Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to JK Rowling. Song lyrics belong to Mungo Jerry/Ray Dorset.
In the summertime when the weather's high,
you can stretch right up and touch the sky,
when the weather's fine
Remus stood at the platform and raised his hand to the train as it pulled out of the station. He was not sure if the others could see him, but still he stood with his hand raised and a smile plastered on his face wishing he were going as well.
"Mr. Lupin, it is time," Professor McGonagall rested her hand on his shoulder, bringing his thoughts back to the present.
"Yes Madam," he turned his body towards hers but his head still followed the train as it gathered speed and left him further and further behind.
"Mr. Lupin I suggest you watch where you are going and not where you might have been."
"Yes, Madam," he said again, looking up at her. "I could'a done it though. I know I could' a."
"We have been over this. I will not entertain this conversation again."
"Yes, Madam, but I could'a done it. It doesn't get dark until late."
"That is quite enough Mr. Lupin." She looked down her nose at the smaller then average just turned second year. "I am sorry that the moon's cycle happens to interfere with your personal wants. However, it is a fact you must learn to deal with."
"Yes, Professor McGonagall, but I cou…"
"That is quite enough young man," she looked at him sternly and managed to stop her lip from twitching upwards. "One more night under our roof will not matter years from now."
Together they started the walk back up to Hogwarts, she with her hands clasped behind her back, him mimicking her frown and stance, his hands also clasped behind him. She watched him from the corner of her eye, wanting to laugh outright at his serious expression that he thought was her, but managed to clear her throat loudly enough to shatter his concentration before speaking.
"You may spend the rest of the afternoon on the grounds. Perhaps Hagrid could use some help. However, I do expect you in my office after dinner. Am I understood?"
"Yes, Madam," he smiled up at her.
He ran down the path towards the groundkeeper's hut hearing Minerva's final warning to be on time. Rounding the side of the hut he caught sight of Hagrid on his knees tending to an injured Thestral.
"Cor, what 'appened to 'em?"
"Don't know lad. Something caught a hold of him, look 'ere." He ran his large finger over the slash wound on the creature's side and lifted the wing to point out the lacerations on the underside.
"Whatever it was, it came up under 'em," Remus observed.
"Wolf maybe or big cat," Hagrid shook his head. "Ain't heard tell of no wolves round these parts and the big cats don't come down this far."
Remus stood up and stepped back from the bloodied creature. "Will he be fixed?"
"Ya, think he will be just fine, now you go on. See how he looks at you? Nervous he is, … shouldn't have said that lad, its not you…just some bother 'em more than others."
"It's okay Hagrid."
"Not many your age ca' see 'em." Hagrid scratched his beard. "Might be why he is scared of ya, being seen by such a young'un an all."
"It's not a wolf you know," Remus took another step back. "A wolf would have jumped 'im, ripped his throat out, not gone for the belly and raked the sides like that. Looks like a cat, right? A big cat. Right Hagrid?"
"Don't rightly know boy…"
"I know," Remus screamed at him, fisting his hands. "I know it's not a wolf. It's not, it can't be. Not a real wolf, not like what's around here. Wolves would have made noise, you would'a heard 'em."
Remus turned and ran back to the castle, down the hallways, and to his common room. He fled up the steps to his room and threw open his trunk, pulling out the book he kept on top. Sitting back on his heels he flipped it open and began to read, looking at the pictures that he had seen a thousand times, tracing his finger over the familiar images, and calming at the knowledge that this is what he was, not the vile creature that could bring down a magical creature in the forest.
He sat there though the afternoon until he had turned the last page of the book and turned back to the beginning to start again.
"Mr. Lupin?" Professor McGonagall said softly from the doorway. "I have just spoken to Hagrid. May we talk about it?"
Remus nodded without taking his eyes off of the book. He sat quietly until he felt the Professor join him on the floor, then let her take the book from his lap and settled it on hers. She patted the carpet next to her, indicating that he should move closer and as he slid across the space that separated them he peeked up and saw her grin.
