After his experiences in Diagon Alley, Remus had half expected to be found out in his first week at Hogwarts, and sent home. He had expected to be looked down on and mocked by the other students for the shabbiness of his robes and the scuffed and worn appearance of his school things. It had never occurred to him that anyone might take issue with his heritage. He had naively supposed that wizards were wizards, and a person either had magic or they didn't.
He was shocked by how deeply many of his school fellows seemed to care about blood status. It was an especially hot issue among the Slytherins, but all of the Houses suffered from it to a greater or lesser extent, and Remus became self-consciously aware that all of his roommates were so-called "pure-bloods".
Remus's father was a wizard, and his grandfather and great-grandfather before him, but every last one of them had married Muggles. He might have argued that this must mean the magical genes in his paternal line were especially strong. But Remus never argued. He tried very hard not to speak or make eye-contact with anyone at all, unless it was absolutely necessary. It was safer not to draw attention to himself.
So far, this strategy had been fairly successful. Apart from his professors, hardly anyone seemed to notice him at all. Even his roommates ignored him after the first night, though he was aware of the lines of tension drawn between the four of them.
Potter was friendly enough, but Remus got the distinct impression that he had little use for quiet, thoughtful types. Black had spoken to the others almost as little as Remus himself had. Remus had gleaned that he was upset at having been Sorted into Gryffindor, when he had expected to be made a Slytherin. Pettigrew, who had apparently been friends with Black for some time, spent the majority of his time with Potter as Black became more and more sullen and withdrawn.
Remus was puzzled by his own Sorting. He knew that his father had been a Gryffindor, but had never thought to ask about the school's other three Houses. The Sorting Hat's song, and everything he had heard subsequently, had given him to understand that Gryffindors were meant to be rather dashing and daring types, which didn't sound like him at all. But while the Hat had taken ages to place several of the other children, Remus had worn it for less than a minute.
"Oh, so you're the one!" it had said in Remus's bewildered ear. "Not to worry; I've got just the place for you. GRYFFINDOR!"
He had still been pondering the Hat's decision when he left the Great Hall following the feast that night. Trailing along behind the other Gryffindors, he had been waylaid by a rather no-nonsense looking young woman who introduced herself as Madam Pomfrey, the Hogwarts matron.
"Remus Lupin?" she had asked, clearly already knowing the answer. "Come along with me."
She had taken him up to her office in the hospital wing to discuss the arrangements that had been made for the full moon. Dumbledore, it seemed, had taken possession of an old house in the village of Hogsmeade, and had made it secure to Ministry specifications. The only way in or out was through a secret passageway which started on school grounds, the entrance to which was guarded by a tree called a Whomping Willow, which was apparently so violent that it would not only deter students from discovering the entrance, but would prevent him escaping in his transformed state, should he make it so far out of the house.
"You'll meet me here in the hospital wing at least an hour before sunset," Madam Pomfrey had told him. "I will escort you as far as the passageway. It is your responsibility to make certain you are not late."
He had only nodded. She seemed to be a kindly, matter-of-fact sort of person, prepared to make allowances for his condition, but personally untroubled by it.
"On the following mornings," she had continued, "I will come to the house to fetch you. You'll have the day to recover here, and if you're well enough, you may return to your dormitory that night. We'll try to ensure that you don't miss any more classes than absolutely necessary."
"Thank you, Ma'am," he had said quietly.
He had expected her to dismiss him then, but instead, she had beckoned him over to a shelf of books. They were mostly medical texts, herbals, books of potions, but on one shelf, he saw several titles on lycanthropy.
"I've taken the liberty of fetching these up from the library's Restricted Section," she informed him. "They'll be here unless another student gets specific permission to borrow them. If you have any questions, you are welcome to consult them at any time. There is no need to ask for my permission."
Remus had pulled one of the books from the shelf and thumbed through it at random. He had done a fair amount of reading about his condition, but few of these titles were ones he recognised. The one he had opened seemed to be a treatise on juvenile and adolescent werewolves. His eye caught a chapter title that made him blush, and he hurriedly snapped the book shut and stuffed it back onto the shelf. He had mumbled his thanks again, asked directions to his dormitory, and wished her good night.
