Notes: There is some use of Welsh; I did not provide translations because it is explained within context. All Welsh mythology is genuine in source, and only slightly twisted to suit my plot purposes. I was at some times rather free with JK Rowling's explantion of the pre-Harry world.
Disclaimer: The lovely and talented JK Rowling so far surpasses me that I hesitate to post; but one cannot help but imagine.
1975 : Fall
His shoulders met the stone with a dull thud, and the back of his skull cracked resoundingly on the brick. Goyle bent him double over a meaty fist in his stomach, and finally they let him drop, clutching his hurts and struggling to breath around the copious blood dripping from his nose.
A shiny black loafer planted itself in front of his face. He looked up, and his tearing eyes slowly focussed on Lucius Darling Malfoy.
‘You don’t learn very quickly,’ Malfoy said. He gathered his robe in his hands, and crouched so that their eyes were on a level. ‘By now you should know better than to cross me.’
He said nothing. He stared past Malfoy and mopped blood from his chin with his sleeve.
Malfoy made a noise of contempt. ‘You’re not fit to be a Slytherin,’ he snapped. ‘You disgusting slob. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll leave Hogwarts. We don’t tolerate little boys who think they can play traitor on their own House.’
Crabbe gave him a swift kick in his aching ribs, to emphasize Malfoy’s pronouncement.
Malfoy stood and ran a hand over the surface of his golden hair, smoothing it down fastidiously. ‘Get him cleaned up,’ he ordered his roommates. ‘And take him to the clinic. Make sure he doesn’t say anything I wouldn’t like.’ He swirled his robe so that the hem brushed over the other boy’s face. ‘Stay out of my way if you know what’s good for you,’ he added, and left. His heels hit the stone with slaps of supreme confidence.
Severus watched from the shadows behind an old suit of armour as Goyle and Crabbe hauled Tollery to his feet. His own limbs stung with sympathy, or perhaps in memory. Malfoy had, after all, gone after him first, before the summer holiday. It had taken him longer to find out who had helped him betrayed Remus and the Gryffindors.
‘You broke my noth,’ Tollery moaned, just as he was dragged around the corner.
Severus slipped away from his hiding place, and stepped carefully over the spatters of blood some unlucky house elf would be responsible for. He ran down the hallway, in the opposite direction from Malfoy and his goons.
This time the throne room was empty.
Sirius stood at the right hand of Arawn’s throne-chair. He was watching his friends– the glow from the lichen hurt his dark eyes rather than illuminating the room for him-- but then, everything seemed to be humming, just one side of pleasantly, and it was distracting. He couldn’t pull his thoughts together long enough to do more than collect vague impressions of the scene.
James still wore the cloak about his shoulders– visible side out. Sirius thought he was afraid they would be taking it away, and he clutched it around him with fists so tight that his bones creaked audibly. The humming seemed to sharpen, and he turned away from James with a wince, so that his eyes fell on Arawn. He couldn’t tell what Arawn was thinking. The king of the underworld’s white face was turned slightly away from him, and one chalky, bony hand rested against the pointed chin as if he were in some deep contemplation.
‘You are indeed brave children,’ the man said finally. His voice echoed in the dim room. ‘Clever children. No one has attempted escape from my people in a hundred of your years.’
James sounded irritated. Siris wondered if he were putting it on. ‘Well, we might have made it, too. But we didn’t, so what are you going to do with us?’
Only because he stood so close did Sirius see the small smile that moved muscles in the marble-like surface of Arawn’s face. ‘I had misjudged. It seems you are the leader of this pack.’ He lowered his hand to rest on his thigh. ‘You ask if I will punish you, bachgennyn? Perhaps I ought to. Perhaps I ought simply to hand you over to Llyke...’ Again he seemed to smile. ‘I think to your mind that would be punishment worse than any pain I could inflict on you.’
