Defying the Moon’s Demand

Sunday 5 September 1971 – Friday 16 March 1976

Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and the vicinity of the Grampians; somewhere between Hogwarts and London; around Nottinghamshire.

Rated PG-13 for disobedience.

“You couldn’t have gone home again, Remus,” said James. “It’s only the first weekend of term.”

“I… No, I didn’t go home,” said Remus. “I wasn’t feeling well. To be honest, I’ve spent most of today with Madam Pomfrey.”

“What does she say about these illnesses?” asked Sirius, with an air of studied innocence. “You seem to see quite a lot of Madam Pomfrey.”

“She says I need bed-rest,” said Remus dully. “Do you know the Quidditch score? Puddlemere played Caerphilly, didn’t it?”

“We were thrashed,” said Sirius, an inveterate Puddlemere supporter. “But don’t change the subject, Remus. Your friends are enquiring after your health.”

“I am quite well, thank you.” Remus shifted backwards, hoping he could reach the book lying on his chest of drawers, and hence signal the end of the conversation.

James was quicker. He swept up the book, and said, “Oh, no, you don’t, Remus. Not while we have so many interesting questions to ask you.”

Remus took another step backwards, and realised that he was about to touch the dormitory wall. James took a step forwards, so that he was directly opposite, and Sirius and Peter moved in, one on either side.

“Remus Lupin,” said James, “you are a werewolf.”

Remus slumped against the wall, too defeated to attempt a protest. They had all been friends; they had been friends for a whole year; and now they knew that he was a monster. It was a long, long minute before Sirius’s laughter painfully penetrated his eardrums. Peter seemed to leer closer to his face. And James said, “It’s brilliant! We know a real one. Our own hidden weapon!”

“Next month we’ll set you onto Snape!” said Peter.

“Or maybe the Head Boy. I’d like to wipe that smirk off Malfoy’s face,” said Sirius.

When Remus dared to look, he realised that the laugh and the leer had been friendly. James, Sirius and Peter didn’t seem at all disturbed by their discovery.

“You can’t set me onto anyone,” he said. “The Headmaster made me promise to take no risks with safety. And I had to promise not to tell anyone either.”

“You didn’t tell,” said James. “We guessed. But we won’t tell anyone else.”

“We’ll keep the secret,” echoed Sirius.

“Promise,” said Peter. “That’s the spirit of the Marauders!”

More astonishing to Remus than the exposure of his secret was the discovery that he still had friends.

* * * * * * *

Years later, when Remus knew that he had behaved badly at school, he recognised that the spirit of the Marauders had been a large part of the temptation. Yet he never recognised the point at which he had begun to allow marauding to lead him astray.

Was it when Sirius had dared him to charm Professor Flitwick’s chalk to write in different colours? That prank had been harmless – Flitwick himself had laughed – but Remus had been solely responsible; his friends had only applauded.

Was it when James, busy with a Transfiguration essay, had begged him to borrow the Invisibility Cloak to steal pork pies from the kitchen? It didn’t feel like stealing, since the house-elves were always so pleased to supply whatever students wanted; but the fact remained that he had taken without asking.

Was it when Sirius dared him to beg copies of a Muggle birth certificate and National Insurance card? Remus didn’t think to ask why Sirius might want such documents. He and Peter approached every Muggle-born in their year – and several others too – with the lame story, “Please, we’re very interested in Muggle record systems, so could you help us get hold of a real Muggle birth certificate?”

The only student who happened to have his papers to hand was a seventh-year Ravenclaw named Ted Tonks, who good-naturedly Summoned his papers and copied them for Remus and Peter with a Zerocso.

Remus still didn’t allow himself to become suspicious when Sirius announced that they were going to make forgeries. They sat in the library, painstakingly copying out the certificates – the size and thickness of the paper, the background pattern, the font of the print. Even when they filled in the forged copies with the details of a real person (Sirius’s cousin, Andromeda Black), Remus tried not to ask why Sirius was so keen on practising forgery.

