Disclaimer: All characters, magical creatures, locations, and everything else pertaining to the Harry Potter series belongs to J.K. Rowling. No profit is being made from this story in any way.
Everyone's reaction: …Ummm…who are you?
I know, I know. I must say, my mouth literally DROPPED OPEN when I saw that it had been over five years since I updated this story. Yes, five years. Actually, it's pushing more towards six years minus a couple of months. I knew that it had been almost two years since I had posted anything (my last update was chapter 8 of And Thou Shalt Be First…check it out if you haven't already!), but seriously, myself. WHAT THE HECK?!
So what do I have to show for the five—pushing six—years of abandonment? Well…two college degrees, countless dance performances, and a brand-new job that took two months of company-specific training to be certified for. I am really grateful that I was given the opportunity to pursue all of these avenues, but I'm still quite shocked that I have left this project alone for so long.
In case anyone is wondering, this is not the last chapter for this story. However, it is highly likely that the next chapter will be the last (I've started on it already…yay!). Regardless of how much is left, I will see this story to its final word!
Lastly, thank you so much to all those who took the time to read and review over these five or so years! I completely understand how frustrating it is to wait for an author's next update, especially when you find a story that you really like. I also wouldn't blame anyone for giving up on this story ever being updated, but if there is even one person waiting by faithfully, I am ever so grateful.
Thank you so much!
Chapter 15: Wolfsbane
Chair legs scraped against the cold stone flooring in the kitchen of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. Remus noticed that Sirius was the first person to exit the kitchen. The Animagus has made a beeline for the door as soon as Dumbledore had closed the meeting, and Remus had barely caught a glimpse of him before he slipped past the door frame. Fortunately—or perhaps unfortunately—only Tonks noticed her cousin's departure. She turned to the werewolf and shrugged.
Remus sighed. He had hoped that the Animagus would eventually come to terms with his "confinement" at Number Twelve, but it seemed that his friend was surlier than ever. Of course, he realized that there was more to Sirius' resentment than not being able to leave the house. Walburga Black's psychotic screeching combined with Kreacher's insane mutterings ensured that there was rarely a moment of peace and quiet in the house. The constant comings and goings of other Order members reminded him that witches and wizards were risking their lives for the Light and that the Animagus was not allowed to fight alongside them. And while there was still a lot of cleaning up to do at Grimmauld Place, the work was repetitive and monotonous, hardly comparable to what was occurring outside those dank, dreary walls. Snape took every opportunity to throw Sirius snide remarks just in case the Animagus forgot.
The sound of Mrs. Weaslye's voice broke Remus out of his dour musings. "Why don't you stay for dinner tonight, Albus? There'll be plenty of food."
"As tempting as your cooking is, I'm afraid I can't tonight," began the headmaster, holding up his hands when the Weasley matron showed signs of protesting. "You know that I would love to, Molly, but I have much to attend to with the school year beginning in less than a month. I have a meeting with the Heads of House later on tonight, and—" He paused briefly before leaning in closer. "And I am still in the process of looking for a suitable instructor for Defense Against the Dark Arts. If I may say, this may be a particularly difficult year for Hogwarts."
Molly nodded sympathetically and decided to back down. "Hopefully next time, then?"
"Your invitation is always welcome," replied Dumbledore. "I bid you farewell." The headmaster strode up to meet Professor McGonagall, who was standing at the door waiting for him. They both left together to return to Hogwarts.
"Honestly, those two need to be careful," sighed Molly as she turned to the stove to stir a big pot of stew. "They're going to work themselves to death. Minerva looks worse for wear, and Albus looks like he's about to fall over!"
Remus looked around the kitchen and found it empty. The other Order members must have left during her exchange with Dumbledore. Even though the werewolf had remained, he could not tell if Mrs. Weasley was talking to him or herself. Or the stew pot. "Did you need any help, Molly?" he asked, cursing silently when his voice came out much hoarser than it usually did.
"What was that?" asked Mrs. Weasley, slightly startled out of her conversation with the stew pot. "Oh! No, Remus, that's very thoughtful of you, but Ginny promised to help me with dinner tonight," she replied. "You go on up and rest for a bit. If you see Ginny, dear, tell her that she can come in. Everything should be ready in about an hour."
"Thanks, Molly," said Remus before moving to go find Sirius. He had given his friend enough time to cool off.
"Oh, and Remus, dear?" called Mrs. Weasley from the stove.
"Yes?" he replied, sticking his head back into the doorframe.
"Are you sure you're all right? You look a bit peaky," she said with concern.
Remus mentally kicked himself for not clearing his throat first earlier. "Yes, Molly. The Wolfsbane Potion helps a lot with the full moon's side effects. There's nothing to worry about, but thank you for asking." He was feeling more stiff and tired than the day before. The werewolf made sure to smile warmly so as not to invite any further questioning.
