Chapter 2, The Werewolf's Tale
Remus Lupin had once been a normal child, as normal as any child with a Wizard for a father and a Muggle for a mother could be. He liked picture books, playing in the sand and paddling in the small stream that ran past the bottom of the garden.
One day, though, his father came home from his apothecary visibly shaken and told his wife he had been threatened by a man named Greyback. This man, and several of his cronies, had entered Lupin’s Apothecary and demanded that John Lupin hand over all of the money that was on the premises. Mr Lupin refused, threatening to call the Law Enforcement squads. Greyback had laughed, shrugged and simply said, ‘I know where you live, Lupin, heard you’ve got a little boy too. It would be a shame if anything happened to him.’
Then he had grinned, showing overly large canines and swept out of the door without a word. John Lupin was a brave man, but Greyback had just made an explicit threat against his family.
Fenrir Greyback was not your average thug, or even your average magical criminal; he had a curse that was recorded as far back as civilisation. Once a month, at the full of the moon, man became creature. He transformed into a beast neither human nor animal, crazed with a thirst for human blood. In short, he was one of the most vicious werewolves Britain had ever seen.
Most werewolves couldn’t be recognised offhand, unless a very sharp observer was able to spot incredibly subtle signs; unexplained illnesses around full moon, odd mood swings and few other personality disorders. Greyback was an exception, even Muggles were frightened of a man who actively embraced the animal side; he grew his fingernails long, like claws, filed his canines into sharper points and seemed to know little of personal hygiene. He also enjoyed a habit of trying to infect as many others with his curse as he possibly could. Every full moon he would position himself near an isolated house or hamlet and seek out a target. He specialised in children.
He was a dangerous man to refuse, if you could call him a man.
Despite John and Elizabeth Lupin’s best efforts to protect their young son, a year later they awoke in the night to smashing glass, terrifying roars and the screaming of their baby boy. Remus Lupin was rushed to hospital as Aurors arrived at the house, but Greyback had vanished and the Healers at St. Mungo’s Hospital of Magical Maladies and Injuries said nothing could be done, that it was already too late.
Werewolves had been shunned for centuries by people who neither understood, nor cared for the beings that they considered neither human nor animal. But now John and Elizabeth found they had one as a son. Word spread of the horrifying attack and many were sympathetic, but gradually fewer people began to visit Lupin’s Apothecary. Eventually John closed it, renting out the property to a small Menagerie owner. Lizzy got a job as a Muggle secretary, but there was little money to be made.
John became obsessed with finding a cure for his young son and began to spend every extra galleon they had on furthering that cause. None of the potions, amulets or strange pills he bought made the slightest bit of difference though.
At the same time, little Remus Lupin had no idea of what had happened to him; he had been attacked by a terrifying monster and spent a day or so in hospital, but then he was taken home.
For a month John and Elizabeth prayed that the Healers had been wrong as they woke night after night to hear their little boy screaming at the nightmares that plagued him.
Even so, at the end of the month, they took their son down to the cellar they had had built and locked him on the other side of a thick, oak door. Then they listened as the pitiful, confused crying became screams of pain and finally howls of rage.
All the while Lizzy knelt, sobbing, in front of the cellar door, asking God what they had done to deserve such a fate; what an innocent child could have possibly done. John, however, sat rigid in an armchair by the window, gripping the key to the cellar so tightly in his hand that by morning it had cut deeply into his palm.
When the sun rose Elizabeth prised the key from her husband’s fist, barely noticing the blood in her haste to rescue her baby boy and unlocked the cellar door with shameful apprehension, unsure of what she would find on the other side. She found her child, curled in a corner, shivering, bleeding and terrified. She pretended not to notice the way he flinched away from her and carried the little boy upstairs as she tried to comfort fears that could not assuaged.
Years passed like this, and the Lupins began to give up hope of ever having a normal life.
Until, one day, a man named Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry appeared on their doorstep. He came to offer the now ten year-old Remus a place at his school, provided necessary precautions were taken.
So, on the First of September, 1960, Lizzy and John put their son on the Hogwarts Express, said goodbye and left early. It was to be put about that Mrs Lupin had a long term incurable illness and that Remus would be allowed to go home once a month to see her. In reality, at full moon, he would be spirited away to a safe environment for him to transform, later the School Matron would look after him until he could return to classes.
On the train that day, Remus met three other boys, with whom he was sorted into Gryffindor House, along with a fourth boy. The fourth boy, David Gudgeon, left during the first term after an unfortunate accident while they were playing a game. The three other boys became Remus’s dorm-mates and it took them a year to work out what Remus really was.
Instead of shunning him, as most would have done, James Potter, Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew swore never to tell another soul. They also made another promise, one that Remus never set much stock by; that they would help find a cure or a way make Remus’ monthly transformation bearable.
Remus told them bitterly that finding a cure was impossible, to which a young James Potter replied belligerently, ‘Then we’ll find some way to help.’
By Christmas of their Second Year the four boys probably knew more about werewolves than any other person in the castle; pupil or staff. It wasn’t until Easter, however, as they poured over books on werewolves in the Restricted Section of the library by night with the aid of James’ invisibility cloak, that James had an epiphany.
‘Werewolves are only dangerous to humans, right?’
‘Yup,’ Black replied, yawning widely.
‘So… we need to become… unhuman?’
‘What? Like transfigure yourself into a bush?’ Remus asked in confusion.
‘No!’ James replied excitedly, suddenly remembering the first lesson of the year when Professor McGonagall had transformed into a cat right in front of them, ‘We become-‘
‘Animagi!’ Sirius finished as he caught on.
