Home Before Red Moon
Friday 31 July – Saturday 8 August 1987
Diagon Alley, London; St Mungo's Hospital, London; Old Basford, Nottingham; Baie des Anges, Nice, France.
Rated PG-13 for conjugal love.
Ariadne had five more weeks of apprenticeship, but they were as uneventful as such long hours could be. Professor Jigger set her to brewing Felix Felicis and Skele-gro because he said she needed the practice in the most complex standard potions.
Remus and the other werewolves spent the full moon in a locked ward at St Mungo's Hospital. Healer Smethwyck and a green-robed Mediwizard patrolled the room with clipboards, recording their every move. Caleb Oldfang had better sense than to attack anybody in front of so many witnesses.
The Muggle postman brought Remus's exam results: he had taken out a first. Ariadne flung herself into his arms, but he was so tense that she needed to ask, "Are you not glad? You're a teacher now!"
He shrugged. "I expected it of myself. I'm not really a teacher until I find a job."
"Job or not, you're allowed to be happy that you did well."
"Do you know what day it is?"
He had changed the subject on purpose. "It's Harry Potter's birthday. He'd be seven."
"Yes. And we're still not allowed to send him a card. But it's also the end of your apprenticeship."
"Not yet," said Ariadne. "Not until this evening."
"When this evening comes, can we talk about taking a holiday?"
In fact the day was an anti-climax. Ariadne couldn't believe that it was the last time she would ever enter Slug and Jigger's. She began the morning by mixing an ordinary batch of Eye-Bright, then scoured ordinary cauldrons, and began work on an ordinary brew of Photapergaz. At eleven o' clock, Professor Jigger called her out to the shop and said it was time to go to the Guild Hall. She followed him across the cobbled street, not really grasping that they weren't going there to deliver Wit-Sharpener.
Jigger handed a sheaf of papers to the clerk behind the desk. The wizard checked Jigger's credentials, then Ariadne's – her published papers, the endless progress reports – and said, "Ah, Belby's pupil. No surprise to see that this apprentice has learned more than most." He pulled out a blank certificate, scribbled on her name and the date, and stamped it.
"Congratulations, Madam Lupin. Here is your apron."
Ariadne found herself holding a literal apron – soft red leather embossed with the gold insignia of scales and a cauldron – and wondered how she was going to carry her certificate back across Diagon Alley in the rain. Jigger had already turned back towards the door, so she muttered an Impervius and followed him out.
Belladonna Jigger looked up from the shop counter, and said, "Oh, you're back. Well, technically, you've finished with us – you can go home. But we'd prefer you to finish the Photapergaz first."
Ariadne stirred the Photapergaz, strained it into bottles, and cleaned the cauldron. Then she picked up her journeyman's apron and certificate, said good bye the Jiggers, and took the Floo home.
She was mystified to find a crate-shaped parcel in the middle of the living room floor.
"I pity the owl who brought that down the chimney," said Remus, for the delivery would have required two eagle owls and several Galleons of postage.
Ariadne recognised Aunt Macmillan's handwriting on the brown paper, but even when Remus ripped that off to reveal two matching brown leather suitcases, she was too fatigued to comprehend that they had been sent as a graduation present. She had read the covering letter twice before understanding struck.
"Is Aunt Macmillan wanting us to go to the South of France with her tomorrow?"
"I said we must talk about holidays. I told your aunt in the spring that we'd like to go." He placed his hands on her back and began to massage her shoulder-blades. "If you don't remember it, you definitely need the holiday."
She tried to relax. Remus must be as tired as she was, but he was never too tired to pay her these little attentions. "But this coming week you'll be needing to drink Wolfsbane."
"I collected a flask of it from St Mungo's this morning. We'll only need to reheat it."
She relaxed a little more, trying to remember that she no longer had to do everything herself. "If we're to be up early tomorrow, I'm supposing we should pack those suitcases now. Nice sounds like a Muggle resort. Remus, what do Muggles take on holiday?"
"Sun hats. Sandals. Cameras. Buckets…"
"Well, children do. All right, no buckets for us. Towels and toothbrushes and Muggle clothes…"
Fortunately the suitcases were larger inside than out, so Ariadne was able to pack her potions kit beside the jeans and shirts that she had last worn three years ago in North Wales. Remus wrote mysterious words like "shorts", "sun-dress" and "bathing costumes" on the back of an old envelope, saying they would have to buy those items in Nice. Ariadne only hoped she would recognise them on entering the shop.
