AN: I realize this is moving very slowly. Do you think I should speed it up?
Also: A funny thing happened to me the other day. My brother called me from his university, and asked me out of the blue "Hey, what's the name of the fanfiction story you write?" At this point I didn't know if he was gonna make fun of me or what, but he quickly said that, apparently, one of his friends really like HP fanfiction and was looking for a good story. I told him the name, and my pen name. And you know what? Randomly, she had heard of me, and she was already reading my story. And then she said she liked it! I don't know if she was just being nice, but it was weird to get feedback from a place that I would never expect it. It gave me the warm fuzzies to know that someone read my work and actually talked about it to other people. And it also reminded me that I should update.
Chapter 12: To Do What Must Be Done
Draco sat on the floor of the hospital wing, feeling rather foolish but determined to appear as regal as possible while looking up from the floor. He felt his cheeks burn bright red.
"Need any help?" said Lupin sincerely, throwing out a hand and starting forward as if to assist him.
"Of course not," sneered Draco. The Slytherin rose as if the floor had suddenly been electrified. He jumped up, throwing down the sheets and gathering himself as quickly as possible. "Like I would need any help from the likes of you," he muttered, almost as an afterthought.
Lupin's mouth thinned and his eyes became hard, the lines at the side of his eyes becoming more pronounced. He slowly withdrew his hand and clasped them in front of his threadbare robes, yet retained eye contact with Draco.
The exchange had an immediate effect. Draco felt a wave of awkwardness wash over him, and suddenly felt the need to increase the distance between the two of them. His eyes dropped to the floor and wandered. Seconds passed. Was he just going to sit there and look at him all day? Giving up on any other form of communication, he finally settled for sitting on the side of the bed, straight backed and hands braced on the edges. Considering how there was no other means of escape, Draco guessed that he was in for a long talk.
A silence followed. Lupin still stood, staring down at Draco as if sizing him up, while Draco waited impatiently, growing more bored by the second. One would think Lupin would have grown a little thicker skin by now, seeing as how he couldn't take a single barb from a teenager. Draco stretched exaggeratedly, locking eyes again with Lupin, hoping that this subtle body language would clue the werewolf in. "Well?" questioned Draco at last, raising his eyebrows. He didn't have all day, thought the boy with irritation
A small smile tugged at the corners of the professor's mouth. His eyes softened, and he sighed deeply, shaking his head. "Good to see that you haven't changed," he said resignedly. The professor turned, scanning the room for another place to sit. Finally, his eyes fell on one of the black visitor chairs across the room. He crossed the room and easily lifted the heavy wooden chair, bringing it back and setting it down to face Draco.
"If you hadn't insulted me, I would have known something was wrong," said the older werewolf, easing himself into the chair. He sighed contentedly and rested his hands on the knees of his robes, leaning back and closing his eyes. Many years of transformations were beginning to take their toll, leaving his joints especially stiff in the mornings after the change.
The boy shifted uncomfortably, the sound of rustling fabric particularly loud in his ears. He was intent on keeping his distance from the werewolf, and this suddenly close proximity put him on edge, like there was an itch between his shoulder blades that he couldn't scratch. Well, the other werewolf. Draco realized a bit belatedly that he still considered Lupin to be one of the "other beings". In reality, Draco was also one of the "others" now. The same menace to society. It would take Draco a long time before he could even begin to group himself into the same category as the pathetic creature that sat in front of him.
"To begin. The likes of "me" is more like the likes of "us". So I've heard," started Lupin, leaning forward heavily. When Draco didn't comment, he continued. "I am here," he said, "because Dumbledore requested my assistance concerning your recent contact with a member of the werewolf community."
"Tell me something I don't know," muttered Draco darkly. He turned his face to the sun-brightened window, watching Lupin out of the corner of his eye.
"That's a wonderful point, Draco. What exactly do you know?" replied Lupin, his voice suddenly taking on the lecturing tone that he used during Draco's former class.
"What's that supposed to mean?" snapped Draco, growing irritated. He didn't like to play games, especially not with Lupin.
Lupin smiled indulgently. "Exactly what I said. What do you know about lycanthropy? The cycles of the moon, your physical manifestations of lycanthropy, magical abilities. What have you learned in your research so far?" He waited expectantly.
