A/N: I'm so sorry! You just do not know how sorry I am for taking this long! I feel absolutely horrible I tell you! I worked on this really hard so I could get this to you and you could enjoy. I hope I still have some readers out there and they haven't all abandoned me for a lost cause.
Anyway, enough of my ranting, onto the chapter!
Disclaimer: No, of course I don't own it! Would I be working at McDonalds if I did? NO!
Chapter 37-Are We There YET!
Two curiously bright emerald eyes stared out from behind thick black frames. It was exactly seven o'clock on the nose (too early for any sane person) and his Papa, who'd worn an exceedingly evil grin at the time, had brought his son to the rooms of his uncles'. Harry of course knew what that grin meant; he was a Slytherin in training after all. Climbing into one of the brown leather chairs he began to contemplate what he was going to do. Obviously he was going to have to wake someone up; the question was who first. This was a serious decision and the little mage had to give it considerable consideration. His rumbling stomach, however, solved his dilemma for him. He patted his belly and nodded to himself; Remus it was then. One of the first questions out of the man's mouth would be if he was hungry. Harry loved his godfather dearly but he knew there were just some things better left in the hands of others.
Having made his decision the boy hopped out of the chair and padded over to one of the doors. Peeking inside he discovered that he'd chosen correctly, as he spotted the bassinet. Ariana was just beginning to wake up and she made faces as she did so. Brow furrowed Harry leaned forward and caught a whiff of something rather unpleasant. Snapping back he pinched his nose---ew!---that smelled! She made little cries, balling up her fists to show her displeasure. Harry immediately grabbed one of the pillows that had fallen off of Remus's bed during the night and dragged it over; he reached inside the bassinet and picked her up, laying her on the pillow. Her cries were becoming more urgent and the little mage knew that if he didn't do something quick she'd soon be waking everyone up within a fifty foot radius.
Emerald eyes desperately racking the room over, he spotted what he needed. Tucked away in the corner was a blue diaper bag with yellow ducks dancing over it. Grinning happily he dug through it and soon found all that he required to make the change. Arms full he returned to Ariana and offered her a binkie which she accepted and sucked gratefully, watching him now with curiosity. He laid out the new diaper, wipes and powder before surveying her out-fit. Just a shirt, good, this would be rather simple then. With relative ease he removed the diaper but not before first pulling his shirt over his nose to limit the amount he smelled. It didn't work very well and Ariana gurgled at the faces he made as he ran to dispose of the stinking mess. Coming back blessedly empty-handed he picked up the wipes and tried to remember how his Mama had done this. Grasping her ankles in one hand gently, he lifted her bottom and quickly cleaned what poop remained. Throwing the wipe aside for the time being, he grabbed the powder and let out a generous amount. In fact, he poured more than he meant to; a fine white cloud of talcum powder rose into the air, choking the seven year old who quickly threw a cloth over Ari's face so she would not inhale the powder nor get any in her eyes. He eventually managed to wave it all away and removed the cloth. Ari looked at him curiously, wondering what in the world was wrong with the person who was now covered in white spots and coughing occasionally. Harry glared and dusted his shirt but only succeeded in leaving white hand prints. Pushing his annoyance aside the fire magelet examined her and nodded to himself. Lots of powder, she wouldn't get a rash now, not like some of the kids who had been brought to his mother. Their bottoms had been just as red as tomatoes and apparently quite painful. He would not let Ariana get that if he could.
He grabbed the diaper and turned it over and over. Where in the world was the front!—it all looked the same to him! So he did what his father did when the man didn't know the answer to something; he glared at it, demanding that it reveal its secrets. Unfortunately, it worked no better for him than it did for his Papa. Sighing in defeat he decided to do what any other seven year old would do.
"Eanie, meanie, minie, mo. Catch a gryphon by the toe. If he bites you let him go, eanie, meanie, minie, mo." He chose the end his finger landed on as the front and put the diaper on Ariana. She seemed very pleased with him and gurgled appreciatively. "You're welcome," Harry told her as he carefully scooped her into his arms. He bounced her for a bit before his rumbling stomach reminded him why he had come to see his Uncle in the first place.
Going over to the bed he placed her on one side and crawled up the there so as not to knock her off. Safely on top he picked her back up and shook Remus's shoulder. "Uncle Moony, it's time to wake up. Ari and me are hungry," he informed the werewolf.
For a moment Remus moaned and was about to tell Sirius to go stick his head in the lake for giant squid when he realized who had actually spoken. He lifted his head from the pillow and rubbed the sleep from his amber eyes before blinking in confusion. "Harry? What in Merlin's name are you doing here so early?" He asked, voice slurred with sleep.
Harry gave him a bright smile as he tickled Ariana's tummy. "Papa brought me," he answered as if that explained everything.
And it did. Remus was going to kill Severus later, preferably on the full moon. "Vindictive Slytherins," he muttered under his breath before sitting up and pulling the two children into his lap. "Harry, why in the world are you covered in white powder?
The little magelet looked woefully down at his shirt and pants. "I changed Ari," he explained.
Remus looked over at his…well he might as well get used to calling her…daughter to see her sucking on her binkie happily, blue eyes gazing at him in adoration and, if he interpreted it correctly, none too little hunger. Gathering her into his arms and putting Harry on his hip he headed into the kitchen. "Well, I know the hungry glint in a werewolf's eyes anywhere and I'm sure you're just as hungry. What do you want for breakfast, little pup?"
Harry snaked his arms around the man's neck, smiling happily. "Hot cereal, please," the magelet requested politely.
"I have an order of hot cereal and a warm bottle of milk," the Defense teacher recited as though he were a waiter, "Let's call in a house-elf shall we? I'm afraid that like my potion skills, my culinary skills are severely lacking." He sat Harry on the counter and tugged at the purple bell pull.
Winky appeared with a quiet pop, aware of the early hours. "What can Winky get you, sir?" she asked Remus, bowing slightly.
Remus recited the order, adding his own request to the list. Winky nodded happily and disappeared after promising him that it would arrive momentarily. She had not fibbed for the second she left the steaming meal appeared on the table. "House-elves," Remus muttered. "Don't know what I'd do without them."
"Poison yourself with your own cooking?" The fire magelet suggested with a sly grin.
The Defense professor gifted the boy with a glare as he swept his wand over him in a cleaning spell. "You've been hanging around Severus too much, you're starting to sound like him," the werewolf grumbled. The little mage heard this and gifted the man with a smirk that matched the Potions Master's with unerring accuracy. The werewolf rolled his eyes and Harry broke down in to a fit of giggles before digging into his meal with gusto. Testing the milk's temperature on his wrist, like he'd learned over the last two weeks, he deemed it satisfactory and pressed the nipple to her mouth. Ariana took it in and sucked happily, apparently famished after sleeping through the night for the first time since she'd been born. Remus had been terrified the first night she had woke crying, not wanted the rest of the pack to know that she was alive after he'd informed them of her death. He gazed at the baby sadly; he remembered all too well when Ellen had come to him while he'd stayed with the pack…
"Remus, Remus wake up!"
The Defense Professor jerked awake at the call and blinked at the fuzzy image of the woman in front of him. Running a hand over his eyes he looked back to see the long blonde hair of an old friend. "Ellen?" he said groggily, sitting up.
