Barricaded against the Moon
Tuesday 27 June 1967 – Sunday 3 January 1971
Old Basford, Nottingham; a straight line from King’s Cross Station, London, to Hogwarts, the Grampians; Hogsmeade, the Grampians.
Rated PG for gratuitous violence.
The good news did not arrive until Remus was eight years old. An eagle owl brought a message from a man called Professor Dumbledore.
“He’s the Headmaster of Hogwarts,” explained Remus’s father. “That’s the school where your mother and I learned magic, the only school in the British Isles that trains witches and wizards.”
“Why don’t we go there?” asked Bruno.
“You have to be eleven to go. How many years until you’re eleven, Bruno?”
He counted on his fingers. “Seven.”
“No, it isn’t,” argued Emily. “It’s only a bit more than six. It’s four and a half years for me. And for Celia – ”
“Godric’s hat!” exclaimed their father. “I can’t believe it! Edith, read this…”
There was no mistake. Remus saw his mother’s fingers tremble as she read the Headmaster’s lime-green words.
Dear Stanley and Edith,
Looking down the waiting list this morning, I noticed that the name of your eldest son, Remus, had been scratched out, and the reason given was “permanent illness”.
I do not believe that illness should stand in the way of a child’s education. With your permission, I would be glad to restore Remus’s name to the waiting list.
Hardly daring to hope, his parents owled to explain that Remus’s malady was lycanthropy. The next day Dumbledore owled back.
Dear Stanley and Edith,
Thank you for explaining the nature of your son’s affliction. Now that we are aware of his condition, we can make provision for it. We shall ensure that there is a safe place available for his Transformations, and medical attention will be constantly available. All confidentiality will be strictly observed.
We expect Remus to join us at Hogwarts in September 1970, and that Emily, Bruno and Celia will in due course follow. A formal letter of invitation will be sent nearer to the time.
“So you won’t have to live like a Muggle,” said Remus’s father. “Professor Dumbledore will make the wizarding world accept you in your rightful place.”
The first time Remus boarded the Hogwarts Express, he wondered if his father had exaggerated. Professor Dumbledore was a great wizard, but could he really change the attitudes of a whole civilisation? The other students were hanging around in pairs and in groups; they all had friends. Remus knew there must be some – Muggle-born first-years, for example – who didn’t know anyone, but he couldn’t work out who they were.
He finally lugged his trunk to a random compartment and sat down next to the window. The other two passengers were both big girls, and they were giggling like cannon-fire.
The plump, dark-haired one held her side as if she were in pain and said, “Oh, Florence, did you see his face? He was – hic – so scandalised when we – te he he – told him that Alice – oops – oh, hold me, Florence, I can’t bear it – ha ha ha…!”
The lanky, fair-haired girl shrieked, pushed her friend down on the train seat and gurgled, “And he thought we meant – and he believed – and behind those bushes – Bertha, I think when Janet hears about this – ” And whatever else Florence had to say was swallowed in raucous guffaws.
Remus pulled a book out of his bag, hoping the Hogwarts boys would be more sensible than the girls, but knowing that Florence was so absorbed in the rapid-fire volley of Bertha’s speech that neither girl had even noticed him. The written words were jumbling before his eyes so that he couldn’t read them, but he felt less self-conscious if he at least pretended to be busy.
About an hour later, the door slid open, and two children of his own age took the seats on the far side. The boy was sallow and hook-nosed and he had greasy, dark hair; the girl had brilliant green eyes and long, red hair. Wondering why they had decided to change compartments, Remus put down his book and smiled at them.
“Hello, my name’s Remus.”
The boy didn’t smile back. The girl beamed cheerfully. “I’m Lily, and this is Severus. We’re both new; we don’t know anyone except each other. Is this your first year at Hogwarts too?”
Severus scowled, as if he didn’t want Lily to talk to Remus.
She ignored him. “What are you reading, Remus?”
Remus held up his book for Lily to see, while Bertha’s voice shrilled over everyone else’s.
“… And Fabian says that over the summer Travers joined the Death Eaters. Imagine that, Lord Vol… well… you know who… grabbed a school-leaver and, if you can believe Fabian, initiated him to be a killer!”