His first full moon at Hogwarts had unfortunately occurred barely a week into term. The classes, which were probably fascinating, were unfortunately beyond his ability to focus or process. By the end of the week, Remus was flustered, frustrated, and his confidence in his scholarship was severely shaken. The only class in which he had distinguished himself at all was Defence Against the Dark Arts, when Professor Tynedale had awarded him five House points for being able to name the three classes of defence spells: protective, neutralising, and offensive.
Potions was the worst. He had only had one lesson so far, but it had been a disaster. Enhanced senses were just one of the side effects of his condition, and the Potions classroom was home to a dizzying welter of strong odors. So close to the full moon, it was enough to make him feel sick to his stomach, which, coupled with his inability to focus, resulted in several ingredients begin added not only in the wrong amounts, but in the wrong order. Potter, who had partnered with him for the class, had shoved him aside impatiently and tried to salvage their Shrinking Solution as best he could, but it had been far too late.
Lying in the hospital wing the morning after the full moon, just the memory of the smell of that first potion was enough to turn his stomach. He gritted his teeth. I won't, he informed himself. He hardly ever vomited anymore after his transformations, and when he did, it was usually because of the pain.
The house provided by Dumbledore for his transformations had been better than the cell at the Ministry, but for the first time in over a year, he had woken cold and alone on a hard, bare floor. True, Madam Pomfrey and appeared soon after that, and she had fussed and crooned over him, tending his hurts and bundling him up before transporting him back to the castle -- a long, bumpy and uncomfortable process -- but he missed the comfort of waking in his own bed, or being carried in his father's strong arms. There was no one here to sing to him or read to him or curl up beside him, and the tea Madam Pomfrey brewed for him was bitter, nasty stuff.
Remus could force his stomach to be quiet, but he couldn't stop the tears from coming. He missed his family desperately. Here, he had no one. Dumbledore was kind, but he was a busy man, and while Madam Pomfrey was clearly a compassionate woman, she was no substitute for his mother. Hot tears slipped down his cheeks. The castle felt huge and cold around him, and he felt very small and very much alone. He almost wished that someone would discover his secret. Then he would have an excuse to go home without disappointing his father or feeling like he'd given up.
There was nothing to do in the hospital wing but feel sorry for himself or sleep, and eventually Remus tired of doing the former and tried to do the latter instead. His school books and a few favourites he had brought from home were all in his dormitory, and he hadn't been able to bring any music with him to Hogwarts. He supposed he could ask Madam Pomfrey to bring him one of werewolf books from her office, but he was miserable enough without reading more about why he was miserable.
He slept through most of the day, waking at dusk to find Madam Pomfrey standing over him.
"Everyone's at supper," she told him. "If you want to go back to your dormitory now, you may."
He got shakily out of bed, pulling on the robes that hung over the chair beside it. The corridors were blessedly empty, as was the Gryffindor common room and his own dormitory. Remus got ready for bed as quickly as his aching muscles would allow, and was in his bed with the curtains drawn, reading by wandlight -- the only charm he had mastered thus far -- by the time the other boys returned from supper. If he stayed quiet, maybe they would think he was asleep, and leave him alone.
Remus half-listened to the sounds of them bumping around the room, mumbling to one another and slowly getting ready to go to their own beds. He tried to read, but he couldn't stop thinking about the dream he had had that afternoon -- a dream at once strange and familiar -- of the half-forgotten black dog of his childhood. It was the first time he had dreamed of it since he was bitten. The dog hadn't actually appeared in the dream, but Remus had known it was somewhere nearby, and he had been searching for it. The unseen presence had been oddly comforting.
So caught up was he in his thoughts that he didn't notice what was being said beyond his bed hangings until they were pulled aside.
"Oh. You're awake," Black said.
Remus looked up, but didn't say anything.
The other boy held something out to him. "Just -- there was a package for you. Thought you might want it."
