The tension in the first year Gryffindor boys' dormitory was palpable. Potter and Sirius had had some sort of falling-out, but Remus had no idea about what, since neither of them was talking about it, and both were pretending that everything was normal. Every now and then, Sirius would cast Potter a significant look, and Potter would scowl back at him, but nothing was ever articulated.
At least the elephant in the room doesn't mind me, Remus thought gloomily.
He was usually one to mind his own business, since he preferred other people to mind theirs, but with Sirius hanging about all the time, and Potter spending more time with Peter than he had since the beginning of the school year, Remus couldn't avoid asking what was going on.
"Nothing," Sirius told him with a falsely cheerful grin. "James and I have just decided to start seeing other people."
His evasiveness led Remus to assume that, whatever had happened, it was probably Sirius's fault. But when Potter rather abruptly asked for his notes back, Remus began to wonder if Potter were upset with him, too, for some reason. Maybe he thinks I'm stealing his best mate.
The truly baffling -- and only really worrying -- feature of the whole affair was the way hushed conversations between Sirius, Potter and the Prewetts died the moment Remus came within earshot. He tried to tell himself that they were just planning something especially stupid, and they didn't want him to know about it, but he couldn't shake a nagging sense of paranoia.
They can't think I'd rat on them, can they? He would never do it, even though he knew sometimes he probably should. Having friends was a rare joy for him, and he would do nothing to jeopardise it.
When he interrupted a whispered discussion in the common room one afternoon, he set his jaw and hurried past, up the spiral staircase to the dormitory without so much as a glance at them. He found Peter, lying on his bed, tickling Constantine despondently.
"What's up, Pete?" Remus asked.
Even though he had sat down on his own bed, the puffskein squeaked in alarm at the sight of him and burrowed into Peter's bedclothes. Peter fished around and deposited the trembling creature reluctantly back in its cage before answering.
"They won't talk to me," he said glumly. "Every time I come into the room --"
"-- they clam up?" Remus hazarded. "I've got news for you, mate; it's not just you. They've been doing the same to me for over a week now."
This seemed to make Peter feel a little better, but not Remus. He knew the others humoured Peter, but had no great respect for him. Remus felt badly for the boy, and disliked the idea that Potter and Sirius might think of him in the same light. He didn't think they did, but --
"D'you know what they've been rowing about?" Peter asked. "James and Sirius, I mean?"
"No," said Remus, curious. "Do you?"
Peter shook his head. "I thought you might."
"No, sorry," Remus told him. "You know them, though. Sirius probably just opened his mouth again. They'll sort it out."
But the difficulty, whatever it might be, was a constant buzz in the air, and Remus was glad to have an escape from it, and another friend to spend time with. He and Lily had been practising meditation exercises together in her refuge several times a week since he had told her his secret. Sometimes they talked about his life, and sometimes they simply sat facing one another, cross-legged on the carpet, hands linked and eyes closed, breathing and thinking about nothing, letting the sensation of calm and clarity flow between them.
When they were alone together, Remus felt free. When others were present, he worried, because Lily treated him differently now that she knew.
She had met him at the door to the hospital wing on the night of the last full moon, and had given him a silent hug before hurrying away. It was wonderful to know how deeply she cared for him, but he wished she would show a little more discretion. Her fussing over him in the days before and after the moon annoyed him and made him anxious about drawing unwanted attention to himself. Tired and irritable, Remus had finally snapped when she skipped dinner in order to see him back to his dormitory after the full moon.
"You can't be like this, Lily," he told her. "You have to treat me like normal, and stick to the story that I'm just going home, or people will start asking questions."
She had turned red for a moment, as if she might bite back, but then she dropped her eyes and nodded. "You're right, Remus. I'm sorry. I promise I'll be more careful from now on."
The only difficulty in spending time with Lily was the frequent presence of Severus Snape shooting poisonous looks at him. Remus had been doing his best to avoid the sour Slytherin since the incident at the Quidditch match, making excuses whenever Snape sought out Lily's company. He knew Snape would never hex him in front of Lily, but he wanted to avoid any trouble that might damage the delicate balance of their friendships with her.