He made his way up to the ground floor, his right knee creaking in time with each stair. He sighed as he reached the foot of the stairs leading to the second landing. Well, at least going up was easier than going down.
Grimmauld Place was a vast house to say the least, but Remus had a fairly good idea of where he would find his friend. He poked his head into the library and frowned when he did not see the Animagus. "Sirius?" he called lightly, rounding one of the bookshelves in search of his friend. No such luck. Puzzled, the werewolf left the room and shuffled down the hall to the drawing room. It was a little more comfortable with a few sofas and a fireplace.
Sure enough, the Animagus was standing in front of a large cathedral window in the drawing room with his back to the doorframe. This was one of the first rooms that they had cleaned up upon arriving at Grimmauld Place. There were few Dark artifacts in this room, which made it easy to clear. They had even been able to charm the cathedral window to only let those inside see through it. Anyone outside would only be able to see black panes (if they could even see the house), but the sun was still able to shine in. It made for a much brighter atmosphere. Maybe that's why he came up here.
"What took you so long?" asked Sirius without turning around. He did not seem happy, but his tone was neutral. Remus took this as a good sign.
"I was certain you would be hiding in the library." He hobbled over to an armchair, hoping that he would reach his destination before the Animagus saw him.
"Nah, Moony, that's you! I can't hang out in there all the time. Studying makes me—" He turned around, the slight smile playing on his face fading as he caught sight of the werewolf. "Why are you limping?"
Remus sighed. So much for being discreet. "You know why."
"That bad, huh?" he asked, reaching out to help his friend.
The offer was waved away gently. "No more than usual on an afternoon before the full moon," replied Remus, pulling his right leg in with his hand once he sat down. Sirius pulled out his wand and waved it, sending a footrest from across the room to in front of the werewolf's armchair. "Thanks, Pads."
"You sure you're all right?" the Animagus asked as the other wizard lifted his leg onto the footrest gingerly.
"Not entirely, but I'll manage," he sighed as he leaned back. "Rather, are you sure that it's okay for me to stay here tonight?"
"Of course, Moony! There's plenty of space in Buckbeak's bedroom—"
"Just don't forget to lock the door," came a snide remark from the doorway.
"Snape!" growled Sirius, attempting to fight the urge to draw his wand again. He clenched his fist and shoved it in his pocket.
"Black," he replied smoothly, returning the glare. The Potions Master was quite composed, but the slight edge in his tone indicated that he was ready for a fight if it came his way.
"Stop it, you two," said Remus, moving to stand up. He winced as he moved his leg. Easy now, he thought. Up you go. "Or do I have to bind you both?"
"Hardly," retorted Snape, casting his gaze on the other wizard. "I believe you require this," he continued, proffering a smoking goblet from somewhere in the fold of his black robes. "Should you be so careless as to spill it, I have more in my laboratory should you require it."
"Thank you, Severus," said Remus as he took the goblet from the other wizard. "I'll be very careful with this. I know that you have to go through a lot of trouble to—"
"Save it, Lupin. I am not in the mood for your patronizing this afternoon," drawled the Potions Master. "Just make sure you drink it all. We would not want you to lose control again," he said, spinning around and storming out of the room.
Remus glanced at Sirius and saw that the Animagus was seething. Smirking slightly at the fact that some things never changed, he placed a hand on the other wizard's shoulder. After several deep breaths, Sirius finally spoke. "Well…that was really rude."
Remus chuckled. "Here," he said, pushing the goblet into his friend's hands, "hold this. And don't you dare spill it! Severus won't be happy if he has to come back."
Sirius really did not care if Snape was inconvenienced, but he also did not want to cause trouble for his friend. "Don't you ever wonder if he's poisoned this?" he asked lightly as he watched his friend lower himself into the armchair once more. The stiff leg was lifted again to sit upon the footrest.
"Padfoot, I trust him," said Remus, reaching out for the goblet. "Severus has never tried to poison me before. He may not like me, but he is at least civil."
"I'm civil," grumbled the Animagus as he walked around the coffee table to flop down onto the sofa.
Remus swirled the contents of the goblet around as if it was a fine wine. "Yes, I suppose you are. When you want to be." He took a deep breath before bringing the goblet to his lips and downing the potion in several long gulps. Remus pulled a face as he swallowed the last of the Wolfsbane Potion.
"How is that stuff?" asked Sirius, eyeing his friend and not liking how the color had blanched from his face.
The werewolf took several deep breaths to prevent the potion from coming back up. "Positively revolting," he coughed, "but I need it."
The Animagus looked skeptical. "Do you really?"
