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Chapter 11 : Snape's theory
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Martha appreciated the extra company as well, it turned out. That Saturday night Professor Slughorn had arranged one of his little parties and Lily and Charlotte were going to attend, so Martha decided she was going to initiate me into the intricacies of a girls’ night in, in the dormitory. Our evening of doing each other’s hair, playing with makeup and robe styles, and trying on everyone’s clothes was cut short, however, when Lily came struggling in well before her Slug Club meeting was supposed to finish, Charlotte holding her upright. She looked like she was trying not to cry.
“Lils! What’s wrong?” gasped Martha, putting down her hair curling ointment.
“Snape’s what’s wrong,” Charlotte snarled, settling Lily down on her bed before adjusting her glasses, which had fallen down her nose. “He’s been upsetting her again.”
“Not again,” I said sympathetically, giving Martha back the dress robes that she’d wanted me to try on. “What was it this time?”
“He was being so unfair,” said Lily. “Not like Sev at all, at least not the Sev I know.” We all rolled our eyes and waited for her to continue.
“He was having a go at Remus,” Lily went on eventually, sniffing loudly. “Remus! Who could possibly not like him! He’s so nice!”
“Probably because he hangs out with James,” said Charlotte wisely. “Tainted by association, or so our Severus thinks.”
“Sev keeps saying awful things about them. About all of them. You should have seen the looks he was giving James and Sirius at Slughorn’s tonight,” said Lily, now starting to hiccough. “And he was making these awful accusations. ’Cause they keep on sneaking out of the tower, and he wants to get them in trouble, so he follows them.”
I couldn’t help myself. “Why are you still friends with him, Lily?” I asked.
“He was never like that!” she protested. “He was always so nice! I don’t know what’s gotten into him.” She paused. “Or maybe I do. Why he is friends with Avery and Mulciber, I will never understand.”
My hand clenched into a fist involuntarily. After what Mulciber had done to Mary, after what he had tried to make her do, I would never understand it either. And he hadn’t even got a Howler for what he did – maybe his parents were Death Eaters or something and therefore approved.
“What happened, Lils?” asked Martha. “What did he say that got you so upset?”
“Well, you know how Remus was ill this week,” said Lily. Charlotte tensed ever so slightly, her face steeled to hear what she knew was coming. “Sev keeps saying that he’s only ill when the full moon’s out. That he’s a – a – he’s a werewolf.”
What?? Where could he have got that idea from? And Martha looked gobsmacked, like she’d had the same reaction I had. “He doesn’t!” she gasped, horrified.
“And it’s not only that,” Lily went on, hiccoughing uncomfortably. “He says that it’s not just a theory, that he knows it’s true. But I don’t believe him,” she said, more firmly than she had spoken thus far.
“Why not?” I asked. Lily turning against Snape was a bit of a big deal.
“Slughorn,” explained Charlotte. “He was making a big deal of James tonight. Something about Snape going down that tunnel underneath the Whomping Willow, and James following him and saving him from whatever it is that’s down there.”
My eyebrows shot up. “Really? James went after Snape?”
“That was our reaction, too,” said Charlotte. “Seems completely out of character. But apparently that’s just what happened. So we think Snivellus is just ticked off that James actually helped him and so he’s trying to make his life difficult. You know, just for a change.”
“There’s something to do with Sirius there, too,” Lily said suddenly, her green eyes still bright. “James was giving him really dirty looks the whole time Slughorn was praising him. Praising James, I mean, not Sirius. Like it was Sirius’ fault that Sev went down there in the first place.”
“Why didn’t you ask Snivellus about it, then?” asked Martha, looking sharply at Lily.
Lily glared at her for using Snape’s nickname before answering. “Severus hadn’t arrived yet,” she explained, her hiccoughs now gone. “He was running late. Slughorn had moved on to raving about Damocles Belby by the time he got there, and it sort of slipped my mind.” Belby was a seventh-year Ravenclaw who was apparently extremely good at Potions. “And then Sev starting going on about Remus, and I got upset. Because Remus is such a good person, and it’s not his fault he gets ill, so why should anyone have a go at him like that?”
Martha grinned. “Anyone would think it was Remus you had the crush on, not James, the way you’re going on,” she said. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Charlotte make a sudden involuntary movement.
Lily picked up a slipper off the floor and hurled it at Martha. “For the last time, I do NOT LIKE JAMES BLOODY POTTER!” she bellowed, her cheeks scarlet.