The boy swallowed silently, his mind working at a feverish pace. Lupin was trying to trap him, and doing a pretty good job of it. Research? Did he mean research, like books? In the library? Lupin was out of his mind if he thought that Draco would spend valuable sleeping time on studying. Obviously, the numerous difficult transformations had somehow affected the older werewolf's brain, rendering him unable to understand the sleeping habits and needs of the teenage body. No wonder he wasn't teaching anymore.
Draco would have laughed, except that he knew he was about to look very silly if he didn't come up with something fast. Who needs books? He had life experience. What would Granger do in this case? She would know the answers, thought Draco, growing more and more disgusted with himself by the second.
He mustered his best lecturing tone as well. "Oh you know, the basics," began Draco in a flippant manner. "The crucial stuff that's… important," he said lamely, stalling for time. The basics, what are the basics? Quick Draco, think of something, his mind yelled. Draco made as if to adjust his position on the bed and gave a quick glance around the room. Anything to buy some more time.
"The basics?" questioned Lupin skeptically, eyeing Draco and crossing his arms over his chest. The older werewolf was already growing pompous. He'd have to be put in his place eventually.
"Yeah," he nodded, gaining confidence. He sat up a bit straighter. "I know exactly how my body has adjusted to lycanthropy. You know Professor, the thing I find most difficult to adjust to is the increased sensitivity to my auditory system. Wouldn't you agree?"
"Go on," answered Lupin warily, surveying the Slytherin.
Draco was gaining the upper hand. "Well," he continued, exuding confidence. "The natural aggression of the wolf has also proven a challenge, resulting is some rather confusing and disturbing consequences with my fellow classmates, which I believe will result in later-"
"Stop," said Lupin suddenly, cutting Draco off in mid sentence. Although surprised, Lupin realized he rather enjoyed the affronted look on Draco's face.
"Tell me something," said Lupin slowly, devoid of emotion, "that I cannot know after my first of week of werewolfism. Tell me something," he said, pausing. "about werewolf mating habits."
"Mating habits," said Draco with the arch of one elegant eyebrow. The man couldn't be serious.
He quickly realized that his professor was being quite serious when Lupin just sat there and stared at him again. He had such penetrating eyes. "Oh. Well," he began, inclining his head towards the ground and drawing out the last word. "A little drinking, a little dancing, dinner and a show… Maybe some privacy and there you go. Not overly complicated. If there's something I like about werewolves, it's the simplicity," he tried, attempting to sound confident but failing miserably.
Lupin stared at Draco, pausing just long enough to let the awkwardness seep back into the room.
"You haven't even picked up a book yet, have you?" stated Lupin.
Draco felt his face go hot. "Of course I have," declared Draco indignantly. He had picked up plenty of books! He just hadn't read them. "Did I say all werewolves?" he said in a dismissive manner, waving a hand. "You should be more specific with your questioning. I meant just Japanese werewolves. Of course, British werewolves have completely different mating habits, but one shouldn't confuse the Japanese with Mongolian werewolves, which are-"
"Alright, I've heard enough," declared Lupin, closing his eyes and rubbing his graying temples.
Draco felt the heat rise in his face again, feeling indignant and embarrassed. It was horribly uncouth to cut in while someone else was speaking. He didn't care about the circumstances. "This is stupid," spat Draco exasperatedly, his eyebrows slanting dangerously. "What have you proven? That you know more than I know about werewolves? Big deal. Old news," he said, rolling his eyes. The boy practically jumped from the bed and walked to the window, looking out through the glass on onto the grounds. The sunshine felt warm on his face.
"Not to be rude, or anything," continued Draco as he stared through the window, emphasizing his words, "but if you've come here to for the sole purpose of taunting me, I'd rather that you just left. I've been fine on my own so far. I'm sure there are other caged animals somewhere that you can prod with a stick." This time Draco completely turned his back to Lupin, mouth set, and firmly crossed his arms over his chest. Anger bubbled beneath Draco's skin. He felt like stomping on something soft and fuzzy. But this was no time to lose control. The truth was that he knew that he needed Lupin, but he wasn't going to be pushed around like some Hufflepuff first year. He had to assert some type of dominance, some form of assertiveness. He waited, hoping that Lupin wouldn't see through his bluff.