“Oh, help me keep a straight face, Bertha!” But Florence had no serious interest in keeping her face straight. “Are you telling me that fat old detention-if-you-breathe Travers has rejected law and healing and banking in favour of being paid to commit murder?” She dissolved into more giggles.
Severus glared at the older girls in icy disapproval, but the sight of Remus’s book goaded him into speaking. “It’s by a stupid Muggle writer who thinks there’s a spell to bring the dead back to life! Wardrobes of astronomically-impossible inter-planetary transportation, and a soppy lion who lets the witch overpower him when he could have torn her to pieces!”
Remus had always found it a comforting story, but he supposed it was rather babyish for someone who was going away to secondary school. He wished he had chosen Lord of the Rings instead
“I liked that story!” Lily protested. “It was so amazing when the lion’s sacrifice turned out to be more powerful than the witch’s evil. I used to spend hours sitting in wardrobes… hoping…”
Severus snorted. “It won’t seem so amazing once you’ve seen a bit of real magic. This Travers person was in luck. He might learn a few decent jinxes if he sticks around the Dark Lord long enough.”
Remus tried not to dislike Severus as he asked, “What’s your favourite book?”
“Huh! I don’t read fiction. Why waste time on something that never happened? Lily, let’s – ”
Shrieks from Bertha and Florence cut off whatever Severus was trying to say. He fingered his wand as if he wanted to send a hex in their direction, then he pulled a small package out of his pocket and unfolded it. It was a traveller’s chess set.
Lily darted a sympathetic glance at Remus, but Severus rattled the chessboard pointedly. If Lily did not want to annoy her only established friend, she would join him in this game for two players.
Too disheartened to persist, Remus put away his childish Muggle fairy-tale and took out The Four Loves. There should be – there must be – some good advice for him in the chapter on friendship.
For the first couple of weeks, Remus wondered if he ever would make friends. Hogwarts was a huge sea of strange faces, and the boys in his dormitory seemed very unlike himself. James Potter and Sirius Black were clever, good-looking, athletic types. They had made each other laugh before they had even stepped off the Hogwarts Express, and it was clear that they would decide who else was going to be popular. Peter Pettigrew and Owen Lamb were agreeable, accommodating types. They laughed at everything the leaders said and looked as if they had never opened a book without protesting. Even if they weren’t already all best friends with each other, Remus felt he wouldn’t know what to say to them.
He opened his Herbology textbook in the library, and hoped the pleasures of learning would be enough to carry him through his school career. One of his classmates, a girl named Emmeline Vance, was sitting at the next table, but Remus decided not to move into the seat next to her. After all, what would they talk about? Besides, the library was supposed to be silent.
Not that this stopped most people. All around him, other students were chattering with their friends.
“They blamed Muggles for Britannia Bridge,” an earnest sixth-year was saying, “but, Kenneth, everyone knows it was the work of Death Eaters.”
“Have you proof of that, Frank?” Kenneth had a Highland accent. “Muggles do daft, daft things all the time, without needing help from Death Eaters.”
“Cynbal Avery was seen in Bangor,” affirmed Frank, “just five minutes after the blaze took hold. But there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest him.”
The voice of a Ravenclaw first-year sailed over the political discussion. “The Bats will beat the Falcons this afternoon, I just bet you!”
“Rubbish. The Falcons beat everyone,” protested his friend.
“That’s because the Falcons play rough. They’re foul fowls – get it? But now the Broadmoor brothers have gone, the Falcons will lose the plot – they’ll be more interested in breaking heads than in scoring goals. Come on, Gaspard, I bet you. Two to one, the Bats will win.”
“Oh, all right. Just five Sickles, Ludo. I need – ”
“Quiet, boys!” rapped Madam Pince.
At the table ahead, a dazzling silvery blonde stumbled into Emmeline’s chair and dropped her books over the floor. It looked like an accident, but there was a triumphant ring to her voice as she addressed Emmeline. “Pick those up, elf!”
Emmeline turned to face the blonde. “Is there a good reason why you can’t do it yourself?” she enquired.
“You made me drop them; you can pick them up!”
