Understanding Remus by InFabula
Disclaimer: these wonderful characters belong to JK: I just borrowed them for a bit.
A/N I would like to thank the wonderful ivy, my ex-beta over at SQ. I wasn't happy with my first version and she was kind enough to encourage me to work at this story.
Chapter One - Before
"Old before his time": that's something I've heard said about me for as long as I can remember.
Surviving Fenrir's attack made me so, of course. Any child bitten by a werewolf has a lot of growing up to do within a very short space of time. If childhood does not end there, it certainly does the next full moon.
The bite changed me in other ways I didn't realise. The need for secrecy and caution became engrained so early on that I find I can't tell where I start and the wolf finishes. The bite made me wary of others: secrets are best kept that way.
"You had such a thirst for knowledge," Minerva told me when I returned to Hogwarts. "You were such a pleasure to teach."
A thirst for knowledge in a small boy who had only ever had books for company? Hardly surprising.
I had an equal thirst for companionship, to belong, to be liked. How lucky was I, then, to find myself in the same dorm as James, Peter and Sirius. They accepted me before they knew and afterwards. I felt more than thankful; I loved them for that.
In this environment I felt secure and I discovered something else about myself I'd never realised was there: a penchant for mischief. If the others had been serious, straight-O students, it might have stayed buried.
As it was…
The door to the dorm opened.
"So what are you going to do?"
"If I knew that, Sirius, it wouldn't be a problem!"
I sat on my bed and continued reading. There was no need to ask questions: they would share whatever it was soon enough. Even if they were in no particular hurry to explain, I still didn't need to ask.
On cue, Peter's voice piped up.
"What's the matter?"
"Snivellus!" said the other two in unison.
We had been at Hogwarts less than three terms and already we had found a mortal enemy. Snape had first become the subject of our mutual loathing on the Hogwarts Express with his bigoted remarks about Hogwarts being for purebloods alone. When we got to know him better, we found first impressions had been perfectly correct.
Although it had begun outside the classroom, our enmity had carried through into lessons. Clever, unpleasant and quick with a rejoinder, Snape had soon established himself as an academic force to be reckoned with: near the top in most subjects and streets ahead in D.A.D.A. and Potions. James and Sirius, whose easy brilliance meant they were the ones most often jostling with Snape for top marks, saw Snape's aptitude as a challenge. Privately, I thought it would have been easier if Snape had not been intelligent: one could then have made excuse for his prejudice.
"He's just so irritating," James scowled. "I wanted to knock that smugness out of him."
"That could still be arranged," Sirius muttered darkly.
"He started that foulness about how Hogwarts should be some sort of society for purebloods and I just saw red."
"What did you do?" Peter asked breathlessly.
"I challenged him to a duel," James said unhappily.
I did not have to see Peter's face to know his eyes were out on stalks.
"A duel! With wands and- and stuff?"
"Well, James meant a duel with wands and stuff," Sirius explained, "but Slughorn overheard."
"And he set a Potions duel. We have till the day after tomorrow to brew the Somnola potion."
"The what?" Peter frowned.
"Somnola," James repeated. "It's a sleeping draught. Or to put it another way, an advanced potion that I haven't a hope of achieving."
"Snivellus, on the other hand, could hardly contain himself," Sirius added.
"Slughorn set up two cauldrons in the Potions room which only we can touch so that we can work on it. Any bright ideas?"
I closed my book and looked over at the three of them sprawled on the floor.
"You won't win against Snape at Potions," I said thoughtfully.
"Joining us, are you?" Sirius began but James shushed him.
"And if only you and Snape have access to the cauldrons-"
"He can't sabotage Snape's," Sirius finished.
"You could ask one of the older students to make it for you." This from Peter.
"The only trouble with that is that I'm in competition with Snivellus. Whatever I produce has got to be better than his or at least, as good as. You know what he's like at Potions."
"Snivellus is hardly likely to share his thoughts on how to make it, is he?" Sirius muttered unhappily. "He's not going to hand over a sample however nicely we ask him."