Remus had frowned at them, ‘But Professor McGonagall said it’s incredibly difficult, and you need to register, and you’re well underage, and-‘
But James cut him off with an offhand wave, ‘So?’
‘We’re the best in our year!’ James flowed on enthusiastically; he was under no illusions that he and Sirius, at least, could do a quarter of the work anyone else did and still get top grades. He was also the youngest person in the school to be playing on a Quidditch team at that time, admittedly only by a few months, but the youngest all the same.
Peter, realising his lack of magical ability, began to look worried as James bounded on, ‘We won’t register and no one else needs to know!’
Remus continued to protest, but a week later no books remained in the library on Animagi. They had even managed to procure a note from Professor Slughorn for the Restricted ones, in exchange for Sirius attending at least two ‘Slug Club’ parties. Something that Sirius had been incredibly unwilling to do, but they had found no other way to get hold of the Restricted books for a good amount of time, and Slughorn had been asking Sirius almost every lesson since First Year.
They had imagined that becoming Animagi would be like their usual Transfiguration they did in class, only on themselves, more complex and a lot harder. However, they were amazed to find that they wouldn’t even need a wand. They almost abandoned the project when they read that it would take them approximately five years to complete the transformation. The boys’ hopes faded as Sirius read those words aloud to the others in their dorm, but later that night James took Sirius and Peter aside, ‘I know what it said in the book, but we made a promise and I know we won’t break it. I’d rather be bitten too, and join Remus that way than leave him alone every time full moon comes around. He’s trusted us to keep his secret, and I’ll be a Slytherin before I let a friend down.’
Sirius and Peter had been surprised by this outburst, but Sirius looked into his friend’s eyes and saw only truth. Sirius realised something incredible at that moment; in front of him was a boy who would do anything for his friends, anything. He had never met anyone like James Potter; his own family was as different from James’ as could possibly be imagined. Sirius realised also, that that sort of friendship was extended to him too, and he vowed that he would return it to the hilt.
The next day they began their studies in the art of the Animagi; any amount of time and sacrifice would be worth it to help a friend.
There was almost no physical magic involved other than the actual transformation itself, which was, in fact, a tiny part of the whole process. The whole concept revolved around knowing their own minds intimately; seeing themselves as others saw them and knowing without any illusions what they truly were. Once they had ‘discovered’ themselves they would be able to select from a few animals that might correspond to their human nature. The closer the representation, the easier the transformation would be. Once an animal was chosen, it would need to be studied. Then, and only then, if they could sum up the concentration, mental strength and self-belief, would they be able to complete the transformation itself.
They also realised that people would probably notice their distracted minds and likely drop in grades, so they came up with a plan. Remus, who wouldn’t be undergoing the process, would help Peter, the least clever, with his work, while Sirius and James would have to fend for themselves and help Peter with the transformation. To cover all this ‘extra-curricular work’ up, they invented an extra persona; they began calling themselves ‘The Marauders’ and pulling pranks and stunts on people. First it was just the odd Slytherin exploding book-bag, but they found themselves falling deeper into it and showers of luminous water balloons would fall from the ceiling of the Great Hall when it was raining. Of course, they had to have background to this; they took it in turns to search the castle by night for secret passageways and Remus spent hours looking up references to forgotten passages and hidden rooms, when he wasn’t helping Peter.
They started getting into more trouble than before, but their trouble-making gave them lists of excuses for being tired, worse grades, strange afflictions and myriad other minor problems. Had anyone really known what was going on, they would have realised that the four were incredibly mature and advanced for their age. Of course, no one did realise what was going on; they saw a group of young boys, who were using their extraordinary talents for fun rather than schoolwork.
It took them a year and a half before they had all decided that they knew themselves well enough to consider the next step, and each discovered surprising things about themselves in that time. By the start of their Fourth Year they began to look at potential animals. By Easter they had chosen their forms, and began to seriously think about taking the final step.
At the beginning of their Fifth Year they achieved what they had set out to do two and a half years before. James became a magnificent stag; Sirius a great, shaggy dog; and Peter, a shifty-looking rat.
Their first transformations did not go smoothly though; for several hours one night Sirius was left with a paw instead of a hand before he calmed down enough to make it revert to its natural shape. Peter actually sported a rat’s tail for a whole Sunday after his first attempt before he managed to get rid of it. James, however, had lost a whole change of clothes; upon transforming back into a human, he found, to his astonishment, that his clothes had vanished somewhere in the process, much to his embarrassment. He never found out what had happened to them.
They also had to learn to operate their new forms; walking on four, differently jointed limbs was an entirely new experience and it was several hours before either James or Sirius managed their first tentative steps. Peter, being that much closer to the ground, didn’t need to worry quite so much about balance and limb control, neither of which he was particularly good at, even in his human form. A tail was an experience in its own right and they were often left with the feeling that something was missing when reverted back to their natural shapes.
However, the real test came when they went to meet Remus, who they had taken to calling ‘Moony’, in his transformed state, for the first time. Each was terrified of being mauled and killed, but with trembling steps and a promise ringing in his ears, James led the way through the hidden tunnel below the Whomping Willow to the Shrieking Shack where Remus stayed at full moon.
Six months later they were leaving the shack and exploring Hogsmeade, the Forbidden Forest and the nearby hills by the light of the full moon.
Only Remus’ parents ever knew that the other three boys knew their son was a werewolf, and far from being fearful; they were thankful for it. They had seen the changes in their son over the years; how he had accepted his life, how he no longer tore himself apart at every full moon. But even they never knew the lengths the four had gone to.
Where once Remus Lupin had been a shy boy, terrified of his own shadow; he was now a forthright young man, who had accepted the hand that Fate had dealt him.