"I would rather lose any appetite I might have had than lose control of my faculties," replied Remus, placing the goblet down on the coffee table.
"Don't let Molly hear you say that. She'll be offering you four servings of everything instead of three."
The werewolf rubbed his face tiredly. "Remind me to eat a lot after the full moon."
"Moony," said Sirius, rolling his eyes, "you always eat a lot after the full moon."
"Usually, not always," he remarked. "I've been feeling a bit under the weather, so I may not feel like eating for a while."
"Now that you mention it," said the Animagus, peering closely at his friend's face, "you have looked off-color this week." He placed a hand on the werewolf's forehead. "More so than usual, anyway."
Remus resisted the urge to smack Sirius' hands away. While he appreciated his friend's attentiveness and care, he was feeling strangely claustrophobic. Additionally, the urge to vomit had not left him yet. He closed his eyes. "Personal space, Padfoot."
Sirius blinked. He smirked before removing his hand. "Got it." He hovered awkwardly over Remus for several moments before deciding to sit back down on the sofa.
"What time is it?" asked Remus suddenly.
Sirius looked at the grandfather clock in the corner of the room. "Almost six."
"Molly should be finishing up dinner soon." The werewolf pushed himself out of the armchair reluctantly and moved to head downstairs. He made it all the way to the doorway before realizing that his were the only footsteps he heard. He turned back to see that Sirius had not moved from his spot on the sofa and was staring pensively at the coffee table. "Aren't you coming?" asked Remus.
"What?" said the Animagus, startled out of his thoughts. "Nah, you go ahead."
"Why?" inquired the werewolf. He did not like that Sirius' lack of appetite was surfacing with increased frequency. "You're not hungry?"
"Molly's irritated with me," he murmured quietly.
"Padfoot," he sighed, exasperated, "she's not irritated with you. Or at least she wasn't an hour ago."
"She was," Sirius insisted. "I'd rather not push any more buttons tonight."
Not to be deterred, Remus tried again. "Just for a little bit? I can't stay long anyway. Fortunately the moon rises later in the summer."
"No thanks," said the Animagus, leaning his head against the sofa.
Remus sighed. He had one trick left, but it would potentially touch upon a rather sensitive subject. Well, it's worth a try. "All right," he said. "I guess that means you don't want to hear what I've got to say."
Sirius stiffened slightly. If he was in his Animagus form, Remus knew his ears would have perked up. "And what is it you have to say, Moony?"
And now to put a "hard to get" play into effect. He crossed his arms and leaned against the doorframe. "If you don't want to hear it, then I'm not going to say it."
"Come on, Moony!" said Sirius, turning to face the werewolf.
"I'm sure you'll hear about it later," replied Remus aloofly.
The Animagus narrowed his eyes. "I'm always hearing about everything later because no one ever tells me anything! Who am I gonna tell, Kreacher?! In case you haven't noticed, we're not exactly bosom buddies—"
"I don't want to tell you," said Remus, cutting him off with a smirk.
Sirius stood up. "But I want to know!"
"Only because it's something you can't have," Remus teased.
"No, I want to know!" he exclaimed, making his way over to the door.
The werewolf turned his head away. "Sorry, Sirius."
At that, the Animagus put his hands on his friend's shoulders and shook him, but not too hard. "Remus!"
The other wizard laughed heartily. "Ouch, Padfoot, stop! You're not getting anywhere, you know," he chuckled.
Sirius glared at him. "I'll beg if I have to."
"Not a bad idea," he yawned, slowly prying the Animagus' hands from his shoulders. "But the answer's still 'no.'"
Sirius looked like he was going to start yelling, but the next moment he sighed. "Fine," he whispered with a defeated huff. He pushed passed Remus and headed for the stairs. "Go enjoy your dinner," he called over his shoulder as he started to climb to the next floor.
"Wait, Sirius," the other wizard began, but the Animagus refused to stop or turn around. Remus sighed. Well, that didn't go as planned.
He felt bad for goading Sirius, but the wizard could be so stubborn sometimes! He had rubbed salt into a gaping wound, though. Surely this situation could be somewhat salvaged? "Padfoot," he called softly.
The use of his familiar nickname made Sirius stop two-thirds of the way up the stairs. He turned his head to indicate that he was listening, but he did not turn back or come down.
"I'm sorry," said the werewolf sadly. "See you in a few hours?"
Now Sirius felt bad. Even after all these years, Remus still questioned it. Well, considering the past 13 years, it was no wonder. But all those years before still counted for something, right?
"Of course, you idiot."
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this chapter! I would really appreciate it if you also took a bit of time to tell me what you think. Suggestions, comments, constructive criticism, etc., are more than welcome. Flames are not. Thank you again!