Remus couldn't help but feel that his pleasure in having cousins that didn't want him dead had been sadly premature.
Rebekah's eyes were twin blocks of ice as she gazed at the sight of a man she hated standing in the midst of her family home but she said nothing more, merely taking her moment to glower before turning to her father with a thin lipped smile.
"Hello daddy," she greeted with a warmth that was, for Remus, utterly unfamiliar from her. "How's your back?"
"Much better," Rolphe replied as he and his daughter shared a brief embrace. A slight hint of reproach glimmered in his eyes. "Although if you'd been to see me since Christmas, you'd know that."
Rebekah sighed. "Daddy, you know that I'm busy at work – I wouldn't even have left today if it hadn't been so important to you. I'm sorry but it just can't be helped. And I'm here now."
Rolphe made a noncommittal noise. "I suppose. But I do miss you, dear. Where's Felix?"
"Putting our broomsticks away." Rebekah straightened her pale blue robes – it took Remus a moment to adjust to the sight of her out of her Institute work clothes. "He'll be here shortly."
Rolphe smiled more convincingly. "Then I have enough time to introduce you." Taking Rebekah by the arm, he led her away to where Reynard was watching with a slightly awkward expression. A moment later, Rolphe was ushering them to shake hands. Rebekah, Remus noted, was distinctly reluctant as a stilted conversation ensued.
Ah. So it's not just me then. And this isn't just about your son after all.
A gentle tap on his shoulder startled him from his reverie. He turned to find Ruth gazing at him with knitted brows.
"You two know each other," she stated without preamble. "And you don't get on. I saw that look you exchanged if no one else did. And I know my sister."
Remus gave a long sigh. "Yes, we've met," he admitted wearily. "I… assisted her with some research recently. And to say we did not get on is rather an understatement."
Ruth slowly closed her eyes. "Damn," she muttered, soft but heartfelt. "I tried to warn you earlier but I had no idea the damage had been done. Remus, when my mother and brother died, I was just old enough to remember and to understand, that what happened was nobody's fault but Kane's. But Rebekah was only five years old and all her views on that dreadful time have come from what my father told her. And as you must know from their long estrangement, my father blamed yours for what happened for many years. He blamed him from provoking Kane's anger against his family by killing his mate. He blamed you for living when Randolph died. And those views became my sister's too. And although over time, dad came to terms with what happened and let his bitterness go, Rebekah had never known anything else but what she had been told as a child."
The picture of Rebekah Goldstein and her motives in Remus' mind was becoming a great deal clearer. Her instant hatred of him, her resentment and the reasons behind it were now so obvious. He had lived when her brother had died. He was the son of the man her father had blamed for her mother's death. And then to cap it all, her son came close to suffering her mother and brother's fate at the teeth of a werewolf bitten by the very creature who had robbed away half of her family. Of course she would hate him.
It was an irrational hate, true enough, unjustified in part. But when had hatred ever been rational?
He sighed again, deeply. "It was rather hate at first sight. I believed until now it was because she blamed me for endangering her son."
"Oh she does," Ruth pulled a face. "She ranted like a champion about it all through Christmas. But I take it she never mentioned you were her cousin?"
"Well, she definitely knew. We both knew. We knew that your father had helped kill Kane's mate after their murderous rampage. And we knew that Kane was the son of the werewolf that killed dad's sister. But that still doesn't mean that I think you should be…"
"Wait." Something Ruth had said registered sharply in Remus' brain. "What was that?"
Ruth frowned and then suddenly her eyes widened. "You did know, didn't you?" she breathed in sudden alarm. "You did know that Kane's father abducted and killed our fathers' sister after she tried to help him?"
Uh-oh. So that's all they've been told? But was that all Rebekah knew? Not for the first time that day, a cold chill was settling down Remus' spine. Until now, it had not crossed his mind. But of course, if Rebekah was his cousin, she was also Kane's as well.
And he had killed her mother and brother. The fact clunked into place. She knew that. She had custody and complete control of her family's murderer.
She hates him, Remus. Felisha's words. Even more than she hates you. And that hate has filled her completely.
No wonder Kane's cell was so squalid. No wonder she had no concerns about sedating him and using the Imperius curse. And no wonder she stared at him with such hatred and fear in her eyes.
