! SPOILER WARNING!
As of 7/17, this story contains elements revealed and discussed in The Half-Blood Prince. At the moment, this is limited to changing of names as appropriate, but by Part 4 (Chapters 8 and 9), there will be major plot-related elements available in this story. I apologize; I originally planned to keep most of the new material out, but...well, when you read it, you'll understand.
Title: Entre Chien et Loup (At Dusk)
Part: 0: Etre au Four et au Moulin
Archive: Azkaban's Lair, wherever (if you ask, I'll probably say yes)
Summary: Albus Dumbledore revives the Triwizard Tournament in the time of Voldemort's first rising, and sparks fly when werewolf Remus Lupin finds himself snout-to-snout with illegal Animagus Sirius Black, his best friend, and the Tournament itself.
Spoilers: Er...Through GoF, I think, although there might be bits of OotP.
Rating: PG (for now)
Disclaimer: The boys aren't mine. Technically, one of the girls isn't mine. About the only thing in here that's mine are one-and-a-half characters, and the plot. The characters and world belong to JK and Scholastic and...Warner Brothers? I really don't know, but hope they'll be cool about me taking the kids out to play.
Originally posted: We'll say Notes: This started simpler than even the prologue turned out to be. I was thinking about how I've seen fics where Remus is portrayed as French, for some unfathomable reason, and I thought--so what if he went to Beauxbatons? The next thing I know, I've got Sirius making friends with a shy, trying-to-be-uncaring but really adorable 11-year-old Severus Snape, Remus becoming and Animagus, and, for a reason I still don't quite understand, elves (it's not exactly a glaring thing, I hope; they just snuck in there, because, frankly, elves rock. Even Pratchett's elves, which are freaky). So this is an AU. This is a twist-the-world-on-its-edge AU. I hope. And I hope you enjoy.
About the Title: It's a terrible French pun, because, of course, it literally means "between dog and wolf", but it's an idiom, and I found it irresistible.
Warnings: None for the prologue. Well. Brief allusion to boy/boy snogging, light-hearted discussion of a werewolf eating people, and terrible pop culture reference I hate myself for.
Dedications: samvimes, because Stealing Harry made me love the fandom again, and made me want to do something big again. Feedback: Always appreciated.
Eleven-year-old Remus Lupin placed his ear against the door to the kitchen. Madam Molyneux and his parents were arguing. Maman had started raising her voice early on; papa's voice was still quiet, calm. Papa never yelled, except once, and that had been when Remus had gone too far away from the farmhouse, and papa had not been yelling at Remus, but the wolf that had bitten him.
Remus knew that they were arguing about him. He had asked Madam Molyneux if he would be going to school soon, and she had fallen silent. Then she had given him a tight hug, and told him she would see what she could do.
"It's too dangerous," maman proclaimed. "What if he got out, and...?" She trailed off, and Remus could picture her shaking her head, lips puckered in displeasure. "Besides, how could he make friends with the other children when he has to keep this secret?"
"Your son is a resourceful boy," Madam Molyneux replied. "He has managed quite well with his lycanthropy, better than most of my other charges. I believe he would manage." She paused, probably to take a sip of her tea (she always drank tea--never coffee), before continuing, taking a different angle. "Remus is adapting quite well, but I believe he needs an opportunity to interact with people his own age. If he is lucky, this will give him a personal support network for when he is older, and at the very least, will offer him a chance to learn how to react to normal humans. Now, I've been researching the various magical schools--"
"You planned for this!" maman accused. Remus heard a muffled 'thump', probably caused by maman upsetting her chair.
"I suppose I did. Most parents of a lycanthropic child don't allow him much chance at a normal life; you two have tried to give him as much of a normal childhood as you could. So I decided to prepare for this eventuality. I've spoken to several headmasters--confidentially, of course, and found three that would be willing to take in Remus. Doctor LaVey has expressed interest in opening the doors of Satan's School of Witchcraft to Remus, although I suspect you are not interested in his offer."
"We are a good, Catholic family, Colette." His mother's terse response settled that matter for good.
"Very well. Although he has expressed reservations, Albus Dumbledore is willing to allow Remus to attend, under certain conditions of secrecy, confinement during the full moon--"
"Allow him to attend? My son has always had the ability to attend Hogwarts! His magic showed long before that wolf ever--if that man has the presumption to say he allows Remus to attend, as if he is granting us a favor...who else, Colette?"
"Ah..." Madam Molyneux sipped at her tea again, and Remus could hear her shuffling papers. "There is Beauxbatons. As the son of a French citizen, Remus' name has been on their rolls since his birth. However, until recently, there would have been great difficulty in your son actually attending."
"And have you gotten the Headmaster to graciously allow our son to be more than 'just a beast', Colette?" his mother asked icily.
"No. This past spring, Arnaud Collier retired as Headmaster, and was replaced by his Defense Against the Dark Arts Instructor--a Madam Olympe Maxime. She understands prejudice, Diandra, and showed no hesitation in helping your son find his way at her academy. There will, of course, be precautions--those demanded by the Ministry, no more. He will receive the same education any other French wizard would, here, in France."
Neither of his parents spoke for a moment or two, and then Remus heard papa shift in his chair. "What do you mean...about this woman understanding prejudice? She isn't a werewolf, too, is she?"
"No. Madam Maxime is...a half-giant. She denies it publicly, but...well, it's hard not to notice. You can think of it as a...crusade of hers to debunk the common understanding of what her kind is. She would like to help you and your son, if you will let her."
Maman didn't say anything; Remus took that as a good sign. His mother always has something to say. If she was speechless, it meant she was really thinking about something. Papa sometimes said that maman and he were a perfect match because she spoke all the time and he thought all the time, and they averaged out better than most people, half and half.
Finally, she took a deep breath, making the noise she always did before she agreed to something she thought was a bad idea. "...Very well. If this is what Remus wants, we'll send him to Beauxbatons."
