Chapter 7 : Letters Home
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The following morning, as the sun began to rise over Hogwarts, the wolf slowly transformed back into Remus. He sat slumped on the floor of the Shrieking Shack, breathing heavily and bleeding, unable to move. He glanced miserably around the once pristine room at the destruction he had caused, then, injured and exhausted, he passed out.
‘My goodness, Minerva!’ Madam Pomfrey gasped as she and Professor McGonagall crept through the trapdoor into the shack moments later. ‘What has that poor boy been through? Look at him!’
‘I know, Poppy, I’ve been worrying about him all night. I didn’t imagine we would find him quite as bad as this.’ Professor McGonagall replied, shocked as she took in the battered form of Remus sprawled on the floor, the chairs broken, the sofa torn and demolished and the deep claw marks on the bars of the windows. It looked like a pack of wolves had been there, not just one. ‘His parents informed us his transformations were far more controlled of late, that Remus returned to them with minimal injuries now.’
‘Ah, Minerva, that may well be true... at home.’ Madam Pomfrey stated as she carefully levitated Remus onto the sofa that Professor McGonagall had mended with a flick of her wand. ‘He’s in a strange environment, away from his parents – probably for the first time since he was bitten - and now he has far more to worry about than he did at home, that’s bound to have affected his transformations.’
Professor McGonagall nodded sadly then turned away from Madam Pomfrey and Remus, waving her wand around the room, repairing the furniture and decor, not wanting Remus to see the room in its present state. Madam Pomfrey tended to Remus’s wounds as best she could before conjuring a stretcher and transferring Remus onto it.
‘I have done all I can here, Minerva, I will be able to Heal him better in the hospital wing.’
Professor McGonagall gave a final flick of her wand, sending the newly mended curtains back into place at the boarded window, and nodded her agreement. ‘Yes, we must get him back to the castle before the other students awake.’
Remus was levitated back to the castle under the cover of an invisibility cloak. Once in the hospital wing he was placed in a bed at the far end of the ward with the curtains drawn around him. Madam Pomfrey enervated him just long enough to administer his various healing potions before putting him into a deep, painless sleep to aid his recovery.
Lily had awoken early that morning and had taken parchment and quill down to the deserted common room to write a letter to her parents. She had sent a brief letter home when she had arrived at Hogwarts a week ago but had had no reply. She was starting to feel a bit homesick and was keen to hear from home – and was desperate to patch things up with Petunia. She had never gone so long without speaking to her and the last conversation she’d had with her sister was playing on her mind. The anger Lily had felt at the time had gone and she now felt certain that Petunia had only said those things to hurt her because Petunia herself was hurt that they’d be separated. Lily knew her sister and was sure that they could work things out and once again be as close as they had always been.
With that thought Lily finished her letter to her parents, got a fresh sheet of parchment and began writing a separate letter to Petunia. Lily found this letter much harder to write. She felt Petunia would not want a gushing report of how wonderful Hogwarts was, unlike her parents to whom she had detailed everything. At the same time she could not act like she wasn’t a witch and that hers and Petunia’s separation wasn’t because she was attending a magical school – a place Petunia would never go or belong even though she obviously wanted to – Petunia’s letter from Dumbledore that she and Severus had found was evidence to this even though Petunia denied it.
So, Lily decided to write, not about magic and the magical side of Hogwarts, but about the everyday stuff about her new school, the kind of stuff any normal child would write home about, being careful not to mention magic too much. She started the letter saying how much she missed Petunia and reminiscing about things they used to do together, hoping this would remind her that she was still the Lily she’d always known and loved. She then went on to talk about the size of the castle, how beautiful the grounds were, her new friends and other non-magical aspects of her new life.
By the time Lily had finished her letter she felt more positive that things would return to normal between her and Petunia and began to feel happier. She was just signing the letter ‘Lots of love, your sister, Lily xx’ when her dorm mates came down the stairs from the dormitory.
‘We wondered where you’d got to!’ Chloe said with a smile, making Lily look up.
‘Please tell me you did not get up early to do homework!’ Abigail stated in mock horror as she looked at Lily with the quill in her hand.
‘No!’ Lily laughed folding up the letter and putting it into her bag with the letter to her parents. ‘I was just writing a letter to my family. You girls ready for breakfast? I’m starving.’
‘Yep, let’s go otherwise there’ll be no food left!’ Abigail said leading the others to the portrait hole, looking up at the notice-board as she passed. ‘Ooh, Quidditch tryouts next Saturday. Isabel, didn’t you say your brother was Quidditch captain? We should go along to watch.’ Abigail did not wait for a reply as she continued out of the common room into the seventh floor corridor.