He closed his book and sat up, taking the parcel from Black's hand. He already knew what it was -- the scent brought tears of homesickness and gratitude to his eyes that he quickly blinked away -- and he tore open the paper to find a package of the Honeymarrow tea his mother always brewed for him. There was a note tucked in with it.
I hope you're doing OK. Maybe this will help. I stole the owl to send it. I miss you loads. You better write to me soon.
Black had not retreated from the gap in Remus's hangings. "What is it?" he asked. Potter and Pettigrew were shooting him curious glances as well.
It was a few seconds before Remus felt he could trust his voice. "Tea," he replied. "From my sister."
"Boring gift," said Pettigrew dubiously.
Remus just shook his head, carefully depositing the package on his nightstand. He wished Black would close the curtains and go away, but he seemed unprepared to do so.
"What're you reading?" he asked instead, already reaching for the book.
Remus didn't want to give it to him, but withholding it would only cause more of a fuss. He could tell from Black's sulky attitude of the past week that he was used to getting his own way, and it was easier to just let him have it than try to resist.
Black turned the well-loved book over in his hands, aristocratic features drawn up in a scowl. "Jane Austen," he read. "Pride and Prejudice. Sounds girly. And Mugglish."
"It's not," Remus said quietly. "Not girly, I mean."
"But it's Muggle." Black peered at him again. "Are you Muggleborn?" he asked with an unconscious sneer at the word.
"No." Remus kept his voice even, trying not to show his dislike for the haughty boy.
"Half-blood, then," Black said dismissively. "Figures."
More like eighth-blood, thought Remus, but he didn't say anything.
Black fixed him with an accusing look. "You weren't here last night."
"Wasn't he?" asked Pettigrew, pausing in the midst of putting on his pyjamas.
"No," said Black, eyes not leaving Remus's face. "And he wasn't in class today, either."
"Don't know how you'd notice," Potter said with a laugh. "Hardly seems like he's there most of the time, anyway. Except when he's wrecking my potions."
Remus tensed, waiting for the question that must come next. My mum's ill. I had to go home and see her, he rehearsed in his head.
But it never came. Instead, Black shrugged, tossed the book back on the bed, and turned away, letting the hangings fall back into place.
Remus hugged the book to his chest. The room was dark and quiet by the time he drifted off to sleep wondering why, when he just wanted to be left alone, it should bother him that his roommates didn't care enough to ask where he had gone.
He had missed Defence Against the Dark Arts, Charms and Transfiguration while he had been recovering in the hospital wing. Not wanting to draw more attention to his absence, he was unwilling to ask his roommates if he could borrow their notes. Instead, during the half hour break between double Herbology and lunch, he had gone to seek out Professor Tynedale and Professor Flitwick to find out what he had missed. After lunch, he arrived early for Transfiguration.
Remus was not certain how much the professors knew, but clearly Dumbledore had told them enough that he didn't have to make excuses for his absence. All three gave him some extra reading to do, but since it was early in the term, he hadn't missed much.
After that, things began to get a little better for Remus, at least in the classroom. His improvement at Potions was very slight, and he frequently lacked the self-confidence necessary for Transfiguration and Charms, but defensive magic came naturally to him, and he found he rather enjoyed Herbology as well. The only real disaster in the second week was his first flying lesson.
The fine art of not falling off one's broom was taught by Madam Larkin, a tiny woman with flyaway grey hair and the general build of a sparrow. Rumour had it that she had once played Seeker for the Holyhead Harpies Quidditch team, and was famous for broomstick trick-riding.
Looking at the cluster of Slytherins and his fellow Gryffindors, Remus realised he was probably one of the only people present who had never been on a broom before. A few of the more nervous types, like Pettigrew, seemed a little wary, but the rest chatted amongst themselves or looked bored until Madam Larkin instructed them all to go and stand beside a broom.
It took several tries before Remus managed to say "Up!" loud enough to get his broom's attention. It seemed to sense his trepidation, and rose reluctantly to hover just below his hand. He grasped the handle, and mounted when told to do so.