"He wouldn't give us the time of day," Peter agreed.
"Not us, no…" I said slowly.
"You've thought of something?" James asked.
I told them my idea.
"Genius!" Sirius declared with sincerity and I flushed.
"It'll take a bit of doing," Peter said nervously.
"One thing," James frowned. "We only have two days."
"There are some benefits to spending time reading in the Common Room," I smiled. "I happen to know that the third years were set it for homework. About a month ago."
James's face lit up and Sirius and Peter grinned. I felt my lips turning upwards into a smile: I still wasn't that used to it.
As expected, Snape took the challenge extremely seriously and by the end of the next day, when I called into the Potions classroom, he was hunched over his cauldron, carefully stirring and scribbling notes in his textbook in his crabbed handwriting.
"How's it going, Severus?" I asked politely.
He did not reply and I moved forward until I was at his shoulder and repeated my question.
He looked up with a hostile glare.
"Tell Potter he's already lost," he snapped. "I shall take great delight in seeing his public humiliation tomorrow when I am declared the winner. He will learn not to challenge me."
I nodded and left the room.
"Well?" James was waiting anxiously outside.
"His potion looks textbook turquoise," I said.
James groaned. "Why couldn't it be Transfiguration or Quidditch? Even D.A.D.A.. I'd have stood more of a chance."
"Now then, Mr Potter!" Slughorn's voice made us jump. "Not slaving away over your cauldron? My, my, you must be confident!"
James blinked rapidly and swallowed. He licked his lips and looked as if he were going to say something but for once, ready speech deserted him.
"No matter, no matter," Slughorn beamed. "Let me see how your opponent is faring."
And with that he swept into the classroom.
James and I immediately pressed ourselves up to the window.
"Ah, Mr Snape!" Slughorn exclaimed. "How very diligent you are. If only all my students could apply themselves as you do. How are you getting on?"
Snape fairly blossomed with the praise.
"I've finished, Professor," he said proudly.
Outside, James could not suppress another groan. Luckily neither Snape nor Slughorn appeared to have noticed.
Slughorn peered into the cauldron where the greeny-blue liquid was bubbling away.
"I have to say, Mr Snape, it looks remarkably close to perfection. I will be very surprised if Mr Potter can produce anything close to this. Very surprised indeed."
Snape looked as if his chest would explode with pride.
"Of course, it's hard to tell the true colour in this light…"
"Let me, Professor!" Snape grabbed an empty potion bottle and ladled a good spoonful inside. He handed it to Slughorn who took it carefully as if it were a Phoenix egg.
At that moment, there was a noise from behind one of the cupboards. Striding over, Slughorn reached out and grabbing a handful of robes, pulled out a trembling student. It was Peter.
"Pettigrew! What are you doing here? Spying for your friend were you on Mr Snape's excellent work?"
Peter's mouth opened and closed but no sound came out.
Snape's brows drew down into black fury.
"Let us go and see Professor McGonagall about your outrageous behaviour!" Slughorn practically dragged Peter to the door of the classroom. "In my day, such underhand actions would mean a good whipping!"
He looked back over to Snape.
"Severus, dear boy, you are an excellent potions brewer - a Potions Master in the making."
The anger was wiped from Snape's face and he flushed, as unused to compliments as I was.
"I'm having a little soiree on Thursday - oh, nothing too formal, just a few select students."
We had all heard of Slughorn's soirees for the talented and the connected. So had Snape; he stood a little straighter.
"I'd be delighted if you'd pop along…if you're not too busy…I know it's Quidditch practice and you young boys seem to revel in the athletic pursuits-"
"No, Professor, I'm not doing anything," Snape said quickly, "I'd love to come."
"Good, good. See you at seven o'clock then."
Slughorn pushed Peter ahead of him out of the room, loudly chastising him as he did so.
I glanced back into the classroom to see Snape smiling to himself and then James and I followed Slughorn and Peter along the corridor and into an empty classroom.
