Author's Note: This ficlet is a sequel to Crumpets Aren't My Style. If you haven't read that, this story will still make sense, but it will spoil its predecessor, so I suggest you check out Crumpets first. Also this story is Lupin centric, so if you are dying for the further adventures of Harry and SG1, you'll have to wait awhile.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. I don't own Stargate SG1. I don't make any money from writing. Please don't sue me.
Chapter 1: Things are Better Now
Remus Lupin snatched the last page from the printer and stuffed it into the briefcase. He knew it would smear all over, but he didn't have time to worry. He snapped the case closed and tucked it and the cardboard roll with the oversized printouts and maps under his arm as he backed out the door. At the last second he tossed his mobile phone back inside. It landed on the carpet by his galoshes. No use taking it along if it would just get scrambled again. The keys jingled in his pocket as he ran down the stairs of the flat. He shouted an incoherent greeting to his downstairs neighbor as she let her dog out for a walk. She shouted something equally incoherent back.
The dog wagged its tail.
The bus was pulling away from the curb as he stumbled out onto the sidewalk, halfway catching the cardboard tube on door frame. He waved his free hand and the driver, Millie, who had four cats and sore feet and loved to tell him about both, stopped for him. He smiled and thanked her, showing his bus pass, and then sat down for forty minutes of hairballs, bunions, and arch-supports before he transferred to another bus for another twenty six minutes.
Apparating would have taken thirty seconds.
He looked at his watch. Somehow he was still eleven minutes ahead of schedule. He stepped off the bus earlier then usual, as a rumble in his stomach coincided with the appearance of a bakery. He fished a few pounds out of his pocket, dropping one in the outstretched paper cup of the homeless man on the curb outside. He looked at the menu. One cup of tea cost the same as an entire box of tea from the market. He bought a large anyway and a blueberry scone.
There are luxury items now.
He gave his change to the homeless man as well. Remus took his time walking the five blocks to the New Ministry building, juggling the tea, the scone, the briefcase, and the cardboard tube as he did.
There would be nothing to carry if I could still conjure.
"Remus," called a furtive voice from an alley he passed.
If anything other than his name had been called he probably wouldn't have heard it at all. He paused and looked into the dark space between the buildings. It took a moment to pick out the speaker from among the shadows, and then only because he moved.
As a veteran expert in fighting the dark arts, Remus knew it was a bad idea to allow yourself to be lured into a dark alley by a person you have yet to identify, but he did just that. As he stepped into the dark his eyes adjusted.
"Tobias?" Remus said, smiling slightly.
He juggled the food and luggage for a moment before deciding to drop everything but the tea, to free up his right hand. He held it out and Tobias grabbed it and tugged him in closer, giving Remus a cursory sniff. Though his nose was no longer able to tell him much, Remus did the same. Werewolves had their own kind of manners after all.
"You're scorched," Tobias said as he let go and sniffed the hand he had reclaimed.
Remus shrugged. "How've you been," he asked, instead of responding.
He knew the answer wasn't good of course. Tobias was even thinner then he had been a year ago, when they had last crossed paths. He was worn and gray straight through, despite being ten years Remus' junior.
"I'm still breathing," Tobias said as he leaned down to scoop up the half eaten scone Remus had dropped. "I heard you been…cured," he said as he took a bite of the scone.
"I've been through four full moons now without transforming. It will be five tomorrow night. It seems like it might stick," Remus said.
He wanted to gush and insist that Tobias sign up for the Ministry formatted trials, but he didn't want to sound as if he was trying to get the other man's hopes up. They'd all been down too many roads that promised and failed and usually took their last Sickle as well.
"Heard you lost your magic," Tobias said, holding out his hand.
Remus passed him the tea.
Let's all stick our finger in that while it's still oozing, shall we?
"Separate incident, actually," Remus replied. "Lestrange hit me with a curse I still can't find a counter for."
Verbally true. Can't really counter death, can you?
"Heard you were working for them now," Tobias said in voice that was almost a growl.
When the conversation started Remus had thought Tobias needed money. That's the way things used to be. If you could get a job, you shared with those who couldn't. Most of his Hogwarts salary had gone into the stomachs of those who couldn't hide what they were as well as he could. Remus thought he saw where things were going now. No werewolf ever helped the Ministry hunt down their own kind. No werewolf worked for the Ministry because that was all the Ministry wanted them for.
"I'm working with them at the moment, as an intermediary," Remus clarified. "They aren't the ones paying my salary."
Or providing instantaneous interplanetary transport.
"I'm on my way there right now, actually.," Remus continued. "We're trying to arrange for a muggle contact dispensation. We thought we already had one, but then the DFCDC decided the treaty we had arranged did not allow for interaction with muggles even though it permitted werewolves and pre-approved wizards and witches to use the muggle facility and transport systems."
