17th September 1975
If there was one thing Remus Lupin hated, it was attention. Even though he was one of the smartest in his class he very seldom put himself forward – a fact that he knew grated on his teachers somewhat. If there was a party, he’d be found in the library; a fight, he’d back down; a speech, he’d write it and let his friends give it. And therein lay the problem, really. His choice of friends.
Before he’d come to Hogwarts he’d never imagined that someone like him could have friends, and yet there they were, keeping him company, intruding on his thoughts and being the complete antithesis of ‘unobtrusive’. There was Lily Evans, bright, brilliant, pretty and the terror of rule breakers everywhere; her best friend Alice Roberts was much quieter, and warm and bubbly to boot, but her laugh could be heard three rooms away, and her flawless good nature regularly turned heads. Her boyfriend, Frank Longbottom, was the captain of the Ravenclaw chess team, and had grown used to being stopped in the corridor and challenged to public matches, something he wouldn’t have done even a year previously.
And then there were his best friends. James Potter, Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew: the Hogwarts equivalent of the mafia (if the mafia played pranks instead of murdering people). Sirius and James were both the epitome of the perfect Gryffindor: smart, funny, bold, handsome and cheeky. And, Remus would be the first to point out, complete prats, most of the time. Even Peter, who was almost as unassuming as him, was taking solos in the school choir these days, and chatting up his fellow choristers. They were both on the Quidditch team and rather fancied themselves as house heroes – and a hit with the ladies, which tended to get them in more trouble that Remus was comfortable with… he smiled grimly. At least in James’s case it was only one girl… the one girl who swore she would never even look twice at him… the one girl that most of the upper two years of Hogwarts, including himself, rather fancied. But Lily was James’s, had been from almost the moment he saw her, and that was that. No matter what she had to say about it.
Sirius, on the other hand, had been steadily making his was through the female population of Hogwarts since halfway through his fourth year, and was now considering seducing the male population. These days, even walking the corridors with him meant witnessing either the wrath of a previous assignation, the canoodling that accompanied a current arrangement and the searing glances that signalled the organisation of a new understanding. He couldn’t count the number of times he’d seen Sirius walk away with a slap-stung face or a good hexing with a spring in his step and a grin on his face. As far as he could tell, the dog felt that it was more than worth it… if he didn’t know him better he’d suggest he even enjoyed the let-down.
Beside them, Remus looked uncultured, plain, charmless and clumsy, and he knew it… most of the girls in his immediate social circle saw him as a nice boy, and nothing more, and with this he was fairly content. Having witnessed first hand the continuous rejection of James, the serial infatuation of Sirius and the awkward attempts at flirtation of Peter, he wasn’t so sure that he wanted to be anything other than ‘a really good friend’. He rather felt it wasn’t worth the grief.
It was one of these rejections that had landed them in the detention they were currently slogging through. Grudgingly, Remus conceded to himself that this wasn’t technically James’s fault – he had been quite subtle (for him), and had backed off much more quickly than usual, almost as soon as she reached for her wand, and he’d tried to apologise. It was just unlucky that the hex Lily had aimed at him had missed, bounced off the wall and hit Sirius, who had suddenly begun tap-dancing, careened into Remus and Peter and knocked the three of them straight into Minerva McGonagall, much to the amusement of everyone else in the corridor. Their laughter was still ringing in his violet tinged ears.
Since she’d been carrying a cauldron full of potion as a favour to Professor Slughorn, and that cauldron had upended over the four of them and turned their robes, hair and skin a particularly shocking shade of violet, she had immediately put all four Marauders into detention (the logic being, if James was near a catastrophe he was usually responsible for it) and (rather unfairly, in his opinion) asked Lily to give her a hand clearing up the mess. As much as he liked Lily, it had smacked of favouritism, and four hours of scrubbing the mud-soaked hospital wing later he was feeling particularly irritated with his red-headed friend. And with his current companions. Who were singing. Loudly.
As they launched into what could have been the eighth chorus of ‘A Wizard’s Staff has a Knob on the End,’ Remus cracked.