Sirius couldn’t follow that, but the buzzing in his body and in the air around him forced his mind flittering away from puzzlement. He looked at Peter, who was trying so hard not to be frightened. Pity turned his stomach, but the bones of his fingers itched and he lifted them to clench his hands to fists, and forgot what he had been thinking of. The purring all around him was going to drive him insane. Flames flickered at the edge of his fuzzed-over vision, but he had learnt to ignore them. Dwelling on them hadn’t done him any good.
James was saying something. Arawn’s reply penetrated his haze. ‘Enough. I do not intend to argue with you.’
Argue? Sirius looked up.
‘We’ll keep trying,’ James shouted. He took a step toward them. ‘You can separate us or enslave us or lock us up in chains, and none of us will ever stop trying to get out.’
Arawn leaned forward on the hard wooden seat of his throne. One inky lock of his hair fell from his shoulder and swung through the still, chill air. Sirius stared at it, momentarily mesmerized.
Shake it off, his mind whispered. But he couldn’t. He could hear the crackle of the flames over the hum.
‘I could release you now,’ said the lord of Annwn. ‘But you would only plague us again and again until you freed your friend.’
‘That’s right too,’ retorted James. ‘So why don’t you save yourself the bother and just give it up?’
Arawn held out his hand without looking, and Sirius realised what the man wanted after an endless moment of confusion. He lifted his hand– felt so heavy– and laid it across Arawn’s palm.
The light flashed. The darkness fell away as if curtains had been drawn back, and the humming receded to an almost unnoticeable drone. Even the pain in his eyes disappeared. He looked to his friends, and hope surged in him.
‘My need is greater than yours,’ Arawn told his friends, his Housemates. ‘We knew him when he came to us. We have been waiting for such a one for many of your years.’ He drew Sirius closer, put another inhumanly cold hand on his waist and held him gently. ‘Our worlds are growing farther apart,’ he murmured. ‘The day will come when no human will cross over again. Even I cannot predict what will happen on that day, for our peoples are interconnected in ways that are unknowable. But with such a one–‘ He gripped Sirius’s hand with sudden strength. ‘We can put off that day.’
‘That doesn’t make a bit of sense.’ James took another step toward them. ‘If you’re that dependant on humans, then come to our world. The first rule of magic is to keep it simple.’
‘Humans have only the barest comprehension of magic,’ Arawn snapped. His fingers wrapped around Sirius’s wrist, so cold they burned. ‘Do not seek to teach me, child. If something else could be done, I would do it. I do not easily break my covenants.’
‘Covenant?’ Remus’s voice was sharp. ‘What covenant?’
And Sirius, somehow seeing more clearly in his connection to Arawn, knew. Silently he urged Remus on.
The king was quiet for a moment, and it seemed to Sirius that he regretted the slip. But at last he answered. ‘I have not been out among your people since the past age, but I made certain promises to one of your lords that I have since been unable to abide. But I cannot weigh my honour above the survival of those in my care. I will not.’
Sirius held his breath. But Remus was persistent, and Sirius was glad for it. Ask the right questions, he begged.
‘What was the pact?’ he demanded.
James put his hand on Remus’s shoulder, squinting behind his glasses. ‘You have to answer, don’t you?’
Sirius turned to look at Arawn. The smoky eyes lifted to his for a moment, then looked back to the other boys.
‘I gave my word to take no son of man before his time, no matter my purpose.’
‘Then you can’t take us, can you?’ James let out a crow. ‘It’s your own law!’
Sirius watched the barest of expressions flit across Arawn’s face, so quickly he couldn’t identify them. ‘You can’t, can you,’ he whispered.
Arawn’s eyes turned up to his.
Then the man let out a soft breath. ‘No son of man,’ he repeated. He released Sirius’s hand, and beckoned Remus. ‘Dewch yma, bychan celwyddwr.’
‘No,’ Sirius started, but Arawn cut him off without even looking at him.
‘It’s all right, Sirius,’ said Remus, and he left James’s side to come to Arawn.
