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Chapter 6 : Detentions and Full Moons
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The first week of term went by quickly. The first years all settled into the routine of their classes and life in general at Hogwarts. None of the other teachers seemed to be as strict as Professor McGonagall and, despite the hard work and huge amounts of homework they were set, most of the classes were quite enjoyable.
James and Sirius had been disappointed to find that they had to spend three of their classes with the Slytherins and complained loudly about it. Lily, however, had been delighted that she would be sharing some of her classes with Severus and wouldn’t be completely separated from her friend during her time at Hogwarts. Potions quickly became Lily’s favourite subject. Not only did she share this class with Severus, sitting with him in the front row, but she also found that she had a real aptitude for the subject. Whilst she found that magic wasn’t as hard as she had imagined it would be, it wasn’t as easy as Abigail had been convinced it would be. And so, in her first potions lesson, Lily was thrilled when she managed to make a near perfect healing potion on her first attempt, earning herself ten house-points from Professor Slughorn.
It seemed that the subject Lily excelled in was the one subject that James didn’t. Professor Slughorn had not been impressed with the gloopy brown liquid that was bubbling in James and Sirius’s cauldron at the end of the lesson. He had given them extra homework, warning them they needed to pay more attention to making potions and less time playing with the ingredients. The two boys had groaned at the thought of extra homework and, not wanting Lily and Snivellus to outdo them in any class, vowed to work harder in that class.
In the evenings Sirius, James and Peter were usually found in the corner of the common room, playing wizards chess (James and Sirius playing and Peter watching or doing his homework), playing exploding snap, or simply talking and laughing loudly. Unlike James and Sirius, who were rarely seen doing their homework, Remus spent his evenings doing his homework in the library, only returning to Gryffindor tower just before curfew. He didn’t join the others when he returned though; he went straight up to the dormitory on his own.
The girls also spent their evenings in the common room, although they were much quieter than James and Sirius and were usually found working on the latest piece of homework. Lily, like Remus, was often absent from the group before curfew, spending her time in the library with Severus, working on the subjects they took together. Unlike Remus, Lily always joined her dorm mates when she returned to the common room.
Thursday evening was no different. James and Sirius had rushed through their extra potions homework (which was due the next day) and were playing a rowdy game of exploding snap while Peter still had his head in his charms book trying to complete the homework on levitation charms. As usual, when curfew time was upon them, the common room filled up as students returned from their jaunts. As usual, Remus greeted his dorm mates but did not stop to socialise, walking straight past them and up to the dormitory.
‘He’s the sort of boy your mum would want you to befriend, James!’ Sirius stated nodding to the staircase Remus had just vanished to. ‘Shame really, I don’t think he likes us much.’
‘I don’t know, he sits with us in class and is perfectly friendly.’ James replied as Sirius slammed his card on the table shouting snap. The cards exploded, making Peter jump and drop his book. James laughed and continued, ‘besides, who could possible not like us?’
‘A certain red-head and her hook nosed friend don’t think much of us!’ Sirius replied, his eyes focused on Lily who was glaring back at him in irritation at the noise they were making.
‘Pfft, they don’t count, Sirius!’ James laughed, his back to Lily’s glare.
The boys went back to their game, forgetting about Remus. It was almost midnight when Peter had finished his homework and had asked to join in the game. Sirius was just about to deal out the cards when he saw the girls get up from the sofa and make their way to the portrait hole.
‘You’ll have to finish your homework quicker next time, Peter.’ Sirius said, putting the cards away. ‘I think it’s time for astronomy.’
The three boys grabbed their telescopes and bags and followed the girls out into the seventh floor corridor. None of them had been out of Gryffindor tower after curfew and the castle seemed very different now night had fallen. The corridors were now deserted and silent, apart from the sound of their footsteps and whispers, and the dim, flickering light from the lanterns made the castle seem eerie – nothing like the light, noisy, laughter filled corridors they knew.
The girls made their way to the Astronomy tower, huddled together nervously as if something was going to jump out at them; Sirius and James didn’t help, making strange noises and making them jump in fright. Peter found it highly amusing, so did Abigail until she was told not to encourage them by an even more irritated Lily and Corinne.
They finally made it up the steep, spiral staircase of the Astronomy tower and pushed open the door at the top. Professor Sinistra was there to meet them, and several Hufflepuff students were already setting up their telescopes.
‘Good evening. Please find a space and set up your equipment, we’ll start when the last few students are here,’ Professor Sinistra said cheerily.
‘Oh! We didn’t get Remus! Maybe he forgot, do you think we should go back and get him?’ Peter asked, struggling with his telescope.