“That’s it,” he growled, gesticulating angrily with his sponge, “if I have to hear one more verse I’m going to use this in a thoroughly unusual colonoscopy.”
Sirius paused – it was unusual for Remus to get angry, and the Marauders had long since learned that there were times when he shouldn’t be pressed.
“Which one of us?”
“Which one of us will be helping further your unorthodox foray into medical science?”
“I haven’t decided yet,” Remus growled. “Are you volunteering?”
Apparently, this was one of those times.
“Um, no,” said Sirius, getting back to cleaning.
They worked in blissful silence for a few minutes, getting dirt out of cracks where it had remained undisturbed for decades. If they could just keep going like this, in peace and quiet, then his friends might survive the night.
James sighed a heavy and lovelorn sigh.
Here it comes, Remus thought, glumly.
“Wasn’t Lily breathtaking this afternoon?” he asked the world at large. His three friends ignored him. “I just can’t get enough of that glint of mischief in her eye…”
“I think it’s a glint of wrath, mate,” said Peter, conversationally.
“Oh no, I think she’s really beginning to come around!” said James, enthusiastically. “Why, just the other day I had a five minute conversation with her and she didn’t try to hex me once!”
“I think I preferred the singing,” Remus grumbled, attacking a particularly stubborn bit of mud.
“Yeah,” said Sirius, “but that was largely because Flitwick was sat right next to you, and she couldn’t very well hex you in front of him, could she? It would ruin her prefect-perfect reputation.” He scowled. Generally speaking, he and Lily really didn’t get on, and pretty as she was he failed to see what James saw in her. It had been a neat little charm though, and he’d never admit it – except maybe to Remus – but he was a bit impressed.
“Apparently hexing big-head over there in front of McGonagall didn’t do much damage to it,” grumbled Peter. “Next time we should tell her to get on with it and put him out of his misery.”
Sirius snorted as Peter yelped; James had thrown the sponge at him.
“Oy! I’m all wet now!”
“Well don’t be a git then.”
Remus ducked as the sponged sailed back over his head and hit James square in the face.
“I’m just saying, if you hadn’t called her ‘cupcake’ we wouldn’t be cleaning the floor. Again.”
James wiped his face.
“What’s wrong with ‘cupcake’?”
“What’s not wrong with ‘cupcake’?” Remus asked, irritated.
“Sirius uses it all the time.”
“Sirius would,” he muttered. “Ow!”
“Oh, sorry Moony, my hand slipped,” said Sirius, with a grin. “But Pete has a point James, at the rate you’re going we’ll be causing permanent erosion in here.”
“She’s just so perfect thought – can’t you just see it?” he asked, dreamily. “Me, Lily, a couple of kids? She’d be the best Mum ever…”
Remus rubbed his face. Sometimes, he thought, a lack of friends would be absolute heaven.
“You brought this on yourself, you know,” muttered Sirius, nudging him in the ribs. “At least he wasn’t drooling when we were singing.”
Remus gave him the kind of Look that sent small forest creatures scuttling into hiding.
“Erm, Pete, do you fancy helping me get that sponge off of Moony? He’s beginning to worry me…”
It was past midnight when the four of them slouched back into the Gryffindor Common Room, muscles protesting at every move and eyes stinging from the soap. Remus made a beeline for ‘his’ armchair by the fire, but Sirius got there first.
“Out,” he growled.
“Make me- no, wait,” he added, taking a look at his friend’s expression. “Chair’s yours.”
Remus flung himself into the vacated armchair and threw an arm over his eyes; it wasn’t far enough into the term for him to be too worried about taking a lie-in on a Saturday… perhaps he would just fall asleep here. The chair was so warm, and so comfy and so familiar…
Distantly, he was aware that Sirius had drifted over to flirt with his current squeeze, and from the sound of it, Peter was already fast asleep. James was quiet, hopefully reflecting on how patient and long-suffering his friends were.
Remus grunted. Perhaps this would be an apology.