‘No it’s not.’ He grabbed Remus’s elbow and kept him out of the man’s reach. ‘He’s–‘
‘I cannot by my own word keep any of you in Annwn,’ finished Arawn. ‘None of you but this one.’ He held out his hand, and Remus took it.
‘I don’t care,’ Remus told them, his eyes on his feet. ‘This is better.’
‘He’s as human as the rest of us,’ James shouted. ‘This isn’t fair! You can’t prove--’
Remus faltered. He let go of Arawn’s hand, and took a stumbling step back. The others skittered back to give him room.
They were all seeing it, like flashes from a film screen. ‘Stop,’ Sirius protested. ‘You don’t need to do it this way!’
They walked through the forest. The breeze was cool, the air damp and electric with coming weather. Bran walked with them, his hand grubby and clinging in theirs, but his trust made them feel strong and adult.
Remus wasn’t just seeing it. He was reliving it. He gasped. From his knees he stretched out a hand before him. ‘Bran,’ he cried. ‘No, stay back.’
The wolf tore into their flesh, rending them apart with two quick snaps of his powerful head, whipping them aside to lie helpless. Their hands grasped weakly at his fur, but couldn’t hold on when he discarded them and went bounding after Bran.
Remus began to gag. His put his hand to his throat, struggling wetly for breath.
The Auror who held them was wet with their blood. The pressure of his torn shirt pressed against the bubbling wounds in their throat was suffocating them. They tried to keep their eyes on Bran, limp in the arms of another Auror, a dark head unmoving on the woman’s breast. They called his name, but the man who held them hushed him. When he saw their agitation, he turned them so they could no longer see.
Remus collapsed slowly onto his side. He wasn’t struggling to breathe anymore. He wasn’t struggling at all.
A ministry official stood over their bedside, taking notes while a man with a camera photographed their injuries, healing now. He’ll be called Remus Lupin, the note taker said. The last R.L. died two years ago, didn’t he, Bert? I’ll check to be sure it’s open. It’s a good name, sort of poetic. I rather like it, myself.
Their mother sat by them, but she wouldn’t touch them. She wouldn’t touch them.
Bran was dead, the wolf had killed him.
Remus lay still. His chest rose and fell softly and his hands curled into loose fists close to his chest. It was over.
Sirius rubbed his eyes to clear them of the sight of the dead boy. Bits and pieces of the scene around him came into focus. He rose– when had he fallen?-- and crawled to Remus. ‘You didn’t have to do it that way,’ he repeated to the air around them, but it was almost voiceless. It was over now. Remus’s secrets belonged to everyone now. He turned the boy onto his back, and bit his lip.
There was blood on his scarf and hands. He peeled away the knit, and used a clean edge to wipe away the stains on the pale throat.
Arawn leaned back in his chair. His deep voice was whispery now, thin as though exhausted. ‘I have proven it, and now I must keep him. Your love for each other is strong. You will not leave him.’ Sirius felt a gaze lingering on the back of his skull, and refused to look past Remus’s fluttering eyelashes. There were no wounds on the neck or the palms.
‘You will not leave him.’ Arawn sighed. ‘And so, in the end, you will yet serve my needs.’
‘You’re evil,’ Peter said.
Arawn stood, and Peter jumped back. James held his ground. ‘No. But my need is greater than your lives.’ He came and knelt on Remus’s other side, and laid his hand over Sirius’s. ‘I am aware of the cruelty of this choice,’ he murmured, for Sirius’s ears alone. ‘Nonetheless, you must choose, now. It has long passed the point where I could take you without the choice.’
‘You’ve been talking at me since we got here,’ Sirius retorted. But he kept his voice down. ‘About how I belong to the earth and I can help you and how desperate all of you are.’ He looked up. ‘But maybe there’s an explanation you haven’t looked at. Maybe it’s just time for your people to die.’
Arawn sat back on his heels, and laid his hands across his lap. His thin-lipped mouth was nearly immobile. ‘Perhaps. But if it were your people, would you not do everything you could? Would you not try every plan, however desperate?’
