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FIC: Remus Lupin and the Revolt of the Creatures, Chapter 16 / 21 (PG-13)

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May. 2nd, 2010 | 01:02 am

Title: Remus Lupin and the Revolt of the Creatures, Chapter Sixteen: How Human We Are
Author: PaulaMcG
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: (subtly, eventually) Remus/Sirius
Chapter summary: Remus lets Harry learn more about the history of the three Animagi as well as the magic of shapeshifting.
Word count: around 7,800
Disclaimer: Remus won't help me make any money.

Notes: I’ve now published the story up to Chapter Thirteen both on Fiction Alley and on some lj communities. After a month’s break it’s perhaps time to post another chapter for my friends. The latter two thirds of this chapter (a long letter to Harry) can work separately for those who don’t read the whole of the novel. Any comments will be treasured.

Chapter One can be found here, Chapter Two here, Chapter Three here and here, Chapter Four here, Chapter Five here and here, Chapter Six here and here, Chapter Seven here, Chapter Eight here and here, Chapter Nine here, here and here, Chapter Ten here and here, the first part of Chapter Eleven here, the second part of Chapter Eleven here, the third part of Chapter Eleven here., the first part of Chapter Twelve here, the second part of Chapter Twelve here, the first part of Chapter Thirteen here, the second part of Chapter Thirteen here, the first part of Chapter Fourteen is here, the second part of Chapter Fourteen is here and Chapter Fifteen is here.

Remus Lupin and the Revolt of the Creatures



Chapter Sixteen: How Human We Are



“You can’t do it in a month!” Now he had snapped at Harry.

A sharp stab of his headache felt like a punishment, as he fought the urge to stand up from the floor, to kick aside all the books and rolls of parchment Harry had spread on the carpet. He entangled some fringes of this familiar but faded rug around his cold fingers. This and his weariness helped him restrict his reaction to moving only a bit, to pushing himself to sit against the wall. Besides, the round comforting shape of the small heating stove was right here. He was still trembling, and he did not really want to think whether his trip to London had anything to do with that.

It would have been hard to say for how long after his return he had stayed outside, wandering around the estate in the bleak night. Without thinking why, he had finally approached the light in the largest of the west wing windows. He had almost forgotten that, undoubtedly for a sentimental reason, he had offered a bed to Harry in this particular room. Now the two of them had probably been equally surprised to see each other.

Remus had stood still for a while, leaning against the doorframe. The boy sitting on the floor had lifted his unruly black head from the thick volume slowly and reluctantly. It seemed that only the realisation that there was someone else present than a roommate of his – Neville, or Bob or Phil from the Ancient Village – had made him push his glasses up his nose. At the same moment when Remus had become aware of his numb hands reacting with pain to the change of temperature, Harry had flashed a wide grin to him. The smugness of the smile and the trace of guilt beneath it had brought back the bitter, admittedly unreasonable thought which Remus had, twenty-four years earlier, sometimes not managed to repress: Yes, just ignore any doubts – I am the one to bear all the worries.

“I’ve found more books about shapeshifting,” Harry had said, half-heartedly trying to tone down his pride and excitement. “I hope you don’t mind I’ve borrowed them.”

Of course not. Would he ever reprimand James for any mischief? James, whom he had caught like this repeatedly, particularly during their fourth year, absorbed in studying these questionable books…

“You mustn’t… Don’t try to do anything they recommend in that book. I admit I bought it myself in Knockturn Alley – when I was fourteen.” While speaking Remus had stepped forward and knelt down beside Harry.

On a stained page an ungraceful sketch had shown a witch incessantly transforming into a three-legged cow and back. Reaching out to turn the page, Remus had noticed that his hand was shaking, and he had chosen to turn his head aside instead, only to encounter his own fluent handwriting: 24th October, 1972. James experimented with the Shaping spell. Bleeding. Not to be tried again too soon.

“But this and your notes together can help me do it more quickly. By the full moon…”

These words had done it.

And now Remus was huddled next to the heating stove, rubbing his temple, wondering how much he had upset Harry. He had to apologize.

“I’m sorry. But you really don’t need to… you mustn’t do it for any full moon. I have other…”

This thought did not banish all his anguish. But he could not help feeling his body relax and warmth seep into him with images emerging from the treasured words: the impact of companions, the blessing of becoming…

To his surprise he did not manage to hold back a trace of a smile, which insisted on hinting at his new secret, “I’m afraid I can’t share this with you yet. And in any case you must be cautious.”

Now he had an eye contact with Harry, who looked rather suspicious. Perhaps by not revealing all of his plans to any members of the brotherhood, he could distract Harry to trying to solve another mystery. But Harry’s task was not that.

Harry needed as complete knowledge as possible, as well as a chance to learn to understand, or rather to give meaning to what he got to know. A chance to live as fully as possible – just as James and Lily had done, just as the oppressed creatures did. In Harry’s case it meant learning about the magic of Animagi and about his parents’ history. With everything that haunted Remus, or threatened and enticed him, did he have the strength and patience to guide Harry wisely?