“Sure you don’t, Lils, sure you don’t,” said Martha, still with that wicked smile on her face. “Though you might want to say that a bit louder, I think there are some people in Glasgow who didn’t quite hear you.”
“And I don’t like Remus, either,” snorted Lily, throwing the other slipper at Martha for good measure. “He’s my friend, but he’s not my type. Anyway, even if he was, a little bird told me that someone else saw him first.” And she grinned at Charlotte, who made a point of cleaning her glasses at that moment and pretended not to know what she meant.
According to the rumours flying around the school for the next few days, Sirius had told Snape how to stop the Whomping Willow, well, whomping, and Snape had made the most of the information and taken off down the tunnel underneath the tree. Fortunately for Snivellus, James had indeed run after him and dragged him back, most probably kicking and screaming, before he got to whatever monster was down there. This information was so sensational that it even knocked Mary and Mulciber off top spot of the most-talked-about list.
For whatever reason, James, Remus and Peter were giving Sirius the cold shoulder after this event, avoiding him almost like he had Spattergroit or something, and talk was that he had almost been expelled because of it. What was confirmed was that he had received detentions for every Saturday and Sunday afternoon for the rest of the school year. Clearly this was a more serious situation than we had thought – after all, only about half the school even believed there was anything at all down that tunnel, dangerous or otherwise. After three or four days, though, whatever unforgivable offence Sirius had committed appeared to have been forgiven after all, and the boys went back to what they were best at – wreaking havoc.
During this turmoil life went on for the rest of the student body, and several of the Slytherins were making it their business to try to upset and intimidate Muggle-borns and half-bloods as much as possible. While this was generally par for the course it was getting worse, and my temper flared just before a Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson the following Monday when Alecto Carrow decided it was my turn to receive the special treatment. Alecto was a short but burly Slytherin girl in our year who made it no secret she aspired to join the Death Eaters. Clearly I was to be regarded as fair game as I waited alone outside Professor Dingle’s classroom while most of the other students were still at lunch – to Lily’s chagrin, I had left early to go back to the dorm and pick up my homework, which I had left behind. I’d taken a bit longer than usual, too, on full alert with my wand at the ready, just waiting for someone like Mulciber to leap out from behind a statue.
Anyway, Carrow saw me waiting there on my own and walked towards me until she was standing over me (or would have been, if she was tall enough) and pushing my back against the wall. I grimaced – she obviously hadn’t brushed her teeth in a while, and from that close I could smell her breath, which was less than attractive.
“Cauldwell,” she spat. “Another filthy half-blood.”
“Carrow,” I retorted, looking down at her and determined not to be intimidated. “Another filthy Slytherin.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she growled, holding her wand aggressively at my chin.
“Just what I said. You’re a Slytherin, and you’re filthy.” I knew that her use of the word ‘filthy’ was in reference to my Muggle blood, so me throwing that word back at her was bound to get her a bit irate. It was an apt description, though – I had always been under the impression she washed only once a month, whether she needed to or not. Obviously I was playing with fire by taunting her like that, but the group of approaching students on their way up from lunch gave me a bit of courage: she would be less dangerous if there were witnesses. I fingered my wand inside my robes, determined to give as good as I got. Suddenly her face changed slightly and knew she was about to hex me, so I decided to go for her at the same time.
Unfortunately for Alecto, my reaction time was quicker than hers, and by the time she tried to speak the curse she already had over a dozen bat-sized bogeys flapping about her face. Unfortunately for me, Professor Dingle had opened his door at that precise moment and saw the aftermath of the encounter, but not anything that preceded it. The upshot was that I lost a few points for Gryffindor and received a detention for that evening, to be served with Professor Dingle in his office from eight o’clock.
Detention was a fairly simple affair – Dingle just wanted me to clean out the Grindylow tank and clip the toenails of a few Red Caps in preparation for a fourth-year lesson the following day. Simple though it was, it took me more than two hours as neither the Grindylows nor the Red Caps were feeling particularly co-operative.
As a result it was past ten o’clock when I left Dingle’s office and started making my way back to Gryffindor Tower. On the fourth floor I bumped into Remus, who was doing his prefect duty patrolling the corridors and fell into step with me without fanfare. I didn’t know Remus very well but I quite liked him – he had the knack of making you feel comfortable, and unusually for the boys in our year he actually addressed people by their first names.