Remus was rather relieved when the Easter holidays finally arrived. That did not, however, mean that he wasn't sorry to see his friends go when they reached King's Cross Station.
Lily hugged him fiercely, making Remus promise to owl her at least twice over the break, and departed in the company of Snape and his dour-looking mother, since her own Muggle parents couldn't get onto the platform without assistance.
Peter, clutching Constantine's cage in both hands, gave his friends a glum "See you in two weeks," and submitted to being fussed and cooed over by his own elderly mother, who treated him as if he were six rather than twelve.
Potter gave them a wave and a grin and ran to meet his own parents, hugging them unashamedly in greeting. Remus was about to call out to him to have a good time in Italy, when Matilda Hathersage blocked his view.
"Have a good holiday, James," she said, and kissed him swiftly on the cheek before running back to her giggling sister.
Potter went bright red, but grinned wider than ever. When Remus turned to share the joke with Sirius, he saw that his friend had missed the exchange.
Sirius scowled at his toes, cheeks flaming almost the same shade as Potter's had, but for a different reason. A tall, middle-aged man stood over him. By the look of him, he could be none other than Sirius's father, but where Sirius's face was usually lit by wicked grins and eyes shining with mischief, Mr Black's sharply handsome features were marked by years of frowning disapproval, which, at that moment, was entirely focused on his son.
A house-elf, struggling with Sirius's luggage, harangued him in a shrill voice. "Master Sirius is in such disgrace! Kreacher's Mistress and young Master Regulus couldn't bear to show their faces in public to meet him. Sullying himself with Gryffindor filth and Mudbloods ...."
A terse "Come along," was all the greeting Mr Black had for his son. Sirius slouched after him without a backwards glance.
When Remus's parents and Natalie appeared, instantly enveloping him in warmth and love, he realised there was one last thing he needed to do before he left.
"Just a second," he told them. Letting go of his sister, he turned to run after his friend. "Sirius!"
Sirius turned, surprised, and Remus stopped short, caught full in the glare of Mr Black's disapproval. Sirius's father waited, looking down his nose at them, and Remus could feel him silently judging his scuffed trainers and secondhand Muggle clothing. Remus gritted his teeth. You're a werewolf, Lupin. You're a lot scarier than some dried up old wizard.
Grabbing his friend's hand in a brief squeeze, he said, "Try and have a good holiday."
"You too." Sirius smiled weakly and turned away to vanish from the platform.
Happy Birthday! I've only just got Home from King's Cross, but I figure if I send Midnight now, he'll probably catch up with you in time in Italy. If he's late, I hope you had a brilliant Birthday and that Italy isn't too Boring. It's just a dusty old place out of History of Magic to me.
I'd tell you how Things are going, but obviously I don't really know yet. Kreacher (our House-Elf) is being a right little Scab, like always. He keeps going on about what a Disgrace I am to my Name, and how it's only a matter of time before I get blasted off the Family Tree. Can't happen soon enough, you ask me. Father hardly said a Word to me, and I shut Myself in my Room as soon as we got back, so I haven't seen Mother or Regulus yet. I suppose I'll have to go down to Supper in a minute. What a Joy that will be.
I know Things have been weird lately because of You-Know-What, and we haven't really talked about it since You-Know-When. I've been thinking, though. It's sort of like how before I got Sorted I thought I was Better because Everyone always told me I was. But I'm not. You're Better than me at loads of Things, and so are the Prewetts and so is Remus. Even Pete's better than me at Herbology (don't tell him I said so). I think we get Ideas into our Heads when we're Kids, and if they stay there long enough, we just assume they're True, even when they're obviously Not. I think maybe You-Know-What is one of those Things. Think about it, will you?
OK, I think this is Officially the longest Letter I have ever written. Owl me back!
Your Best Mate (still, I hope),
P.S., I was going to get you Something for your Birthday, but obviously I haven't had time yet. Maybe I can make my Parents take me to Diagon Alley over the Hols.
I'm borrowing my parents' owl to send this, so I have no idea how long it will take to get there. I hope your birthday was good. How's Italy? Have you been to see the ruins of the old school of magic in Rome yet? I'd love to see that. I heard some of the old Roman ghosts still hang around there sometimes. Imagine what you could learn from them!