Remus couldn't believe his ears. He was going to school! He was finally going to learn to be like his parents, a real wizard! He burst into the kitchen and threw himself onto Madam Molyneux, hugging her around her waist. "Thank you thank you thank you thank you!" The young, pretty woman the Ministry sent from time to time to make sure the young werewolf was doing well laughed at the attentions of the boy. Across the kitchen table, maman smiled at the sight her son made. Maybe it wasn't such a terrible idea, after all.
Remus had only been to Paris once in his life, and the bustle of the city surprised him a little. He clung to Madam Molyneux's hand as his father carried his trunk with his school things. Maman walked ahead of the group, referring constantly to the map that would bring them to Rue des Lumieres Eternelles, where Remus could purchase his wand; maman had insisted that paying who-knows-how-much for Parisian books and clothing was foolish, but regarding his wand, she had informed him that there are three things a wizard should never try to save money on: potions, chocolates, and a wizard's wand.
Finally they came to a small cafe that the Muggles didn't seem to notice; his mother tapped her wand against the door, and it opened to her touch. Beyond lay a wide boulevard that seemed shrouded in eternal twilight. Every store was lit in bright colors: red, yellow, green, violet, a thousand different shades that mixed into a glorious rainbow. Remus forgot about his fear in the beautiful lights of the Parisian street of wizards and witches, watching in childish amazement as a trio of elves, strange, glorious creatures dressed in silvery silk, walked past, chatting in their flowing language. They looked nothing like the House Elves or other creatures that shared their name.
"Maman, those were--"
"Hush, cub," maman said. "Don't be rude. Now come along, the wand-smith's is this way." The four of them wound their way through the street, at last coming to a disappointingly-plain shop nearly shoved off the side of the street into a nearby alley.
"All right, cub," papa said, ruffling Remus' head, "We'll see you when you're finished. Here's the money for your wand, we'll be just next door, in that cafe. All right?"
Remus paled, and tightened his grip on Madam Molyneux's hand. He looked up at his parents, frightened. "I have to go in...alone?"
"It's something for you to do by yourself," Madam Molyneux explained. "Many wizards get their wands alone; it's a rite of passage, in a way. Come along; you're a brave child." She pried his hand away from hers, and shoved Remus lightly towards the door.
Remus pushed the door open, and stepped into the musty shop. An elderly man sat behind a high counter; he looked up as Remus entered, smiling. "Ah! Hello. Who are you, child?"
"Remus Dautry dit Lupin," Remus whispered. The man looked the boy up and down, and nodded, as if he expected this.
"Very well, let's get you a wand." He snapped his fingers, and a box appeared at his side. He flipped it open, and pulled out a foot-long stick. "Oak, with a silver-and-iron core. Good for power, although rigid and not very creative." When Remus refused to take the wand, he peered down at the child, frowning. "Come on; it won't bite."
Remus shook his head, refusing to speak. If he told the man why he couldn't take the wand, he might not give Remus one at all. The man scowled, returning the wand to its box, and snapped again, replacing it with another slender box, this one holding a slender, bendy stick. "Willow, this one. Good for charms. Contains a core of powdered dragon's blood. Careful, now..." Remus cautiously took the wand, flicking it back and forth with no effect. "Hm. Nothing." The man grabbed the wand back, and made a complicated motion with his free hand. Another wand appeared, and like the last, Remus couldn't get it to do anything. The man growled, and began giving wands to Remus in rapid succession, growing more frustrated with every one that failed to produce a response. Finally, he pushed himself from his desk and stalked into the back room.
Remus stood there for a few moments, shocked. Had the man decided he gave up? Did Remus just not have magic at all? Or wasn't there any wand that he could use? Just as Remus was about to leave, the man returned, holding a wand, not a box, in his hand. It was short, 11 inches, and looked as if the bark had been peeled off of a green branch and never allowed to dry. "Olive, eleven and one-half inches. It was left to soak in the moonlight and rinsed in quicksilver. It's not real silver, boy, don't worry." The man tilted his head, examining Remus with a critical eye. "You're the first of your kind I've ever seen in here, cub. Here, take it." Remus took the wand, and shivered when it touched his hand. It felt familiar, warm to the touch, and even smelled right.
He gave it a flick, and the dimly-lit shop was suddenly filled with cool, white light, the wand glowing with the strength of the moon. Startled, Remus dropped the wand, and it fell to the store's floor, light winking out as it did so. The old man gave a hearty laugh.
"Seems I was right, cub. You'd never do well with a wizard's wand; there's a different type of magic in you, no doubt. Wouldn't doubt you've got talents that'd leave your noblest pureblood speechless. Wouldn't doubt you're destined for great things. If you're willing to try for it."
"What do you mean...I wouldn't do well with a wizard's wand? Aren't I a wizard?" Remus' trembling question brought the man up short, before he grinned at Remus, the sort of grin papa gave Remus before telling him to keep a secret from maman.
"You're a wizard, no doubt. But your magic's different. Less refined. You can't work with our wands, because they expect something a little more...civilized, and you overwhelm them with a rush of power. I imagine Ollivander could have found you something you could use, but you'd never get it to work well. You'd be a decent wizard with one of his, but with this...you can be a great one. These are the types of wands the druids used to call down the moon and bind her to them. The wands of the Sibyls and of Circe." The man winked at Remus. "Like I said, we can expect great things from you, Remus Lupin. Go on, take it," he said, as Remus dug in his pockets for the Galleons his father had given him. "I couldn't sell it anyway. Besides, one day, you'll pay me back in something better than gold." Eyes glittering, he watched the young werewolf leave the shop. "One day, Remus Lupin..."