She immediately clamped a hand over his mouth, glancing around furtively and sighed in relief when she realized no one had heard. Removing her hand she motioned for him to follow. Bearing his training in mind the werewolf extracted himself from the mass of sleeping bodies and left the underground den. The two trekked silently through the wood, thoughts rushing dizzily through Remus's mind. Where were they going? Why did it have to be secret and at night of all times? The professor had to admit that he'd more than a bit disappointed not to see his friend when he'd first come to the pack. In fact, he realized with a sudden frown, now that he thought about it, he hadn't seen her at all his entire stay so far. It was only because he'd been so busy with negotiations that he hadn't noticed and hunted her up. By they was she was warily glancing from side to side and halting every so often to listen it was obvious she did no want the rest of the pack to know she was here. But why? He hoped is questions would be answered as they entered the small den. As he looked around he could not help but feel saddened. He remembered Ellen's family den; it had been among one of the most spacious and livable in the Nether Wood pack. This was a hovel by comparison. She gave him a sad smile, clearly reading the comparison on his face, before gesturing for him to sit on one of the few pillows present. He did and she seated herself across from him. For a moment neither did anything but watch the other before Ellen suddenly leapt up, engulfing him in a tight hug.
"Oh, Remus! It's so good to see you again! When I heard you were coming I knew my prayers had been answered!"
He returned her hug with the same fervor but finally released hr and held her out. "Ellen Longclaw, what is going on here? Why aren't you with your family?"
Ellen wiped away her tears and moved to return to her pillow. "This is why," she said before murmuring a spell under her breath.
The Hogwarts Professor watched in astonishment as the spell over her dissipated, leaving behind a very different woman. "Ellen, you-you're pregnant!" he stuttered, amber eyes growing to the size of saucers.
The blonde woman touched her incredibly round belly with sadness. "Yes, I am. Only three weeks left though I don't thing it's going to be that long." She stroked her belly lovingly, her sadness growing.
"But I don't understand," Remus went on in confusion, "Why would they banish you for mating?"
"Because I chose to mate with a muggle," she spit out bitterly. "Because I chose a 'creature' that's supposedly inferior to us." She visibly reigned in her temper before continuing. "I loved Edward more than life itself and for that I am banished."
The professor could not believe what he was hearing. Just because her heart had chosen a muggle, a non-werewolf, she and her future child were forced to live in these conditions? It did not make sense; the werewolf packs he remembered had always been so tolerable and accepting. When had this drastic change come about? Deciding that that was better dwelled on at another time, Remus focused more on what she had said; something nagged at him about her choice of words. "Loved?" he asked, needing clarification.
Ellen's sky blue eyes once more filled with tears that she tried desperately to blink away but to no avail. "He's dead; I murdered him," she bit out bluntly before burying her face in her hands in a vain attempt to hide her sobs. Remus, once overcoming his shock, moved to her side and enveloped her in a hug, letting her cry herself out. "It was an accident; I never wanted to hurt him. My family finally discovered that I was with child the night before the full moon when my brother caught me with my charm down. That's when I was expelled from the den and forced to make this. I went to Edward and he demanded to know what was wrong. When I told him what had happened with my family he insisted that I stay with him. I told him that I couldn't and ran out," She swallowed thickly, "He followed me into the woods; I guess in his concern for me he forgot about the full moon." She accepted the handkerchief Remus offered gratefully and attempted to clean her face. "When I came to the next morning I was covered in blood and…there…there he was. He was barely recognizable. I nearly killed myself that day so that I could be with him but then I remembered our child and that some part of him lived in her; I vowed then and there to keep her safe, whatever the cost. Even if that meant my life." She suddenly pulled away from, allowing her self to look him square in the eye. "Remus, I'm not going to survive this pregnancy and once I'm gone I want you to take her with you, back to Hogwarts."
His amber eyes flickered in surprise and shock. "But," he began only to be cut off.
"No, Remus, listen to me before you answer. You know as well as I do that the full moon after she is born, if she's not already dead by then, they'll kill her. Remus, I'm asking you as a friend to please take her. Let her be your child and love her as your own."
The Defense Professor looked deep into those sky blue eyes, seeing her pleading and the conviction of someone who had accepted her fate and was at peace with it. How could he deny his childhood friend her last request? "All right, Ellie, I'll take her."
A watery smile broke out over her face and she kissed his cheek. "Thank you, Remus. I have nothing to worry about now."
For the rest of his stay with the pack he met her infrequently, not wanting to make any pattern for someone to follow. Each grew more worried as the talks began to draw to a close. Would the baby be born before the Defense professor would have to leave? Finally it was finalized and Sirius volunteered to go hunt them up a place to stay, promising to return as soon as possible. That very night Ellen went into labor.
"Push, Ellie, for the love of Merlin push!" Remus commanded.
The woman shook her blonde head. "I can't do it anymore, I'm too tired." She lay back against the brown pillow, closing her eyes.
Remus grabbed her hand, giving it a squeeze. "You can do this, Ellie, for your baby girl," he pleaded.
That sparked the fire in the woman's eye as she sat up. "One more push," she warned and took a deep breath.
Remus settled back between her knees, waiting for her to begin. She began to push for the final time, throwing her head back in a scream that tore at the professor's sensitive ears. The baby slipped free of her mother with a wet pop and into the 'nursemaid's' awaiting arms. "You did it, Ellie, it's a girl!" Remus crowed happily. When he received no immediate response he glanced down to find Ellen still, her body, which moments ago had been brimming with life, now lay quiet. All that eased the ache in his heart was the smile on her face; it was obvious she knew she had succeeded. It was finally the tiny girl's piercing wails that brought him back to reality. Silently thanking his silencing charms for holding he cleaned the baby up and cut her cord. Wrapping her in the blanket Ellen had given him for her, the two set out to bury the dead werewolf, one saying goodbye to a dear friend while the other slept, not knowing the mother she would one day miss.
(End of Flashback)
Remus shook himself from these memories and looked over to see that Harry had finished his meal and was watching him worriedly. "You all right, Remus?" he asked, sliding from his chair and coming over to stand by the man's knee. The Defense professor smiled at the child's obvious concern (he'd never heard him call him by his first name before) and sat Ari's empty bottle aside to pat him on the head. "I'm all right now, pup, and since both you and Ari are done eating why don't we go wake Sirius?"
This made the boy forget his worry if only for the moment and he bounced up and down excitedly. "Can I do it? Please, Moony? I know I can wake him up!" With a silent laugh the Defense Professor agreed, having no doubt in his mind that the boy could do as he said; he had been raised by Severus Snape-Dumbledore after all. The grin on the boy's face turned to a suspicious smirk as he crept over to the doorway behind which lie the animagus's bedroom. With the precision that would have made any spy proud, he opened the door and snuck in. Not wanting to miss the show, Remus followed closely behind; Ariana stayed quiet, obviously sensing something was about to happen. The fire magelet circled the bed, surveying the victim from all angles and attempting to decide which way to best approach the situation. The werewolf watching in fascination as Harry suddenly halted, his forehead wrinkled in thought. Apparently coming to a decision he nodded to himself and scrambled onto the bed, trying his best not to disturb the sleeping figure. With a devious grin he conjured a feather out of thin air (which baffled the werewolf to no end) and brushed it across the bottom of Sirius's bare feet. The massive bundle grumbled and jerked his feet away, tucking them safely under the blanket. If possible Harry's grin only grew wider as he chuckled to himself, apparently enjoying his little game. Snaking up by the dark head he drew the feather under the man's nose. Sirius twitched before giving a little sneeze and wiped his nose with the back of his hand. Seeing that what he had been trying so far was obviously not successful Harry went to his last resort; he stuck the feather in Sirius's nose.
