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.
1977 : Spring
The boy was waiting for her when she got out of her third-period Herbology class. ‘Simms,’ he said.
Lily glanced back at her friends to wave them on ahead, then followed Lupin to the far side of Greenhouse Three. ‘What is it,’ she asked, leaning back against the glass walls.
Lupin clutched his books to his chest and glowered at her. ‘Did you tell them how to do it?’
‘Tell who what?’
‘Simms,’ he snapped.
The look she gave him was aggrieved. ‘Don’t talk to me like you’re a teacher,’ she retorted. ‘And yes, I did tell them how I did it.’
Remus slumped back against the greenhouse beside her. ‘Why? I thought you understood!’
‘I suppose you screamed at them the way you do at me.’
He shot her a frowning glance. ‘What does that mean? I don’t scream.’
She stood straight and faced him. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘you do. A body could think you didn’t *want* help. And don’t slouch, it makes you look like a layabout.’ She reached around his neck to fix the lay of his collar, enjoying his frustrated attempts to squirm away.
‘I don’t. Simms, stop it. Look, I can’t accept any help, yours or anyone’s. If not even Dumbledore can dare to be with me... then... I can’t let my friends try to do it.’ He shrugged his jacket back into place while she straightened his tie.
‘But that’s the thing,’ Lily pointed out. ‘I *was* with you. And you didn’t bite me or hurt me.’ She tightened his windsor knot properly and stepped back. ‘Look,’ she added. ‘Is it so awful that people care? That they would risk that for you? Professor Dumbledore also says that the best way to judge a person is by their friends. Yours are willing to go to lengths for you.’
She saw that she had hit home. But Lupin was stubborn, too, and he fought that. ‘They’ll do anything for a thrill. You seem to know all about it, you know how James and Sirius get. They won’t think it through or they’ll forget something and then I could–‘ he cut himself off. ‘They’re my friends too,’ he said at last. ‘And what I’m willing to do is keep them away to keep them alive.’
‘I ought to slap you,’ Lily said. ‘You lying little boy. If you really wanted to keep them safe, you’d never have made friends with them. Or you’d never have come to Hogwarts. Don’t pity yourself in front of me, not when there are people who could help you. If you let them. If you’d let me!’
‘You’re just James’s girlfriend,’ he muttered. ‘You don’t care.’
It took a lot of control not to punch him. ‘I’m human, Lupin,’ she hissed. ‘I care, though if you keep this up I won’t think you deserve it as much.’
His expression faded into puzzlement. At last he said, ‘Gryffindors.’
He sighed, and looked out across the grounds to the lake and distant mountains. ‘I’m sorry I yell. But I don’t want them to come. If nothing else, if anyone finds out, you’ll all be in a lot of trouble. Not just detention-trouble. It’s illegal. You could be expelled.’
‘First of all,’ she replied, ‘thank you. And second, no one will find out. If no one else has discovered what you are, or where you go, then no one will notice if we go too.’ The bells began to peal, calling for five-minute-to-class. ‘Argue with me later,’ she said. ‘But I’m right. And I’m going to study. Don’t you have somewhere to be?’
Sirius kept the image of his dog-form firmly in mind as he, James, and Peter headed out to the Whomping Willow. Due to an unfortunate detention, he’d been held back until nearly eleven o’clock, and the moon had been full in the sky for nearly three hours. Though Remus had protested, their success at the full moon in March had emboldened James. There had been no question of returning to the Shack and the friend that awaited there; it was a given.
Personally, Sirius wasn’t sure he saw the point. It had been a very great trick, learning the animagi process, and Sirius was sure that at some point (he wasn’t sure how) that it would come much in handy. He didn’t think this was that time.
Clearly, Remus-the-wolf had benefited from their presence in March. Remus-the-wolf had seemed unhappy to find three new intruders in his room, but had soon approached them, sniffing and prodding, and then had acted almost playful. But in the morning Remus-the-boy hadn’t even remembered that they’d been there. Sirius knew that James hadn’t considered that, because neither Sirius nor Peter had considered it either. Remus-the-wolf was different from James-the-stag and Sirius-the-dog and Peter-the-rat in that he didn’t stay Remus. The rest of them retained their human minds, and it had been a tough blow to realise that all their effort to ease Remus had been for nought.
