This is a story I wrote for the Hermione Big Bang ficathon over at Livejournal for the summer, and I have to say it was a lot of fun and the resulting fic was something of a type I'd never even attempted to write before. As such, if you'd like to see the full story it's up at the HBB website [ www (dot) hermione (dot) magical-worlds (dot) us ], along with some amazing artwork by ghot and paperflowered. I'll be updating this every few days, whenever I have time, and it'll be 8 chapters long. I hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Harry Potter series, and I'm not intending to violate fair use, yadda yadda yadda.
The library was quiet with the faint sounds of diligent study, although that would change soon if Sirius Black had anything to say about it.
"I'm bored, Remus," he moaned, rocking back in his chair and resting against one of the shelves. "Let's play a game. Hangman or something."
"I'm studying," Remus replied. He stared at his book with determination, though he'd read considerably less than he usually would during a brief study session thanks to his hyperactive friend. "Just hang on for a minute."
"We could play tic tac toe."
"Neither of us would win."
"I'd lose on purpose to avoid a cat's game," Sirius offered, apparently pleased with his magnanimous compromise.
"Be quiet, Sirius."
"I'll draw a board up right now."
"Be quiet, Sirius."
"All right, hangman it is!" declared the black-haired youth. He ripped a piece of parchment off from Remus's scratch material and began drawing up a disturbingly elaborate noose.
Remus flipped the page in his book and set to learning all about Stunning Spells and their effects on the nonmagical.
In summary, an effective Stunner should never draw blood, and even an inappropriately cast Stunner should only bruise the target area. This is because the Stunner affects the brain more than anything, and the efficiency of a Stunner usually depends on both the ability of the caster and the base magical power of the recipient (or lack thereof), while the quality –
"Guess a letter."
Annoyance flared in Remus, but he did not shift his attention from the typing on the page. "No, Sirius."
"Oh, just guess a letter, you prude," Sirius huffed, and when Remus noticed that his counterpart had taken the time to actually charm his drawing of the noose – it shifted forms constantly, from a snake to a vine to a rope of fire – he decided to relent.
"Oh, hang on one moment, I forgot to think of a word."
And Sirius set to thinking. Remus silently decided that he should've expected that.
"Okay, I've got one," Sirius announced after allowing time for consideration. "Now guess."
"Damn it, I thought you were going to guess A," remarked Sirius, and he marked down two spaces. "Seven letters, by the way."
"S," Remus guessed.
"Not one!" said Sirius happily. He took great pleasure in drawing a very detailed body for the unfortunate man who was to hang from his noose (presently portrayed as a licorice whip).
While Sirius was busy doodling, Remus read.
– while the quality of outlying conditions also play a factor. Stunners are notoriously unpredictable in a magically altered environment, due to their simplistic nature and their lack of advanced spell control measures, leading to –
"R," Remus said wearily, wondering if Sirius knew he was just going to go with the most common letters off of the top of his head.
Sirius's grumbles let Remus know his guess had been on the mark. "One of those, but it was blind luck."
"None!" Sirius crowed, as he began sketching arms for the emaciated, disembodied torso.
"What's going on here, children?" came James's voice as he sat down next to the two, setting his books next to Remus's.
"About time you got here," Remus said. "Sirius is trying to make me play hangman instead of study for the Charms test tomorrow."
"Haven't studied for that," James muttered. "Great. D'you think I could convince Lily to tutor me?"
"I hope that wasn't a serious suggestion."
"She's warming up, Remus, I swear she is."
"Guess, James," Sirius insisted.
James took one look at the parchment and shrugged. "Looks like 'freedom,' if you ask me."
"Screw you, Prongs," Sirius muttered as he filled in the remaining blank spaces and the hangman joyfully hopped down from the noose. The parchment charmed itself clean and he rested his head on his hand. "I'm still bored. Please tell me you brought the map."