"What are you talking about?" Tobias asked.
"The cure," Remus said. "It's so simple…well, not simple really, but it seems so obvious now, I don't know why no one tried it before."
"Get to the point," Tobias growled.
"The moon. That's all it takes. Direct contact with the lunar surface burns the curse out. It's incredibly painful, makes the cruciatus curse feel like an overly enthusiastic back rub, but then it's over, and it is really over."
"And there are muggles on the moon?" Tobias asked skeptically.
"It's not something they've gone public with, but they have a stable base up there. The DFCDC came up with their own plan where they sit around doing 'background research' on the use of the lunar surface to cure lycanthropy despite obvious proof that it works. Their plan calls for the Ministry to begin construction of their own base in 2096. I'd be half tempted to take the information directly to the Prophet, but they run everything by the Minister anyway. It's frustrating, but I think by the end of the year, the cure will be publicly available."
"How much is it going to cost?" Tobias asked, trying to sound suspicious.
"Nothing. Dumbledore's Order already has volunteers to make the portkeys, and the muggles aren't charging anything in an effort to build good will. The Ministry wanted a processing fee but Headmistress McGonagall stared them down."
Remus started a bit and looked down at his watch. He was now officially late for his meeting.
"Sorry Tobias. I really must go. If you're still around later this evening-"
Remus trailed off as Tobias' face closed up.
"You're not going to the Ministry today Remus. He wants to see you."
There was no need to ask who he was. Remus scowled.
"I'm in the phone book and I get on well with owls. If he, and I use that pronoun as a courtesy only, has something to say to me he can call. I'm not taking one step for his benefit."
"You've got no choice," said a new voice from behind him.
Remus turned just in time to get a fist in the face.
There weren't any lights and the air in the room was dank and still. He strained his ears but heard nothing, no wind, no running water, not even scurrying vermin. He could be in any one of their hideouts, anywhere in England or Europe for that matter. Remus raised his hands to his face, struggling against the weight of the chains and what was probably a dislocated wrist. Blood was still trickling out of his nose and down over his lip. He'd always had good clotting time, so he couldn't have been unconscious for more then twenty minutes.
Unless someone came in and kicked me in the face later.
Time wasn't so important anyway. His clothes were torn, and his pockets were empty. He shifted and pain shot up through his back and chest. He curled up on his left side. It hurt slightly less. He waited.
It was hours before cracks appeared in the wall in front of him. It was nearly as dark on the other side, but there was just enough difference for him to see the huge hulking figure step through. Remus knew him by his outline, though the smell gave him away just as much. Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf that gave werewolves a bad name.
"Greyback," Remus said by way of greeting.
Remus didn't have any desire to speak to that particular maniac, but staying silent would be interpreted as cowering. Greyback snorted, as if amused and for a moment Remus thought they might be able to discuss things on some sort of reasonable level. He sat up.
The next instant jagged fingernails scratched him across the face, missing his eye only because he flinched back. A knee landed on the center of his chest and he was pinned to the ground, unable to breathe. Rank breath puffed over him. He gagged and tried to push the larger werewolf away, but his efforts were ignored. The blood from the scratches was oozing into his eyes and mouth. The sting in the scratches redoubled as Greyback licked the side of his face. Greyback leaned back then and Remus struggled for air. He heard the werewolf smacking his lips.
"They were right," Greyback muttered in his strained growling voice. "Scorched. How long did it take to burn it out of you?"
"Five minutes, I was told. It seemed longer to me," Lupin replied. "I'd spent the days before fully transformed, so I wasn't really aware of time, though I suppose none of that actually matters to you."
Greyback snorted again. That may have meant yes.
"What matters now is that it's over for you," Remus said, feeling strangely free as he spoke. "You understand that at least. Now that there's a cure you're just another carrier. Someday soon there won't be anymore-"
Greyback's growl drowned him out.
"You'll be dead long before then."
"I assumed as much," Remus replied.
"Always the martyr," Greyback said.
The werewolf stood up and lurched around the room, as if he couldn't decide to walk on four legs or two. He paced for a moment and then paused. Remus knew a decision had been reached. He brought up his hands as Greyback started towards him, but it did little. Greyback backhanded him into the wall, and stomped out.
Remus spent the next few hours waiting. The hole in the wall was left open, and shadowed figures peered in at him. He didn't call out to them. They didn't speak to him. In all likelihood Greyback had forbidden it. They were curious, though. They sniffed the air.
I wonder if I smell afraid. I don't feel it. Perhaps dying was good for something after all.