Well– not for nothing. The morning after, Remus had been noticeably more alert than normal, and he’d barely spent any time in the infirmary. So the distraction of playmates had been helpful after all, but it was still disappointing that Remus wasn’t cognizant of it.
Sirius turned back for a moment, and saw Lily. She stood in the doorway of the storage room (they’d agreed to use it permanently as they were least likely to be seen leaving the school by it) watching them walk away. He lifted a hand, and, silhouetted by the light from behind her, he saw her wave in reply. Then she closed the door and was gone. Sirius turned and rejoined his friends, wondering why she seemed so sad.
‘We’d best transform here,’ James said, as they reached the tree. ‘Last time was a little close.’
Last moon, they hadn’t thought to transfigure themselves until they were in the room with Remus, and it had been a smart job keeping a half-grown wolf on the other side of the door.
‘No.’ Peter shook his head. ‘You’d never get through there, Jamie, with those prong-things of yours.’
‘Prongs,’ Sirius snickered. ‘Suits you. I used to think you were one big prong, actually.’
‘Shut it,’ James replied amiably. He rubbed his chin, gazing at the slowly waving limbs of the Willow. ‘Here’s a thought. Pete, you transform, and then you can run under the branches and hit that knob. Then we can follow. I’ll have to do the spell in the tunnel whether I like it or not. I hope Remus remembered to shut the door this time.’
Sirius said, ‘Peter can go first and see.’
‘Excellent plan.’ James smiled broadly and took off his glasses, tucking them into his shirt. ‘Well?’
Peter raised his hand. ‘I’m not going under that tree until it stops moving,’ he protested.
‘Why not?’ Sirius frowned. ‘Worried about being crushed? Don’t be a coward. Why would it crush a rat?’
Peter hunched his shoulders. ‘Don’t make fun,’ he complained. ‘I don’t see you running under there.’
James stopped the argument before it could really begin. ‘Just this once, Petey,’ he asked. ‘We’ll figure something better out next time. Please?’
Later, as they took turns occupying the wolf’s attention, Sirius leapt up onto the bed and settled with his muzzle lying on one of the tatty pillows. It was a shame that Remus couldn’t really experience this. Maybe they should show him how to be an animagus. It was such an extraordinary thing. Really first class. Sirius had found himself sneaking off to be alone, just to transform and be a dog. Somehow it made the world seem less complicated, for all that inside the dog-form he was still Sirius. Lately, especially, he had caught himself wishing he could just skip things like school and work. Even the things he enjoyed, like watching James in the Quidditch matches, and stealing down to the kitchens, and breaking rules just because they were young and free and could– lately, they’d begun to pall. It was just one shade off unhappiness, and sometimes at night when he couldn’t sleep he could feel it in the pit of his stomach, solid as a stone and refusing to go away. Books didn’t hold answers, though he’d looked; he didn’t want to talk to James about it, for various reasons. Being an animagus helped. He didn’t even mind that they couldn’t tell anyone, since it was illegal; it wasn’t the sort of thing he felt like could be shared.
Remus-the-wolf was growing tired. It was nearly dawn, and its movements were slow. It was less easily distracted from its own limbs, and finally ignored James completely to try and scratch its eyes with its clawed forepaws. It snapped at Peter when the rat crawled near, then retreated from them and crawled up onto the bed beside Sirius. Sirius made room for the wolf, and was surprised when it lay its muzzle over Sirius’s left paw. Pity stirred in him when he saw how the wolf’s flanks shuddered, how its body shook.
James had said they shouldn’t watch when Remus transformed. That it was impolite, or worse. But Sirius watched. It wasn’t the same as when James or Peter transfigured themselves. Then it was a blur, quick and magical, beautiful in a way to see. For Remus it was not so easy. Bones broke. Fur fell out onto the comforter in clumps. Yet through it all, neither the wolf nor the boy made a sound. When it was over, Remus lay where a wolf had been, naked and white and curled around a dog as if he would never be all right ever again.