That got his attention. Sirius nearly jumped a foot off the bed, yelping and yanking the feather out. He glared at the snickering Moony before transferring that glare onto the shining expression of his godson. "Morning, Uncle Padfoot!" he greeted cheerfully which only perpetuated the man's sour expression.
"Why did you wake me up like that?" The animagus demanded.
Green eyes blinked at him with angelic innocence. " 'Cause Uncle Moony let me," he said truthfully.
"Remus…"The ex-convict growled, turning back to the defense professor. To his surprise his friend smirked.
"Let the prankster be pranked for once," he declared.
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "Don't think I won't be returning the favor; we'll see how you like it when I let Harry wake you up."
The werewolf maintained his smirk before turning on his heel and exiting the room. "I guess that means I'll have to continue to get up early, won't it?" Remus whispered to Ariana who gurgled in agreement.
"So what exactly are we going to do today?" the professor asked as Sirius finished off the last of his eggs and bacon. Sirius let out a hearty burp. "Bad manners, Uncle Padfoot!" Harry exclaimed with a grin.
"Actually, I have a pretty good idea," the former Marauders said in a mysterious manner and sprinted of to his room. Remus and Harry traded puzzled glances and shrugged. Sirius would answer their question soon enough. And he did when he came bounding back into the room, a toy broom held out in front of him. If he was expecting a clamorous reaction he was sadly disappointed as both Harry and Remus gave him blank looks of non-comprehension. The animagus rolled his eyes; sometimes people could be incredibly thick. "We can teach Harry how to play Quidditch," he explained patiently.
Harry's emerald eyes lit up and the werewolf smiled. "Excellent plan, Padfoot, I must commend you. However," he held up a hand seeing the grin spread over the other's face, "Harry needs to finish the school work that Severus sent with him and we need to get him situated in his room."
The dark-haired man's jaw dropped in disbelief. "How can you say that, Moony? School work on the weekend; that's blasphemy!" he ranted.
"But I like my school work!" Harry piped in, startling the man. Sirius glanced back and forth between the two, first at Remus, then at Harry, as if trying to wrap his brain around the fact that his godson and best friend/brother in the entire world would rather work on, he shuddered, school work than fly. When he saw their serious expressions he threw up his hands and left the room muttering about bookworms and their bad influences.
Remus smiled at Harry's bewildered expression. "It's all right, fire pup, he just doesn't understand the finer points of academics, even if he is good at them."
The boy's expression cleared. "What about Ari? She'll be bored." The magelet pointed out.
The Defense professor's smile widened even further. "Since Sirius is obviously going to avoid us 'bookworms' while we work, why don't we have him watch her? It will be good for him."
A most Slytherin smile crossed Harry's face and he chuckled, pulling his work from his bag. "Good thinking, Uncle Moony!"
Sirius agreed that it was a good idea and gratefully accepted because he had no desire to go anywhere near school work, and left the newly dubbed bookworms to themselves. They didn't seem to notice or mind this as they set to work with a vengeance. The plan, which neither had discussed beforehand but had decided upon unconsciously, was to get all of the work done at once so they would not have to worry about it for the next few days. It did not take them as long as either feared; to Harry learning came naturally but when he really applied himself it went even quicker. Besides, Remus was an excellent teacher and with such an apt pupil he far exceeded even his best.
Remus beamed at his pupil as he called him to a stop. "Very good, Harry, excellent indeed. And I believe that concludes the work from all of your teachers and believe me, I know they will be very proud of all that you have done. In fact," an amused twinkle entered the amber eyes, "I believe such diligence should be rewarded." Leaning over slightly he plucked a chocolate frog from the boy's ear.
Harry's eyes widened like saucers as he accepted the gift. "How did you do that?" he asked in awe.
The werewolf wagged a scolding finger at the boy. "A rule is to never reveal trade secrets, Harry." His playful mood evaporated into a frown when the boy did not immediately tear into the sweet confection, but instead continued to stare at it. "Aren't you going to eat it now?"
Emerald eyes moved to peer up at him incredulously. "But I might spoil my lunch if I do," he pointed out logically.
Remus raised a quizzical eyebrow, hardly believing what he was hearing. This was not the reaction a normal seven-year-old would have. But then again, as Severus had warned him, Harry was not a normal boy and never would be. Just the way he acted sometimes made you forget. "You are a growing boy; one chocolate frog is not going to ruin your appetite," he argued back.
A thoughtful expression settled over Harry's face as he tossed the frog back and forth in his hands. Finally he nodded to himself and stuck the sweet in his pocket. "I think I'll save this for later," he said, patting the now bulging pocket. One never knew when it might come in handy.
Remus shook his head (different indeed) and put away their supplies. "Whatever you say, Harry; I won't argue with you on this one. Why don't we go check on how our canine friend is fairing shall we?"
Harry put his book away and nodded, worry glinting in his eyes. "I hope he's okay."
Remus glanced at the boy in surprise as they headed towards the living room. Now where had that come from? "I would think you would be more worried about Ariana, not Sirius," he remarked.
The critical look of a seven-year-old was remarkably potent, at least Harry's was. "You would know if anything was wrong with her and Uncle Padfoot hasn't been around babies in a looooo---" He held his arms open wide to emphasize his point, "---oooong time. He mighta forgot what it's like," he said seriously.
Remus patted the magelet's head, thankful for his concern but he thought it totally unnecessary. "I really don't think you need to worry so much; Sirius has had plenty of experience with children. In fact, I don't believe there is anything to worry about at all," the werewolf said as they pushed to door to the living room open. If he had wanted to say anything else it dies on his lips as he viewed what could only be described as mass chaos before him. For Merlin's sake it looked as though someone had released one of Hagrid's pets in it! The entire room was coated in a fine layer of white powder, making it seem as though it had snowed indoors. Toys and baby clothes were strewn everywhere, stained, broken, or ripped in a variety of ways. Furniture had been moved or overturned entirely. In the center of all of this were Sirius, a wailing Ariana, and a frantic Dobby who was running around in circles, banging his head. Remus knew his jaw was on the floor but at the moment he couldn't collect enough of his wits to pick it up.
Harry looked at the scene with wide, disbelieving eyes before snapping back to reality. He tugged his brown-haired uncle forward. "Come on, Uncle Moony, they need our help! Ariana needs you!" That galvanized the man into action as his paternal instincts kicked into over-drive. He righted the couch and bodily picked the animagus up, placing him on it. The ex-convict was so far gone in his shock Remus wasn't even sure he noticed. Certain that his friend would be all right if for the moment he cradled the screaming infant to his chest and began to lightly bounce her, singing an old tune his mother had once sung to him.
