A Bit of Respite

"Mr. Lupin!"

Remus looked up from his notebook and saw a scruffy boy running to him. He smiled warmly.

"Deep breaths Thomas," he said. "No, don't talk yet."

Thomas did not heed Remus's words. Panting heavily after running up the hillside, he said excitedly.

"You should see it Mr. Lupin. The most extraordinary thing. An owl swooping into our house!"

Ah.

"Where is it now?" Remus asked casually.

"In the kitchen. Grandma's got the fits when it came in. Won't let us in. But I saw the owl and there was a rolled-up paper tied to its leg like it was one of those pigeon messengers."

Remus closed his notebook slowly.

"Let's have a look at it then."

When they arrived at the house, Remus greeted Fanny and Elizabeth, who were in the living room at their grandparents' instructions. Their parents were probably still working at the farm at this time of day. Thomas joined his sisters, who begged Remus to persuade their grandparents to let them near the owl.

When Remus entered the kitchen, Mrs. Dawson had already calmed herself and was sitting beside her husband. She smiled when she saw Remus.

"The country air does you good Remus. You look less peaky and livelier than when we first saw you."

Remus smiled in return. "Your cooking also has much to do with my better health, Mrs. Dawson."

He turned his attention to the large, brown owl that sat on the dinner-table.

Mr. Dawson said, "What a sight, eh? Come to that, how is it possible that there're owls around here? I tried to shoo this one out but it refuses to leave."

"Don't be alarmed Mr. Dawson. I recognise it."

So saying, Remus approached the owl. It hooted when it saw him and he took a bit of meat from a nearby plate to feed it. Then he removed the parchment from its leg and read it.

My dear Remus,

I hope this letter finds you well. It's been close to a year since I wrote to you last.

Yet I must repeat what I've asked of you before. Truly, we have allowed him to settle in and teach for months, but Gilderoy is wholly unsuitable as a professor. I should prefer that you accept the DADA position when the new term starts.

I know your misgivings, but if you can go through Hogwarts without much mishap for seven years as a student, you can do it again as a professor.

Albus Dumbledore,
Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

P.S. By the way, I do hope you like the gift I send you. My apologies for missing your birthday, my boy.

Remus sighed. Sometimes, he did not want to be disturbed by, or reminded of, the wizarding world. He was shunned there because of his condition, his constant pain and ruination. Above all, he had suffered betrayal and loss of his only friends. Part of why he kept rejecting Dumbledore's job offer even though it would provide a lasting shelter was that he loathed the place that had brought him joy, hope and ultimately, grief.

Shaking his head, Remus looked at Dumbledore's gift, which had slipped out when he had unrolled the parchment. It was a crystal, and Remus remembered that crystals were known for their purity and healing power. It was likely too that Dumbledore had cast some sort of charm on this one. He would find out later.

Aware that the Dawsons were looking at him expectantly, Remus quickly explained in the best way he could, Muggle-style.

"I apologise for the owl's intrusion. It's an old friend's. And this is a letter addressed to me."

"But how the deuce did it know how to come here?" Mr. Dawson exclaimed.

Remus chuckled uneasily. He found it difficult to lie to a kind family who had allowed him, a stranger, to stay at their farm for a paltry fee.

"It is my friend's secret joke. Somehow, he manages to train his owl to find us. We don't know how he does it."

"And the crystal?" Mr. Dawson asked.

"It's a birthday gift."

"Is it now?" Mrs. Dawson said and then chided, "You didn't tell us Remus it was your birthday. We could have celebrated it for you."

Remus laughed.

"It's a month late Mrs. Dawson. Hardly worth telling. But thank you for the kind thought."

"Pshaw, there's no need for thanks. We all like a little merriment," Mrs. Dawson said and studied the owl. It was unexpectedly disciplined because it had not flown about while it was in the kitchen. "Well, this beats everything. Even your sudden appearance at our farm."

"Did I startle you then?" Remus asked worriedly.

"Oh, I'm not fussing Remus," Mrs. Dawson laughed. "It was surprising, that is all. I remember you said you came to these parts to recuperate." She paused. "What illness was it that you had recovered from?"

Mr. Dawson did not give Remus time to reply, for which Remus was secretly relieved.

"It must be terrible if it made you so pale and weak. But look at you now. I'm glad the place has done you good. How long have you been here? Three weeks?"

Remus grew grave. He had not counted the days. The stay at the Dawsons' was the most restive he had experienced in many years. The Dawsons were friendly and cordial, and treated him as though he were part of their family. He was reluctant to leave.

"Yes," he muttered more to himself than to them. "Three weeks. A long time."

Then he said something that the old couple did not understand. "It'll be the full moon soon."

Before any could ask for clarification, Remus looked at them and said resolutely, "I must leave soon."

Both Mr. and Mrs. Dawson were surprised and immediately felt disappointed. They were fond of Remus. He was very amiable and was excellent company when the children were out working and the grandchildren were out playing.

"Can't we keep you for a little while longer?" Mrs. Dawson asked.

"I'm afraid not. I'll be heading to a more secluded spot." Remus said candidly.

Mr. Dawson raised his eyebrows. "Why, isn't this place secluded already?"

"Not secluded enough." Remus replied.

The couple puzzled over his statement.

"You're being unusually serious tonight Remus." Mrs. Dawson said. "Is something the matter? Is it to do with the letter?"

Remus felt guilty for unnerving them.

"In a way. There's business I have to attend to at home." He took their hands and shook them, "Thank you very much for letting me stay with you, Mr. and Mrs. Dawson. I'm deeply grateful." He smiled, "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to write back to my friend."

Calling the owl to perch on his arm, Remus went to his room, stopping for a while to let the children exclaim over the owl.

He was not seen at dinner.

The next morning, the Dawsons found out that their guest had left without saying goodbye.

"Came like the owl, and flew away like it too," they would use to say, not knowing it was more appropriate to associate Remus to a more frightening, and perhaps more tragic, creature.