When he looked up, James-the-boy was standing beside the bed and watching him, Peter in the middle of the room. ‘We ought to go,’ James said.
Sirius looked back at Remus. He sighed, and dropped down from the bed. When he was human again, he draped a sheet over Remus, and then he turned and walked out without looking back to see that James and Peter followed.
‘We need to talk.’ Lucius pinched him as he slithered onto the bench at breakfast. ‘Meet me outside after we eat.’
Remus, rubbing his arm, nodded his obedience, but found that Malfoy had already commenced ignoring him. He turned his head and sat a little straighter, trying to catch a glimpse of the Gryffindor table; he could see light glinting off of Sirius’s smooth black hair, though he could not see the older boy’s face. Still, it was a relaxing sighting. He disliked admitting it, but the past three moons had been the easiest of his life. He had succeeded in keeping Lily away with a combination of threatening, begging, and arguing, but it had been inevitable that the boys would follow her soon, whether she shared what she had discovered or no. Even Peter had triumphed over the difficult spell. And they’d been so proud. And though it was perhaps just his own wishful thinking, Remus fancied that he’d dreamt, the night after the moon, of odd, majestic animals.
But whatever he could or could not remember, the improvement was real. No longer did he wake after the moon a bloody mess. His recovery periods were remarkably quicker, and he had regained enough of an appetite during his time in the Infirmary that the smell of a nutty porridge tempted him. He even managed a little rich cream and fruit, and was pleased with himself.
He’d actually forgotten he was supposed to meet Lucius, and the hand that grabbed him as he left the Hall and pulled him down a less-travelled corridor surprised him. Lucius was in a mood. Remus braced himself.
‘I want to go to the faerie circle,’ Lucius said.
It was so completely contrary to what he’d been expecting that he stared for a moment, before he caught himself. ‘Why?’ he asked blankly.
The blonde boy frowned. ‘Does it matter? It’s mine as much as yours. I want to see it.’
‘But it’s been years.’ Remus wasn’t sure, exactly, why he was protesting, but his feet had gone ahead of his mind and followed Lucius out to the courtyard. ‘Why this sudden urge?’
‘I’ve been going to it all along,’ the older boy told him, without so much as glancing back. Lucius was all but marching. Remus soon had to jog to keep up, and in no time they were in the Forest. It closed around them eagerly, cool and just waking to the day. Sleepy bird calls echoed through the trees. ‘I just didn’t tell you because you were so damn obsessed with destroying it.’
With no one to see, Remus made a grab for the boy’s hand and held onto it, ignoring the edge of black sleeve caught between their palms. ‘That’s not true and you make me sound awful,’ he corrected. ‘I was trying to be careful on your part. But it’s a danger and you weren’t there to see how bad it got.’
‘I wasn’t there because you didn’t take me.’ Lucius scowled and pulled his hand away. ‘It was some cute little adventure, just you and the Gryffs, and no Malfoys invited.’
‘Well I didn’t take Severus, either,’ Remus retorted, stung. ‘You said yourself that if it had been you, you’d have left Sirius! You didn’t give me a reason to take you, and anyway why are we arguing about this now?’ He tripped over the hem of his robe, and just barely caught himself. He dropped his bag and had to slow to pick it up. ‘You haven’t been angry all this time?’
‘I’m angry now and that’s what matters.’
‘Will you stop?’
Lucius faced him. Remus was startled to see how flushed he was, how his hair had become mussed and how his eyes were so furious. Unthinking, he said, ‘I’m sorry.’
Lucius bit his lip. ‘You’re always fucking sorry,’ he whispered. ‘I wish for once you’d just stay mad.’
Slowly, the croaks of frogs and chirps of birds and normal forest sounds intruded on their silence. It was a long time before Lucius smoothed back his hair, and explained in a soft, polite voice, ‘I’ve had a letter from my father. It just– disturbed me.’
‘Say that first, next time.’ Remus took a deep breath. ‘You’re not angry with me?’
Blue eyes met his. ‘No,’ Lucius said. ‘I guess not.’