Noting that the other had the situation well in hand Harry tended to the distressed house-elf, cooing and trilling a comforting manner. It not only affected Dobby but everyone else in the room as well. Because of this Sirius was finally able to shake himself from his shock. "Moony, I'm so sorry! She just started crying and I tried everything, really I did! I even got Dobby here to try and neither of us could do anything!" This had escalated to an almost desperate wail as he continued to explain and Harry tugged (more or less dragged) the softly sobbing elf over to sit beside his godfather so he could trill for him as well. The look he shot Remus had a distinct, "I told you so," quality that the man chose to ignore for the moment in favor of more pressing matters.
"How long has she been like this?" The werewolf asked as the girl's cries softened to small hiccups.
Sirius's cheeks reddened and he dropped is gaze to his lap, fiddling with the empty bottle in his hands. "Five minutes," he admitted with great reluctance. Harry was forced to stop trilling in order to stuff his fist in his mouth to keep the giggles at bay. That dam broke when Remus let a snort escape and Harry found he could not keep it in and fell to the floor, clutching his stomach as it clenched painfully from all of his laughter.
Sirius glared at him but Remus only joined that laughter which seemed to ease the last of Ariana's displeasure and she cooed. From his pocket the Defense professor drew out her binkie and offered it to his daughter who accepted it, sucking it happily. Remus could not fight away the contented smile on his face (not that he wanted to) as he turned his gaze away from her and to the rest of the room. Viewing the disaster that had once been their living room he sighed. "I'm not even going to question how you managed to do this in five minutes; it's really probably safer that I didn't. Let's get this mess cleaned up and eat our lunch, hmm?"
It had only taken a few sweeps of the Defense professor's wand to set things straight. However he ran into a snag when it came to trying to clean away all of that white powder. Ridding Harry's clothes of it had been very simple but this was a much larger mess and required a different type of spell. As much as he tried he could not get it to work properly. With a sigh he ran is hand trough his graying hair, glad Sirius was not present. Padfoot would never let him live down the fact that he couldn't do a spell.
Harry sensed his frustration and decided to intervene. "Uncle Moony, let me try," he insisted, handing over Ariana.
"But---," Remus sputtered, clearly not knowing what his little nephew had in mind to do, "---what---?"
Harry pushed up his sleeves, a look of concentration settling over is angelic face. "At glanha chwblha!" he said decisively. A strong wind blew through the room, lifting the white powder above Harry's head but thankfully below Ariana and Remus's. With one snap of his fingers the powder disappeared in millions upon millions of tiny pops. Flabbergasted, the Defense professor turned to the seven-year-old for an explanation. Misinterpreting the look Harry shrugged his shoulders. "I can't make it go away with no sound like house-elves can," he said by way of apology.
Remus shook his head, hardly believing that's what the boy was worried with. "That's not what I meant; what I would like to know is where you learned to do them that at all."
Harry's eyes darkened with confusion. "The spell I learned from Mama and to make it disappear from Dobby. He says I shouldn't feel bad 'cause most little elves can't make it go away with no sound neither but I'll get better with practice."
"Elven magic," Remus whispered in awe. While it was true that elves could and did many of the same spells as human wizards, they had a brand of special magic all there own. What Harry had done should have been impossible because it fell into that category and humans couldn't do elven magic! Did the others know? Surely Seri had seen him learning from Dobby but if that was true why hadn't they said anything? "Harry that's---," He was suddenly cut off when the boy started tugging at his robe.
"Come on, Uncle Moony, I'm hungry!" He pleaded, literally dragging the other from the room. Distracted by the boy's rumbling stomach as well as his own the werewolf promptly forgot all about the spell the child had done.
"All right now, all you have to do is grasp the handle firmly and point it in the direction you want to go," Sirius explained to his godson who was hanging on his every word. They were in the Room of Requirement; it was after lunch and as promised they were trying to teach Harry how to ride a broom properly. The dog animagus had been absolutely appalled that Severus had not taken steps to begin the boy's instruction in that area and was currently doing his best to rectify this. Sirius was actually doing the instructing and to Remus's surprise his friend was quite good at it. Perhaps once his name was cleared and Hooch decided to retire he could apply as the new flying instructor. It was clear that he loved flying and wasn't as bad as Harry feared---when it came to older children at least. Perhaps once the war ended, when it ended… Solemn amber eyes watched the seven-year-old sadly. So much rested on those tiny shoulders the fate of the entire wizarding world in fact. Yet he was oblivious to all of that, at least for the time being. Through some unspoken consent of the family it had been the decision to not inform Harry of what was going on with Voldemort. He would remember himself, over time. For now they would allow him to bask in his short-lived innocence.
"Uncle Padfoot, I'm ready!" the fire magelet said impatiently, glaring at his godfather.
The animagus grinned and laughed, ruffling the boy's hair affectionately. "All right then, go for it!"
Needing no further encouragement Harry kicked off and started around the room. While Padfoot certainly had the right idea, teaching Harry Quidditch and all, but he'd made one (perhaps fatal or at least disastrous) error; he'd gotten Harry a toy broom, not a real one. Not that they should haven given him a Firebolt but at least something that flew properly. Needless to say, seven-year-old Harry grew quickly bored of this and tried to think of a way to fix this obviously broken broom. Letting his magic seep into the broom he felt it shudder as he snapped the charms that prevented it from moving like a regular broom. It shuddered again, this time in excitement; it was ready to fly as much as him. Throwing a quick glance in the direction of his uncles both seemed to be occupied by Ariana who had started to act fussy. He would have to thank her later; it was the perfect distraction. Nodding to the door it opened, squeaking slightly. This was just enough to bring Sirius and Remus's attention to Harry who happily zoomed out the door.
"No! Harry!" Sirius cried, leaping after him. Mid-leap he transformed into a dog, claws digging into the floor as he landed and bound out the door. Remus was in the middle of a quandary; he wanted to follow his friend but the shaking from the running might hurt Ariana and he didn't want to do that. His dilemma was solved for him when Seri peeked into the room.
"Was that Snuffles I just saw running down the hall?" She asked politely. With a relieved grin Remus placed Ariana in her arms and asked which way his four-footed friend had gone. "That way," the healer replied, pointing off to the left. The Defense professor thanked her profusely before setting off at a dead run in the direction she had indicated. Seri watched his slight form disappear before looking down at the child's bemused expression. "Men are very strange creatures, Ari; remember that," She cuddled the girl close, "it'll come in handy one day."
So the chase for Harry James Potter-Snape-Dumbledore began. The chasers were one Remus Jonathan Lupin and Sirius Orion Black, one of the best Defense Against the Dark Arts Professors Hogwarts had seen in over a decade and the other an illegal animagus and ex-auror. Together they made a formidable team. The only problem was that that Harry-plus-broom-equals-I hope you brought your sneakers because you are going to be running like all the fires of hell are behind you. Which, considering what Severus could and would potentially do to them if any harm came to his son, was rather like a dying ember in comparison. Both swallowed thickly and shuddered; not a pleasant thing to think on, it would somehow make everything worse in the end. As the pair skidded into the Great Hall they spotted Harry zooming between the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw tables, waving at various students who merely returned his greetings, some shouting encouragements and approvals. Dashing off in the boy's direction, the pair was unprepared for Harry to pull off a complete loop-the-loop and head straight for the ceiling.