Sighing again, Lupin stood, arching his back as if to remove a crick. Once done, he turned back and faced Draco, a resigned look on his prematurely lined face. "Well I certainly don't want to be rude either." Draco stole a glance back at his former professor, lips still pursed. "I realize that you're completely independent, but a little help never hurt anyone. Should I keep talking to your back, or are you going to show some common courtesy and face me?"
Draco turned to face Lupin, arms still resolutely crossed, his angular face clearly displaying his mistrust.
Lupin wasn't dense. He could feel the suspicion radiating from the boy.
Lupin opened his hands wide, displaying his palms and locking sincere eyes with the Slytherin, his voice taking on an earnestness that Draco had not yet heard. "You know why I'm here. I have no ulterior motives, no hidden secrets. I'm not asking you to trust me. Just learn from me. That's all I want." He let his hands fall to his sides, and Draco felt more than saw a wave of sadness creep out of the older man. The talk had apparently taken a lot more out of Lupin than Draco realized. Sighing tiredly once more, Remus Lupin turned and started for the door.
Draco blinked. What just happened? Turning quickly, he made to intercept Lupin, completely forgetting that he was maintaining distance.
"Wait a sec," yelled Draco, reaching out a hand and catching the older werewolf's shoulder. Lupin stopped and turned, raising his eyebrows questioningly.
"That's it?" said Draco, throwing up his hands. "What was that for? What are we doing? What are you doing? What's going on?" he cried, desperate for more information. They always kept him out of the loop. Not this time.
Lupin smiled genuinely this time. He reached out a hand and patted Draco's shoulder. "All in good time, Pup. Think of it as a training regime. This is your first lesson. Patience," he said, shooting a serious look at the boy. Draco couldn't help but snort in disbelief. "But for now," said Lupin, ignoring the younger werewolf and yawning mid-sentence. He brought a hand up to stifle his yawn. "I need a nap. You're not the only one who was out late last night. I'll contact you tomorrow. Until then, get some sleep, replenish your energy." With one last look and a reassuring smile, Lupin opened the hospital wing door and walked down the stone staircases.
The Slytherin stood silently at the entrance of the hospital wing, not moving at all, listening to the faint footfalls on stone as Lupin made his way down to the dungeons.
He had direction, he had a plan. A simple step by step plan. Learn from Lupin, control his temper, and don't kill Lupin out of sheer frustration. That's what Draco had to focus on.
The enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall looked overcast and dreary. Clouds rushed by in shades of white, gray, and grumpy blues, promising storms later on in the day. Harry barely registered the change in weather. As he, Hermione, and Ron sat down at the long, wooden tables, a sudden rush of owls over the hall momentarily hid the turbulent sky above them.
All at once, a hundred pairs of eyes fearfully flew upwards, tracking the flights and destinations of the owls, carefully noting the black envelopes that sped towards their unhappy recipients. No one looked forward to owls anymore. Everyday, more and more deaths by violent means were reported in the Daily Prophet. The days that Harry Potter's love life made the front page were as dead as the silent victims that graced the Prophet's pages.
A tawny owl glided gracefully towards their section of the Gryffindor table. For a split second, Harry held his breath. But even at this distance, he could tell that it was the daily owl carrying Hermione's newspaper, and he felt his panic slide away. Sighing in relief, Harry watched as the owl noisily landed on Ron's plate of sausages.
Ron looked horror struck. "Gerroff!!" he yelled frantically, scooting the owl away from his plate towards Hermione.
The tawny owl hooted noisily, shooting an affronted look at Ron before it hopped over to Hermione. She carefully untied the newspaper and slipped her money into the owl's waiting pouch. Giving one last hoot of indignation, the tawny gave a mighty flap of its wings, cuffing Ron over his red head as it soared back through the rafters of the hall.
Ron rubbed the side of his head crossly. "Stupid owls," Ron muttered under his breath as he grabbed his fork and started picking around his plate for salvageable food. "It had the nerve to look offended. After it landed on MY plate."
Hermione smirked good naturedly. Opening the paper, she quickly scanned the front page, eyes moving anxiously.
"Anything unusual?" asked Harry as he plucked a lone feather out of Ron's hair.
"Maybe," said Hermione distractedly. "It seems," she said, clucking her tongue, "that there have been several more unexplained deaths. Of families."
At one point in their young lives, this news would have horrified them. Today, it was just a matter of course.
