Wolf At The Door
PG-13, gen. Four things that never happened to Remus Lupin
on his seventeenth birthday, and one that did.
They're watching him.
Remus screams, flinging out his hands in shock, and as his knuckles make contact
with flesh, more screams are heard from around his bed. The noise is enough to
wake the proverbial seven sleepers and causes Remus to fall backwards onto his
pillows in a frightened heap, waiting for further explosions.
At length, silence reigns once more and Sirius's head rises slowly over the side
of the bed. "Christ, Moony," he says fervently. "Talk about
scaring a bloke half to death."
Remus is less than sympathetic. "Why are you all watching me sleep?"
he asks reasonably.
James has recovered now, too. "Waiting for you to wake up, of course!"
he announces. "We thought you were going to stay in bed all day!"
"Which would be entirely my prerogative, all things considered," Remus
replies, snuggling down under the covers again.
Sirius yanks him back into a sitting position. "Oh, no, you don't!"
"Oh, yes, I do." Remus attempts to glare. "Cease and
Peter, who has been watching this pantomime with a slightly bemused air to him,
now ventures forth with a comment. "Happy birthday, Remus," he offers,
Remus smiles, a genuine smile that lights up his eyes. "Thank you,
Peter." After a pause, he asks, "I suppose that's the reason for this
Sirius immediately brightens up again. "Moony, it's your birthday," he
points out in tones that sound perfectly rational but Remus recognises as
anything but, "and every minute you spend in idle sloth on this beautiful
summer's day, the day of your birth and arrival into this world,
is a minute wasted, especially when those minutes could be gainfully
employed in present-opening or cake-eating or mischief-making or
joining a secret society..."
"Sirius!" James interrupts, annoyed about something.
"Sirius," says Remus gently, "you make no sense." And then
he smiles, thinks of the beautiful summer's day that Sirius is right about, as
it is clearly visible through the dormitory window, and swings his legs over the
side of the bed. "Give me a minute to get dressed," he says, and
watches as his three friends whoop, leap and bound down to breakfast.
He arrives in the Great Hall just in time to see the owl post arrive, and
sitting down at his place next to James, he sees three parcels and several cards
propped up by his plate. He looks enquiringly at James, who shakes his head.
"Our presents are up in the common room. These must be from your doting
Remus grins and sorts through them, pleased to note the card and parcel from his
parents and sundry other epistles from his many distant relations. But one
letter stands out above the others - the envelope is made from thicker, heavier
parchment than you usually find, and addressed in green ink to Remus Lupin,
He inserts his thumbnail under the flap, but before he rips it open, he looks up
and notices his three friends are watching him with breathless interest. His
hands drop to the table. "What?"
"Why don't you open that?" asks James with forced breeziness.
Remus frowns, but he opens it. One piece of parchment falls out. There are only
five lines on it.
I would be very much obliged if you would present yourself at Hagrid's hut
immediately following breakfast, although there is no need to give yourself
Also, I take this opportunity to wish a very happy birthday to you.
Remus reads it twice, then lets it fall. Sirius, James and Peter all seem
suddenly engrossed in their food, although their eyes flick towards him when
they think he is not looking.
"Anything good?" asks Sirius transparently.
"I'm not sure," says Remus. Stuffing the parchment into his pocket, he
reaches for the closest jar of jam.
After breakfast, he wonders if they will attempt to follow him, but to his
surprise his friends let him go. They seem to be watching as he leaves the Great
Hall and walks slowly down to the entrance hall, still chewing methodically on
his last piece of toast. He ambles down the steps and out across the grounds,
enjoying the morning air as he walks.
Hagrid's hut, once he reaches it, seems deserted. He thinks about calling for
Fang - animals seem to come when he calls them, for some reason - but after a
moment, Albus Dumbledore steps out from behind a tree. "Good morning,
"Morning, Professor," Remus replies automatically. "You wanted to
"So I did, dear child, so I did." He waves a hand around as he speaks.
"You must excuse the alfresco setting, but I did feel it a shameful waste
of a sunny day to conduct this interview in my office. Would you like a sherbet
"Yes, please," Remus says, and takes one, reasoning as he does that
the day cannot get more peculiar and he may as well go with the flow.
Dumbledore begins to walk, taking the path down to the lake, and Remus follows
"I trust you are having a good birthday?" asks Dumbledore as they
reach the water's edge and continue walking.
Remus nods. "I haven't been having it for very long." He glances at
his watch. "I'm not actually seventeen yet."
