I must be insane. What am I doing here? I open my mouth to tell Mother not to knock, but no words come out. She takes a shaky breath, and wipes her hands on her dress. It occurs to me that she looks as nervous as I feel. Then she lifts her hand, curls it into a fist, and raps timidly on the engraved wooden door.
"Do come in," echoes a deep voice from inside the Headmaster's office.
I steady myself, and enter. As we walked through the grounds, hurrying in order to evade the rain, I thought it almost lucky that the full moon had fallen right at the beginning of the school term, necessitating for me to arrive at Hogwarts in the midst of the week's classes. There had been no suspicious eyes watching me stumble through the vast, maze-like castle, keeping as close to my mother's skirts as a scared six-year-old. But now I think it would almost have been easier to arrive on the Hogwarts Express with everyone else, to be Sorted along with the first-years, to start the year fresh with all the other pupils.
If the full moon hadn't been when it was, I wouldn't have to encounter Professor Albus Dumbledore, the man who is allowing me to live beyond my wildest dreams. I wouldn't have to risk him changing his mind, seeing my scars and haunted face and sending me right back home.
But now Mother is entering, and I hasten to keep up with her.
The office is round, and full of sunlight, even though it is pouring down rain outside. On the desks there are stacks of books, parchment, and jumbles of silver contraptions. Behind the desk there is a tall wizard with flowing white hair and a beard. His half-moon spectacles sit on a long and crooked nose, and blue eyes twinkle at me with a dizzying mixture of amusement and seriousness.
"Why, good morning, Mister Remus! And Mrs. Genivieve Lupin, it is a pleasure to see you again. I trust you and your husband are well?"
"Very well, very well Professor Dumbledore, sir! My husband couldn't come; work is keeping him busy. I'm sorry about Remus having to arrive now, in the middle of the week, it was the full moon you see, I hope we haven't caused any difficulties, or, or – " Mother stutters. She is talking so fast it's a wonder Professor Dumbledore can understand her.
"No trouble, no trouble at all. In fact, I am quite glad to have this excellent opportunity to meet Remus." I am unsure whether to believe him, but he sounds so kind, so genuine, that I find myself smiling back at him. "I always enjoy the company of my students, you must not feel at all imposed by my status! Between you and me, I am quite sorry that I am no longer able to keep my position as Transfiguration teacher. Minerva will do an admirable job, I am certain, but I shall miss the opportunity to teach such fascinating young people. How are you feeling, Remus?"
I am thrown off by the sudden question.
"Well, thank you, sir. And, and I'm a bit… nervous." I hadn't meant to admit that.
But he looks at me kindly, as if he understands me.
"I am glad to hear that, Remus. I would think there was something quite wrong with you if you were not apprehensive. You have every reason and right to be. However, I hope that you will feel quite at home here at Hogwarts." He gestures towards two cushioned chairs. "Please, be seated. And without further ado, I think Mister Lupin ought to be given a House."
I seat myself gingerly, searching the surrounding shelves for the Sorting Hat. Father has told me about it, and I am relieved that all that is required of me is to put an old hat on my head. Still, I can't help but be anxious about my Sorting.
"Ah, here we are!" Professor Dumbledore stoops down and retrieves an old, scruffy, pointed Hat from underneath the desk. "If you would be so kind to place this on your head, Mister Remus."
"Good luck darling," whispers my mother. I take the Hat, and lower it over my hair. It slides down my forehead, until the brim is covering my eyes.
The inside of the Hat is dark. The worn threads let in some dim light, but not enough to see anything by.
"Oh, an interesting specimen," murmurs a voice. I turn my head frantically. Where is it coming from? "Yes, very interesting. Do stop twisting around so boy, I'm only an old Hat, no need for alarm. Now – I see that you read quite a lot. You know, I think you would be quite suited to Ravenclaw…"
Ravenclaw! My father was in Ravenclaw. I didn't think I would be smart enough for Ravenclaw, for all my good memory and love of stories.
"However, what's this… oh… Very interesting, indeed. You have wolfish cunning – but you'll excuse me for saying that I can't quite see you in Slytherin. But your bravery, yes, I see much courage. I don't think you know quite how much brave you are, boy. So, Ravenclaw or Gryffindor? Hmmm… I think…. GRYFFINDOR!"
There is a burst of applause, and squealing from my mother. The Hat must have shouted the last word aloud. I remove the battered object from my head, giddy with relief. Gryffindor! But… it didn't seem quite right.
I catch Professor Dumbledore's eye. He inclines his head, gazing gravely at me as if he already knows what I am about to say.