Peter was more direct. “Come on, Sirius, will you not share the joke?” he nearly pleaded.

But Sirius laughed and said they would know eventually.

They didn’t find out until the school year ended, and the Marauders were aboard the Hogwarts Express. While James was handing out the Chocolate Frogs, their compartment door slid open to reveal a haughty Bellatrix Black.

“Is Andromeda here?” she asked. “Does any of you know where she is? I told her to be in my compartment by half-past eleven, but I haven’t seen her since breakfast!”

“I’ve no idea where she is,” said Sirius blandly, stuffing his mouth with more chocolate. “Here, have a Frog.” He threw one over, and it hit Bellatrix on the shoulder. She winced, caught the bar, and swept out into the corridor furiously.

“Sirius!” Peter pounced. “You do know where Andromeda is, do you not?”

“Not exactly… Oh, all right. She isn’t on the train, anyway. She did a side-along Disapparition with Ted Tonks as soon as we had Hogsmeade behind us. I don’t know where they went – probably to Edinburgh.”

“Sirius – oh, stop him laughing, James, and make him talk properly! Sirius, tell us what’s going on! Why have Ted and Andromeda gone to Edinburgh?”

Sirius shrugged innocently. “To get married, I suppose.”

“The documents…” Remus realised. “We weren’t just forging that birth certificate for fun… We were helping Andromeda pass herself off as a Muggle… elope… settle down with Ted when she has only just finished her O.W.L.s… before she’s even of age.”

“And half her luck,” said Sirius. “She’ll never have to live with or speak to the Black family again. Don’t look so shocked, Remus. She’s of age in Muggle Scotland, and I’m nearly certain that wizarding law will automatically ratify that kind of marriage as soon as she’s seventeen. I’m sure the day will come when you’ll be very glad you supported Andromeda’s noble decision.”

Remus conceded that Andromeda might be better off with Ted than with the Blacks. But… forgery, elopement, no N.E.W.T.s, wasted career opportunities? What was James thinking to let Sirius get away with it?

The mischief continued unabated into the Marauders’ third year. Had his downfall been on that first Hogsmeade weekend, when James and Sirius laced Peter’s Butterbeer with Firewhisky (Remus supposed Sirius must have brought the Firewhisky from home) and drank him under the table? Remus, making his one pumpkin juice last an hour, never raised a finger to stop them. To be fair, Peter found it funny the next morning – after Remus had dosed him with clary sage concentrate from Madam Pomfrey.

Had it been when James had urged him to run through the school corridors in the middle of the night? “You can have the Invisibility Cloak, Remus, but it can’t wait until morning. I really need the parchment that I left in the Transfiguration classroom, and Madam Pomfrey told me not to take stairs for twenty-four hours after today’s Quidditch injury.”

James never asked a favour if there was any chance he could do the job himself, so it would have been churlish to disoblige. Remus enjoyed swishing through the dark corridors in the Invisibility Cloak, was thrilled to walk right past Filch in utter security. When he found the parchment, of course, it was nothing – just a crude ballad of toilet jokes; but James had signed it with a flourish, and it just wouldn’t do to let McGonagall find it.

Remus decided not to ask if James had left it behind deliberately, in order to tease him or Peter.

There was certainly something nastier – less of a pure joke – about the way Sirius placed the Bucking Bronco Hex on Severus Snape’s broomstick. Snape, who knew a whole lexicon of anti-hexes, brought the broomstick under control within sixty seconds, so Remus kept very, very quiet and never told Madam Hooch who had done it.

He did remember asking James, “Is it fair to hex Snape like that?”

“Of course it is,” said James. “Snape is the arch-hexer – do you remember the Curse of Scylla that he put on Emmeline Vance before we’d been at Hogwarts a fortnight? He doesn’t care how much his curses hurt people or how little provocation he received. Whereas we only do it for laughs: nothing that hurts and nothing that will end up permanent. Just enough to put him in his place.”

Remus believed the Bucking Bronco Hex could have ended up causing a very permanent injury, but James disagreed.