"Well?" James asked.
Slughorn beamed and produced the potions bottle with its precious contents.
James took it from him gingerly and slowly exhaled.
"You were bloody brilliant," he said.
Slughorn tried hard to look modest and failed miserably.
"I was, wasn't I?" he agreed. "Did you like the touch about the soiree? I bet Snape's wetting himself with excitement."
"Your hair's changing," I noted.
"And the rest of you," Peter added.
Within seconds, Slughorn was gone and Sirius stood there, grinning.
James looked down at the perfect potion and then round at the three of us.
"Thanks," he said sincerely.
Our Potions lesson the next day centred around the results of the contest which was of course no contest. Slughorn declared the two samples submitted to be indistinguishably excellent: the result, a draw.
Snape fumed. We beamed.
"It'll be even better next Thursday when Snape turns up as an uninvited guest," Sirius whispered. "What say we go and watch?"
The First War reached a head as we left Hogwarts. We stayed together, no longer schoolboys, but held fast by the bonds we had formed over the past seven years. The Order of the Phoenix came to represent to me all that was precious and safe in the world, just as Hogwarts and the Marauders had before.
If you didn't live through those years, they are difficult to describe. Looking back, I think of them as a growing darkness seeping into every nook and cranny of life until the familiar disappeared and all that was left surrounding you was a tiny bubble of light: a bubble which you knew at any moment could burst.
It was not unrelentingly grim, of course: battles were won, victories were had and events which would have been cause for joy at any time took on even more significance. There were so few breaks in the clouds that hung over us, that we took the chance to celebrate them fiercely: James and Lily's wedding; Arthur and Molly's little ones; Frank and Alice's Neville; and of course Harry – symbolic and as it turned out later, very real hope.
I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. It seems prosaic but I was sitting at home eating dinner.
The staccato rap at the door was accompanied by a growl that could only belong to Moody.
"Let me in, Remus!"
I opened the door to my little terraced house and Moody practically fell through it into my front room.
"Have you heard?" he demanded.
"He's gone - defeated - at last!" he said hoarsely.
I struggled to take in the news.
"Voldemort…? How- where- what happened?"
"It's true. Dumbledore sent me to tell you." He hesitated and looked away. "He didn't want you to find out through someone else."
"Find out what?"
"His followers are being rounded up now, though doubtless some will plead the Imperius Curse, slippery sons of-"
"What happened?" I asked again.
Again he hesitated then took a deep breath.
"You know young Harry was a target?"
"Of course, I - "I broke off, horrified. "Tell me Harry's alive! He didn't kill Harry?"
"No, Harry's fine." He sat down heavily in an armchair in front of the fire.
I sat in the chair facing, waiting with sudden dread for the story.
"James and Lily have been in hiding," Moody continued, his tone matter-of-fact. "They appointed Sirius as their Secret Keeper."
I nodded impatiently; this much I knew.
"They've been hiding at Godric's Hollow."
He paused and my brain tried to catch up with his words. How did he know this? How could he possibly know this?
"Sirius betrayed them to Voldemort," he said baldly.
"No!" The word was ripped from me. "He would never-! He couldn't-!"
"He told Voldemort where to find them," Moody insisted. "Voldemort killed James, then he killed Lily. He tried to kill Harry but for some reason the Avada Kedavra spell didn't work. Something went wrong and it rebounded on to Voldemort. He's gone."
"Sirius…?" I said in disbelief. "Sirius did this?"
"He's in custody. But he didn't go down without a fight. Nor without a final treacherous act."
I waited, numb. What more could there be?
"Peter Pettigrew tracked him down. He challenged him in the street. Sirius killed him and a dozen nearby Muggles for good measure."
I sat silently, unblinking. I have no idea how long the silence lasted.
Then Moody said:
"Are you all right, lad?"
At that, I heard peals of hysterical laughter and was vaguely aware that they were coming from me. The next thing I remember was Moody pushing a glass of Firewhisky into my hand and telling me to drink it straight down. The taste of the alcohol brought me back.