Remus closed the suitcases with a tricky little locking charm, and Ariadne first noticed the black lettering stamped across one corner of each lid: "Madam A. F. Lupin" and "Professor R. J. Lupin".
Evidently nobody had told Aunt Macmillan that Muggle teachers are not addressed as "Professor".
Alex Macmillan always congratulated himself for choosing that summer to take his family to Nice. While the weather in Britain was endlessly cool, wet and cloudy, the Baie des Anges remained warm, dry and sunny. He knew he couldn't cram his whole family into a single three-bedroom cottage, so he hired two of them. That meant his older children could bring their Significant Others, with Ariadne and her husband installed as chaperons, and that left space in the younger lasses' room for Morag MacDougal.
What Morag always remembered about the blissful holiday in the Baie des Anges was that she had Aunt Ariadne's attention, day after day.
"Papa's not liking your husband," she confided sadly. "I was thinking I'd never see you again."
"I was worrying about that too," replied her aunt.
"Grandmamma and Grandpapa are always pretending that Papa will let me see you again soon. But he never will. I will not tell anybody at Kincarden that you were here. That would only make Papa angry with the Macmillans."
Morag remembered other things too – the butterfly parks, the dolphin reserve – but what she later discussed most excitedly with her parents was the water slides.
The water slides were what Ernie and Grace Macmillan remembered about their holiday. They would race Morag to the end of the queue, climb the ladders, and settle themselves on the lap of the nearest adult. Then they slid delightfully into dark tunnels, splashed through cold foam, swooped down into stomach-churning gradients, twisted around death-defying corners, and finally swept off the foot of the slide into the receiving waves of the cold pool below. Grace howled that there was water up her nose, Ernie shrieked that Remus could let go of him now, Morag complained that Steadfast had nearly lost her sun-hat, and all of them insisted that they wanted another turn right now.
What Clement and Zealous Macmillan remembered were the castles that Cousin Remus engineered on the beach. When they found an uncrowded stretch of white sand, Clement was about to disdain that sand-castles were for babies, but Remus spoke first.
"I can build Hogwarts here," he claimed.
And Clement found himself hollowing up a pit, two feet deep and six feet wide, with no idea of how it would transform into a castle. Remus directed Zelly to begin the walls, while Morag brought buckets of water to hold the fine white sand together, and Ernie up-ended bucket upon bucket of sand to represent the towers. They did this nearly every day, and there were so many Muggles on the beach that Remus couldn't have been using magic, yet somehow his keep never crumbled, his turrets never toppled, his battlements never buckled.
"Tell me the secret!" Zelly begged. "Can you do charms without a wand? Did Ariadne brew some kind of glue?"
But Cousin Remus only smiled secretively, and claimed, "It's just the appliance of engineering."
What Prudence Macmillan remembered was her failure to acquire a tan. The sunshine was glorious, and every day she slathered Lockhart's Browntone onto her exposed limbs. Every morning she paraded the Promenade des Anglais, dressed in a peacock-blue strapless sun-dress (boys were willing to whistle), and every afternoon she showed off her fluorescent-purple bathing costume on the white beaches (boys were willing to stare). A rash of freckles flared up in protest, but the skin beneath them remained a pale carnation-pink.
What Dreadnought Macmillan remembered was the photographs. After he had captured the bay, the cottages, the ancient buildings, the animals, the sandcastles and the water slides, he turned his attention to human portraits. He snapped his mother unpacking picnics, his father buying family-concession entry tickets, his younger siblings paddling in the sea, his older siblings sneaking off to secluded corners with their Significant Others, strange lasses climbing the hillside, strange lasses admiring museum exhibits, strange lasses swimming, strange lasses sunbathing…
Both Dreddy and Prudence remembered how difficult it was to meet new people. By the middle of the holiday, Dreddy had only to raise his camera, and suddenly his brother Steadfast would be at his side, lecturing him on Respect For Women, or Prudence would be muttering to that new boyfriend about a "dirty one-track mind", or Cousin Remus would be asking polite questions about exposure and angles. Prudence could not escape her mother's endless reminders to pull her neckline a little higher or to arrange her sun-hat over her shoulders, her father's constant warnings about road safety and tidal rips, or Mercy's mysterious path-blocking appearances, complete with lectures about Talking To Strangers, whenever any strange boy stopped to ask her the time. Even Cousin Ariadne seemed to have remarkably poor timing when it came to asking for their opinions of the local pottery and wood-carvings, their feelings about sharks and butterflies, or their translations of the local sign-posts. More embarrassing still, the French natives did not speak any version of French that Dreddy and Prudence recognised, and the American tourists did not understand a word of the only form of English that Dreddy and Prudence were able to produce.
