for those of you who still remember this story!
Harry woke abruptly as if jerked by someone beside the bed; his body aching and head spinning. The events of the previous event whirled in his brain like a fast-motion Muggle film; he was left staring at the ceiling confused and demoralised until the sound of something scratching against a surface caught his attention.
The chalk was moving by itself on the enchanted Blackboard, it spelt out two words: TOO MUCH.
"Indeed," said Harry miserably, rubbing his temples.
"How are you feeling?" said a voice near the door.
With enormous effort Harry got up and saw Lupin walking in with two smoking mugs; he was smiling.
"Like I have a very, very bad hangover," replied Harry, now eyeing the content of the mug with interest. His stomach gave a rumble and Lupin chuckled.
"I take it that you've had many hangover experience?" he said casually, handing Harry one mug and sipped the other. "drink this, it'll help."
Harry obliged; the pain and soreness was immediately relieved after the first gulp.
"Aaah," he slumped back onto the pillows and sighed with delight. "Thanks, Moony."
Lupin eyed him. "You haven't answered my question."
"What?" Harry looked dazed and slightly taken aback, "oh – hangover experience? No, not really… aw, why the look of disbelief?"
Lupin set down his mug and stood up to pull aside the curtains; the room was lit up immediately. Judging by the sun, it was in the early afternoon already, Harry had slept right through breakfast and lunch.
"James was fairly alcohol-tolerant," said Lupin lightly, turning towards Harry. "doesn't the trait usually run in the family?"
Harry opened his mouth to answer but was lost for words; the sight of Lupin smiling at him in the dazzling sunlight was momentarily blinding.
"Something on my face?" said Lupin after a while, a mischievous glint in his eyes.
Harry sank his face in his mug and drank deeply; muffling a 'sorry' somewhere in between gulps. He felt somewhat silly again, perhaps even childish; but Lupin didn't seem to care.
He looked up; Lupin had sat down by the window and was toying with his mug, a gentle smile on his face. Harry couldn't help but notice that the man smiled more often now, and it seemed genuine… there was no longer a soft, subtle hint of regretful sorrow in his features. Despite the humble and occasional tired appearance, Lupin looked happier… more content. Harry was somehow cherished by that thought and went over to hug him tightly.
Lupin looked a little surprised, but hugged him back nonetheless. The familiar smell of wood, fur and grass surrounded Harry again, it made him feel safe – the events of previous nights seemed a long way away now, and the events that were still to come was nothing of immediate worry either.
Suddenly Lupin let out a choke of laughter, and Harry looked up. The man was pointing to that blackboard.
"I have a funny feeling that it can think on its own," said he.
There was an additional, large, pink word of 'SOPPINESS' after the original 'TOO MUCH', and Harry groaned.
"Shut up," he told no one in particular, and decided to cuddle the man tighter yet. "Although I do wonder sometimes what they'd think if they saw us like this. Especially Hermione."
Lupin gave a thoughtful 'mmm' that resonated through Harry like a shiver. Before he was able to say anything further, he was pulled up to face Lupin in the eye:
"Harry," Lupin looked rather serious and furrowed his brow slightly, "are you sure that – if you – I would think, if -"
Harry knew better what he was going to say and shook his head slightly. "I am capable of making my own decisions, Remus," he said breathlessly, "and for this once, maybe just this once - I would like to make some decisions about my life by myself."
Lupin eyed him, the look from his grey eyes was hard and exploring. Harry looked back, unwavering, knowing that if he was only to be determined about one decision in his life, this would be it.
"I have a lot of faith in you, Harry," said Lupin finally, his gentle smile returning. "In all kinds of things."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Including finishing off Voldemort?"
"Well, I was thinking more on the lines of – the fact that I just went to Minerva and handed in the Marauder's Map -" Lupin caught Harry's horrified expression and gave a gentle shake of the head, " – well, she wasn't too angry. But I think that it means we shall have to endure our time here without the aid of Butterbeer. At least till it's safe to do so again." He chuckled. "That, and finishing off Voldemort, yes."
Thus began Harry's months without Butterbeers. The excursions around Hogwarts was not affected as much, as Lupin was indeed one of the Marauders who wrote the map, but Harry found himself increasingly dependent on the Invisibility Cloak. Professor McGonagall did not express openly her annoyance at a piece of such dangerous material in the possession of a student's hand, although Harry was certain that on several separate occasions he received looks of distaste when he passed her in the corridors, whispering greetings while hidden.
Meanwhile, security was significantly tightened in Hogwarts, and the credibility of the Slytherin house expired so rapidly that the school was divided more than ever. Filch the caretaker, after being attacked by the group of Confunded students, was moodier and nastier than ever – the consequence of which was that Harry enjoyed the company of Ron and Hermione less and less, as they could no longer easily slip away in between classes.