"Of course I brought the bloody map," James said, his tone almost offended. He reached into his bag and withdrew a single, rolled-up parchment, only slightly worn from use (or was that the charm they'd placed on it to appear that way?), and flattened it out against the table. He leaned forward and enunciated clearly into the center of the parchment, "I solemnly swear I am up to no good."
From the center of the page appeared a flurry of activity: thin black lines of ink spreading outward, curving sometimes softly and sometimes in sharp right angles, and words writing themselves, labeling squares and boxes and other such squiggles. James took something else out of his pocket and laid it next to the map.
"Headmaster's ring, complete with Headmaster's signet," he announced. "When I explained to Dumbledore the notices we'd have to be sending out to the Quidditch team due to the dragon pox outbreak, he lent it to me, no questions asked. Although he did have that scary Dumbledore smile. You know which one I'm talking about."
"Oh that look terrifies me," Sirius agreed. He tapped his quill with his wand and it floated upward toward his face, pulling apart and curving around his mouth like the headmaster's beard. "Ah yes, Mr. Potter, I am sure my ring will be put to good use in your hands – I trust your use of the headmaster's signet shall have, ah, lasting effects on our school and the students you, for lack of a better word, oversee. I do not need to remind you the values of responsibility, and if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of having forgotten those values, I hope you will turn to Mr. Lupin for his calming influence and always welcome assistance. Lemon drop?"
Remus and James's snickers were cut off by a dignified "harrumph!" from Madame Pince. More quietly, the trio shifted together in their seats, huddled over the map.
"Right," James said, grabbing the ring and holding it above the parchment. "Marauder's Map, I am your patron!"
He pressed the signet against the paper. Nothing happened.
"You did it right," Remus answered before James could ask the question.
"Maybe we did the charm wrong," Sirius suggested.
But that theory was quickly disproved as ink began to swirl around the ring, James's fingers recoiling in shock. After several seconds of this the ink seemed to hiss around the signet, and James removed it delicately.
Written across the center of the parchment in elegant cursive appeared: Good evening, Headmaster. Your domain has been secured.
And suddenly where there were only hallways and corridors there were now dots and names, the students and faculty of Hogwarts. The rooms were now labeled for what function they served, and the edges of the castle were more clearly defined.
"Look," breathed Remus, "you can even see Dumbledore in his office!"
"Merlin, I didn't know he paced so much," Sirius remarked. "Maybe that's how he stays in shape."
"I like how it shows the moving staircases and some of the fake doors," said James, pointing to an area near the Gryffindor common room. "This would've been dead useful as a first year."
"No kidding," concurred Sirius. "I never knew there were so many empty classrooms in the school. I wonder if it's always been that way?"
Remus didn't know what it was about the remark, but it bothered him immediately. Sirius had a point, to be fair, and it was something he'd noticed during his time at the school. There were a lot of empty classrooms, and now he was led to wonder if they'd always been empty. He'd always assumed so, but the whole issue persisted at the recesses of his mind, even when he tried to push it away.
"Moony?" James was saying. "You all right?"
"Yes," he said, shaking his head and smiling. "Just zoned out for a moment. What were you saying?"
"I was saying that we'll wait 'til Wormtail's done with detention to start the personality charms."
"I can't wait for those," Sirius exclaimed, rubbing his hands together in childish excitement. "I've got a long list of sample insults I'd like Padfoot to use for intruders of the map. Hopefully the charm will expand the list from there."
"Yes, that sounds great…"
He didn't pay attention to the rest of the conversation. Numbers flew threw his head – how many students could Hogwarts have at the moment? In his Gryffindor class, there were about twenty, and he knew his class was larger than Slytherin, and either equal to or just less than Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff. The other years were a trickier matter, although if he assumed that the counts were the same…
James and Sirius left at some point. He hoped it was because the conversation had come to a natural end, and not because he had killed it with his sudden withdrawal into his own mind. But he was focused on another issue, as he tended to do from time to time, and they understood. He would apologize later.
Fed up with his poor estimates of the student population of Hogwarts, he stood and walked up to Madame Pince's desk. When she didn't look up, he rapped his fingers on the wood, and when that didn't work he cleared his throat. She didn't seem to notice.