"Well it's not exactly unexplained, is it?" pointed out Ron, who had taken time to surface for air in between bites. "We all know who did it. Deatheaters. They'll kill anybody nowadays." Ron looked over at Harry for confirmation. Harry also nodded reluctantly.
"Maybe," said Hermione once more, who didn't appear to be entirely convinced.
After several minutes of reading, in which time Ron had plenty of time to reload his plate, Hermione finally sighed and gave the paper to Harry, who accepted it eagerly.
A familiar picture greeted Harry. The dark mark, green and menacing as it shimmered across the front page, flew over a cottage in a quiet country glen. The house looked relatively undisturbed. "It looks like Deatheaters," said Harry matter-of-factly, closing the paper again and handing it back across the table to Hermione.
Hermione sent the picture one last calculating look. "I must admit that it appears that way, but did you read the rest?" she questioned, holding the paper and scanning the paragraph once more. "It says the victims, all perfectly average, normal witches and wizards, were ripped to shreds, as if a wild animal had attacked them. The Duncan family. The Haversham family. Even the children," said Hermione, her voice lowering to a whisper, as if in respect for the dead.
Anger flared in Harry's insides at the loss of innocent lives, but he fought it back down and considered Hermione's words briefly. There was nothing he could do for those who were already dead. "The Deatheaters aren't exactly known for being merciful, Hermione. And even if it's not Deatheaters," continued Harry quickly as Hermione opened her mouth, ready to counter. "Voldemort's been known to use werewolves to do his dirty work. Unfortunately, that's not unusual either."
"That's not what bothers me," said Hermione, shaking her bushy head. "Think about it. Why would Voldemort attack these people like this. None of them were particularly well placed in the ministry, or had positions of power. In fact, they were normal in every way. And," she continued faster before Harry could interrupt her, "this nearly mirrors the murders from last week. You remember the Hurley family? A normal family seemingly killed at random, but in a horrifying way. It just doesn't make sense, and if that rag of a newspaper doesn't see it, then they're thicker than I thought," she finished, practically crunching her piece of toast in her hand.
Now Harry was stumped. Why would Voldemort kill these people in such a brutal fashion? Normally, he reserved his more creative deaths for someone important, or someone he particularly hated. Why these people?
"Who cares?" Ron interjected, setting down his orange juice. "It's You-Know-Who. He's bonkers anyway. For all we know, he's set his sights on orphanages and senior centers." He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and glanced down the table for the last remnants of breakfast. When nothing caught his eye, he turned back to face the young witch. "And anyway, Hermione," he said, taking on a serious tone, "you won't help yourself by worrying over something that you can't solve yet. For all we know, there are a million crime scene details that all point to something else. Let the Aurors do their jobs." Ron shrugged his broad shoulders, as if to say that he too was stumped.
Hermione finished stabbing the butter onto her toast, which now looked like it had already been eaten after Hermione's continued mutilations.
"I guess you're right," she sighed at last, looking wistfully at the Prophet. "I just wish," she began, then paused. Her voice gained force. "I wish I knew more. These few snippets of information that we get out of the Prophet drive me mad. Like it's taunting me by yelling 'Look at what we know! You have to rely on us or it's no information at all!" she huffed, her voice bearing an uncanny resemblance to Rita Skeeter's.
Harry silently agreed, but realized that the period before Potions wasn't the best time to get Hermione riled.
Harry made a noncommittal noise. "It's alright Hermione. We'll keep our eyes open. If you can't figure it out, no one can." He grinned broadly across the table, catching her eyes.
She smiled, pleased, but tried to hide it by taking a bite of toast. Instead, she also nodded her head sagely. "We'll wait," she said, after swallowing. "Besides, I hold myself to better standards than that Skeeter cow any day."
Harry and Ron guffawed loudly, both amused and pleased to hear Hermione criticize someone else besides them. She really had an acid tongue when she wanted to.
The dungeons were dark and cold at any time of the year, but particularly during the early spring. Most certainly, it was the thought that everything outside was so green and alive that made the dankness all the more palpable to Lupin as he quickly strode down the halls. For a so-called dark creature, Lupin was surprisingly reticent to retain quarters in such a dreary setting. And, although solitary by necessity, he much preferred the company of his peers to the introverted state that Snape usually kept. He had always thought that Snape would make a much better dark creature than he.