“Were they cautious?” Harry asked defiantly, but clearly controlling the sharpness in his voice, so as to tempt Remus to talk.

“I’ve told you we were all foolhardy. We’ve all made terrible mistakes. I’ve often wanted to know and to let others know about… problems and the need to solve them, without considering what following my ideals would mean in reality. And Peter enjoyed anything extravagant, random visions which he never thought he himself should have the courage to implement. For James and Sirius, instead, living fully meant proving their invincibility in practice.

Harry now looked away from Remus, but only in order to settle comfortably closer to him, with his back against the wall. “They were a lot alike, weren’t they?”

“Well, if we’re talking about the risks they took… I think James did it because he had no fear that anything could ever go wrong. Whereas Sirius… little by little I’ve realised that he always acted somehow out of despair.”

“Despair?” Having still fingered the books in his reach, Harry now wrapped his arms around his knees and glanced at Remus.

Perhaps they both had enough patience to talk about the past for a while.

“Yes, at the latest – I mean, as far as I could witness it – since his first evening at Hogwarts. Ever since he loudly congratulated himself on being sorted to Gryffindor. I didn’t know about it then, but he knew that at the Slytherin table his cousins and those older boys who’d played with him were watching him in shock. After this welcoming feast they as well as his parents were bound to treat him ever worse. It was not in his spirit to look back. He must have felt he’d have gained nothing by acting as if he hadn’t wanted to upset the family.”

“He never wanted that family.”

“Yes… he did. Like all of us, he needed a family. I believe that until Christmas in our sixth year, when he ran away, he desperately cherished the hope that they’d love him. His parents, or Regulus, at least.”

Harry frowned. “But he tried his best to make them all mad with him.”

“Well… Before coming to Hogwarts he’d already ended up in confrontations with his parents. But I doubt anybody really knew what was wrong. Now I think it was his temperament, and something traumatic that happened to him when he was very young… not directly his parents’ fault, but something they failed to help him deal with. That may have driven him to those secret games with the older boys in which his parents should have intervened. They just… never took care of him. But while declaring that he hated them and whatever they supported, he must have felt somehow that he was to be blamed. In his despair he immediately became fiercely loyal to the Gryffindor House, and he clung to us, first and particularly to James.”

“They knew each other before Hogwarts, right?”

“The families had moved partly in the same circles. But the Blacks denied they had anything to do with the Potters, after Emma Potter as one of the new Hogwarts governors refused to support the schemes of the blood purists. The plans to gradually deprive all half-blood and muggle-born witches and wizards of the right to education. Mrs Black was infuriated. The two of them had never been close friends, but Emma’s family had been considered almost as noble as hers. Now Mrs Black regretted that their sons had met a couple of times by 1969. And the more openly she regretted it, the more eager Sirius was to be friends with James.”

“Emma Potter, and…? Nobody’s ever told me about my grandparents before.”

Was there blame in Harry’s voice? For once, perhaps unjustly, Remus did not feel eager to accept the guilt. He would have actually rather turned it back to Harry. Sirius could have said so much more. And perhaps more of the best memories of a new home acquired at the age of sixteen would have returned, if Sirius had believed that Harry needed them.

“Emma and Patrick Potter. I suppose it never occurred to you to ask about them.”

“So my grandparents were against the blood-purity ideas?”

“Oh, yes. I’ve already told you about their view of my kind. Not that they ever found out about me, but they’d have considered me very similar to humans – not quite, of course not. Even they thought that once a month we’d kill eagerly anything that moves. Anyway, they had the straightforward attitude that all magical humans had to be treated equally. Sometimes I wondered why James wasn’t interested in the nuances of politics at all. It was enough for him to hex some Slytherins on the slightest provocation. But during my visit in the summer before our fourth year I got to hear how his parents worded their opinions. They both had the same statement to repeat when anything belonging to the pureblood ideology was mentioned.”

“What was that?”

“‘Rubbish.’”

When Harry returned his grin, Remus realised he could think of some pleasant topics to take up while talking about James’s family.

“They used the same word rather tenderly when replying to each other’s enthusiasm. James’s mother pretended to be irritated by her husband’s constant kissing. Besides loving his wife, Patrick Potter was mainly interested in Quidditch. He also taught his son to believe in what he called the Potter charm. James thought he was ready to start using it at the age of thirteen, at the latest. And perhaps he made a wise choice, insisting on getting the first girl he’d laid his eyes on when entering Hogwarts.”

“Lily Evans… a muggleborn.

“Lily may have caused James’s self-confidence to falter at times. But he tried his best to hide that. I think he actually had healthy self-esteem. At least he was a most considerate and caring friend. He always remembered to take care of everyone’s business in good and in bad. Maybe that was due to his mother’s influence. She was incredibly careless in practical matters, while she refused to keep any house-elves, and their home looked rather bohemian. It fell to James to take care of arranging places and finding lost items, but she never forgot to show her appreciation for that. And she was ready to accept her son’s best friend as her second son without a single question, when James just said that Sirius had no other home anymore.”

No, drifting back to this issue was still untimely.