Finally he spoke: "Madame Pince."
"Yes?" she said, still reading her book and frowning over something.
"I was wondering where I could find information on Hogwarts's enrollment counts."
Her eyes travelled upward in her customary glare. "You can either look in the releases for the year to find an official enrollment count of the 1976-77 school year provided to the Ministry of Magic, or you can look in one of our student books on the database shelves. They're old and worth more than your life, I'll have you know."
"I don't doubt it," he said. "Thank you, Madame Pince."
The student books were enormous, and he quickly realized that perhaps the stern librarian hadn't been joking about their worth. He wasn't even sure if it would be possible to lift one without someone else's help, or at the very least a strong wingardium leviosa, but thankfully the shelf was slanted and the book was set against it in such a way that indicated that it wasn't intended to be read on a table. Instead, he opened the front cover of the book as it lay on the shelf, and flipped through to find the enrollment count of his year.
It was there, a nice respectable number in red ink: 678.
Not half bad, and somewhere around where he would've guessed. According to the same section, the estimated population of all of magical Britain was somewhere around 100,000, which didn't make sense when he thought about it. Of course, not all wizards and witches ages eleven to seventeen went to Hogwarts; he knew full well there were multiple smaller schools throughout Britain that many families preferred, and also vocational schools throughout the region (and, of course, foreign magnet schools like Durmstrang that unlike Hogwarts were open to foreign students). Several people in Godric's Hollow educated their children at home, which he thought was a horrible way to prepare for O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s, but to each his own. If he had to guess, he'd say the population for his age group was anywhere from 2,000 to 7,000, which quite nearly fit in with the estimated population, which he assumed was somewhere on the high side. This was made even more realistic when he considered the usually healthy immigration ratio (although that had lagged in the last half-decade).
He flipped back several hundred pages and landed on the year 1743, which he knew from History of Magic had been one of the last years before the penultimate goblin revolt and subsequent civil wars. The enrollment count: 2,134.
He stared in surprise. So that was why there were so many empty classrooms. His brain boggled at the thought of the student population being three times larger than it presently was. Did they have multiple teachers for each subject? (He didn't even know how his teachers had enough time to teach their classes as it was!) Was Sorting a ceremony, or an all day event? (He hated and loved the hour-long ceremonies at the same time, but couldn't imagine watching the Sorting for over three hours.)
And finally, he wondered, was this because of a population decline or the ascension of other educational options? The estimated population size was around 240,000, although he wasn't entirely sure how accurate this number was. Even in the present day magical census measures were notoriously unreliable.
(The summer before, Mr. Potter, after being informed by one of his pompous Ministry colleagues on a home visit that the such-and-such department provided aid to 20,000 wizards and witches in England alone, had hidden his snort by stuffing his face into a mug of ale and winking at the boys from across the dinner table.)
He looked up a few more enrollment numbers from the separate time periods – each similar to the original counts – ran a few quick calculations on a separate piece of paper comparing the two enrollment numbers, and unsurprisingly found that there was no possibility of the enrollment numbers coming from similar overall populations (in fact, he calculated a statistical probability of zero, something that he hadn't expected). He assumed that he may have made an error in his math, but his mother taught mathematics at a Muggle school, and he'd always had a natural talent. And the estimated population figures alone supported his theory.
It seemed that magical populations were decreasing at a time when every other population of the world was increasing. He knew he couldn't have been the first one to make such an inference; after all, the facts were fairly simple. Still, the problem plagued him as he grabbed his things and stuffed them in his book bag thirty minutes later, throwing the strap around his shoulder and heading out of the library. He was so used to magic – so used to the electric mysticism of the castle buzzing in his veins, and even his own twisted, natural magic – that he couldn't bear the idea that magic was on the decline.
He decided to save the idea for later inquiry. Still, he couldn't help noticing how many empty classrooms littered the halls of the school, and he couldn't help thinking about the students they may have once housed.
