The first two days of school passed by fairly quickly. After the hideous first day, in which they had to endure the grueling quiz and manners of Professor Crane, the lessons improved and became somewhat enjoyable. They had continued practising to transfigure the hay into needles in Transfiguration, and the entire class had finally managed it on Friday. They found out all too easily that the most boring class was History of Magic, taught by the ghost Professor Binns. They learned from the older students that Professor Binns had died of old age; he fell asleep in front of the fire in the staff room and when he awoke to teach class he simply floated out of his body. This did not seem, however, to have any affect on his teaching; he was the dullest teacher they had ever had to endure. The one good thing about the class was that it was good for catching up on lost sleep.
The Gryffindor first years got a bit of a surprise on Friday when they returned to the common room after finishing up their last lesson of the day – Charms. They saw on the notice board that they would be starting their flying lessons that Tuesday. James, in particular, looked excited about this. He couldn’t wait to fly. The one downside to this was that it would be another lesson with the Slytherins. No Gryffindor could stand to have Potions with them; how were they to survive a second lesson with them? Still, they shook this thought out of their minds and enjoyed time while they still could.
Sunday dawned unnaturally early. The five boys had been sleeping in the dormitory when four of them were woken by a thud, which consequently woke the fifth. Sirius sleepily sat up and rubbed his eyes, looking around bewilderedly to see what had happened. He saw Remus sitting on the floor, massaging the back of his head. Apparently he had been sleeping too close to the edge of his bed and had toppled off it. Biting back a laugh, Sirius got up to help the boy up. James, Peter and Frank also seemed to have noticed this, as James asked if Remus was alright. Remus nodded irritably.
“Mate, sleep in the middle of your bed,” Sirius advised, pulling Remus to his feet. It was then that he noticed that Remus looked sick. His face, which was always a shade or two paler than was normal, was now completely white. He also had a nauseous expression etched on his face and looked as if he could fall asleep once more. “Are you okay?” Sirius asked.
Remus nodded again in the same annoyed fashion. “I’m fine,” he said, walking around to the other side of his bed and stooping down. He pulled his trunk out from under his bed, unlatched it, and began shifting through his belongings. He pulled his calendar out and looked at the date… September fifth, the first full moon of his Hogwarts career. He had to make up some excuse for his absence.
“Listen,” he said slowly, still looking down at the calendar. “I have to go visit my mum later.”
“Is that why you can’t do detention?” James asked, sitting down on his bed. Remus nodded. “Didn’t Crane know that?”
Remus shook his head. “No… it was stupid, I should have just told him.”
“Why didn’t you?” Peter asked, pulling his socks on.
“It’s dumb… my mum… she gets sick all the time and I… I dunno, I just don’t like talking about it. I get embarrassed.”
Peter frowned. “That’s no reason to be embarrassed.”
“I know it’s not.”
“Hope she gets better, then,” James said, sliding down to the floor, opening his trunk and grabbing some clothes out of it.
“Thanks, I’m sure my mum’ll appreciate that,” Remus said with a small smile.
The now awake boys decided there was nothing else to do but get dressed; there was no point in trying to go back to sleep now that they were awake. Sirius hesitated for a moment, asking again if Remus felt alright, and then went to get dressed when Remus assured him he was. Remus sat down on his bed and pulled the curtains around it. He did want to go back to sleep, but he could never do so, no matter how tired he was. At home on the days of full moons, he was able to sleep in his room for a long time, his parents staying clear of it until Remus emerged. But he couldn’t hide in his room all day at school. True he didn’t have classes; it would still look odd if he slept all day. He wasn’t the sick one, his mother was. He had to maintain that stance; he could let his cover slip. He had lost too many friends to risk it again.
He waited silently while his roommates bustled about the room, fighting for the bathroom. James wanted to go first, as he was keen on going down to the Quidditch Pitch to watch the Gryffindor team practise. Sirius, however, wanted to hurry down to the Great Hall so he could get his favourite seat at the Gryffindor table. Peter and Frank, they just wanted to get into the bathroom first to spite James and Sirius. Remus was glad they were arguing about this, it kept the spotlight off him. As he watched James trying to pull himself out of Sirius’s grip, a thought occurred to him. He could just sneak into the bathroom, change and find some place in the castle to hide out. He furtively retrieved some clothes out of his trunk and tiptoed to the bathroom.
“Hey,” James said suddenly, looking around and noticing that they were one person short. “Where’d Remus go?”
“James,” Peter said, jerking his thumb towards the bathroom door.