“Come on, this is Snape, the master of the Dark Arts! Do you really think he can’t control a wobbly broomstick?”

Remus wondered if Sirius had thought of it in those terms before casting the hex, but said nothing.

“And what loss is it if the broomstick does throw him?” asked Peter callously. “One less Dark Wizard in the world. Remus, are you wanting Him-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to gain new supporters?”

Snape’s gang of friends – Cyneward Avery, Brandon Mulciber, Evan Rosier, Pelagius Wilkes, the Lestrange brothers, their Macnair cousins, Coira Yaxley, Bellatrix and Narcissa Black – all swore blind that their parents had never met the Dark Lord and didn’t want to, even though Sirius darkly asserted that he knew they were all lying.

“Prove it!” snapped Sirius’s cousin Bellatrix. “If you’re so clever, show us all how you know whose parents have Muggle blood on their hands!”

Sirius flicked his wand and intoned, “Manum Cruento!

Bellatrix gasped with horror; bright red blood was pouring off both her hands, despite the absence of a visible cut.

Finite Incantatem,” said Sirius quickly. There was no sign of injury on his cousin’s hands, but her robes were splashed with dark stains.

“I suppose that’s your idea of a joke,” she said haughtily. She stalked off, throwing over her shoulder, “I’ll have thirty points from Gryffindor for that – and your parents will know about it by this evening!”

“Thirty points because she has no sense of humour!” yelped Peter at Bellatrix’s retreating back. “I cannot wait for her to leave Hogwarts. I’m glad this is her final year.”

“I’m not,” said Sirius bitterly. “Who cares about a few house points? She’ll marry Lestrange major before she’s been out of Hogwarts for a week, and then what will they get up to together? I bet Lestrange is a junior Death Eater already.”

James was guffawing too heartily to eat. “I wish I’d had a camera. Well, we need a few laughs,” he said, wiping the tears from his eyes, “because there’s not much to laugh about outside school.”

And Remus had completely lost track of the faint, tremulous whisper that jokes about death and torture were probably not funny at all.

* * * * * * *

Remus’s loss of moral compass was certainly complete by fourth year, the year the Marauders spent exploring the castle. It was supposed to be a year of serious study, the year they conquered the major mysteries of the O.W.L. courses.

“Teachers claim every year is a year of serious study,” said Sirius. “I don’t see why we can’t work hard and play hard.”

There was no evidence that James or Sirius worked hard; they did a minimum of work, yet still managed to do better than everyone else. To be fair, if Remus was determined to put hours into finishing his homework thoroughly, James and Sirius usually spent their spare time helping Peter. But Remus didn’t like to play the boss and dictate whether they would spend a weekend working or playing, so they played more than they worked.

“That fourth-floor mirror is suspect,” said James one Saturday. “Why put an ordinary mirror with no magical properties in the middle of a corridor where no one ever stops to admire himself? Shall we crack it?”

“Either the secret or the mirror itself,” said Sirius.

Remus couldn’t help thinking that the mirror truly was ordinary, but he followed his friends upstairs. Peter turned their reflections every colour of the rainbow; Sirius distorted them through every dimension of concavity and convection; James doubled the images and turned them upside-down before concluding, “It’s no good. The magic isn’t in the mirror; we’re doing it ourselves. I am going to break it. Frango!

The mirror obligingly cracked, and the two halves fell dramatically to the floor. Before Remus had time to be shocked, they all saw what the mirror had been hiding. There was no stone wall behind it, but only a dark tunnel.

“Let’s explore!” said Peter.

“And let Filch find the broken mirror?” asked Sirius. “No, let’s find out how we were really meant to open it. Reparo!

After trying several complex unlocking charms, they discovered that the mirror was a door and that it opened to a simple Sesame. After that discovery, there was nothing to do except follow the tunnel on its downward spiral. It wound down so far that Remus wondered if they would end up under the lake, but eventually their wandlight revealed another door, which opened to Alohomora.

“Buried treasure?” asked Peter hopefully.

