am. My parents lost all their friends. Everyone avoids me and my family. Everyone sees me as a monster and they are scared of me. There is nothing in that book that I don’t already know.”
“That is where you are wrong, Lupin,” she said sadly. “You are only a child and you are not yet ready to deal with the knowledge that book departs and the way it departs it. Books lie, books manipulate, books are not objective, and you are not old enough to recognise when you are being manipulated. Books like that can do a lot of damage to a person like you, Lupin. I don’t want it putting ideas into your head that you’re a bad person, or that you’re a demon or something sub-human. You are an eleven-year-old child, you are not a monster and I don’t you reading a book that will try and convince you otherwise. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I see that books like this have no place in the Hogwarts library. I even question the amount of insight they give NEWT students. I think I will speak to Professor Dumbledore and have him remove it.”
Remus gave her a pained look at this suggestion, but his feelings of disappointment were dulled slightly by the fact that he knew from what she had said that she did indeed care about him. It was a nice feeling, knowing that there were people out there that cared about him, werewolf and all.
With that, McGonagall stood up and threw his note into the fire. Remus watched its edges blacken as the flames consumed it. There was silence for a few moments. He didn’t know if he should stay or go.
“Greyback bit me,” he said, staring into the fire, becoming engrossed in the flames. “My dad insulted him.” He didn’t know why he was telling her this, but he had to voice the thing that had been gnawing at the back of his mind since the day he had got Gawain, the day he went into the Restricted Section in Flourish and Blotts.
“I didn’t know for a very long time that it was him that did it. I used to pity the one who attacked me, because I know what it’s like to forget yourself and become bad. I always thought he didn’t mean it, that he couldn’t help it, that he didn’t do it on purpose. I didn’t blame him, I felt sorry for him, because he had no choice, just like I have no choice. I have to become bad, there is nothing I can do about it.”
There was a pause. McGonagall was looking at him, her expression troubled.
“Then I found out what my dad did, and I was scared and I was angry. I wanted to blame my dad for doing this to me, but I couldn’t really. He’s my dad, and he has always been there for me, defending me, looking after me. It wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t anyone’s fault. My dad didn’t know that would happen, and Greyback ... I thought he didn’t mean it, I thought he couldn’t help it, but then I heard people talking about him, saying he bites kids, that he kidnaps them and makes them monsters. I pitied him and now I know that he doesn’t deserve it. He cursed me and I felt sorry for him, but I shouldn’t have. I need to know everything about him, I need to know why this happened to me.”
McGonagall sighed deeply. “Have a seat,” she said, pointing to the chair in front of her desk. He sat down and she did the same. There was silence for a few moments. “Fenrir Greyback is the most savage werewolf alive today,” McGonagall began slowly, choosing each word with deliberate care. “But he wasn’t always like that. We wizards paid dearly for the way we treated his kind. Greyback was bitten, and suddenly he was shunned by normal society, ostracised and tortured, made to feel like a filthy, unwanted animal, so that’s what he become.” She paused for a moment, thinking, “Thrown out from the world he knew, he had only one other option: he became the savage beast whose crimes litter the newspapers every week. He has now made it his mission in life to bite and infect everyone else, so he can raise an army, so he can take revenge on the society that rejected him.”
A strange feeling gripped Remus. He felt as if his insides were being strangled and twisted. That could have been him. Greyback’s life could have been his. Greyback had the same choice Remus did, the choice to struggle on or to embrace the wolf. Remus chose the former, Greyback the latter and that’s what made them different.
Remus suddenly felt a rush of fierce affection, adoration and gratefulness for his parents. They were the reason he stayed on the right path, the reason he didn’t become what Greyback was. They had loved him, cared for him, looked out for him, werewolf and all. They had kept him safe, kept him good, kept him human. Their love had saved his life. Greyback, it seemed, had had no one to do that for him.
“He bits children,” McGonagall continued, after allowing Remus a few moments to devour the information he had been given, “because they are easier to convert to his way of thinking. If he bites them young and takes them away from their parents, then he can teach them to hate everyone else, because they are too small to know any better.”
“That’s...” Remus began, but a large lump formed in his throat preventing him from speaking. He couldn’t imagine being five and enduring the pain and horror of the full-moon without his parents.
“Horrible,” McGonagall finished for him. “I know.”
“So I was bitten to become part of his army of werewolves?”
“I do not know for sure, but it most certainly would have been a strong factor and your father’s insult merely the excuse.”
“Will he come and get me?” Remus asked, instantly fearful. He never wanted to meet the monster that had attacked him all those years ago ever again.
“He won’t need to,” McGonagall replied. “He knows that sooner or later wizard society will push all werewolves into his welcoming arms. We wizards have paid dearly for the way we treated Greyback and other werewolves, and we will continue to pay, for we refuse to allow werewolves the rights they deserve and Greyback can envision no other way to get them other than trying to infect everyone else.”
“Nothing will ever drive me to him!” Remus said bravely, standing up out of his seat. “The world can shun me all they want and I still won’t go to him. I’m good and if Greyback bit me so I could be part of his army that will get werewolves rights, then I will show him that there are other ways of getting a better life, I will show everyone that you can be a werewolf and good at the same time.”
McGonagall looked at him with an expression of pride and admiration on her face. Her eyes were teary, like Dad’s had been that day after the Quidditch match. “Greyback is a monster, and what he does is unforgivable and barbaric, and he deserves imprisonment at the very least for his crimes, but he does also deserve to be pitied, he deserves to be pitied because when the world presented him with a choice, he made the wrong one, because he did not have a heart as strong and as brave and as good as yours, Remus.”
A large balloon swelled in Remus’s chest, to hear someone like McGonagall say such nice things meant more to him that he could ever express. Her words echoed those of his dad after the Tornadoes match: you’ve a real chance ahead of you, a real chance to make a difference, to show the whole world the werewolves aren’t all bad. You can help create a world in which people like you can live much happier lives. You can show them all, Remus, you can show them all. To know that there was another adult out there, aside from his parents, who believed in him, who thought he was good and brave and strong, made a lump form in his throat.
Now more than ever, Remus knew his lot in life, knew why he had been bitten. He was on the earth to show the world that werewolves can be good, that they weren’t all monsters like Greyback. McGonagall was right, Greyback did deserve to be pitied, he deserved to be pitied because he had lost all hope and gone down the wrong path, but that was not what Remus was going to do.
“Thanks, Professor,” he said quietly, trying to express all his gratitude in those two words.
She nodded, saying nothing more, and as Remus made for the door, he saw her take a handkerchief to her face and wipe the tears from her eyes. He had entered her office wanting a book that would give information on why he had been bitten, information that would allow him to blame Greyback for everything, but he had left the office with something else, something much better.
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