At first, everything seemed to go well enough. The broom carried him aloft a few feet while he clutched the handle in a white-knuckled grip. Unfortunately, it seemed that the broom was only trying to lull him into a false sense of security. It jerked sideways, throwing him off balance, and he found himself hanging upside down, clinging to the handle with his arms and legs to keep himself from falling. Then the broom dropped. Remus landed hard on his back, wind knocked out of him, still clutching the sadistic broom.
Everyone was laughing. Even Madam Larkin had to work hard to suppress a smile as she told Remus to go sit down for a few minutes to catch his breath. He went, blushing, to lean against the stones of the castle wall, feeling like a failure. It didn't help that his classmates were soon zooming merrily around the grounds, laughing and yelling back and forth at one another. Even when Pettigrew accidentally ran headlong into a Slytherin girl, knocking both of them from the air, it didn't make him feel any better.
Potter was clearly the best at flying, but he had boasted to already having his own broom at home. He dodged nimbly among the Slytherins, trying to distract them and throw them off, coming close without ever touching them. Madam Larkin yelled at him to stop messing about, but he only laughed and swooped at an effeminate boy named Lockhart, who squeaked and ploughed into the ground.
What would it be like, not to care? Remus wondered. In a way, he envied Potter that. He was the opposite of everything Remus was, keeping all eyes on him at all times, and revelling in the attention, both positive and negative. Even Madam Larkin seemed to have forgotten about Remus, as if he were fading into the grey of the stones and the green of the grass.
As the lesson ended, the students stacked their brooms neatly under Madam Larkin's watchful eye. A few of them glanced at Remus as they passed, whispering and sniggering to one another. He caught the words "pathetic" and "hopeless", and he looked away, pretending not to hear or care.
It was better to be invisible.
It was the Slytherins who came up with the name "Flying Ace", but his roommates picked it up quickly enough. Remus knew better than to respond to the taunts, and took to hiding out in the library instead. It was a safe refuge where he was surrounded by books and protected from the mockery of the other students by the watchful eyes of Madam Pince, the school librarian, who was quick to shush anyone she caught talking in her hallowed sanctuary.
While he avoided everyone, Remus caught up with his studies, and even found some time for a little extracurricular reading. He also managed to find quiet corners of the school where he could practise Charms and Transfiguration. When at last he succeeded in turning a quill into a leaf and back again, he began to gain a little more confidence in his abilities.
But even if he could hide from everyone else, he couldn't hide from his roommates. First years were required to return to their common rooms after supper each night, which meant at least a couple of hours spent with the others before bedtime. Potter and Pettigrew often spent their evenings in the common room playing games, but Black hid himself away in the dormitory as much as Remus did. Sometimes they would pull their drapes shut and pretend to be asleep, but they knew they weren't really fooling one another.
He wouldn't have minded the other boy's presence -- most of the time he kept his silence and left Remus alone -- but every now and then he would make some barbed comment about Remus's poor performance in class, or his personal habits, or his Muggle heritage. And he was nosy. Tonight it was Remus's tidiness that seemed to have got under his skin.
"Why do you keep everything so bloody neat?" Black asked rudely. "You afraid your Muggle mum is going to come up here and smack you if there's a sock out of place? There's house-elves to take care of that stuff, you know."
"I just like to know where things are," Remus mumbled, not looking at him.
"As much as you like flying?" Black smirked. "Don't see why you bother keeping everything neat when it's all a load of old rubbish anyway."
The fact was that Remus was a firm believer in order. It was part of the careful control he maintained in all aspects of his life. If he could be in control of his surroundings, then it helped him to be in control of himself. His school things and robes might be worn and secondhand, but he kept them clean and in good repair. He knew that Black and the others would never understand the need that drove him, so he kept quiet and hoped the other boy would grow bored of taunting him and go away.
For a while, it looked as though he might do just that. Black flopped down on his bed with a dramatic sigh of boredom, and took out his Charms book. Remus went back to his History of Magic notes, trying to make sense of the names and dates ghostly Professor Binns had given them the previous afternoon.