Remus reached out for some rolls of parchment and opened one before continuing, “But that was almost a year after they had learnt to transform. And this is what you want to know about.”

Harry was obviously willing to change the topic. “I’ve read about so many tricks you found out don’t work. You don’t have to worry I’d try any of those.”

“I wouldn’t like you to try any tricks at all. If you let me teach you, I’ll ask you to first simply learn more about the consciousness of your physical dimensions.”

“But you never…”

It sounded like Harry was not going to finish his sentence, but Remus blurted out his response without considering its necessity. “If you don’t want me…”

“Yes, I do.”

Harry’s quick and firm reply, in turn, was followed by a silence. Remus could not help smiling, as there was no clarification after his own unfinished comment.

Finally he proceeded to explaining his suggestion. “I’ve needed to practise losing voluntarily such consciousness – not in order to change, but to bear the pain. You need the same detachment from your body – albeit not in such a persistent and intensive form – also in order to apparate successfully.”

“That doesn’t sound like a more interesting exercise than emptying your mind for Occlumency. Why does it all have to be so negative: losing the awareness…?”

“That’s a good question. The solution seems to always be based on losing – and we never know whether there’ll be any outcome worth the sacrifice.”

“So do you have any concrete advice? How can I do it?”

Yes, Remus had now found it. 13th November, 1973. The Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Multi-Dimensional Wizards. Compiled, Tested and Improved by Sirius Black.

“You’d better read this. It’s a summary Sirius dictated to me after studying several books and after experimenting.”

Harry held out his hand, but for some reason Remus felt like pretending not to notice it yet. He continued to talk while keeping his head stooped and admiring Sirius’s words in his own handwriting. “Perhaps this can help you approach reaching the animal form, if you keep your mind focused on something that’s related to your need to transform. But I doubt it’s necessary to be aware of the fundamental basis for the need. I’d say it’s good to think of… whatever makes you feel you can go on regardless of what you must lose.”

“And what could that be? I’m not so sure I can use this kind of advice.” Harry sounded confused, almost irritated.

But Remus replied lightly, “I think it’s got something to do with what you love.”

He cast another fond look at his old notes, feeling that it was, now for a different reason, hard to surrender them to Harry – while he was also reluctant to let Harry concentrate on the notes instead of more nuanced accounts of the Marauders’ history. But any further talk had to wait. He rolled the parchment and handed it to Harry. “I’d better leave you now. There’re some things I’d rather write about – unless you don’t want me to, after what I wrote about your mother and…”

“No… I mean yes, of course, I want you to continue. I’m sorry I didn’t thank you for that letter you gave me. I was…”

Remus got up, seeking support on Harry’s shoulder. He made an attempt at a playful shove when starting to reply and to walk towards the door. “It’s all right. You don’t have to say anything. I’m afraid I do that as much for myself as for you. But there’s something that’s happening right now and I mustn’t write about… and I’m not sure I can talk about it to anyone yet, either.” After reaching the threshold, Remus turned to face Harry once more. “I’m gaining some new allies… I just hope you’ll continue to believe I’ll always be on your side.”

Harry, with his head bent over the parchment, seemed to have already got absorbed in reading. However, he had evidently still listened, as – without lifting his gaze from the text – he replied, “Your allies here… I must say I wonder… You’ve got a lot of work, getting our values into their heads.”



Harry,

Until the beginning of our fifth year I remained by Peter’s side. Sitting next to him in class, I no longer regularly indulged in sketching caricatures, however, now that my friends were used to my obsession. In our dormitory I would return to some long-term projects of depicting magical beasts in imaginary landscapes, extrapolating from what we’d been told in class about their natural habitats.

Care of Magical Creatures was one of my favourite subjects – rather relaxing than challenging for me. I often sensed without conscious effort how to best approach creatures, even when I had not encountered their kind before.

Instead, I didn’t have any particular innate talent in Transfiguration or Charms. Not to mention Divination. After discussing Uncle Francis’s career with my mother I contented myself with learning the techniques. Besides, it was a pleasure to honestly declare that Peter was by far the best of the Marauders at this subject, which James and Sirius had not chosen to study. But especially in Charms I struggled to channel magic through my wand. I found it hard to reach a properly focused state of mind in the classroom filled with distractions, while such brilliant wizards as James and Sirius had apparently no need to concentrate fully on the spells they were casting.

Keen on improving my performance in these central subjects, I attended to the lectures carefully. Instead of doing my best to catch the teacher’s attention, however, I often kept my hand raised half-heartedly while already writing down the answer to the new question. Peter took advantage of this. Still, he always repeated only the basic facts, even when I kept underlining a further comment or question of mine. Perhaps because I wanted to secure adequate time for practical exercises, some of those often controversial comments got included only in my essays and answers to exam questions, and I’m still not sure the teachers appreciated them.

But I repeatedly embarrassed Peter by making all the students turn their attention towards our desk in History of Magic, soon after the topic of goblin rebellions had been introduced. Professor Binns was not used to truly interacting with anyone. Yes, he was already a ghost at our time. My generation is not as ancient as the looks of some of us might make you think.