She stepped over a Quaffle, narrowly avoided banging her knee into a tipped-over chair in the middle of the living room, and almost fell flat on her face thanks to a stray box of Chocolate Frogs.
She sighed. Harry and Ron really needed to clean their flat.
She spent nearly as much time there as they did, but she steadfastly refused to clean it at all, as that would be surrendering to their inherently boyish slothfulness and drudgery. And that she would not do. They would learn the value of cleanliness, even if it took her a broken leg and eight bruises a week to teach them.
Harry she could forgive for his distaste of cleaning, as he'd been forced to do it for days on end during his time with those terrible people. But Ron!
She found the coffee table with her hand – bending over several cartons of take-out – and grabbed the note stuck to a coaster:
Staying with Charlie tonight to help with the dragon transport. Back tomorrow at noonish.
Feel free to clean the flat! (Kidding.)
She tapped her finger to the note and it disintegrated. In all truth, she couldn't exactly be certain it was meant for her, but by now the boys were used to her spending half her time in their home. It wasn't as if they could be bothered to come out to her flat, just a block down the street… oh no, that would be too inconvenient…
The fireplace lit up, knocking her out of her thoughts, and she braced herself. She relaxed when a silver stag stepped into the living room and announced in a kind voice, "Noticed the wards change. Make yourself at home. I'm just grabbing some corrections on a test."
The silver strands running through the stag dissipated, and thus the Patronus became just air. She cleared a space for herself on the sofa and sat down.
It really wasn't a bad flat, she thought as she waited. Nice view, nice area. Terrible upkeep, but you could hardly blame the landlord for horrid tenants, could you?
The furniture was fine, mainly since she'd selected it. Harry hadn't cared much about the prices, but she'd made sure that he didn't go for anything too expensive; as she recalled, Ron had insisted on a device that functioned as refrigerator, television, and oven (Merlin knew how). "Look how convenient it is! It's amazing."
Convenient. She scowled. Typical.
The sofa was nice enough, comfortable and newly stained with liquor and grease. She particularly favored one of the armchairs, but at the moment it was serving as a resting place for all of Ron's Quidditch magazines, and she resisted the urge to bin them.
The table was Harry's domain. He liked to perch his feet on it and smile at her irritation – "The wood will be fine, you worrywart," he would say – and use it as a desk on occasion, sitting on the carpeted floor and relaxing in front of the television (usually turned to football, Ron's new obsession: "Although it's still a distant second to Quidditch!") with his legs sprawled underneath it, his back resting against the side of her chair.
Several of his papers were on it. Mainly tests and "official Auror business" – which usually was a codeword for procrastination on seemingly pointless forms and releases, etc – but there was also a folder. That it in itself was not exceptionally interesting, but the folder read "REMUS LUPIN" on the front in big blue letters.
And that was exceptionally interesting.
As far as she had known Andromeda had taken care of most of the Lupins' estate business, although she did remember Harry having to go to a few appointments with this solicitor and that attorney, and so on. The main issue seemed to be Remus's lycanthropy and how that affected his lineage, inheritance, and the like, and whether the concept of property applied equally to him. (Hermione had threatened to take the issue to the Minister himself, but the next day some forms came with Kingsley's signature commanding proper respect for the Lupins' estate. How nice it was to have a competent official in charge!)
She crossed her legs. She really wanted to read the file. But it wouldn't be proper. Harry would be home any minute now.
She strained to hear the ticking of a clock or the hissing of a pipe, but she heard nothing. Quite literally nothing was happening. She was entirely alone in all senses of the word.
Oh sod it, she thought, and grabbed the folder.
That was when the fireplace crackled and Harry emerged, soot in his hair.
"Evening, Hermione," he said, and she nearly jumped. Blasted luck! He looked at her for a moment and grinned. "I see you got started without me."
"I wanted to talk to you about that folder today," he replied, nodding in her direction. He took off his outer robe and hung it near the fireplace, fluffing his hair with his hand. His efforts at grooming largely failed. "There's some interesting stuff in there. What'd you think?"