It was hectic at the Paris train station; even after passing through the wall at the end, where the Wizarding Platform Zero was, there still seemed to be thousands of people milling around, even though maman had told him only about a hundred students went to Beauxbatons. Remus had never been around lots of people at once, growing up in a small Wizard village in Champagne, so this many people in one place was unnerving. Maman kissed him twice, told him to listen to his teachers and not get into trouble, papa gave him a pocketful of chocolates and told him to not be frightened, there were plenty of other students who were new, and they were all as nervous as he, and Madam Molyneux looked him in the eye and told him that he was a wonderful child, and nothing he couldn't help changed that. Then she reminded him to check in with Madam Maxime when he arrived, and he was finally on the train, a white construction that looked like it was made out of crystal, but was comfortable and cool inside, filled with yellow light and with padded compartments. He slipped into a small compartment near the back of the train, feeling the urge to hide despite his parents' advice.
The train finally left, at noon exactly on the twenty-ninth of August, and Remus took a deep breath. This was it. He was going to school.
A knock at the door to the compartment startled him, and when he looked up, a beautiful girl stood at the entrance. She was slender, blond, and had inviting green eyes, and was dressed in robes of pale blue silk. Remus sniffed, and caught an alluring scent, like cinnamon and chocolate.
"I'm sorry; are these seats taken?" Remus shook his head; the girl sighed gratefully, and half-fainted into the seat across from Remus. Another girl, taller, with black hair, and pointed ears, entered, and sat next to her. The first girl held out her hand.
"Hello. I'm Solange Delacroix. This is my first year at Beauxbatons."
Her companion did not hold out her hand, but she nodded to Remus. "I'm Yvonne."
"Remus Lupin." The two girls grinned at him, and then Solange grabbed his hands.
"Wonderful to meet you, Remus. Aren't you excited? My father went to Beauxbatons, and he said it's wonderful. He insisted I not go to Hogwarts; you know how it is. Anyway, how about your family? Did they all go to Beauxbatons, or are you the first?"
Slightly overwhelmed by Solange's chatter, Remus shook his head. "I'm the first. Maman and papa both went to Hogwarts."
"Oh! Why aren't you going to Hogwarts? I know some parents think their children ought to be taught in French. I think that's rather foolish, but chacun son truc. (To each his own) My father believes Hogwarts is a terrible place to send a child--the stories I've heard about those teachers! How about you, then?"
"Sorry--what?" Remus blushed, realizing he'd been staring at Solange rather than listening.
She laughed, and Yvonne smirked at the boy, causing Remus to blush more. The first people he'd met, and they were already making fun of him! He got up, intent on finding another compartment, when Solange laid a calming hand on his arm.
"Oh, don't get so upset. We're not making fun of you, honest, petit choux." Solange grinned. "You see, I'm half-veela. Boys can't help but act like twits around me." Remus looked at Yvonne, hoping to see some evidence that they were putting him on. But both girls looked very serious.
"Really?" Solange nodded, still grinning.
"If I really try, I can make most boys melt like that," she said, snapping her fingers.
"That explains why you smell so good," Remus blurted. The two girls gave him odd looks, and he realized he'd blown it. It was hard, sometimes, to remember that normal humans had terrible senses of smell.
After a moment of thought, however, Yvonne smiled, eyebrows rising. "Are you a druid, then? I've heard they call animal spirits into themselves to improve their senses."
Remus almost said 'yes'; she was handing the lie to him, and it would have been easy to explain away so much else. But despite his one secret, his parents had always taught Remus to be honest, and Madam Molyneux had said this place would be safe for him.
"No; I'm a werewolf."
Sirius Black resisted the urge to growl when he passed yet another compartment full of people who had already made friends. He didn't understand how anyone could just make friends like that. Maybe because he didn't have much experience with kids his age. His parents were used to dragging him to "society" events, which were lacking in children under the age of 30. He'd caught a glimpse or two of kids he recognized from "proper Wizard" families, but that meant kids who were used to feeling superior, and so wouldn't give the time of day to anyone they thought inferior.
He passed an empty compartment, but wasn't that desperate, yet. He was, however, considering giving up hope. But the next compartment just held one boy, who looked like he was just beginning to sprout upward, looking terribly awkward in his newly-acquired height. His hair was slick and greasy, and his rather large, pointed nose was stuck in a thick book, one of the many Sirius had bought a week ago and hadn't yet cracked open. He knocked on the side of the door, trying to catch the boy's attention.
The boy didn't respond to the knock, so Sirius came in, hauling his belongings above them onto the racks, and sat down across from the boy, who refused to look up. Sirius tried to be patient; he sat still for nearly thirty seconds! But when the boy refused to acknowledge Sirius' existence, he took matters into his own hands.
"Oi." He tugged the book downward so he could meet the other boy's black eyes. There was something familiar about him, but Sirius wasn't about to wonder about it. "I'm Sirius Black. Who're you?"
"Severus," the boy replied. He tried to pull his book back up, but Sirius wasn't having any of that.
Besides, he remembered where he'd seen the boy before; a month ago, at some distant cousin's birthday "party" (it was more of a birthday "stand around and talk about how much you hated Muggles"), he'd seen a somewhat shorter Severus tucked into a corner, reading a book thicker than the one he was currently trying to retreat back into. "So, you're a first-year?"
"Yes," the boy said, tugging harder on his book. He had a desperate look in his eyes, as if silently pleading with Sirius to let him flee this conversation.
"I suppose you couldn't find anyone to sit with," Sirius continued, deciding if he was stuck with someone who didn't want to talk to him, he'd make the boy change his mind. "It's ridiculous how everyone's already banded together; you can nearly tell what House people are going to be. For example, I saw a group of girls that I just know are going to end up in Gryffindor. Say, what House do you think you're going to end up in?"
The boy's tugging relaxed a little as he actually looked thoughtful. "I like reading a lot, and want to do well in my classes, so maybe Ravenclaw...but I've heard they're just a lot of know-it-alls, so maybe not."
"The way you're acting, I'd say you were bound for Hufflepuff, no offense meant," Sirius said off-handedly. "All of the Blacks for five generations have been Slytherin, so I was considering trying to get myself into Gryffindor, just to spite them."
"Get out of Slytherin?" Severus asked, eyes wide. "But Slytherin's brilliant!" Suddenly, he closed up, the excited look fleeing his face, as if mortified to have revealed anything so private. "I mean..."