"Ah, but what an interesting almost-seventeen years they have been, to be
sure." Dumbledore sounds particularly thoughtful. "Of course, in a
very real sense, your whole life has been leading up to this point. You
understand of course that there is a myriad of paths you could have taken in
your life, not all of which would have led you here?"
"Yes," says Remus doubtfully, wondering if he has been summoned merely
for philosophical dialogue.
Dumbledore notices the doubt on his face and smiles, holding up his hands in a
gesture of contrition. "I do apologise, subjecting one as young as yourself
to an old man's waffle. You wish to know why I called you here, of course."
Remus pauses a moment, then nods. "Yes, I do."
James carries the message early in the afternoon. "Remus, Dumbledore wants
to see you."
Remus rolls over with typical lupine laziness, shaking off the sparkling,
gift-wrap ribbons Sirius has thoughtfully placed in his hair, and lands on the
floor with a thump. As he brushes the dust off himself, he wonders vaguely what
Dumbledore wants. He hasn't done anything particularly heinous lately, no
Dungbombs in the dungeons or soap in Snape's soup, but equally, he isn't a
plaster saint and probably isn't up for a services to the school award.
He doesn't know what else the summons could be for. His fingers slip into his
pocket and brush over something smooth and polished: the little prefect badge
was given to him weeks ago, so it can't be that. He still hasn't told his
friends about it, he remembers; it's something to put off until a quiet moment.
Or, if he's perfectly honest, a moment when Sirius and James are not in close
proximity to their broomsticks or other things they could hit people with.
He gives a general wave to his recumbent dormitory mates, and goes down the
stairs deep in thought. He never charges downwards as Sirius and James are wont
to do - he takes careful steps, a habit left over from when he had to conserve
every scrap and last droplet of energy.
He is still deep in thought as he mutters the password to the stone gargoyle -
"Jelly babies!" - and as he stands on the moving staircase, taking him
upwards to where Dumbledore lives. He only jerks back to reality when he steps
into the circular office to find there is more than one person inside. As well
as Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall is standing by the desk, next to a man Remus
doesn't recognise and a woman he has seen only in the Daily Prophet.
"Lupin," says Professor McGonagall, and Dumbledore looks up.
"Come in, Remus," he says, and although his eyes are still twinkling
slightly, his voice sounds strained. "This is Millicent Bagnold, Minister
for Magic, and her deputy Cornelius Fudge."
The minister smiles at him; Fudge doesn't. "Lupin," he says
thoughtfully. "Remus Lupin?"
Remus nods. He doesn't want to speak.
"Gryffindor," Fudge continues. "Only child. Let's see..." He
consults a clipboard. "Born the twelfth of the sixth, 1960, a werewolf
"Oh, dear," cuts in the Minister for Magic. "It's your birthday,
"Yes," Remus answers simply.
"Well." Fudge claps his hands together. "Let's get on with it.
After the accident last year, there's been talk. Professor Dumbledore, I mean no
disrespect, but in all honesty, Hogwarts' policy of inclusion can seem a little extreme
"Oh, for heaven's sake!" Professor McGonagall cuts in, and it dawns on
Remus that he's never seen her this nervous, wringing her hands together and
pacing. "Just say what you've come to say and get out!"
"Right. Yes." Fudge pauses and shifts. "When it comes to it, the
Ministry won't allow it. Lupin, it's simply not possible to keep you here as a
student any longer. It's a matter of safety, you understand - other children
can't be put at risk..."
His voice drops, becomes incoherent. Remus sees Dumbledore is furious, the
Minister for Magic is sympathetic, Professor McGonagall is merely sorrowful, but
he doesn't stay to hear what they have to say. He's heard enough.
At the doorway, he pauses and puts his hand in his pocket. The prefect badge
flashes in the light as he throws it, and it rolls over and over until it clinks
to a stop at Fudge's feet.
"Goodnight, Remus," says Madam Pomfrey softly, even though it is
almost seven in the morning; the words bring a semblance of normality to the
situation. She has cleaned his wounds with her usual efficiency, but for some
reason this was a hard night for the child.
Although - and she smiles at the thought - years have slipped past without her
noticing, and really, he is no longer a child. Having said that, this is the
summer term, there is no real danger in his missing a few lessons now, and he
needs to rest now as much as he did when he was younger. Sometimes rest is the
only thing that will help; severe blood loss is not something to be sneezed at.
It is the work of a moment. A muttered incantation, and Remus slips under. Just
the few minutes she stands there see some of the dark shadows fade away, and she
is sure a day spent peacefully asleep will work wonders. At length, she leaves
him to it, glad to see the weariness slowly disappear.
