"You're getting divorced?" squeaked Remus.
John Lupin nodded solemnly, and he could sense his wife next to him doing the same. He took a deep pull off the cigarette between his two fingers. There was a perpetual haze of smoke following the man. His amber eyes, the ones his son had inherited, wouldn't meet Remus's.
"And we want you to know that this isn't your fault," cooed Linda softly.
"Like hell," scoffed Remus.
"Watch your language around your mother," snapped John.
John watched Remus's features sink into a dejected scowl. It was two days before he went to King's Cross Station to catch the Hogwarts Express. Remus had been excited for days, weeks. He'd been excited since he got his letter, a letter none of them had ever thought he'd receive.
John Lupin was once a kind, caring, soft-spoken man. He had gone to Hogwarts and afterward had become a specialist in Muggle Relations working for the Ministry. Linda Johnson had been the British Prime Minister's secretary. Love at first sight, that was the best way to describe it. Even though the only thing Linda had known about John was that the Prime Minister locked the door whenever he came around, she had been taken with him from the moment their eyes met.
The couple eloped six months later. And six years after that, John Lupin made the biggest mistake of his entire life.
Remus had been five years old when John offended Fenrir Greyback. It was stupid, really. A meeting at the Ministry of Magic, and John had refused entry to Greyback. It was the day before the full moon. Werewolves were dangerous, and Greyback moreso than most. But that little, seemingly insignificant gesture had been enough to provoke Greyback's rage.
John wondered if Greyback had targeted Remus. The aging werewolf had positioned himself one hundred yards from the Lupin residence the following night. If John had only stayed up a bit later to read a bedtime story to his son, their nightly ritual, then Remus would have never been bitten.
Yes, Remus Lupin, at the tender age of five, had become a werewolf. And John blamed himself. John had never told Remus the reason he was a werewolf. He was too ashamed.
His letter had arrived a few months earlier, and the entire family was shell-shocked to receive it. Their Remus? Their son? Going to Hogwarts? Dumbledore had included a private note detailing the precautions that would be taken due to Remus's condition, but assuring the family that, in the end, Remus was welcome at the school and that talent such as his shouldn't be wasted without an education.
"We can't let him go," John had growled.
"Why not?" Linda argued back.
The couple was no longer even paying attention to poor Remus, sitting at the kitchen table and looking back and forth between his parents like it was some kind of violent tennis match.
"It isn't done!" cried John.
"What do you mean? This would be perfect for him! He could be among his own kind-"
"There won't be any other werewolves there," had said John angrily.
"I meant wizards, John," Linda snapped.
"Wizards hate werewolves! If word ever got out about his illness, he'd be expelled at best and executed at worst!" John roared.
"Executed!" cried Linda shrilly.
"It's not impossible," said John. "I've stayed far away from wizards because they just don't understand! You don't even understand!"
"But this Bumbledore man-"
"Dumbledore," corrected Remus with a small voice.
"Dumbledore!" Linda had continued, ignoring her son's interruption. "Dumbledore said that every precaution would taken! God knows he needs an education. He can't go to a normal school-"
"So Wizard schools aren't normal?" said John angrily.
"And you can barely look at him, let alone teach him anything about being what he is!" she continued without acknowledging his question.
John fumed silently. Linda had her arms crossed in front of her.
"I want to go," Remus had said quietly.
John's angry countenance didn't change.
"So be it," John had said before storming away and slamming the front door shut behind him.
Nothing had gotten better after that. John was still fighting with his wife. They had finally decided it was time for a divorce.
"I'll take you to the station Tuesday," said John.
Remus didn't verbalise a response. He just turned on his heel and disappeared to his room.
The night before he left for Hogwarts was the full moon. His mother gave him a kiss on the forehead, smoothing back his blonde hair, as she always did. Remus heard her turn the key in the lock behind her. He remembered searing pain, like every month, and then nothing until the next morning when his mother appeared again. She had fresh clothes for him, and some antiseptic solution for the inevitable cuts, scratches, and gashes that accompanied transformation.
"Your trunk's all packed, right, dear?" said Linda in a gentle voice.
"I'm going to miss you so much," she whispered, hugging him close to her.
Remus didn't say it, but he was going to miss her, too. He had never been away from home. Ever. Not summer camp, not a stay at Grandma's, not even a weekend of fishing or hunting with his dad like most boys experience. His dad never did anything with him anyway. Remus was terrified, but at the same time, he was excited. A chance to be like every other young wizard! Once the fog of waking up after the transformation lifted, he let his lips curl into a smile.
"Come on, Remus," said Linda, helping him up after he'd changed. "Your dad's waiting."
Remus needed a bit of steadying as he descended the attic staircase. True to his mother's word, John Lupin was standing at the front door, smoking a cigarette as he sat on the edge of Remus's trunk.
"I love you," said Linda, hugging Remus tight again as though she wasn't going to let him go.
"I love you, mum," whispered Remus against her ear.
"Write to me!" she called as Remus walked out of the front door.
Remus nodded and waved to her.
"Good-bye!" she said, her hand clasped over her mouth to prevent her cries from escaping.
His father drove to King's Cross. He had never used magic in front of Remus, never used magic at all since Remus could remember, so they took the Muggle way to the Hogwarts station. The car ride was silent and smoky. Remus shrugged off his jacket, he was always boiling hot and the drive had been stifling. Once at the station, John Lupin carried Remus's trunk. He told Remus how to pass the barrier in a gruff and curt tone. He loaded the trunk onto the scarlet railroad train.
Remus glanced around the station nervously. There were young witches and wizards of all ages kissing their parents and siblings goodbye. Some looked much older than he, but many looked to be about his age. Remus turned to his father.
"Well, thanks for dropping me off," said Remus softly.
"Don't mention it," replied his father, lighting another cigarette and not meeting his son's eyes.
Remus started to leave.
"Remus!" called his dad.
He turned. Maybe this was the goodbye, the well-wishes, the fatherly kiss on the top of the head that so many other young wizards were now receiving.
"Don't tell anyone about . . . you know," instructed John. "They'll kick you out."
Remus pursed his lips and took a deep breath, nodding grimly. He wanted a father who would hug him, whisper a few words of encouragement, tell him everything would turn out all right. He didn't have one, never had, and Remus never understood why. He turned to the train and boarded it alone. He found an empty compartment and pressed himself against the window.
There was John Lupin, a few yards away, surrounded by a cloud of smoke. A tall man with blonde hair, narrow shoulders. Suddenly, his father looked at Remus, their matching brown eyes staring into each other. Remus felt a lump in his throat. He was leaving home. He was leaving his family, his mother, his father, everything he'd ever known. Nothing would ever be the same, Hogwarts, the divorce, everything was changing . . .
He held his father's gaze until the train pulled out of the station and he couldn't see him anymore. The lump in his throat refused to subside.
It was nearly six years before Remus ever saw his father again.