His footsteps echoed hollowly along the stone corridor. These enclosed spaces always made him nervous as well. Any Slytherin with a mean disposition or mischievous nature could easily pop out of any dark corner and throw a hex or two at unsuspecting, casual observers.
He sighed heavily and told himself that he was being paranoid. He was a professor! His school years were long gone. Years of war and living day to day had left more than physical scars on the prematurely gray werewolf.
Quickening his pace, he wound his way through the maze of dungeons before he finally arrived at Severus Snape's office door. He knocked and waited expectantly.
"Enter," said a cold, harsh voice from inside. The werewolf pushed the heavy door forward and crossed the threshold.
"Lupin," sneered Snape, bristling at the entrance of his former yearmate. As usual, he was seated at his desk, reading a long parchment that disappeared behind the desktop. He rolled the parchment carefully, opening the top drawer of the desk and gently placing it inside. The drawer clicked, indicating the locking charm that was surely in use. "It has been some time now. How…" he paused, glancing over Lupin as the werewolf hurriedly shut the door behind him. "threadbare you look today. Those frayed robes remind me. I need to owl a new order of robes in for myself. I don't want to be mistaken for a miscreant off the street." Snape smirked, eyeing Lupin from across his desk.
"How unfortunate," the werewolf countered carelessly, not missing a beat. "I believe that black robes are on back-order at the present time. Either you'll have to change your color, or you'll have to go naked. And believe me, Severus. No one wants to see that." He paused, as if contemplating something very important, and gave Snape an obvious up and down stare. "You've been putting on a little weight lately. Shall I ring up some tea for us? Perhaps I won't order biscuits," he said casually.
He ignored Snape, who was glaring daggers, and snapped his fingers. Immediately, two house elves appeared holding a tea tray the size of a carriage wheel, filled with sweet breads, a pile of toast, eggs, and several teapots. "Just place it on the desk, if you will." Smiling happily, the two house elves rushed towards the desk and cleared the papers to the side. Snape rose and spluttered angrily, but didn't manage to make any intelligible words before the house elves were gone, as quickly as they had come.
"I hope you don't mind," said Lupin, unable to keep the smile from appearing across his face as he leaned a thin hip against the bulky desk. "I took the liberty of ordering breakfast in advance." In reality, Lupin could care less if Snape felt slighted. It was good for the man to have some human (well, close enough) contact every now and again.
Eyeing the rickety student chair with distaste, Lupin cast a swift cushioning charm, and then settled comfortably in the chair facing across from Snape's desk. Still scowling, Snape took his seat once more, pulling his chair closer.
Snape glowered at the massive tray, and then scanned his desk angrily. "There are doilies on my desk, Lupin," he hissed, picking up one of the offending frilly objects and holding it away from his person like some unpleasant creature. He crinkled his nose in revulsion. "There better be a good reason why there are doilies on my desk."
"There's a perfectly good reason for every one of my actions, Severus," he declared, reaching forward to pour two cups of tea. "One lump or two?"
Snape cradled his chin in his hand and surveyed him. Deciding that there were no hidden meanings or jibes, Snape replied "I'm certain you have a reason for being here. I'll decide if it's pressing enough for you to distract me from my work. Two."
Lupin dropped two lumps of sugar into a white tea cup, then set it upon a delicate plate and handed it to Snape. The dark man accepted the tea, if somewhat grudgingly, and sipped it gingerly. Giving what could have been described as a pleased smile on Severus Snape, but perhaps a grimace on anyone else, the Slytherin Head of House breathed the scent in deeply, enjoying the aroma of the freshly brewed beverage and the companionable silence that followed.
Lupin also sipped his tea for several silent seconds, wrapping his hands around the cup and reveling in the warmth that seeped into his cold hands. He crossed an ankle over his left knee and leaned heavily back, fully relaxing for the first time in days.
He nearly smiled when he saw Snape eye a danish hungrily, then unconsciously lay a hand on his slender belly as if making a judgment call.
"Severus, I was kidding. You're not fat," said Lupin, rolling his eyes.
Snape whipped his obsidian eyes back up, dark brows narrowing across the desk. "I was thinking no such thing," stated Snape acidly, as if the idea was completely preposterous. But he immediately grabbed the danish and began eating it. This time Lupin's eyes danced with mirth. Snape pointedly ignored him. They settled into another silence, both enjoying their tea and snacks.