“No,” said Emmeline with dignity. She turned back to her essay. By this time Remus was on his feet, and someone else was also approaching with wand drawn – Severus Snape from the train.
The silver girl fingered her wand threateningly. “It’s time I had a human subject for my entrail-expelling curse,” she said. “If you give me one more excuse to use it – ”
“I’ll handle that creature, Narcissa,” said Snape, pointing at Emmeline. “Scyllae Pestis!”
Remus didn’t think. As Emmeline hit the flagstones, his wand was in his hand, pointed at Snape, and he shouted a spell that he had heard his father use – “Silencio!”
At the identical moment, someone else was shouting, “Crures Flaccidae!” Snape crumbled to the floor, and Remus registered that the newcomers were James Potter and Sirius Black.
Three Slytherin boys were advancing from the opposite direction; Narcissa was furiously aiming her wand at James; and everyone was shouting at once.
“Caeco!” screeched Narcissa to James.
“Pinocchio!” hurled Sirius at Narcissa.
“Pilosus!” hissed the largest Slytherin at Sirius.
“Aures Radiculae!” shouted a smaller one at Remus.
“Feteo!” yelled their friend at everyone in general.
“Lingaugeo!” cried James, stumbling backwards and apparently unaware that his wand was aimed at a bookcase.
Snape had his wand thrust upwards towards James, and his mouth was working furiously, but not a sound came out; Remus’s silencing spell had muted him.
“Silence!” announced Madam Pince, grabbing Narcissa’s arm before she could throw out another hex and peeling the wand out of her fingers.
Madam Pince was not showing a wand, but somehow everyone fell silent at her word.
“This – is – a – dis – grace,” the librarian hissed. “Nine boys and girls are brawling like Death Eaters – and you’re only in first year. How would you all like a lifetime ban from my library?”
Looking around, Remus couldn’t understand how he had become involved in such a dramatic fight. Emmeline was groaning on the floor, her face and hands covered with ugly churning boils and – and scales. Snape was trying to stand up, but he kept falling back to the floor. Narcissa was staring down in horror at her nose, which was growing and growing and was already nearly two feet long. Sirius Black had bushy, black hair sprouting all over his face, while James Potter was clutching his forehead and stumbling around off-balance. One of the Slytherin boys had an enormous tongue swelling up out of his mouth as far as his chin. Remus found that radishes were falling out of his ears, which seemed rather tame, and the stink of rotten eggs seemed to be hanging around all of them like a cloud.
Now Madam Pince did produce her wand. She waved it around at all of them and said, “Finite Incantatem!”
Narcissa’s nose stopped growing – it was dangling around the region of her knees – and Snape managed to push himself to his feet and vocalise a rude word, while the last radish dropped out of Remus’s ear and vanished into nothingness. The hair disappeared from Sirius’s face; the enormous tongue suddenly shrank down to normal size; and the bad smell abruptly lifted. But Emmeline was still scaly and still moaning in agony, and James’s hands dropped away from his face to reveal eyelids gummed shut.
“I saw you,” Madam Pince jabbed her wand at Remus’s arm, “and you,” she jabbed at James, “aim for him,” she indicated Snape. “And she,” Emmeline, “was already down, so what I want to know is, which one of you struck the first blow by hexing her?”
“Snape.” Sirius Black pointed. “We saw and ran straight over. No one did anything to anyone before Snape hexed Emmeline.”
“That’s a lie!” protested Snape. “Vance was attacking Narcissa. I came to the rescue.”
Narcissa nodded piteously, hot tears now pouring down her delicate cheeks, but Sirius cut in with, “Liars yourselves! We saw everything, from the moment Narcissa dropped her books, and Emmeline never did a thing to her. And don’t you care that Narcissa blinded James?”
“Since you can’t agree on your story,” said Madam Pince briskly, “there is nothing for it but to put all of you in detention. But first you can go to the hospital wing.”
Narcissa fled. Snape shrugged and went back to wherever he had been studying. The larger boys scowled while Remus helped Emmeline to her feet. He ignored them and guided her out of the library, while Sirius Black took James Potter’s elbow. Despite the gravity of the situation, Remus heard Sirius say something that sounded suspiciously like “elephant”.
