Confrontation on the Platform
When Professor Dumbledore made the announcement of what had happened, the atmosphere in the school changed rapidly. Students who normally used their mornings at breakfast to enjoy themselves before classes now looked fearfully through the Daily Prophet, desperate to find any news relating to what had happened to Professor Flitwick’s sister, or any cases like it. Dumbledore had told them that the death had been a mysterious one, marked only by a sign in the sky over her residence – a luminous green skull with a snake wrapped around it. Sirius, who usually enjoyed doing the crossword puzzles in the Prophet, now looked through the news sections, just as the older students did.
The professors did their best to encourage their students to move on, to not be so worried. Even the professors seemed afraid to admit that something had happened. They continued to conduct their lessons in the same manner; they went on as if one of their colleagues had not gone home. Crane continued in his teachings, still giving them difficult assignments. The only way his methods had changed was that he was vaguely nicer to Remus, who was noticeably grateful about this. Initially, they thought that this could be because of Remus’s outburst during their detention at the beginning of the year. But it couldn’t have been because he had not been any nicer to Remus within the past few months.
They soon discovered the real reason when they went to their first Charms lesson after Professor Flitwick’s departure. The boys knew that Dumbledore had gotten a temporary replacement, but the students had yet to see him or her. When they entered the Charms classroom on Friday they saw a sandy haired man sitting at the desk, writing on a scroll of parchment. James, Sirius and Peter shrugged and made their way to their desks at the back of the room; they didn’t think anything was strange about having a new teacher. Remus, on the other hand, stood in the doorway, his mouth slightly opened.
“Remus?” James said slowly, raising an eyebrow at his friend. “Sit down.”
The new teacher looked up when he heard James speak. His eyes traveled from James to Remus and a grin broke onto the man’s face. “Don’t look so happy to see me, Remus,” he said, his grin growing larger.
“W-what are you doing here?” Remus sputtered out.
“I’m taking over until Professor Flitwick comes back.”
“You don’t teach.”
“I used to, before you were born. Then I went to writing.”
“Remus, this is your dad?” Sirius asked, realisation dawning.
Remus nodded, finally coming to himself, and taking his seat beside Peter. No one said anything until the remainder of the class filed in. Once all the students were settled in, Mr. Lupin stood up and surveyed them.
“Well,” he said briskly, clapping his hands together. “In light of what has happened with Professor Flitwick’s family, I will be taking over your classes until he returns. My name is Harry Lupin. You may, of course, address me as Professor Lupin.” As soon as those words came out of the professor’s mouth, every head turned in Remus’s direction. Professor Lupin noticed this, and cleared his throat. “Well, I’ll take role call then, shall I?” He pulled out a scroll of parchment from a desk drawer and read the names. “Sirius Black, Lily Evans, Alice Gordon, Frank Longbottom, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew and James Potter. All here, then? Excellent.”
The lesson commenced smoothly. Professor Lupin picked up where Flitwick had left off, which was teaching them how to make a pineapple dance. The class had a good time as they raced around the desks, trying to stop the pineapples before they tap danced off the table. Unfortunately for James, however, his pineapple danced right onto his shoes and splattered all over them. Luckily, Professor Lupin cleaned them up for him. Lily Evans mastered this task particularly well; she was able to make her pineapple do several difficult dance steps and earned fifteen points for Gryffindor.
When the bell gonged, signaling the end of the class, the students made their way to the door, all talking excitedly about what they had just done.
“Remus,” said the professor’s voice from behind them. “Can you come here for a moment?”
Remus looked over his shoulder at his friends and nodded them on, muttering that he would catch up later. Remus wound his way through the desks and waited patiently for his father to speak with him.
“I know I should have told you I was coming,” Professor Lupin began, looking guiltily at his son. “But, you see, Dumbledore needed someone fast and I was the first person he could think of.”
Remus said nothing; he merely stared at his father.
“It’s only for another week; I was told Professor Flitwick will be coming back after the holidays.” He sighed and stood up. “Are you embarrassed that I’m your teacher now?”