The walk to the Great Hall was dominated by talk of Quidditch which continued throughout breakfast. Abigail, having never seen or even heard about Quidditch before now was interrogating Isobel about the game. Lily, being as oblivious about Quidditch as Abigail, was interested in the conversation but was keeping her eyes on the entrance to the Great Hall, waiting for Severus to come in as she’d arranged to meet him here after breakfast.
‘So, there are three different balls and four different types of players?’ Abigail was asking as she devoured her pancakes. ‘Which does your brother play?’
‘He’s a chaser, there are three chasers on the team,’ Isobel replied. ‘Ryan said they need a new chaser, a new goalkeeper and a new seeker this year.’
‘That’s like half the team!’ Abigail said counting the players on her fingers. ‘Maybe we could try out for the team. That would be cool!’
‘I don’t think that’s a good idea, you’ve only been on a broom once and that was hardly what I’d call flying, more hovering unsteadily a foot above the ground.’ Chloe stated amused.
Abigail scowled at Chloe briefly, then brightened. ‘Suppose you’re right, we’ll have to make do with watching for now then.’
‘I think you will, Abigail. Ryan said first years never make the team anyway,’ Isabel informed her.
‘Oh well, there’s always next year.’ Abigail replied. ‘So, what shall we do today then girls?’
Lily looked up from her now empty bowl of cornflakes and saw Severus getting up from the Slytherin table, wondering how she had not noticed him entering the Great Hall. ‘I’ll meet you all later, I want to send this letter and I said I’d meet Severus this morning. See you back here at lunch?’
Lily got up from the table and hurried over to the entrance of the Great Hall. ‘Hi, Severus! I hope you haven’t got any homework to do today, I finished all mine last night so that we didn’t have to go to the library again today, thought we could see a bit more of the castle today.’ Lily said as she greeted Severus and linked his arm, leading him out of the Great Hall.
‘Good to see you too, Lily!’ Severus replied, grinning at her. ‘All homework is done so we can steer well clear of the library today. Where shall we go first then?’
‘I need to send a letter to my parents and Petunia, so first stop is the Owlery.’ Lily led Severus towards the main staircase. ‘I sent them a letter last week but haven’t had a reply. They can’t have forgotten about me already.’
‘Your parents would never forget about you, Lily. Did you tell the owl you sent to wait for a reply?’
‘No! I didn’t even think of that, Sev. I forgot they can’t just send letters in the normal way. It’s a good job I’ve got you, seems I’ve got a lot to learn.’
‘You’ll get used to it soon enough, Lily, then you’ll be forgetting how to do things the muggle way!’ Severus declared, a slightly hopeful tone in his voice.
‘I doubt that, Severus.’ Lily laughed. ‘Actually, my letter to Petunia makes it sound like I’ve forgotten that I’m a witch.’
As they walked Lily explained to Severus about her letter to Petunia and how different it was to the letter she was sending to her parents.
‘Why should you pretend you’re not a witch, Lily? If Petunia doesn’t like you because of what you are then she’s an idiot, and she’s not worth your time.’ Severus stated with conviction.
‘If it was anyone else I’d agree with you, Severus. But she’s my sister and I love her.’
Lily was taken aback by Severus’s bluntness, but brushed it off as they reached the Owlery. Lily unfolded both the letters and quickly added a line to tell them to send a reply with the owl. She chose one of the school barn owls, secured her letters to it and told it to make sure it came back with a reply. Her and Severus watched the owl take flight out of the window and soar off across the grounds.
‘Come on, Severus, I want to go down to the lake and see if we can spot the giant squid.’
Having gone to bed so early the previous night, Peter had awoken relatively early that morning, noting that Remus had gotten up even earlier than he had as the bed was empty and neatly made. Peter could hear the low snores emanating from behind the closed curtains of Sirius and James’s beds and knew it would be a while before they woke up. He decided that he would go down to breakfast, hoping that Remus would be there to keep him company.
But Remus was not in the Great Hall when Peter got there, and did not turn up for the entire hour that he sat there watching numerous students come and go. He finished his breakfast and slowly made his way back up to Gryffindor tower and into the empty common room. Peter flopped dejectedly into the comfy sofa by the window and sighed. He hated being alone.
He gazed out of the window deep in thought. He wondered where Remus had got to this morning and, for that matter, where Remus had got to every evening since he’d arrived at Hogwarts. It seemed to Peter that while he hated his own company, Remus appeared to prefer his own company to that of others. Yes, he spoke to the other Gryffindor boys during class and occasionally sat with them for meals, but he didn’t socialise with them at any other time. In fact, Peter had not seen him with any other students either. Peter felt this was a shame as the few conversations he had had with Remus had made Peter like him, and he felt they could become good friends. He decided that next time he saw Remus he would make an extra effort to get to know him better.