"I hadn't actually gotten around to reading it," she admitted.
"Hm. Scoot, will you?" Hermione made a show of glancing at the pile of clothes next to her, and he irritably drew his wand and shook it at the heap. Trousers and shirts began a violent dance toward the washer, and he took a seat next to her. "It wouldn't kill you to help us out a little, you know."
She ignored him. "What's in here?"
"Some documents Remus left us," Harry responded. She perked up. "Yeah, us. I've skimmed through them. He left me some journal entries and Pensieve memories – I've got the memories stored in my room now – and he left Ron some memories, too, more of the amusing ones, I think, and also some old Quidditch articles he thought Ron would enjoy. He left you some of his academic papers and the like. I didn't actually read through it all, since there's quite a bit there, but I think you'll enjoy them. Go ahead, open it."
She paused a second and then did as he said, and she immediately noticed how much heavier the folder seemed – it had obviously been charmed to be lightweight and portable, as it held four times as much as she ever would have guessed. The folder was in fact separated into three sections, and she couldn't help but notice that her own section dwarfed Harry's.
"What do you mean by academic papers?" she asked, spreading the folder on the table in front of her. "Surely not old tests, I hope."
"No, I think it was stuff he'd written, some of his correspondences. Andromeda didn't know too much of it," said Harry, shrugging. "But Remus was a smart fellow. I'm sure anything in there would be immensely valuable, and interesting to boot."
Hermione nodded numbly and stared at the folder, the creased yellow parchment in front of her. Something about it was astounding: that on the table in front of her lay the intellectual legacy of one of the most intelligent men she'd ever met. A great sense of responsibility suddenly settled itself upon her, but it was accompanied by the quick excitement that was present in the feel of an unopened book waiting to be studied and obsessed over.
She nodded numbly again when Harry asked if she wanted dinner, and the evening passed by without her noticing. Afterwards she couldn't help but feel that she had been terrible conversation, but Harry didn't seem to mind, and while she didn't ask outright, she had the impression that he understood her silence.
"Here, I've got another folder like that," he said after they had put away their dishes, and he reached into his bag and withdrew a bright red folder, handing it to her. "You can put all your stuff in there. I think it will take even you a while to get through it."
"Right," she said. She looked at the original folder. "Right. Thanks."
She began the careful process of transferring the papers from one folder to another, but something about the magic of the folders made the process relatively painless, and there she stood with her lone folder, much heavier than it felt.
"You can look at the stuff he left me after I've gone through it," Harry offered. "I'm not sure how interested I'd be in his academic exploits, but Remus was your friend as well. The three of us could even make a Pensieve run together, to one of the good memories."
"Yes," Hermione replied. She tucked the folder under her arm. "I think I should be heading home. I'll see you tomorrow?"
"Course," Harry said, nodding. "Night."
He plopped down on the sofa and turned on the television, letting her know that it was all right to leave and begin devouring her latest gift from the dead. She didn't remember the last time she'd felt so grateful.
She had the patience to wait until she had changed into her night gown with a cup of water to begin going through Remus's papers. She curled up in her favorite chair near the window and read by the light of a lamp shaped like an ear (a gift from George). Indeed, several of the papers were letters, although the subjects were somewhat foreign to her; while she recognized several theoretical questions of magic, she hoped that there would be something else in her inheritance that would make the correspondence clearer to her. Suddenly it became apparent to her just how hopelessly clever Remus had been, and perhaps, she thought, these papers would make more sense to an Unspeakable. It was a depressing observation.
Minutes into her search she came upon a large stack of papers, bound together and obviously meant to be read together. There was no title; only the name, "Remus J. Lupin," and a crescent scribbled in the center of the page. She flipped to the next page, and on this page lay Remus's familiar, elegant cursive. Hermione set to reading.
Something is wrong with magic.