"Does he know?" asked Lupin anxiously, breaking the silence and peering over the rim of his own teacup.
He watched as the muscles in Snape's body visibly tensed, pulled tight like a violin string. "Not yet," Snape replied, compressing his lips and staring off into space. He set the remains of the danish on his plate, no longer hungry.
Lupin casually noticed that he was resting one hand on the arm of his stiff backed chair, the other now idly spinning a worn quill through his fingers. His scattered papers lay forgotten. Severus Snape wasn't a man to display his nervousness, and only a few tell-tale signs could clue even the most observant of men in to the man's tightly guarded emotions. A flash of his obsidian eyes or a seemingly errant twitch of his fingers could all signify Snape's discomfort or anxiousness. Or they could simply be mundane gestures. Sometimes it was hard to tell, even for someone like Lupin, who had such keen insight when it came to observing details.
Since the advent of the Second War, Snape and Lupin, while never considered friends, maintained what could be considered friendly contact. Of course there was the regular exchanging of barbs and insults, but Severus wouldn't be Severus if he stopped the verbal abuse altogether. Severus Snape was an odd creature, but Lupin found himself strangely fascinated by his brooding and self-deprecating nature, all from a man who did more for the Cause than any other five members of the Order put together. As such, Lupin found that, if he needed someone to trust, or simply someone to argue with, Snape was always his first choice for companionship. And, to put it bluntly, there was simply no one left.
So many of his peers had died for the cause.
"How are you going to go about preparing him?" asked Snape, quick to the point.
"I'm not doing anything different than if he was any other wizard bitten by a werewolf. There's no need to alarm him."
Snape eyed him across his desk skeptically. "You mean you're doing absolutely nothing to prepare him?" asked Snape, the disbelief evident in his voice. When Lupin didn't reply, Snape jerked his dark head to the side angrily, his eyes alive behind his dark mask. "It will be a lamb to the slaughter." He brought a hand up to cradle his chin.
"He will be prepared," said Lupin more forcefully. "But I will teach in my own way. I don't intend to terrorize him. You would think, after years of terrorizing your own pupils, that you would realize that by now Severus." As soon as he said it, Lupin wished he could take his words back. He felt a chill move down his spine as Snape turned his black eyes back to him.
Snape eyed him darkly and tilted his chin downwards, his black hair falling like a curtain framing his face. "I do not terrorize my students," he seethed, his voice taking on a deadly calm. "I prepare them. There's no use in coddling them. They deserve the truth. If it happens to scare them, so be it. Better in my classroom than out there, when it's too late."
"He's still a boy Severus, you can't –"
"That is no BOY, Lupin," the dark man hissed, standing and leaning forward over his desk. "Open your eyes. He ceased being a boy the minute he stepped into this castle. He is not so fragile a thing as you believe, not like these other students that have passed through our doorways," said Snape, disgust thick in his voice.
Snape walked towards one of the large bookshelves that lined the wall and gently ran a finger down the spine of an imposing black tome. The Potions Master visibly calmed, and when he spoke, Lupin would have sworn under Veritaserum that Snape's voice was touched with regret. "Only the truth will prepare him for what's ahead. Shallow promises of knowledge and safety will do nothing but kill him quicker. And Albus is a fool if he thinks he can hide any student within these walls from the Dark Lord. It's only a matter of time. And THAT is what I teach, Werewolf," he said, turning again to face the werewolf and sneering the word like it left a bad taste in his mouth. "If those students can't handle a bit of yelling or pressure, then there's no hope for them. And I don't plan on wasting my valuable time on someone who's going to die the minute they step out of the wards placed upon these grounds."
Lupin was speechless. Yet amazingly, he was beginning to see an insane type of logic to Snape's tirade. That didn't mean that he agreed with everything. The werewolf certainly wasn't ready to condemn a student, just because a cranky, bat-like professor scared them when he swooped behind their cauldrons. But Snape did raise a very important issue that he could tell he'd be thinking about all night. How much information was too much information? Was it riskier to reveal everything and scare his student half to death, or reveal nothing and risk complete ignorance? At the moment, Draco was completely unsuspecting and unprepared for what lie ahead.