“What? No,” Remus said quickly. He really wasn’t embarrassed at all; he had been thinking the entire period that he now knew why was being treated nicely by his Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.
“You looked more than shocked when you saw me.”
“I was just surprised. That’s all.”
“You’re not unhappy? Because, if you are, then I can tell Dumbledore he has to get another replacement.”
“No, I don’t want you to leave. Don’t make Dumbledore get someone else.”
Professor Lupin smiled. “What class do you have next?”
Remus thought for a moment, then realised, with dread, that it was Defence Against the Dark Arts. “Defence Against the Dark Arts.”
“How do you like that? You always were interested in it.”
“It’s… fine… I like it.”
“That’s good. Oh, yes, your mother told me to tell you that you’d better be behaving. I haven’t gotten any letters about you destroying the Slytherin common room. I have to say… I’m disappointed.”
Professor Lupin departed for home the day before Christmas break started and many students were sad to see him go. Remus, though he did not admit it, was not sad to see his father go. He had been receiving what could, at best, be called hell from his fellow students. He had been followed by the jeers of the older students, mostly Slytherins, laughing at the fact that his father was the teacher. He didn’t understand why they found it so amusing; his father hadn’t done anything particularly embarrassing to him. Remus had feared that his father would resort to calling him some pet name he had for him when Remus was a baby.
The only benefit of Professor Lupin staying at the school was that Crane had refrained from his usual taunts, he had especially steered clear of his allusions to Remus being a half breed. Crane had begun conducting his lessons as if Remus wasn’t even in the room, perhaps because it was easier than acknowledging his existence civilly. Remus did not complain, any way that Crane was nice to him was better than nothing. Still, the taunting compensated for Crane’s lack of rudeness. Remus tried to remain passive, but couldn’t when Severus Snape said something especially nasty about Remus’s father, causing Remus, Peter, Sirius and James to hex him until he somewhat resembled a slug, resulting in a week long detention with Professor Grines, repotting her batch of Imp Bells.
On the day the students would be returning home for the holidays, the four Gryffindors found themselves sitting in a compartment on the train, playing a heated match of Exploding Snap. Sirius, James and Peter were trying with all of their mental power to finally defeat Remus’s winning streak, and they were having some luck. Remus, who was still in a sour mood, was not giving the game his best effort and claimed that that was the only reason they were winning. Sirius shook his head at this and slammed a card down in front of him. When Remus’s next turn came, his cards exploding in his face, earning him his first lose in his entire life.
“And so the great Remus Lupin LOSES!” James cheered, Sirius and Peter laughing madly beside him. “VICTORY!” the three boys shouted, causing a prefect patrolling the corridors to look in and see if everything was all right.
When the train pulled up at Platform Nine and Three Quarters, Sirius held his friends up and pulled three brightly wrapped gifts out of his trunk. He shoved them in his friends hand and hastily explained that he wouldn’t be able to owl them during the holidays so he thought it best to just give the gifts to them on the train. He did, however, instruct them to open them on Christmas.
The boys disembarked and scanned through the crowds of students and parents. They saw Remus’s father standing by the barrier, conversing with a man with black, untidy hair.
“Hey, there’s my dad,” James said, leading his friends forward.
“Hi, James,” Mr. Potter said, clapping his son on the shoulder. “I was just talking to Harry, here. I was his mentor in Healer training.”
“Here’s my son, Charles,” Mr. Lupin said, gripping Remus’s shoulder. “Remus, this is Charles Potter.”
Remus smiled and shook Mr. Potter’s hand. Then he turned to his father. “I thought you were a teacher before I was born?”
“I was training to be a Healer, but then decided that it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” Mr. Lupin explained.
“So, you and James are mates, then?” Mr. Potter asked conversationally. Remus and James nodded. “I see… Harry was one of my best students; it was a shame when he decided not to continue with his training.”
“Sirius, we have to hurry,” said an unexpected voice. The group spun around and saw a forbidding woman standing behind them – Mrs. Black. She looked over her son’s company and could not contain the grimace on her face.
