Sirius stood transfixed, staring at
the horror in front of him. It was a werewolf. Dark and enormous, frothing at
the mouth, it advanced on the boy, who could only look up at it in paralyzed
shock. His three friends, standing nearby, were almost as unnerved by the look
of fear on his face as by the object of that fear. Sirius Black, who daily
flouted school rules, intimidated by neither teacher nor snooty prefect;
Sirius, who laughed in the face of danger, who feared nothing—not bullies nor
ghosts, nor even the Forbidden Forest; Sirius was afraid.
The yellow eyes of the beast narrowed and its
muscles tensed, as if it were about to leap at the boy’s jugular. But someone
had stepped into its path. It was another boy, smaller and usually less daring
than his friend, but with a determined look in his bright eyes.
There was a resounding CRACK! Suddenly, the
werewolf was gone, and in its place was a large, luminous orb.
“No,” Remus whimpered, his eyes filling with
terror. He could feel the heat of the moon’s rays upon his face. His flesh
began to tingle, and deep in his gut he felt the Shadow rise. He clutched his
chest, as if by doing so he could hold the familiar evil in, but he knew it was
no use. His knees began to buckle.
Someone—it sounded like Peter—shouted something,
but Remus couldn’t make out what it was. Remus heard the sound of footsteps,
running away. One of his companions had fled. He wished the other two would
follow; the Shadow inside him was growing. But soon the footsteps returned and
another pair had joined them.
“Riddikulus!” cried a strong, feminine voice.
CRACK! The moon had disappeared. Remus felt suddenly cool, as if all the life
had drained out of him. He realized he was on his knees, on the cold, stone
floor. He slowly got to his feet, carefully avoiding the eyes of his friends.
He found it easier to look up at the girl who had joined them. It was Andromeda
Black, Sirius’s cousin. She smiled at Remus reassuringly.
“It’s all right,” she said. “It was just a
boggart. They have a pretty nasty bark, but they’re harmless, really. We
learned how to get rid of them in fourth year.”
“Thanks for coming to help us,” said Sirius.
“No problem,” she replied, reaching out and
ruffling his hair before he could duck away. She glanced behind him at the open
door of a large and rather mangled looking grandfather clock, from whence the
boggart had come, and her expression suddenly became suspicious. “What were you
doing here anyway?”
James opened his mouth to answer, but Andromeda
cut him off. “Never mind,” she said. “I’d rather not know.” Shaking her head
and smiling in spite of herself, she headed back down the corridor and
disappeared around the corner.
Remus continued to avoid looking at his
friends, keeping his eyes on the end of the corridor, where his rescuer had
been only moments before. A horrible silence hung in the air for a long moment,
interrupted only by the bizarre sounds of the broken grandfather clock.
Remus couldn’t stand it.
Suddenly, he broke into a run—down the length of the corridor, around the
corner, up the stairs, and on and on. As he ran he had no idea where he was
going; he only knew that he had to get away from that place, from his friends,
and from that awful silence.
That silence seemed to confirm all of his worst
suspicions of the last week. The whispering that suddenly stopped when he
entered the room. The furtive looks. All the times his friends had disappeared
for a few hours and returned with lame excuses as to where they had been and
what they had been doing without him. They knew, of course. He had not been
careful enough, they had discovered the truth, and now they were avoiding him.
And the boggart had been the last straw. Now they would have no doubt as to
what he was. They must hate him.
Remus was not surprised when he found himself
standing in front of the Fat Lady’s portrait. In his panic, his footsteps must
have carried him along a familiar path. She raised her eyebrows at him—whether
in amusement or concern, he couldn’t tell. “Password?”
Remus panted. He couldn’t think straight. What
was the password? “Er…lupercalia,” he said at last. The portrait swung open.
He ducked inside, and continued across the common
room and up the stairs, at an only slightly slower pace. He did not stop until
he had collapsed on the edge of his bed in Gryffindor Tower, burying his face
in his hands.
What was he going to do? How was he going to face
his friends now that he knew that they knew the truth? He’d just have to get
through the next month, that was all. Then they would go home for the summer
holidays, and he would have to tell his parents that he couldn’t go back to
Remus felt miserable. The last six years of his
life stretched out in his memory. He could remember with cruel clarity his
first encounter with the horrible Shadow the night he was attacked, and how,
one month later, he came to find that the Shadow was a part of him, too—forever
inescapable. He thought of all the years that his parents had dragged him from
this witch doctor to that faith healer, one thing after another proving unable
to help him—and sometimes making things worse. He thought of the slow, painful
death of hope. How, at first, he had begged God for a cure, and how, as time
went by, he forgot about God and just begged his parents to put an end to the
miserable search. After that came the year when he lived with no hope at all,
with no possibility of any relief from the dreadful Shadow inside him, and no
way of making anything out of his life without an invitation to Hogwarts.
Then one day, out of the blue, the new headmaster
of Hogwarts and the school nurse had paid a visit to his home, and from that
point on it seemed his fortune had changed. How happy he had been to be able to
go to Hogwarts after all! But even better than that was the friendship he had
found among his Gryffindor classmates.
As he thought over all these things,
dreading the moment he would have to face his friends again, Remus could feel
the late afternoon sunlight filtering through the windows of the dormitory and
coming to rest on the top of his head, which he still held in his shaking
hands. He knew his good fortune was over now. He would go back home, back to
having no friends—no one besides his family who would even look at him—and
worst of all, no future. At twelve years old, the rest of his life was laid out
before him, barren and hopeless…
The sound of voices coming from
outside the door, slowly growing louder and clearer, interrupted his reverie.
