A Talk with Remus
Mr. Lupin led Harry behind a tapestry and up a stairwell that acted like an escalator from the muggle world. Out from behind a portrait of Selwyn Gaunt on the eighth floor and down a floor to the seventh, where he paced thrice in front of a blank wall, causing a slide down to the first floor to appear. Across a single corridor into the office, which had a small bed in the corner and a few amenities as well as a pair of comfy chairs across from the fireplace. It had only taken a few minutes.
"Beg pardon," Harry said, "But was that really faster than just going down two stories and moving wherever?"
Lupin nodded. "Hogwarts can be… temperamental, I suppose. It doesn't always let you get where you want to by the main corridors. Shortcuts like that are much more reliable; things like the day of the week and the phase of the moon can affect it," he explained. "You'll get the hang of it eventually. In this case, going here from where we were would've required going up to the ninth floor, then down to the second sub-basement, before we could get here. The slide on the seventh floor can lead to wherever you like below it, though, as long as there's no room there already."
"Handy," Harry said, impressed. "Anyway, I didn't get to say it earlier, but…" he stuck out a hand. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Lupin."
Lupin smiled wanly as he shook the boy's hand; it looked like he hadn't smiled in years. "Please, call me Remus. I don't like the sound of 'Mr. Lupin'. Far too formal, especially for the son of my oldest friend."
Harry cocked his head to the side and tried it out. "Remus... I guess that works. Alright then. Remus."
Remus leaned back in his chair, absently twirling his wand between his fingers. "So. Where shall we begin?"
"I'd like to hear about you. If all goes well, I hope that you'll be able to become my guardian and take me from the Dursleys. But obviously I need to know more about you first."
Remus sighed. "I wish I could, Harry, but there are reasons that I can't. I can't look after any child, in fact, much as I'd like to. But... are your relatives really that bad?"
Now Harry returned the scarred man's wan smile. "I'd rather not refer to them as my family."
Lupin shuddered; it was clear that Harry meant what he said. "Well, I can certainly tell you about myself if you like. Would you prefer my recent life, or my days at Hogwarts?"
"When you were at Hogwarts," Harry said promptly. "Although I am curious about why you were in America."
Remus sighed. "Dumbledore didn't want me near you. He thought that you were safe at your relatives' house and was afraid I'd take you, and damned be the consequences. From what I gather," he added, "I probably would've. But I've had time to cool off. I think there are some sort of wards tied to your mother's blood, something strong which can't be replicated."
Harry nodded slowly. "I suppose that makes sense. I know there were people who served Vold- sorry, You-Know-Who-"
"Voldemort," Remus said levelly. "Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself." It sounded as though he was quoting someone.
Harry considered this for a moment, and nodded in agreement. "Voldemort, then. Not everyone who served him was caught, and some of them might want to hurt me."
Lupin shrugged. "Most are probably too wary to do it directly, but they could engineer something. In any case, he sent me to America, and I became an auror for the American ministry."
"Ah, so that's where you became a specialist in Dark creatures," Harry guessed.
Remus shook his head. "I was hired as a specialist in Dark creatures," he said quietly. He hesitated for a moment before continuing. "A member of my family became a werewolf, you see," he told Harry. "My… my younger brother. I've spent much of my life searching for a cure for the condition, and I always meet him during the full moon to help contain him." Lupin sighed. "I've made no success. Thankfully there is the Wolfsbane Potion now, but still."
Harry nodded. "I can understand that, I suppose," he said. "Is that why you're not allowed to have kids? Because you're in close contact with a werewolf?"
Lupin looked away. "I'd rather not discuss that," he said. "It's a painful subject for me. I shouldn't have brought it up."
Harry was silent for a minute or so before he changed the subject to a less painful one. "What's the United States like compared to Britain?" he asked.
Lupin smiled. "Well," he began, "there are significant cultural differences. Something you need to understand is that very few wizards went to the New World along with the Muggles. There were some, of course, a few Dark wizards who wanted freedom and a Light family or two that wanted to keep an eye on them. The original plan, I understand, was to make a few conclaves that muggleborns could come to, three or four across the whole continent. But the vast majority of wizards in America are muggleborn or descended from muggleborns within a few generations, and they still felt connected to the muggle world, and stay wide-spread." Harry nodded, and Remus continued. "So, with the massive influx of muggleborns, the society is much closer connected to the muggle one. While here in Britain we're either ahead of or behind the times–"
"In what ways?" Harry interrupted. "Sorry," he added when Lupin raised his eyebrows.