“Hullo, Mother,” Sirius said coldly.
“Come along, Sirius,” Mrs. Black continued, pretending that she did not notice her son’s company. Mr. Potter and Mr. Lupin, however, stepped forward and attempted to introduce themselves.
“Hullo,” Mr. Lupin said pleasantly, holding out his hand. “I’m Harry Lupin. My son, Remus, is friends with –”
“Come on, Sirius,” Mrs. Black said forcefully, now pulling Sirius forward.
Mr. Potter headed the woman off. “I’m Charles Potter. My son, James, is friends with –”
Mrs. Black groaned, annoyed. “May I help you, gentlemen?”
“We’re just trying to introduce ourselves,” Mr. Potter said in a tone that clearly showed he was offended. “Our sons are friends; I assume we’ll be seeing more of each other.”
“I doubt that,” Mrs. Black said coolly. “My husband and I do not… associate... with folks like yourselves.”
“Like us?” Mr. Lupin said bemusedly. “And what do you mean by that?”
“I mean that the Potters are the biggest bunch of blood traitors there are, and the last I remembered, the Lupins were never the most pureblood family.” She glared grimly at James and Remus. “I assume that this would make James a blood traitor as well, and Remus a half blood.”
“What does that matter?” said another new voice. They looked around to see a man and a woman approaching – Mr. and Mrs. Pettigrew.
“Pardon me?” Mrs. Black said, though in a voice that showed that she disliked these newcomers just as much as Mr. Lupin and Potter.
“What does bloodline matter?” asked Mr. Pettigrew politely.
“It matters because our country is going to the dogs with all these –” She looked around, her glancing resting on Mr. Lupin and his son for the quickest of seconds. “These Mudbloods.”
Within an instant, three wands were out. Mr. Potter, Mr. Lupin and Mr. Pettigrew held their wands eye level with the woman before them. The crowd of people on the platform had now turned to gawk at the situation. Mudblood was an offensive term generally saved for those who were Muggleborn. Still, it touched a dangerous nerve within Mr. Lupin.
“Don’t you dare call my son a Mudblood,” Mr. Lupin snarled furiously.
Sirius, sensing disaster, stepped aside and joined his friends beside Mrs. Pettigrew, who was rendered speechless.
“Lower your wand, Lupin,” Mrs. Black said composedly.
“You foul woman,” he went on, his wand not dropping an inch. “What has my son done to you?”
Mrs. Black looked as though she had a very good retort, but bit it back and instead turned her attention to Sirius. “We are leaving, Sirius. NOW!”
Sirius broke away from his friends and looked apologetically over his shoulder as he trailed behind her, dragging his trunk along.
“Dad, don’t be mad at Sirius,” Remus said at once. “He’s not like that.”
“He may not be, but his mother sure is,” Mr. Lupin replied, pocketing his wand, his eyes still fixed in the direction the Blacks had left in.
“Remus is right, Harry,” Mr. Potter said. “From the letters James has sent me about his friends, Sirius is not like that.”
Mr. Lupin nodded distractedly. Needing something to take his mind off what had just happened; he spoke to the Pettigrew’s. “I’m sorry you had to see that.”
“Don’t be,” Mr. Pettigrew said, doing his best to smile. “My wand was up as well. If it had been Peter she said that to, I don’t think she would have been walking away.” Mr. Lupin smiled weakly, nodding at Peter. “I’m John Pettigrew, by the way,” Mr. Pettigrew said, holding out his hand to Mr. Potter and Mr. Lupin. “This is my wife, Maggie.” The men smiled politely at Mrs. Pettigrew.
“What mother could ever dream of calling someone that?” Mrs. Pettigrew wondered aloud. She shook her head dismally. “I assume that was your friend Sirius, Peter?”
Peter nodded. “And these are James and Remus.” He gestured to each boy respectively.
“Well, we’ve got to be going, Remus. Your grandparents are arriving today,” Mr. Lupin said, bending down and grasping the handle of his son’s trunk. “It was nice meeting you,” he added to Mr. and Mrs. Pettigrew. “Nice seeing you again, Charles, James, Peter.” Remus adjusted the package Sirius had given under his right arm, wished his friends a Happy Christmas and followed his father through the barrier into the Muggle world.