But did she know about their shared blood? Did she know that Abraham Kane was Abel Isaacs, Rhea Lupin's son?
His mind flashed back a few weeks in time, to the day he and Rebekah had first entered Kane's cell. He had used the name Abel. And Kane, seeing Reynard's face, had called him uncle.
How much effort would it have taken for the Head of the Feral Institute to delve that bit deeper? A quick word to Dolores Umbridge and he was sure that she would have had Adam Isaacs' Registry File and Abel Isaacs' adoption record on her desk. And either or both would certainly have stated the belief that Rhea Lupin had been the mother of the boy-who-would-become-Kane.
And what would she think to find not one but two despised werewolves in the family, werewolves that knew of their bonds by blood as well as bite? And what would she do if she knew? Who would she tell?
"Remus?" He realised abruptly that Ruth was staring at him with concern. "I'm sorry, was that a shock?"
Remus hurriedly waved a hand. "No, it's all right, I did know that. I just wasn't aware that you did."
Ruth smiled wanly. "Unfortunately so. Dad doesn't believe in secrets."
Remus prudently kept his mouth firmly shut. He liked this family, his family. The last thing he wanted was to start an argument amongst them.
"Hey Beks!" Rufus' cheerful voice cut through the uncomfortable silence that followed. "Long time no see!"
Rebekah's eyes fixed dagger-like upon her brother. "Don't call me Beks," she snapped acidly. "My name is Rebekah. It is not hard to say, none of our names are hard to say, so why must you use these ridiculous abbreviations? Or perhaps, Rufus, you'd prefer it if I just called you Ru? Or Fussy?"
Rufus winced slightly at the later but kept smiling. "I've missed you too, sister dear," he stated simply and returned to his game with the children.
Rolphe rolled his eyes. "Now, now, you two," he said with a placatory gesture. "That's enough. Rebekah, why don't you come and meet our other guest?"
Remus felt his stomach drop like a stone. Oh no…
Rolphe and Rebekah came to a halt in front of him. Rebekah's smile was pointed and sharply frosty. As Remus mustered a wan smile in return, he could feel the gentle, restraining touch of Ruth's fingertips against his back.
"Remus, this is my second daughter Rebekah Goldstein," Rolphe informed him, apparently oblivious to the glacial atmosphere that shivered between his nephew and child. "Her son Anthony I think you know already." He gestured to where Anthony had engaged Reynard in spirited conversation. "He's quite a fan of yours. And her Julia will be joining you next September."
Rebekah's smile sharpened like a knife against a whetstone. Remus forced himself not to react. Don't make a scene. This is for dad.
"And Rebekah, this is…"
"Remus Lupin." Rebekah's voice interrupted, soft but edged with blades. "We've already met, haven't we Professor?"
Remus was taken rather aback, although not as greatly as Rolphe. Given Rufus' statement that Rebekah did not talk about her work, he had not expected her to mention their previous acquaintance. But – he fought to stay calm – if she was willing to mention it, what would she say? Would she try and poison his new found family against him in order to rid him from her home?
"You've met?" Rolphe's surprise intervened. "Why you never said! Either of you!"
Remus forced a smile. "I was unaware that Rebekah and I were related when we met." His jaw hardened. "She did not choose to tell me."
Rebekah's stare darkened as her father's eyes switched reproachfully in her direction once more. "It did not seem relevant," she replied, clearly barely restraining herself from making it a retort. "The Professor was assisting me with some research at work. Mentions of a family connection would have interfered."
Rolphe's eyes were more knowing that Remus had expected. He exchanged a glance with Ruth. "Ah," he stated simply. "Well, never mind. Consider this a whole new chance to get to know each other."
There was something unnerving in Rebekah's smile. "Indeed. And to that end – Professor, will you walk with me? The meadows outside are quite charming at this time of year."
If there was one thing that Remus was quite certain of it was that he did not want to be alone with Rebekah Goldstein at the moment. He smiled politely. "I was hoping to circulate a little more," he said in a level tone. "And dinner will be ready soon…"
"Oh, I'm sure we've got time." Rebekah's eyes glistened maliciously. "I was hoping we might discuss your conversation with Daniel Arden. Unless of course, you'd rather talk about it here?"