‘No, I’m sure he’ll turn up. If he’d stayed in the common room with us he would have been here by now! It’s his own fault if he’s forgotten!’
Remus hadn’t forgotten. He arrived at the top of the Astronomy tower a few minutes after the others, just missing Sirius’s little speech. He sat down next to Peter and set up his equipment.
‘Hey, Remus,’ said Peter cheerily, still struggling to put his telescope stand together. ‘Are you alright? You look a bit pale.’
‘Just a bit off colour, I’ll be fine in a day or two,’ Remus answered semi-truthfully. ‘Do you need a hand with that?’
As Remus took Peter’s equipment from him, two more Hufflepuff students burst through the door, out of breath from running. ‘Ooh look it’s a full moon,’ one of them exclaimed, pointing to the sky. Everyone looked up to see the moon shining brightly among the numerous twinkling stars in the cloudless sky.
‘Not quite,’ Professor Sinistra stated, ‘that’s tomorrow night!’
Remus had been the only student not to look up at the Hufflepuff’s statement and now avoided looking at anyone, putting his concentration on Peter’s telescope. He shuddered inwardly and felt himself pale. He was more than aware that tomorrow was the night of the full moon, and he was horrified that it had been announced to his fellow students.
Professor Sinistra started the lesson and Remus tried to concentrate, tried to identify the different constellations. But his eyes kept wandering to the moon that seemed to be taunting him, reminding him that he wasn’t like his peers.
Thankfully Peter did not try to engage Remus in conversation during the lesson. It appeared that he was good at this subject and so put all his attention to the lesson, feeling pleased with himself. To Remus the lesson seemed to drag on for an age, but eventually it came to an end. Professor Sinistra set their homework and dismissed them. Remus trudged back to Gryffindor tower, following the other exhausted Gryffindors in silence.
The next day, after the last lesson, Remus was sat in the dormitory alone. James and Sirius, who had decided to enjoy some free time before their detention that evening, had dumped their bags in the dormitory and then rushed back out again. Peter, not wanting to miss out on anything, had followed them – but not before inviting Remus to come. Remus had told him he still wasn’t feeling well and that he’d rather stay in the dormitory.
He leant back against his pillows feeling slightly relieved that the others weren’t there and that he had a little more time to come up with a believable story. He had not thought of any good excuses for his impending absence tonight and had been worrying about it all day. What with having to think up an excuse and the fact that tonight would be the full moon – his first at Hogwarts, on his own – he had not been able to concentrate in any of his classes that day.
His flying lesson had been a disaster. He had had real difficulty getting his broom to hover over the ground, and when he had managed it and climbed on, he fell straight back off again. This was made worse by the fact that James had a natural talent for broomstick riding and made it look so easy.
Potions lesson hadn’t been any better. His potion, which was supposed to be a simple healing potion, had started bubbling furiously and filled the room with a foul stench, making everyone gag and cover their noses – including Professor Slughorn. He had been very nice about it, simply vanishing the potion from Remus’s cauldron and stating that he must have added twice as much Horned slug and forgotten the lavender.
Although today had been much worse, the whole week had been hard. He had been spending as much of his free time as possible away from the other three Gryffindor boys. Part of him – the sensible Remus – believed that it was best to stay away, not to get close. But another part of him – the eleven year old, fun loving Remus – wanted to join in the fun and bond with the others. Sensible Remus always won. By avoiding Sirius, James and Peter in the evenings, not only would it keep them at arm’s length, it would also make his absence tonight less obvious. They would be used to him not being there and would not be concerned. At least he hoped so!
He lay on his bed in silence until it was time to meet Professor McGonagall. Starting to feel sick with nerves, he slowly made his way out of the dormitory and down the stairs to the common room. The common room was relatively busy and noisy, students getting ready to go down to the great hall for dinner. Remus, not looking at anyone and hoping no-one was looking at him, quickened his pace as he walked through the common room and followed two third year Gryffindors out of the portrait hole. Oh how he wished he could follow them all the way to the Great Hall, that his journey was just the usual walk down to dinner as he turned down the opposite corridor from them.
Feeling lonely and scared, he hurried through the almost deserted corridors and down the many staircases to Professor McGonagall’s office.
When he reached the office he knocked on the door and, hearing Professor McGonagall call for him to come in, pushed the door open and entered. Professor McGonagall was sitting at her desk sorting through a small pile of paperwork.
‘Good evening, Mr Lupin,’ she said, looking up at Remus as he closed the door behind him.
‘Good evening, Professor,’ Remus replied quietly, thinking there was nothing good about this particular evening.