It was completely dark, but the combined beams of all four wands showed that they were in another tunnel, this one quite wide and completely horizontal. It must be underground, and this time Remus wondered if they would end up drowning in the lake altogether, but they charged through it anyway. They ran for nearly half a mile before they reached a short flight of steps that led up to the next door.

“I bet it’s locked,” said Peter. “Do you think we’re even still at Hogwarts?”

“Of course we’ve left Hogwarts behind,” said James. “Aloho – hey, this door isn’t locked!”

They found that it opened straight onto a cobbled street – the main street of Hogsmeade! It was absurdly un-secret; the unlocked door simply stood between Cordwainer’s and Gladrags, as if it led to the shopkeepers’ back garden.

“Come on – Zonko’s!” yelled Sirius.

“But Mr Zonko will know that it isn’t a Hogsmeade weekend,” said Remus. “He’ll report us.”

“Not if we give him good custom,” said James, chinking the Galleons in his pocket. “Next stop Honeyduke’s!”

“Are we buying chocolates for Lily Evans again?” groaned Sirius.

“Buy them for us instead,” urged Peter. “We do not throw them in the dustbin.”

After a term of tapping every portrait, tapestry and chink in the plaster and of demanding that every window and staircase reveal its secrets, James said, “We should write this down. If we discover many more of Hogwarts’ secrets, we’ll start forgetting them.”

“It might be better to draw it,” suggested Remus. “Make a diagram of the real Hogwarts – the Hogwarts that hides its existence.”

“A map,” said Sirius. “Floor by floor, with the moveable parts charmed to move on our map.”

All the moving things?” asked Peter. “Even the people?”

“Yes, why not?” said James. “There’s no Hogwarts without its people. We’ll do the people and the places.”

It took them the rest of the year. With all their exploring, all their artistic effort, all their charmwork, it took six months for them to be satisfied with the magical Marauders’ Map of Hogwarts.

* * * * * * *

On the first day of fifth year, Remus did not take the Hogwarts Express because the full moon was due. Two days later he arrived at school, having missed the distribution of the timetables and half the pep talks about the importance of O.W.L.s, and very conscious of the Prefect’s badge shining on his chest.

“We’ll have to be good boys now,” said Sirius. “Remus will have us thrown off the Quidditch team if he catches us hexing anyone.”

“We are good boys,” said James. “We’ve solved all Remus’s problems.”

“And he’ll be far too grateful to go recommending us for detention!” Peter was squeaking with excitement. “Show him, James. Show him what we managed in the holidays!”

“Mr Prefect,” said Sirius, “we are Animagi.”

Remus laughed; his friends had been talking about becoming animals themselves ever since the day they had discovered his lycanthropy.

“It isn’t a joke,” said James, somehow swelling up. Before Remus could ask what was happening, the black school uniform was light brown, James was on all fours despite having moved up rather than down, and antlers had sprouted from his impossibly long face.

He was a stag.

“And it doesn’t break any rules,” said Sirius. “There’s no school rule that says we can’t be Animagi. Look at me!” But there was no Sirius at which to look; he was morphing into something huge… wild… a big black dog.

“I’ve had some trouble,” panted Peter, his brow furrowed with concentration. “But watch me!” Peter clenched every muscle, then seemed to vanish. Where Peter had stood, there was only a grey rat.

“But what problems does it solve?” asked Remus.

The stag became James again, and laughed. “It solves the problem of the wolf, of course. Animals as large as that one – ” He jerked his head towards the black dog, “ – won’t be hurt by a mere wolf. And werewolves can’t transfer their curse to other animals, only to humans. So now you can spend your full moons with friends. We animals will all be company for one another.”

At the time it sounded like an excellent idea. It was hours and hours before Remus remembered that Animagi had to be registered, and that becoming an Animagus in secret, and while still under-age, was probably illegal. He pushed aside that thought with a defensive, “The law has never been friendly to werewolves.”

It certainly didn’t occur to him that a Prefect should discourage his friends from breaking the law.

* * * * * * *

The crash of the opening trap-door startled the wolf so much that he stopped howling. He turned to face the intrusion with bared teeth.