The fight for the bathroom ceased once Remus reappeared. He discovered that his roommates had settled themselves on the floor of the dormitory, fully dressed, and were trading Chocolate Frog cards, acting as if they had not just been vying for the bathroom moments before. He shook his head, only his roommates were capable of forgetting something in the span of ten minutes. He waited quietly for them to realise that the lavatory was free, and once Peter noticed, he dashed for it before James, Sirius or Frank could do anything.
The boys separated after breakfast. James and Sirius went down to the Quidditch Pitch to watch the Gryffindor team practise, Peter wanted to go down to the greenhouses and ask Professor Grines about the essay he assigned and Frank went to the library to look for a book on hexes. Remus was left to wander about aimlessly. He didn’t mind, however, he liked keeping to himself on the days of full moons; it allowed him some peace and quiet before the turmoil of the night. He thought about going to the Hospital Wing, as he was developing a terrible headache, but when he looked inside the infirmary he saw that the nurse was far too occupied with the ten patients already in there. She couldn’t drop them all for him, it would look suspicious.
He found himself out on the sunlit grounds, making his way towards the lake. He could see a comfortable area in front of a beech tree that overlooked the lake. He could settle himself there and rest his eyes for a while, maybe that would ease the pain in his head. He sat down on the springy grass, leaned his head against the tree trunk and shut his eyes. He really didn’t want to do his detention; Professor Crane should have known there was no way possible that he could get enough energy to do whatever task he had up his sleeve. What didn’t that man understand about it? Actually, Remus knew that Crane understood the situation perfectly; he was just a bigot who took out his prejudices on those unfortunate to have them.
He winced as his head took a painful throb. Rubbing a spot in the centre of his forehead, he thought of what his friends would say when he wasn’t in school the next day. He laughed lightly, he hadn’t used that word in a long time – friends. He had only known his roommates for a few days, but he could honestly call them friends. The last people he called friends ended up turning on him the moment they caught wind of his lycanthropy. They said horrible things to him, things that should be said to no one, especially a ten year old boy. After that he never got close enough to anyone so he could avoid the disappointment after they left him.
His roommates - especially James, Sirius and Peter – were different. He couldn’t help but get close to them, and he couldn’t even try to when they shared a room. They were just the kind of people that were fun to be with. James was always eager for one adventure or another. Sirius always had a witty remark ready; the remark may occasionally have been offensive, but nothing dramatically so. Even Peter - who did not have the same outgoing personality than the other two, who was more reserved – was still one of the nicer people Remus had met in his life; he was considerate of others. Frank, who Remus had not gotten as close to but still liked, never seemed to get mad. The only person who could really set him off was Professor Crane, and he could make the happiest person alive become enraged. Remus couldn’t risk losing them, the first true friends he had had in years. He didn’t know if he could handle it.
He must have fallen asleep at some point, because he soon heard very loud and cheerful voices calling out his name.
“Oh, Remus Lupin!” called one of the voices in a singsong fashion. Remus sleepily opened his eyes and saw through a blurry haze the outlines of James and Sirius approaching him.
“You know,” Sirius said, stopping and folding his arms across his chest, “you sleep a lot.”
Remus rolled his eyes; he slept no more than the average person - the train and the present moment were exceptions. “Yeah, well… I probably won’t sleep much tonight,” he said irritably, standing up and putting his hands in his pockets.
James nodded understandingly. “That’s tough, you’re mother being sick and all. Has she been sick long?”
“No… it was kind of sudden.”
“Wow,” Peter said quietly. “Well, hopefully she won’t be sick too long.”
Remus managed a small smile for his friend. “Yeah, hopefully she won’t be.”
They had an entire day to kill before James, Remus and Sirius had to depart for detention. It was already time for lunch, but Remus wasn’t hungry, and James, Sirius and Peter had stuffed themselves with Chocolate Frogs when they went back into the castle. So the four boys skipped lunch and milled about the castle. They ran into a group of Ravenclaw first years who were talking excitedly about how one of them had won ten points for brewing an exceptional potion in Slughorn’s class.
“I doubt that really happened,” Sirius muttered under his breath. “Slughorn was fawning over our potions and all we got was chocolate.”
They passed the hours by playing several grueling matches of chess and Exploding Snap. They played more rounds of chess rather than cards, as Remus, even in his weakened state, was an obvious master at the game. He didn’t lose a single match and his friends were tired of having ashes all over their faces. Wizards Chess was a game he was less proficient at. James and Sirius, however, were considerably good at it. Peter, who was rather skilled at Gobstones, watched on the sidelines, as they had no Gobstones set to spare.
When six in the evening rolled around, James, Sirius and Remus bid goodbye to Peter and grudgingly made their way to Crane’s office.