"Think you might want a shot at the big leagues?" Sirius asked. "You don't have to be Slytherin for that."
"But I want to be a Defense teacher, like my father," Severus said, "And no one else ever even thinks about the Dark Arts. Too scared to study it, and too weak to fight it." His eyes, earlier closed and dead, were starting to glitter, show a light that Sirius liked.
"So how about we both try for Slytherin, eh?"
"Huh?" Sirius was willing to bet Severus had never had another boy his age show any interest in him; most boys were probably put off by Severus' odd appearance and his utter contempt for other people.
So Sirius just grinned at him. "How about we both try for Slytherin, and we'll look out for each other."
Severus tried to sneer at Sirius. "I don't need anyone to look out for me."
"Really? Because I know I'll be horrendous at Potions and Astronomy--haven't got the patience. Plus, I don't really know anyone, and it'd be nice to have someone to eat with right off the bat, you know? And I know I'd hate to get lost and run into some Gryffindor students; they hate Slytherins, and would do something awful to a lone Slytherin lost in the castle."
He watched as Severus' sneer faltered, faded, and was replaced by something akin to worry. And...a little hope. "So...maybe I wanted to look out for you. Make sure you pass Potions, and help you keep from getting lost. You'd do the same for me?"
"Sure, Sevvie." Severus scowled, but Sirius could see he was secretly pleased that someone had gone through the trouble to give him a nickname. Sirius held out a hand. "So, friends?"
Severus started. Friends? Was that what all that meant? He looked uncertainly at Sirius' hand, and the other boy laughed. "I haven't got a slug in it or anything, Sevvie." So Severus tentatively grasped Sirius' hand, and Sirius pumped it up and down twice (he refrained from spitting in his hand to make the promise; he wasn't certain Severus could deal with that yet). "There. Friends."
"Oi!" Another boy appeared in the entrance of the compartment. He had messy black hair, was somewhat scrawny, and wore a set of round spectacles he shoved back up his nose every few seconds. "You want to join us in the next compartment? We've still got space." Severus and Sirius exchanged a glance, shrugged, and pushed themselves to their feet. But when Severus stood, the boy shook his head. "Not him; we don't need his greasy hair getting all over everything. I was talking to you. Black." He pointed at Sirius, as if to make sure both occupants knew about whom he was speaking.
Severus froze. His face twisted into an expression of hurt, which was quickly covered by the same neutral expression he'd held when Sirius had first arrived. Of course he'd been naive to think this would last. Sirius would run off with this new boy, and Severus would be left alone again. It had seemed too good to be true, but Sirius had seemed so sincere. He'd let himself be tricked into caring again. "Fine," he muttered, falling back into his seat, intent on going back to his book. Books were better than people anyway; he controlled when they came and went, and they couldn't hurt him.
But Sirius had other plans. "Apologize," he demanded of the newcomer. The boy looked startled, as if he hadn't considered the possibility of Sirius liking Severus. "Apologize," Sirius demanded, again, and this time, the other boy's face hardened, and he shook his head.
"If he doesn't know he's a greasy git, I'm doing him a favor telling him," he retorted.
"That's it," Sirius muttered, reaching for his wand. Severus' eyes widened. Was Sirius really going to break the rules for him? The other boy saw the motion, as well, and his hand shot for his own wand, but it was too late.
"Nota Indelitis!" he shouted, and the boy was hit with a flash of scarlet light. When the spots in his eyes cleared, Severus saw, with amazement, that the boy's forehead read, in flowing, fluorescent script, Property of Sirius Black. Sirius grinned, spinning his wand about his fingers carelessly. "That's what you get for messing with my friend." The boy lunged forward with his wand, and a blue jet of light streaked at Sirius. "Protego," Sirius drawled, and the light bounced harmlessly away. "I'm not impressed," he concluded. "So why don't you admit I've won and go back to your friends. Let them know who's in charge around here."
The boy sputtered, then whirled about, storming from the compartment. Sirius waited for a count of three, before he let himself collapse into his seat, laughing. "Did you see his face when I deflected his hex? I had no idea if it was going to work, but he must not have much talent, to get bounced away that easily." Severus watched in silence, still somewhat in awe. Sirius had really...had defended him. So maybe he'd been ser--sincere when he'd offered friendship. Severus allowed himself to hope, cautiously. Maybe school wouldn't be all that bad.
Albus Dumbledore peered over his spectacles at the two boys Minerva had dragged up here. James Potter was trying to look carefree, keeping his eyes anywhere except on Dumbledore, and Sirius Black...Sirius was staring directly at the Headmaster, defiance in his eyes. Dumbledore sighed.
"Gentlemen, this is the sixth time I've had you both in here this semester. Now, what happened?"
"He hexed me!" James snapped, pointing at Sirius, at the same time Sirius shouted, "He was making fun of Severus!"
The two gazes met, both boys glowering. Then James shot his gaze back at Dumbledore. "I wasn't making fun of Snivellus; I just asked him to move his head so I could see the board."
"You told him to get his abnormally-large honker out of your eyesight so you could take notes in peace!" Sirius retorted, hand straying dangerously close to his wand.
"It's not my fault his nose is only feature worth noticing on his face!"
"Maybe if you stopped trying to antagonize him, you might notice something other than his nose!" Sirius retorted.
"BOYS!" Both froze mid-shout at Dumbledore's yell. They turned, as one, to face him, hazel and grey eyes focused on what he imagined was a rather frightening expression. For the moment, they were more worried about him than their feud. And an idea struck him. "Follow me." He descended the staircase from his office, both boys trailing quietly. Once, he thought he heard one of them say something, but it was cut off by a hurried "shush". He led them along the corridors, up to the seventh floor, where, to the students, it must have seemed he had lost his mind. The third time he passed a seemingly blank piece of wall, a door appeared. Dumbledore stalked over to it, and threw it open to reveal an empty, windowless room, padded on every surface. Dumbledore grinned.