“What is wrong with ‘cupcake’?”
“Ja-ames,” he groaned. “Give it up.”
“But I can’t ask Sirius, because he uses it all the time, and Peter’s asleep. Come on, Remus, I’m beginning to wear her down, and if I can just get what I’m saying to her right, she might warm up a bit more.”
Remus cracked an eye; James was looking at him earnestly. He sighed. That was the trouble with James: he might be a prat some of the time, and gush about Lily for the rest of it, but there was a kind of innocent loyalty in him at times that made up for it. If someone was in trouble, even if he couldn’t stand them, he’d be right there beside them, wand drawn and ready for a fight. He’d proved it last year, when Sirius’s bizarre sense of humour and a dangerous fit of pique had led to a situation Remus would rather forget.
“It’s just rude, mate. It’s like… when Slughorn calls us his ‘little treasures’. I think Lily thought you were being patronising.”
“But I’d never look down on her – she must know that,” James said, unhappily. “I think she’s wonderful.”
“Yes, but most of the time you act like you’re the best thing since roast beef…”
“Not around her –”
“No, but around everyone else,” he looked at his friend. “Maybe she thinks you’re immature – you could try treating people a bit better… she might be less inclined to hex you, at least.”
“I’m not that mean to people am I?” he asked, with a slight air of horror.
How did you answer a plea like that? Remus balked.
“Well, no, but… you could lay off the pranking for a bit –” he held up his hands defensively as shock spread across James’s features. “- at least the pranks that involve injury or total humiliation.”
“Maybe…” he conceded, grudgingly.
Remus allowed himself to relax into his chair again, enjoying the crackle of the fire in the grate.
“I’ve often wondered why you haven’t got yourself a girl, Moony…” James was saying, quietly. “I mean, you’re quiet, responsible, handsome and smart… I mean, even Peter has had more girlfriends than you.”
Remus’s eyebrows, which had risen slightly with every apparent accolade, had retreated behind his fringe.
A thought appeared to have occurred to James.
“You’re not gay are you?” he asked, without tact. Remus was too taken aback to form an answer, and just stared at him for a moment, open mouthed. “Because it’s fine if you are – I mean, none of us would care, you’d still be our Moony –”
“Well, I’m flattered Prongs, but I hate to break it to you that I am, in fact, straight…”
“Oh. It’s just, you never even flirt with girls.”
“Has it occurred to you that I’m not very good at flirting? Or just haven’t found someone I want to flirt with?” Or someone that isn’t one of Padfoot’s cast-offs? The man really didn’t leave much room for anyone else.
“Oh,” said James, again. “What about Rebecca Storm, from Hufflepuff? You were spending a lot of time with her last term in those ‘study sessions’ of yours – and she’s pretty,” he added, in a manner that suggested that she would in no way measure up to his Lily.
“Well, she’s nice and all, but she’s a bit too… girly.” Remus said, wrinkling up his nose. “She’d get really excited about kittens, would pout if she ran out of pink ink and smelled of pot-pourri. She’s also dating Finn from seventh year,” he added, almost as an after thought.
“Not your type then…”
“No, not really.”
“What is your type?” asked Peter, groggily.
“I thought you were asleep,” said James, amusement in his voice.
“Well I was, but you buggers woke me up and your conversation sounded interesting,” he replied, eyes still shut.
“You were eavesdropping,” said Remus, flatly.
A smile crossed Peter’s face.
“And? Come on Remus, what’s your type?”
“I don’t really have one.”
“Don’t really have one what?” asked Sirius, draping himself over one end of the sofa.
“Shouldn’t you be romancing Trixie, or whatever her name is?”
“Nah, all the totty’s gone to bed.”
Remus glanced around the room: sure enough, the common room was empty except for them.
“Don’t change the subject,” admonished James. “We were trying to find out what Moony’s ‘type’ is,” he explained.
“I told you, I don’t have one.”
“Everyone’s got one,” Sirius insisted. “There’s blondes, brunettes –”
“Red-heads,” added James, helpfully.