Professor McGonagall vanished her paperwork with the swish of her wand and stood up. ‘If you are ready, Mr Lupin, we shall go. It is best if you are not seen leaving the castle, so I shall be taking you on an alternative route to avoid the entrance hall and the main doors.’
Remus, feeling unable to speak, simply nodded.
They left Professor McGonagall’s office and headed down the second floor corridor in the opposite direction to the main staircase. A short way along the corridor they turned down another one, which was smaller and narrower with few doors leading off it. They stopped beside two identical, small statues and Professor McGonagall tapped the stone wall with her wand. The section of wall between the statues moved back and slid to the side revealing a steep, narrow staircase. The only light within was from the dim light of the windowless corridor they were stood in.
Professor McGonagall ushered him inside and the wall slid back into place behind them. It was now pitch black. Professor McGonagall flicked her wand and a few candles, sporadically spaced along the walls, lit up but barely took away the darkness, making Remus shiver slightly at the eeriness of the flickering light.
Seeing the surprise, mingled with nerves, on Remus’s face, Professor McGonagall said, ‘There are many secret passages within this castle, I am sure that even Headmaster Dumbledore does not know all of them. This one leads us out into the grounds.’
They fell silent and carefully made their way down the steps and, when they reached the bottom, along a short passage. At the end of this passage McGonagall turned to Remus, tapping him on the head with his wand. Remus felt a rush of cold run over him, and turned to Professor McGonagall with a perplexed expression.
‘It’s just a simple Disillusionment charm, Mr Lupin. I will remove it once we are out of sight.’ McGonagall then tapped her wand on the wall again. This time a much smaller opening was revealed, just wide enough for them to squeeze through. ‘Follow me, Mr Lupin.’
They came out of the passage at the side of the castle, directly opposite the Whomping Willow. The sun was getting low in the sky, barely visible above the tall trees of the forbidden forest, and the air was fresh and clear. Remus took a deep, calming breath and followed Professor McGonagall across the grass towards the Whomping Willow. Although the distance of the tree was not far, it felt like the longest walk he’d ever taken.
The branches of the Whomping Willow were thrashing violently and Remus wondered how on earth they would get past them to get to the tunnel Professor Dumbledore had said was hidden beneath it. As they approached the tree, which seemed to get more violent the nearer they got, Professor McGonagall picked up a large stick from the floor and prodded at the base of the tree. The branches immediately became unnaturally still, as if it had been turned to stone.
‘Quickly, Mr Lupin.’
Remus who was looking up at the branches incredulously, turned to see Professor McGonagall standing beside a hole at the base of the Whomping Willow, waiting for him to climb into it.
Apprehensively he stepped into the hole and carefully made his way down the earthy slope to the tunnel, Professor McGonagall right behind him. The tunnel was dark and the roof of it was so low that he had to stoop down low to walk through it.
Remus’s heart thumped louder and faster with each step he took. The tunnel seemed to go on forever but, after what felt like hours, it eventually started to rise and the straight path they had been taking veered to the right. A small hole ahead indicated the end of the tunnel. Remus climbed through the opening into a spacious room, lit only by the few rays of evening sun that managed to creep through the gaps in the boarded up windows. Remus was surprised to see that it had been decorated with cream wallpaper, curtains had been hung at the window and that it had been filled with furniture; a navy three-seater sofa beneath the window, a mahogany coffee table in the middle of the room on a navy rug, and a dining table and two wooden chairs along the wall opposite the window. If the windows were free from boards it would have been a pleasant living space.
Although Remus appreciated the obvious effort that had been put into making the inside of the shack homely and inhabitable, it did not improve his mood; nothing could relieve the fear and loneliness he felt at that moment. Letting out a sigh Remus sat down stiffly at the table, still taking in his surroundings. Professor McGonagall joined him at the table and, with a flick of her wand, produced a huge plate of food and a goblet full of juice out of thin air.
‘As I promised, Remus, as good a meal as you have received if you were dining in the Great Hall,’ she said placing a hand lightly on Remus’s shoulder.
Remus looked down at the plate of food in front of him. A mound of creamy mashed potatoes, big tender pork chops and a wide variety of vegetables, all smothered in thick rich gravy. At any other time he would have been salivating just from the smell, but not tonight. Tonight he had no appetite. The thought of eating made him feel sick, it had done all day. He thanked Professor McGonagall but, with an apologetic look, pushed the plate away from him.
‘You must try to eat something, Remus,’ Professor McGonagall said softly.
‘I will Professor,’ Remus lied, knowing that not a morsel of the meal would pass his lips.