“…think it’s time we confronted him.”
“I don’t know, James, maybe we should wait.”
“This is ridiculous! We’ve waited long enough. He
shouldn’t have to—”
“Shh, Sirius. He might be in there.”
Remus froze. How idiotic could he be? He
shouldn’t have come here! He wasn’t ready for this. And of course they were
bound to follow him. Panic and dread filled his chest as he heard the door to
the first year boys’ dormitory open behind him and the footsteps of his friends
as they filed inside.
Soon he felt the pressure of someone
sitting on his right. Whoever it was placed his hand on Remus’s left shoulder.
Then he felt someone else sitting on his left, and he heard the bedsprings on
the bed across from him creaking as the third boy sat down on it. Remus had
kept his face hidden in his hands, not knowing what else to do.
“Remus,” a voice on his right said gently, as its
owner applied a bit of pressure to Remus’s shoulder in what was probably meant
to be a comforting gesture, but which made Remus tense and duck away, still
hiding his face. But James didn’t let go of his friend. He merely allowed his
hand to slide into the small of Remus’s back and continued speaking, “We need
Remus sank down further, resting the backs of his
hands, which were still hiding his face, against his knees, wishing with all
his might that he could keep sinking down through the floor, and escape.
It was Peter who spoke next. “It was just a
boggart, Remus,” he said. “Just a stupid boggart. Remember, we read about them
in class—they can’t really hurt you.”
“That’s right,” said James. “They only have a
weakened form of the powers of whatever they turn into. The boggart wouldn’t
really have…” James trailed off, uncertain of how to continue.
“It wouldn’t really have made you change into a
werewolf.” Trust Sirius to say what no one else could. On either side of him,
Remus could feel James and Peter tense. He felt like his heart was frozen
inside him. They did know, then. It was no use hiding anymore. He lifted his
head just enough to meet Sirius’s gaze. Sprawled with casual grace upon the
opposite bed, Sirius looked back with his dark, piercing eyes, completely
unabashed. Remus quickly averted his eyes once more.
James sighed and allowed his hand to slide off
Remus’s back at last. He reached up and ran it through his hair instead. “It’s
no use hiding anymore, Remus,” he said, as if he had read Remus’s mind a moment
ago. “You don’t have to make up any more lies. We know where you’ve been going
every month, and we know why.”
Peter nodded. “That’s right,” he said. “We figured
Remus felt suddenly angry. “Who have you told?”
he demanded, sitting up fully and glaring at Peter.
“N-no one!” Peter stammered, his eyes widening.
“We’re not stupid!” Sirius said, jumping to
Peter’s defense. “Look, we know how things are. We know why you keep it a
secret. People can be real idiots about this kind of thing. But we don’t
think like that. We’re your friends, Remus. Nothing will change that.
And we wouldn’t tell anyone your secret. Don’t you trust us?”
Remus shrugged, pacified for the
moment, but still unsure what to think of all this.
Sirius snorted and continued. “My
parents would just as soon see all the werewolves in England dragged into the
street and executed as watch a Quidditch match! They’d hate it if they knew I
was friends with one,” he finished, glaring at a spot on the wall.
“Sirius!” James scolded. Sirius broke out of his
angry reverie and shifted his position on the bed, looking slightly ashamed of
“No, it’s okay,” said Remus, who found Sirius’s
candor oddly comforting. “He’s right. Lots of people think like that. I know
Remus sighed. He looked around at the faces of
his three friends, who all looked back at him with real concern in their eyes.
“You—you still want to be friends with me, then?” As soon as he said it, it
seemed like a dumb question. But he had to ask it. He had to know for sure.
“Yes,” James answered. He looked as
though he was trying very hard to sound solemn and sincere, but he could barely
hold back his smile.
“Of course we’re still your
friends!” Sirius replied, exasperated.
Remus’s throat felt very tight and
his eyes stung. He quickly bent down again, resting his forehead on his hands,
and his elbows on his knees. James stood up and walked over to the window.
Peter shifted away from Remus uncomfortably.
To Remus’s relief, he was able to
compose himself fairly quickly. He swallowed, dragged the edge of his sleeve
across his face once, and sat up straight. “Thank you,” he said hoarsely, not
really knowing what else to say. James turned back around to face him, not
bothering to hide his smile this time.
“Well, we still have a few hours left
in the day,” he said. “What d’you say we continue our search? I want to find at
least one of the secret passages in this castle before the summer
There was a moment of silence before
Remus realized that everyone was expecting him to answer.
“Oh, right! Yes—let’s keep looking.
With any luck we won’t run into any more boggarts.”
James led the way back out of the
dormitory, with Sirus, Remus, and Peter close behind. It wasn’t until they were
outside the portrait hole that Remus remembered Sirius’s boggart and nearly
stopped in his tracks. How strange, he thought, that Sirius Black, who was probably
the most daring person Remus had ever met, was actually afraid of, well, him.
Strangely enough, this thought didn’t
bother Remus at all. Sirius was afraid of werewolves—and yet, he was still
willing to be friends with one. As Remus followed his three friends down the
corridor, half-listening to James’s next idea of where to look for a hidden
passageway—and feeling better than he could remember feeling in a long time—he
knew that he had found something special that year at Hogwarts. He had finally
found the cure.