“Kind ones, smart ones, ditzy ones –” put in Peter
“Hot ones, dangerous ones, ones that are way too skinny, fat ones – I like those, you get more to grip and they’re needy, they always do more –”
“You’re a real creep, you know that Padfoot?” asked Wormtail lazily.
“I prefer to call myself a connoisseur.”
Even James rolled his eyes.
“Look, I’m just more interested in being friends with girls, alright?”
“See, didn’t I say he was gay?” said Sirius, triumphantly. Remus threw a cushion at him.
“I’m not gay, I just don’t feel the need to sleep with every girl in a seven mile radius, or constantly worship the first pretty girl to walk through the compartment door in first year –”
“Harsh,” interrupted Peter.
“- nor categorise them. I find it demeaning.”
“Oooh, hark at him. Have you ever even flirted with a girl?” asked Sirius.
“To be fair Padfoot, he hasn’t flirted with a guy either,” said James, feeling this was getting a bit out of hand.
“There, you see?”
Sirius made a derogatory noise.
“Do you lot mind?” demanded an angry voice from the vicinity of the girls’ dormitories. “Only some of us would like to get some sleep without having to think about the contents of Sirius’s perverted little mind.”
“Sorry Lily,” said James, standing immediately and hustling his friends up the dormitory stairs. “Nobody needs to think about what goes on in his head.”
“Oy,” said Sirius, as he was pushed passed a be-robed Lily. “Night Lily, nice ti-”
James cuffed him around the head.
“I was just saying-”
“Remus?” she asked, as they passed her. “I’m sorry about earlier – I didn’t mean for you to get in trouble – or Peter, really…”
He sighed. It was impossible to be angry with Lily for long.
“It’s alright. Just do me a favour? Next time check who we’re going to crash into before you hex us.”
She smiled, and nodded. The part of him that didn’t want to care about James’s feelings made him grin back, and he practically ran up the rest of the steps. His good mood evaporated when he got through the door however: Sirius was sprawled naked on his bed and both Peter and James were begging him to cover up.
“But I’m always naked under my clothes,” he protested, pouting.
“Now there’s something I never needed to hear,” said Remus, grimacing. “Come on Sirius, or you’ll give Peter nightmares.”
Peter threw a pillow at him.
When they’d got into bed and (finally) persuaded Sirius to put his boxers back on, Peter piped up.
“If you don’t have a type, then describe your perfect woman.”
“Yeah, Moony, what do you look for in a girl?”
“You’ve got to have preferences – I mean, you seem to know what you don’t want.”
“I like a bit of everything in a strumpet,” said Sirius.
“Shut up Padfoot, you’d screw a table if it wasn’t nailed down.”
“Come on Remus.”
“Oh, go on. I’ll go first if you want,” said James.
“No need,” Sirius scoffed. “Red hair, green eyes, a fiery temper, a quick wit, great ti- ow!”
“What about you, Wormtail?” James asked.
“I dunno… I suppose I like someone I can have a good laugh with… she’s got to be kind… some common ground would help, like music – or being good with potions…” he paused, apparently thinking. “I quite like girls with dark hair… not black, but sort of chocolate-y, with freckles and really clear, blue eyes. Long legs would be a plus.”
“That sounds nice,” said Remus, smiling.
“You do know you just described Claire Pollard from Hufflepuff?”
“Well, she is cute,” said Peter, defensively, as the others chuckled.
“Come on Moony, it’s your turn,” said James.
“I wasn’t joining in.”
“You were too!”
“Look, I’ve just never thought about it, alright?”
“Well, think about it then.”
“Fuck off Sirius.”
“If you tell us we’ll let you get some sleep.”
There was silence for a few minutes as Remus stared at the hangings above his bed.
“Think out loud then, or I’m going to drop off.”
“Alright… a good sense of humour would be nice.”
“Shut up Sirius!” said Peter. “Go on.”
“Er… well I suppose I’d like her to be pretty smart… practical too –”
“Yeah, that would come in handy¸” Sirius leered.