The day is a quiet one, with very few other patients and only one visitor. Now
it is summer, the hospital wing is less populated.
When he wakes, night has fallen and he seems confused and disorientated.
"Madam Pomfrey?" he says blurrily. "What happened?"
"Nothing to worry about, dear," she reassures him. "I brought you
here after sunrise just like I always do."
"But now it's dark," he replies with implacable logic.
"Well, yes. I gave you a little something to make you sleep. You were worn
out and I thought you needed it."
"I do wish you hadn't done that," he says, sighing, and while there is
only the merest hint of accusation in his voice, he so seldom complains that she
immediately feels a stab of guilt.
"It's just, well." He stops, looking uncomfortable. "It's just
today's my birthday, and there's only" - he glances at the clock -
"four hours of it left."
"Oh, dear, I'm sorry," she says. "If I'd known that, I
"That's okay, Madam Pomfrey," he interrupts. "You weren't to
"I'm still sorry." She pauses, and gratefully remembers something.
"If it makes you feel any better, you had a visitor in the afternoon. He
brought you some things."
She draws his attention to the table by his bedside. There are some rolls of
parchment and some textbooks - his missed schoolwork, no doubt - but also a
large box of Chocolate Frogs and a small, wrapped parcel. She sees him smile and
feels better. She has things to be getting on with, but can't help but linger to
see what is in the parcel. His fingers are deft, unwrapping quickly but neatly,
and out comes a scarf. "Not very seasonal," he says, and chuckles as
he lets his hands mingle with the soft folds. He reaches for the note that came
with it and adds, "It's the thought that counts."
Very true, she thinks. The scarf is a pretty one, and suits him - green and
silver; how appropriate, his house colours - and although he has his detractors,
Severus Snape is actually capable of being quite a nice boy.
"It's my birthday!" Remus protests, teasingly. "Surely the
attention of the entire universe should be focused on me!"
James giggles. "Your ego knows no bounds, Lupin. How you have survived
seventeen years without exploding from self-importance, I shall never
"Say it when you're not ruffling your hair, it gives you more
credibility," Remus suggests, laughing. "In all seriousness, the
timing of this is perfect. He'll never guess. Although I maintain I deserve more
presents to make up for it."
James clips him over the head, then gets distracted by someone else crossing the
grounds. "Look over there."
Remus follows the pointing finger, peering into the fading light until he
recognises the dark-haired, slouching figure. "An unexpected dip in the
lake for dear Snivellus, do you reckon?" James asks, readying his wand as
Calmly, Remus takes it out of his hand and holds it at arm's length. "Don't
even think about it."
James pouts. "I swear, making you a prefect was the worst thing Dumbledore
"From your mouth to his ears. Look, we'd better hurry up." Remus suits
the action to the word, quickening his pace. "Peter will be waiting for
"I'm still amazed he actually got the hang of it," James says as they
reach the entrance hall. "You and me, we weren't so bad, but, well."
"He did it, that's all that matters," Remus replies softly, and leads
the way up the stairs to the first floor. They fall silent as they get closer,
and Peter jumps as they sneak up behind him.
He gets over it quickly enough, however. "Where the hell have you
been?" he demands. "He's beginning to suspect something's up!"
"Shush," James says, and the three of them enter the disused classroom
where Sirius is waiting for them.
"What's all this about?" he asks, and when no-one replies immediately,
he adds, "If it's a surprise party for me, I won't object but I think Remus
"I would, too," Remus agrees, "but it's not a surprise party. A
different kind of surprise."
"Traditionally, you give the presents to the person whose birthday it is,
but we're breaking tradition this year." James smiles at Sirius, then turns
to Remus. "Ready?"
"As I'll ever be," Remus replies, and Peter nods agreement.
Nothing happens for a moment. Then in the dim light from the window, reality
begins to shift and change. When the transformations are complete, there are
three newcomers in the room - a rat, small and sleek, a stag, awkward on its
long legs, and a dark-furred, feral wildcat.
"You did it." Sirius exhales in great shuddering gasps, watching as
they close in around him, smiling in their own animal ways. "You really did
A moment passes before they shift back to their human forms. "We did
it," Remus agrees, throwing a languid arm around Sirius's shoulder. His
fingernails are still as sharp as claws. "Surprise."
It is quite, quite tragic, but not entirely unexpected. Teachers and students
alike had noticed how pale-faced and ill the poor boy always seemed to be; one
of the sickly ones, Poppy Pomfrey says, and sighs deeply. There is such real
sorrow in her eyes that no-one dares question her.