Up in the hospital wing, Madam Pomfrey ungummed James’s eyelids and shrank Narcissa’s nose, but she was shaking her head over Emmeline’s scaly skin. “That will take twenty-four hours of lavender-oil treatment,” she said. “I won’t ask who was playing around with the Curse of Scylla, but I do hope all your friends understand how dangerous it is!”
“Pince had no right to put Emmeline in detention just because Narcissa decided to attack her,” muttered James as they walked out of the infirmary. “I’m going to McGonagall now.”
The end result was that Emmeline was exempted from punishment, but James, Rosier and Wilkes spent the whole of Saturday afternoon re-shelving library books without magic, while Sirius was pressed into hard labour on Hagrid’s pumpkin patch in company with Snape, Mulciber and Narcissa.
“They forgot to think of a detention for me,” said Remus that evening.
“Of course they didn’t forget,” said James. “Once I’d told McGonagall that your spell shortened the fight without hurting anyone, she lost interest in you.”
“You must be clever,” said Peter Pettigrew.
“And good,” said Owen Lamb. “I’m afraid I’d have done something violent without even thinking.”
James changed the subject. “I went to the kitchen after detention. Anyone want to know what I nicked?”
He displayed a large bread-basket of cream horns. And Remus found that he did have friends after all.
On Tuesday night Remus excused himself from dinner to go to a private interview with the Headmaster.
“Ooh, what have you done?” asked Sirius admiringly. “Is it worse than the fight in the library?”
Remus smiled faintly and said nothing. Professor Dumbledore was not in his office, but waiting in the entrance hall.
“You will always have an escort, Remus,” said the Headmaster, “but we’ll try to take you over when no one is watching.”
Remus followed the Headmaster down the entrance steps, across the Quidditch pitch and towards a large tree with wildly waving branches.
“Be careful of that tree,” cautioned Dumbledore. “It isn’t just a willow – it’s a Whomping Willow. It was only planted last month and it’s already put three house-elves in the hospital wing. But there is a way around it. Watch. Prolato!”
Dumbledore’s wand suddenly shot out to a length of four feet, and he used it to prod a knot near the base of the trunk. Abruptly, the branches stopped waving. Now Remus could clearly see a gap in the roots.
“Enter,” said Dumbledore.
“What?… Sir.” Remus wasn’t sure he liked the tree, and the idea of dropping through a hole in the ground beneath it… But however bizarre the idea felt, the Headmaster was expecting him to move, so Remus dropped to his knees and crawled through the gap. The ground sloped downwards, and by the time Remus had reached the tunnel at the end of the slope, Dumbledore had followed him, wand alight.
“It’s through here,” said the Headmaster, as if people walked through tunnels under trees every day. Remus followed in silence, wondering if the plan were to bury him for the night; but eventually the tunnel sloped upwards again, and Dumbledore said, “Alohomora.” A rush of light appeared above their heads, and Dumbledore led the way up through the trap door in the ceiling and into a perfectly normal room.
“You have nothing to worry about, Remus,” smiled Dumbledore. “This house was built for you.”
“Just for me, sir? A house built and a tree planted and a tunnel dug?”
“And the school syllabus rearranged,” said Dumbledore solemnly. “Professor Pavo will delay teaching anything about lunar cycles until fourth year. That way, your classmates are unlikely to notice that your frequent illnesses coincide with the full moon.”
“That seems an awful lot of trouble.”
“Lycanthropy is quite a lot of trouble,” Dumbledore countered. “Well, you should be quite comfortable here. You are locked in and you can make all the noise you like, for we’ve already spread a rumour around the village that the new house is haunted. Madam Pomfrey will bring you back to school in the morning. What I need from you, Remus, is a promise that you will never do anything foolish – that you will take no risks with anyone else’s safety, but ensure that the wolf is at all times locked away.”
“Oh, I promise, sir,” said Remus earnestly. “There’s no way I want the wolf to put anyone in danger.”
“And you must also promise me, Remus, that you won’t go telling people your secret. Some students will be frightened, and others will use it as an excuse to make trouble for you. So it’s a story better left untold.”