"Your punishment is to remain within until the two of you have negotiated a way to tolerate each other's existence for the next...five-and-a-half years."
"What?" Dumbledore smirked at the twin shouts of outrage. They were at least one step closer to peace, if they were together against him.
"You mean until dinner or something, right?" Sirius asked. "You wouldn't let us starve, would you?" Dumbledore only shoved the boy into the room, followed by James, and, waving to them cheerily, shut the door, locked it, and walked away.
"I still say this is your fault," Sirius panted, sprawled out on one half of the padded room. He was sweating, tired, and covered in mauve boils. Across the room, wrists bound with grey vines and face a mottled green, James groaned.
"Can we just drop it?"
"Fine." He continued staring at the ceiling. "You know, I feel a lot better, now..."
"Something about finally getting to hex me into next week relieved your stress?" James asked sardonically. Sirius chuckled.
"Something like that. Truce?"
"Truce. I'll leave the--" Sirius cleared his throat, and James backtracked. "I'll leave Severus alone, you'll stop spending every waking moment finding new ways to punish me, and we get to get out of here."
"Acceptable. If you felt like doing my Astronomy homework, too, I'd definitely accept that as part of the terms," Sirius said.
"Don't push your luck, Black."
They lay in silence for another few minutes, before Sirius spoke up again.
"You know, what if we did this every week or so?"
"What, get locked in an abandoned asylum by Dumbledore?"
"No, get together and throw hexes at each other until we can't move."
"I don't know about you, but I'd rather not have another reason to go to Madam Pomfrey every week. It's bad enough being on the reserve team for Quidditch."
"Fine, you nancy. We don't have to use dangerous hexes. Just, you know, get a little practice dueling every week."
"That actually sounds good. You're smarter than you look, Black." James sat up, grinning at Sirius. Sirius only gave him a lazy wave, too tired to push himself up.
"Part and parcel of the Black family genes. Now, let's see about getting that door open."
November 11, 1973
"We really ought to do something about this," Solange commented over the recumbent Remus. He looked up at her, blinking curiously.
"What, the Infirmary?"
"No, your lycanthropy," she said, rolling her eyes. She leaned half-over Remus' legs to half-whisper into Yvonne's ear. "You see, what if we could keep him company?"
"I'd eat you alive," Remus commented. "You see, the thing about becoming a slavering, man-eating beast once a month means that if there's people around, I eat them. Logical conclusion and all that." Solange grinned knowingly at him.
"Well, I'm an elf," Yvonne said, pouting in that amusing way she did when she thought she looked adorable. Unfortunately, given her inherited regal features, it just made her look spoiled.
"Yes, and Solange's half-veela. It doesn't make much of a difference. You could just think of me as a humanoid-eating wolf, then."
"Exactly," Yvonne said, turning her sky-blue eyes onto Remus' golden ones. "So what if we weren't human?"
Solange produced a textbook from behind her back, and flipped it open to a page somewhere in the middle. There was a painting of a middle-aged witch standing in a field, overlapping with a drawing of a kestrel perched on a tree stump. "You see, there's a potion-slash-ritual that allows a witch or wizard the ability to take the form of a certain animal for which they have an affinity at will. Those that successfully complete it are called Animagi, and according to some reports I've read, the Animagi can interact safely with fully-transformed werewolves. All we have to do is get enough research done to figure it out for ourselves and duplicate the process."
Remus' jaw dropped. They were crazy. They were utterly insane. They were...perfect. "I can't let you do that! What if something went wrong?"
"That's why we're working on it together," Yvonne explained, tossing her hair haughtily. "So we'd be able to spend the transformation with you, and keep you from hurting yourself."
On one level, Remus was overjoyed. He knew having company would lessen the pain, would nearly steal it away. To have friends there with him while he transformed! But another part was angry, jealous. They'd have animals inside of them, the way he did, except they'd be able to pull them out whenever they wanted, while Remus was trapped by the moon's cycle, only able to live in the wolf under the full moon, when the wolf was pulled out from deep inside him. It hurt, to think about it.
"Besides, Yvonne thinks we'd be able to get the process to work on you, too."
"What now?" Remus was certain he'd heard Solange wrong. But when she repeated herself, lips moving slowly and enunciating exactly, Remus saw it was no mistake. It was simple. It was brilliant. It wasn't a cure; he'd still have to transform under the moon, but...
But the wolf was inside of him, and raged at being trapped for twenty-seven out of twenty-eight days. He knew, somewhere deep inside of him, perhaps where the wolf lived, that if it worked...
It would be another of the small steps Remus had taken to make peace with the monster inside of him. But it was impossible; after all, were it possible, someone would have done it, right?
Except the wand-smith had said something to Remus. The first of his kind...in a long time. Maybe...maybe no one had ever thought of it. Because you had to register to become an Animagus, and no one thought giving the wolf more control would help, so maybe it had never been allowed. Yvonne and Solange, however, weren't registering, and Remus sure as hell wasn't, and that meant, if they pulled it off, they would prove something. He wasn't sure what, but he knew it would be a blow for werewolves everywhere.
"So, are you in?" the blond half-veela demanded, green eyes glowing with the intensity she showed when she was truly excited, when she forgot to reign in her supernatural aspects, and let her magical beauty supplant her natural attractiveness.
Remus grinned. "I'm in."
April 1, 1974
Four boys sat in the Transfiguration classroom, which was dark and empty, save for their seats. The two on the left wore the green-and-silver ties of Slytherin, while the two on the right wore Gryffindor's gold-and-red. The Slytherin on the end, a boy with unfortunate greasy hair and the sorrow to have a nose a bit too long for its own good, turned to the boy next to him.
"I still want it known I was against this from the start."
"Relax, Sevvie. McGonagall went easy on us, and I'm sure Professor Calloyde thinks we're brilliant, cooking up Polyjuice on our own like that," the boy replied. He had black hair, attractively ruffled, and his grey eyes nearly glowed in the light of the waxing moon. "And it was worth it, to see her face when she asked Potter if he could name the three types of Transfiguration not requiring the use of a wand, and his skin melted off. Sorry about the rash, though, Peter. How was I supposed to know you were allergic to knotgrass?"