“Laura! What are you doing out so late?” he asked, surprised to see me there. He appeared to be in a good mood but looked tired, and I remembered he’d been ill the previous week. If he was still suffering the effects a little I couldn’t be surprised – if he’d taken a potion was a bit iffy, as Charlotte had said, it could do just about anything to you.
“Detention with Dingle,” I replied. “Remember, I did the Bat-Bogey Hex on Alecto Carrow? Not that she didn’t deserve it,” I went on, realising I was probably talking too much. I often did that when I was nervous.
“Oh yeah,” he laughed. “Improved her appearance, really. You couldn’t see her face.” He had a point there – Alecto did look better with bats flapping out of her nose and around her cheeks. I almost felt proud of myself, though I wasn’t about to say that out loud.
“I thought prefects were supposed to be impartial?” I asked instead, raising my eyebrows.
“Sometimes that’s easier said than done,” he answered, smiling. “Look, are you alone?” I nodded. “I’d better walk you back to the tower,” he went on, “Dumbledore doesn’t want people wandering around by themselves after what happened to Mary. How is she, anyway?”
“Still in shock,” I said. “Madam Pomfrey’s giving her a course of potions, and she is getting better, but she’s not great. And I miss her,” I said frankly.
“Yes, it can’t be easy,” replied Remus. “I still can’t believe they let Mulciber stay after that.”
I was about to respond but my train of thought was interrupted by Peeves the poltergeist, who had spotted us and started swishing around overhead singing at the top of his lungs. “Loony loopy Lupin,” he bellowed in what I was sure was supposed to be a singsong voice, “loony loopy Lupin.” I was surprised – Peeves didn’t normally target students by name like that – but before I could say anything Remus pulled out his wand and cast a Silencing Charm on him. Struck dumb, the poltergeist retaliated by hurling the helmet from a nearby suit of armour at us, which we dodged easily. Before long he got bored with our lack of reaction to him and sped off in the direction of the North Tower.
For some reason neither of us spoke a word about the incident with Peeves and the silence grew a bit. “How are you enjoying being a prefect?” I asked to break it up as we took a short-cut towards Gryffindor Tower. “I haven’t noticed any reduction in the number of James and Sirius’ detentions.”
“No, I’ve failed miserably, haven’t I?” he said cheerfully, though I could have sworn I saw his face tense slightly. However, if it did, it disappeared as quickly as it had come, so I couldn’t be sure.
“Yeah, well, Lily hasn’t changed much either, she’s still just as innovative with the badge as she was without it,” I pointed out.
“I know,” he said. “As prefects, Lily and I spend a bit of time together. As Pron- James keeps reminding me,” he added.
“He still hasn’t given up on her?” I asked. “After what she did to him the other week? Goodness, he has got it bad.”
“That’s James for you,” he said fondly. “Never does things by halves.”
“If it’s any consolation,” I said, “she does like him, just not when he’s acting like a berk. Which is most of the time,” I conceded as an afterthought. “And I’m not sure she’s admitted it to herself, either,” I added, thinking out loud.
“Really?” Remus looked surprised.
“Really. Don’t let the fact that she barely speaks to him fool you. But don’t tell her I said that,” I added quickly, horrified at myself for actually saying these things out loud, let alone to a good friend of James Potter’s. “She’d kill me, that’s like breaking a trust.” What was it about Remus that inspired people to share secrets with him?
He looked at me seriously. “Of course not,” he said, and he looked solemn enough for me to trust him, to take him at his word. “But can you get her to be a bit nicer to him? Do you think you could ask her?” he went on. “He’s driving us insane and she won’t listen to me, I’m his friend.”
“I can try,” I said doubtfully, “but I don’t know that it’ll do any good. We’ve never talked all that much, frankly. I mean, we talk, we’re in the same dorm and everything, but, you know, people group off.” I realised as I was saying this that it wasn’t strictly true any more, that since Mary had been in the hospital wing I had actually been included with Lily and her friends. But I was on a roll now and felt it best to continue as I’d started. “And we’re not in their league,” I added.
“Not in their league?” repeated Remus. “What are you talking about?”
“It’s like any school,” I explained, warming to an old theme. It had been true for the past five years anyway. “My Muggle primary school was the same. You’ve got the cool kids and then you’ve got the others. Well, Lily, Martha and Charlotte are the cool kids, and Mary and I are the others.”