He only nodded and let it pass. ‘Do you want to tell me what was so bad about the letter?’
‘No,’ Lucius replied. ‘I want to see the faerie ring. And then I want to skip class and then I want to fool around.’
The look he was receiving now was very different from the angry one before, but yet near enough to it that his heart suddenly beat harder. ‘Have fun,’ he said through stiff lips. ‘I’m going back.’
Lucius grabbed his hand, this time. ‘I’ll stop when you say stop,’ he pleaded. ‘I just– I just need to do this. I just need to be somewhere or do something just for me, right now.’
He returned the grip, but resisted when Lucius tried to pull him closer. ‘Tell me what was in the letter.’
He half expected it when he was shoved back in disgust. ‘You want to read it?’ Malfoy demanded nastily. ‘Perhaps I should have Father address it to you, next time.’ He pulled a wrinkled and folded parchment from his robe and tossed it to the ground. ‘He’s plotted my whole life out. My career, my wife, my children’s first names and bloody everything! He’s got everything sorted out, so I’ll ensure the family legacy.’ He kicked at the dirt and sent a spray of it into a bush. ‘Wealth, vainglory, and conceit!’
‘And you’re going to rebel with me?’ Remus consciously kept his voice low. ‘Is that what this is?’
‘Yes!’ Face red, Lucius grabbed up a stick and threw it. ‘Damn it, Reemy. You don’t know what it’s like.’
And he didn’t. Some calm part of his brain was still thinking clearly. Whatever he thought of it, he didn’t know what it’s like for a Malfoy, he realised. He didn’t understand it and he didn’t want to, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t real. Some people really cared about things like the House Cup and what position their fathers had and what marks they got and what kind of china they ate off of. And for better or worse, Lucius was one of those people; and so was Sev, and in their way so were James and Sirius and Peter. The only one who wasn’t, was him.
He thought, I’m tired of being different.
‘It’s all right,’ he said.
Lucius looked at him. ‘Can we just go to the ring?’ He forced a smile. ‘Fooling around is optional.’
‘Sure.’ He let out a deep breath. Arms dangling loosely at their sides, they walked together through the huge old trees. There were their old markers– a blaze on a tree trunk, a bit of old red cloth mostly buried beneath a bush. Then they were at the ring, and soon Remus felt the faintest of resonations. His own spell. He stopped and closed his eyes, then reached inside for the tiny spring inside him that was the magic. Warmth spread through him, making his spine and fingers and the back of his neck tingle. The feeling of vibration grew; as if he were a string that had been plucked. His body thrummed.
Lucius sneezed, and his concentration broke. He looked up to see the blonde boy rubbing his nose. ‘I hate this thing you did,’ he said. ‘It makes me feel funny.’
‘It’s supposed to, if you get too near,’ Remus replied. ‘Come away.’
Lucius obeyed, for once, and they kicked away the layers of leaves and scattering insects, and sat on the damp earth. Lucius lay back and pulled Remus with him, and he didn’t protest too much. It wasn’t even too unpleasant to develop wet patches wherever his clothes pressed to the dirt; everything smelled crushed and heavy and rich, and Lucius was in a gentle mood after all. When they were done, he rested his head in the hollow of Lucius’s armpit, warming his hands under the other boy’s shirt and thinking without really thinking that Lucius had very soft skin.
He would never know what impulse made him speak. Perhaps it was looking at the innocent mushroom ring, that had brought them together in second year. Maybe it was a feeling that for once, everything was going okay. He had plans. He had friends who came on the full moon, for all his protests, and suddenly that wasn’t such a terrifying and lonely experience. He’d be going home soon, but he could deal with that. Maybe Peter would come see him again. Lucius wouldn’t, but they would write. Possibly it was the letter from Lucius’s father, forgotten on the path somewhere.
And so he said, ‘Do you think we’ll still be– whatever we are, in a year? In five years?’
Lucius didn’t look at him. A beat passed, and another, and then Lucius said, ‘I don’t ever want to talk about that.’
‘Oh,’ he replied, and was silent.