There was the sound of a brief scuffle.
“It’s alright Moony,” said James, “I’ve sat on him, go on.”
“Erm… I’d like her smile a lot… she’d have a really warm smile,” said Remus, beginning to warm to the subject. “And – like Peter said – something in common we could talk about. I’ve never really thought about looks… I don’t really mind, as long as she’s nice.”
“Mmfounds ffa bitff like Aliff.”
“Shut up Padfoot. I like the sound of her,” said Peter.
“Me too…” said James. “Are you a ‘legs’ man too?”
“You know… Peter’s a ‘legs’ man, I’m a ‘tits’ man… Sirius is an ‘everything’ man.”
“Oh… I… breasts, maybe?” He was glad it was dark, he could feel himself blushing. “I suppose a good pair of breasts would be nice.” He could hear Sirius’s muffled sniggering through his pillow; Remus ignored him. “Or a nice, firm bottom…”
James gave a yelp as Sirius managed to dislodge him.
“So you’re a ‘tits and arse’ man then,” he said. “Alright, alright, I’m shutting up. I only wanted to clarify,” he continued huffily. “And she does sound nice Moony. After a while you get sick of girls who can’t put a sentence together.”
There was a speculative silence as the four of them listened to the rain buffeting the dormitory window.
“Can I go to sleep now?”
“Yeah,” Peter yawned. “Consider us informed.”
“Thank you,” said Remus, and rolled onto his side. It was a real pity that the impossible girl he’s just described was already taken… there couldn’t be three girls like Lily and Alice, and certainly not in Hogwarts. He’d already know them. Really, there was no point thinking about her… seeing as she didn’t exist.
Even so, it was a long time before he got to sleep.
It was very dark by the time the carriage pulled up at the entrance to the Castle. Her guide had told her that usually she’d be required to walk from the gates, but the bad weather had earned her a briefer journey. She was very grateful for this. As much as she liked travelling, the trek from the pretty little chalet in the French Alps had taken it out of her, and tomorrow she would be joining a new school… Her mother’s sudden decision to fire her tutors and send her to Scotland of all places worried her. Although she barely saw the woman she was aware that no expense had been spared in her upbringing, which had included excellent tuition in magic and a well stocked library, and was grateful for what little time her mother could spend with her, when her husband was away.
She looked up at the Castle and sighed. Her guide, who seemed to be an odious, bad-tempered man, grunted as he removed her trunk from the back of the carriage. She wasn’t particularly good around people, the chalet being rather out of the way from roads and villages… she had to hand it to her mother, she knew how to hide a potential scandal when she had to.
The greasy little man escorted her through a courtyard and up to a gargoyle.
“Chocolate frogs,” he said gruffly, and to her surprise the gargoyle began retreating up a spiral staircase. At the top, her guide knocked on the door. Surely there wouldn’t be anyone left awake…
“Come in,” said a voice; it was a calm voice, sweetened with what sounded like the edge of a smile. She liked the owner of the voice immediately.
The office behind the door was filled with fascinating orbs and instruments; there were dozens of bookshelves lining the walls, portraits on almost every surface and – unless she was very much mistaken – a phoenix watching her patiently from a perch in the corner. In the centre of the room was a large carved oak desk covered in papers, quills, and (for some reason) sweets.
Behind the magnificent desk sat a kindly looking elderly man: his bright blue eyes took her in as she stared around her office and he smiled in amusement. He had several feet of long silver hair and beard, half-moon spectacles and an extremely crooked nose.
“Ah, you must be Miss Wren. Do sit down – would you like a pear-drop?”
“Er – no thank you Sir.”
What a strange man this headmaster is, she thought, her earlier trepidation dissipating. She felt unusually calm in his presence, as if she’d given her brain a hot bath.
“That will be all, thank you Argus,” Dumbledore said to her laconic guide. “Now Miss Wren, I trust your journey was pleasant?”
“Yes sir, if a little long.”
“Ah yes, you must be tired. Fortunately there are only a few formalities to attend to before I can let you retire. I gather from your tutor’s correspondence that you are at an appropriate level for sixth year study.”