"Harry, that ceiling is enchanted. You can't go outside from there!" Remus shouted, feeling his heart stop for a few precious seconds as he fell over Padfoot.
"Don't worry, Professor," Neville said as he offered the man a hand up. "Harry knows that, he was talking about it with Hermione just the other day. Something about wanting to do it to his room in his grandfather's Tower." Both man and canine sagged in momentary relief before remembering what they were doing and jumped after the boy again who was now zigzagging over the Slytherin table. They narrowly missed catching him as he suddenly gave an abrupt sharp turn and barreled between them and out the large oak doors.
"Now where is he going?" Remus lamented aloud, staring at the doors in dismay.
"Probably to see Hagrid," Ginny said she came to stand beside him.
Padfoot reached up to scratch his head and ended up scratching his ear instead. Seeing that his friend was incapable of human speech, though his barks were rather telling at times, Remus decided that it was best if he asked. "But why Hagrid and how did you know?" he wondered.
She smiled at him. "Because he and I visit the professor every afternoon around this time," she answered, her eyes twinkling with amusement.
Briefly thanking the girl for her valuable assistance the two set out towards Hagrid's hut. Along the way students greeted their professor and his fur-covered friend with delight and curiosity as a few inquired after where they had been. Remus answered that the trip had been of a personal nature and left it at that. A few times he questioned about the direction Harry had gone in but all of the answers were the same: Hagrid's hut. This was all fine well and good; the boy had to be there unless the entire school populace was playing one massive joke at his expense. If that was true then he wasn't sure whether to laugh or get angry or even cry. Was it even possible to do all three?
"Remus!" Hagrid's jovial voice brought the man back to reality. "Wha' brings ye ter me home?" He asked curiously. " 'ello Snuffles, Harry is awful glad ta see ye."
The black shaggy dog perked up, his ears standing on end as he barked enthusiastically. The brown-haired man clamped a hand briefly over the dog's muzzle, which earned him an indignant glare. "Actually, Hagrid, Harry is who we're looking for; have you seen him?" Relief flooded the teacher when the half-giant nodded.
"Oh aye, he flew by here not five minutes ago. Ye jus' missed 'im." When he saw how crestfallen the two became he suddenly laughed. "Ye two musta be chasen' 'im! Well, I wish ye luck 'cause yer gonna need it."
"I bet he doesn't do this for Severus and Seri," the brown-haired man grumbled toward the lake, the direction Hagrid had indicated Harry had gone in.
The gamekeeper heard this and frowned, shaking his finger at the man. "Now, Remus, don't be like that. The lad is only playin' wit' ye. It's his version o' follow the leader; we all done it afore and he though he would want to play too. Mind ye the first time he did this he nearly gave his da' and grandpa a 'eart attack." The thought of the normally composed Headmaster and Potions Master running around like chickens with their heads cut off earned chuckles from both the dog and teacher though it really was more of a wheezing bark from Snuffles.
"So what are we supposed to do?" the Defense professor asked earnestly.
Hagrid pointed towards the lake. "Jus' head in tha' direction."
With a wave good-bye the two set off in the direction the half-giant had told them to. Though the words of the other professor were reassuring, it hardly lessened either's worry. They would not be calm until Harry was once more safely in their arms.
Their trek to the lake was thankfully an uneventful one but Remus was greatly surprised to see Seleyna seated on the ground with a great hulk of a unicorn. The pair approached slowly, bowing reverently to the two on the ground. Seleyna smiled up at them, beckoning them closer. Padfoot, always the brave one, or slightly reckless in any case, flopped down close to her feet and sighed in delight as she scratched behind his ears. Remus too convinced his body to relax, even if he was under the speculating eye of the stallion.
Sensing his nervousness, she endeavored to discover its source and found it in her imposing companion. She slapped him lightly on the muzzle and he jerked back, rolling his eyes in annoyance. She returned it with a glare, matching him eye for eye. "Quit that, you're making them nervous!" She scolded.
The Barice Unicorn snorted, flipping is mane in such a way that could possibly be interpreted as, "Your point being?" before letting his intimidating façade fall and nudged her shoulder gently. She giggled and hugged his neck, suddenly looking years younger for the gesture. "I know you're trying to protect me from strangers and while I appreciate the gesture, these are not strangers. This is Remus Jonathan Lupin, the current Defense Against the Dark Arts professor here at Hogwarts."
The unicorn snorted. "Yes, he is a werewolf, one who regularly ingests the Wolfsbane Potion of his own free will." The tension in the air noticeably lessened and the professor let out a silent sigh of relief, returning the nod the unicorn gave him.
"And this is Snuffles," she introduced the shaggy black dog who's ears perked up and is tail began to wag. "His faithful companion." Windchaser shook his mane. "I'm aware of that; I'll explain the rest of it later." She turned away from her brother and onto the pair. "What brings you two out here; I thought you were watching Harry but I don't see him with you."
Remus spread his hands. "That's why we're here; we're looking for Harry, he's disappeared on us. "He went on to explain how they had been teaching him how to play Quidditch and how he'd flown away.
"Ah," she uttered as he said this, finally understanding. "Harry's playing Chase. It's one of his favorite games," she explained.
Remus nodded. "That's what Hagrid said; he was the one who directed me to come here." The amber eyes suddenly lit up. "You wouldn't happen to know which way we have to go now, do you?"
A smile spread over the woman's weathered features and she nodded. "I believe your next stop is with Albus; Harry wanted to see his grandpa." Her ocean eyes darkened to a deep sapphire as she shifted her gaze to the lake. "Harry's worried about him and I think he should be."
The Defense professor stared at the woman for her strange comment. "Why do you say that?" He asked lightly, hoping to get an answer to his question.
Seleyna smiled at the man, aware of his ulterior motives, but it was her job to plant the seeds, not tell the entire tale. That would come later. "No reason, my friend, now go along," she made shooing gestures, "scoot. If you're lucky you might catch a glimpse of your prey but I doubt it. I'm sure though that Albus will be able to point you in the right direction."
The Defense professor knew a dismissal when he heard one. Gathering up the lazy mutt he called a friend he headed back, hoping as Seleyna said, to catch a glimpse of Harry. His hope was in vain as he found himself standing before the gargoyle that guarded the entrance to Albus's domain. There was one thing about "The Family" as Sirius had jokingly called them that bothered him. They all had a penchant for keeping secrets and this was one of the times that it showed. By not revealing why Harry was worried about his grandfather the silver-haired woman had told Remus that there was something to worry about but that not everyone was to know about it. That only doubled the man's worry and he was going to be alert to any strange behavior in the Headmaster. Snuffles whined pathetically and scratched at the feet of the gargoyle, reminding the man of their quest.
Remus smiled in apology and gave the password. "Fizzing Whizbees." The gargoyle moved, sounding like a gravelly "finally," in an almost grumbling manner. After allowing the stares to deposit them at the top, Remus knocked on the oak door.