“I think you’re being a bit hard on yourself, Laura,” said Remus. “You’re just as good as they are.”
“Remus, Remus,” I said, exasperated, “stop trying to always be the nice one. You know it’s true, it’s just the way it is. Think about it. If there was another boy in your dorm, Peter would probably have grouped off with him rather than with you lot, and we’d have the same situation there.” I will admit I didn’t like comparing myself to Peter very much, but it was the easiest way I could think of to make the point.
He was quiet for a moment, obviously considering what I’d said. “I guess you’re right,” he said eventually. “Though I still think you’re being hard on yourself. I’ll say it again – you’re just as good as they are.”
“Thanks,” I said. “But you don’t need to try to make me feel better. It doesn’t bother me. Really, it doesn’t. I’m used to it anyway, I don’t think a Cauldwell has ever been one of the cool kids.”
“Wha–” he started, then cut himself off. “Of course,” he muttered. “It can’t be easy having a sister like that.”
“It’s not,” I told him honestly, surprising myself. I didn’t usually talk openly about Bea to people I barely knew. Remus’ ability to encourage trust was frankly a little disarming. “Especially when we’re so different. But she is my sister, and I am fond of her, and I know she’s fond of me in her own way. You just have to recognise that you’ll never have a normal type of relationship with her.” I paused, determined to stop myself saying too much to him. Not that I had anything to hide, but I liked to keep my home life and my school life separate. Besides, Merlin only knew where this information could end up. “But on the bright side,” I continued, trying to inject some humour into the conversation, “my diplomatic skills are second to none!”
He laughed with me, lightening the mood. “So,” he said, changing the subject, “how are you going with that Transfiguration assignment?”
I looked at him gratefully; I think he had realised I wasn’t all that comfortable talking about Bea. “Truthfully? Not very well. I’m struggling a bit this year with Transfiguration. It’s like I can get the details of what she’s trying to tell us, but the basic concepts are eluding me completely. Once I get my head around those I’ll probably be fine, but in the meantime …”
“I’d offer to help,” he said evenly, “but it’s not my best subject either. Now Prongs and – sorry, James and Sirius, they’re the Transfiguration experts. You want to ask them for a hand.”
I laughed. “Remus, what was I saying earlier? About the cool kids? James and Sirius are beyond cool. I’m not going to ask them for help! Besides, I wouldn’t have the guts, I hardly know them.” Even though James had been so nice when Mary had been attacked, I still wouldn’t have had the courage to ask him for help with my schoolwork. While they seemed to be easy enough to talk to on a general level, I would never deliberately seek out their company. That was definitely a lost cause.
He frowned slightly. “I think we need to get you past this cool-uncool thing. Right. Try Peter, he’s got a bit of a talent for it too. Not as much as James and Sirius, but …”
“Thanks,” I said, surprised – Peter had never to my knowledge shown much aptitude for any of our classes. “I might just do that. Merlin only knows I need the help! Oh – shrivelfig.”
We had reached the Fat Lady and I smiled at Remus as I gave the password. “Thanks for walking me back, I felt much more comfortable,” I said as I turned to the portrait hole.
He looked at his watch. “My shift is nearly over anyway, I might as well come back in.” The common room was bustling with activity. We looked awkwardly at each other and headed to our friends, me wondering just when Remus Lupin had become so easy to talk to.
Even though Peter Pettigrew wasn’t nearly as intimidating as James Potter or Sirius Black, even James Potter after the incident with Mary, I still hesitated to ask him for help with Transfiguration. Quite honestly, part of me just wasn’t convinced he was as good as Remus had implied. Or maybe I found his long nose, watery eyes and lank, colourless hair just a little repulsive, and I wasn’t keen to spend much time in close quarters with him. Everyone knew he’d take anything he could get in the relationship stakes, and I didn’t want him to misinterpret my intentions and think I was trying to pick him up. Or for him to try to pick me up, either – as was the case with Sturgis, I would never be that desperate. (Put another way, if I had to choose between snogging Peter and living a life of exile with no human contact whatsoever, then the life of exile would be looking pretty damn good.) In any case I opted instead to spend many hours in the library after supper, looking through old Transfiguration textbooks and immersing myself in the theory, in the hope it would suddenly click. OWLs were only two weeks away and I was getting more than a little anxious.