I wonder if Binns tried to impress his students or to merely entertain himself by dwelling on the graphic details of the inhuman violence done during the bloody riots at the end of the eighteenth century. Despite his monotonous voice, which lulled most of my class mates almost to sleep, the vividly descriptive wordings actually enthralled me, so that my left hand started composing illustrations for his tales. But by the end of his first goblin lecture I was shaken out of my daydreams. Binns had obviously left the account uncompleted.

“Professor Binns, you say that the rebellion was quelled. How did they do that?”

“They did not always need to resort to literally shedding blood. They would confine people to starve to death inside rocks and walls, by opening chasms in them with their vicious fingers.”

“The wizards did that to the goblins? No… You didn’t hear my question, did you, Professor Binns? How were the rebels subdued?”

“Oh, Mr Liripipe… With our superior magic, of course. Cruciatus works well on all animals, too, as you know.”

In fact, I had not known that. At our time the Unforgivable Curses were not included in the Curriculum, except in the form of theoretical explanations in the seventh-year Defence course. I had seen news items dealing with criminals sent to Azkaban without a trial, on the basis of indisputable evidence that they had cursed other wizards or muggles with Cruciatus, Imperius or Avada Kedavra. However, I had never heard that a Prior Incantato spell would have been performed on a wand in the investigation of a case where the victim would have been part-human or non-human.

“But those curses are unforgivable… forbidden, aren’t they?”

My question stopped the laughter at the name which Binns had come up with, so that his solemn reply was met with unusual attention and respect.

“You do not understand. In a war we must use the curses – in defence of our integral values: life and inviolability of everyone’s body and mind and soul… The sub-humans were threatening this basis of our civilisation, which we can never compromise.”

No, I still did not understand. But I hushed, whereas almost everyone else started whispering. The terrible curses, which were regarded as Dark Arts, were a fascinating topic.

My friends were not particularly impressed yet. An origami owl perched on my quill for only a moment, so as to flash a brief message on a paper wing – Thanks for waking me up – before heading for Lily Evans, most probably carrying some witty compliments on her charming body and mind and soul, if I knew James at all.

Sirius reacted only after the following History of Magic class, when I had asked about the reasons for the alleged threat against civilisation – for the revolts.

“It is in their nature: the violence, as well as the greed,” Professor Binns had explained. “The goblins insisted on keeping the gold and their barbaric customs. There are historians who say it would be possible to make some non-humans adopt our values. But goblins are certainly loyal to their own ways even when they serve us. That is actually why they are – when controlled – suitable for guarding and increasing our property.”

That is as exact a summary as I can now compose of the professor’s answers to my persistent questions. I wasn’t quite sure why I was not satisfied with the explanations, but my friends helped me.

“Is it not human to want to be rich?” Peter asked at dinner that evening, fingering the golden goblet.

“No, absolutely not,” James said. “We have greater values than gold.”

Sirius snorted. “Like what?”

“Glory in Quidditch.”

Now Sirius nodded, as if he had got the only correct answer, and he explained it in exaggerated clarity to Peter. “Right. If you want to be rich, you can’t possibly be more than a part-human.”

Peter didn’t manage to say anything before Sirius had turned his back on him and continued in a stage whisper, “In fact, he looks a bit like a goblin, doesn’t he? Those tiny eyes… But Remus is a full human, because he doesn’t care for wealth – and doesn’t compromise his pacifism.”

“And you?” was all I managed to say.

“I’ll fight when and how I must.”

“But the Unforgivable Curses belong to the Dark Arts,” James cut in.

“Do you really think I could accept… when our most Noble families don’t think the Unforgivables are barbaric enough to be really forbidden!”

Sirius knew I understood what he was talking about. He had not declared his support for the struggle of the minorities. I had told all of them about the theatre, but they had not got remarkably interested, perhaps because their contacts with non-humans were limited to house-elves. Instead, Sirius had already started preaching about the need to overturn the government, which still favoured purebloods against other wizards.

Now, somehow unexpectedly, he related to the rebellious goblins. “I’d rather battle in a proper barbaric way than use a weapon of Dark Arts… or any kind of fine arts.”



Sirius never stopped making fun of artists, and of my pictures, too. He was particularly eager to dismiss paintings in which I had depicted something as prettier than how he saw it in reality. However, with his deeds he always encouraged me to paint. As early as at Hogwarts he insisted on presenting me with materials, ordering them without asking for my permission.

“My parents give me too much pocket money. I have to waste it on something useless.”

An eagle owl had just dropped a large package on my breakfast plate. I had guessed immediately who was responsible for the consignment of the thick pad of finest watercolour canvas with special sensitivity to correction charms.

“But you say they hate you,” Peter protested.

“That’s why. They don’t take the trouble to choose and buy anything for me. But they want their son to look respectable, so I’m supposed to buy fancy clothes and the best school equipment for myself.”

“Just that you don’t.”