However, the news of Hogwarts being broken in remained suppressed. It was after much careful contemplation, according to an irritable professor McGonagall, that the students who have seen or taken part in the duelling scene was to have their memories carefully modified. The reason for doing so remained unclear: it seemed that all the professors agreed if their students stayed in the castle, perhaps a little ignorant of the situation, they would be much safer.
With the aftermath of the attacks carefully dealt with, November soon dithered into December, and peace dawned once more. Christmas spirit was rising high in the Hogwarts castle, the students seemed to forget temporarily that there was a Wizarding war going on outside. Meanwhile, Harry's training have been transformed into endless practise duels, sometimes against one, other times against a group of professors, and he returned each night scathed and exhausted into Lupin's arms, allowing the man to heal him wordlessly. He did not feel much affected by the festive spirit in the castle; there were no bright decorations in the secret passageways and empty corridors. As the holidays approached near, however, he began to look forward to an empty castle again – perhaps they could get their momentary freedom in those weeks while the students were away, and enjoy Hogwarts again like a student was supposed to.
It was with great regret, therefore, when Harry discovered Lupin's transformation would take place on Christmas Eve.
"Can I please spend the night with you?" Harry begged for what seemed like the hundredth time, "you'd have had the potion, you'll be safe!"
Lupin sighed in an exasperated manner as he attempted to snatch the bed sheet from him. "It's not advisable," he said evenly, "unless you have a very good reason -"
"It's Christmas Eve, can't I spend it with someone I like?" Harry protested, rolling off the bed with a thud as Lupin gave a sudden tug.
"With someone who would be trapped in the form of a wolf?"
"A tame wolf," said Harry, sitting up on the floor and smirking.
Lupin recognised his defeat with the bed sheets and sat down on the bed instead. He glanced at Harry's direction.
"Come here," he said softly.
Harry obliged; Lupin lifted his chin with a finger and kissed him softly on the lips, almost as a gentle caress.
After a long moment Harry opened an eye and peered at the man:
"Well, I think you've just proven my point – you are a tame wolf."
Lupin chuckled and smacked him lightly on the head. "This is a highly inappropriate way of addressing your teacher."
"Oh I'm sorry," replied Harry, rolling his eyes, "professor."
There was a loud crack that startled them both; Dobby had just apparated into the room.
"Professor McGonagall would like to request your immediate presence, Master Lupin," he said with a bow and a curious glance at Harry's direction, who has evidently positioned himself between Lupin's legs.
"Thank you, Dobby," said Lupin pleasantly as he pulled Harry up in one smooth motion, "I'll be on my way."
Harry called after him. "We'll finish this later – the password's Fawkes, by the way!"
He rolled onto the bed again, sighing in content.
"Dobby is happy to see Harry Potter happy," squealed the House Elf nearby. "And Master Lupin too."
Harry blinked. "Huh? Oh, yeah…thanks…"
As he watched Dobby clean the room, a funny yet awkward thought occurred to him: what if Dobby the House Elf was the first one to discover, aside from Dumbledore, their relationship?
"Dobby," he asked, sitting up from the bed a little straighter, "what do you think of, er – do you think that -"
But he did not know how he could pose the question; it seemed odd to be talking to a House Elf about his love life.
He was about to lie down again when he saw an odd expression on the House Elf's face; Harry blinked and realised Dobby was smiling.
"Dobby is happy to see Harry Potter happy," the House Elf repeated, bowing as he did so, "And Master Lupin too."
Harry did not know whether he should thank him again, and gave a shrug instead.
"Master Lupin is infinitely better than Myrtle," said Dobby inconsequentially.
"Myrtle?" Harry laughed incredulously, "Dobby, you can't possibly think -"
"The Ghost girl has been sending rumours down to the kitchen," squeaked Dobby as he clicked his finger at the stack of dirty plates, "she says she has seen Harry Potter in his most private times, and she knows more about him than anyone else -"
Harry groaned. "Remind me never to take a bath in the Prefect's Bathroom again," he mumbled.
Dobby was eyeing him curiously, it made him uncomfortable. Before he could think of anything further to say, however, the House Elf made another bow and disappeared with another loud crack.
It took another hour or two before Lupin returned; when it was time for Harry's routine duelling practise with Professor Flitwick. The man looked oddly weary.
"It seems necessary for me to spend the next Full Moon in the Shrieking Shack," he announced.
Harry was left momentarily blank. "The Shrieking Shack – on Christmas Eve?"
Lupin gave him a rueful smile; it appeared to Harry that he was not entirely happy about that decision either. "It appears we will have a guest on that day in the school and it would be highly inappropriate if we were seen."
"We?" Harry's head perked up in interest, "does that mean I, er, have to go to the Shrieking Shack with you?"
Lupin studied him; Harry hurriedly hid the expectant expression he was putting on his face. Lupin smiled.
"No, it's not necessary for you to go."
The tone of his voice suggested that he did not want to press further on the matter, and Harry remained silent by giving a noncommittal shrug. He bade goodnight to the werewolf as he made his way down to Professor Flitwick's classroom, thinking vaguely that he will find a way around it somehow – as he always did.