‘What I would do doesn’t matter.’ He’d gotten as much of the blood as he could. His fingers moved gently over thick, textured scars of shiny skin. ‘It’s not my people, is it.’
‘In the old times you would have been a king of man.’ He could barely hear Arawn’s voice, but the words seemed to wheedle into his brain, and the hum that he’d almost forgotten about formed a barrier around him. ‘The kings of men, the kings of the earth, have greater responsibilities than an ordinary human.’ Arawn laid his hand across Remus’s smooth brow. ‘Would you have my people live as he does? A broken half of what he ought to be. The dance will die. This place, older even than my memory, will fade and disappear. All that we hold dear will be no more. Would you do that to us?’
His throat was sore. He forced himself to swallow, and rubbed his eyes with reddened fingers. ‘I’m only fifteen years old,’ he whispered. ‘I don’t want to die for someone else. I don’t want to have to think about what might or might not happen to you in a thousand years. I’ll be dust by then! I’m just– I’m just a kid, not one of those damn kings of whatever you babble on about. I want you to just leave me alone! Find someone else who can sacrifice himself and his best friends.’ He thrust out his chin and faced Arawn directly. ‘It isn’t going to be me.’
The edges of Arawn’s mouth turned down. ‘That is your answer, then?’
Something in him snapped. With a great thrust of his mind, he put all of the arguments and uncertainties and wonderings out his thoughts. He refused to think about it any further. ‘Find someone else,’ he repeated. ‘I’m no part of your problem.’
The line on Arawn’s forehead smoothed out. He took his hand from Remus’s forehead, and he stood.
‘Leave this place,’ he said. ‘You will find the way back is clear to you.’
James and Peter came to them. ‘It’s that easy,’ James half-asked. ‘That’s it?’
‘Once the choice has been made it cannot be reversed.’ Arawn’s perfectly straight shoulders suddenly slumped, and the power that had radiated from him dwindled. To the boy’s amazement, he slowly became not a almighty king, but an old man, weary and discouraged. Even his eyes, always mysterious and shadowed before, seemed almost– normal, now. Very human and not at all eerie or divine.
‘Take this one and go,’ he told them, and even his voice was somehow lessened. ‘None will bar your journey. Never return here.’
James was hesitant now, clearly affected by the change in Arawn. ‘Sir,’ he started. ‘My lord. What about Sirius? We only came back because his eyes...’
‘Only our way of calling him back to us.’ Arawn slumped back into his chair. His long arms hung limply from the curved sides, and his fingers dangled listlessly near the floor. ‘We will hold back no part of him now, as he will have nothing of us.’
Sirius touched James’s arm, then Peter’s, and together they bent and comprised a way to carry Remus between them. They lifted together, and Remus’s head fell against Sirius’s chest, his eyes fluttering and frowning, but not opening.
‘Go.’ Arawn seemed suddenly, unbearably drained. ‘Go.’
James swallowed. ‘Come on,’ he murmured, and they began to move away from the throne and its haggard king. The light of the lichen died as they left him behind, and they were in near darkness as they reached the great columns. Sirius looked away from them uneasily; the once beautiful stone creations were now only wooden, pale with age and worn from the stress of the heavy lintel they bolstered. The marble beneath their feet faded to limestone, then to mere packed dirt.
He halted, and James and Peter did as well. He looked back, but could no longer see the lord of Annwn.
‘A dark day will come to you,’ the old voice whispered. ‘A day when your people, too, will be dying. I have seen it. This is my promise to you. When that day arrives to your people, your choice will be revisited on you. When your people are dying and you cry out for a saviour– remember my kingdom.’
He shivered. ‘I suppose that’s fair,’ he replied, as evenly as he could. ‘I promise you that I will remember.’
Arawn was silent. All sense of his presence had disappeared. He hefted Remus again in his arms, and looked up to see stars overhead.
