1 - Remus Lupin and the Secret Dragon
Too Small To Call Cosy
Remus Lupin lived in a tiny, too-small-to-call-cosy cottage nestled in the shadows of trees, bent over like the backs of old men. A long time ago, the forest was part of a larger one called the Wandering Woods, but the trees had long since lost their locomotive abilities and stood stationary. Still magical, but looking normal – hidden in plain sight, just like Remus and his family.
In fact, Lyall Lupin, Remus's stern-faced, unforgiving father, had chosen this hidden spot in the British countryside so nobody would ever find them–specifically Remus.
Remus was seated at his dining table in the kitchen, which was compact and barely had enough room for a table, sink, stove and a tiny refrigerator. While most eleven-year-old boys were probably out playing with one another, Remus was only allowed to stay inside and do the homework set by his father.
"You will never be able to learn about the magical world properly," his father had told him harshly, "because you are not a normal wizard boy. Nobody will let a … a lycanthrope into their school, especially not Hogwarts."
"Then why do I have to learn about all this then?" asked Remus, gesturing to papers about wizarding law, textbooks on how to cast charms. "What's the point?"
"Because," his father said, kindlier this time, but still firmly, "there might come a day when you have to put this knowledge to use. Hopefully it will never come, but you can never be too safe."
You can never be too safe was something Remus heard a lot from his father.
And so he was home-schooled, because who knew what could happen if Remus went outside. The Ministry, which Remus's father always said with disdain, could find him; or worse, Remus could transform and, God forbid, harm people; or, the worst possible situation, like that fateful six years ago a horrible, filthy werewolf could find them on the night when the moon was fullest and–
Yes, it was far better for everybody involved if Remus was locked inside his tiny, too-small-to-call-cosy cottage.
However, staring out the little window (everything in this house was miniature), he couldn't help but feel a little wistful at the meadow and sunset. Perhaps in another, werewolf-less life, he'd be playing outside with other boys his age. Sighing, he peered back at his work, a comparative essay distinguishing between pixies and nixies.
His stupor was interrupted by two firm knocks at the door, a pause, then three more. This was their code, to make sure only family members were allowed in. Remus perked up and jumped from his seat. It was his father, returning from work. Remus quickly undid the lock on the door and let his father in.
"Hello, dad!" said Remus.
"Good afternoon," Lyall Lupin replied shortly and walked in, shouldering past Remus. Remus's enthusiasm only faltered a little.
Lyall Lupin was a very tall, lanky wizard with greying hair and a thick moustache. He looked eternally tired and world-worn. He dropped his heavy suitcase in the kitchen as he struggled to move around in the too-small-to-call-cosy house.
"How was work?" asked Remus excitedly. "Did you see any new magical creatures?"
"Not any new ones," his father said. "But I saw another boggart."
"That's cool! We haven't learnt what boggarts are yet."
His father finally smiled and reached over to ruffle Remus's head. "Maybe we can learn about it together tomorrow." Remus nodded eagerly. "But, Remus, you know what tonight is," Lyall said, looking down at Remus appraisingly.
He shuddered. He had put off thinking about it the entire day, but his father was right. Tonight was a full moon which would mean Remus would turn into … into a horrible monster. Remus's father would lock him inside a magical shack a little deeper in the Wandering Woods, and cast Silencing Charms for the night to come. Remus hated it, hated it.
"Get ready," Lyall said.
The day after was always worse than the night of the full moon.
Remus's body ached all over, and if he shifted just a little he felt pain shoot through his body. The metallic shack he was inside allowed no sunlight to enter, and barely any air too. It was for his, and everybody else's, protection, of course.
Certainly, he had cut himself again – he felt it. He craned his neck just a little to peer over his shoulder and he thought he saw a pale pink slash across his pale, thin back, which was already fading to silvery white. Good.
"Mum…" Remus whined. Normally she'd have been here by now. Remus was in a lot of pain – this month had been a bad way – and he could not move himself. All he could do was lean against the wall of the shack, wincing, and wait.
After what seemed like half an hour, the lock on the shack vibrated as someone hurriedly tried to open the door, and his mother Hope rushed inside. Sunlight flooded the enclosure. Hope was much prettier than his father was handsome – and, most times, much kinder too. However, today, the delicate features on her face were contorted into a worried expression.
"Remus," she hissed at him. "We have to hurry."
Even in his disoriented state, he could tell that something was wrong.
"Mum, what happened?" he groaned.
"No time to talk," she said, ushering him up. He saw his leg – there was another fresh cut as well that he hadn't noticed. "I'm sorry sweetie, I have to clean your wounds later. Let's quickly get home."