“I suppose so, Sir, but I’ve never attended school before… I’m not sure what level that would be.”
“Yes, the letters mentioned that too…” he peered at her over his half moon spectacles. “I suppose it would be too much to ask what your real name is?”
She smiled wearily.
“As far as I’m aware Sir, Eleanor Wren is my real name. I’ve never been called anything else – they’re on my Birth Certificate – my mother chose both names for me… I rather like them.”
“As I understood. Well then, Miss Wren you will remain… firstly, let me extend my warmest welcome to our school. With any luck you won’t be seeing too much of me, if your behaviour is as exemplary as your tutors suggest.”
Eleanor raised an eyebrow. While she’d never been particularly unruly, she’d always had something of a knack for mischief. Just how desperate were they to get her into Hogwarts?
The twinkle behind Dumbledore’s half moon spectacles suggested that he had a very shrewd idea of what she was thinking.
“While you are here you will be sorted into one of our four houses – the members of which will be like your family. There are four houses: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin, and the members of each house exemplify a selection of very fine qualities. They are named after our four founders, you know. Gryffindors tend to be brave, chivalrous and noble; Ravenclaws are often very intelligent and logical; Hufflepuffs are loyal, caring and creative; Slytherins tend to be cunning and shrewd.”
He summoned what looked to be a battered old wizard’s hat with his wand and let it drop gently onto her head.
Startled, she went to push it off, but a voice in her ear distracted her.
“Give me a moment, give me a moment,” the voice said.
Er… excuse me Sir, but are you the hat? She thought, a little confused.
“I am indeed… well now, I don’t often come across someone as polite as you… let me see… you are an interesting mix… kind and caring enough for Hufflepuff, and you’d do very well in Ravenclaw.”
Th-thank you, Sir.
“You’re welcome, my dear… perhaps your other qualities might suit another house though… yes, I think you’ll make an excellent GRYFFINDOR!”
The hat had shouted the last word so loudly that Eleanor had very nearly jumped off her seat.
“Excellent,” said Dumbledore, sending the hat back across the room with a flick of his wand. “Professor McGonagall will escort you to Gryffindor Tower and present you with your timetable. She will be your head of house.”
Eleanor hadn’t even heard her come in… how could they have known what house she’d be in? Perhaps the other heads of houses were waiting outside too, just in case.
“Thank you Sir,” she said, before following her new head of house out of the office. Dumbledore stared after her, thoughtfully.
As they walked through the slumbering castle, Eleanor sneaked a glance at her new Professor. She was a severe looking woman in her mid-fifties, with dark, greying hair and a sharp profile; she was wearing a prim set of robes in green tartan, and as she halted in front of a large, gold-framed portrait, she afforded Eleanor a brief smile.
“I hope you’ll be happy here, Miss Wren. If you have any problems you may come to my office – I don’t know what your previous schooling has entailed, but we expect you to work hard at Hogwarts.”
“Yes Miss,” Eleanor replied; hard work was something that held no terror for her.
“Your dormitory is the second door at the top of the left hand staircase – there is a spare bed for you beside the window. Your room mates are named Lily Evans and Alice Roberts, both very nice girls. Here is your timetable – the password is ‘Cassiopeia’.”
Eleanor jumped back in surprise as the portrait in front of her swung open to reveal a dark room full of the shapes of tables and armchairs.
“A word of advice, Miss Wren: avoid, if you can, the attentions of Sirius Black and James Potter. They consider themselves to be the resident jesters, and tend to be a little… exuberant.”
“Thank you, Miss – good night.”
She climbed through the portrait hole and by some miracle made it across the furniture strewn room without falling over anything. The dormitory, such as she could make out, was small and snug, and the sounds of her sleeping room-mates was oddly comforting after so long a day. Finding that her pyjamas had been laid out for her, she climbed into bed and made herself comfortable.
It might not be home, she thought, as she listened to the wind howling around the tower, but it would certainly do, for the time being.