“Remus,” James said as they trudged up the flight of stairs leading to the third floor, “go to Madam Pomfrey, you look like you’re going to be sick.”
It was partially true; Remus was not going to be sick. He felt his stomach lurch violently and he ran up the stairs ahead of his friends, presumably to the bathroom. James looked at Sirius and shrugged. Wasn’t it Remus’s mother who was sick? They continued the walk to Crane’s office, knowing better than to wait for Remus, as he would probably be a while. They wanted to purposely take their time, out of pure spite for their professor, but knew that this was not the best option. Maybe they would linger if and when they had to serve another detention, for now they figured they would do what the man wanted of them.
They entered the classroom to see that Professor Crane had several tanks out on the desks. Curious, the boys peered inside and saw that they were none other than Flobberworms. James could only imagine what Crane wanted them to do with them; his family’s garden had always been plagued with them, and so he knew all about them. He didn’t fancy having to work with them though. He and Sirius looked around and saw that Crane was nowhere in sight, this would be good for Remus at least. If the teacher was late and Remus arrived before then, Crane would never know that one of his detainees had been late.
Unfortunately, Crane strolled out of his office a minute after James and Sirius had entered. He swept his eyes across the classroom and a faint frown appeared on his face. To the untrained eye he came off as concerned to Remus’s whereabouts, but Sirius could tell that the professor was enjoying himself. Clearly he was glad that he was able to get Remus in trouble for lateness. He placed his briefcase down on his desk and heaved a long, suffering sigh.
“Well, Mr. Lupin will have to serve extra detention for his lateness then,” he said to himself, purposely loud enough for James and Sirius to hear.
“That’s not fair, he got sick,” Sirius snapped.
“And would you like to join Mr. Lupin in his extra detention, Mr. Black?” Crane questioned viciously.
Sirius stared at Crane and didn’t blink once. “I will join him.”
“Fine, we’ll work out another detention for tomorrow evening.”
“What?” said a new voice from the doorway.
They spun around to see Remus, looking very green, standing in the doorway, holding his hand on the frame and a befuddled expression on his face.
“You have detention tomorrow evening for being late,” Crane explained, as if it was the most simply explanation in the entire world.
Remus’s eyes bulged; he looked as if he could be sick again. “Professor,” he said, his voice strained. “I can’t do detention tomorrow!”
“Do you have a problem, Mr. Lupin?”
“Yes, I have a problem! I can’t do it! You know I can’t!”
Crane’s smile seemed to get slightly longer. “Would you care to express your concerns with me now?”
Remus shook his head and reluctantly walked further into the room. Crane grinned and gestured to the crates on the tables. “Flobberworm mucus is needed for the Potions class. I have kindly consented to Professor Slughorn to provide him with it.” Sirius had to restrain himself from snorting in disgust; Crane wasn’t going to be the one providing Slughorn with his potion ingredients. “You three have the job of extracting the mucus from the Flobberworm.”
“And how do we do that?” Sirius asked, keeping his voice as polite as he could, though it was near impossible.
“The nostrils are quite visible on the Flobberworms; you will simply squeeze them and collect the mucus in the buckets I have provided for you.” He sat down at his desk and took out some papers to grade. “Oh, yes, I forgot,” Crane said suddenly, his smile widening. “There will be no need for gloves.”
Resentfully, the boys sat down at the desks and got to work. The task turned out to be just as disgusting as it sounded. If the boys weren’t careful when they were squeezing the Flobberworms’ nostrils, they would get an eyeful of mucus. That, unfortunately, happened to James, who swore up a storm as he searched blindly for something to wipe it off. Sirius and Remus couldn’t help but notice that Crane seemed unperturbed by James’s swearing and didn’t even look up when James needed help.
They worked for a half hour before Remus, looking, if possible, more sick than before, got up and went towards Crane’s desk.
Crane looked up when he saw Remus approaching. “Yes, Mr. Lupin?”
Remus was quiet, James and Sirius could see him glance down at his watch and his face paled another shade. “I have to go,” he murmured.
“Excuse me, Mr. Lupin?” Crane said, feigning sudden deafness and leaning forward over his desk.
“I have to go,” Remus repeated loudly.
Crane looked outraged, as if this was the worst possible thing a person could say to him. “No, you will stay here and complete your detention.”
“Do you mind repeating that?”
“No! Merlin, I have to go! Now!”