"Come in!" came the cheerful voice from the other side. Pushing the door open, the werewolf allowed the animagus to go before him. Albus was seated in his rocking chair which had been moved from the fireplace to the window where the man was not only in the warm sun but the position gave him a spectacular view of the grounds. He was slowly rocking back and forth; a light blanket thrown over is lap. Given the fact the man's feet were tucked under the chair, the Defense teacher surmised that it was spelled to move on it own.
He turned slightly when they padded into the room and gave them a bright smile. "Remus! Sirius! So good to see you! Pull up a chair and I will summon Dobby to bring us tea if you wish." The two men (after Snuffles returned to his original state), accepted the offer gratefully as both were parched from their activities. After tea was served Albus settled back into his chair which both ex-Marauders noticed was actually padded, and let out a contented sigh. "So I gather that you two are deep into, or should I say, far behind in the Chase." The cerulean blue eyes twinkled like stars behind the half-moon glasses. "I'm sure you're getting tired; after all you are still recovering from your trip here."
Sirius grimaced and nodded, slouching in his chair a bit. "Yeah, a little. But what about you, Albus," Concern lit in the blue eyes, "you seem exhausted."
'Ah, so I'm not the only one who noticed,' thought the werewolf. Albus truly did seem tired. There were dark circles under the eyes and the normally twinkling orbs were dull.
The Headmaster smiled at their worry over him, but did nothing to alleviate it. "I just decided to take a nap after all of that paperwork. I really should stop letting it pile up to this point." He glanced at the clock and sighed in relief. "If you and Harry had not come I might have slept through lunch and woken up with a very displeased stomach!" he chuckled at his own joke.
Distracted by this new information, the werewolf leaned forward. "Harry was here then?"
The Headmaster found it very hard, but did manage to suppress a snicker, and nodded. It was very cruel what he was doing to them. "Yes indeed. If you still wish to pursue him you might try looking in the staff room. I know he was looking for Severus and that's where he is at the moment, grading papers with Minerva I believe."
The ex-Marauders glanced at one another and nodded, coming to a decision. Quickly thanking the Headmaster for the tea they left, one on two feet, the other on four. Albus strained his hearing and when the last of the footfalls died he rose from his chair and walked to the bookcase on the far side of the room. Deftly pulling the maroon book from its place he waited calmly for the wooden structure to move aside before knocking on the door. After a few seconds it creaked open and a short, dark-haired child poked his head out. "You had better hurry or they'll beat you there," the white-haired man warned his grandson.
Emerald eyes danced as a small grasped the broom. " 'k, Grandpa! But you better rest some more, you look tired."
The Headmaster allowed himself o be bullied back into the rocking chair ad could not conceal his amusement at the boy's actions as the blanket was once more carefully placed over his lap. "Harry, my dear, I am fine but if you don't leave now you're going to be caught."
Glaring at his grandfather for a moment as he did a quick once over, he nodded but wagged his finger at the man. "You rest, you've done enough work."
Albus rolled his eyes. "Yes, Dr. Harry," Seeing that his patient was going to cooperate Harry scurried to the fireplace and used the school's floo system, hoping to come out ahead of his uncles.
Remus looked around the halls in despair. The boy was simply no where to be found. Though they had yet to reach the staff room the werewolf was beginning to question if they had been pointed in the right direction. Perhaps Albus had mis-heard the boy and he was going to see his mother. There had been something decidedly wrong with the Headmaster that much was for certain. The picture the man had represented, sitting in that chair as any older gentleman would forcefully brought to mind just how old the Headmaster actually was. Not many reached the venerable age that he had, their lives cut short by some tragic event. Albus had been lucky, doubly lucky considering the hardships he had been through during his life; first Grindlewald and now Voldemort. It seemed as though he (and the rest of the Trinity for that matter) were destined to combat evil and set right the wrongs in the world.
A sudden urgent bark brought him from his thoughts and he shook his head before looking down at the shaggy dog. "What is it?" Snuffles barked again, his gaze fixed ahead. Remus followed his line of sight and felt his eyes widen as he caught his first sight of Harry since the chase had begun. He immediately set off at a run but Snuffles was already far ahead of him, barking like mad. This alerted Harry to the fact he'd been found out and he was off like a shot, headed straight for the opening that would take him into the staff room. The Defense professor and dog entered only seconds after the boy who was already half way around the table, a huge grin plastered on his face. Remus dove but Harry easily maneuvered out of his reach. Around and around the table they went, Harry's pleasure obvious from his giggles and Remus's frustrations easily interpreted from his growls. Finally the Defense professor stopped and grabbed a fistful of Snuffles's dark fur, bringing him to a halt as well.
"Severus Salazar Snape-Dumbledore, why in the name of Merlin's silk pajamas are you not helping us?" The werewolf demanded.
The Potions Master, who had been watching this spectacle over the rim of his cup, smirked and sat his tea on the table. "Four words for you my dear Remus," he began, holding up his hand and counting off as he said them, "Not. My. Problem. Today." Seeing the impressive impression of a fish on the Defense professor's face he allowed his smirk to widen as he leaned back in his chair and glanced at Harry who was now hovering by his shoulder. "Make them run faster, fire child."
An identical smirk fell over Harry's expression and a spark of mischief lit in the emerald eyes. His father was giving him permission to continue the chase, and even asked him to make them run faster. That was something the fire magelet was sure he could do. Before either the werewolf or the animagus could react he was off again, this time out the door.
Cursing under his breath Remus sprinted after him. "I'll get you for this, Severus!" he yelled over his shoulder as the two rounded a corner.
Severus's only response was to chuckle and pick up his tea, saluting the absent man. "I'm looking forward to it, Master Moony," he said to himself before taking a sip. Minerva, who had sat silent through this entire ordeal, shook herself from her stupor at seeing such an utterly ridiculous event and looked over at her colleague who had calmly returned to grading papers. How could he be in such a manner after what he had just seen? Why had he done nothing? Minerva knew better than to believe that the man was not concerned over his son's safety. If anything she believed the man was a bit obsessed over it but she would never say anything to his face. Somehow what she knew and what she had just seen did not add up. Finally she came to the conclusion that she would have to ask (as she had exhausted all of the evidence and if she didn't know she would obsess over it.)
The man looked up from his papers, curious as to what the Transfiguration professor wanted and as such quirked an eyebrow.
"Why didn't you help? Surely Harry could get hurt; those stunts he was performing in here were not something any normal seven year old, let alone most professionals, should even be attempting. How could you sit back and do nothing?" She knew she had said something wrong when an angry glint entered the obsidian eyes.
"Really, Minerva, I thought you knew me better than that; I believe I'll just have to show you then." He snapped his fingers and the chair disappeared from beneath the deputy Headmistress and she landed soundly on her behind. She opened her mouth to give the Potions Master a piece of her mind when she suddenly realized something. Her landing hadn't hurt at all. She looked up at the ice mage questioningly and he offered an answer. "I placed a strong Cushioning Charm on the floor for although Harry is a good flyer, being a phoenix," He gave her a look and she had the good sense to blush as she climbed back into her chair, "He does occasionally fall and I wanted to be prepared if this was one of those times. As for not helping the infamous Marauders," Severus crossed his arms over his chest and tried his best not to smirk, "They need the practice. As Sirius is likely to be as much involved in Araina's raising as Remus will, the girl will no doubt cause trouble everywhere she goes." He could no longer hide the smirk or the chuckle that escaped. "The real fun won't even start until she learns to walk and then I believe they will be thanking me."