‘Good. You have a short while before the sun sets, have a look around, familiarise yourself with your surroundings. There are two rooms and a bathroom upstairs, and a kitchen down the hall. It has all been decorated, in the hope that you would feel more at home, a bit more relaxed before...’ Professor McGonagall’s voice wavered, ‘before you transform. I must return to the school now, but I shall return in the morning with Madam Pomfrey. I hope... I’m sure... You’ll be...’ She trailed off. What did she hope? What was she sure of? What was he going to be? Nothing she said could possibly make this any easier for him and for the first time in her life she didn’t have the right words to say.
With a heavy heart, Professor McGonagall bade farewell to Remus and climbed back through the hole and out of the shack. She felt terrible leaving him, a frightened, lonely, innocent young boy alone to deal with his demons, but she knew there was nothing more she could do. It was too dangerous for her to stay.
Remus was now alone. More alone than he had ever felt.
Not knowing what else to do in the time before the moon rose, he took McGonagall’s advice and wandered through the silent, deserted house. Each room was decorated and furnished as nicely as the living room but Remus felt it was shame so much effort had been put into the place because by morning it would look completely different.
When he returned to the living room it was getting much darker and Remus knew that within an hour he would no longer be himself, he would be a dangerous, monstrous beast. He sat down on the sofa and waited.
His mother would usually be talking to him now, her calm, soothing voice would be coming from the other side of the locked basement door, easing his nerves, relaxing him, reassuring him. He wanted his mum. He wanted to be at home in his undecorated, unfurnished basement with his mum.
He closed his eyes, picturing his mother’s face, imagining her voice.
‘It’s ok Remus, I’m here. You’re not alone. Everything will be alright. I love you Remus.’
If he kept his eyes closed it would feel as though she was here. If he kept his eyes closed she would be with him all night. He pressed his eyelids tighter together.
His body went rigid, excruciating pain shooting up and down it. His limbs began to shake.
‘It’s ok Remus, I’m here.’
A sharp, intense pain ran down his spine as it arched, changing shape, making his shoulders hunch. His breathing became faster and deeper, his heart beating fast.
‘You’re not alone.’
His face stretched agonisingly, his jaws became longer, more powerful. His teeth became sharp and pointed.
‘Everything will be alright.’
His hands and feet became paws. His nails became claws. Pain travelled through his limbs as they snapped and reformed.
‘I love you, Remus.’
Hair sprouted all over his body, prickling his skin. His mind became blurred.
‘It’s ok Remus, I’m here. You’re not alone. Everything will be alright. I love you...’
His mother’s voice grew fainter and fainter, her face faded into nothingness. She was gone. So was Remus.
The wolf had taken over his body and mind much quicker than usual. Remus usually managed to prevent the wolf from completely taking over his mind, to begin with anyway. Not tonight though. He didn’t have the energy or state of mind to fight it; the loneliness and despair he felt erased the need to.
Unlike Remus, the wolf was hungry. Sitting on his hind legs, his head raised, he howled long and loud. Standing up onto all fours he prowled around the room snarling and sniffing the air. He caught the scent of the untouched meal on the table. His heightened sense of smell picked up the aroma of the meat. It wasn’t fresh and raw as he preferred but it was meat.
He snapped at the pork chops with hungry jaws, swallowing them in two gulps. Uninterested in the rest of the meal, he knocked the plate off the table. Mashed potato, vegetables and gravy splashed up the wall and the plate clattered to the floor and smashed. Still hungry, and now getting angry, he circled the room growling menacingly, before pouncing at the furniture, tearing into it with his powerful jaws, clawing at it with his strong paws, in search of more food.
After searching the whole house he’d found nothing and discovered no way out. In desperation he bit at himself, drawing blood. The wolf carried on all night; biting at himself, howling in pain before turning his attention to the furniture or hurling himself at the walls, then back to himself again, never relenting, never getting tired.
At midnight, after spending four hours in Professor McGonagall’s classroom writing an essay on the reasons practical jokes should not be played on others and the consequences these could have on others, James and Sirius trudged back to Gryffindor Tower, tired and moaning.
‘That was pointless. Three rolls of parchment each! What a waste of time!’
‘It would have only been two rolls if McGonagall hadn’t caught us messing about when she left the room. I bet she was waiting outside the door to catch us out! My hand’s aching from all that writing,’ James whispered as they crossed the deserted common room and mounted the stairs to the dormitory.
‘Mine too. I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time writing non-stop. I probably need a new quill too – perhaps I’ll invest in a self writing one!’
They pushed open the dormitory door and found it was dark and silent. Peter and Remus were obviously fast asleep. Without a word they changed into their pyjamas and crawled into bed.
‘Night, Sirius,’ James yawned pulling his duvet around him.
‘Night, James,’ Sirius mumbled, his eyes already closed, drifting off to sleep.
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