Examined under Rose Moon
Monday 2 – Thursday 26 June 1975
Hogwarts; around the Grampians.
Rated PG-13 because the good guys behave badly.
There wasn’t a real crisis at school until the time of the Marauders’ O.W.L. exams. Dumbledore requested the Examination Board to rearrange the O.W.L. timetable so that the exams on the day after the full moon would be Muggle Studies and Divination, the only two subjects that Remus was not taking.
“We need to sleep through that full moon,” said Remus. “Professor Dumbledore has gone to the trouble…”
“Are you kidding?” snorted Sirius. “We’ll need the break from all that hard studying. Dumbledore wouldn’t know if we raced all the way to the mountains beyond Hogsmeade! In fact, that’s what I vote we should do.”
After a week of examination stress, Remus was ready to agree. He felt he had done well enough on Charms, Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, but indifferently on Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures.
“Did you work it out, Remus?” asked Peter. “Was the Knarl the one who would not take the milk?”
“I hope so,” said Remus, “because that’s what I told Professor Tofty. Do you think they’ll take marks off because the Fire Crab gave me a blister?”
“It’s a very small blister,” said James. “Perhaps Tofty didn’t see. We need to think about Astronomy. What’s the formula for calculating the date of Easter again?”
That question was easy for the friends of a werewolf, so Peter was able to produce the right answer.
“But whose idea was it,” Peter asked, “to schedule the Astronomy practical for just about the shortest night of the year?”
They were all fatigued by the time it was dark enough to climb the Tower for their Astronomy practical. Perhaps that explained what happened next. After a gruelling three hours of filling out charts, no one was thinking very clearly. Tilden Toots was plaintively asking Gaspard Shingleton, “What was the location of Perseus?” while James whispered to Peter, “Let’s sneak off to the kitchens and make a night of it,” and Peter nearly choked in his eagerness.
Most students were stampeding through the exit (Bertram Aubrey nearly pushed Emmeline Vance down the stairs), so Remus stood back against the ramparts to make way for them. That was why he was in time to see Severus Snape wave a wand at Mary Macdonald.
Mary gasped in pain. “You pulled my hair!”
“Didn’t touch your hair,” said Snape, making a dash for the exit.
“You did, Severus,” said Lily Evans, blocking his way. “Hexing is the same as – ”
But Snape had lost interest in the conversation. While he and Lily confronted one another, Brandon Mulciber – the only other person still left on Astronomy Tower – prodded Mary with his wand-tip and whispered, “Imperio!”
Mary’s head lolled sideways, and for a second it actually looked as if the Unforgiveable Curse had succeeded. Remus, from his position in the shadows, held his breath, wondering if this was the moment to interfere.
Then Mary’s head snapped upright again, and she flushed with fury. “Mulciber, you just tried to put me under Imperius!”
“Rubbish. I’m only a schoolboy. How could I put anyone under Imperius?”
“You might have been too feeble to succeed, but you tried,” charged Lily. “I’m going to report – ”
“Who are you calling feeble?” interrupted Mulciber with an ugly frown of concentration. He must have cast a non-verbal spell, because Mary suddenly shrieked as she was swept upside-down into the air and hung by her ankles, her robes falling from her waist over her head. Remus averted his eyes from her pink, flowery underwear.
“Let her down!” shouted Lily. “Severus, make Mulciber – ” But Snape was doubled up with laughter. Lily whipped out her wand and began to focus on the counter-curse.
Before she had time to release Mary, Mulciber shouted, “Mobilicorpus!”
At once Mary floated gently through the air, over the edge of the tower, and stopped just beyond an arm’s reach of the parapet, hovering over a hundred-foot drop of empty space. Lily stopped in her tracks in horror, obviously trying not to think of the counter-spell.
“So shall I release Macdonald?” sneered Mulciber.
Snape was laughing too hard to speak. Lily stared in horror from one to the other while Mary dangled helplessly.
Remus pointed his wand and firmly ordered, “Accio, Mary!”
Before Mulciber had properly realised that anyone else was there, Mary was hurtling towards Remus and landing in his arms, still upside-down. Lily shot a murderous glance at Snape and Mulciber before helping Remus to set Mary the right way up and support her down the stairs.
“I don’t understand why Snape and Mulciber weren’t expelled!” raged Sirius.
Remus privately understood why Dumbledore couldn’t expel Snape for laughing; but it was disconcerting that a prank close to an attempted murder was insufficient to expel Mulciber.