"Professor… the Hat says that I'm brave, but, but… I'm not. I worry, and I stutter, and I am scared of the littlest things. The dark. The light in the dark. I dread the full moon, and I cry all week before it, and I have nightmares, and, and, I don't think the Hat was right. I don't think I belong in Gryffindor."
He smiles at me, a sad smile.
"Remus. The Hat is very rarely wrong. I believe that it made the correct choice. Bravery is not a lack of fear – it is being afraid and acting anyway. You have more reason than any other child in this castle to be afraid, and yet here you are in front of me. You have seen the dangers, the obstacles you will have to overcome, and chose to follow this path anyway. That is a mark of true bravery, much more so than facing a dragon, or fighting a Chimaera, or climbing the world's highest mountain. Do not be ashamed of your fear. Without fear, you cannot be brave." He stops. I think about what he's said, and I nod.
"Thank you, Professor. I think you are right, and yet – I still don't think I'll belong in Gryffindor."
He chuckles, and gets to his feet. My mother and I do the same.
"Well Remus, there is only one way to find out! Time will tell. I will go and find Professor McGonagall, and she will take you to class. But before you go – " He reaches into a drawer in his desk, and pulls out a length of red and gold material. "Here is your House scarf. Most students are issued with it during their first year. Wear it well and I hope it keeps your neck warm, for that is what it is primarily meant for, of course! I will give you both some time to say goodbye." He strides to the fireplace, and disappears inside it.
Mother hugs me, and I can feel her crying, sobs shaking her shoulders. When she speaks her voice is muffled.
"Oh, Remus, my darling little boy, I never thought I'd see the day… Now you be good, do your homework, and write to me. Don't get into any fights, and for Godric's sake, don't tell your friends where you go every month! My little boy, grown up and going to school…" Words seem to fail her. I pat her shoulder, faintly embarrassed.
Behind me there is a popping noise. I gently pull out of mother's grasp, and she straightens, blowing her nose. Professor Dumbledore appears in the fireplace, with a strict-looking woman in black robes and a Gryffindor badge pinned on her chest.
"Remus, this is Minerva McGonagall. She has taken my place as Transfiguration teacher and Head of Gryffindor House, and I am sure you will pay her the utmost respect. Now, chop chop! Off to class with you. Well, Genivive, would you care for some tea?"
Professor McGonagall leads me out of the office, down the spiralling staircase, and past the stone gargoyles. As we walk briskly, she talks briskly, explaining where the Gryffindor Common Room is, which classes I'll be taking, and when mealtimes are.
"At the moment, your class is supposed to be in Herbology. However, last night the greenhouses were struck by a falling tree and so all students have a free period in place of the Herbology class. This time is used for studying." I nod, not sure what to say.
We come to a classroom full of laughing children, all sprawled about the desks, talking, writing, and reading.
"Excuse me!" Professor McGonagall calls, and the room goes silent, all eyes turning towards us. I shrink back. They all look so sure of themselves, and inquisitive as to who – and what – I am.
"Second years, your attention, please! This is Remus Lupin. He was unable to attend school last year due to illness, but he is fit enough now to board here and will henceforth be in your class. I trust that you will make him feel at home." She turns to me, hands me my timetable, and turns to leave, saying as she does, "Good luck to you Remus, I am sure you will do very well at our school. Remember, your House is your family, and I am head of your House."
And now I am alone, with all those eyes on me. Scanning for a familiar face, I spot Severus, hidden behind a book. I shuffle towards him and make to sit down in an empty seat next to him when the large, burly boy on his other side takes a wad of gum from his mouth, sticks it under the desk, and stands up.
"And what do you think you're doing, sickling?"
"I was just going to sit down here, because there's a free seat and – "
"I highly doubt that. What's that growth on your neck?" I look down, perplexed. I see no growth. The other boy smirks.
"I mean, the red and gold one." It dawns on me. He is referring to my scarf, the one that shows I'm in Gryffindor. I look at his scarf – green and silver. Slytherin. With a sinking feeling I remember the traditional rivalry between the two houses.
"No pussy-cat coward is sitting here. Huh, ill for a whole year, were you? You look it. I've never seen such a puny little weed in my entire life. Get lost, new boy." He turns to his friends, jeering. "I knew the standards in Gryffindor were gong downhill, but for a thing like that to be Sorted in there? I can't wait 'til the Quidditch season starts. It'll be a breeze, if Gryffindor's team's made of mice like him!"
I look at Severus for support. None is forthcoming. He simply raises his book higher, apparently utterly absorbed in the page before him.
"Alright then. I don't know why you need to be so unfriendly. Or so stupid, or so ugly, come to that." What? Where did those words come from? They were the sort of thing I would think but never, ever say. I quail at the look on the Slytherin's face.