Without waiting for her another snide remark from his professor, Remus turned around, weaved his way through the rows of desks, and dashed down the hallway. James and Sirius looked up at Professor Crane, expecting him to be seething but, to their utter surprise, he was smiling. It was a rather twisted smile, like he knew something that they didn’t. He probably did; he was acting like he had predicted every one of Remus’s reactions and had manipulated them to get the boy panicked. The boys knew the man was slightly off his rocker, but they didn’t think he was that horrible, to scare an eleven year old boy like that. Remus looked terrified; they couldn’t imagine a teacher milking that for all it was worth. It wasn’t as if Remus had a bad excuse either, his mother was sick. Actually, Remus was sick as well, how could a teacher disrespect that?
Remus appeared at the door to the Hospital Wing ten minutes later and found a rather harassed looking Madam Pomfrey waiting for him. When he arrived she began muttering about how tardiness was not acceptable in this case. Remus tried to argue that it had not been his fault, he had detention. Madam Pomfrey, however, did not seem to hear him and instead she just led him down the corridors as stealthily as she could. Discretion was essential in this case; Professor Dumbledore stressed that Remus could not be seen leaving the castle with the nurse, it would raise questions. Remus had no objections to this.
The nurse hovered over Remus as they walked down onto the grounds, into the cool September air. The sky cast a pinkish glow over the grounds, brilliantly illuminating them. They could see the Whomping Willow in the distance, flailing its boxing glove branches in the air, eager to take out any who dared come too close. Remus and Madam Pomfrey walked cautiously forward, ready to dodge any wayward branches that came their way. Madam Pomfrey stooped down and picked up a peculiarly long branch. Dumbledore had gone to any measure necessary for Remus, including using something as inconspicuous as a branch to get into the secret passageway.
This would be the first and only time Madam Pomfrey would venture past the Whomping Willow before Remus’s transformation, and she was not eager on doing so, as they were cutting it close. The full moon would be rising within twenty minutes, they had to hurry. The tree froze as the nurse prodded a small knot in its trunk. Motionless, and therefore harmless, the Whomping Willow looked as if it had never moved at all. She pointed to an opening at the bottom of the tree trunk and motioned for Remus to slide through, she would prefer taking up the rear.
The tunnel was dark and damp, with a musty smell filling the air. Even if someone had accidentally stumbled upon this passage, they would not want to continue with its eerie feel. Remus found himself wishing that he was out of the tunnel, either back on the grounds or in the building, he didn’t care. Madam Pomfrey nudged him forward and he suddenly noticed how slowly he had been walking. He quickened his pace and, in what seemed like no time at all, they found themselves facing a stone staircase. This was it, the entrance to the house.
There was a door at the end of the stairs and it opened to what appeared to be a living room. It was well-furnished, giving off the impression that the building had been constructed for living purposes, not a werewolf transformation. Remus knew that this room would not stay as neat as it was at the moment, his werewolf side was always violent, and now it had more room to roam, instead of the confines of a shed. Madam Pomfrey again prodded Remus, directing him towards another flight of stairs. This set of stairs stopped off in a bedroom, complete with a four-poster bed. Madam Pomfrey nodded for Remus to sit down on the bed.
“I will be back for you in the morning,” she said, trying to keep her voice as businesslike as she could. She edged towards the door, knowing that it would happen at any minute, and that this innocent boy before her would soon be replaced with a monster. She pulled the door open and stepped outside, stopping only long enough to wish Remus good luck.
Remus watched the nurse go and suddenly felt very alone. When he transformed at home his parents were always close by. He knew they couldn’t sit next to him while it happened, but they always stood by, sometimes even sleeping on the porch until the sun rose and Remus was human once more. He bit his lip and fell back on the bed, curling up in a ball. It was going to happen soon, he could feel his bones aching at an unnatural level. They were getting ready to change shape, to accommodate his wolfish form. He took a deep breath and shut his eyes; maybe that would lessen the pain.
Steadily, the full moon’s light filled the dark room of the building and the pain fully hit. Remus clutched his stomach and groaned loudly. His bones snapped and cracked, his back arched. His eyes turned from their greenish colour to yellow. His teeth sharpened and lengthened into fangs, fangs eager for flesh to bite. Grey fur sprouted over his skin, releasing an unpleasant tingling sensation. His cries of pain echoed around the room, seeping through the walls and into the streets of Hogsmeade for all the villagers to hear.
Where a boy of eleven had once sat was now a werewolf, hunched forward, jaws snapping. It sniffed around, bemused. There was nothing there for him to eat. That wasn’t right. He needed meat, blood, and there was none there for him. What could he do? The werewolf stretched its jaw and resorted to the only solution – he would bite and scratch himself. The wolf howled as its fangs broke through its fur and skin, drawing blood. The werewolf’s shrieks of pain rang loudly, bouncing off the walls.
And thus, the Shrieking Shack was named.
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