Saturday 7th August, 1971
He woke up in the dark. It was too hot in the little room they’d put him in, being early August. Though he supposed that could be the fever. He always had a high temperature, the morning after. They used to put him in a room with a window, but a few months ago he’d been able to smash one of them, and if it hadn’t had bars anyway then he’d have escaped. He’d heard them talking about restraining him as he got older. He tried not to think about it.
He remembered the feeling of hunger, so intense it transformed into rage. He remembered howling and keening for hours, circling the cell over and over again. Perhaps they’d let him off lessons today, and he could sleep. It was the summer holiday’s anyway, and not fair that he had to do lessons when all the other boys were allowed to spend all day dossing about, playing football or watching telly. Sitting up, he stretched carefully, paying attention to every ache and pop of his joints. There was a fresh claw mark behind his left ear, and a deep bite in his right thigh.
He rubbed his hand over his scalp, where his hair was shaved very close to his head and bristled against his fingers. He hated it, but every boy at the children’s home had the same severe buzz cut. It meant that when they were allowed out in town on weekends everyone knew they were St. Edmund’s boys – which was probably the point. The shopkeepers knew who to look out for. Not that the boys themselves did anything to subvert expectations. They had been told so often that they were the dregs of society; left behind and unwanted – so why not cause a little havoc?
Remus heard footsteps at the end of the hall. It was Matron; he could smell her, hear her heartbeat. His senses were always amplified after one of his episodes. He stood up, pulling a blanket around himself despite the heat, and padded towards the door to listen harder. She was not alone, there was a man with her. He smelled old and somehow… different. A thick, iron scent which reminded Remus vaguely of his father. It was magic.
“Are you sure it’s worth your time?” Matron was asking the stranger, “He’s really one of our worst cases.”
“Oh yes,” The old man replied. His voice was rich and warm like chocolate. “We’re very sure. Is this where you keep him during…?”
“His episodes.” The matron finished in her clipped, nasal voice. “For his own safety. He’s started biting, since his last birthday.”
“I see.” The man replied, sounding thoughtful, rather than concerned. “May I ask, madam, what it is you know about the young man’s affliction?”
“Everything I need to know.” Matron replied, coldly. “He’s been here since he was five. And he’s always been trouble – not just because he’s one of your sort.”
“My sort?” The man replied, calm and unperturbed. Matron lowered her voice almost to a whisper, but Remus could still hear.
“My brother was one. Haven’t seen him in years of course, but he occasionally asks me favours. St Edmund's is a very special institution. We’re equipped for problem cases.” Remus heard the jangle of keys, “Now, you must let me see him first. He often needs patching up. I don’t know why you wanted to see him after a full moon in the first place, if you already knew.”
The old man did not reply, and Matron walked towards Remus’ room, her patent leather heels clicking on the stone floor. She knocked on the door three times.
“Lupin? Are you awake?”
“Yeah.” He replied, pulling his blanket tighter. They took his clothes off him to stop them getting torn.
“Yes, Matron.” Matron corrected him, through the door.
“Yes, Matron.” Remus muttered, as the key turned in the lock and creaked open. The door was plain wood, and he knew he could easily smash it during an episode, but it had been fitted with silver plating after the window incident. Just the smell of it made him feel queasy and headachy. The door opened. Light poured in like water and he blinked wildly. As Matron entered the room he automatically took a step back.
She was a birdlike, pointy sort of woman, with a long thin nose and dark beady eyes. She regarded him warily.
“Need any bandages, this time?”
He showed her his wounds. They weren’t bleeding any more, he’d noticed that the injuries he inflicted upon himself, though deep, healed faster than any other cuts and scrapes; he never even needed stitches. The scars never faded, however, and left silvery slash marks across his body. Matron knelt before him, dabbing him with antiseptic and wrapping him in itchy gauze. This done, she handed him his clothes and he dressed quickly in front of her.
“You’ve a visitor.” She said, finally, as he pulled his t-shirt over his head. It was grey, like all of their clothes.
“Who?” He asked, looking her in the eye because he knew she didn’t like it.
“A teacher. He’s here to talk to you about school.”
“Don’t want to.” He replied. He hated school. “Tell him to get lost.”
Matron clipped him around the ear. He’d expected it, and didn’t flinch.
“Less of the lip.” She snapped. “You’ll do as you’re told or I’ll leave you in here for the rest of the day. Come on, now.” She grabbed his arms and pulled him forward.
He scowled, thought about fighting her off, but there was no point. She really might lock in him again, and he was curious about the stranger now. Especially as the scent of magic grew stronger as they moved down the shadowy corridor.
The man waiting for them was quite tall and dressed in the strangest suit Remus has ever seen. It was velvet, a deep maroon colour with elaborate gold embroidery at the cuffs and lapels. His tie was midnight blue. He must have been very old indeed – his hair was white as snow, and he had an incredible long beard which must have reached his navel. Strange as he looked, Remus didn’t feel intimidated, as he did with most grownups. The man had kind eyes, and smiled at Remus from behind half-moon spectacles as they approached. He extended a hand,
“Mr Lupin,” The old man said, warmly, “A pleasure to meet you.”