"You little Gryffindor rat!" He goes for his wand. I reach for mine, and we stand face to face, wands drawn, both panting: he in rage, I in fear. We have the attention of the entire room upon us.
"Stupefy!" he screeches, as I yell,
His spell bounces off my shield, and smashes a window. His head whips around at the sound of breaking glass, and I spot my chance. Raising my wand up to my shoulder height, I cry,
"Waddiwasi!" The gum he had stuck underneath the desk soars out, and up his left nostril. He bends over, chokes and snorts. I stand over him, wand in my hand, chest heaving. I am powerful, I am the victor, I am the predator! I almost throw back my head and howl, then stop, sickened. I don't want to be the wolf; I want to be Remus. I could tear this boy, kick him, make him suffer. That is what the werewolf wants. But that would be wrong. I fight away the bloodthirsty beast and reach my hand down, hauling him up. I know that it's the right thing to do. He pushes me away.
"Sorry," I tell him. "But my House is my family, and I can't let anyone insult my family."
He glares at me with hatred.
"Hey!" someone suddenly calls from the other side of the classroom. "New boy! Come and sit with us."
I make my way, between desks, between young witches and wizards, to where the voice came from. Presently I see a thin, smallish boy. He has ebony hair that looks like it's never seen a comb, and glasses flashing in front of his hazel eyes.
"That was wicked!" he tells me as I plonk myself down next to him. "Finally, someone other than us teaching Avery a lesson! He's a troll, I swear it." He sticks out his hand. "I'm James Potter. What was your name again? I wasn't listening to old 'Gall."
"I'm Remus. Remus Lupin," I say without stuttering. James nods.
"Excellent, you're in Gryffindor. So'm I. Oh, and so are Sirius and Peter here." He gestures in turn to a tall boy, with long, dark hair and a careless grace I envy. He nods lazily to me, and congratulates me on my quick spellwork. The other is quite the opposite; a plump boy with dirty blonde hair. He has sharp eyes and a sharp nose, although the former are quite watery and remind me, quite unfairly, of a rat. He pipes up in a squeaky voice that he thought my magic had been amazing, and I was so brave. There is something in his whining, ingratiating tone that puts me on edge, but I have had few enough compliments in my life that I put it aside.
"Hopefully, you'll be in our dormitory," James continues. "Little Johnny White left last year. Something to do with spattergroit."
He peers at my scarred face.
"Say, you didn't have spattergroit, did you? How come you were ill all last year?"
My mouth goes dry.
"I… I had, dragonpox. Yeah. Bad case. I'm allergic to it, er, dragonpox that is."
The lie sounds feeble even to me. But James seems satisfied, after a second of disbelief in which his eyebrows were halfway up his forehead. He asks what Quidditch team I support, and when I say that I've only ever read about it, he begins bombarding me with facts and figures about Puddlemere United, which I assume is the team he supports. Occasionally Sirius chips in with a comment or a correction, but most of the time he merely stares around the classroom, the classic picture of elegant boredom. Peter, on the other hand, hangs off James's every word, and squeals agreement with everything.
The "Herbology" lesson passes quickly. Soon the other kids are all pouring from the crowded room. James, Sirius and Peter are the last to leave. I tag along behind them.
"Hey, Remus," Sirius says casually. "You wanna sit with us at lunch, mate?"
"Nothing I'd like better. Mate."
As I lie in my bed, listening to the other three snoring, I think. I think about the lessons I have been taught, and the lessons I have learned, and the difference between the two.
I think about Avery's cruelty. His abuse of power, the way he was malicious simply for the sake of it.
I think about the feeling I had while I was standing over Avery, and the power that I had felt. And how I had suppressed that feeling.
I think about what Dumbledore said – bravery is not about lack of fear, it is about being afraid and acting in spite of that.
I wonder whether this can be applied to goodness, kindness. Perhaps goodness is not the lack of potential for cruelty, but having the potential and being kind in spite of that.
I realise that being a werewolf does not affect the person I am. Being part animal does not ensure that I am evil. When I am a werewolf, I harm other beings, but it is not the fault of the werewolf. It is all the werewolf knows. The werewolf knows nothing of the word kindness. As such, it cannot be expected to be kind. It knows no difference between right and wrong.
Humans, however, are different. We do know the difference between right and wrong. And sometimes, sometimes we do the wrong thing even when we know that it's wrong. And that is the true nature of evil.
But sometimes, we do the right thing. And that is when we know that we are human.
A/N: I know, I know, this chapter is almost as long as the other two put together! Oh well… Thanks again to the awesome Anna!