“Snape has detention with Filch,” said Peter, looking excited at the thought. “And I heard that Mulciber has to do community service all through the summer holidays!”
“Bah, what’s community service?” Sirius threw his apple core into the lake. “Decent wizards sometimes volunteer to do that for no reason at all!”
“It means that Mulciber is still answerable to Dumbledore,” James reasoned. “If he’d been expelled – as he would have been in peace-time – he’d be racing off to join the Death Eaters. This way, Mulciber has two more years of being very closely monitored by Slughorn. Perhaps Dumbledore still hopes he’ll reform.”
“Dumbledore always was an optimist,” grumbled Sirius. “Hey – who’s behind that tree?”
Remus turned his head in time to see someone slouching off – someone who slouched like Snape.
“He’s always spying on us,” said Peter. “Always hanging around, trying to work out our marauding secrets. Why does he care?”
Sirius opened his mouth, but James interrupted. “Oh, forget Snape. He’s gone now. And forget the exams. Let’s talk about tonight. It’ll be a short jaunt because the full moon doesn’t even rise until half-past nine. Are you game for that race to the mountains?”
They had only half-planned the night’s adventures when a bell rang.
“Time for Potions practical,” groaned Peter. “Wish me luck. Just do not let it be the Strengthening Solution.”
“It can’t be Strengthening Solution,” Remus reminded him, “because that takes days to brew. It’ll probably be the Draught of Peace, because that didn’t appear on the written paper this morning.”
After the exam, when the last flask of the Draught of Peace was stoppered, and Peter was heaving with relief, Remus saw from a distance that Sirius was exchanging yet more angry words with Snape; but he thought nothing of it.
The full moon that fell during the O.W.L. exams was the tenth occasion when the stag, the dog and the rat accompanied the wolf. Remus didn’t remember anything about it, of course. But on the tenth morning-after, as he lay recovering in the hospital wing, Professor Dumbledore came to visit him.
“Remus, I’m afraid I have something very serious to tell you.”
Heart plummeting, Remus hauled himself up in bed. “Did something go wrong last night? I’ve hurt someone, haven’t I?”
“Calm down, Remus. Take a sherbet lemon and listen carefully. No, you have not hurt anyone. Nothing has gone wrong. I promise you.”
Remus breathed carefully and sucked on the sherbet lemon.
“What I have to tell you, Remus, is that someone was almost hurt last night. A student who had wandered down to the Whomping Willow saw you in the very act of Transforming.”
“What? Who, sir? Do I have to leave Hogwarts?”
“You will swallow your sweet, Remus, if you keep jerking around like that. No, of course you do not have to leave Hogwarts. But Mr Snape saw you – ”
“Snape!” This time Remus did swallow his sweet, and choked a little.
Dumbledore offered him a second sherbet lemon, but he did not take it.
“Mr Snape has solemnly promised not to speak a word of what he saw to any human being. And I, for one, trust him to keep his word. Fortunately for Mr Snape, as well as for yourself, your friend Mr Potter happened to be in the right place at the right time. He was able to warn Mr Snape off and bring him back to school before the wolf had time to attack. But it tried to, Remus; if Mr Potter had not been there, the situation could have been very nasty indeed.”
Remus felt the sweat running off his forehead. He had nearly done it. If it hadn’t been for James… And a small part of his mind was also asking: What was Snape doing sneaking around after us anyway? Students don’t usually hang around near the Whomping Willow after dark! And – how did he know how to foil the Willow?
“Let us be grateful for Mr Potter’s quick thinking, Remus. But since no actual harm was done, here is the most distressing part of the incident. It seems that it was no coincidence that Mr Snape happened to be in the wrong place at an unfortunate time. Your friend Mr Black confessed – please remember this, Remus; he owned up voluntarily, without the prompt of any kind of inquiry or suspicion – Mr Black confessed that he had goaded Mr Snape into going to the Willow last night.”
“No! Professor, that can’t be true!”
“I’m afraid it is, Remus. Oh, he didn’t actually tell your secret. He and Mr Snape both agree about this. They had been quarrelling, and Mr Black’s actual words were, ‘If you want to prove that you can mind your own business, then stay away from the Whomping Willow at sunset tonight.’ Mr Snape need not have gone if, indeed, he truly had been willing to mind his own business. Nevertheless, the fact remains: Mr Black goaded Mr Snape into a situation that might have cost him his life or his health, and he certainly has betrayed your secret without your authorisation.”
“Mr Black will tell you himself, if you are still willing to speak to him.”
“Of course I’m willing to speak to him!”