Remus almost started as a torrent of chilly fear swamped his body from crown to sole. He fought to maintain his composure.
She heard. She actually heard. Oh bloody, bloody hell…
And discuss it here – he knew a threat when he heard one. He could just imagine the look on Tonks' face if he told her that he had gone walking alone with Rebekah Goldstein, but what other choice did he have? And surely she wouldn't do anything with her family so close at hand…
"Well," he said with an uncomfortable smile. "When you put it like that…"
Rebekah's eyes gleamed in triumph. "In that case, shall we…"
Three staccato claps interrupted her words. Thalia Lupin was standing in the doorway, flushed but cheerful. "Everyone!" she exclaimed. "Come and sit up for dinner!"
Rebekah's expression dropped instantly. "Thalia, the Professor and I were about to take a walk…"
Thalia gave her a look of impatient sternness. "Oh dear, don't be silly, you can walk after dinner. We can't let the food get cold."
Rebekah's jaw tightened but she did not argue further. "Very well," she said softly. "I suppose it can wait. After dinner then, Professor."
And with that, she turned and swept away.
The meal was delicious. It was also the longest of Remus' life.
Sat between his father and Ruth, he smiled and chatted with various relatives, complimented the food and ate heartily, but always within, a cold corner shivered beneath the bayful, knowing glare of Rebekah Goldstein's eyes and the overhanging threat of their after dinner talk. What would she say? Had his earlier release been just a stay of execution, a silver bullet deflected but not dodged? Would she expose him as having turned feral in front of her – of their – entire family?
Except for Kane. Obviously. But that he knew he must not mention.
And then, finally, eternally, after delicious soup, a tasty roast and gorgeous chocolate fudge cake, Thalia clapped her hands once more and chivvied her groaning, full stomached family back into the living room.
But Remus did not make it that far. In the corridor, Rebekah caught his arm and gestured to the door.
"Time for our walk, Professor," she said quietly. "And a little discussion about you and The Howling."
Remus cast a brief, almost plaintive glance into the living room where his father was settling down into a chair beside Roderick's portrait once more. But then, he forced himself to turn and follow Rebekah outside.
It was still a beautiful day. The meadows danced with colourful flowers, the birds flitted overheard and the breeze whispered. And Remus did not notice a whit of it.
He felt vaguely sick. The scar along his side seemed to itch and burn all at once and the world around him seemed a step away, distant, detached, confused. He felt almost…empty.
And then, all at once, it was gone. The breeze touched his skin, a gentle stroke. And in spite of the danger of his situation, he could not shake an odd sense of peace.
"You know I wouldn't have come here today if it hadn't meant so much to daddy," Rebekah's voice, when it came, was surprisingly soft. "I love my father, Professor, and it would have broken his heart not to have us all here for his big reconciliation with his brother and nephew. Whether or not we agreed with it." She regarded him coldly, an odd frost under a beautiful afternoon sun. "I knew you were my cousin when I invited you to the Institute. As much as anything, I was curious."
"Not curious enough to give me a chance," Remus picked absently at the head of a waving wildflower. "I'm not Kane, Rebekah, and I didn't kill your family. I didn't harm your son."
"But you could have done," Rebekah's words were a sudden hiss. "You could have done because you've turned feral before, haven't you? Golden eyes, Daniel Arden said. And whilst that boy may have addled his brains in that ridiculous club, he's got good eyes."
Eyes. Daniel's eyes.
The realisation attacked with a rush. Of course! He'd been so busy fretting about how close he had come to turning, it hadn't even occurred to him that Daniel might have been mistaken. But how could he have clearly seen if he was…
"Good eyes covered by yellow contact lenses." Remus straightened himself suddenly. Probably he would never know the truth, whether he had come so close that the flash had been there in his eyes or whether it had all been a mistake, that Daniel had not seen what he believed. But at least now he had hope…"How could he have seen anything clearly in a world tinted with gold?"
Rebekah arched an eyebrow. "Do you think that matters?" she stated with a cruel smile. "He says he saw your eyes were gold. Under the Umbridge legislation, that's enough to have you locked away for the rest of your days. And even without that, Daniel's testimony would still place you in The Howling and in the company of Abraham Kane to boot. Added to a charge of trespass – possibly to eliminate a witness to your crime – and we have far more than even I would need to lock you away." She halted abruptly, swinging round to face him. "You're a werewolf, Professor," she whispered softly. "Who needs proof?"