Remus stared, entranced. No one had ever addressed him with such respect before. He felt almost embarrassed. He shook the man’s hand, feeling a an electric burn as he did so, like battery acid.
“Hi.” He replied, staring.
“I am Professor Dumbledore. I wonder if you would join me in a turn about the grounds? It’s such a lovely day out.”
Remus glanced up at Matron, who nodded. This in itself was worth having to talk about school with an oddly dressed stranger – she never let him outside during a full moon, not even with supervision.
They carried on down a few more corridors, just the two of them. Remus was sure he’d never seen Dumbledore at St Edmund’s before, but he certainly seemed to know his way around. Once they were finally outside, Remus breathed deeply, the warm summer sunlight washing over him. The ‘grounds’, as Dumbledore had called them, were not extensive. A patch of yellowing grass the boys used for football and a small patio terrace with weeds growing up through the cracks in the crazy paving.
“How are you feeling, Mr Lupin?” The old man asked. Remus shrugged. He felt the same way he always did afterwards. Sore and restless. Dumbledore didn’t snap at him for insolence, merely continued to smile down at him as they walked slowly around the perimeter fence.
“What d’you want?” Remus finally asked, kicking a stone out of his way.
“I suspect you already have some idea,” Dumbledore replied. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a brown paper bag. Remus could smell sherbet lemon, and sure enough, Dumbledore offered him a sweet. He took it and sucked.
“You’re magic.” He said, plainly. “Like my dad.”
“Do you remember your father, Remus?”
He shrugged again. He didn’t very well. All his memory could ever drag up was the shape of a tall, skinny man wearing a long cloak, looming over him, crying. He assumed that had been the night he was bitten. He remembered that, well enough.
“He was magic.” Remus said. “He could make stuff happen. Mum was normal.”
Dumbledore smiled at him, kindly.
“Is that what your Matron has told you?”
“Some of it. Some of it I knew. He’s dead, anyway, topped himself.”
Dumbledore looked slightly taken aback by this, which pleased Remus. It was a point of pride, having a tragic backstory. He didn’t think about his father often, other than to consider whether he would have killed himself if Remus hadn’t been bitten. He carried on.
“Mum’s not dead though. Just didn’t want me. So I’m here.” He looked around. Dumbledore had stopped walking. They were at the furthest edge of the grounds now, by the tall back fence. There was a loose board there which no one knew about. Remus could slip through it if he wanted to, and get onto the main road into town. He never really went anywhere in particular; just wandered around waiting for the police to pick him up and bring him back. It was better than doing nothing.
“Do you like it here?” Dumbledore was asking. Remus snorted,
“’Course I bloody don’t.” He side-eyed Dumbledore, but didn’t get in trouble for swearing.
“No, I didn’t think so.” The old man observed, “I hear you’re something of a troublemaker, is that right?”
“Ain’t any worse than the others.” Remus said. “We’re ‘troubled boys’.”
“Yes, I see.” Dumbledore stroked his beard as if Remus has said something of extreme significance.
“Got another sweet?” Remus held out a hand expectantly. Dumbledore handed him the bag and he couldn’t believe his luck. The old fool was a complete pushover. He chewed the lozenge this time, feeling it crunch like glass between his teeth, sherbet exploding on his tongue like fireworks.
“I run a school, you know. The same school your father went to.”
That threw Remus for a loop. He swallowed the sweet and scratched his head. Dumbledore continued.
“It’s a very special sort of school. For wizards, like me. And like you. Would you like to learn magic, Remus?”
Remus shook his head, fervently.
“I’m too thick.” He said, firmly, “I won’t get in.”
“I’m sure that’s not true at all.”
“Ask her,” Remus jerked his head back towards the tall grey building where Matron lay in wait. “Can’t hardly read, even. I’m stupid.”
Dumbledore looked at him for a very long time.
“You haven’t had a very easy start in life, Mr Lupin, and I’m sorry about that. I knew your father – only a little – and I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted… anyway. I am here to offer you something different. A place among your own kind. Perhaps even a way to channel all of this anger you have.”
Remus stared at him. What difference did it make, if he was in one home or another? Matron never gave him sweets, and didn’t smell like magic. The kids at Dumbledore’s school couldn’t be worse than the St Edmund’s boys, and if they were then at least he could hold his own in a fight, now. But. There was always a ‘but’.
“What about my episodes?” He asked, folding his arms. “I’m dangerous, y’know.”
“Yes, Remus, I know,” Dumbledore replied, sadly. He placed a hand on Remus’ shoulder, very gently. “We’ll see what we can come up with. Leave it with me.”
Remus shook him off and chewed on another sherbet lemon. They walked back to the building in silence, both satisfied that they understood each other now.