“We should be going too, James,” Mr. Potter said. “Pleasure meeting you,” he added to the Pettigrew’s.
The kitchen in the Potter household smelled of turkey when Mr. Potter and James entered. Mrs. Potter was standing over the countertop with a small elf at her side. Mrs. Potter gave her wand a complicated wave and a stream of mashed potatoes fell neatly into a pink bowl. Mr. Potter nodded his head at James, signaling for him to bring his trunk and package upstairs; he wanted to speak privately with his wife. Mr. Potter knocked on the door friend, breaking Mrs. Potter and the elf out of their cooking.
“Master Potter!” the elf said in a high pitched voice. “How is you?”
“I’m fine, Willie,” Mr. Potter replied, smiling. “Why don’t you take a break?”
Willie the house elf bowed her head and walked out of the kitchen to tend to the rest of the house. Mrs. Potter cleaned the tip of her wand with her apron and set it down on the counter.
“James is upstairs?” she asked her husband as he sat down on one of the kitchen stools. Mr. Potter nodded mutely. “Did you meet his friends that he’s been writing to us about?”
“I met them, and then some,” Mr. Potter replied edgily.
Mrs. Potter stared at him curiously. “What do you mean?”
“Well, I ran into an old student of mine – Harry Lupin. His son goes to school with James, they’re friends.”
“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?”
“Oh, you’re right, it is. They’re both very nice; I always enjoyed having Harry as a student. His son, Remus, however, looks a little sickly.”
“How do you mean?”
“Just something about how pale he is, he’s small for his age. But James never said anything about it.”
“That still doesn’t explain why you look upset, unless you’re mad about that?”
“No, of course not. Like I said, they’re both very nice people. I met James’s friend Peter, and his parents. Good people, they are.”
“Charles, will you stop beating around the bush, please?”
“Sorry… You know James mentioned his friend Sirius a lot of times in his letters, don’t you?” Mrs. Potter nodded. “I’m sure he’s a nice boy, but the family he comes from…”
“Hannah, they must be. You should have heard his mother. She called James a blood traitor because he doesn’t believe in those methods and she called Harry’s son a Mudblood.”
Mrs. Potter’s eyes widened. “Did she?”
“Believe me, Mr. Pettigrew, Harry and I did not take that lying down – no, we didn’t hex her – but Harry sure had a go at her.” He sighed and rubbed his temples. “I don’t understand people these days. Were things this bad when we were growing up?”
“People were always prejudiced, but I don’t think they were as bad as now.” She looked over towards the stairs and saw part of James’s head sticking through the doorway. “James, how are you?”
James, startled, jumped and hurried down the remaining steps. “Fine, Mum,” he replied. He bit his lip and said the same thing Remus had told his father after the confrontation on the platform. “Sirius isn’t like his parents.”
“I know he isn’t, James. If he was then I know you wouldn’t be friends with him.”
James nodded and excused himself up to his room. As he walked up the stairs and down the long hallway, he thought about what his parents were saying before they noticed him. For an eleven year old, he wasn’t naïve, but he had never expected that so much prejudice existed in the world. He could never imagine his mother calling him or someone else what Mrs. Black had called Remus. He now understood fully why Sirius hardly ever talked about his family, he was embarrassed by them. James felt sorry for his friend; he must have hated being home so much. His values didn’t match that of his family’s and that obviously put a strain on their relationship.
James entered his room and flopped down on his bed. He stared up at the ceiling above his bed, which sported a poster of his favourite Quidditch team – Puddlemere United. He couldn’t take his mind off the conversations both in his kitchen and on the platform. Mr. Pettigrew had said it right, blood and parentage didn’t make some superior or inferior. Half blood, pureblood or Muggleborn – it didn’t make a difference. What mattered was who the person was. James would never allow the type of blood that ran in his friends’ veins to dictate their friendship.
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