Although it is the height of summer, the day is too raw and chilly. The Hogwarts
students need the cover of their robes - mercifully black - and some pull them
up to serve as makeshift hoods against the driving rain.
The whole thing seems quite ridiculous to some, particularly the purebloods. A
first-year called Bill Weasley finally dares ask the obvious question:
"What could be so bad that they couldn't cure it at St Mungo's?"
James answers him with weariness in his words. "Some things are like
that," he says. "Sometimes there's nothing you can do. You can try,
though. You can try your hardest. But sometimes that's not enough."
Peter's cover stories are always the best, so he takes a turn.
"Influenza," he says carefully. "It's a Muggle disease. No
"Not even magical…" Bill begins.
"Magic can be a curse," says Sirius, and Bill gets no more out of the
three of them. They draw together in the rain, a rule unto themselves, and wait
and watch as Dumbledore speaks.
"He was a scholar," he says wearily. "A true academic, which is a
rare thing in these enlightened days, and what is more, he was never reticent in
sharing his insight with others. An academic and a teacher, shall we say, and
yet academia is not all there is to life. As well as lessons, there are sweets
to be eaten and pranks to be played and firecrackers to be thrown at Professor
McGonagall" - who is crying quietly - "and he did all those things and
more. He had life and vigour in spades, taken from him tragically young, but he
leaves us with his own legacy. I ask you to remember a clever boy, a happy one,
a friend and comrade, but above all, I ask you to remember the courage of Remus
In the mass of black robes, Severus Snape is barely visible, his head bowed and
covered with eyes shadowed. He has said nothing for days, not since the moon.
The casket is closed. It had to be; there are some things that no-one need see,
and better memories to have than blood on floorboards and deep gored scratches
"Remember," Dumbledore says again, and his voice hangs in the air like
a struck bell. And then it is all over.
Back in the Gryffindor common room, obscenely red, gold and cheerful while rain
batters the window, Sirius throws himself down on a squashy armchair on top of
something hard. A book, The Mechanics of Human And Animal Transfiguration,
and he throws it to the floor with real violence, then scrambles to his feet
again. On the notice board by the portrait hole is a calendar, with neat
handwriting below today's date, and a red circle.
Sirius pulls it down, rips and tears and destroys the page until it is nothing
but tiny white scraps. One by one, they fall to the floor like confetti from his
Remus strides back across the grounds, leaving Dumbledore staring after him. His
heart is strangely light, but he feels the weight of responsibility on his
shoulders in a way even he has never felt before.
He walks through into the entrance hall and up to the Gryffindor common room.
"Aurora borealis," he snaps impatiently, and the Fat Lady
"I thought you were one of the polite ones," she snipes, and
the portrait swings open. Remus clambers in and bursts into the common room with
considerably more violence than usual.
"Remus?" James, who is sitting on the floor playing chess with Peter,
looks up, worried. "What is it?"
Remus ignores him for a moment, staring up at the wall clock. The hands flit
forwards, second by second, minute by minute, marking time now and forever.
"It's my birthday," he says suddenly.
James nods. "Yeah. Remus, are you all right?"
"It's my birthday," repeats Remus fiercely. "It's my birthday!
I'm seventeen years old, I'm here at Hogwarts, I'm alive. I did it. I really did
Sirius gets it. Standing up, he walks across and places a soft hand on Remus's
shoulder. "You made it, Moony. We knew you would."
"I did it." Remus's voice has fallen. For the first time, he realises
what it means, not just for himself but for every child bitten.
"And?" Sirius prompts, his expression indicating there is one thing he
needs to know in particular.
Remus smiles, knowing they know but ready to tell them anyway. It didn't have to
be this way, he thinks. He was dealt a rough hand, life gave him lemons, etc.,
etc. But equally, things could have been so much worse.
He stands there awkwardly for a moment, aware of himself, his friends, his
prefect badge, his Gryffindor colours, his lycanthropy, everything that has led
him to being Remus Lupin on the day he comes of age.
"And..." He pauses, prolonging their agony, then gives in. "And
I'm a member of the Order of the Phoenix."
Sirius whoops and laughs. "Huzzah and clang for Moony! Isn't that right,
As he succumbs to the flying tackle, hears James's soft words, "You're one
of us, Remus," and is finally pushed to the floor, flailing wildly, Remus
thinks: there should be cake.
And Lily comes in, singing, and there is.