They were back in the field.
Peter was pale. James had lost all of his fight, and for perhaps the first time, looked to someone else for direction.
‘It’s over,’ Sirius said, needing to hear it. The sounds of his voice vanished into the darkness and the waving grasses. He slid one of Remus’s limp arms about his shoulders, and took his legs from James. When he was sure of his grip, he accepted all of Remus’s weight, and was not surprised when it was less than he’d been prepared for. Remus was like a little child in his hold. ‘I want to go home,’ he added. ‘Let’s get moving.’
Remus woke when Sirius lowered him to the ground. His hand went to his throat, unthinking, it seemed; then the haze cleared from his eyes and he looked about him.
‘No snow,’ he said hoarsely.
Peter pointed. ‘Someone’s coming.’
‘We must have tripped an alarm.’ James took off his faerie cap and threw it away from him. ‘No snow.’ He rubbed his hair, spiking it to all angles. ‘We could have been gone years, for all we know.’
‘Five months.’ Professor Asper came into view, striding into the clearing in a dressing gown of green and purple. ‘It’s August, and you’re damned lucky I wasn’t at my tea, or I might not have bothered to come out here for you.’
‘August!’ James suddenly moaned. ‘The Quidditch season!’
‘That is the least of your worries,’ Asper retorted. He crouched beside Remus, reacting with alarm to the blood still visible on Remus’s colourless skin. ‘Are you wounded, child?’
Remus pushed himself up on his elbows, then stood. ‘I’m fine, sir.’ He swayed, and Sirius reached for him, but he steadied himself. Sirius noticed that he kept a hand at his bare neck; but the bloodied scarf had been left behind, forgotten.
‘Then march yourselves back to the infirmary,’ Asper commanded them. ‘All of you. You can’t even begin to comprehend the kind of trouble you’re in. You’re lucky you didn’t fall to pieces, you idiotic boys!’
Stunned at the display of temper from the otherwise cool and soft-spoken teacher, the boys fell meekly into line behind him, and submitted to a thorough examination by the on-duty nurse.
‘Where’s Madame Pomfrey?’ Remus dared to ask, as he shed his faerie clothes and exchanged them for a pair of pajamas. Hidden behind the curtain, he and James wordlessly stuffed their treasures, the book and the cloak and the smaller items Peter had carried, under the mattress of a bed. Sirius caught Remus by the arm, but could not catch his eyes. He let go with great reluctance, and they emerged to their fate.
‘On holiday,’ Asper snapped. ‘As is the rest of the school, and as I would dearly like to have been. Someone had to wait around for you simpletons.’ He paced the infirmary, twitching like an angry snake and quite nearly hissing like one. But he betrayed a moment of concern when the nurse cleared their health. ‘You’re absolutely sure?’ he demanded.
‘Bed rest,’ she shrugged. ‘There’s some residual magic, but none of it malicious.’ She cast a stern eye at James, nearest her. ‘Lucky for them.’
‘I get it,’ Sirius muttered. ‘We’re lucky. We got out intact.’
‘You lived,’ Asper growled. ‘Which would make you the first to do so!’
James and Sirius fell silent, chastised. Peter seemed dazed. Remus clutched a glass of water and stared furiously into it. The nurse supplied him with gauze and a bowl of soap-scented water, and Remus seemed glad for the distraction of cleaning himself.
‘Fifty points, Potter.’ Asper made a great effort to calm himself, and his usual layer of glacial remove slowly settled on him again. ‘Fifty points, Black. And fifty points, Pettigrew. Professor Turbute will be returning two days hence. I expect he will extract suitable punishments from your sorry hides.’ He pointed to the door. ‘You will go straight to your dormitories and write to your parents. If you can even begin to find the imagination to wonder what they have been through, you will be very apologetic in your letters.’
Peter exchanged a horrified glance with James. ‘I didn’t think of that!’ he burst out.