The words were out of his mouth before he knew it. It didn’t matter what Sirius had done. Whatever misunderstanding – whatever mistake – whatever crime – was about to be confessed, it must be overlooked. Sirius still wanted to be Remus’s friend, and a werewolf could not afford to throw away friends. Remus did not mention to the Headmaster that his friends were all illegal Animagi; no actual harm had been done, and they had only broken the law for him.
Sirius entered the hospital wing in abject terror and repeated the story and his apologies. He seemed far sorrier about betraying Remus than about nearly killing Snape, but Remus did not dare mention this to him. The nearest he came was, “But, Sirius, doesn’t it matter that Snape could have died?”
“Greasy little Snivellus deserves to die if he can’t get his big nose out of the Dark Arts.”
“But doesn’t it matter that I’m the one who nearly killed him?”
“You wouldn’t have been morally responsible for your actions.”
But I still didn’t want to be used in that way… But you were morally responsible… But no one deserves to die just for a bit of snooping… If I’d bitten him, my parents and Dumbledore would have been in huge trouble with the Werewolf Regulation Board… He didn’t see how he could say any of this to Sirius and still stay friends.
“Remus, are we still friends?”
“Of course we are.”
“You look as if you never want to speak again.”
“I’m just tired,” he lied. “I always am on the day after. Bring James and Peter to come and see me this evening, won’t you?”
Sirius chose to believe the lie and left the Hospital Wing. But Remus could not sleep. Sirius really could not understand that Snape’s life mattered. He admitted that he shouldn’t have done it, but since he recognised his fault, had apologised and wouldn’t do it again, and no actual injury had been inflicted… he just didn’t see that it still mattered. Remus didn’t want to think of his friend that way, as a violent man who couldn’t admit his faults. Perhaps James could talk some sense into him.
Although his closest friends were in the same building and would soon be coming to see him, they felt a million miles away.
“Say it, Sirius,” prompted James that evening.
“Remus, what can I do to make it up to you?” asked Sirius.
Do? There was nothing to be done. Nothing could make it up.
Suddenly Remus said, “Tell me I don’t have to do it any more.”
“Do what?” asked Peter.
“Run loose at the full moon. It’s been fun, but… No. It’s too dangerous. We’re lucky that nothing like this happened any earlier.”
“But, Remus!” protested Peter. “It’s what we look forward to all month. Being animals is the best thing that ever happened to us! We’ll be more careful next time…”
“You can do what you like. A rat, a dog and a stag can’t do much harm. But a wolf can. I want you to promise that you won’t set me loose through the summer holidays. And when we return to Hogwarts next year… Promise me that I’ll be safely locked away in the Shrieking Shack, and no one will let me out until I’m human again in the morning.”
His three friends looked aghast.
“But it took years,” squeaked Peter. “Nearly three years to learn how to do the spell! And we have had less than one year to enjoy it.”
“You can enjoy it any time you like,” Remus repeated. “But the only thing that will make me feel right about this is if I know I’ll never endanger anyone again. And,” he added, feeling mean and manipulative as he said the words, “never run the risk of the Ministry’s silver bullet for myself.”
“Fine,” said James, but he could not hide his annoyance. “I promise.”
Sirius and Peter promised too, but it was clear that they only did it to humour him; they did not understand at all.
“Evans has been shouting at Snape,” said James gleefully.
“It doesn’t look like any big deal,” remarked Sirius. “That girl has large opinions. I wouldn’t call it a quarrel.”
“No, I’d call it ‘Evans seeing Snape for what he really is.’ The shouting is a sure sign that she’s losing interest in him.”
“I doubt it. He wouldn’t have that spring in his step if he really thought she hated him. Face it, Prongs. Evans is loyal to her friends even when she knows they don’t deserve it. And she doesn’t count you as a friend.”
“That will change,” said James.
When Lily Evans entered through the side door, she walked straight past James, but she greeted Remus. “I think you should know,” she told him, “that Severus Snape is spreading the strangest rumours about you. I wonder if he’s mentally ill!”
“Not sick in that sense,” muttered Sirius.
Lily ignored Sirius. “Remus, he’s taken it into his head that you’re a werewolf. I don’t know how long he’ll play with that idea, but you know how vicious his friends can be. I think you should cover your back before they have time to spread the gossip. Next full moon, show yourself whole and human in the Great Hall or something.”
Remus thanked her for the warning, and she walked off still without speaking to his friends. James and Sirius were staring at each other in horror.
“But Snape promised not to tell! He gave Dumbledore his word!”
“How long before everyone knows?”