"No, no problem. But since you ask; the prison system in Wizarding Britain is horrific," Remus snarled. "The prisoners in Azkaban have no rights; they get food only once a day, just a small bowl of thin gruel; they have no visitation rights, any visits are at the pleasure of the warden. They are inflicted with the power of the Dementors day and night, with no rest or break from it. The justification given is that it keeps anyone from escaping, and it's true that no-one has ever escaped from Azkaban. But there's another prison, Nurmengard. It was built by Grindlewald, to be inescapable without requiring the use of Dementors, creatures Darker than even he wanted to associated with." During his speech, Remus turned his wand through his fingers faster and faster, until light began to shine from it as though leaking from the force of the spinning. "Grindlewald is confined along with his compatriots in his own prison, and has been for forty years. Even he, who enchanted the tower personally and knows the spells better than any other, cannot escape from it. But we use Dementors!"
Lupin paused and stopped spinning his wand, taking several deep breathes, before he continued. "There are many wizarding prisons across America, none with Dementors. The muggleborn population doesn't stand for it. Instead, they are patterned after Nurmengard, and there have been no escapes since that was accomplished. This is," he added, "another sore point for me."
Harry quickly moved the conversation on. "And we're ahead of the times in other ways?"
Remus nodded. "The wizarding world has fewer prejudices than the muggle world," he explained. "Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we have different ones. Muggles only recently got over believing that gender or skin color matter, and are still coming to the realization that it doesn't matter if you're homosexual. Wizarding society hasn't had those problems for years. We have the muggleborn issue, and Dark and Light magics, instead."
Harry cocked his head to the side. "And America is closer to muggle society as far as that goes?"
Lupin nodded. "They're getting over it a little ahead of the muggles," he said, "thanks to the influence of purebloods. But they still have those prejudices rather than muggleborn controversy. And the American Ministry is more liberal than Britain's Ministry as far as Dark magic goes; fewer spells, objects, and potions are defined as Dark, and there are only three Dark creatures; Dementors, lethifolds, and basilisks. All rare in America, of course."
Harry tried to twirl his own wand in imitation of Remus, but failed, nearly dropping it. "So how did you become an Auror?" he asked. "And will you try and enter the Ministry now that you're back in Britain?"
"Well, Fawkes took me to America," Lupin explained. "That's the headmaster's familiar, a phoenix, by the way. So I arrived there immediately, for free, but I wasn't able to take anything with me. I needed to find a job. And of course I registered with their Ministry. And I thought 'well, I am qualified', so I asked about the possibility of being hired as an auror. I was hired as a consultant for Dark creatures and became a field specialist a year or so later. I would plan to enter the Ministry here, but… enough about me, Harry. Let's talk about you."
Harry swallowed. He really didn't want to talk about the Dursleys, whom he knew that Remus would turn the conversation to; how could he not, knowing that Harry refused to acknowledge their relationship? "Not much to tell, really," he said, looking away from Remus' eyes. "I was an average student, and did nothing interesting until the letter came."
"Harry." Lupin's tone forced Harry to turn back, the Auror's amber eyes boring into Harry' green ones. "You said that you didn't want to call the Dursleys your relatives. Why? What did they do to you?"
Harry's throat locked up and he hesitated. Sure, the Dursleys had treated him terribly; but Remus had an incredibly intense look on his face, and Harry felt like if he told the Auror what they had done then, he wouldn't tell the Ministry; he would rip them apart with his bare hands. No-one deserved that. Yes, the Dursleys had starved him, isolated him, kept him in a cupboard, verbally abused him, allowed Dudley's and his friends to beat him up, made it clear that they didn't love him, that they in fact hated him, but they hadn't done everything they could've. Vernon had never actually hit… no, wait, he had. They hadn't… well, actually…
Okay, so Harry couldn't think of anything the Dursleys hadn't done to him to hurt him. But he didn't want them dead.
"Nothing," he said firmly, still unable to look Lupin in the eye. "They just… didn't love me. They didn't hide that, and…"
"Do you have friends back there? From school?"
"…not really. Dudley…"
"Harry." Remus' voice was firm, but kind, drawing Harry's eyes back to his. "Tell me the truth, please."
Harry blinked. "I… I'm getting a headache. May I go see Madam Pomfrey, please?"
Lupin sighed. "You can trust me, Harry. But go ahead."
The next day, Harry was surprised to find Remus sitting behind Professor Adams’ desk. The auror was casually watching the doorway, ticking off something on a piece of paper as each person entered. Adams was nowhere to be seen, but there was a large rattling cage next to the desk, covered with a thick blanket that muffled all noise from within.
“Good morning, Harry,” Remus said, nodding to him. “Take a seat, please…”
“Why’s Mr. Lupin here?” Ron whispered to Harry as they sat near the rear of the classroom.