While the Muggle world around us has industrialized – while the developing countries of that Muggle world are still industrializing, without the benefit of magic but with the benefit of ingenuity long since lost in the magical community – our world has stalled. Technology remains, but the innovation once seen in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period has vanished. We have abandoned our continuing search into the nature of magic, the public search into the nature of magic, and have left that inquiry to the leisure of secret organizations run by bureaucrats half-interested in science and discovery.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact break in philosophy between past and present. We still value ingenuity and curiosity on some basic level: just look at the fame of Adalbert Waffling or Albus Dumbledore, two of the most well-known wizards and researchers of the past several hundred years. But they are a rare breed these days. More common are the commercial geniuses, the Devlin Whitehorns and Gaspard Shingletons of the world. Not that there is anything wrong with the commercial aptitude of those two men – it's just indicative of the difference in thought.
The Enlightenment of wizardry has ended, and the commercialization of magical society has begun. No longer are we interested in the nature of magic, or the composition of elements, or the limitations of human progress; now we are interested in the fastest broom or handiest cauldron. Which is good and fine, except that instead of indulging ourselves in both areas, we have forgotten the one and obsessed over the other, and as a result we find ourselves in a pitiable state nowadays.
The magical world has fallen behind the Muggle world. Most wizards can't even pronounce the word "electricity," maybe the most startling development since movable print. Electricity, for the uneducated, is the Muggle form of magic: a magic based on manipulation of science and cooperation with nature. We have refused to adapt and advance ourselves in the most basic ways, and as a result, our sphere has dwindled, and Muggle hegemony has only increased.
But this is not a political tract. This is a tract about the state of our world, not the states of our world, and that is why I speak of Muggles.
If there is one difference between ourselves and Muggles since the year 1800, it is that Muggles have continuously interacted with their environment and we have not. Muggles have tried to change the world around them; we are content to accept the world we are given, for that is how it has always been and always should be. Our delusional and illogical obsession with tradition has been our undoing, and as a result haven't noticed that our world is coming apart at the seams.
To be blunt, magic is dying.
Dying a slow death, but dying more and more every day. In the following document, I will, if time allows, prove this to you, keen reader, but I am not a harbinger of doom: I hope to identify problem areas and possible solutions. I will be the first to admit that my research and resources are limited, although I will do the best I can with what is available to me, and hopefully my work will open the door for someone more distinctly qualified than myself.
At a basic level, there are several problems with our society as currently constructed. They are, as follows: our hollow acceptance of past constructions and spells, leading to the decay of magic in the surrounding area; the destruction of magical environments and preservations, which help to balance out the aforementioned "magical drain," to later be explained in full; the lack of transparency in our highest research facilities, most of which are controlled by unyielding conservative authoritarian governments; the lowering magical population as a result of these factors, which, in a unique paradox, only increases the decay, and so forth; and the disturbing trend of Muggle resilience and cognizance of magic, already partially documented by the esteemed Bleinhelm Stalk, and its negative connotations for our future and possible role in our recovery.
And one more note: if you are reading this final paragraph, it means I never had the chance to finish my work. No harm – this is something I half-expected. I hope you will forgive me for any incompletion or error in my calculations or conclusions, which I would have hoped to correct and finish with outside help in due time, but I believe my argument is relatively strong in and of itself, and quite essential to our continued prosperity and progress as a society. If any of these ideas resonate within you, I urge you to take my work and improve upon it.
Signed on the date of 1 August, 1985,
(And edited again on 15 December, 1993 and 12 April, 1998)
Remus John Lupin
Hermione set the folder down and stared out the window. It was, to say the least, an interesting thesis statement, and it was a question that she herself had found herself asking on occasion, although she'd never had the presence of mind to follow her inquiries.
But he had. And that was why she admired him, was it not?
She wanted to continue, but at the same moment she knew she shouldn't, knew that some things required time to settle. So she let the folder rest, and she got to her feet and went to the bathroom to fill up a nice warm bath. She undressed and sat naked on the marble edge of the bathtub, thinking of magic and Muggles, enlightenment and acceptance, the knowledge of the past and the unstoppable intellect of the future. And she wondered.