"Expulso!" said Black, and too late Remus realised he hadn't been doing his homework at all. The lid of Remus's trunk burst open, and all of his possessions erupted out onto the floor.
Remus closed his eyes and breathed deeply. When he opened them again, he found Black watching him from across the mess. He looked mildly pleased with himself.
"What're you gonna do?" he challenged.
Carefully setting aside his notes, Remus got off the bed and approached the other boy, who suddenly looked a little nervous. Remus plucked the wand from Black's surprised fingers and hurled it into the air, drawing his own wand at the same time.
"Tenax," he said, and with a splat, the wand stuck fast to the ceiling, far out of Black's reach.
Remus turned away and began methodically stowing his things back in his trunk.
"Wanker," he heard Black mutter.
Remus allowed himself a slight smile.
His second full moon at Hogwarts was no better than the first. It was actually slightly worse, in that it was October now, and colder in the old house, with autumn winds whistling between the boards that covered the windows. Fortunately, Remus had awoken in a room that contained an old bed, and had managed to crawl up onto it, shivering, and pull the dusty comforter over himself while he waited for Madam Pomfrey to come collect him.
The hospital wing was warmer, at least, with roaring fires burning in the huge hearths at either end. But the warmth, and the fact that he now had the tea he liked, made him no less lonely. Remus tried to tell himself that he was much too old be to crying for his mother, but that only made him feel more miserable. It was one of the days when the pain was too bad for him to sleep, and he had nothing to distract himself from it.
The curtains shielding his bed rustled, and he quickly rubbed his face on the sheet, not wanting even Madam Pomfrey to see him in that state. But it wasn't the matron who drew aside the hangings. Wide, green eyes stared at him from a face covered in itchy-looking red spots which clashed with long, dark red hair.
"Oh!" said the girl when she saw him. "Er -- are you OK, Lupin?"
Lily Evans was in his year in Gryffindor, but the two of them had never spoken. He didn't really know anything about her, apart from the fact that she excelled at Potions and Charms, and was the only person besides himself who seemed to take notes in History of Magic.
"I'm fine," he said quickly, wishing he didn't sound so congested. "Just -- not feeling well." He quickly deflected the question back to her. "Are you OK?"
She nodded, eyes flashing fire. "Just some stupid hex. Apparently the other Slytherins don't think I'm good enough to be friends with Severus."
"Why?" asked Remus as Evans flounced into the chair that stood beside his bed.
"Because I'm Muggleborn," she said, looking at him curiously.
"Oh. I didn't know."
"What about you?" she asked.
"Might as well be," he found himself telling her. "Dad's a wizard, but he hardly uses any magic at home, and we -- don't get out much. My sister and I grew up practically Muggle."
"Do you miss them?" she asked, sympathetically.
"All the time," he admitted, burying his nose in his tea cup until the thought of his absent family had passed.
She reached out and patted his arm. It was the first time someone other than Madam Pomfrey had touched him voluntarily in more than a month, and it made him feel a little bit funny inside.
"I miss my family, too," Evans told him. "Especially my sister. She's older than me, but when we were little, we were best friends." She sighed. "It seems like, ever since I found out I was a witch, we've been growing apart."
"I'm sorry," he said. "My sister's not magical either. At least, she hasn't showed it yet. She's only eight, so she still could."
Evans smiled at him. She had a nice smile, despite the spots. "Are you close?"
"Yeah. Natalie's -- sort of my only friend," he confessed. "I write to her all the time, but it's not the same."
She gave him another sympathetic look. "I only really have one friend here," she told him. "Some of the girls in my dormitory are all right, I guess, but I'd be lost without Sev."
"He's the boy you work with in Potions, right?" asked Remus.
She smiled fondly. "Yeah. He's sort of prickly with other people, but we've been friends for ages. He was the first one to tell me about magic."
"I'm rubbish at Potions," Remus admitted. "You both seem to do really well, though."
"Oh, Sev's amazing!" she told him. "I'll never be as good as he is. I think I learn almost as much from him as from Professor Slughorn. But -- if you need help, maybe we could study together sometime."
"Thanks," said Remus. "I think I'd like that."