"I see your mother has already started your summer education."
"I got it last summer. When I got my letter."
"Ah, yes. A very difficult letter to send. The Headmaster wrote it himself you know."
"Mum said I had a right to be here, she said Headmaster even told her so."
"Of course you do, that was never in doubt with us. Although, I am sure some will think differently. You just listen to the Headmaster and your mother."
"See here?" He flipped the pages of the book and pointed to the picture of three wolves in full run. "They hunt together. They are pack animals it says."
"A wolf is a smart animal," she added, turning the page to the next picture.
"Yeah," he nodded furiously and leaned over the book. "It says that people are scared of them because they don't know about them, don't understand them you see."
"As it is about many things. We fear that which we do not know."
"That's what Mum says."
"Your mother is a smart woman, Remus."
"Hagrid said a wolf did it, but a wolf wouldn't have done that Professor."
"Creatures are sometimes scared as well Remus. They must learn to exercise caution when around the unknown."
"You think maybe the Thestral scared it? You think maybe that's it?" He looked up at her hopefully.
"Perhaps," she turned the page again, giving him time to absorb what she had said. "Perhaps he was not raised by a wolf and was not taught how to act like a good wolf."
"Who do you think raised him?"
"Perhaps he was only a cub when he was found. Perhaps a well meaning wizard took care of him and then released him into the wild."
Remus reached over and turned another page, and then another, pausing and looking up at her from the corner of his eye.
"My Mum can teach me. Can't she?"
"Your mother is not a wolf, but she will do the best she can, as will all of us."
He rose on his knees and cupped his hands around her ear, leaning in to whisper, "I get scared sometimes too."
She put her arms around him as the sting of tears began behind her eyes. Giving him a quick hug she cleared her throat and disengaged his arms, struggling to stand as she hid her face from him.
"You are a Gryffindor, of course you are scared at times."
"Gryffindors are brave."
"Bravery is facing fears. Any fool can slay a dragon, it is those that fear the dragon that exhibit bravery in doing so."
"Can I stay here tonight? The rest are gone for the summer."
Minerva looked into his face and saw the glimmer of hope that he still held, a hope born of as yet easy transitions and padded restraints.
"No, it is not safe, not for yourself and not for others. You know the rules."
"I could'a made it home. My Mum lets me sleep in the barn all night. It's like camping out."
"And what if the trains were delayed? What if it was crowded at the station and she could not get a taxi? What if you had been unable to be home before darkness?"
"Sometimes it's not so bad. I think I can make it stop if I try really hard, really really hard."
"You will have the summer to practice. Four moons, August has a blue moon this year as I am sure you know. You have charted the cycles, have you not?"
"Yes Madam," he sighed. "If I can do it, I mean really do it, can I stay in my room then?"
Minerva looked at him, unable to say aloud what she knew needed to be said. "Yes Mr. Lupin, if you can demonstrate control and constraint you may stay in your room. Remember Mr. Lupin, there is nothing you cannot endeavour to achieve. However, not every endeavour will be successful, and it is in these failures that we find strength. Now, it is past dinner time. You need to run along and eat before we see to your sleeping arrangements."
She watched him run down the stairs and out of sight, headed for the Great Hall where he would eat before being locked up in an empty chamber for the night. She would slide open the small wooden slot in the door and check on him from time to time and see the future he had in front of him.
It was getting worse, she knew. It was no longer just his body that changed, but now also his mind. She had seen his childish eyes turn hard and cold, flickering from the dark corners to the slot in the door, flickering between the two worlds, fighting to stay in hers. Unable to hold on to his boyish dream long enough to ignore the call.
She smoothed her robes and patted her head, making sure he had not dislodged her hat with his hug. He will learn, she thought, hoping that he had one more summer to be free. One more summer before he knew for sure that his dragon could not be slain.