Peter stopped thinking about Remus and turned away from the window. He decided to pass some time while he was on his own by writing a letter to his mother. This was out of boredom rather that really wanting to, having sent a letter when he’d first arrived at Hogwarts.
It didn’t take him long to write the letter and he was contemplating whether to wait for James and Sirius any longer or just make his way to the Owlery by himself when he heard footsteps coming down the staircase leading to the boys dormitory.
‘... have you got any dung bombs left?’ Sirius’s voice drifted down the staircase into the Common room.
‘Of course, I brought loads. I think it’s a bit early to be using them again though. Old McGonagall will know it was us and we’ll probably end up with a week’s worth of detention.’
‘I guess you’re right, maybe next weekend then... that would give us time to find the Slytherin dorms!’
James and Sirius entered the Common room laughing and turned in surprise as Peter jumped up from the sofa shoving his letter in his pocket and squeaking, ‘Thought you two were never going to wake up! I have been so bored!’
‘We deserved a lie in this morning, Peter, we had a hard detention last night,’ Sirius replied bluntly. ‘And we’re not the only students in the school, you didn’t have to sit up here on your own waiting for us.’
Seeing the eager smile fading from Peter’s face, James laughed and walked over to Peter giving him a friendly slap on the back. ‘Ignore him. He’s just grumpy because I wouldn’t let him use my dung bombs. You can consider your boredom gone, we’re here now!’
‘I’m not grumpy! I was just saying that we didn’t ask him to wait for us. He could have joined Remus in the library, or wherever it is he spends his time, or failing that there’s always the girls.’
Peter felt a bit hurt by Sirius’s attitude. He couldn’t understand why Sirius would be so irritated that he had waited for them, he thought it was a nice thing. If he found someone waiting for him, wanting to spend time with him he would have been pleased. Obviously Sirius did not feel the same way and made Peter feel like an unwanted stalker. So, Peter retorted defensively.
‘Well, I did look for Remus but couldn’t find him. And I did sit with the girls at breakfast.’ Peter didn’t feel that it was necessary to inform them that he hadn’t joined in with the girls’ conversation, or even greeted them for that matter, but had merely sat next to them listening in to their conversation. That would have made him sound more needy and stalker-like, not less. ‘They were going on about Quidditch and the tryouts next weekend. Apparently Isobel’s brother is the captain for Gryffindor.’
‘Did you say Quidditch tryouts? Next weekend?’ James asked excitedly, bounding over to the notice board to see the announcement for himself. He grinned when he saw that Peter was not lying and that it was indeed the following Saturday at eleven. ‘Hey, Sirius, are you going to try out with me?’
Sirius laughed and joined James at the notice board. ‘Nah, wouldn’t want to embarrass myself flying next to the great James Potter, from what you say I couldn’t possibly compete!’
‘You’re trying out for the team, James?’ Peter asked incredulously, to which James replied with an eager nod. ‘But Isobel said first years never make the team.’
‘Pah!’ James snorted. ‘What does she know? They just haven’t had a first year with my amazing Quidditch skills yet!’
‘Yeah, Peter, you saw him in flying lessons, he was by far the best in the class.’ Sirius stated then added to James thoughtfully, ‘You’re going to need a broom though mate.’
‘And that will be our mission for today. I will beg, borrow or steal to acquire a broom by the end of the day!’ James replied animatedly. ‘Firstly I’ll send a letter to my dad asking him to send my broom.’
James rushed over to where Peter had been sitting waiting for them and grabbed the parchment and quill that Peter had left on the table. ‘I know my dad will send it – as long as he doesn’t get caught by my mum!’ James said whilst leaning over the table hastily scribbling a note. ‘He was on the team when he was at school and he’ll be ecstatic if I make the team in my first year.’
James finished writing, stuffed the note in his pocket and bounded past the other two boys to the portrait hole. ‘Come on then you two. We’ll go to the Owlery first and then we’ll go and find Madam Higgins.’
Sirius and Peter followed James out into the seventh floor corridor. Peter was beaming as he trotted along to keep up with the others. The rejection he’d felt at Sirius’s comments earlier had been replaced with happiness that he was being included in this ‘mission’. As they hurried through the corridors to the Owlery, the boys debated the best way to get Madam Higgins to lend him a broom for the week if James’s dad failed to send his own. They settled on flattery followed by good old fashioned begging.