"'s'all right," the brunette at the other end of the row muttered.
"You know..." the fourth boy said, turning to grin at the middle Slytherin. "I got to thinking about what McGonagall was talking about in class today. Wouldn't it be a hoot if we could pull off the Animagus transformation?"
"No. Absolutely not," 'Sevvie' replied. "We'd just end up like Peter over there. Or worse! Have you seen the pictures of what happens when it goes wrong?" He turned his black eyes angrily onto the Gryffindor. "Only you would come up with an idea that stupid, Potter."
"Well, we can't all have memorized the books about Dark Arts in the library, Sni--Snape," Potter retorted, correcting himself at the end of his statement to avoid certain retaliation from the black-haired boy seated next to him. "Sirius thinks it's a good idea, don't you?"
Sirius put his hand on his chin, as if thinking hard. "I don't know. Severus is right; it's pretty dangerous. There's a ritual and a potion to make, and it's different for every person. I know you and I could handle the ritual, but if Severus is afraid he'll mess up the potion, I suppose we ought to just give up the dream."
"I haven't fallen for that trick since I turned twelve," Severus said in a controlled whisper.
Potter just flashed him a 100-watt grin. "So you can't do it, then? I suppose we could ask Lily Evans; she's brilliant in Potions, and probably would make it taste better, too."
Severus just stared at Potter with loathing for several seconds, before snapping his head around to face the front of the room. "You'd both just end up turning yourselves inside out or something without me there to help you."
Potter turned to Peter, beside him, and nudged the pudgy boy in the stomach. "How about you, Pete? You up for another challenge?"
Peter shook his head, and scratched at his arms again. "Sorry; I think I've had enough of Transfiguring myself. But I'll help, if you guys want."
"You can make sure we're not going to blow ourselves up doing it," Potter said. "You know, read our palms, check the cards..."
Peter flushed; it was no secret Professor Devorah favored him in Divinations, nor that he took himself, and the course, quite seriously. But still, it was good to be appreciated once in a while.
"You can help me researching the potion, too," Severus said, "If you don't think you'll screw up too badly."
"And I guess that leaves me to supervise," Sirius said, putting his hands behind his head and leaning back.
"Nope," Potter said, poking the boy in the ribs. "Your job is to run interference so that McGonagall doesn't figure out what we're up to when you start taking advanced Transfiguration texts out of the library. Give her some shite about wanting to be a teacher."
Sirius shot Potter a dark look, but the boy responded with a bright grin.
November 15, 1975
"Okay, does everyone have their potions?" A slender, beautiful teenage girl lifted a glass of sparking, orange liquid, and glanced at her two companions. Another girl, this one's beauty more of a quiet, dignified grace that matched her regal features and piercing blue eyes, lifted a glass of brown-black sludge. The sole boy in the small, padded room, raised a glass of grey-white fluid. He looked at the first girl with a sharp, golden-edged glare, then nodded.
The room in which they stood was padded, and could only be unlocked by a particular three-charm sequence of the twenty-seven different unlocking charms. The padding, however, was worn, showing damage where it had been torn, others where it was stained with blood or urine. It did not look like the sort of place one would go to a lot of trouble to keep people out of.
Of course, it wasn't. It was the sort of place one built to keep something in.
"You go first, Solange, in case...well, you know."
The first girl nodded, and raised the glass to her lips. She drank deep, taking the entire contents in one swallow. When she lowered the glass, she raised her left hand, in which she held a stiff, mahogany branch. She twisted it in a half-moon pattern, and as she did so, spoke a single phrase. "Ex animo."
For a moment, nothing happened. And then, the girl dropped the glass and her wand, grabbing at her sides. The other girl started forward, as if to help her, but the boy restrained her with an outstretched arm. He recognized her position, her face, as that of a person whose body was stretching, bending, trying to accommodate a new form. Indeed, in only a few seconds, her body seemed to contract, twist, and bend, until where the teenager named Solange had stood, there sat a red fox. The creature was covered in fur bordering on the edge of gold and orange, except for its chest and muzzle, where white interrupted the solid color, and ears and feet, which were covered in black fur. Streaks of a more yellow color ran through the fox's coat. The fox looked down, as if startled, and then stood, looking at herself up and down. Her tails twitched happily at what she saw.
Remus blinked twice, shook his head, as if trying to clear it, and then stared. Solange had been replaced with a fox that had...two tails.
The other girl laughed. "The girl's half-fairy, so she turned herself into a kitsune!" The kitsune glanced up at the girl and tried to glare, green pinpoints shining in the compact face of the creature.
Remus bent down to the fox, and began rubbing between her ears. "She's gorgeous even as a fox, aren't you, Solange?" After a few moments, he stopped, and looked up at the black-haired girl, raising one eyebrow. "Well, Yvonne?"
"Oh." She swallowed the contents of her glass, lazily flicked her wand in a half-moon, and said, "Ex animo," as she tossed the glass aside onto the pads in the corner. Remus looked away, allowing her the privacy to shift. When he looked back, he was faced with a slender, black-furred wolf, only distinguishable from a true red wolf by the fact that her ears were slightly longer and distinctly more pointed. Remus grinned, ruffling the creature's ears. Yvonne-the-red wolf shook her head, annoyed, and nipped at Remus' fingers.
He laughed, and took a step back. He knew werewolves were supposed to be friendly towards Animagi, but what they were doing now was untested, and he'd wanted to make sure that his friends were at least in animal form before he tried to awaken the wolf.
He tried to project calm, to make sure the half-asleep presence within him felt that everything was all right. He was with pack; it wasn't the moon, but there was no prey. Everything was all right.
The taste of the potion, sickly-sweet and tasting of musk, lingered on his tongue as he flicked his wand in a half-moon and whispered, "Ex animo."