What Margaret Macmillan remembered was how both Ariadne and her husband relaxed and flourished in the summer sunshine. They had arrived at the International Portkey Office looking haggard and exhausted, each constantly glancing at the other. By breakfast time the next day they seemed to have slept out, and they were listening to the family conversations. By the day after that they were exuding energy. They were first to the top of the hill, the last left swimming in the sea. Remus carried the heaviest load back to the cottages – he even hoisted Grace onto his shoulders – and Ariadne, the first into the kitchen, had peeled all the potatoes before Felicity even found an apron. Aunt Macmillan noted approvingly that they were wonderful baby-sitters – they seemed to enjoy the water-slides almost more than Ernie and Morag.
"Such a devoted young couple," she remarked to her husband. "It's so sweet how they can hardly tear their eyes away from each other, yet they're seeming unsure whether it's good form to hold hands in public."
Aunt Macmillan did not know about the locking and sound-proofing charms that Remus placed on the bedroom door at ten o' clock every evening, or about the passionate exchanges between the Provençal cotton prints.
Felicity could not help noticing, What Felicity Macmillan remembered was the frustration of being treated differently. "Mother would not let me lock myself up like that with Richard," she said.
"I'd jolly well think not," interrupted Steady.
"Mind your own business, Steadfast. But, Richard, this is Ariadne. She was always too busy with her books and her potions to notice men. It was almost an accident that she ended up married, and she and Remus are always so proper together. Yet they've just waltzed off to the bedroom, not even pretending to be tired…"
"Don't tease her about it," said Richard suddenly.
"Don't tease her," he repeated. "I've known her for ten years and… well, she wouldn't find it funny."
What Mercy Macmillan always remembered was the cauldrons. Since her mother was directing all the catering from the other kitchen, the Muggle stove in the second cottage wasn't needed for food. Yet it always seemed to be lit for a bubbling cauldron. Even before breakfast, Ariadne would be chopping leaves, straining flowery tinctures, stirring at something that smelled like a rich cinnamon… Mercy suspected that her cousin must be creeping into the kitchen in the middle of the night to mix her brews. She didn't like to ask what the potions were for, since they seemed to be medicines. Ariadne and Remus had certainly both looked sick when they first arrived in Nice.
Remus looked a great deal healthier now, but he still drank the cinnamon-scented medicine every day, and with such a grimace that it couldn't have tasted as delicious as it smelled. Ariadne's medicine had a minty aroma; it must have been some kind of tonic, because she always relaxed and began to glow within about ten seconds of drinking it.
What Steady Macmillan remembered was how well his girlfriend fitted in with his family. Miss Scholastica Blott was a transfigurationist at the potteries. She talked about antiques with his mother, Quidditch with his father, clothes with his sisters, books with the Lupins. There was a bad moment when Zelly and Ernie crept up behind her and shoved wet seaweed down her neck. Luckily Scholastica saw the funny side, for she told the boys, "If you don't want it back, I'll cook it for your dinner tonight." She sounded so serious that Zelly made a hasty grab for the seaweed. But when she turned back to Steady, she couldn't suppress her giggles.
On the fifth day of the holiday, Steady asked Scholastica to become a permanent Macmillan. They agreed on a Christmas wedding.
What Dempster Wiggleswade remembered was the sunsets. That was when Mr and Mrs Macmillan began putting the younger ones to bed. The rest would sit on the grass outside the second cottage, drinking peach soda and watching a huge red sun sink over the horizon. Mercy would lean her head against his shoulder, politely pretending to understand what they were saying about broomsticks.
