Why does Tom Riddle claim that Hagrid had raised werewolf cubs under his bed? Merely a slanderous lie, or something a bit more interesting? Follow me on a torturous journey through time in search of the facts behind this fascinating and ludicrous rumour!
Remus Lupin sighed to himself - but silently, so as not to raise the fury of Professor Muerno. Some days he really detested Defence Against the Dark Arts; with the professor off on yet another vitriolic and fact-free rant about the evils of Dark Creatures. Remus looked down at their textbook, The Beginners Guide to Dark and Evil Things, and sighed again. The picture in the book was a crudely carved woodcut of an extraordinarily-unlikely looking werewolfstanding next to a vampire, both presumably meant to be emitting Evil Karmic Resonances. Remus thought they looked rather constipated. Besides, how many things could the text get wrong on one page? For one thing, you would never find a vampire and a werewolf who would associate so freely with one another; for another, the moon above the head of the transformed werewolf's head was clearly no more than half full! And - he didn't believe it - the vampire's reflection was clearly visible in the Ominously Boding puddle in the centre of the page.
It was no wonder with texts and teaching like this that Hogwarts' students were sorely ill-educated about the real nature of "Dark Creatures." Muerno was still lecturing, his cold eyes boring into those of every student in the class, except Remus; he had found that making eye contact with the teacher always got him in trouble, so he kept his head down and took meticulous notes. None of them bore any resemblance to the facts of the matter, but that was beside the point.
"As you will all remember, of course, identifying the Dark Creature is of primary importance. There are, of course, foolproof ways of doing so. Even the Dark Creatures which can pass for human will exhibit these signs which will help you to identify them so they can be dispatched. The first and most obvious sign is the Reek of Wrong that all Dark Creatures carry. You will find it is not a physical smell, but a Foreboding Feeling that will Strike Terror into the Heart of even the Bravest Soul. Do not be surprised if this feeling causes you Existential Dread, or even activates the natural sense of Something Badly Amiss." Remus tried hard not to roll his eyes, feeling that Muerno was going far overboard with the capital letters. He could practically hear them clicking into place. Their textbook had the same tendency to abuse the capital letter, seemingly in the belief that capitalizing a word made it significant. "A few simple tests will naturally help you to determine for certain the Evil Nature of the Beast. For this reason, you should always keep with you a mirror, fresh garlic, a wooden stake, silver, wolfsbane, various holy symbols, holy water, a wand, and a wide variety of physical weapons. Evil Creatures are naturally afraid of anyone who comes Armed with Virtue and Bravery, of course, but a broadsword would also not go amiss."
"Where are we supposed to keep such an arsenal?" Sirius whispered to James; the two were seated next to Remus, and were having a difficult time containing their feelings about the lecture.
"A mobile wardrobe, of course! And then you can also be certain that it contains an Arrogant, Morally Bankrupt Defence Professor with a God Complex!" James replied, gesturing toward Muerno with an expression of disgust on his face. Unfortunately for him, the professor saw this movement.
"Well, Mr Potter? Have you been paying any attention to me? Let us see. What would you do if you encountered a werewolf in human form? How would you ascertain its true nature?"
"Walk up, shake his hand, and ask if he fancied a bite of human?" James asked cheerfully. Muerno snorted contemptuously.
"Of course you would, Mr Potter. And when you were eaten alive for your troubles, it would serve you right. Five points from Gryffindor for your flippant attitude. Mr Black, what do you say in response to the same question?" Sirius hastily sat straighter, put on his best Model Student face, and answered with great seriousness.
"Why, sir, I would douse him in holy water, force feed him garlic, and have a wooden stake at the ready to pound through his foul Black Heart of Pure Evil!"
"Excellent, Black. At least one Gryffindor student pays attention to my lectures." Turning to stalk to the front of the classroom, Muerno missed the four Gryffindor boys shaking their heads despairingly at one another. "For Monday, I want you to write me two feet on the susceptibility of vampires to silver. That is all."
Walking through the corridors together on the way to lunch, Peter, James and Sirius had great trouble containing themselves. "Can you believe him!" Sirius almost shouted. "He's got it all completely wrong!"
"And he's a pretentious bigot to boot!" Peter huffed. "Imagine, him telling us all to carry all of that junk about! As if we could all afford the armies of House Elves that he has to carry all of his garbage."
"Er, right, Peter." James said uncertainly. "But his attitude about werewolves is more than just wrong - you heard him, he's all for immediately pounding a wooden stake through their hearts!" James snorted suddenly with laughter and glared at Sirius. "And you! Playing with him that way! How're we meant to get through that without laughing, I ask you?" Sirius, in turn, turned to look at Remus to see how their friend was handling the lecture. Remus was trudging along with his customary expression of slightly distracted pleasantness firmly in place; impossible to tell any of what he was thinking from his facial expression, then.
"What do you think, Remus?" Sirius asked quietly. Not generally known for his tact or subtlety, Sirius knew better than to draw possible attention to Remus' lycanthropic condition in public. Most of the time. If he remembered. But he tried, really!