“I dunno,” Harry whispered back as a Hufflepuff girl sat in front of them.
A few minutes later, the class was full, everyone whispering about the missing professor and his replacement. Remus snapped his fingers, and in a wave from him, people stopped talking and turned to look at him, attentive and looking rather surprised. Harry realized why as soon as the wave reached him and Ron; a tingling sensation went through him, especially around the back of the eyes, making his hair stand on end and forcibly attracting his attention to the front. Shortly afterwards, the wave of magic returned to Lupin, sending shivers up Harry’s spine and making Ron sneeze. Remus cocked his head to the side as the magical wave reached him again, and then smiled.
“Good morning.” His voice seemed to reverberate, echoing from around the room so that it seemed that his quiet voice came from right behind Harry; and, presumably, everyone else as well. “My name is Remus Lupin. You may have seen me at the Head Table last night. I’m visiting, and the Headmaster kindly arranged for me a give a guest lecture in Defense class. Before we get to the lecture, does anyone have any questions?” Seamus raised his hand. “Yes, Mr. Finnegan?”
“Are you a professor too?”
Lupin shook his head. “No, though I’ve considered it occasionally. I’ve spent the last ten years or so working as an Auror for the American Ministry of Magic, though, and I do have a Mastery in Defense. Let’s see... Miss Brown?”
Lavender Brown blushed. “How did you get the scars?”
Lupin brought his hand up to trace gently over the scars on his cheek. “Good eye, Miss Brown, most people don’t notice them from that distance. I had a run-in with a werewolf about five years back; he didn’t bite me, but did get a few swipes in. Anyone else? Mr. Finch-Fletchley?”
“How do you know our names, and what was that thing when you snapped his fingers?”
Lupin smiled widely. “That’s one of the things I’ll be talking about today. Basically it was an attention-getting spell, one that’s very useful in Auror work, but I also included an element of information-gathering to snatch your names from the tags on your robes. I don’t have time to get to know you normally, so this is faster. Any other questions? No? Then I’ll begin.
“Now, you all know that you’re here to learn magic. Can anyone tell me exactly what magic is, though?” There were a few murmurs around the room, but no-one raised their hands. “Nothing? Alright then. Magic is many things, because there are several things called magic which should be distinguished. I’ll make those for you; magic is energy, wizards have the ability to use it, and spells are specific ways of focusing that energy.
“In other words, magic itself simply floats around the world; it’s stronger in some areas than others, of course. It’s very strong around Hogwarts, as I’m sure some of you have noticed, and is generally weaker in Muggle cities. But this mostly-random magic doesn’t really do anything. It interferes with some Muggle technology, and sometimes affects animals, but a Muggle wouldn’t notice it.
“However, a wizard - or a witch - can affect this floating magic. Can anyone tell me how? Mr… Longbottom, why don’t you hazard a guess?”
Neville looked around nervously and gulped. “Uh. With our wands?”
Lupin paused for a moment before nodding. “In a way. We do channel the magic through our wands, but it’s possible for a skilled wizard to do without for small things; the attention getting spell I started with, for example. A wizard controls magic with his mind. The incantation helps focus your thoughts, and the wand motion channels the magic and fixes it into a spell, rather like making music with an instrument. So, what happens when you cast wandlessly? Mr. Weasley, what do you think?”
Ron furrowed his brow. “Um… it’s not a spell, is it? It’s just the magic?”
“Mr. Weasley is quite right,” Remus agreed. “Casting wandlessly means that you can’t use a normal spell and have to focus the magic only with your mind. It’s more difficult, but you can do things that way even if you don’t know a spell for it. But I don’t want any of you trying it on your own, understand?” the auror warned. “Wandless magic takes a lot of willpower and experience with normal magic, which you don’t have yet.” The class nodded, the importance of this being effectively pressed into them by Remus’ serious face. After a moment he smiled again. “But let’s move on from that for a moment. Given what I’ve just told you about magic, what else ought to be possible?”
Harry considered this for a moment before raising his hand. “Casting silently?”
“Good, Mr. Potter. It’s possible to cast without an incantation by subvocalizing. This also requires willpower and experience, but it’s easier than wandless magic, which very few ever master. Silent casting is usually taught in N.E.W.T. level classes.”
Remus paused for a moment and took a sip of water. “All right, that’s the first of my three topics for you done in good time. The next thing I have for you is about kinds of spells. Who can list the five varieties of spells as defined in the Standard Book of Spells? Miss Bones?”
Susan Bones, face surprisingly focused, spoke up. “Jinxes, hexes, curses, charms, and transfigurations.”
“Exactly. Does anyone know what the distinctions are? Let’s take jinxes, hexes, and curses as a group for a moment. What’s the definition of a transfiguration?”