At last they let him rest. Gledi was gasping with the effort of using the crystal for so many hours at a time. But it was done. He pressed his trembling hands to his aching temples and bent over his knees.
A cold hand came down on his shoulder, causing him to flinch. ‘You’re not done, yet,’ he was told. ‘One last contact.’
‘I can’t,’ he denied hoarsely. ‘I can’t, I’ve nothing left.’
A face swam into view before his teary eyes. The frozen fingers gripped his chin, digging into his flesh. ‘Let me put it to you this way,’ it whispered. ‘I can kill you swiftly, or I can make you linger for weeks.’
His throat was too dry to swallow. He closed his eyes. ‘Who.’
‘You have a link, I believe, to the wizard Albus Dumbledore.’
Gledi looked involuntarily at the crystal. ‘No.’
‘No?’ The insidious voice became chill. ‘Then perhaps someone at the Hogwarts School of Magic. Someone to deliver a message.’
Whoever he named would die. But he was far past the point where he believed he had a choice. If he resisted, it would only come out in another way.
‘Call to him.’
His sweat-slicked palms slipped on the crystal’s smooth surface. It took a long time for the mist to tint with his presence– he was worn down. But there; a mirror. He butted up against it weakly, and said, ‘Old friend?’
It took a minute. He was growing feebler. But then there was the faintest sense of green, of curiosity. Then concern. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘I’m more sorry than I can tell you.’ Hard even to think now, and most of his concentration was pouring into keeping the connection alive. On the other end, Asper reached out to bolster it, but already threads were escaping him. ‘Message for Albus.’
Then the searing, icy touch of his attacker, sliding along on the tenuous connection and tweaking the professor viciously. ‘Tell him I am coming,’ Voldemort whispered. ‘Tell him I’ve already arrived.’
When Asper reeled away from the mirror, he knew. Gledi was dead, and he’d been left behind deliberately.
As he collapsed to the carpet, he tried to cry out, and never knew if he did.
James helped Remus wrestle his trunk onto a cart, and walked him to Platform 4 headed for Chepstowe. ‘Someone going to meet you at the station?’
‘Taxi,’ Remus replied.
Sirius finally won free of his mother and caught them up. He slung an arm around Remus’s shoulders and took his book bag. ‘Ready to be home?’
James saw the look that the boy gave them both. He tried not to feel sad, as Reemy seemed to. After all, summer was short enough, and then he’d be a seventh year. And he’d gotten Head Boy after all, with the reservation that one more detention would blow it. So, of course, there’d be plenty of new opportunities to make use of, with his rise in status. Things wouldn’t change that much. Not really.
‘I’ll write,’ he promised. They reached the head of Platform 4. ‘Promised Mum I’d come right back. See you in September, all right?’
Remus smiled. ‘Bye, James.’
Sirius and he wrestled the trunk into the new compartment; then they stood facing each other in the empty train. ‘Did you ever hear what happened to Professor Asper?’ Sirius asked.
‘Dumbledore just said that he’d gone off on research.’
‘And you don’t buy that,’ Sirius guessed.
‘Well– I just think he would have told me.’
‘Maybe he forgot. No offence, Remus, but you’re just one of his students, and you know how professors get. He was probably so caught up in some new theory it just slipped his mind.’
‘Maybe.’ Remus drew in a deep breath, throwing back his shoulders. ‘Well. I guess I’ll see you soon,’ he said.
Remus tugged on his scarf. ‘Be well,’ he added.
Sirius coughed. ‘Yeah. You too.’ He wiped his nose, then leaned forward and quickly hugged Remus. ‘Bye,’ he said, and jumped from the train and sprinted up the Platform.
1977 : Summer Holiday
Remus turned on the light cautiously. His mother, asleep on the couch, frowned and turned her head, but didn’t wake. Remus padded silently across the wood floor on his bare feet, and stopped beside the crib.
The baby was awake, waving chubby arms and trying to reach the dangling stars and doves. Remus offered him a finger, and the baby promptly stuck it in his mouth. Despite himself, Remus smiled.