My parents always say they're going to take me and Nat to France someday to see where Dad's relatives came from, but it hasn't happened yet. I guess I have distant cousins at Beauxbatons, but I've never met them. Hogwarts is as far as I've ever been from home.
So, Tildy Hathersage. That was interesting. What did your parents have to say about it? Loads, I bet. Mine would have. Lily's said she's nice. Mad about Quidditch, of course, but I don't guess you'd mind that. Anyway, well done.
I hope you're enjoying your time with your family. They looked really happy to see you. Mine drive me mad sometimes, but it's good to be home.
Looking forwards to hearing all about Italy.
All the best,
Happy birthday, mate! It's boring here. How's Italy? Pick me up some Italian wizard candy, will you?
I miss you. Is it OK for me to ask how you're feeling today, or is that too much?
It's good to be home and see Mum and Dad and Petty, but I'm starting to see why some wizards have a hard time dealing with Muggles. Everything I try to tell them about school takes ages to explain. I can't imagine how hard it would be if I hadn't been raised Muggle. I guess it's the same for you, except for your dad. It feels strange not to be at Hogwarts or use magic or see you every day. It really is a different world, isn't it? At least Sev only lives around the corner.
Are you doing anything for exams yet? I've been working on a revision timetable. Will you give me a hand with Herbology if I keep helping you with Potions? You're better at plants than I am. I can never keep the Latin names straight. We should get together in the Refuge when we get back and go over all our notes together. Sev, too. He's the best at Potions, and he's almost as good at Defence as you.
Anyway, I have to go. Mum says I've been out of the "real world" too long, and she and Petty are going to take me shopping. I really should be working on that Transfiguration essay, but I can probably fit it in later. Petty wants me to tell her all about witch fashions. I really have no idea.
Hope you're doing well. Owl me soon!
It's Rubbish being Home. Don't know why I bothered. I'd rather be hanging around Gryffindor by Myself for two weeks than this. At least then I wouldn't have Someone telling me every five minutes what a Disappointment I am, and how I should be Ashamed of Everything.
Mother hates my hair, even when it's pulled back. She tried to have the House-Elf cut it the other Night while I was asleep, but Regulus stopped him in time. We talked a bit. Me and Regs, I mean. He's not really that bad. Maybe when he comes to School the year after next he'll start thinking for Himself. It worked for me, didn't it? And I was twice as bad as he is. I sort of Hope he gets Sorted into Gryffindor, too, and not just because our Parents will go mental.
Everything all right with you? I hope your Hols are going better than mine, and you're not wasting the whole time studying.
I miss you, too. Last night wasn't too bad. It's usually better at home, since there's not as far to go before I'm tucked into bed and can get some proper sleep. It was really nice to wake up to an owl from you this afternoon. I got one from Sirius as well.
Everything's good here. Mum and Dad are half-smothering me, but I don't mind so much. If they keep it up over the summer, it might drive me a bit mad. Nat's laying across the foot of my bed right now, reading one of the "Narnia" books and taking up all the room that should be for my feet. I've got so used to wallowing in those huge Hogwarts beds that I feel all scrunched up here. Once I'm of age, I'm going to Transfigure this bed to a proper size, even if it takes up most of the room, and I have to hold my breath to squeeze through the door. Being a wizard is going to spoil me.
I know what you mean about trying to explain Hogwarts and magic to people who don't understand. I guess I can see how some wizards would get frustrated with Muggles, but really I just feel bad for people like my sister (and yours, too, from the sound of it), who will never get to live in our world, no matter how much they want to.
I've thought about revision, but I haven't done much yet. You can look over my Herbology notes anytime you want. I need all the help I can get with Potions. I started on the Transfiguration essay my first day home, but I haven't done much since then. I don't think I'll have the energy to work on it today. Maybe tomorrow.
Glad you are having a good holiday. Give my best to your family.
Sorry to hear things aren't brilliant at home. I'm glad your brother managed to save your hair. I can't picture you with it short, and I bet house-elves aren't the best barbers. Also glad you smoothed things over with Regulus. I can't imagine what it would be like if Nat and I weren't speaking. You're probably right that having him in Gryffindor would be best. Any chance you can get him to ask the Hat for it when the time comes? I know you didn't ask for it, but Peter did, didn't he?