Remus felt his heart drop like a stone. That, at least, was alarmingly true.
"Then why didn't you?" The question escaped almost accidentally. "Why didn't you lock me up and throw away the key?"
Rebekah hardened her chin as her brow creased and her eyes glared. "Because it would have broken my father's heart. He was looking forward to this dinner so much. How could he have faced it if his daughter had locked away his brother's only son?" She frowned grimly. "But he's had his reunion. And you've had your probation. The gloves are off, Professor. You can walk free for now. But if you put one sliver of a toenail out of line, I will have you locked up on Level Six before you can even find a moment to blink."
It was a foolish impulse. But Remus did not like being threatened.
"Lock up both your cousins?" he retorted. "If this is how you treat them, you shouldn't be allowed to have any."
The flash in Rebekah's eyes told him all he needed to know about her awareness of Kane's parentage. Her smile was more like a grimace.
"I really don't think that's going to be a problem much longer," she replied.
Remus stared at her. But before he could say a word, something grey and feathery plunged across his vision and dropped a sealed letter into Rebekah's already outstretched hand. Her eyes darted briefly after the owl before flashing to the letter.
Remus followed her gaze. It bore the seal of the Institute. The word URGENT was printed in bold red letters across it.
Rebekah did not say a word. She looked at the letter. She looked at Remus.
And just for an instant, something indefinable flashed across her eyes.
And then without a word, she turned away, swivelling on her heel in a swish of robes to stalk back towards the house, breaking the seal of the letter as she did so. A moment later, her pace had doubled.
After a moment's hesitation, Remus moved hurriedly in pursuit.
As he stepped back into the house, a flurry of protests greeted his ears, the insistence of Ruth that something could surely wait, the sadness of Rolphe and Rebekah's voice declaring over and over that she had to go, she had to go. As Remus stepped into the living room, a flare of green from the fireplace told him that Rebekah had already had her way.
Reynard was on his feet, one hand on his brother's shoulder as Rolphe stared with weary resignation into the fading fire. Rufus was rolling his eyes. Anthony looked bewildered. Ruth looked downright annoyed.
She had made such a fuss just moments before about not upsetting her family. So what was so urgent that it made her break that pledge?
Remus didn't know. But he didn't like it. As soon as the dinner was over, he intended to get in touch with Tonks.
Rufus was clambering to his feet. "That passing blur you saw?" he said to Remus with a shrug. "That was Rebekah leaving. She's flooed home so she can portkey into work."
Remus sighed. "She's gone then?"
Ruth's eyes darted towards him at once. "I don't suppose she told you what that was all about?" she queried irritably. "All she told us was that there was an emergency at work and she had to leave at once."
Remus moved over to her side, stepping round the cluster of now slightly subdued children scattered across the floor. "She got an owl while we were talking," he said, maintaining an air of curious disinterest in spite of his concern. "It was from her work place and had URGENT printed on it. Beyond that I know as much as you."
Ruth gazed in frustration down at the rug by her feet. "I don't know what's the matter with her lately," she proclaimed suddenly. "She used to write to me and dad every week, visit at least once a fortnight, work be damned – her family was more important. But ever since Christmas, she's been obsessed. We've hardly seen her or heard from her – dad would never say so, but it's breaking his heart." She gestured to where Rolphe was smiling wanly as his wife and brother attempted to engage him in distracting conversation. "I had to be big sister after mum died but Rebekah's always been the daddy's girl. She loves her husband, she loves her kids but she's even stopped writing to Anthony at school. She used to go home every evening to their house in Scarborough – now Felix and Julia are lucky if she spends one night a week with them. And she's so secretive. She was always discreet, her work demanded it, but secretive, never. Something's changed with her and I just don't like it."
Christmas. There was one event that Remus could quite precisely pin upon that time.
"Do you know what Rebekah does for a living?" she asked softly.
Ruth's eyes lifted. "I know she works in the Feral Institute," she stated, her voice carefully lowered as she nudged Remus away from the others, a little closer to the fire. "After mum and Randolph died, werewolves became her obsession. Even as a child, she was determined to make sure it never happened to another family again." She shrugged slightly. "Other than that, it sounds like you know more than I do."