There was little pain, just an intense cramp that pulled him into a fetal position as his body stretched and compressed, and in his mind, he felt the ever-present wolf perk up its ears and try to take over.
He could feel the struggle, and he knew he would lose if he fought, so he tried a different tactic.
No full moon. Man-magic lets you run whenever I want. So...no hunt?
There was a pause, confusion. Surely this was a trick? The wolf knew he only came out when the moon was full. You trap wolf until moon make strong. Wolf fight when moon full, come out, try to hunt.
Remus shook his head, the body of the wolf mimicking this human gesture. I will let the wolf out. I will let the wolf share my pack. I will let the wolf be free-but-together...if the wolf does not hunt Man.
The wolf tried to fight his way around these complicated human thoughts, but then a strange sensation overwhelmed his mind. The scent of two other creatures--canids! Not wolves-like-him, but a slim, female wolf, and a red-wolf-with tails. They smelt familiar, and friendly, and...And the boy had said if the wolf did not hunt people, they would be his pack. And he would not be bound to the moon, though he would still run beneath the orb that was his mother and god.
Wolf not hunt Man...Wolf run outside?
Remus felt like laughing, crying. It couldn't really be this easy, and yet...Yes. The wolf relaxed a little, no longer intent on seizing control of this shared body. It nudged Remus to greet his packmates properly, but it felt better, knowing that the boy would share. Share his pack, share his body, and share himself. It felt this was the way things should be.
"I think we ought to name our animals," Yvonne said, seated on a semi-circular couch in one of the castle's common rooms. "Because they're sort of...other sides of us."
"Well, Remus' is obviously Moony," Solange said, smiling brightly at her friend. The boy gave a disgusted look.
"Moony? That sounds so...girly."
"Would you rather we call you 'cub'?" she asked, looking that had she been in her fox-shape, her tails would have been twitching vigorously. Remus growled, but didn't put much force in it.
"Fine. But you're Redtail."
"A beautiful name for a beautiful woman," Yvonne said, raising a hand dramatically from the half of the couch onto which she'd sprawled face-up. "And I, as a name befitting my noble ancestry, will be called--"
"Snuffles," Remus said. A pillow came flying from Yvonne's direction; he caught it deftly, but she launched herself over Solange onto the boy, nails extended as if ready to fight. The three tumbled off the couch in an undignified pile, catching the attention of most of the rest of the students trying to study.
When Yvonne pulled herself out of the pile and sat herself with proper composure back on the couch, she glared down at Remus, who had not yet mustered the strength to move.
"Really, you have no sense of propriety, do you, Moony?"
"How...about...Blackfang?" Yvonne's normally calm expression twisted into a, eager grin.
"Are you joking? That sounds...dangerous." She leaned forward, baring her teeth at Remus. "Beware, or Blackfang will get you!" Remus responded with a snarl that sent Yvonne skittering back almost to the back of the couch. He gave her a wide grin.
"We'll call you Blackfang, Yvonne, as long as you remember who's the alpha around here."
February 12, 1976
"So..." Severus ignored Sirius, his attention apparently focused on his Potions essay. But Sirius wasn't about to give up that easily. "Sevvie--"
"Severus," Severus muttered. "Sevvie makes me sound like I'm twelve."
"Fine, Severus. What did you think?"
Severus looked up from his scroll, a thoughtful look in his eyes. "It was...an experience." He turned his attention back to his homework. "Although I didn't appreciate being pounced on by that huge mutt you call a dog."
"Oh, come on, Severus! Can you honestly say you got out there and didn't have the urge to run, chase something, hunt, play?" Acting almost like a big dog himself, Sirius crawled across Severus' bed, grinning at his friend. "You had to have felt at least as excited as I did. Hell, even James had fun, and we didn't have Peter tagging along with us. You know what it takes to get that boy to enjoy himself without Pete hanging around worshipping him?"
Severus sighed. "I still didn't appreciate having Rover tackling me. I think I've still got slobber in my ear." He grimaced, but Sirius' face had frozen in a look of disbelief.
"Did you call me...Rover?"
"You're a dog, aren't you?" Severus asked, rolling his eyes.
"Hey!" Sirius rolled off the bed, and hurried around in front of Severus, glaring. "I refuse to be called 'Rover'."
"Then find a way to stop me," Severus said, nose still stuck in his work.
"Make you?" Sirius watched the other teen working for a minute or two, thinking. The only way to keep Severus from doing something was to make it worse for him to do it than not. And if he thought something was amusing...
"You know, my aunt had a cat named Muffin," Sirius said, off-handedly, as if he were just musing aloud. The scratching of Severus' quill stopped, and when Sirius glanced his way, a murderous gaze was being aimed at him.
"You wouldn't." The tableau held for about ten seconds, each boy trying to get the other to back down.
Finally, Severus let out a defeated sigh. "Padfoot."
"Nightcat," Sirius said. Severus gave a curt nod, and returned to his homework. Sirius bounded to the door of the dorm, pausing before he left. "I'll go tell James, all right?"
Severus gave him a distracted wave, sending the idiot running through the castle almost exactly like an overgrown puppy. Severus snorted. The dog form fit Sirius, the same way Severus had felt so right when he'd taken the shape of the large, powerful cat. When he'd climbed a tree to avoid the bouncing, slobbering mutt. When he'd leapt out of that same tree to nearly tackle the stag that was James Potter. And, despite himself, it had been...enjoyable letting go of the self-conscious human part of his mind and indulging in the ways of the beast. He knew he would never admit it to Sirius, or another living being as long as he lived, but it was the most fun he'd ever had in his life.
September 1, 1976
Severus glanced up at Sirius, his best friend (how he was still amazed that there was anyone he could call his friend, much less his 'best' friend) sprawled across both seats across from him. Sirius held a copy of the Daily Prophet, frowning at whatever he read. He glanced over at Severus, perhaps sensing the gaze on him, and Severus returned his eyes to be focused on the window, as if he hadn't been looking.