Things are good here. They're quiet, but you know I don't mind that. I'm not feeling well today, so I was glad to get your letter. Had one from Lily, too.
Did you see Tildy Hathersage kiss Potter on the platform? I think you must have missed it because it was right when your dad showed up, but almost everyone else saw. I bet it will be all over the school by the time we get back. He looked pretty pleased about it. Have you had an owl from him? How's he liking Italy?
Oh, and speaking of girls (I know, I'm boring you now), Nat asked about you. She thinks you're "cute". Just thought I should warn you. Now you can tell your parents that a Muggle girl fancies you. I bet they'll love that.
Hang in there. We'll be back at school before you know it.
Of course you're still my best mate, you daft git! But I still think you're a complete nutter when it comes to certain things.
Italy is actually brilliant, so maybe some of the other stuff in History of Magic isn't as boring as Binns makes it sound, either. We went a tour to this old villa the other day, and they had these time portal thingys, where you could look through and see things that happened there thousands of years ago. You can't hear anything, though, so they have tour guides going around explaining it all. I think they must get bored and make up some of the stuff they tell the tourists. I know I would.
I'm sorry things stink for you at home. Hope they're better now, though I know there's not much chance of that.
I had a letter from Lupin. You really think it's him? He seems so normal. I'll think about what you said.
Vostro migliore amico (Italian for "your best mate") (I think)
Have you heard from James or Sirius? I wrote to wish James a happy birthday, but I haven't had a single owl all week. I don't know how long it takes an owl to get to Italy and back. I hope he's having a good time.
How's your holiday going? Mine's been pretty boring. I got to have tea with Uncle Constantine and his friend the other day, but besides that Mum and I haven't done anything. I'm so bored I've been making up games to play with Constantine (my puff not my uncle).
See you at school if I don't hear from you before.
I had a letter from Sirius. Sounds like his holiday has been pretty grim so far. But I guess you know his family. I haven't heard from Potter at all. He's probably busy doing stuff with his parents.
Sorry things are so boring. Things are quiet here, too. We live in the middle of nowhere, so there isn't much to do. It's starting to get more built up than it was when we moved here, though. My family actually have neighbours now, and there are some shops being put in down the road. It's nice here. There's lots of farmland and some trees and a little river I can walk to. There aren't any major roads nearby, so there's no traffic noise. I hope it stays this way.
I'm glad you got to see your uncle, at least. Hope you come up with some good games for your puff.
2 April 1972
Domestic Dispute Ends in Tragedy
An Easter Sunday row between Mrs Antigone Atwood of Stotfold, Bedfordshire, and her husband George Atwood, a Muggle, ended in murder when Mrs Atwood turned the Killing Curse on her spouse.
Mrs Atwood, a professional crup breeder, claims not to recall the incident, but interviews conducted with the couple's children before they were Obliviated indicate a dispute over appropriate places to hide the children's Easter eggs, a Muggle tradition adopted by the family.
The Atwoods had been married for eight years, and had two children, ages five and three.
Mrs Atwood has been taken into Ministry custody, pending trial, and the children have been placed in foster care for the time being. Neighbours claim that this was not the first domestic dispute at the Atwood residence in recent weeks.
Use of the Killing Curse, one of three curses classified as "Unforgivable" by the Ministry of Magic, is punishable by a life sentence in Azkaban Prison.
3 April 1972
Rash of Muggle Killings Sparks Ministry Investigation
Seven Muggle murders on Easter Sunday have launched a widespread investigation across Wizarding Britain. The Muggles all met their deaths at the hands of their magical spouses, a suspicious circumstance hinting at the possible involvement of Dark Magic.
The Atwood family tragedy in Stotfold, reported in yesterday's evening edition, while at first thought to be an isolated incident, has since proved to be only the first reported slaying in a spree of murders which touched every region of the country.
In a statement released by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement last night, spokeswizard Cornelius Fudge stated that "very little is known so far, but the suspicious circumstances suggest the Imperius Curse, if you ask me." The Department is not releasing the names of the victims out of concern that it may compromise the investigation.