Steady spoke directly from his work as an aerodynamic researcher for Nimbus. "There is empirical evidence to suggest that the increased oscillation in the tail section during periods of high wind velocity is reduced in the 1700 because of the increased rudder action in the stabilising charm that allows the flier to control the broom in the yaw axis with far greater precision."
"Customers don't notice that," said Richard lazily. "Market research indicates that it has a limited appeal even among professional sportswizards. It's the additional comfort afforded by the new cushioning charms that gives the 1700 its broader base of interest. And it offers greater potential for sustainable market development because it's a value-added service showing a real customer-focused approach."
"But a causal relationship has been shown between yaw axis control and directional precision that surely has to be an advantage to anybody wishing to fly the 1700 in an area of variable viscous flow."
"What's more, it's now a legal requirement," Dempster pointed out. "The 1500s no longer meet British Safety Standards and will probably have to be recalled."
"The average purchaser doesn't usually ask about that," said Richard, "whereas cushioning charms…"
"Is that a full moon?" asked Mercy suddenly.
"No, that'll be tomorrow," said Scholastica. "The true full moon doesn't rise until sunset."
"Let's take a moonlit walk along the shingle beach tomorrow night," said Felicity. "Ariadne, have you and Remus really to go home tomorrow? Surely you can bide just a couple more days. You'd like to walk under the full moon and tell werewolf stories, would you not?"
"You seem remarkably confident that there are no real werewolves in Nice," said Remus. "I imagine that a holiday resort in a city of a million people would be a prime target for malicious types."
Steady began to say that Remus was right and they should be careful, but Felicity interrupted, "Please stay, Ariadne? You're surely not having to go straight back to work on a Sunday?"
"We've an appointment that we cannot avoid," Ariadne repeated.
It was hard to tear themselves away from the Baie des Anges. The sun shone warmly on the beach, while they knew it was raining in England, and Ariadne ached to think how long it would be before she saw Morag again. The afternoon shadows were already lengthening when Remus stood up from his sandy battlements and said, "We really do have to go home now."
"Goodness, you cannot leave at this time," said Aunt Macmillan. "Bide for dinner!"
"Why not bide the night, and leave first thing in the morning?" asked Uncle Macmillan.
"It's sounding wonderful… but we've packed our toothbrushes," said Ariadne. It was a stupid excuse, but her watch warned that it was less than three hours until moonrise.
She hugged all the cousins, and the whole family trailed them down the two streets to the public Floo. Then they had to pay for Floo powder, check the correct pronunciation of "Ministère de Magique", and hug all the cousins again. But at last she was whirling through the emerald flames, and then Remus was helping her out of the grate at the other end. The clerk in Paris (working long hours in the holiday season) checked their passports and authorised their Portkey (a bronze fleur-de-lis). The clerk in London checked their passports again, and sold them more Floo powder. Ariadne whirled through the Floo channel feeling sick, and then she was stepping out of her own grate, while early evening light was still dimly shining through the drizzling rain, and Remus arrived half a minute behind her.
"You're looking rather green," he said. "Are you sure you're all right?"
"I'm fine. Just dizzy after a rough trip through the Floo."
"I noticed you didn't eat much at lunch. You're still stressed."
"I'm ravenous now. I'll go into the kitchen and make us some soup."
She opened the froster cupboard and pulled out a container of frozen vegetable soup. Still too dizzy to cast a proper fire-charm, she had to use a match to light a ring of the stove range. The soup was melting into a warm golden liquid inside a small cauldron when Remus walked into the kitchen. His face was lit like a burning phoenix, as if his head had caught a Lumos charm.
"Remus, what's happened?"
He was trying to control his grin, but he was on the point of laughing as he waved an envelope in the air. "Look what the Muggle postman brought us!"
They rarely received anything in the Muggle post, apart from rates bills, which never made either of them smile. Ariadne squinted at the return address, but she couldn't read it while Remus was flapping the paper around. "What is it?"
"Ariadne, I have a job!"
The wooden spoon fell into the cauldron as she flew into his arms.
"I'm being offered the Year Six post at Willowgate Primary School," he said. "That's the red-brick building just the other side of the shopping arcade."
"I'm knowing which one. Walking distance from home."