And so, with his mother's aid, Remus stumbled out of the awful shack and along the footpath that winded through the Wandering Woods. Indents in the ground of where the trees had once used their roots to walk were visible all along the forest floor. Now all the trees were silent and dead, and the only sounds were Remus and his mother's panting.
Normally the trip from the shack back to his house provided some very needed solace after the full moon. He would usually take in the beautiful ancient trees and their curling branches, and let the sunlight sink in and warm his body. However, none of that could happen now as they struggled to run home.
"Remus," she said shrilly to him as they staggered at an incredibly slow rate. "Hurry."
It wasn't long before their too-small-to-call-cosy house was in sight. His mother led him behind a tree with a particularly large trunk and she peered for a few tense moments before saying, "Okay, it's clear. Quickly, sweetie."
Remus had absolutely no idea what was happening. He was confused, and stressed, but he trusted his parents more than anything. So together they hobbled, Remus's leg hurting more and more as they went further and further.
His mother's head kept darting back and forth, looking for an unseen enemy. Remus half-expected a werewolf to leap from the bushes and consume them with the way his mother was acting, but he knew that was impossible. So what could possibly be causing his mother to act this way?
They finally reached the front door, wheezing. Two knocks, then three more. The door whipped open.
"Hurry up," his father said, and they hobbled inside. Lyall slammed the door shut and, with the wand in hand that Remus so rarely saw, cast a muttered spell on the door. A light shone, and Remus had a distinct impression that the house was a little more protected.
"What happened?" asked Remus again and his father shushed him. Lyall was poised with his wand in hand, staring defiantly at the front door as if something were to burst out any moment.
"We think … we think there is a wizard nearby," whispered his mother, distressed. "We're not sure … but your father thinks so. But, that's impossible, right?" Now she was directly whispering to Lyall. "You – we took so many precautions." She sounded sad.
As if on cue, there were two knocks on the front door, punctuated with a pause, then three more afterwards.
Remus panicked and he saw this reflected in both his parent's eyes. Of course, this was their code. But all three members of their family were inside. Who else would know the code? Unless someone had been observing them all along.
"Good morning!" a cheerful man's voice called from outside. All three Lupins flinched. "I know all of you are home," the man added after nobody answered.
"Who is it?" bellowed Lyall.
"Albus Dumbledore," the man called, and his father stiffened. "I'm sure you remember who I am, Lyall? I taught you Transfiguration."
Remus recognised that as one of the many magical topics Lyall planned to teach him. So, this man was a wizard, and a teacher.
"What do you want from us, sir?" asked Lyall angrily. Personally, Remus felt his father was not being very subtle, but said nothing as he and his mother cowered in the far corner of the kitchen.
"I would like to speak to you and your son," Albus Dumbledore said. "Particularly regarding his lycanthropy."
All three Lupins reacted at once. Remus yelped and quickly snapped his hand over his mouth, but the damage was done. Hope whipped her head around to Remus and, panicked, began to shove him upstairs, up to the living room – anywhere but here. Lyall pointed his wand at the door, shouting an incantation, causing smoke to rise everywhere.
"Run and hide!" Hope told him, so he did just that.
Remus whipped his head around the house, looking desperately for somewhere to hide. Good Godric, someone knew that Remus was a werewolf! They were coming to get him, to kidnap him and lock him far, far away from his family. Hiding was his only chance.
Suddenly the house felt so much smaller than it already was. The bookshelf? No, it couldn't be moved. Underneath the bed? No, it was too low for Remus to fit under.
Downstairs, he heard the rattling of doors, his father shouting, his mother shrieking, and Albus Dumbledore's booming voice. Light exploded, smoke rose up, and he felt the house shake dangerously. Bollocks. Remus skidded out of the upstairs bedroom and into the living room at the same time all the noise stopped.
"Good morning," a man who could only be Albus Dumbledore said.
Remus yelped again. Remus had not met many people in his eleven years of life, but this was clearly the strangest man he had ever seen. And he had a certain intuition that, even if he had met all the people in the world, this would still be the oddest man to set eyes upon.
Firstly, he was wearing bright purple robes, with a matching hat decorated with silver stars. He had half-moon spectacles resting upon his long, crooked nose, and an incredibly thick, wondrously white beard that was so long it curled twice on the floor. Albus Dumbledore was sitting on Remus's living room floor, cross-legged. He was thoughtfully chewing on something – candy?
"'Mornin'," was all Remus could find the words to say.
His father would've been so mad. What had Lyall taught him about meeting dangerous strangers? He had taught him things, but now Remus struggled to recall anything. He thought his safest bet was to play along with the weird man, and hope for the best. Maybe his parents would come running up soon to save him.
"Oh, goodness, you do not look very well," Albus Dumbledore said.
He was correct. Remus felt terrible. His leg stung and his back ached and he was bleeding from about three places. All in all, this was shaping up to be a very poor day indeed.