Remus took a deep breath. He was probably breaking a good dozen Ministry rules with what he was about to reveal, but oddly enough, he didn't much care. Besides, for reasons he could barely explain, he was certain that Ruth could be trusted.
An odd heat was pulsing against his thigh – perhaps being so close to the fire was not very wise but it least it meant they were out of earshot of the others. What he was about to say was probably best not offered for general Lupin consumption.
He met his cousin's curious stare. "She has Kane in her custody there," she said simply. "He's been there since Christmas. That was the research I helped her with."
Ruth's eyes went saucer-round. "Oh my god," she breathed softly. "No wonder she's…" Her hand shot out and grasped his wrist. "Don't tell my dad," she whispered sharply. "He'd have seizures."
Remus shook his head. "Don't worry. I haven't even told mine."
"Good." Ruth was bobbing her head anxiously. Her eyes flicked up to meet his. "Thank you for telling me, Remus," she said, her voice quiet but sincere. "At least it helps me understand a little better. We were starting to think that something was seriously wrong."
Remus lowered his eyes. Now was probably not the time to mention to Ruth that her sister was fairly high on an Auror's list of suspected Death Eaters.
Heat pulsed against his thigh once more; glancing down, Remus wondered for a moment if an ember had leapt from the fireplace and settled on his robes, but no burn or flicker of fire was visible, just a steady pulse of warmth that emanated from…
His waist pouch. The pouch where he kept…
His eyes darted up. Ruth was leaning against the mantle, staring absently into the flames, his presence apparently forgotten. Quietly, he stepped aside and moved away, hurrying over to the deserted corner where the lonely piano still played on, this time the enthusiastic strains of Grieg's Piano Concerto. Leaning carefully against the lid, he nonchalantly began to examine the family photos scattered across it, mock stretching slightly as he reached casually into his belt pouch and pulled the warm Sickle into his hand.
One glance at the lettering around its edge was enough.
Remus dropped the Sickle back into his pouch, his mind racing. The Three Broomsticks then – that was obvious. And ASAP was as vivid as the bright red URGENT on Rebekah Goldstein's letter. Something significant had happened.
So Felisha requests an immediate meeting just as Rebekah is called urgently away to the Institute? If that's a coincidence, I'm a Crumple Horned Snorkack.
He had to go. But how could he? How could he just walk out in the middle of a reunion just as Rebekah had done without breaking his father's heart as well?
He glanced at Reynard and knew the answer. He couldn't. He just couldn't.
Tonks would go at once – today was her day off. And if it was desperately, desperately urgent, she'd tell him so.
He could only hope that it was not.
At 6pm, on the dot, Remus Lupin apparated to the back door of the Three Broomsticks inn.
A quick trip to the toilet had been enough for Remus to muster a quick by-coin conversation with Tonks. He had transmitted his reply to the summons – TB 6PM-RL – and received an almost instant reply – FINE BDOORTB- NTFH – which told him firstly that Tonks was already on the scene and secondly, that he was to meet them at the back door when he came. That Tonks was not hurrying him desperately along was encouraging at least, and so he had returned to the Lupins, mingled, laughed, and done his very best not to fret. His father was offered, and accepted, an invitation to stay, but when that invitation was extended to Remus, he had declined politely, stating his need to get back to Hogwarts for the new term. And then, with sincere promises to come by again soon, Remus had said his farewells to his family and left.
His family. It still took some getting used to.
But now was not the time to think of that. It was back to the grim reality of the Order and his mission.
He spotted Tonks immediately, resting side by side on the Three Broomsticks back step. Even in the fading light, Remus could see that Tonks was very pale and her expression could be best be described as strained. When her eyes fixed upon him, her features shifted to downright nervousness.
Remus was at her side in a moment. "What's happened?" he exclaimed at once. "Where's Felisha?"
"Back at the Institute." Tonks twisted her lip as she gazed up at him. "She couldn't risk blowing her cover by staying for more than a couple of minutes. But she told me what was going on and so I waited for you." She pulled a face. "Remus, I don't know how you're going to take this. I'm not sure whether it's good or bad myself."