‘I am not surprised.’ Asper pointed a little more stiffly. ‘Perhaps you ought to start by apologising for being such poor excuses for loving children. Headmaster Dumbledore will return at once, now you’re back, and I expect he’ll be able to think of quite a lot else for you to apologise for. Get moving. If I hear so much as a peep from any of you, I will personally see you expelled.’
Shoulders hunched and feet dragging, they headed for the door.
‘Fortunately for you, Mr Lupin, I am the Head of your House and you won’t have to wait to hear what’s going to happen to you.’
Remus stood staring into the wash bowl as James and Sirius and Peter left, each watching him anxiously. Sirius turned his back resolutely, and walked away ahead of the other two.
‘To my office,’ Asper said shortly to Remus, and left the infirmary with Remus tagging unhappily on his heels. His bare feet quickly froze from contact with the chill stone floor, and he couldn’t close the neck of his shirt; but he knew better than to voice any complaints.
Asper held the door to his spartan office open as Remus, shivering, passed him; then he went behind his desk and fetched a pipe from a drawer. He lit it with a muttered charm, and released a puff of sweet-smelling smoke into the air. ‘Sit,’ he said softly, and Remus did not even think to disobey. He sat quickly in one of the creaking leather-backed chairs, pressing his hands between his knees. He began to realise, the longer Asper looked at him, that something had changed from the angry man confronting them in the clinic. He was being measured, now.
Asper regarded him for some time, clenching the pipe between his worn teeth and smoking. Finally, he removed it from his lips and said, ‘And shall I release you now back to your room? Shall I let you go with a slap on the wrist and a “bad boy” warning?’
Remus looked up, shocked. ‘Sir?’
‘Don’t “sir” me,’ Asper replied crisply. ‘That is what your Housemates would have me do.’
Remus was on his feet before realising it. ‘Sir, no! It was all my fault, I’m the one who found the damn thing and–‘ He faltered, and turned a dull red. He sank back into his seat and pressed his lips together tightly.
Asper leaned over the desk. ‘You discovered it? All by yourself?’
‘Yes, sir.’ The very least he could do now was keep Lucius out of it.
Asper didn’t seem to believe him, but let it drop. He leaned back into his creaking chair, and tapped his pipe on the edge of his desk. ‘Politics,’ he said, ‘are very important here, especially to Slytherins. As the Head of Slytherin House, it would seem that my duty would be to punish the Gryffindors for what they did and allow you to escape without reprimand. If I took points from you for your escapades, Slytherin could quite possibly lose the Cup again. Moreover, you would bring shame on our House. What do you think?’
He wasn’t sure what the right answer was. Asper’s pale eyes seemed to spear straight through him; he felt cold and dazed, almost dizzy. What did this man want from him?
In the end he could only stutter honestly, ‘That’s not fair, sir. Because it was really my fault.’
Asper nodded slowly. ‘I take you at your word, then. How many points should I take? Five? Ten?’
‘You–‘ He licked his lips. ‘You took fifty from James and the others.’
‘They’re Gryffindor,’ Asper reminded him.
‘So?’ He checked himself. ‘I think you should take the same from me or... or it’ll look just like I got off because I’m Slytherin and they aren’t.’
‘Your Housemates will be very displeased.’
Lucius would rail at him. Severus would look at him with that bewildered expression and ask why he couldn’t have a bit of pride. No one would speak to him.
He said nothing, and Asper nodded again, looking oddly pleased. Remus stared at him, unable to understand what was going on.
‘Fifty points then,’ his Professor murmured. ‘And detention. You will not be joining the Gryffindors, I think... no. You will serve with me, every other night until such a time as we have determined a manner to destroy the ring.’
He nodded, his throat tight. But it was only fair. It was just.
Asper leaned over the desk. ‘Now tell me what happened while you were in there. Leave nothing out. Every detail, Lupin.’