As it turned out, none of the books were nearly as helpful as Charlotte was in a comment she made a couple of mornings later in the common room, over the raucous laughter caused by what looked like a second-year hovering in the background, suspended upside down by their ankle. “Why are you having so much trouble with it?” she asked, watching me swearing at one of the many books I had borrowed from the library.
“I just can’t seem to get my head around it,” I said. “I’m struggling with the theory. Once that clicks in my head, I should be fine.”
Charlotte shook her head. “Laura, Laura,” she said despairingly, “I saw you turning Scylla Pritchard’s nose into a banana the other day.”
Oh yes, that’s right. Pritchard, who was going out with Irving Mulciber, had been making fun of Mary being Imperiused and I’d not reacted well. In truth I was a little ashamed of the incident – it wasn’t like I’d been acting in self defence, for example – and would have preferred it if Charlotte hadn’t mentioned it at all.
Anyway, I chose to pretend everything was fine. “And?” I asked.
“What sort of magic do you think that is?” she asked. “Potions? Laura, that’s Transfiguration!”
I sat silently as my brain tried to digest this. I’d always thought of Bea’s spells as charms, but really Charlotte was right. At least half of the hexes Bea had taught me were Transfiguration spells – giving people flamingo necks, or turning their hair into earthworms, that was definitely Transfiguration. And I’d never had any trouble with those.
“Thanks, Charlotte,” I said with feeling. “I hadn’t thought of it like that.”
“No worries,” she said, grinning. “Any time I can help, just yell out.”
I went back to trying to conjure a table lamp, but thought of it as Bea would have taught me, not as McGonagall had. And what do you know? It worked. Charlotte was a genius, and I decided then and there to buy her a lifetime supply of jelly slugs next time I was in Honeydukes.
On Wednesday, almost a week after Mary had been Imperiused, Madam Pomfrey deemed her well enough to leave the hospital wing. She had been taking several different potions to treat her for the shock and for any residual effects of the curse, and finally the Matron was convinced she was healthy enough to resume her usual activities.
I hadn’t realised she would be allowed to leave, and was therefore in the common room doing some revision with the other girls when she walked in after supper that evening, having been escorted back to Gryffindor Tower by Professor McGonagall. On seeing her we all jumped to our feet and ran over to embrace her, but Mary being Mary wasn’t keen on being the centre of attention and she pushed us off rather quickly.
“Dinna ye lasses hae revision t’ dae?” she asked with mock exasperation, wriggling uncomfortably out of four different bear hugs.
“How lovely to see you, girls! Thanks so much for coming to visit me so often while I was in hospital, and for saving me from killing off first-years,” I parodied.
Mary smiled. “Aye, okay, poin’ taken,” she said, walking back with us to our table by the window where we somehow found an empty chair to add to the mix. “I did apprecia’ it. An’ thanks fer tryin’ t’ keep Gerry Stebbins away from me, I dinna think I coul’ hae coped wi’ him by my bedside all th’ time. Did ye know he still reads Martin Miggs comic books?” She rolled her eyes in disgust while the rest of us giggled at the thought of Gerry sitting there like a hopeful puppy – possibly bringing some mindlessly childish comic books for her to read – while Mary tried casting a Revulsion Jinx to get rid of him. “An’ thanks fer keepin’ me company an’ fer bringin’ me tha’ homework an’ revision,” Mary continued, “otherwise I think I woul’ hae jumped oot th’ window from boredom.”
“Not to mention failed your OWLs,” added Lily with a grin.
“Tha’, too,” agreed Mary. “Which reminds me, they star’ week after nex’, richt? Wha’ dae we hae firs’?”
“Charms first,” said Charlotte immediately. “Then Herbology, then Astronomy.”
Mary nodded. “Aye. An’ I’ve go’ Muggle Studies i’ there somewhere too, I think.”
“Right,” said Martha with a grin. “So do you want to get stuck straight back into your revision, or should we have a bit of a celebration first that you’re out of the hospital wing?”
Mary grinned at her. “I knew I liked ye, Martha,” she said. “Defini’ly a celebration firs’, I think.”
“Good choice,” said Martha. “Now, I’ve got a few butterbeers stashed away upstairs, and I’m pretty sure Lily has some chocolate …”
Lily nodded. “And I was keeping it for just such an occasion,” she agreed with a grin. “Well, girls, come on then.” And despite Charlotte’s protests that we were running out of time for revision, we abandoned our study and headed up to the dorm to commemorate Mary’s return.
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