He didn’t. Still, he couldn’t help looking handsome, even in his worn-out and too short robes. He refused to have conventional haircuts and allowed his hair to reach his shoulders and to fall over his eyes, but somehow this scraggly image – particularly when by the age of fourteen his fair skin and dark facial hair made it clearly visible that he had become a man – made him look just more, well… you know. When he was among his friends, his face – as well as everything around him – was often illuminated by his exuberant spirits. Watching him secretly from afar, I witnessed the haughty behaviour he directed towards anyone outside of our little circle. Most of those, too, who were not in his good graces could not help being enchanted with his looks and his attitude. The girls, even Slytherins, didn’t care to hide their infatuation.

He had been worshipped by his little brother as well. But having entered Hogwarts three years after us and joined the Slytherin House, Regulus could no longer approve of his childhood hero’s loyalties. He may have felt it was an obligation of his to let their parents know with what kind of a public image Sirius contributed to the reputation of the noble and ancient family. Mrs. Black would never have exposed the family by sending a howler, and Sirius always destroyed the letters he got, having hardly glanced at them.

Only once did his face reveal that he was upset after burning a note from his mother.

He had charmed conspicuous symptoms of some kind of a pox on himself and avoided going home for Christmas. Regulus brought the letter when returning at the end of the holidays.

Having got rid of the piece of parchment immediately after we had settled in front of our common room fireplace, Sirius fingered with reluctance, almost disgust, the Galleons which had been attached to the letter, as if tempted to make them vanish as well.

“How is your mother?” I asked casually.

“Not well,” he replied, making his voice crack in mock mournfulness. “She’s in pain due to my wardrobe and hairdo. Thanks to Regulus she finally got to know some delicious details about my personal style.”

“What’s wrong with your wardrobe? It’s almost as good as mine. As for your style…”

“It’s insufferable,” James cut in. “I work hard on mine, and do I get a date? You’d get anyone you wanted…”

“Working on your style...” Sirius snorted. “That’s some talk for women and poofs.”

But during our following Hogsmeade weekend Sirius actually forced himself into Regulus’s company and went with him to do some shopping at Gladrags Wizardwear.



“I asked him to write to Mum and say he managed to persuade me to buy these.”

Sitting cross-legged on my bed, he turned the bags upside down. Without a warning he pulled a hat all the way to my ears and eyes.

“That’s neat,” James said. “A traditional wizard’s hat with quirrell lining.”

“Fashion for purebloods. You know, young muggles wear nothing on their heads.”

I pushed the hat up just in time to see Sirius toss a pair of fur-lined leather gloves to Peter.

“And that’s for you,” he said. “You must wear them so that Regulus sees and includes the information in his next report. I’m testing Mum’s nerves a bit.”



Peter and I did not turn down the gifts. Sirius had made it clear enough that, while enjoying the luxury which kept us incredibly warm in the winter of the North, we were doing a favour to him. The reason why our wearing what Sirius had bought would make his mother mad was related to the fact that the two of us could not have afforded this kind of clothing.

I’d never paid much attention to my clothes. I always had what I needed, and if something got too worn-out before getting too small, my father mended it for me. As far as I understood, my parents were rich and they just chose not to spend their money in the same way as most wealthy people did. Peter, instead, suffered from every detail which showed that his parents could not afford the same as James’s.

His face acquired an intensifying glow of both pride and embarrassment after he had been promised that I could visit the Pettigrew farm in Clun, South Shropshire before the beginning of our fifth year. He kept bringing up the topic of my visit all through the previous summer term, allowing everyone to know that he was inviting a guest.

When alone with me he’d go to the details, warning me. “I hope it’s all right for you… You know, Dad is not a farmer. He has various careers, or he’s something like… he’s a businessman. But in the summer he wants proper exercise for his muscles.”



Robert Pettigrew was a surprisingly handsome man. Not very tall, but besides a neat little moustache he had broad shoulders and well-developed biceps, which he liked to show by rolling up his sleeves as if he were going to work hard. I seldom saw him do anything useful for more than a moment, though. There was not much of a farm, but he enjoyed planning some renovations in the house and ordering me and Peter as well as his wife to work on them. And Peter’s whispered discussions with his mother revealed to me that during the past winter, once again, his father had tested several brilliant business ideas only to give them up in few weeks each.

Flora Pettigrew had a small pretty face. Her long lashes fluttered as if to hide the expression of her deep-set eyes.

“I was a Ravenclaw,” she said with the warmth of nostalgia and pride in her soft whisper.

The three of us were starting to work on repainting the sitting room walls. Peter and I had just shared with her the already gilded memory of cleaning the Slytherin common room walls without magic, as a punishment after sneaking in and writing equality slogans in blood-red all across the elegant silver.

Now we had been ordered to paint with yellow after Peter’s mother would first have scraped off the blue paint. Ravenclaw blue, as I suddenly realised.

“I mean, that’s the only common room I ever saw. I was a good and serious girl. Sometimes I wish I had made my mistakes at an age when it would still have been only harmless pranks.”

“What about Peter’s father?”

“What about…”

To my surprise her voice sounded defensive. Then she blushed and replied, “Oh, he didn’t go to
Hogwarts.”

She usually asked us to go out after dinner. But that evening her husband said we needed to finish the painting work, which had proceeded slowly.

