"I don't really remember how it used to be before . . . in the end . . . "That Night," as Agent Johnston always used to say. I wasn't anything particularly remarkable, I don't think. I was just an unruly child who was very fond of anything that contained large amounts of sugar.
Innocent, too. Or maybe not quite as much as all that. Children are far less innocent than adults want to believe. But unaware, certainly. Because if a child's brain could understand all the dangers threatening it at every instant in the vast world, terror would make it implode before he had a chance to take a step.
Without a doubt."
Extract from the journal of Remus Lupin
No one had ever paid much attention to Remus John Lupin. He was, after all, the very ordinary seventh child of a very ordinary family in Northern Ireland. The only thing that differentiated him from all the other five-year-old boys in the country was that he bore a first name that was just as exotic as his last, and one could attribute both of them to the fantastic romanticism of Harriet Lupin.
Harriet Lupin herself had been a rather ordinary young girl, though pretty enough, until she had met, at the age of nineteen, a young Frenchman just off the boat, beginning his first tour of the world and calling himself an adventurer. He had, however, had to abandon the rest of the world five months later, so that he could marry Harriet, who was already wearing large cable-knit sweaters to hide the new curves of her silhouette. As she liked to say, she had forgotten at the time that the other gentlemen and Richard Lupin didn't come from the same country.
And three and a half months later, Cleopatra saw the light of day. And then came Lucretia, Marc-Antoine, and Alexandre, followed by the twins, Ophelia and Demetrius.
Then there was Remus. The only one of her children to have inherited the appearance of those French ancestors that she had never met, and not the strawberry-blond hair so curly that she had long ago given up trying to run a comb through, freckles, and the clear blue eyes that she had passed on to all the others.
No, Remus had blond hair, practically platinum in the summer and supple enough to at least form ringlets when it was short. Harriet was so proud of them that she only had the resolve to cut his hair when Richard came home in one of his rages after the women at the market were in raptures over "his last pretty little one."
Because Remus also had very fine features, Harriet often dreamt that she would have done better to have given him the name of a delicate and androgynous angel, rather than that of a coarse Roman warrior. Ah, but it was too late to cry over spilt milk, and Remus' somber eyes already spoke of bravery, she asserted. Richard sniggered, replying that there wasn't any courage in a five-year-old child. But Harriet already knew that Remus would be the best of all of them, that he could leave this village that had been her personal cage for such a long time and accomplish all that she could never dream of while looking beyond the hills during the melancholy evenings.
Because, of her children, Remus was her favorite, and she nursed that preference away from prying eyes as an emotion a bit shameful against which she was powerless.
And she had sworn to herself that Remus would be the last, but Rosalinde hadn't been born yet and life continued despite it all.
Nothing terrible could happen, not when they never did anything bad and prayed every night. Right?
Harriet tapped her round stomach like an animal so familiar that one doesn't pay it any attention and stirred the soup before calling her seven children for supper.
Remus had never been particularly intrepid. He was five years old, he was afraid of the big dogs that Mr. McKief (who owned the farm at the base of the hill) kept, of the rats that were as long as his forearm and three times as large that sometimes crept into the kitchen at night, and of the dark.
Above all of the dark.
And last night, when everyone thought he was in bed, wedged between Ophelia and the right-hand whitewashed wall of the children's room, Uncle Ian had told his parents that they had seen wolves nearby. Leaning in from the armchair reserved for guests, a glass full of an amber liquid that took on an almost red hue when it reflected the light of the fire in his hand, he had advised them to not let "the little ones" stray from the house as long as he and his band hadn't taken care of the problem. Remus had then recoiled back a step into the shadows, completely forgetting the glass of water that he had gone to get from the kitchen. He wasn't very sure what they were talking about, but it was already clear that if they had caught him, they would have sent him back to bed straight away. And Remus was tired of always being later-too-little-to-understand.
Then, Papa had said that he would like "to go too" and Mam had gotten up from the sofa, resting her hand on her stomach where Rosalinde still hid and shaking her head.
She had started to talk very loudly, and no, and if something happened, the children.
But Papa hadn't wanted to hear it and Uncle Ian had continued to gaze into the fire while drinking the pretty tawny water while the two others were shouting.
Then, Cleo came down and found him huddled against the wall. When he had asked if Papa would be eaten, she had sent him back to bed with a tap on the head and of course not, stupid.
Remus had cried a bit all the same, pushed against the cold wall by Ophelia, Alexandre, and Demetrius. Because even if the rest remained obscure to him, he knew that wolves were meaner than the rats, larger than the yellow and black dog that was missing an eye and seemed perpetually angry, and that they ate little children.
And Remus was afraid.
So, what was he doing outside all alone in the dark at the moment when the first howl sounded?