“I won’t be telling anyone, Professor,” said Remus quickly. “No one at all. I want to make friends at Hogwarts.”
The next morning Remus felt he had had a good Transformation. His muscles were seared with pain, his bones ached, he was stiff and cold – but he had been safe.
He could go to school after all, like any other wizard.
And he had friends.
His friends visited him in the hospital wing that afternoon. James, Sirius, Owen and Peter all thought he had a bad cold; the real nature of his illness never occurred to them.
“Listen, are you lot game for the girls’ toilets?” asked Sirius.
“The what?” spluttered Owen.
“The girls’ toilets on the second floor,” said James. “The ones that are said to be haunted. Sirius knows a wonderful regurgitating spell. If some of us would volunteer to guard the door – to make sure no girls or teachers come near, you know – Sirius could hex every toilet in the room.”
“Make a total flood,” Sirius explained. “And then the girls would be shrieking their heads off – we could sit around near the stairs, pretending to do homework – and we’d see them all running out shrieking – ”
“And some of them would have maybe forgotten to pull their pants back up – ” Peter was nearly speechless with excitement.
“It would take Filch months to fix that!” agreed Owen. “How about it, Remus?”
Remus tried not to frown at their enthusiasm. They were his friends, and their scheme wouldn’t exactly hurt anyone – much. “Do you think school is really about playing pranks?” he asked cautiously.
“Of course it is,” said Sirius earnestly. “That’s exactly what school is about.”
One evening, Peter suddenly looked up from his Astronomy homework to ask, “Sirius, who is Lord Voldemort really targeting?”
“He’s a lunatic,” said Sirius. “He’ll kill anyone who stands in his way.”
Remus winced at the word “lunatic”, and James misunderstood his objection.
“Honestly, Remus, he makes no secret of it. His ambition is to rule the world, and he really believes that one day he will. And the way he’s going about it is to kill anyone who disagrees with his plan.”
“My parents think he’s wonderful,” said Sirius. “Which is clear evidence that he’s evil. He’s in favour of old wizarding families like ours being his deputies, while Muggles become his slaves and Muggle-born wizards are zapped dead. Oh, and he’ll also zap any pure-blood who disagrees with him. My mother can’t wait for the day when he’s so powerful that she can do exactly what she likes. She’ll go around zapping her personal unfavourites.”
Owen shivered. “But if he’s so dangerous, why isn’t the Ministry of Magic doing anything to get rid of him?”
“I expect they are doing something,” said James airily. “But naturally they don’t broadcast their plan on the Wireless. The problem is, so far there’s no proof he’s committed a murder. No one who’s actually witnessed him killing has survived to tell about it.”
Sirius muttered into his quill and then looked up. “I could give the Ministry proof – if they’d listen to me. Half the stuff I hear in my parents’ house… Well, I know that Lord Voldemort’s done murders, all right. Oh, don’t worry about it, Owen. You have your big, strong friends in James Potter’s gang to take care of you.”
But no one took it too seriously in those early days. The murders were just a run of bad-news articles in the Daily Prophet. The Ministry would catch the lunatic-wizard soon… wouldn’t it?
They all began to take it seriously when they returned from the Christmas holidays. When Remus entered his dormitory, he found James, Sirius and Peter all sitting on James’s bed, snuffling a little and trying to look as if they weren’t snuffling.
“Thank Merlin you’re here, Remus!” exclaimed Peter as soon as the door closed.
“Why shouldn’t I be…?” Remus began, and then realised how mournful the atmosphere was. “Where’s Owen?”
“Owen is dead,” said James.
“It’s my fool of a father’s fault,” raged Sirius. “He mentioned to his friends in the Dark circle that I had a Muggle-born in my dormitory. Next we hear, the Death Squad decides that this would make a beautiful example to the wizarding world. Because Muggle-borns, you know, have ‘no right to learn at Hogwarts.’ So they wait outside Owen’s home on Christmas Eve and strike him dead as soon as he comes out into his own front garden.”
Remus must have looked as stupefied as he felt, because Peter felt the need to clarify further.
“Owen was murdered by Lord Voldemort.”