A sympathetic wince passed through Minerva and she nodded ruefully. "Those two are so close I'm surprised they never asked Albus to do the Ceremony of Brothers for them."
Severus raised an eyebrow, feeling as though he'd done that quite a bit in the last few minutes. "And when exactly have they had time?" He shook his head. "If they do want to do it, it'll have to be after the war is over and Sirius's name is cleared. Until then, that will just have to wait."
When Remus and Sirius (as Snuffles) came to a halt they had to admit defeat. Harry was no where to be seen. After they had left the staff room the Chase had really been on. From the Astronomy Tower to the dungeons, they had gone, close enough to see him but too far to catch. To say that it had been frustrating was an understatement. Now they had no clue whatsoever as to where he could be. Suddenly Remus's stomach growled viciously and Snuffles glanced in his direction, letting out a wheezing bark.
"Oh shut it, mutt," Remus snapped, playfully glaring at the shaggy dog. "You're just as hungry as I am. What's say we go snag us something to eat from the Great Hall?" Snuffles's tail wagged gleefully and he followed beside the DADA professor. The pair entered the noisy hall, heading in the direction of the head table. Albus waved to them, blue orbs twinkling. The Potions Master nodded in their direction, still sporting a suspicious smirk. Remus returned the nod warily, wondering if he was somehow being set up because those two were not the only ones behaving strangely. Serenity wore an expression matching her husband's as she fed tiny Ariana, not even touching her own meal. Minerva was apparently, but with little success, trying to hide her smile as she sipped on her goblet. There was no doubt in the DADA teacher's mind that something was up. For some very strange reason he felt as though he were being the butt of a joke.
"Hi Uncle Remus! Hi Snuffles!" A high-pitched voice shouted cheerfully over the din of conversation in the vast room.
"Hi Harry," the brown-haired man answered automatically as he passed the boy who was seated at the Gryffindor table. It took a moment or two for what had happened to register and the pair halted. Slowly both man and dog turned to see Harry (in a booster seat so he was at least able to reach all of the food) between Ron and Hermione who were having an animated conversation with the seven year-old.
Harry had decided that after playing the Chase for many hours that it was time to bring it to an end. That and his stomach had made many rumbling protests so he'd decided to let them find him in the Great Hall while he ate. Part of Harry felt extremely guilty for not telling his uncles of his game but when he'd started he'd honestly forgotten they didn't know about it. It had been Hagrid who had reminded him, and he'd asked his friend to explain it to them. He'd left soon after that, as he sensed the pair approaching, and hoped that the half-giant had put their fears to rest.
When they entered the Hall, weary and apparently hungry, he'd been happy to see them. He was very surprised though when they did not spot him so he offered a bit of assistance by calling out their names. They reacted normally at first, as if he was supposed to be there. Harry was surprised but even more so when he was suddenly swept up into a strong pair of arms. Taking a deep breath helped him to identify the man as Remus so he wriggled around till he could look up into the mans face which turned out to be a bad idea as Snuffles had his front paws on the man's shoulders and decided to give his own happy tidings. Alternating between licking and barking it was quite obvious to everyone that the dog was happy to see him. He hugged them back, returning their touches of affection enthusiastically. Apparently they were in great need of reassurance; Harry felt distinctly guilty now, he hadn't meant to worry them so much.
When Remus finally managed to bring himself under control he sat Harry back on the floor and looked at him sternly. "Harry, normally I would scold you for scaring us like that but," he added when he saw the boy's dismay, "I know you didn't mean to scare us like that so we'll let it slide just this once. Just warn us next time you plan on doing something like that. All right?" The seven year-old nodded, his emerald eyes bright with regret. His game was never meant to hurt anyone. He glanced at his half-full plate longingly; the magelet was still very hungry but he was not going to return to his meal until Remus said it was okay. The DADA professor seemed to sense that and granted the boy a smile. "I know you're still hungry so go on and finish." To emphasize his point he picked the boy back up and plopped him down in his previous spot. "When you're done, Snuffles and I will be at the staff table with your Mama and Papa."
The child, happy the man was not angry with him turned and hugged him around the middle before returning his attention to his meal. Knowing the fire magelet was safe among his house mates; the werewolf crossed the short distance to the staff table and took a seat beside Serenity. "I want to thank you two so much for your help, especially yours, Severus; I don't know what we would have done without it."
Severus, the smirk from earlier having not vanished, let out a small chuckle and nodded. The staff that was no aware of what had occurred was astonished at the sarcasm coming from their normally polite colleague. It didn't seem to bother the Potions Master who every now and again would glance in the werewolf's direction and chuckle. Snuffles growled in annoyance but soon became too engrossed in his steak dinner to show his disapproval.
When he'd consumed his meal the DADA professor found his arms full with his daughter. He started in momentary surprise then smiled and tickled her tummy, mumbling to her in a low voice. Ariana, loving the voice of her daddy, sighed in what could only be termed baby contentment before dropping off to sleep, her tiny fist buried in the man's gray robe. He allowed himself his own sigh of content. It felt very right to be holding Ariana, to be watching after her as he would his own. A small smile graced his face as he squeezed her gently. Who was he trying to fool; she was his own. As he ran a hand through her downy-like hair, he wondered if this was how Severus felt about Harry.
Chancing a glance in his colleague's direction he was somewhat surprised to find him staring at the fire magelet as the boy ate and chatted with his friends. Knowing Severus like he did, he wouldn't be all surprised if the man had sat the entire Gryffindor house for a long chat on how to behave around his precious child. But, then again, perhaps he needn't have; Ron, Hermione, Draco, Ginny, and Neville may have done it for him. As it was, the five of them created a barrier between him and the rest of the students from the lion house. The werewolf was surprised not to see the Weasley twins near by, knowing they too would want to do everything to protect their friend but they were at opposite ends of the table, a sullen expression on their identical faces. What the DADA professor did not know what that they still had another two weeks detention with both the Head of Slytherin and Filch ahead of them so neither had much to be cheerful over.
"Remus, would you mind terribly if I were to examine Ari again?" Seri asked, snapping the man from his thoughts.
Mutely he shook his head and tried to hand the infant back but the healer shook her head and motioned for him to follow her. Excusing themselves from the table they set off for the Hospital Wing. "But who will watch Harry?" Remus asked as they climbed the first set of stairs.
"No need to worry; I have no doubt Severus and Snuffles will keep an eye on him. And Albus will keep an eye on them because there's no doubt that Sev and Snuffles will need to be kept in line." They traded knowing grins at this as she pushed open the door to the infirmary. Pointing to one of the beds she told him that he could hold Ariana while she performed the examination. He agreed to this immediately as he was not so willing to give her up so soon after he'd gotten her back. Being partially empathic (it didn't hurt that she'd gone to school with the man for seven years) she read this and kept her back to them until she could pull her expression under control. After a few simple spells and a blood test Seri proclaimed that she would hold them no longer and chased them out the door but not before inviting the werewolf for a cup of tea.