The intruder was a large animal, something vaguely hunt-worthy but far too large to pursue, and its horns looked hard and painful. It leapt clear of the trap to make way for a second creature. This one smelled almost like a wolf, yet it wasn’t a wolf, and it approached the real wolf with jaws closed. The wolf began to bare his teeth, to defend his territory, when a third creature scampered over his paws. This was a very small animal, one that he could slay at a swipe – but the wolf had a full stomach, and the small animal looked neither dangerous nor tasty.

The horned animal cantered back to the trap and dived down. By instinct, the wolf began to follow. And they ran down a dark place, the other two creatures close at their heels, and they emerged at a broad open place, bathed in moonlight. The horned animal careened off in a different direction, and the wolf followed. He almost pounced on the little one, which became tangled beneath his paws, but the almost-wolf hit the real wolf from the side and pushed him away, and the little one sprang up onto the large one’s back.

In the wide grassy place there was no fight for territory. The strange animals neither attacked the wolf nor staked their own claims. They simply ran, the barking one urging the wolf to run with them. So the wolf lost his suspicion of the strange beasts, and the four animals ran like one pack.

The full moon was low in the west by the time the horned one led the way back to the pit under the tree, and the barking one pushed and urged the wolf through. The wolf had no particular wish to forsake the open place for the constricted one, but the other animals followed and herded him back through the trap door, then curled themselves around him and nuzzled his fur. The wolf lay quietly until the moon set and, with great rips to his muscles and wrenching twists to his bones, he found that the wolf was no more.

Remus saw briefly that he was surrounded by animals, but as soon as they saw that he was human again, they transformed back to their own human forms.

“Were you here all night?” asked Remus in astonishment.

“Of course not,” said James. “That would have been too boring! No, we took you for a good run around on the Quidditch pitch. We went right to the edge of the Forbidden Forest.”

Scandalised, Remus said, “We… You took me out of the Shrieking Shack? We were running loose? But what if I’d hurt someone?”

“How could you have?” asked Peter. “They were all in bed.”

“But if anyone had been so foolish as to wander around in the night,” said Sirius, “ – let’s say Hagrid had to check on his latest creatures – we wouldn’t have let you do any damage. We keep our minds when we transform; we’re able to keep you out of trouble.”

“Next month,” said Peter, “I’m wanting to go right into the Forbidden Forest! With a wolf beside us, we’ll be in no danger from whatever’s in there… I’m wanting to see it!”

The forest sounded so enticing, and Remus was so exhausted from his sleepless Transformation, that it took him a minute to realise that his friends were still in trouble. “You’re out of bounds!” he cried. “Madam Pomfrey will be here at seven, and she mustn’t find you here.”

It wasn’t until after they had left that Remus remembered that he had promised Dumbledore to take no risks with safety. “Well, it wasn’t my fault,” he muttered. “The wolf had taken over my mind, and I didn’t even know it was happening.”

But his conscience remained uneasy, for, of course, he had made no effort to discourage his friends from turning up next month. Implicitly, he had promised that he would take whatever risk the marauding spirit required.

* * * * * * *

So, for nine glorious full moons, the Marauders divested themselves of their human intelligence and decency in order to rampage through Great Britain in bestial form. Seven times they terrorised the grounds of Hogwarts, the streets of Hogsmeade and the depths of the Forbidden Forest.

The school holidays did not deter them, for James, Sirius and Peter insisted to their families that they had urgent appointments to meet their friends. Twice they took the Knight Bus to Nottingham for the thrilling risk of releasing the wolf from his safe captivity in the Lupins’ garage. James would unlock the door with an Alohomora Charm, then hastily transform into the stag before the wolf had time to pounce. The four animals would dash through the streets of Old Basford to the broad green freedom of Sherwood Forest.

“But what if I’d hurt someone?” asked Remus the next morning.

“You didn’t,” said Sirius firmly.

“What if some Muggle with a weapon had hurt James?”

“They didn’t,” said James.

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