Remus stared at her. "Tonks, if it was urgent, you could have called me here sooner…"
Tonks raised her hands to forestall him, reaching out for his arm in support, she let him pull her to her feet. "It's not really urgent," she said quietly, wearily and with a deep sigh. "At least, it's nothing we can do anything about. It's just…an unexpected development."
Remus frowned, his mind racing anxiously across the possibilities. "Tonks, you're making me nervous. What did Felisha say?"
Tonks swallowed hard. "I'm not sure how to tell you this so I'm just going to come out and say it." Her eyes met his, dark and deep, as her pale, slender hand wrapped around his. "Remus," she breathed softly. "Abraham Kane is dead."
A/N: Many thanks to my lovely reviewers xMissxUnderstoodx, Liv Naravul, Mandalen, Rel Fexive, Thee-Unknown-Factor, merlinssister, The Great RC, Lucathia Rykatu, Hawkgal, Camilinha, Adre, Picklediskiller, iamlordmoldyshorts, Miracle, Howling-wolf, a happy bibliophile, sylthian, Kailin, Silver Moon 19, le petit chou, Analia's Broom, Hiro No Tsuki, InsaneMonkeyPirate, TonksIsMyHero, Gilpin, felixgirl and Smeagonlita who are all extremely nice and deserving of showering of chocolate. :)
A Few Reponses:
xMissxUnderstoodx – Welcome out of lurkdom! I think I can let you off the thousand suns just this once…;) I'm really glad you like it – I'm flattered by your praise:)
Liv Naravul – Typos? They are my curse. I'm a self taught typist and hence make a mess of it on a fairly regular basis! And it's too late for me and the optician – we are already well acquainted due to my glasses/contact lenses! ;)
Rel Fexive – Awww… Rel, was that a brief attack of sentiment? ;)
merlinssister – Well, I come from a small immediate family with a big, friendly extended family (many of whom have strangely morphed into members of the Lupin family!) on my father's side who we see at "clan" gatherings a couple of times a year, so it is all from experience!
Lucathia Rykatu – The Lupins will appear a little more but not a great deal – circumstances are on the move now and I may not have time for detours….;)
Hawkgal – I know, I know. But ruthless as it sounds, it is more interesting to read and write when things for him go horribly wrong –huggles Remus and begs his forgiveness- And I was attacked by a rabid were-plot-bunny over the weekend – I'll probably stick the result up here as a one shot later in the week:)
Camilinha - I can say that and leave you wondering. Author's privilege –cackles evilly- ;)
Pickledishkiller& Hiro No Tsuki – I know, I know, I'm sorry! It was not my intent that this fic degenerate into a soap opera! ;)
Miracle – Welcome aboard! And yes, it makes sense, but would you really want to try it? ;) And –pats self on shoulder- Thank you:)
Howling-wolf – No more family issues now, don't worry. ;)
a happy bibliophile – Apologies for the cliffie but you might want to brace yourself on that front – it's getting towards that time in the fic where cliffies become more common! You want a duel? Be patient. ;) Reynard has more sense than to mention anything Remus shares with him. Chapters – eep. After Oblivious, I've given up on trying to estimate. At present I'm guessing maybe 40 but don't hold me to that – I'm already well over the chapter count I thought I'd have! I won't post all at once – I'm already three chapters ahead of myself but I'm trying to insure a leeway in case of injury/accident/illness/laziness so I can continue to post regularly. ;) And Cadburys – simply the BEST. :)
sylthian – I was worried Beks was a bit obvious; I almost changed it! I was very careful with the birth-dates to make sure I wouldn't make an oops! I'm glad it shows. :)
Kailin – As I said to merlinssister – it is partly from personal experience. ;) And I am a big fan of the classics. :)
le petit chou – Hi and welcome! It's always nice to see a reader come out of lurkdom and I'm glad you like it:)
TonksIsMyHero - I have written an original novel but it stalled rather in the editing process and so I started this fic as a break. I'll get back to it when Imperius is done. ;)
Gilpin – I know, I got a little carried away with the Lupins! I hope it wasn't too confusing…;)
Again, thank you all very much for reviewing! I'm sorry I can't reply to all of you personally but there are so many of you now (bless you all!) that I just haven't the time. :) You're all appreciated though. :)