‘Hello, Benjamin,’ he whispered. ‘I’m your brother.’ He brushed his knuckle over the soft, chubby cheek. ‘You look just like Bran did.’ The infant cooed, and Remus slid his hands under the baby’s back and lifted him out of the crib. ‘Shh.’ He tilted the tiny warm body against his chest, and laid his cheek against the silky baby hair. Ben gurgled quietly and reached for his ear.
‘What are you doing?’
The loudness of Samuel’s voice made him jump. Suddenly his stepfather was there, looming over him and grabbing Ben from his arms.
‘I just wanted to hold him,’ he protested, flinching back. ‘I wasn’t doing anything wrong!’
Samuel’s face was locked into an expression of– he fears me, Remus realised, and something very cold and unhappy stabbed through his stomach.
‘Don’t wake your mother,’ the man snapped. ‘Go to your room.’
‘I didn’t do anything wrong!’ It was out of his mouth before he could stop it. ‘I didn’t hurt him!’
Blod was already sitting up. ‘What’s going on?’ she asked groggily. She stood and came quickly to the crib. ‘Something with the baby?’
‘Nothing,’ Samuel said. ‘Remus. Go to your room now.’ Remus didn’t move, and then Samuel slapped him. With the baby in his arms it didn’t have much force behind it, but it stung. ‘Go to your room!’
Voices woke him later. He had fallen into a doze, his eyes red and salty from furious tears. He rubbed them as he sat up. He stood and opened the door, and crept down to the end of the hallway to crouch at the top of the stairs. From that vantage he could hear the argument in the parlour clearly.
‘Do I have to remind you he’s my son?’ His mother. They were talking about him. He wrapped his arms around his knees, and leaned his head against the wall.
‘And do I have to remind you that Benjamin is, too?’ Samuel, hissing and trying to sound controlled. ‘I won’t have him near the baby!’
‘He didn’t mean to hurt Ben... be reasonable...’
‘Damnit, Blod. He killed your other son! I think I’m being perfectly reasonable!’
He left the stairwell and went back to his room.
Blodwen tugged at the shoulders, resettling the heavy wool and tweaking the high collar. ‘Perfect,’ she said. ‘It fits you very well.’
Remus smiled. He pulled at the cuffs of the old greatcoat, then at the shirt beneath it, covering his hands out of habit. ‘Papa wore these?’ The deep brown of the coat and the russet of the scarf did look well with his colouring, he admitted. Looking into the mirror was like looking at Papa. He wondered a bit at it. ‘I barely remember him. What was he like, Blod? Before Bran and me?’
‘Oh, Remus.’ She sighed, tucking a strand of still-blonde hair back into her headband. ‘Don’t ask such things.’
‘Did you love him?’
Her eyes met his in the mirror, and for a moment he thought she would rest her hands on his shoulders. They were of a height once; now he was perhaps the taller by an inch. She did not touch him. ‘I suppose I did.’
‘More than Samuel?’
‘Oh, Remus.’ She turned to her table, and put more pins into the cushion on her wrist. She took his hand, and pulled the sleeve back away from it, pinning the fabric where the new hemline would be. ‘I don’t know. I was madly in love with your father, during school, and I suppose for some time after. But mark me, Remus. Nothing good can ever come from a blind passion.’
She stuck him with a pin, and cursed. He said, ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t be good. I’m sorry about everything.’
She looked up quickly, and for a moment again he thought she would touch him, and he longed for it.
‘It’s not your fault.’ She removed the pin cushion and tucked it away in her sewing basket, and took the coat off him, laying it carefully on the stool. ‘Samuel and I– well, he doesn’t hold much with magic, Remus, and he believes... I agree... it’s time to, to leave that world behind us.’
He understood what she could not say. There was blood on his hand where she had pricked him, and he wrapped the scarf around his fingers, watching the blood seep into the weave and blend with the faded old colour. He heard the door shut as she fled. He laid the scarf on the coat, and his father’s shirt beside them. ‘Yes, mam.’
He took a taxi to Chepstowe alone, the next week, and boarded the train for London. He did not look back; he knew already that he wouldn’t be returning.
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