"Come on with it, Severus."
A calloused hand ran up Severus' back, warm breath on his neck, as he nibbled on the other's earlobe, eliciting a soft moan.
"You've been giving me these looks, and then jumping like a rabbit when I look at you. What's wrong?"
"...It's nothing," Severus muttered.
A low chuckled, a hand brushing across his lips. "You ever do this before?"
"Bollocks," Sirius said, rolling himself off of his seat. When he landed, it was on the floor between the seats, belly up, deliberately exposed, the way he'd taken to doing when he wanted to put someone else in control. Severus had never seen him do that with anyone else, so maybe it was just a way of making Severus--both the human and panther side--feel at ease. "Something's bothering you, and you don't want to tell me. Remember: I can smell fear." Severus chuckled, the joke still funny despite the fact they knew it wasn't true. Or at least, not totally true.
Severus took a deep breath, wondering how he could say this. How could he tell Sirius, who had been with him since his first day of school, standing beside him, who had beaten down James Potter to get the Gryffindor to leave Severus alone?
Sure, he knew that Sirius was his best friend, and nothing would change that, but...
But, and Severus hated to admit it, there was still a part of that friendless little boy inside of him, who worried what people would think, and tried to pretend he didn't. And if he lost Sirius, he wasn't sure what he would do.
Certainly not kill himself; he wasn't a drama queen. But it wouldn't make for a pleasant year.
"...Something happened over the summer."
He must have blushed, because Sirius was suddenly back in his own seat, grinning like a maniac. "Something? Has our little Snapie-poo finally gotten himself a girlfriend?"
Severus shook his head. "No; it was just...you know." He shrugged. "A summer thing. My parents took me to Romania, and there was a family in the next cottage..." It would be so easy to leave it there, retreat from questions about details, and let Sirius think what he wanted to, but this was no time to start keeping secrets from Sirius. He knew Sirius had no secrets from him, even the cold, uncertain feelings Sirius had about his family, proud of him but pushing just a little too hard, pushing for things Sirius wasn't certain he could live up to, or wanted to. Sirius had shared all of that with him, and somehow, that meant Severus had to share this secret. "...His name was Igor."
Sirius didn't say anything. Severus blinked a few times, feeling the tears gathering at the corners of his eyes. He hadn't really expected this; however often the dangerous little voice liked whispering terrible words in his ear, Severus hadn't really believed Sirius would react like this. Determined not to let Sirius see him cry, and give him more reason to hate him, Severus stood.
However, Sirius' hand on his wrist kept him from moving too far. Severus glanced back at Sirius, and saw...a look of confusion on Sirius' eyes.
"Do you mean you...and...Igor...snogged?" Severus just nodded. He wasn't sure if he could trust his voice not to make him sound like a teary-eyed girl. "So you...you like blokes?"
"Are you really that dense, or are you trying to make this as painful as possible, Black?" Severus snapped, feeling irritation replacing his breakdown.
"No, I..." Sirius looked bewildered, uncertain as to what exactly he should be doing. "Oh, hell." He yanked on Severus' arm, pulling the other boy down into a tight hug. "It's all right, really. I was just...surprised."
Severus tried to fight it, but his eyes were getting unpleasantly moist. Most of his tears seemed to be dribbling onto Sirius' shoulder, so it was all right. But he had to be sure. "You're...you're really, all right with it?"
"As long as you have no illusions about your chances with me, Snape," Sirius replied, giving Severus a bright grin. Severus almost broke down again right there, but he only gave Sirius a fake sneer, letting a hint of a grin enter into it.
"I like to think I have at least some taste, Black." Sirius just released Severus, and threw himself onto the seat next to him, and that was that.
Severus wondered, sometimes, what would have happened in his life if he didn't have a friend like Sirius Black in it.
June 30, 1977
"Olympe, Sasha." Albus Dumbledore looked at each of his colleagues in turn, seeing in their eyes the same worry he concealed every morning when he looked into the mirror. "These are uncertain times, where some wonder if the world may be falling apart. Our children are being divided by the ways their families are going, and very soon, perhaps this year, we will be forced to admit that it is war."
The large woman dabbed at her eyes, touched by the thought of her children being tugged off into a war. She certainly wasn't old enough to remember Grindelwald, or Adolph Hitler, but he could see the same worry in her eyes as many had seen in the years before Grindelwald's rather sound defeat at his hands.
Sasha, however, looked impassive, though his eyes betrayed him. He was a man used to dealing with the Dark Arts, Dumbledore knew, and understood how to keep his counsel.
"I think perhaps, it is time for us to seek to remake old bonds, to give our children the strength to weather this dark time."
Sasha could not hide his surprise, and Olympe paled. Dumbledore tried to remember if she ever would have seen it, but his memory failed him. Sasha spoke first. "It's too dangerous, Albus. Even if we could make it safer...wouldn't it attract...You-Know-Who's attention? It is not too good to have many people there at once."
Dumbledore nodded. "I have thought of all of this, but I feel that it is more important that the children leaving our institutions this year learn that they have friends beyond the walls of their individual schools. Let me add, too, that ever since its construction, Hogwarts has never fallen. Neither Le Fey nor Grindelwald have ever breached its borders, so why then would Voldemort stand a chance? If you fear for your students' safety, then perhaps they would be safest at Hogwarts." He sat; in his excitement, he had risen to his feet, nearly overturning his chair. "But it is, of course, your own decisions to make. I urge you to think carefully on it."
Olympe shook her head. "I do not need to think, Professor Dumbledore. It is important that we remember our foreign cousins, especially in such a time."
"I must agree, as well," Sasha said. "Any plan of action includes risks, and if the benefit outweighs the consequences, then only a fool would hesitate."
"Very well," Dumbledore said, eyes twinkling. "Then perhaps we should begin making plans. I have here some things drawn up by Lester Crown, our Minister of International Wizarding Cooperation..."
If either Olympe or Sasha suspected Dumbledore of manipulating them, neither spoke of their concerns.