The Minister for Magic urges the populace to remain calm, and asks that anyone with information about these crimes come forwards. Aurors are currently interviewing the spouses of the victims and their surviving family members, while the Department of Magical Law Enforcement is performing checks on known half-blood families to discover whether any others have been affected.
The Imperius Curse, classified as "Unforgivable" since 1541, can be used to control the mind of a victim, forcing him to behave in ways contrary to his own will. The Ministry of Magic will shortly be distributing a pamphlet on recognising and resisting the Curse.
I just heard the news! Are you OK? I'm going straight over to check on Sev's as soon as I send this. Owl me right away!
Everyone all right at your Place? Hope so. Let me Know.
Are you OK? Mum's going spare. She wasn't going to even let me open a window to owl you.
We're fine. We didn't even know anything had happened until I got three owls at once from you and Sirius and Peter. We live mostly Muggle here. When I got the owls, I guessed something pretty bad must have happened, even though none of you said what, and I got Dad to tune in to the WWN.
I can't believe it. How did you find out about it? Do you get the Prophet at home? Maybe I should start getting it, too. How much does a subscription cost?
Thanks for checking on me.
We're fine. From what they're saying on the news, the families that got hit were all pure-bloods married to Muggles, and we're practically all Muggle, so I think we're safe.
I had to explain to Nat about blood-status. That was fun. She was going spare, thinking Dad was going to go mad and kill us all. Now she just thinks pure-bloods are a bunch of creeps.
They're not saying any names on the news, but have you heard anything? What about Potter? I haven't heard from him at all, but I guess he's been busy. Maybe he'll know more than what's in the news with his dad being an Auror and all.
Thanks for thinking of me.
We're fine. Thank you. I can hardly believe what's happened. I keep wondering if anyone we know lost someone. I guess we'll find out when we get back to school.
I'm so glad you're all right. From everything you've told me about your family, they all sound so lovely. I couldn't bear it if anything happened to them. Sev's family are fine, too.
I've been writing to everyone I can think of to see if I can get anymore news than what they're saying in the Prophet, and I've just heard that Dorcas Meadowes' mother was killed. It's so awful. Poor Dorcas. I wonder if she'll be coming back to school?
Have you heard anything from your friends? They're not saying anything officially, of course, but I bet that Voldemort is behind it. I know his people have never done anything as big as this before, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out it was them.
Take care of yourself and stay safe!
Glad you're all right, Mate. Don't know whose History of Magic notes I'd steal if anything Happened to you. Had an Owl from James last week, but nothing since the Attacks. Haven't heard any names that aren't in the News, either. See you at King's Cross if I don't hear from you before then.
Your Creepy Pure-Blood Friend,
Dad's been recalled from Italy because of the attacks. The Ministry caught up with us early on Monday, and we were home by Monday lunchtime. They're not saying much in the news, and Dad's not saying much when he's home (which is not very often), but I overheard him mention the name "Thomas". Isn't Aleric Thomas from the Quidditch team a half-blood? So maybe he lost a parent. That stinks. I guess we'll see who's there and who's not when we get back to school next week.
How are things at your place? I'm guessing your parents aren't exactly in mourning over all this.
How was Italy? Remus is fine, by the way. You know, your Half-Blood friend? He Owled to let me know, but he said he hadn't heard from you. Tosser.
That would Stink if it was Aleric Thomas's Family your Dad was talking about. He seems like a good Bloke. Not that it will make Gryffindor's chances any Worse than they already are if he's Out for a bit.
No, my Parents are not Brokenhearted over the Attacks. Their exact words were, "Blood-Traitors get what they Deserve." Regs doesn't seem so sure about it. Maybe there's Hope for him yet. Mother and Father didn't even seem to care whether my Cousin Andromeda was in Prison for murdering her Husband. She's not, which is Good, since she's one of the only halfway Decent people in the whole Family.
See you in a few days.
P.S., I tried to check Father's Library for books on You-Know-What. He caught me at it. At first he seemed really Pleased I'd gone straight for the Dark Magic section, but when he saw me reading about You-Know-What, well, my Ears are still ringing.
P.P.S., Did Hathersage really Kiss you?