"Please go, Alastor," I heard myself saying.
"I'm not leaving you like this -"
"Please go," I repeated, my voice still calm. " I'll be fine but I need to be on my own."
As the front door closed behind him, I sat frozen, Moody's words running loud in my head like a tickertape mantra: Sirius betrayed them…Voldemort killed James, then he killed Lily… Harry's fine…Peter…Sirius killed him.
I don't know how long I sat but I found after a while that the fire had died and the bottle was empty. Things made no more sense to me drunk than sober.
I'm still not sure how I got through the wilderness I found myself in after Voldemort's fall. My closest friends taken and everything I thought I knew pulled apart in one single night. The aching void I felt inside nearly consumed me as I tried to understand this new world.
Naturally I stayed strong in front of others. Like I said before, keeping feelings locked up is second nature to me. The feelings are still there, raw and angry: they just don't show. I would listen to the chattering gossip or well-meant condolences around me with weary politeness and the dull pain would wrap itself round my insides and squeeze a little tighter.
In the end, I realised I had to rationalise it if I were to survive and so I did. I took the cold facts and believed them. I shut off my memories into compartments like the Hogwarts Express and I got on with living.
When Voldemort re-emerged, I remember hearing the news in disbelief. It was as if my friends' sacrifices had been in vain. All I could think about was how dark the days had been before and how much worse they were going to be without those closest to me.
Finding Sirius again was…well, let's just say that I hadn't realised how much I'd missed him until I had him back.
"How did you know?" Sirius asked suspiciously as I walked into the kitchen at Grimmauld Place.
"One of the signs of a true werewolf," I replied, sitting down at the kitchen table. "The ability to smell freshly brewed tea. Milk, no sugar, please."
"I haven't forgotten," he said, pouring me a cup. He pushed it over to me then sat down opposite.
"How are you getting on?" I asked, sipping the hot tea.
Sirius pulled a face.
"Okay, I suppose. Well, fairly grim. I just wish I could set foot outside this place. I told Dumbledore that I survived for over a year on the outside and that includes looking after a wanted Hippogriff."
did he say?"
Sirius gave a kind of doleful snort.
"Said things were different now. Insisted it's not only my safety but Harry's that's at stake."
Consciously or not, Dumbledore knew exactly which emotional levers to pull.
"Yes, 'ah'," Sirius agreed. "Naturally I'm not going to disobey him. It doesn't stop me wishing things were different."
We both drank our tea in silence.
"Anyway, there are some good things about always being here," Sirius conceded.
"People come and go regularly enough and they bring news. It's been good to see Dedalus and Emmeline and the others again."
"I bet Emmeline still calls you a wicked boy."
"Like I was twenty-one," Sirius nodded and sighed. "Doesn't it seem a lifetime ago, Moony?"
"Longer," I agreed. "We were the young ones then. Now we've got Kingsley and Tonks looking to us just as we used to look to Fabian and Gideon."
"Funny how things work out," Sirius mused. "Two years ago, I'd never have thought I'd see you again, let alone Emmeline. As for Kingsley and Tonks…well, I'm grateful I've had the chance to meet them."
"Did she ever like being called Nymphadora?"
"Andromeda said she settled on Tonks when she was about six and refused to answer to anything else. I said that stubborn, rebellious streak reminded me very much of her mother."
"Actually she reminds me a lot of you," I said without thinking.
Sirius looked quizzically at me.
"I'm guessing you're going to say because she's witty and charming but please do elaborate."
"Well, that of course," I said, holding up a hand in acknowledgement, "but what I meant was she's like you used to be…like we were the first time round. When we didn't know any better. When it seemed inconceivable that any of us would die. When we thought even if one of us did fall, the others would be around to pick up the pieces."
I paused for a moment.
"She still has an innocence. She's untouched by death."
"Untouched by death…" Sirius echoed and there was a silence.
Sirius broke it.
"I wonder who'll be the first to go this time."