Harry pushed through the Charms Classroom door some ten minutes later, adjusting the fastenings on his robes as he did so: "Sorry Professor, I was caught up in a conver-"
But he never managed to finish his apology. There was a cough, and he glanced up to see a man, a tall man, much taller than Professor Flitwick, in dark robes and mask, raise his wand and point at him.
Harry instinctively conjured a Shield Charm and rolled onto the side; his heart thumping wildly. Where was Professor Flitwick? Was Hogwarts penetrated again by Death Eaters?
There was something surreal about the situation that he couldn't quite put his finger on, but he knew for one thing that the Death Eaters never used such mild curses. Harry glanced up; the man had a deep voice that resonated through the room –
The man lowered his wand and smiled at him; it was indeed Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"Constant vigilance, Harry."
"Yeah…" Harry struggled up from the floor, dusting off his robe, suddenly irritated. "What happened to the good old 'hello', anyway?"
Kingsley raised his eyebrow but decided not to pursue further, instead he gestured for Harry to sit down. "Here," he said, while pulling out two large mugs.
Having gulped down half a mug almost in one go, Harry was considerably more cheerful. He eyed Kingsley contemplatively, wondering what his business could be in the castle – then he thought about what Lupin had said, and the truth dawned on him.
There was a splatter and Kingsley looked up; Harry had just spilt some of the Butterbeer down his front, yet he had not noticed, but was staring at the taller man in incredulity.
"Remus said there would be a guest on Christmas Eve – it's – it can't be – it's not the Minister of Magic, is it?"
Kingsley looked surprised, yet solemn. After a few minutes of deliberation, he nodded.
"Merlin," Harry breathed, turning sideways and stared at the fireplace. "The Minister of Magic visiting… can't mean anything good…"
He was quietly consumed in his own thought for a minute or two, before realising Kingsley was eyeing him curiously. "Oh, sorry," Harry stood up, "am I keeping you? Where's Professor Flitwick, anyway?"
He watched Kingsley stand up, in a slow and deliberate manner, and noticed that the man's right hand was hidden in his robes. A classic sign of stealth attack.
Having trained for so many days, Harry was more than ready. Before the man could have finished the spell, he jumped to the side and shouted,
As Kingsley's wand flew backwards into the wall, Harry smirked, rather pleased with himself.
It was a particularly short training session as Kingsley had to report back to the Ministry, and Harry was back to his dormitory before midnight. Lupin looked up in mild surprise when he entered:
"Finishing off early?"
Despite the seemingly effortless training tonight, Harry still felt oddly weary. He nodded and told Lupin about Kingsley, adding casually: "So, I guess we will be avoiding the Minister of Magic on Christmas Eve?"
Lupin bore the same mildly surprised yet solemn expression, he too nodded after a brief moment of silence. Harry felt like he was missing something there, something he couldn't quite put his finger on – a nagging feeling at the back of his mind that occurred every so often nowadays.
"So…" Deciding to push that thought to the further back of his mind yet, Harry looked up at Lupin hopefully. "You know I don't want to see the Minister. And we are told not to be seen by him. Can't I…?"
Lupin merely looked at him, there was something peculiar about his expression: he looked as if he wanted Harry to go on pushing his case, yet there was a hint of reminiscence somewhere between the amusement.
Harry paused in his tracks briefly and understood. "I – my Dad used to do this as well, didn't he?" he sighed in defeat, "all the excuses and begging."
Lupin chuckled. "I can't deny it," he said fondly.
Harry eyed him, he was feeling oddly mischievous suddenly and decided to push his luck. "My Dad always got to go with you in the end though, didn't he?"
"Yes he did."
"You know he always did."
Lupin was almost laughing now; Harry seized his chance and hopped onto the bed, pushing Lupin under him. "Say yes," he begged with the best puppy eye he could think of.
Lupin thumped back against the pillow. "Now that looks like something Sirius would do," said he in a failing attempt to suppress a grin.
"Shall I wag my - no, I haven't got a tail – shall I wiggle my rear-end, then?" Harry asked with mock sincerity, pinning himself down further, "is that something you would want to see? Do you really want to see that?"
Lupin was positively choking with laughter now.
"Stop it, you abhorrent child!"
"Oho, no, professor -"
There was a sudden tug on his collar and Harry's mock protest was muffled by a fervent kiss. Lupin's pull was strong, stronger than it had been and with more strength than Harry had anticipated. The kiss came almost as a surprise; Harry was sure he was going to be told-off any second, yet Lupin did not seem to mind. In fact, as Harry instinctively, he felt Lupin had enjoyed the almost childish assault he brought on.
A/N: Long time no see. My excuses are good to myself, but perhaps poor to you guys. I stick to my promise of finishing this story eventually - I will try to update very, very slowly. Thanks for all those who have reviewed, you keep me going. )