By the time they had reached the Owlery and sent both James’s and Peter’s letters – James’s with his own owl, Screech, and Peter’s with one of the school barn owls – it was almost lunchtime. Sirius managed to convince an impatient and eager James to have lunch before setting off to find Madam Higgins the flying teacher, pointing out that they’d already missed breakfast and needed to eat. And that this would give James’s dad time to reply to the note, hopefully making the mission to find Madam Higgins unnecessary.
Lunch passed without sign of a reply from James’s dad. So Sirius and Peter agreed to help James find Madam Higgins. The first part of the afternoon was spent traipsing the corridors searching for the staffroom, unsuccessfully. They had managed to find a secret passage on the third floor though when Sirius nudged Peter slightly harder than intended and he’d gone flying through a tapestry into a narrow passageway. The boys had followed the passage and found themselves on the fifth floor.
‘I bet this castle has tons of secret passageways and shortcuts.’ Sirius had exclaimed. ‘That can be our next mission, to find some more exciting ones.’
They had wandered back to the main staircase hoping to spot a Professor they could follow to the staff room, but there was not a person in sight. Peter suggested they make their way down to the Quidditch pitch, seeing as they weren’t having much luck in the castle. Sirius glanced at Peter in surprise. ‘That’s actually a good idea, Peter, come on lets go.’
They reached the Quidditch pitch and were delighted to find Madam Higgins in the broom cupboard, evidently sorting through the school brooms. A pile of battered looking brooms were strewn in a pile just outside the cupboard and Madam Higgins had a broom in her hands performing restorative charms upon it. She finished her charm, inspected the broom and then placed it back in the rack. She picked up the next broom which looked extremely shabby. As she turned to throw the broom on the discarded pile without even attempting to mend it, she started in surprise to see the three boys standing in front of her grinning.
‘Hello boys, what are you doing down here? I was just having a clear out of the brooms, some of them are in a real state and this cupboard is getting a bit cluttered.’ She said as she brushed dust off her robes.
‘We could help you, Professor,’ James offered, thinking this would put him in favour with the flying teacher.
‘That’s a lovely offer... Potter is it?’ James nodded his assent. ‘I should remember your name, fantastic bit of flying the other day. But I’m nearly done here thank you. Now, what can I do for you boys?’
‘Well, Professor, I want to try out for the Quidditch team but as first years aren’t allowed their own brooms I was hoping you would be kind enough to let me borrow one of the school brooms for the tryouts.’
‘Really? You do know that we have never had a first year in any of the house teams?’
‘But there’s no rule saying that they can’t is there Professor?’ James asked, beginning to feel frustrated at being told yet again that first years never made the team.
‘No, Potter, there isn’t. And if you can find a broom in a fit state to use for that kind of flying I would be happy for you to borrow it. What house are you in?’
‘Gryffindor.’ James grinned at how easy this had been.
‘Ah, your tryouts are next Saturday then. If you meet me here before tryouts start I can let you select a broom.’
‘Could I not borrow one now so I can practice? I promise I’d look after it.’
‘Sorry, Potter, I can’t do that. I cannot allow first years to fly unsupervised, it’s more than my jobs worth!’ Madam Higgins picked up the last broom from the cupboard and quickly chucked it on the discard pile in disgust. ‘The best I can do is to lend you a broom for tryouts. Now, I’m sorry boys but I’m late for a meeting with the headmaster. I’m hoping he will approve funding for some new brooms – if you’re lucky Potter they may come before next week.’
James thanked Madam Higgins, knowing it was futile to pursue the matter and not wanting to irritate her and make her change her mind about lending him a broom at all. They left Madam Higgins locking up the broom cupboard and made their way back to the castle, James feeling despondent and the others trying to cheer him up.
‘Look on the bright side; at least she agreed to lend you a broom for the tryouts.’ Peter said cheerfully. ‘And she said she thought you were a fantastic flyer.’
‘Peter’s right, James, at least you can tryout. And you never know, you’re dad may still send your broom anyway.’
This comment seemed to cheer James up. It also gave Peter some hope that Sirius was slowly accepting him as a friend and not purely a hanger-on – he had agreed with Peter rather than scoffing at him and brushing his comments aside – for the second time that day.
They headed straight to the great hall for dinner. All through dinner, and for the rest of the evening, James kept a hopeful eye out for Screech. But Screech never came. Neither did Remus, although James was only alerted to this fact when Peter mentioned it to the others as they trudged up the stairs to the dormitory at midnight. Peter was concerned about Remus’s whereabouts as although he was frequently missing during the evening he always returned to the dormitory before curfew. He was also concerned about Sirius and James’s dismissive attitude to their fellow Gryffindor’s absence. He wondered if they would notice if he went missing!
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