“I didn’t tell you not to resort to magic. Just not to use wands. So you’d all get some of the exercise you sorely need. Our clever Ravenclaw here seems to have regarded her nails as her best asset.”

Standing straddled, he squeezed his eyes shut and stretched his arms dramatically towards the remaining blue corner of the room. I could hardly turn my attention from the malicious grin so as to witness how the paint peeled off and curled on the floor like rolls of parchment.

“Here you are. The skill of someone who didn’t need your posh schools!” Mr. Pettigrew turned towards me, leaning closer, and his voice reached the solemn tone of a declaration. “Who learnt to combine his innate magical talent with the insight into this world where non-magical people, as the majority, rule, after all. My parents hated the idea of magic, and it was wiped away from their minds. But I found my own way to hex anyone I wanted to, and to charm anyone I wanted… Come on, or do you want me to strip you right here, too.”

He was still staring at me while with his last words he placed his hand on his wife’s hip and started pushing her out of the room. “No. To the bathroom. I want a non-magical lock, too, so we’re sure not to be disturbed by the boys.”

Peter had turned to move the roller fiercely against the wall, splashing yellow all over himself, too. Soon something hit hard the other side of that wall.

“Let them hear. You talked to that boy as if you were better than me. Let him and my son hear what you really are. This is what you are, and this here is mine.”

On the following day Robert Pettigrew acted as a respectable head of a family among his muggle neighbours. I had to force myself not to ask Flora if she still felt as uncomfortable as I did, wearing trousers. She looked young and pretty with the tight clothes revealing all the curves of her body and with her curls streaming to her shoulders, but her smile was too wide to be genuine.

“He’s been a misfit all his life,” Peter muttered to me, heading away from the cheerful, energetic crowd. “Now he thinks he’s just about to make a fortune. Mum won’t need to work… But let’s forget about him. He’ll leave me alone tomorrow, if I collect a lot today.”

The occasion was a traditional social activity in this muggle community: collecting of the whinberries. The Pettigrew family held the record. Robert Pettigrew did not ask his wife and son to leave their wands at home. By allowing Peter to take some distance he made sure that, in case the wizard authorities complained, he could claim that he had not seen his son break the rule against underage magic.

I hesitated to break the rule here, in fear that a note from the ministry would inform the Pettigrews of my status. But Peter said that he had never been caught. The ministry didn’t care about some summoning of berries on deserted hillsides. So we filled and returned baskets in a good pace and by sunset we had earned the permission to go further away, by ourselves, on the following day: to take a lot of baskets and return only in the evening.

After the first whinberry day Mrs. Pettigrew was busy in the kitchen until late at night. She baked a pie after a pie and hardly turned to thank me when I went, taking Peter with me, to tell her how delicious I found everything she offered.

“Tie up your hair when you’re baking!” Her husband passed by and, without waiting for her reaction to his order, did it for her with a wave of his hand. He obviously intended me, too, to see the bruises around her neck.

“Let’s forget…” was all Peter said on the following morning when we were getting dressed in his small and cluttered room.

“I’m getting used to this… fond of these clothes, I mean.”

Wearing one of Peter’s t-shirts and berry-stained trousers, I ran up the hills with him as fast as I could. He said we’d be able to see all the way to Wales. For a moment I felt we were sharing the sense of freedom.

“I will get away,” he said when struggling on the last steep stretch of the climb. “Nobody needs to worry about me. I hate it when Mum fusses.”

“My parents do the same. They just love us.”

“She has her own problems, and I’m the one to get us both away – because I was the reason she had to stay with that… muggleborn.”

He had not managed to forget, and I didn’t know what to do.

“Should we get to work?” I asked.

“No, he hates it if my wand magic is too effective. And if he loses the record, perhaps he’ll just beat me, for once, and leave Mum alone for one night.”

I didn’t dare to look at him. He was undoubtedly shaking of fear, hardly managing to hold back tears. We had now reached the top of the ridge and I let my eyes sweep the landscape. The shadows of clouds were travelling across hills and valleys: switching colours off into muted shades, allowing them to shine again, inviting me to follow.

“Look, we can see all the way to Wales,” I repeated his words, “and further. And now let’s forget!”

I tackled him and soon we were rolling down the hillside. I enjoyed this wrestling more than I ever had, in these clothes which allowed me to freely wrap my legs around him… To feel the heather and the soil against the bare skin of my arms. I pushed his face down, then let him go and buried my own nose in the fragrant herb vegetation.

“Now lie still. You can almost sense the source,” I whispered, panting and not quite sure what I was talking about. “Right here. You know, our lives and our magic derive from here.”

I turned onto my back, glanced at him as he was lying beside me, in the same position now, and I fought the urge to grab his hand.

“You can have a rest,” I said, instead, and I closed my eyes. “I’m telling you a bedtime story. Let’s imagine we’re two rabbits. Yes, you can laugh at this… We’re smelling the grass. Only dreaming of dandelions, perhaps. We are still in a cage. But we’ll break free and travel with our friends up the mountain. It’ll be a long way, and we’ll have to beware of the fox. And even more beware of those who claim to be our kind but would enslave us in their rule of inequality. No, they won’t catch us. We have shared sweet dandelions among friends, we’ve been breathing the harsh winds of freedom, and we’ll leave behind all that’s a prison for us, if we can’t change it.”