Remus tried not to remember that he too had broken a few promises to Dumbledore.
“What will we do?” piped up Peter.
“Nothing,” said James briefly. “Use your common sense. The next two full moons fall in the school holidays. If anyone even remembers this next term, we’ll just remind them how much Snape hates us all and that he’s told plenty of lies in the past. As for Snivellus himself…”
“What?” asked Peter.
“I’ll deal with him,” said James briefly.
Remus didn’t really hear this; he was too worried about the possibility that every Slytherin would know his secret by tomorrow. He didn’t think about it again until the following afternoon, when they were sitting by the lake revising for their final O.W.L., Transfiguration. The nagging in his brain was interrupting his concentration, so he didn’t pay attention to his friends until something swished through the air and landed beside him. It was a wand.
Remus looked up from his book. James had Disarmed someone, and students all over the grounds were staring. The “someone” was knocked flat on the grass, struggling to get up and cursing: it was Snape. Had he started a quarrel? Remus tried to remember what he had heard. Or had James or Sirius picked this fight to punish Snape for breaking confidence?
Remus turned his eyes back to his book, although the words were dancing on the page in front of him and he wasn’t reading a word. James was hexing Snape; a whole crowd of students were jeering; and Lily Evans had appeared on the scene. She was not laughing; she was shouting at James. Remus didn’t see how the situation could become any worse: hadn’t James learned that it was dangerous to provoke Snape?
A brilliant flash of light flew across his field of vision, and Remus looked up in time to see a deep, dripping gash on the side of James’s face. James threw another flash back at Snape, and suddenly Snape was hanging upside-down in the air, just as Mary Macdonald had been last Friday, just as so many of Snape’s own victims had been all term. That’s fair exchange for that Cutting Hex, Remus tried to reason. But his reasoning did not convince him. The more he thought about it, the more it seemed that James was the one who had started today’s fight.
Snape was not in pain, but he was humiliated. A crowd of students was jeering at his dirty pants, and only Lily Evans was screaming at James to stop the bullying at once. Remus tried to close his ears, tried to fill his mind with the incantation for a Switching Spell, but one extraordinary exchange penetrated his consciousness anyway.
Snape’s voice, with a venom he normally reserved for his enemies, clearly enunciated: “I don’t need help from filthy little Mudbloods like her!”
And Lily’s voice, with an unbelievable chill, replied: “Fine. I won’t bother in future. And I’d wash your pants if I were you, Snivellus.”
Remus could not trust his ears.
Up in the Gryffindor common room that night, Lily was also in a state of shock. “I can’t believe he said it, Emmeline. I can’t believe that I said it. We’ve been friends for eight years; I was the person who was trying to help him; and there weren’t even any of his horrible Slytherin cronies around to be impressed. Why would he just turn against me like that?”
Emmeline made a soothing noise, but did not offer advice. Once again, Remus could not concentrate on his Transfiguration textbook.
“Was he humiliated that I tried to help? Did that just emphasise how helpless he was? It still doesn’t explain why he attacked a friend; he grovels enough to Avery and Mulciber and the rest. Emmeline, do you think he’s actually starting to believe all that pure-blood propaganda? Have I been a complete fool in trying to believe the best – ?”
“Sorry to interrupt, Lily,” said Mary Macdonald, “but Snape’s yet outside, demanding a word with you. He says he’ll sleep in the corridor and catch you on your way to breakfast if that’s the only way. I was not going to pass on the message, but…”
Lily stood up wearily. “But perhaps it’s better to settle this for once and for all,” she said. “I haven’t forgotten what he did to you last week, Mary.” She made her way out through the portrait-hole. Remus couldn’t hear what she said to Snape, but there was shouting, and Lily returned looking flushed.
“You’re as bad as I am, Remus,” she remarked. “We hang around with the wrong sorts and then we make excuses for them. I know James Potter never does any permanent harm to his victims, but other people’s feelings have never been his priority.”
Remus looked at Lily without knowing what to say. He could have stood up to James this afternoon; confronted by Remus as well as Lily, James might even have listened. But Remus had tried to tune out and ignore the little drama, so – unlike Lily – he hardly had the right to condemn James now.
“Severus is worse,” she said. “He’s willing to do bodily harm and he doesn’t wait to be wronged before he attacks. Do you think Severus has changed, Remus? Or has it just taken me this long to see that he always was vicious?”
Remus shrugged. “Who knows what other people are really like inside?”
“I can’t tell what other people are thinking,” said Lily, “but anyone can watch how they behave.”