And so Remus told him, and didn’t spare himself in the telling. He described his jealousy of Sirius’s closeness to James, how James had so easily accepted the Gryffindor’s version of events and not his, and how that had led to the return to the ring against his better judgement. He even told the Professor how Eflyllon had quickly recognised that he was a werewolf, and found himself confessing how worthless he had felt, how unable to change his circumstances without James or the others to lead him. How humiliating it had been for James to find out, how James had beaten up on him because of it, just like he’d always feared would happen, and then– then he had to explain how Arawn had revealed his memory of Bran’s death to everyone, and that nearly broke him. He hadn’t even had time to think on that yet, to face the others yet. His stomach rebelled wildly as he choked out the words. But he made himself finish. He felt like an empty husk when it was over, and where the pain of the telling had been, numbness spread.
Asper had stopped interrupting with questions by the end, and he sat in silence for a long time after, his hooded eyes intent on something invisible. The pipe, forgotten, went out, and Remus inhaled the dull scent of the tobacco, floating on it and trying to ground himself. It was suddenly surreal, to be sitting safe in the professor’s office after days of wondering–fearing he might never be safe again. Exhaustion was setting in, making him tremble. It was a struggle merely to focus on the professor watching him so closely.
‘I have something to say to you now,’ Asper finally spoke. ‘You may be too young, but I think not. If you’re old enough to get yourself into this magnitude of trouble, you’re old enough to hear this.’
A tear escaped his control, then another and another. He didn’t know why he was crying, except that he was afraid and he couldn’t breathe with this man watching him like a hawk. ‘Sir,’ he whispered.
‘You were put in Slytherin for a reason,’ Asper told him. ‘If you were meant to be Gryffindor as you so clearly wish you were, you would be so. Do you trust them with your life? You were willing to die for them, but do you know for sure if they would die for you?’ He waited, but did not receive an answer. ‘You have a unique set of challenges. Those Gryffindors will most likely never understand. Don’t look to them for answers or empathy. They can’t give it to you, and the looking will ruin you. Then the day will come when you’re older, and tired, and angry, and maybe even wronged. You’ll be forced to choose between yourself and others, and you’ll be tempted. You had best be sure the choice is right.’
He wiped his face. ‘Yes, sir,’ he mouthed, but had no voice to say it with.
There was a moment’s silence, and then Asper sighed. ‘Go,’ he said, and the intensity drained away and Remus felt released from some great force. ‘Report to me tomorrow an hour after dinner, in the Restricted Section of the library. We’ll begin your detention by learning everything we can about your faerie’s ring.’
Remus stood and bent his knees in a quick, shaky bow. He nearly gasped when Asper stopped him sharply at the door.
‘What was your name? Before you were bitten.’
For a moment he honestly could not remember. ‘Anwir Jones,’ he said dully to the doorknob.
‘Do you know why the Ministry renamed you?’
‘A law.’ He shuffled to face the professor. ‘A law when n-new werewolves are registered.’
‘Many years ago, it was believed that werewolves would be easier to ostracise if they were easily identifiable. Others thought that the bite was punishment enough. The Ministry compromised with a law requiring registered unfortunates to bear names denoting their affliction.’ Asper peered at him, and suddenly Remus recognised his expression. It was compassion.
‘Do you hate the bastards, Remus?’
‘Yes,’ he croaked. ‘I hate–I hate them.’
‘You are Remus Lupin,’ the old man said. ‘But it is a good name. Names have great meaning. If you bear it proudly, if you own it, it won’t matter a damn why they gave it to you.’
It was too much. He couldn’t control his crying now.
Asper nodded. ‘Go sleep.’
He fled, and didn’t stop running til he reached his room. The enormity of what had passed didn’t fully hit him until he tried to pour himself a glass of water. It sloshed and shook in his hand. Then it shattered against the wall, and he screamed at the spray of wet glass. He threw the pitcher after it, and a library book never returned, and screamed until his throat ached. At last, exhausted, he crawled into his bed, scaring a nest of rats, and he closed his burning eyes and slept uneasily until dawn.
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