“Something that changes the shape and qualities of an object,” Neville said hesitantly.
“Well done, Mr. Longbottom. That’s right. I don’t think that Professor McGonagall will have gone this far into the theory yet, but a transfiguration doesn’t actually change the essential part of an object. If you transform a stone into a loaf of bread, you can’t eat it, because it’s actually a stone. That’s the reason for the Exceptions to Gamp’s Principles of Elemental Transfiguration, if any of you have heard of those yet. Now, what’s the difference between a hex and a charm? There are some very similar ones, after all. For example, diffindo is a cutting charm, but scinder is a cutting hex.”
Again, a murmur, and no answer. Harry wracked his brain, but couldn’t think of anything beyond using hexes on people and charms on things.
“No-one? Alright then, I’ll tell you. A charm doesn’t work on living things, and a jinx or hex won’t work on a non-living thing. Diffindo will cut through paper, or even solid steel if you put enough strength into it, but it can’t even penetrate skin. Scinder will give you a papercut, but won’t even slice through a tissue.”
Harry smacked his forehead. He had thought that a moment ago, why hadn’t he said anything? “Wait, sir!” he called out. “You said that jinxes and hexes don’t work on objects. What about curses?”
Lupin sighed. “Curses are stronger than hexes,” he said calmly. “They can have an effect on an object, though not always the same as it would have on a person. The killing curse, as an example, causes objects, including conjured or transfigured creatures, to dissolve into dust or shatter like glass. Let’s move onto the distinction between curses, hexes, and jinxes. We’re halfway through with my time, so I’ll just tell you.
“A jinx will wear off on its own, usually within an hour but sometimes taking up to a day. For example, the Jelly-Legs Jinx, which wears off after two hours. Also, in general, they’re essentially harmless. A hex is usually more harmful, and will take longer to wear off. Sometimes they only wear off because of the body itself; scinder, which I mentioned earlier, doesn’t wear off until the cut heals on its own. And a curse has the potential to be permanent or fatal.”
Remus looked around the room. “Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Who can name an exception to these definitions?”
Dean Thomas raised a hand. “I heard one of the Weasley twins talking about using a Banishing Charm on Mrs. Norris.”
Lupin nodded. “That’s one of them. The Banishing Charm, which is a fourth year spell, also works on living things, though not as well. Anyone else?” A third time, no-one answered. “Alright, this one is an interesting exception. The bubble-headed charm is one that doesn’t work on things at all, only on people.”
Neville raised a trembling hand and pointed at the cage, which was rattling very loudly. “Sir, w-what’s that?”
Remus glanced at it. “Oh, nothing much,” he said casually. “I just caught an acromantula, and I thought you might like to see.”
At once, everyone but Harry and the muggleborns scooted backwards in their desks, trying to get away from the cage. “Professor,” asked Harry, “what’s an acromantula?”
“I’m not a professor, Mr. Potter,” Lupin said calmly, unsurprised by the class’s reaction to his announcement. “And an acromantula is a kind of magical spider. They live up to fifty or sixty years and keep growing the whole time. There’s a nest out in the forest, and I caught a little one, only about… oh, the size of three dinner plates laid end to end?”
Ron gulped. “That’s a little one?” he asked.
Remus nodded. “Hagrid tells me that the king of the hive out there is closer to the size of an elephant. This one is maybe a year or two old. Don’t worry, the cage is quite secure.”
Ron stood from out of his desk and marched all the way to the back of the room. “No offense, sir,” he called. “I don’t like big spiders.”
“Quite understandable,” Lupin said agreeably, and flicked his wand, vanishing the blanket and revealing the spider.
It was at least three feet with its legs spread-eagled, and was slavering as it strained at the cage. With the muffling blanket gone they could hear its pincers clicking together as it gripped the bars in two legs and tried to pull them apart. Ron promptly fainted dead away.
“The reason I have this little beastie for you,” Lupin called over the spider’s clicking, “is to demonstrate a spell that a wizard should know by the time they graduate. It’s not easy and takes a good bit out of you, but it will take down any living creature in a single shot. It’s illegal to use on a person, but casting it on an animal, while frowned upon, is allowed. You shouldn’t use it unless you have no other recourse,” Remus warned the class. “If you think you can take down a creature alive in any other fashion, you should. In ten years of hunting down dangerous magical creatures in America, I’ve only had to use it twice.”
The class was incredibly attentive (except for Ron), leaning in to watch as Lupin turned towards the acromantula. The auror shifted his stance slightly, flicked his wand thrice, brought it down toward the beast, and spoke two words.“Avada Kedavra.”