"Do not worry, I will help," the man said and before Remus could say anything, he waved his long, thin wand in the air. Remus suddenly felt like a weight had been lifted off him. The cut on his leg healed into a silver white scar in an instant. The blood on his body cleaned itself. His back felt much better. Of course, his father had healed him magically before, but never this fast or this properly. Remus felt good. This man was clearly a very skilled wizard.
"Can you … can you make me not a werewolf anymore?" asked Remus eagerly.
Albus Dumbledore shook his head, somewhat sadly. Remus's shoulders dropped immediately. "I'm afraid not. Apologies, Remus. To take your mind off things, care for a game of Gobstones?"
His old, gnarled hands so similar to the trees in the Wandering Woods were splayed open, offering twitching, colourful balls that were not there a second ago. Some of them made squeaky noises.
"I don't know what that is," Remus said.
"I can teach you."
Remus screwed up his face in thought, then said, "Okay, sure." He shyly sat across from Dumbledore and began to play.
Remus was a poor player of Gobstones. Dumbledore was probably playing easily as well, Remus thought. Whenever he lost a point, a magical marble would shoot a putrid liquid at his face and Dumbledore, eyes sparkling, would clean it wish a wave of his wand.
Remus was only on his third turn when his parents came rushing up the stairs, bursting into the room. He missed, and it shot out the rotten liquid again, and Dumbledore swished his wand to clean it off.
Both his parents looked distressed, but Lyall also looked incredibly enraged.
"Remus," Hope yelled.
"Get away from my son!" Lyall demanded, glaring intensely at Dumbledore.
Dumbledore set his wand down and held his hands up passively. "I was not doing anything to harm Remus. We were just playing Gobstones."
Remus looked at his father and nodded along.
Lyall seethed. "Remus, what did I tell you about being safe? You–"
"I'm glad that you two are here now, though," Dumbledore said, suddenly businesslike. He stood, still without his wand, which Remus thought was incredibly brave, but also incredibly stupid. Lyall's wand was still threateningly pointed at Dumbledore's direction. "I would like to talk about Remus's education."
"His what?" snapped Lyall.
"His education. He will be going to Hogwarts, correct?" Albus Dumbledore asked serenely.
All three Lupins were flabbergasted. Remus frowned. Surely he wasn't going to Hogwarts, this most legendary wizarding school in Europe. Remus was a werewolf, a danger to everybody. He would taint the very name of Hogwarts. He was not fit to be around other people.
Hope looked as if she shared this sentiment. "What? H-Hogwarts?" She turned to her husband. "Isn't that the–?"
Lyall nodded firmly, then turned back to Dumbledore. "You are delusional. Remus cannot go to Hogwarts. You clearly know that Remus is a … he's a – he's … he's a werewolf!"
Remus almost gasped. Lyall never said that word. That word was equivalent to a curse word in this household.
"How can you offer him an invitation, knowing that he's … that!" Lyall demanded.
"He's a growing, ordinary young boy who deserves a proper wizarding education," Dumbledore said firmly. Remus was absolutely astonished. Few people stood up to his father, he was told, and he could not believe a man as ridiculous as Albus Dumbledore had the guts.
"He is not ordinary–"
"He has an illness." Dumbledore was resolute. "That is the only thing that sets him apart from any other wizard or witch. I do not see why this should hinder his chance of an education. Education is one of the most vital things a child experiences, and I must implore that you consider Remus get access to it."
Lyall spluttered. "There are children in that castle! Children! Little kids! You cannot let a possible predator around young, innocent children."
For some reason, that hurt Remus a lot. It cut him on the inside with the same intensity that his werewolf rage cut him on the outside. Remus was innocent too, right? Remus found himself agreeing more and more with Dumbledore.
"I am aware of that. Safety measures have already been considered and will be set in place. Remus will be safe, and so will everybody else. Hogwarts is not just a school, it is a home. You, of all people, should know this." His serious expression softened. "You attended it."
And for the first time in the entire conversation, and maybe in his whole life, Lyall's face began to soften too.
Then began a long conversation between Lyall and Dumbledore, in which Hope interjected with helpful suggestions. It was lost on Remus, because he could not understand a lot of it, and he only catching some words like, "disease," "precautionary," and "controlled environment."
Remus looked down at his leg, at the jagged scar on his calf. He felt … strange. Hogwarts, huh? That was new, and both exciting and scary. Remus would be entering what he had heard was an enormous castle, with a huge school population, surrounded by students, professors and other strange magical creatures for the first time in his life. This would mean … he had to leave the safety and love of his parent's home. It felt horrible and frightening and he wouldn't know what to do – but he also felt a weird mingling sense of freedom.
Well … the cottage was always too small for him anyway.