A BLUDGER TO THE GUT
Disclaimer: This is a non-profit tribute to the works of JK Rowling who created and, together with her publishers and licensees, owns the characters and settings elaborated herein.
He hired Lupin. Lupin!
I know I should be used to it by now, his blind spot for Gryffindors, especially Potter and his gang, but every time it hits me like a bludger to the gut. Even if you see it coming, you never expect how much it will hurt.
It's the better part of two decades since I've been forced to see any of them daily yet the memories rise up around me like yesterday. Is it only because I've spent most of that time immured in this place where it all happened, where every corridor and classroom resonates with scenes of my old misery? Only my private rooms and the staff-room are free. Even Albus's office holds associations.
Maybe not. Some things can never be forgotten. The rank stink of a werewolf's breath as it advances on you, the razor-teeth and claws reaching to rip you into bloody shreds. The bitterness of betrayal as those who tried to kill you go free with barely a reprimand, while you are threatened with expulsion if you break silence. Worse, because Potter was rewarded for "saving" me from his own death-trap with the position of Head Boy, enabling him to torment me even more and with complete impunity.
The shame of being displayed half-naked and helpless in public with your oldest dingiest unmentionables on view. Did anyone realise what it said about my home life, about the neglect I lived under? I think, I hope, they all thought I was just slovenly. Better that than know how little I was valued even by my parents.
The perpetual flinch of knowing they were always lurking, four against one, to hex me. Every staircase an invitation to break my neck, every corner's turn a horror of anticipation. And why? I never knew until that day during the O.W.L.s when Potter told Evans, "Well, it's more the fact that he exists, if you know what I mean."
The fact that I exist: the one thing we agreed on deploring. How much better never to have existed at all; yet how impossible to lay down the task undone. I've never been able to leave unfinished a labour I've started.
And Lupin was witness and enabler of it all, who watched, pretending not to see, who saw and closed his eyes. Who even forgave Potter and Black for trying to turn him into the engine of my destruction, he that had never raised an unprovoked hand against me – nor a word in my defense.
I've wondered sometimes if that was why they did it. He would not participate willingly in my harassment so they turned him into their unknowing weapon; revenge on him as much as on myself. Yet his silent observance was participation enough. The onlooker is part of the game. Perhaps without him there would be no game.
He hired Lupin. Of all times, why now?
Why now when Black has escaped? Black the murderer, who turned the malevolence he'd honed on me against his own friends, who betrayed the parents of that brat Albus treasures, our one hope to defeat the Dark Lord when he returns. Whose treason enforced my own, dragging to an inevitable end the juggernaut of destruction I tried to avert.
How can he trust the one who ever had his conscience in Black's keeping? Who knew what was right but so feared losing the friendship he let pass what was wrong? Lupin, the weakling!
Ironic that the man with the monster inside, the monster that forces itself out every month when the moon is full in the sky, should have so little strength of character. Should be so ready to roll over or play fetch simply to have his ears rubbed. Perhaps the wolf is not so far from the lapdog after all.
Why can't Albus see it? Why won't he listen? If Black makes contact with Lupin, one word, one look, will have him under his thumb again, doing his bidding and abetting his crimes just as he did all through school. And then, how can the stronghold be defended when the betrayer is within? How keep the gates closed when the gatekeeper is open?
Yet why should he see now what he never did before? Not he, not Minerva, not Filius – none of those who taught when I was a student could see past the shine of the Golden Gryffindor, could see them for the rotted, reeking bullies they were. They didn't see the bared teeth behind the friendly smile, the raking claw in the handshake. Only Filch suffered as I did and even he was not their target so regularly as myself.
He hired Lupin – and offered me as a sop the chance to teach Defense three days of every month, three out of thirty.
How can I revolutionise the study of DADA when it's not mine to command, when I'm only the substitute? An unappetising sop indeed, a sop that chokes me! After all these years of service still he trusts the wolf more and will hear no word against him.
Yet I'm too starved to refuse it. I'll take that tenth of my desire and pour into it all that it can hold. I'll fill it to capacity with my expertise, just as I did with Lockhart's dueling club last year. Maybe the little brats will actually learn some of the skills they'll need to survive.
And if he will not guard against betrayal I'll guard for him, as I did when Quirrell held the post two years ago. This time, I know from the start whom to watch, whom to follow. If I must work alone I'll work alone. Have I not always done so? And yet, not quite alone. A word with Filch would be opportune perhaps. He can do little himself but be my other eyes, yet even that may be enough.
He hired Lupin. Lupin!