"It's only a one-year appointment, and the first year of teaching always means very long hours of preparation – there won't be many free evenings at home."
"But you'll be teaching."
"And earning a salary of… it must come to… around thirty-five Galleons a week."
"So our fortunes are made."
"I wouldn't go that far…" he began.
"But I'll be earning another twenty from St Mungo's. You will not be needing to pick fruit for the rest of this summer."
"I didn't say that… look, the soup's boiling over. Exstinguo!"
Later in the evening, after they had eaten the soup and washed the pot, and the sun was hanging red on the horizon, they sat down in front of the hearth, where Remus lit a cool blue fire. They had discussed his new job – the pupils, the teachers, the curriculum, the money, the endless challenges of pretending to be a Muggle – five times over. Ariadne tried to push away the dark chill that always pressed around the edges of her mind when they were so close to Transformation hour.
Remus broke the silence. "It's done you good to spend a week doing nothing. Promise me you won't wear yourself out for Healer Smethwyck the way you did for Professor Jigger."
She smiled. "That's a safe promise. I will not be so dependent on Healer Smethwyck's goodwill." Then she braced herself. "But, Remus, I've something to tell you… you will not be altogether pleased."
He frowned. "Perhaps you should show me the St Mungo's contract now. Let me know the worst before you start working there."
"It's nothing to do with work. Remus…" She exhaled and held his gaze, reminding herself that he had the right to know, that no good had ever come from her failing to confide in him. "I did not do this on purpose. But last June I was very busy and had too much to remember. You warned me that I'd finish by forgetting something important… and you were right. I was so busy with werewolves, and Wolfsbane, and Veleta, and Professor Jigger, and… and everything… that I forgot. And by the time I remembered again it was too late…"
"Sweetheart, while you're gathering the courage to make this dreadful confession, might I just mention that I haven't the least idea what we're talking about?"
She drew in a deep breath. "I'm talking about my yamwurzel potion. I forgot to brew it. So now we're going to have a baby in March." She dropped her eyes wretchedly. "Of everything I had to do then, taking the yamwurzel seemed to be the least important. I've known ever since we discovered the Wolfsbane Potion that we'd be able, one day, to have children. But I did not neglect the yamwurzel deliberately, Remus; I was expecting to wait a few years yet, until we had money, and I was a Master, and you were feeling ready to be a father…"
He stroked her cheek, so that she was forced to look up at him.
The surprise on his face was giving way to unrestrained delight.
"You're right," he managed to say. "I never thought… but this is one more thing that the Wolfsbane changes… we can have children now. We…" The words were swallowed in his laugh. He was even happier than he had been about the job offer. Finally he gasped out, "Ariadne, are you sure?"
As she nodded, he pulled her into his arms, and she rested her head on his shoulder. She hadn't expected him to take the news so well; he must have wanted a bairn more than he wanted to be practical. She reclined against him quietly for a while, listening to his heartbeat.
Eventually he said, "The moon…"
Reluctantly, she disengaged herself.
She would never stop hating the minute of Transformation. He was always so mortified to be forced into an animal's shape, and the physical pain was always so acute. She would work on brewing a painkiller, but it would be months before she could balance the herbs so that the endorphins did not cancel the effects of the wolfsbane.
The wolf now crouched beside her. It would be years before she worked out how to prevent the physical Transformation. But lycanthropy, like all curses, was unnatural, therefore there must be some way of restoring nature. She would surely find that way in the end. She wound her arms around the wolf's shaggy neck, and drew his head down onto her lap.
The wolf growled a little – he still did not quite believe that she could have any affection for his animal form – but he obediently settled himself down on the floor. She stroked him like a dog.
"You're seeing how normal we've become?" she said. "You're now a teacher. I have my journeyship. We both have jobs. We've been on holiday with our family. We're going to have a baby. And soon all werewolves will be as normal as we are."
She scratched behind his ears, wondering if he found her words of normality soothing. Wolfsbane was yet illegal, and society was yet prejudiced against werewolves, and Veleta was further out of their reach than ever. But there was nothing they could do to save the world tonight. Tonight, within the walls of their own home, all was right between them.
"Good night, Professor Lupin," she said.
A/N. Many thanks to the brilliant
A/N. Many thanks to the brilliantdp360, who explained to me everything there is to know about broomsticks.