I don’t know if I was the only one to fall asleep. When I was woken up by a chilling wind, I only needed to open my eyes to see him. But he was not beside me. He had climbed uphill and he was standing there with his head high, as the centre of the wild vast landscape. He seemed to be taking in all the blessings in it, and I felt that his gaze would meet me in turn. Not wanting to disturb him, I waited without moving, even though I was now trembling with cold.

And the light in his eyes and his confident voice were my reward. “To Wales, and further!” he exclaimed triumphantly before hurrying to pull me up.



I wanted to believe that it was true: that nobody needed to worry about him. He must have thought I distanced myself from him due to what I’d seen in Clun. But it was all because of Sirius. I just needed to start seriously worrying about Sirius. Still, I admit I was happy to devote myself to him, more or less abruptly abandoning some of the intimacy with two other friends – both with Amelia and with Peter.

Ever since we’d first met – just after the surprising sorting – Sirius always talked openly about his lack of a real home. But for a few years he never described any details of his holidays. He simply praised Hogwarts and cursed the ends of the terms. We knew that his parents usually forced him to go to London for the holidays, because he made it clear he wouldn’t have gone voluntarily almost every Christmas, too. Maybe his reluctance to talk about what else they forced him to do and what he was deprived of actually led him to develop the rebellious ideas in more general terms.

Only at the beginning of our fifth year could we not ignore the signs of abuse in him. His own stubbornness – his inability to compromise – must have played its role. I can imagine his horrendous behaviour in front of family friends, and not only his refusal to apologise but even his physical aggression against his parents. Still, I was shocked to realise what his parents could have done to their own son. They had confined him in his room for most of the summer and hardly given him anything to eat and come to see him just to beat him. That’s when I started doubting there was necessarily anything particularly human about the so-called full humans and purebloods.

He hated to let us know. I wonder if he was even more ashamed of his parents’ acts than their beliefs, or if he was ashamed to admit that they were stronger than him and therefore able to do this to him. His inconsistent behaviour on the day of our arrival at Hogwarts was as alarming as his starved looks. He switched between cheerfulness, fierce aggression and sullenness. Finally he spit the truth out to the three of us, but he refused to discuss it.

Later that night, however, as I was too shocked to fall asleep, I thought I heard him cry. I climbed onto his four-poster, closed the heavy hangings behind me, and stopped his protests by saying that I wouldn’t leave without waking up the others. He allowed me to stay, but he almost violently rejected all those to me so natural attempts at comforting him with a hug or just by touching his hand or caressing his head. He was shaking of anguish and fatigue. And he still refused to talk. So I talked about myself, about Uncle Francis, about one half-faun who had been abandoned, and about some rabbits in my new favourite novel – but mainly about myself, my pain and fear. I felt I needed to disguise my pity for him. But perhaps I’ve always made a mistake not truly encouraging others to talk.

During that night, in any case, we shared more than ever before and perhaps something we were never to share again. He was still able to cry and we cried together. Afterwards, of course, we never brought up this embarrassing detail.

But after that night I felt that the two of us were always taking care of each other in practice, as well as – in our shared dreams – of all those persecuted in the magical community. We filled each other’s plates at the meals. We drafted each other’s essays. He was a brilliant student, so I didn’t mind. He didn’t need to work as much as I needed in order to get Outstanding in every one of his OWLs. But he worked hard to finally learn and to help both James and Peter learn to become Animagi.

He never said they did it in order to help me. He talked about the challenge to his intelligence and about the value of breaking rules. Becoming an Animagus illegally, without applying for the license, which would certainly not have been granted to a schoolboy, was a game of rebellion for him. Besides, as Animagi they would be breaking school rules more effectively than ever before. It seemed to me that these prospects of continuous forbidden adventures were his primary motivation.

But when I talked to James, still – and obviously too late – planning to make him understand and assure to Sirius, too, how foolhardy the attempt was and how clearly the fun was not worth the risks, James told me what the point was.



“What’s the point?” was the exact form of my question, while I didn’t expect an answer.

I had actually just caught James on the roof of a greenhouse, ambushing for Severus Snape, one dark but exceptionally warm November evening.

“All right,” I’d said. “I agreed to forge a note in Lily’s handwriting, saying that she accepted his invitation to come here – to collect with him some stray shoots of Yucca Gloriosa for a potion he had invented. But this…”

James had placed a finger on his lips and peeked down before whispering, “Soap from roots of Yucca species are used for washing hair, so he sorely needs it or…”

“That’s not the point. I thought you meant only to make him disappointed when she wouldn’t show up.”

“Where’s the fun in that? Anyway, I’m sure he’s planned to break into the greenhouse and steal ingredients for some Dark Arts hair wash for turning his mane properly shiny black. Or perhaps just to do something to her…”

I knew he hated the thought too much to manage to word it in more concrete terms, even though we had witnessed other couples behind the greenhouses. In any case I was now a prefect and I couldn’t possibly let even James use a shearing hex on anyone, even though this rival and enemy might have needed it, in lack of soap ingredients.