"Well, it's no skin off my nose. If anyone else starts to get suspicious of me, I can simply start wearing a cross and eating loads of garlic and no-one will ever guess!" Remus grinned, and the other boys laughed, conceding the point. "But it does worry me how little students know about the Dark Arts, thanks to his teaching. They're completely unprepared to face threats in the real world. Not to mention that I'm getting a bit sick of being told that I Emanate Evil from Every Pore, or that my Black Heart Drips with Hatred for all that is Good." His face twisted a bit in distaste, and James clapped an arm about his shorter friend's neck.
"But Remus, we count on that! How else will we ever conquer the world, without an evil mastermind who wishes to see the end of Good?"
"I could do it!" Sirius said eagerly. "I could be an evil mastermind, no problem!"
"No you couldn't." James told him crushingly. "You could be the thinker-upper of mildly annoying plots, though, if you like." This magnanimousness was lost on Sirius, who launched himself at James and seemingly attempted to gnaw his ear off. And thus, in a typically chaotic and attention-grabbing manner, the four friends entered the Great Hall for lunch.
As they ate, the four discussed their plans for later that afternoon in a hushed tone that made everyone around them maintain their distance and hurry through their meals. The four second years already had quite a reputation for trouble making. Today's plans, though, were far more than simple pranking; the four were intent on something far more important.
"Right. So Hagrid's gone until next week, right? And he's got the Fire Crab shell in his hut. We need that to brew the potion in, and this is the only opportunity we're going to have to get our hands on one and return it without getting in trouble." James pushed his glasses up his nose as he summed up the situation. Sirius nodded and continued the flow of talk.
"We can go this afternoon, but we've got to watch out for that slimy Snape. I know he's suspicious of us ever since he sort of caught us nicking those ingredients last week. We'll have to be careful; if he sees us with that shell, he'll put two and two together and maybe even come up with four, if he's having a good day."
"A-are you sure this is alright?" Peter asked nervously. "I mean, Hagrid's always been so nice to us! Won't he get mad if we break into his house and steal - er, borrow his thing?"
"Peter, Peter, Peter!" James said loftily. "You know that we need this in order to brew the Deafening Silence potion properly! And after all, if we fail to do that, we won't be able to make the Slytherins spend Hallowe'en completely silent, and then Sirius will be crushed!" Sirius nodded, his face suddenly falling into a picture of complete misery. Eyes growing huge in his face, he looked ready to burst into tears. Peter looked uncertain. "And besides, we swore we'd do this after they picked on you on the train back here this year, remember?"
"Yeah...yeah!" Peter said, growing animated as he remembered. "You're right, we have to show them they can't get away with that!"
"Then as long as we're certain to return it to Hagrid before it's missed, we're all in agreement." Remus said, finishing his lunch. "Shall we? We'll have a better chance of making it there and back unnoticed if we leave before most people are done with lunch." The others nodded their agreement, and the four dashed up to their dorm to leave behind their school bags, books, quills, trick sweets, doodled-on parchment sheets with top-notch future plans on them, super-secret emergency Dungbomb stash, cat food, and all the other various and sundry items required for a day in class. Thus unburdened, they set off quickly for Hagrid's cabin, following the most hidden routes they knew. Peter trailed a bit behind the others, and Remus had to suppress the unkind thought that he could sometimes be a hindrance to plans requiring speed and sneakiness. Of course, the other boy made up for it in his loyalty and willingness to act as a decoy time after time. They each had their own roles to play, and Peter did his part well. James acted as the leader most of the time, and Sirius provided the burning determination which pushed their plans to fruiting. As for Remus himself, he had somehow gotten stuck with the task of pleading their constant innocence to teachers; Sirius claimed this was because he was best at making up plausible stories, and James insisted that it was because Remus was just too darn cute for the teachers to deny him anything (Remus had, of course, punched him for that comment). He personally thought it was because he kept a cooler head under pressure from adults.
Finally reaching the door of Hagrid's hut, James carefully picked the lock and the four piled inside, shutting the door firmly behind them. They were all very grateful that Hagrid had taken his huge dog Snuffles with him; though they all liked the shaggy dog immensely, he had a tendency to bark long and loud at all visitors. Breaking up to search the cabin, they had no hard time finding the Fire Crab shell. Jeweled and shining with rainbow light, it was clear to see why many collectors would kills the crabs to obtain their shells. Of course, the fact that they were necessary to the brewing of certain potions was also a point in their favour. Remus breathed a sigh of relief - in and out with no problems, that was how he liked his mischief to go. Peter made for the door, opening it halfway before freezing in horror.
"What is it? What's up?" James hissed.
"Snape! He's coming this way! He must have seen us or something!" Peter squeaked. Leaping into action, Sirius flung himself at the door, slamming it shut and locking it from the inside. A quick glance out the window, though, was enough to tell Remus that Snape was still heading toward the little house, and his pace had picked up. He must have seen the door shutting!
"Who did he see?" Remus asked quickly. "Peter, did he see you?"
"Yeah, think so." Peter said nervously. "I-I don't think he saw Sirius or you or James, though, before we shut the door. We're going to be in so much trouble!"