Seeing the question in the amber eyes she drew him close, patting his shoulder reassuringly. "My husband and your friends will take care of him and with Albus around there really is nothing to worry about." By this point they were already in the dungeons, only three halls away from the Potions Master's illustrious quarters.
"Speaking of Albus, what is going on with him? When I saw him in the Tower today he seemed distinctly…off compared to yesterday."
When he asked this question he did not expect the reaction he received. Grimness began to shroud the woman and her eyes, darkened with worry, glanced up and down the hall to see if they were truly alone. "Not another word til we get to The Phoenix Lair," she hissed.
To say he was startled by her abrupt change in attitude was an understatement. For a fraction of a second he wondered if the person he walked casually beside was under polyjuice, but that concern was dashed when he saw the genuine worry clouding her normally bright face he knew he was being absurd. But when he came to the conclusion that it really was Seri, his worry only multiplied. To have someone such as Serenity Winter Snape-Dumbledore worried, it had to be bad.
As they arrived at the Lair, Merlin greeted them with almost absurd cheerfulness. "Greetings, Mistress of the Lair! Would you care to enter your domain?"
Seri rolled her eyes before covering them. "I swear I don't know what Harry did but he must have hit him with a Cheering Charm…somehow," she muttered under her breath before gifting the portrait with a glare. "Oh shove it, Merlin, and let us in!" she snapped. The man's smile transformed into a wide grin as he bowed and swung forward. Once inside the woman offered the man a seat while she poured them both a cup of tea.
Remus felt his eyebrow rise when he took a sip. "Lemon?"
Seri let out a tired chuckle. "I've come to believe it's a Dumbledore trait. Besides blackberry and green, lemon has become the preferred flavor of tea. As Albus visits so often we keep an abundance of it." She shrugged indicating that she could not help the insanity that was her family.
They fell into their own thoughts after that. Seri seemed preoccupied with the hem of her sleeve as she twisted it incessantly through her fingers while Remus tried to decide how to re-broach the subject of the Headmaster. It was something that obviously touched a very sensitive spot and he wasn't exactly sure how to go about it without hurting her in some way.
"Say what you want, Remus." His head shot up and he suddenly found himself under her considerable scrutiny. At his questioning expression she elaborated. "I see it there in your eyes. It is the question that hovers on your very lips." She crossed her arms over her chest. "You want to know what is wrong with Albus." It was more statement than question. At his nod she leapt to her feet and began to pace before him. "You aren't the only one," she said finally.
The man's amber eyes widened. "You mean you don't know!"
The healer shook her head in defeat and collapsed onto the couch. "It comes and it goes; as of now his good days outnumber his bad but how long that will last I don't know." She drew her knees up under her chin and wrapped her arms around her legs. "I just wish there were something that I could do."
Remus moved from the chair to beside her on the couch. "Are you sure you have no idea what's going on with him?"
This time she hesitated before speaking. "There is one thing and so far it is all that has made sense given the circumstances. It seems as though his life force is fading. With all that Albus has been through in his life, school, Grindlewald, Voldemort, and this year alone is enough to take a hefty toll on a person's health. The only reason I believe this hasn't surfaced before was the unconscious need for him to stay well. Now, for whatever reason, that has shut off, and his body has ceased to make the prop chemicals to allow him to stay as active." She paused a moment to catch her breath before continuing. "I sincerely believe that he can recover if he indulges in more rest, more nutritious foods, and even a few vitamin potions. They couldn't possibly hurt." She squeezed her eyes shut. "I'm just so afraid, Moony; if anything were to happen to Albus, Severus and Harry would sure to follow. More than anything else in this world those three depend on one another. It is their greatest strength and weakness. Without Albus, neither Harry nor Severus would be where they are today. Should that unwavering support be taken away, they might crumble and the world would not be mourning one death but three," She let out a dry chuckle, "or four as I would surely follow." She suddenly stopped and wiped her eyes forcing a watery grin on her face. "I'm so sorry, Moony! I didn't mean to ramble on like that and keep you from your godson."
Managing to bring himself from the shock her words had induced with a great effort he gave her a quick one-armed hug. "Not to worry, old friend. It was obvious that you needed someone to unburden yourself upon and I will always be willing to lend a sympathetic ear."
She patted his arm, her expression showing her gratefulness as she hauled him to his feet and pulled him to the door. "Come now, you had best go check on Severus and Sirius. Even with Albus there, when you add in a seven year old Harry James Potter-Snape-Dumbledore to the mix it could spell disaster. Go on, out!" She shooed at him playfully. He rolled his eyes at first but then realized just how right she was and made a move to dash out the door, only to have Seri latch onto his sleeve. "Not a word outside these rooms, Remus; remember, the walls have ears." She tapped the side of her nose. He nodded once before hurrying away.
Later that night after both Ariana and Harry were tucked safely in bed, Remus and Sirius found time to sit down and discuss the day's events. In retrospect Harry's idea of The Chase had been fun, if exhausting. The boy had meant no harm, only meaning for it to be for play. Everyone had kept a close eye on him at all times, unwilling to let him stray too far. "Sirius," Remus said finally, needing to talk over the subject with someone, "Do you think the Headmaster is old?"
The ex-convict cocked his head to the side curiously. "Albus? Old?" The other nodded and Sirius shook his head. "No not really. The man may be over one hundred and fifty years old but he's just as spry as some of his students!"
"Except for yesterday," the werewolf reminded.
Sirius frowned and scratched his ear, resembling his animagus form as he did so. "Yeah, except for yesterday," he mumbled. "Hey! You had tea with Seri; did she say anything about it?"
The werewolf hesitated before shaking his head. "No she didn't but did seem concerned over his behavior when I told her about it." The werewolf would not say anything more; Remus hated lying to his friend but he had promised Seri.
Thankfully the animagus accepted this and went off on his own tangent. "It's just hard to picture Albus as an old man, know what I mean? He's always been so full of energy and life; almost as though he were trying to live the life of two people." Sirius grimaced. "If that was his goal, I think he succeeded, Grindlewald, idiotic Ministers, traitors in the ranks, being head of the Order of the Phoenix, having to deal with Voldemort, and then having to worry over his son and grandson?" He shook his head. "He's had too much to deal with over the years; he probably just needs a vacation."
The werewolf, hearing his friend add even more to the list that Seri had made earlier, felt his heart sink. 'A vacation indeed,' Remus thought, 'The question is whether or not it is a permanent one.'
End of Chapter 37
A/N: Wails and hides behind Rose Don't kill me! This is so overdo it does not even bare mentioning more than a really loud "I'M SORRY!". I blame my job and the university and the multitude of plot bunnies that decided to take up residence in my brain. That's not conducive to writing this! Plus I just went through a dramatic period in my life (hurricane and all that), which did put the fire under my behind and start me to work again. If you can believe, this is only half the chapter. I decided to break it in half as there are still at least thirty, if not forty more pages to go. So don't think I short changed you or anything, this is long!
As for what's happening with Albus, that shouldn't be to difficult to figure out.
Up next: More time with Remus and Sirius, and the showdown in Hogsmeade.