“If you really want to pull pranks just in order to humiliate people you dislike, I wonder why you care about our secret project. But I’m actually happy, if you don’t.”

“Of course I do. I just can’t devote all my time to it. Unlike Sirius, I have a maiden’s honour to protect. But now the villain must have heard the two of us and run away.” He lay down on his back and took off his glasses.

I peered up as well, hoping to spot a star although the sky had been overcast since the sunset. “If it’s supposed to remain a secret… never to irritate anyone or to make an impression… what’s the point?”

He sighed, and the patient tone in his voice was almost mocking, as if he had to repeat this to someone feeble-minded. “The point is, of course, to help you not hurt so badly.”

When first conspiring about this, we had agreed that in theory I could possibly stay peaceful enough in their company, if they were in animal form, so we could all enjoy the full-moon nights. But I could hardly believe it possible, because the full moon meant only anguish, loss of my mind, and bleeding to me. And I had not said that to them. I thought that perhaps I should have tried to make them see how far from a pleasant adventure that night always was for me. That could have made them give up.

But James was saying, “Sirius is now more convinced of how much… you need it.”

“Did he say that?”

“What do you think? Does he ever talk about such things? At least not to me. But I know him. All through this autumn he’s been looking for a way to help you. More… desperately than ever.”

I knew well enough that Sirius had become the one to work on our shared project the most systematically. When sitting beside him, with his husky voice whispering in my ear – for me to reproduce on the enchanted secret-keeping parchment – the bold wordings that never ceased to amaze me, I almost forgot how much James had risked in his experiments, particularly during the previous year, and that it had all first been Peter’s idea.

This is to record for future generations what was done for and inspired by someone who was more than human.


the first part of Chapter Seventeen is here

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kellychambliss

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from: kellychambliss
date: Aug. 4th, 2010 05:24 pm (UTC)
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With everything that haunted Remus, or threatened and enticed him, did he have the strength and patience to guide Harry wisely?

It's typical of your Remus, even after all he's been through, to take his responsibility to Harry so seriously.

“I’ve told you we were all foolhardy. We’ve all made terrible mistakes. I’ve often wanted to know and to let others know about… problems and the need to solve them, without considering what following my ideals would mean in reality. And Peter enjoyed anything extravagant, random visions which he never thought he himself should have the courage to implement. For James and Sirius, instead, living fully meant proving their invincibility in practice.

I really like this paragraph -- such an excellent, IC summing-up of all of them. And the idea of Sirius acting out of despair -- yes! Great insight. Remus is right, about how everyone needs some sort of family. It's a powerful theme of the whole story.

And I love the grandparent backstory. The grandparents (on both the Potter and Evans sides) are one of the things that bothers me about canon. For narrative reasons, JKR needed all the grandparents to be dead. Fine -- if that's what the story needs, that's what it needs. But then I think an author has a responsibility to come up with some believable story to account for their absence. And it just doesn't make sense that both sets of grandparents would be dead by the time James and Lily were killed. At the oldest, they couldn't have been more than 60, which isn't old even for Muggles. And they could have been as young as 43 or 44. Then for JKR just not to mention them at all -- well, it seems like a cheat.

My generation is not as ancient as the looks of some of us might make you think.

Haha! True. But teachers/parents always seem old to kids.

He was particularly eager to dismiss paintings in which I had depicted something as prettier than how he saw it in reality

Very much what I'd expect of Sirius -- as is the purchase of the art supplies. The whole growing relationship between Remus and Sirius works well.

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PaulaMcG

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from: paulamcg
date: Aug. 5th, 2010 07:19 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for another exhilarating comment!

It’s so wonderful to hear that you’ve found my Marauder portrayals IC. I’ve always thought that (having started writing fanfic before reading any) I’ve developed these characterisations so much independent of common fanon that they would be too unexpected for a lot of fans, and it’s reassuring that they work so well at least for someone who’s not from the Marauder corner of the fandom. It warms my heart that you can also see Remus and Sirius’s relationship developing.

I agree about everything you say about the grandparents. In this case, perhaps, I could have been partly glad if Rowling had left a bit less for me to fill in – so that I wouldn’t have had to extend my story in this direction, too, when it already required ever more characters whom I truly needed to be active in the current plot. But taking our responsibilities seriously, Remus and I couldn’t possibly tell Harry about James without telling him about James’s parents, too. To make the most of it, I wanted to somehow show them in a scene instead of only mentioning some facts. There will be a brief mention of both sets of grandparents towards the end of the novel.

I’m also particularly happy about your pointing out that powerful theme. You make me more and more convinced that I’ve succeeded in writing the “one novel inside me” – the one I’ve needed to write. I’m fortunate to have the chance to also share it. Thank you again – also for pointing out the error, which I’ve now corrected! And my preliminary thanks for the next wonderful comment, for which I’ll enjoy composing a proper reply.

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