"Not necessarily." Remus said, a not-entirely-innocent smile spreading across his face. "No time! James, Sirius, under the bed - quick!" Following his own instructions, he dove for the space under Hagrid's huge bed. The thick quilt hung almost all the way to the floor, covering the three boys who crouched under it from sight. It was so dark that they could not even see one another, which was probably a good thing as it also kept them from seeing what manner of scary materials might be under the bed with them. From the darkness, Remus told the others his plan in hurried sentence fragments, his brain swimming with adrenaline and nervousness.
Seconds later, they heard Snape reach the door and start yelling. "Pettigrew! I saw you in there, you little rat! Let me in now or I'll report you!" Peter, pale and shaking, hurriedly unlocked the door before retreating to the farthest corner of the room from both Snape and the bed. Remus and the others, struggling not to sneeze in the dust, listened carefully. "What are you doing in here? I have a good mind to report you right away - sneaking into someone else's home! Have you no decency at all?" Snape's sneering tone was enough to have both James and Sirius growling quietly with repressed fury.
"I -I didn't mean it!" Peter squeaked, sounding terrified. "I-it was a dare! The others dared me to come down here and see for myself! I didn't want to, but they said they wouldn't help me with my work anymore if I was too much of a coward to come here!"
"See what?" Snape sneered. "What's so scary about an empty house?"
"It's not the house!" Peter howled in misery. "Hagrid's been doing something really dangerous, and I didn't want to come but they maaade me!"
"What's he been doing?" Now Snape sounded curious, and just a little bit nervous.
"Under the bed" Peter stuttered. "He's been raising - oh, he's been raising werewolf cubs under the bed!" On cue, Sirius and James started growling and yipping like pups, loud enough to be heard throughout the room. They actually did a fairly believable job, Remus thought with amusement. Peter gave a squeal of pure terror, adding to the mood.
"Can't be." Snape muttered. "He'd be sacked. Not even Dumbledore would stand for that..." He didn't sound at all convinced of his own words.
"He thought he'd be able to tame them." Peter said, sounding on the brink of tears. "But they - oh, it's horrible! They ate Snuffles!" And now he did burst into realistic sounding tears. Remus reminded himself to be sure to reward Peter thoroughly for this performance. Now for the clincher...
Aaahhwwhhoooooooo! The bloodcurdling howl ripped through the cabin, sending shivers through all of the listeners. Both Peter and Snape screamed in terror. Aaaahhwwhhhoooooooooooooo! That was enough for Snape, who dove for the door, crashing into furniture on his way out.
"Wait for meeee!" Peter howled. "Don't leave me here!" But Snape was already out the door, and four were alone again. James, Sirius, and Remus crawled out from under the bed, looked at one another and at Peter, and the four broke into hysterical laughter.
"Brilliant! Sheer genius!" Sirius gasped as soon as he was able to breathe again. Remus had collapsed on the bed and was still giggling through tears of laughter. "Bet old greaseball Snape'll be needing a change of pants after that one!"
"You were great, Peter!" James enthused, and Peter swelled with pride. "Saved our hides, you did!"
"And you, Remus!" Sirius exclaimed, rounding on his friend. "That was incredible! Unbelievable! Downright terrifying! If you're ever going to do that again, I request written warning at least three weeks in advance so I can prepare myself!"
"It certainly was effective" James said, shaking his head. "I'd never have believed you had it in you, Moony."
"Yes, well, let's hope you never hear me on my really "effective" days." Remus said hoarsely. His throat was beginning to hurt terribly from the howling - human throats were just not built to howl properly. "Serves him right, though, for his ignorance. As if one could raise werewolves under the bed! And what does he think a werewolf cub is, exactly?" The other three looked at Remus, his normally placid face looking unusually cross, and broke down laughing again. After a moment, Remus had to join them.
"But how do we keep Snape from spreading the story all over school?" James asked a few minutes later.
"Simple. We make ourselves very visible, along with Peter here, and he denies ever having been here. And next week, when Hagrid returns with Snuffles, it will be clear to everyone that Snape is off his rocker." Remus nodded knowingly. "That, plus the obvious fact that his story is absurd should keep anyone from taking him seriously."
As they snuck back to the castle rapidly, Sirius looked at Remus quizzically. "I thought you said you didn't know how to howl like that when you weren't transformed?"
"No, I said I wouldn't do it, not that I couldn't." Remus gave a crooked little smile. "It's not that much fun to begin with, you know, and I'd rather not spend more of my time doing it than I already have to. But," he sighed, "I suppose it does make a good secret weapon in some circumstances!"
And so the Marauders were responsible for the creation of yet another Hogwarts legend, one that was passed down in whispers and rumour for generations. Hagrid? Oh yes, he's quite all right! Brave, too, you know - once raised a whole pack of werewolf cubs under his own bed! And so the tale made its way to a small red-headed girl who confided her deepest secrets, and the latest school gossip, to the friendly diary she carried with her everywhere. And so it made its way to the ears of a perpetual sixteen year old who smiled at this bit of gossip about a boy he once used for his own ends. He was knowledgeable enough to know that no such thing had ever or could ever have happened, but he filed away the little tidbit for a time when it might be of use. After all, even the wildest stories generally have some basis in the truth.